Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Top ten things to do in London

When you live in a place, no matter where it is, you tend to take it for granted and think that tomorrow will always be there to do all those things you have on your list.

However, a lot of the time tomorrow never comes and it is time to move away.  So I thought I would pull together a list of my top ten things that I love to do in London.

1. Go to the Theatre 

Forgetting how amazing the West End is, is a common problem for people who live in London as it is often full of tourists.   When you live here, you tend to walk through places like this with your head down, manouvering your way through the hoards of tourists as quickly as possible.

Every now and again though, it is great to join in with the hoards of people mingling around Covent Garden and go to see a show.

This is great for when you have family visiting or even for somewhere to take your parents if they are in town for the weekend.

2. Find your favourite pub

There are hundreds of pubs in London, some older than others, some bigger than others - you may even prefer a different place in the summer to the winter, depending on how much space they have outside to sit down and enjoy the view.

View from The Captain Kidd

There are a few different ways in which you can explore the pubs, but here are my recommendations...

- The Ale tour of London
- Pub Golf (I would recommend doing this around Covent Garden and working your way down towards Embankment to Walkabout)
- Get lost and find a pub
- Do some research and find the oldest pubs around London

Here are some of my favourite pubs in London though:
- The Captain Kidd, Wapping. Perfect for Summer afternoon's
- The Albert, Victoria. Great on a rainy day or a quick pit stop on a tour of London.
- The Princess of Wales, Charing Cross. A must after a busy day in Covent Garden or Trafalgar Square
- The Crown and Anchor, Seven Dials. Perfect if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Covent Garden
- The Lamb and Flag, Covent Garden. Well hidden and great for after work drinks if you want to be outside

3. Visit Covent Garden in the winter

There is something magical about Covent Garden in the winter.  All the decorations that appear, the music that is being played and best of all most of the tourists that disappear.

If you have a young family, it is a great place to spend the afternoon and you can even take a walk along to Trafalgar square too while you are there.

The perfect end to the day has to be walking across the bridge at Embankment, where you will have an amazing view of the City as well as being able to see all of the lights on the trees along the river.  If you are here later into the evening, then you will be able to grab food along embankment or even pop into some of the pop ups that happen along the river there.

If by the time you get here too, you fancy a trip on the London eye - then I would go for it.  The London eye at night is beautiful.

After a long day in London, one of my favourite things to do is walk along the Southbank towards the City to catch a train home.  So if you live east I would definitely recommend this route instead of the tube. 

4. Check out the museums (they're free)

People always think of museums as boring, and well maybe they are to some people.  But find one that you have an interest in as there are lots all around London.

If you like history, then you are likely to enjoy most of them - however, you may find the Natural History Museum a little more interesting than the V&A.  

However, if you like Fashion you will love the V&A, but may not be that interested in the Imperial War Museum.  Take a look online and do a bit of research around the things you love and maybe plan another activity to do during the day when you are there too.  I always enjoy popping into a local pub for some lunch or even making a booking for afternoon tea somewhere.

5. Trafalgar Square

As a child, Trafalgar square used to scare me a little, as there were a lot of pigeons.  However, there are nowhere near the amount of birds they used to have there any more and the place is pretty enjoyable now.

Among all of the history the square has to offer and the beautiful architecture sits the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, both of which are free to look around and admire. 

There are also a lot of different events that take place here on the weekends all throughout the year.  So take a look online here, if you want to find out more about them.

Last year I attended the fan rally there, before the NFL game in November.  It was an awesome day and even if you aren't able to make it to the game the next day the rally is worth getting involved with.

My friend Tom and I went last year and then to the game afterwards and we had a brilliant time.

6. Columbia Road Flower Market

The perfect way to spend a Sunday morning, whether you are looking for fresh flowers or some to plant in your garden.  You can even just go for a stroll through the market - but when I went this summer I could resist buying a bunch of flowers or ten...

7. Trooping the colour

This happens only once a year, but it is amazing and the goose bumps running up my arms as the red arrows fly over Buckingham palace is amazing.  If you aren't here in the summer for this event though, you can always make it down to Buckingham Palace for changing of the guard instead.

8. Sample the delights of London's gin bars

This one comes with a warning though, as we were pretty worse for ware after trying out one of the local gin bars.  It is probably best to go for a quick bite to eat first as a cheese board may not cut it...

This is a good place to start though....

9. Go to Brick Lane for a curry

This is a test that I am yet to take, but I have it on good authority that if you want a good curry in London, then Brick Lane is the place to go.  I am however, planning this for some time in October - so keep an eye out and I am sure you will see a blog post soon.
10. Camden Market

This is somewhere I used to go a lot as a teenager, thinking this was the height of rebellion.  It really wasn't though.  Yes people sell magic mushrooms in their shops and tattoos and piercings are all but common place there - yet the most rebellious thing I ever did when I went there, was to buy a frappachino with cream on top of it. 

I hope you have enjoyed this post, if you have any other tips then please feel free to comment with them below.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

There's no business like showbusiness...

This week I have had the post holiday blues, even though I was only away for the weekend.  So I was really excited to have a show to look forward to at the end of the week.

Quiet a few months ago now, I booked tickets to a show for my mum and me.  The show we went to see was called Top Hat and it was fabulous.  Everything from the costumes, to the dancing was beautiful and immaculately performed.

Throughout the entire experience I had goose bumps along my arms.  I don't know about you, but there is nothing more amazing than watching perfectly timed tap dancing.  It was like watching Fred Astaire himself up on the stage and I used to love watching black and white films on the weekend and I could easily go and see this show again and again.

Here is a snippet of the dancing and the costumes in the show...

The theatre is beautiful too and the smell as we walked in took me straight back to the days when I used to perform in shows throughout the west end as a child.  The pictures of my sister and me from back then are less than flattering though, so instead here are some much more glam images of the show below.

I'm already looking forward to going to see this show again, it has been the best west end show I have ever seen.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Autumn Winter Bags - Spree vs. Steal

So earlier I was reading a Harpers Bazaar article on 'The 20 Best Bags for Fall' and looking at all the beautiful bags that I can't afford.

As I scrolled through the article I spotted one that I could afford though, or well a version of it.  The bag in question is number 6 on the list...

This bag has quiet the budget and I'm not sure that buying this bag would be a good idea, when I could put a deposit down on a house.

However, there is a more affordable alternative that you can buy at Zara.  So forget The Row Bucket Bag and grab yourself a bargain.

Can you spot the difference?

Let me know which bag you prefer...

Monday, 18 August 2014

A long weekend in Ireland

I'm fortunate enough to have family in Ireland, who live in one of the most beautiful places that you can imagine.

I have a huge family out there and now we are all getting older, they are beginning to start their own families too.  This weekend I met Oisin and Cormac, who are my 2nd cousins.  Cormac is the youngest of the two at only 3 years old, but after he discovered I had Thomas the Tank on my phone, he quickly became my new best friend.

Here are some pictures of our stroll along the beach on Sunday...

Cormac and I

Cormac sitting on the beach

Portacloy Beach, Mayo

View from Portacloy Beach in Mayo

Throwing stones into the river

Portacloy Beach, Mayo

Portacloy Pier
I am so pleased with how these photos came out, the day even though in August was pretty chilly, however, it was clear and we had our coats on.  We took our time throwing some stones over the edge into the river and then made our way up the other side of the beach and walked around to the pier.  We would have happily sat there for hours.

On warmer days in the summer, my family spend their days diving off the edge of the pier at high tide.  There is a lot of wildlife that comes into the bay, including dolphins and whales. As you can see too the beach looks more like Thailand than that you would expect of Ireland.  It is beautiful and as a child I spent many a day playing in the sea, in the rain.

Not long after these first few shots were taken though, the heavens opened and the rain came down pretty hard and fast.  Luckily though, Auntie Sarah was there to save the day and we all jumped in her car to do the 5 minute journey back to the house.

Portacloy isn't a huge tourist spot though, as you can see there are very few houses and no hotels around for miles.  So if you are planning a trip to see these beautiful sights then I would recommend booking a hotel in Belmullet.


Here's a quick family portrait, after my weekend in Ireland

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

My top ten tips for finding the right bra

As someone who used to work for La Senza, I have fitted my fair share of bras and you wouldn't believe the amount of women who are wearing the wrong size.  When I first started working there and was asked to do a fitting, I found it to be pretty awkward.  But after a time you just don't think about it anymore and you really do change a lot of ladies lives by just getting the right fit.

We all come in different shapes and sizes, some boobs are big and some are little and some are uneven in size.  In actual fact, no one has equally proportioned breasts!

But I have some great stories from ladies who I fitted during my time there.  I had fitted bras on 80 year old ladies, on women who have had surgery, ladies with one breast a lot larger than the other, the differences between each women is completely different.

When you have the right bra, it gives you confidence, it gives you a cleavage and a lot of the time it gives you back a waist that you have been hiding under an ill fitting bra for years.

Over the last month I have been trying to lose some weight and I have managed to lose half a stone now.  But with this comes change (which is good) and one of the things that has changed for me is my cup size.  So bra shopping is going to be a must soon.

With this in mind, I thought I would share with the more self conscious among us, who may not want to go in for a bra fitting, what happens when you do.  If after this, you still don't want to go in for a fitting, then what you should be looking for when you try and buy yourself!

A Bra Fitting
  1. You pop into the changing room with the bras that you have selected for yourself and ask the lady there if she would mind helping you with a fitting.
  2. She will then ask you to pop into the changing room, pop your top off and leave your bra on.  If you are a little more self conscious about this part, then you can always keep a little cami top on to be measured.
  3. Once you have been measured, the assistant will ask you what size you are currently wearing and judge on the measurements she has just taken, what size you should be wearing.  
  4. If you have had a good guess and picked yourself up the right sizes, she will then step out of the changing room for you to fit them on.
  5. If not she will take the bras that you have selected and find those styles in the size she thinks you will need.  (There is a lot of trial and error in the form of fitting bras).
Once you are fitted in the bras, the assistant will then assess the following (this bit you can do yourself if you want to):
  1. You should always do your bra up on the last hook when you buy it (bras stretch so this will help it to last longer)
  2. You should be able to fit two fingers beneath your bra straps
  3. The bone of the bra should sit directly under and in the middle of your armpits and also sit flat in the middle of your breasts
  4. The seam of your bra should be flush with your skin
  5. You should be able to pull the back strap of your bra out 1-2 inches away from your body for comfort
Once you have accomplished this, you will have the perfect sized bra.  However, if this isn't the case and the cup fits but the back size doesn't, when you go up a back size, you need to go down a cup size.  This works the other way around too, if you go down a back size you need to go up a cup size. 

Hopefully this has helped, but if you have any other questions then just give me a shout!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Top 15 holiday hacks

There are things that help out the every day traveller, however, when you are a backpacker, the essentials in life take on new priorities.  So I thought I would pull together my top tips for travelling.

1.  Give all your left over change to charity on your last day.  You can find donation pots at most airports, so once you are all done buying your last few meals, etc... pop the rest in the charity box and jump on your flight.

2. If you have a long stop over in an airport, then you might want to change up some money.  Alternatively see if they have any airport lounges that you can have a cat nap in, they are a lot comfier than the metal chairs you normally find dotted around the airport.

3. Send a postcard to yourself or a family member, so that when you get home you have something to look forward to.

4. Free wireless access at the airport.  This is something I haven't tried before, so you will have to let me know if it works or not.  But apparently if you add “?.jpg” at the end of a URL you will still be able to access the website. 

5. Grab yourself a multiple plug outlet.  You will be a hero in every hotel and airport around the world.

6. Love seeing popular places on your travels? Me too, but it is so annoying when you go to the beach or a famous monument and find that everyone else had the same idea as you.

Here is a tip that I picked up online to get around this...

7. Forgot your charger?  Pop to reception, they will no doubt have hundreds left from previous people who have stayed and forgot their own charger.

8. If you are anything like me while you are away, then your hair isn't a priority.  Therefore hair grips are a must.  I used to lose them all over the place until I got a handy container in Australia.  There is a cost effective way to get something similar though.  Grab yourself an empty tic tac bottle and pop all your grips in there.  Problem solved.

9. Need to pack some muddy boots quick? Grab a shower cap and wrap them around your shoes.  The elasticated bag will help keep them secure.

10. Organise your belongings for airport security.  There are a lot of places that will make you use their specific plastic bags at the airport now - but if you have your own then all you have to do, is either poor the contents from one bag to the other or leave it in the bag ready to go...

11. Scan all of your important documents and add them to a drop box, preferably one that you are happy for others to access too.  This will mean if you are unable to access them via the internet hopefully someone at the end of a phone will.

12. Roll your clothes, it helps save space and you have less creases.

13. Forgot your wall adapter? No problem, look for a TV in your room and you will probably have a USB port in the back that you can plug it into.  Normally you won't find a TV in your hostel room, but there is normally one in a communal area if you are desperate.

14. Waterproof your backpack.  If you have been to Asia, you will understand why this is important, if you haven't then you will understand when you get there.  Honestly, this may sound odd but if you don't your bag will most likely end up smelling of fish.

15. Keep a mini medicine kit with you at all times, chances are when you need it the most it will be at the bottom of your backpack.

Columbia Road Flower Market

This weekend I popped to Columbia Road Flower Market and it was so worth the trip.  You jump off the train at Bethnal Green train station and it's about a 15-20 minute walk to the station.

If you are anything like me though, you will love the walk too.  There are so many beautiful old buildings, closed down shops which present opportunities and endless ideas and possibilities.

As you can see the weather didn't look too amazing that day and we did have a bit of a shower, however, the weather was very, very hot still.

When we arrived along Columbia Road, the market was beautiful and full of so many wonderful colours.

Columbia Road Flower Market

Wild flowers at Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market

There were so many flowers, I just didn't know which ones to choose from, so I ended up with three bunches, which included roses, pionies and sun flowers.  I even got a small bunch of gyp to add in with my peonies.

My flowers
When I got home, I gave my mum the beautiful sun flowers that I bought for her and was excited to put my flowers into some vases.  But as it has been my mum's birthday the weekend before, the house was still looking something like a florists dream (which you can probably see here in this blog post), so it meant there were no spare vases.

I popped my flowers into some water though as it was a really hot day and popped out to buy some new vases.  In the end though, I pretty much gave a corner of my bedroom a mini makeover.  It looked so pretty, I thought I would share the photos with you here...

rose frame to match my beautiful roses

Roses, peonies and pretty things