Three Days In Iceland

Features, Health & Beauty, Lifestyle, Out & About, Travel

Is Iceland worth the money?

Northern Lights

I’m going to start this article with an admission that is going to make me sound incredibly uncool. I LOVE the Eurovision song contest. I’ve watched it my whole life and it is very rare I will miss it unless I’m working abroad.

So, what has that got to do with Iceland?

Well ever since I started watching it, the little VT’s before each country have evoked the explorer in me. I’ve wanted to go to Iceland ever since I can remember, so this year, when my friend asked me to go for her 30th I thought “why not” and we made it happen. We did everything. People who tell you a long weekend is not enough are lying. If you are actually going to get up off of your bottom and go out and do things and worry about the tiredness after you will be able to fit in absolutely everything exciting that Iceland has to offer.

Day 1 – Reykjavik Cathedral, The Northern Lights, and a Scary Air BnB

I’ve never used Air BnB in my life, but when it turned out our flights were cheaper to go the day before we thought we’d give an Air BnB a go for the first night instead of booking an extra room in the Radisson which was quite expensive. The theory was “how bad could it be?”. Tasked with organising everything so that we didn’t need to rely on busses or taxi’s I found an Air BnB in central Reykjavik. The “how bad could it be?” theory didn’t really serve us very well.

A short, easy walk form the bus station – the location was everything they promised. Unfortunately so was the cleanliness. Although the Air BnB had described itself as “not immaculately clean”, to me, that just meant that they probably didn’t keep up hotel standards and were worried about appearing badly in a review. As it would happen this estimation was wrong. I won’t name and shame someone’s livelihood on an article the whole world can see, but all I will say is make careful choices if you are going to use an Air BnB.  It was so bad, my friend named it “the crack den”. Luckily, we were at the Northern Lights all night on the night we stayed, so once we crawled into bed after we didn’t really mind that it was filthy.

We left immediately to walk into Reykjavik and go up to the top of the Cathedral. Don’t worry, there’s a lift, so you don’t have to walk it. It was a beautiful view and it also gave us the advantage of now having seen where everything was in conjunction with each other and knowing where to walk For 900 ISK it really is worth it.

The Northern Lights were amazing. We booked through Isango and I would really recommend them. The coach picked us up from the hotel we were staying in for the next two nights so we walked up and found our way. On the way to the first stop, the tour guide informed us that we had a 0% chance of seeing the lights. She did say that we would see some cool stars and have some snacks so we weren’t really that worried. When we got to the stop, the chance of seeing the lights had increased to 1%. Wow. We found the stars amazing. While we were on the stop, we saw four shooting stars and the normal stars were so low it looked like you could pick them out of the sky.

How To See The Northern Lights

Luckily for us, we did, in fact, see the lights. They were amazing. You can’t really describe what it’s like to be standing there looking at something that occurs naturally that is so beautiful. We understood how lucky we were, and also we managed to see them on another stop and get a picture with them.

Day 2 – Checking into the Radisson and a Night Out in Reykjavik

My friend woke me up promptly around 9am and said “Wakey wake Kelly, it’s time to leave the crack den now”. We left promptly and tried to leave the room as clean as possible but my friend did admit when we were halfway down the road that she had stolen the picture of Bjork above our room. Sorry guys!

 

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We went for breakfast at Le Bistro which was wonderful as by this point I was craving a decent cup of coffee. Le Bistro is a lovely place for breakfast and I should imagine that the French food they serve for dinner is just as nice. After breakfast we just decided to take our chances and walk up to the Radisson Blu Saga and see if they would look after our cases for the day while we did other stuff.  This is one of the best, most helpful hotels I have ever had the pleasure of staying in. Because our room was ready they let us check in, and after the crack den it was VERY welcome. My friend went off to do some horse riding and I enjoyed the big comfy, clean bed with the view of the mountains, followed by a long bath in the lovely bathroom. The hotel even lent me and my friend some plug adaptors because we are both pretty stupid and forgot them.

Now armed with the use of 2 lovely big mirrors, we got ready for a night out in Reykjavik. The other convenient thing about the Radisson is that you can easily walk to Reykjavik town in about 10 minutes. We hadn’t booked or chosen anywhere for dinner so we ended up just going to the first place that looked busy and did food we both liked – Caruso. It turned out to be a pretty good decision. Shown upstairs to the rustic little room we were going to dine in complete with ski’s and exposed wooden beams, we realised we had made a great choice. The food matched the atmosphere and was just great, home cooked, filling winter warmers that were very welcome after a chilly walk into town. The wine was also good, according to my friend, and the guy playing the guitar completed the perfect, cute, Icelandic evening.

We went on to a bar in Reykjavik and it can’t have made a great impression on me because I forget what it was called. I can’t say it was particularly lively and I must admit even though I do not drink I am far from boring, so we moved on looking for somewhere with a bit more of a party atmosphere. This was also the evening we decided to celebrate my friends 30th as it was the next day but we were going to be out all day.

When we came across The American Bar we didn’t really want to go in, not because it didn’t look good just because we are the kinda gals that like exploring and doing different things, rather than going to American/English places while abroad. As soon as we heard the live singers we were draw straight in and it was great! The music was amazing, the drinks were not too expensive and the atmosphere was great – aside from one couple who looked like they were forced to be there at gunpoint. If you are out and about in Reykjavik on a Friday or Saturday night it’s definitely worth a visit.

Day 3 – The Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle

No trip to Iceland is complete without going to the Blue Lagoon. It is every bit as amazing as everyone makes it out to be. We got a basic admission package included with our Isango booking. All anyone else who paid more got was a towel, robe and flip flops but we took our own towels and flip flops so I can’t say we really missed out. The mud masks looked good but you can pay for them there so if we really wanted one we could have had one. When you arrive, you get a wristband and you are able to purchase extra’s including treatments, drinks outside, or drinks inside. If you are going, do what we did and go early. Watching the sun come up over the mountains while actually being in the water was an incredible experience. The main thing we were worried about was freezing to death getting in, but getting in is actually indoors and then you walk outside while in the water. There is also a sauna and a steam room that is included in the admission price, so if you do get a bit chilly it’s fine. The water is every bit as warm as people say, but it is a rather weird experience having your face get that cold.

Blue Lagoon Iceland

The changing rooms are really modern with all the amenities you need to get ready to carry on your day and most of all they are warm. If you are going to book the tour that includes the Golden Circle as well then leaving yourself about an hour to get ready will give you a good chance to get dry and warm because trust me, it’s freezing at the Golden Circle.

Visit Iceland

We went into Reykjavik to pick up the next coach and start our afternoon touring the Golden Circle. Our tour guide was a jolly, knowledgable guy who’s name escapes me because my friend insisted on calling him Boris. The first stop was Þingvellir National Park where excitingly you can walk between two continents. Unfortunately the childishness of both of us came out when we found out we would be hiking down a crevice, but it was really interesting.

The next stop was the Selfoss Gesyir. By this point it was really snowing. It isn’t that I don’t like nature, it’s just that I don’t like it when it is cold and in my face. The geyser goes off a few times every hour, and we were lucky enough to see it. It was something that was definitely worth seeing, but I am glad it was part of a tour and not just the main thing we were doing as it wasn’t exactly overwhelming.

Before the next stop the Gulfoss waterfall, we had kind of agreed we were going to look at whatever it was we needed to look at and get back indoors sharpish. I can’t really remember what I was expecting, but it wasn’t much. The Gulfoss waterfall is amazing. Standing there looking at something that incredible really is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The Gulfoss waterfall also has the added benefit that the amenities in that particular part of the National Park are really good and include a cafe where you can defrost.

Getting around Iceland

We flew with Norwegian Air on the way there and I was expecting great things after so many recommendations, but they were rubbish! The plane was freezing and the service was terrible. To get out and about while we were there, we booked most of our travel with Reykjavik Excursions and they were perfect! 100% book with them if you are going. On the way back we flew with Iceland Air to Heathrow. On the day we were due to fly there was a strike so we were delayed by a couple of hours. I have to admit, after being up at 2.30am and being told by them to go to the airport anyway when they KNEW the mechanics were going to be on strike we were a bit annoyed and there were a few exchanges on Twitter. They had known about the strike for months and it was really poor form not to be more prepared. Saying that, we were just being moaners. Some poor people got literally stranded there. We also got boarded a bit too soon and ended up being on the aircraft for over an hour, but Iceland Air’s aircraft to Heathrow from Keflavik are lovely. Because it is the first or second leg on some long haul flights, it is like flying long haul. Leather seats, loads of legroom, free tea and coffee and soft drinks and setback screens. Even though the trip is only 3 hours long it was like being on an Emrites flight and I loved the service and the plane itself. I would actually fly with them again despite the inconvenience of the strike, I would just hope that they have learned their lesson from the situation.

Is it as expensive as everyone says?

Short answer: yes. It is expensive, but it is just one of those things you are going to have to deal with if you are going to go. There probably are ways to do it on a budget if you don’t want to see much, but some of the trips and excursions are absolutely once in a lifetime things, so if you are going to go save up and do it properly. One thing I was surprised at was the Blue Lagoon, as the food and drink wasn’t anywhere near as rice as I thought it would be. The other thing I was surprised at was the food in general, as there really are not many cheap options for eating out.

Top travel tips for Iceland 

  • Book through Iceland Air to and from Heathrow. Because they are connecting flights you will most likely get the benefits of a lovely long haul plane. We booked through CheapOair.com and got a great deal.
  • Take flip flops, your own towel and a robe to the Blue Lagoon. Then you can just book the basic package. It’s also worth taking a spare hat you don’t mind getting wet as your face and head get really cold.
  • Book up to stay somewhere you can walk into town from. Taxi’s and busses can be hit and miss so the less you have to use them the better.
  • Check out the local swimming pools and geothermal spa’s. There are a couple dotted around Reykjavik that are a fraction of the price of the Blue Lagoon if that is too pricey for you.
  • Go up to the top of Reykjavik Cathedral on the first day. It’s really practical because you can find your way around, and it is also beautiful.
  • Eat seafood. It is REALLY fresh in Iceland as one would expect, and if you are going to try seafood anywhere it may as well be somewhere where the turnaround from catch to plate is about 24 hours.
  • Take snow boots, thermals and a proper coat, hat and gloves. When it snows, it really snows. Iceland isn’t messing about, especially when you start mooching around the Golden Circle.
  • Pay out that little extra to stay somewhere luxurious like the Radisson. It really does make all the difference when you have been walking around in the freezing cold all day.
  • Use a company like OneTravel to get a super cheap deal on a holiday to Iceland, then just convert to pounds. For some reason travel companies based abroad seem to have better deals than your native country.

 

 

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8 Things You’ll Hate If You Commute

Features, Lifestyle, Out & About, Quick Reads, Travel

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For most people, working in London is the dream. Why else would so many people put up with three hours each day of being squished onto the central line with someones Evening Standard up their nostril? As wonderful as working in London is, there really are a few things on the commute that I think I can speak for all of us when I say we could do without.

Loud Eaters

Just to clarify – crunching is involuntary. Crunching is not annoying. If someone is eating a bag of crisps on the tube most of the time the noise of the train will cancel it out. Hey, you have been there yourself when you are dashing between meetings and a bag of Hula Hoops is all that stands between you and stomach rumbling that sounds like the huge rolling stone that chased Indiana Jones.

No my issue, ladies and gentlemen, is with those who just cannot keep their mouth shut. You see, unless you were raised by wolves the chances are at some point someone would have explained to you that you shut your mouth while you eat. The other commuters in your presence do not want to see your food rolling around like vomit in a tumble dryer, and we also do not want to hear you smacking your lips while you eat. In the last week, I have had to move TWICE because of people who think it is ok to eat like this. Grown adults as well.

We are in the midst of an epidemic.

People Who Can’t Use Escalators

I have quite a good memory and I can’t remember ever being taught how to use an escalator in school. Further to this, I also don’t remember any sort of guide being handed out when I first started having to use them. As far as I am aware I pretty much picked up the basics myself. You get on, it moves up or down, and you get off. This has always seemed like a pretty simple process to me until I started working in London and realised 99% of the population cannot use escalators. People just LOVE to stop at the bottom and keep everyone behind at a death defying stand still while they work out what to do next.

Here’s a hint hun – you get off. 

Men Who Shove Women For Seats

OK so this one may seem weird as I do class myself as a slight feminist. The deal is lads, I don’t actually WANT your seat. I am a serial seat giver upper and in the last week I have done two olds, a preggers and one girl who just looked exhausted. If you are a male and you approach me for my seat and tell me you are exhausted, have a long way, and just really need to sit down I’ll hand my arse holder over to you without fuss. To me this is just basic politeness. What I do not find acceptable of so many men on the commute is the way they will actively shove women out of the way to run for seats.

Granted, the violinist at Tottenham Court Road CAN make it seem like it – but you really aren’t fighting for lifeboats on the Titanic guys.

Personal Space Invaders

I very rarely show affection to my family or friends and to be honest it freaks me right out if someone sits next to me when there are other free seats. As you can imagine this attitude does not fare me well on the commute. The packed tube is one thing. Personal space is out of the window. I’m going to have an armpit in my face until Holborn, this is the trade off for working somewhere pretty.

But off of the tube or the train there really is no need for you to be standing so close to me you are sharing my body heat.

People Who Simply MUST Read Their Paper

It still amazes me that in a city as expensive as London you get something free. I love a free Evening Standard or Metro. In fact, I challenge anyone to deny looking at the rush hour crush section in the Metro to see if they have been mentioned. The London free papers offer a similar quality of journalism to what we know as tabloids, so I struggle to believe that there is anything important enough in them for you to have to paper cut someones eyeball on the Picadilly Line. We ALL find the commute boring and I’m sure all of us are looking for something to take our mind off of the fact we are sweating because we have seven layers on and we can’t locate one of our feet.

However, if there isn’t space for you to read, there isn’t space. We are all in the same boat mate.

The Ones Who Won’t Give Up Their Seat

Sitting down is one of the things I enjoy in life probably just as much as laying down. Who doesn’t love a good sit? Getting a seat on the commute is like getting a free coffee from Pret or winning the lottery. Sometimes you have to give your seat up. As much as you love sitting the old lady or pregnant lady standing up for the whole journey would probably love it more. Nothing annoys me more than people who just stand blissfully unaware of a “Baby On Board” badge. Over the course of the last month or so I have had to offer seats to people fairly far away from me because those sitting around them just put their heads in their phones and pretend not to see someone who is quite clearly struggling.

No one wants to give up their nice comfy seat on a packed journey but it’s something you just have to like or lump like recycling or Piers Morgan on GMB.

People Who Get On Despite Their Being No Space

As much as basic knowledge of escalators seems to evade even the most experiences commuters – so do the basic laws of physics. You see the simple mantra “if there is no space, you can’t get on” seems to be ignored by even the most intelligent looking of to and from work travellers. Pop on the Jubilee line from West Ham around 810am every morning and you will be able to view this species in their natural habitat. They are ABSOLUTELY going to get on whether there is space or not. Never mind the people at the back are getting intimate with the window because they have been pushed so far against it. If you really want to get on and there doesn’t appear to be space just do what everyone else does and get on anyway.

I mean, humans are quite malleable aren’t they? Surely someone can shrink a bit or bend a bit to make an inch or two where needed? Never mind comfort, we simply do not have the ten minutes to spare.

Commuters Who Push From Behind When The People In Front Aren’t Moving

Another law of physics that seems to be absolutely lost on anyone trying to get around in London. I always thought that it was a pretty basic principle. If the people in front of me are not moving, I cannot move. Somewhere along the lines I am sure there is an ACTUAL law of physics the supports this notion that can be explained by a complicated math equation. Regardless of the obviousness of the situation – people will continue to push you if the others in front are not moving anywhere. Because in England somehow we have managed to raise a generation of people who believe pushing and shoving is the best way to get somewhere faster.

Politely asking what the hold up is or god forbid waiting patiently like everyone else, simply isn’t an option.

Why Essex ‘ProseccoFest’ was a HUGE Rip Off

Features, Food, Lifestyle, Out & About, Travel

Having made my peace with the fact that I do not drink alcohol, and my friends do, I was under no illusions that going to a prosecco festival for my friends 30th birthday would grant me the same experience as everyone in the group who was drinking would have. That being said I am absolutely shocked that the event itself was so bad. I’ve always heard great things about Best Parties Ever and I’ve always loved Barleylands so I am obviously surprised either company would allow themselves to be associated with something that is quite clearly a scam.

The tickets for the event on the 18th of November set us back £19.70 each. You can get them online through Eventbrite, and as someone quite rightly pointed out – they do not profess to include anything in the ticket price. Fair enough. No one from our party was expecting anything free but the basics were not even supplied and the drinks in there were so grossly overpriced I’m not at all left wondering why no one was even remotely tipsy by the end. 

When we arrived, we were quite abruptly told that we would need to wait until 11am because we were ten minutes early. We actually ended up getting let in about 11.10am, so they can’t be that particular about timings. The venue itself was beautiful if not a bit empty. The tokens were 3 for £10 or 20 for £60 and that doesn’t sound too bad until you find out that ONE glass of prosecco is 2 tokens and a bottle is 10 to 14 tokens. If you can’t do that math that means a glass works out at £6.66 and a bottle works out to £33.30 on the lower scale.

For a non-drinker you would think that the day would be less expensive, but unfortunately a cup of flat coke from a bottle will set you back a token, and so will a water.

Staff were incredibly unhelpful on the day. We were turned away from a number of bars after asking for advertised drinks with staff either telling us to go to another bar or point blank that they did not know why they were advertised as they were not available. To be honest it’s lucky we spent so much of the day chasing things we couldn’t actually buy because there was sod all else to do.

One of the main problems only occurred to use after about an hour after we had all started to getting serious leg cramp. There was NO WHERE to sit down. Yes, customers are expected to stand for the full five hour session. We resorted to sitting on the floor. So for £20 we got a band for ten mins, some cheesy disco music and to sit on a cold hard floor in the middle of a farm. Great success.

After the event, I put across my views of the day (as did many others) on the Facebook page. Unfortunately, ProseccoFest have been snidely deleting anything negative from their page. This is an art form mastered by scammers – the reason they are doing this is because there is an event next week and they just want to scam the next lot of unsuspecting idiots out of £100s.

To make this article fair, I looked for some contact details to ask if a manager wanted to explain some of the reasons for the above complaints. There were none. You can only find their email address if you go right into their terms and conditions, and in true scammer style they have not answered me. Many people have been saying they are going to ask for a refund, but it is obvious they are just going to take everyones money and run.

Thankfully, a few people I know and who are active on the page have said they are not going now next week because of all of the negative reviews. Hopefully this will be the last time Best Parties Ever and Barleylands let themselves get associated with something that is quite clearly dodgy.

If you do not believe just my opinion, here are some of the Facebook comments I screenshotted before they get a chance to delete them. I’ve edited out names as I have not had time to contact everyone and ask if I am able to use their first name and last name in a post.

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*UPDATE*

ProseccoFest have now changed their prices and are still refusing to refund those of us that have paid full price already.

Fortunately, you CAN complain about the event. 

Had a reply from the council:
  

A Trip To Greece For Under £400

Features, Out & About, Travel

Recently I took a trip to Greece to see some friends. As someone who has travelled to many of the Greek islands – I often forget just how good the mainland is. Once I had tallied up how much I had spent over my long weekend, I realised there were a few things I could have done a lot cheaper and thought that maybe it would be a great idea for a blog.

Getting there – CheapOair: £80

CheapOair LogoI will literally never book with anyone but CheapOair.com. My hand luggage only Ryanair flight to Thessaloniki only cost me £80 return which was amazing. I got a deal through them and I did actually check on the Ryanair website as they always claim to be cheaper if you book direct but that’s 100% a lie. Obviously, going with a budget airline means that you don’t get any frills, but with a just over 3 hour flight when it is low season you can probably make do. Try and get a flight on the Friday morning for your long weekend to start early.

Transfer from Thessaloniki – Suntransfer or Holiday Taxi’s: £25

I got a private transfer which was unnecessarily expensive. Get a one way with a transfer company as you won’t need it on the way back on Monday. There are loads of companies that do transfers from Thessaloniki airport and all of them are about the same price.

Where to stay – Kiwi Hotel: £143 for 3 nights

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Kiwi hotel is always my first choice when I go to this area. The price is right and it is a small family run hotel which makes it super friendly. There is a swimming pool for those hotter days and all of the rooms have a sea view. The great thing is anywhere good is about 8 euro in a taxi – but all of the hotels in these places are double the price. Setting up New Fokea as your base camp is a great way to save those pennies.

Get A Gyros In Nea Fokea: £2

Nea Fokea town is relatively small, but it is a short walk from Kiwi and no doubt you will be hungry from your flight. Wander up to the gyros shop and grab a traditional Greek kebab for about 3 euro. While you are there you can wander and get your bearings. There are some lovely little restaurants and bars on the actual beach and if you brave the climb up to the old castle you be able to see miles of the coastline from the top.

First night in Kalithea: £40

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Get a taxi into Kalithea and enjoy dinner and a couple of drinks in one of the bars. Kalithea has loads of rooftop bars with beautiful views so if the weather is pleasant enough you can spend hours here people watching.

Day 2 in Afitos: £4

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I really can’t remember how much the bus actually is to Afitos but I know it is 9.50 euro to Thessaloniki to Afitos and New Fokea is much nearer. Afitos is a beautiful, traditional Greek town with plenty of nice views and things to do. Again, it is quite high up so you can enjoy very panoramic, Instagrammable views from some of the rooftop bars. There is also a Greek folklore museum if the sort of thing takes your fancy.

Dinner in New Fokea – Ta Kymata: £15

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Ta Kymata in Nea Fokea is a cute little fish restaurant with tables right by the sea. It does loads of different things if you do not like fish and the wine is pretty good here too. Depending on what you have a meal here really does not need to be expensive – the spaghetti napolinita is only 8 euro.

Day 3 – A bus trip to Sani: £40

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Sani is the home to the world famous Sani resort and a return bus journey will set you back about 6 euros. Although the marina is reserved for guests, there is a beach bar called Anemos. Once you have had a drink at Anemos and maybe even some food you are able to wander up to Sani Marina which is more or less the focal point of the resort. It isn’t uncommon for celebrities to moor their yachts on the marina and have dinner i

n one of the restaurants. There is a great place called Mojitos which is quite inexpensive for where it is. It has wonderful views of the marina and a lot of the time they have live music.

Last day – Thessaloniki and the airport: £50

Travel Massive Thessaloniki

Get up early and crack on with going to Thessaloniki for the day for your last day. It is where the airport is anyway, so this is the best day to fit it in. It’s advisable to take a small bag to travel with if you are going to do this on the last day – rather than a suitcase. The bus into Thessaloniki is around 13 euro and it takes you into the bus station that you will need to use to get the bus onward to the airport later on – so it’s easy to get your bearings. Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece and it is jam packed with things to do. There is a shopping centre called Cosmos if that is what floats your boat and plenty of places to eat and drink. If history is your thing there are plenty of archaeological sites like the forum and the Byzantine walls of the city. Thessaloniki is known as quite a ‘hip’ city in Greece, which means there are plenty of restaurants and bars to pass a couple of hours in if you get bored of all of the things to see and do.

Total Spend: £399

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September Favourites

Features, Food, Health & Beauty, Lifestyle, Out & About, Quick Reads, Travel

So yes, we are a little bit in to October now, but I still wanted to share a few things that I have absolutely been loving in September. I have had a brilliant September which has included a holiday to Greece. Although it was slightly chilly I managed to catch up with some friends I used to work over there with, which was perfect.

Deliciously Ella’s Weighthouse Street Deli

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I went to a blogger breakfast at the Weighhouse Street Deli in September to promote the launch of the Hello Day Autumn box. The blogger event was really good, and the deli itself was super cut. They served us all food from the menu and I fell in love with the smashed avocado toast (which had sun-dried tomato and chilli on it) and also the chia pudding which was my personal favourite. I can’t wait to find another excuse to go back there for breakfast. It’s really central as well and is just next to Bond Street station, so a good stop off if you are doing some Christmas shopping.

Primark Make Up

I got a My Perfect Colour lip gloss and a PS Master Eyeshadow Palette. The lip gloss is a bit sticky – but for £1.50 compared to my usual Urban Decay Revolution which comes in at £15. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the eyeshadow palette. The pigmentation was really good for a budget palette and because I’d taken it on holiday without primer or setting spray I wasn’t expecting great miracles. It actually stayed on all night when we went out clubbing while I was away, so I would definitely recommend investing in some Primark make up if anything as a back up or something cheap to pack in your suitcase whenever you go away. It’s probably a bit of a liberty that Primark keep copying high end make up, but I personally think it’s banter.

Vegetable Sushi

As a vegetarian, sometimes I have to eat fish simply because there are not a lot of vegetarian options in some restaurants. This isn’t my first choice at all and I really don’t like sushi with fish in, however after recently discovering vegetable sushi I have been so surprised at how much I like it. The best one I have found so far is the Marks and Spencer’s one, which has a bit of cheeky mango in one of the rolls. I’ve also recently discovered that Aldi sell it so I’ve literally been stocking up every time I go in to my local one. It’s less than 300 calories per pack as well – so its a great healthy option for lunch.

Pret

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We have a Pret next door to the office so I’ll often pop in for a coconut flat white. The other day I dropped a full one all over the office floor before I had even taken a sip. For a laugh, I tweeted Pret to tell them and they asked for my address. After a particularly bad week I got a parcel the other day and they sent me through some treats to ease the loss of my coffee.

Kiwi Hotel Greece

I popped over to Greece this month to see the girls I worked with at the Sani Resort in 2013. When we all worked there we lived in the Kiwi Hotel, which is also a customer facing hotel. The owner Dimi runs the hotel with his family, and it is a seriously good stay for the money. The great thing about Kiwi is that there are things to do in the town it’s in but it’s also a great base to go and explore other places that are more expensive to stay in. They really welcome into their family when you stay and nothing is too much for them. In the summer, this is a great place to stay and go and explore Sani and Afytos and other places, as they are only all about 8 euro in a taxi but hotels in the towns themselves will cost you double what Kiwi would. If you ever book, tell the Kelly recommended you!

Giving Up Alcohol

I gave up alcohol a while back and haven’t drunk for ages. I thought I’d have a few drinks on holiday and it wouldn’t hurt – I was seriously wrong. My anxiety was through the roof and I have now come to terms with the fact that I can’t even have a couple of drinks without making it bad now I don’t drink at all. It’s something I think I’ll persevere with for the rest of my life if I am being honest, I’m a bit of an idiot when I’m drunk anyway so it really isn’t worth it.

Hello Day Autumn Box

I’ve already written a separate blog post about how much I loved this, but it really is worth mentioning again. The Vitality Boost capsules really helped my mood stabilise after my holiday. If you can afford to get one of these I would highly recommend it as a way to prepare your body for the colder months to come with the correct vitamins and nutrients. Looking forward to see what their winter box has to offer.

Quo Vadis, Soho

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We advertise with Yahoo and they took us out for lunch the other day. We went to Quo Vadis in Soho, which was one of the best places I have been in London. After my holiday of over indulging I was hoping to get some really good fresh food – and they didn’t disappoint. I had the cod with the mashed potato in olive oil which was simple but absolutely what I needed after a weekend of spaghetti napolitana. Because they had no tables they sat us in the members area, which was lovely, but the downstairs restaurant looked just as nice. I would highly recommend eating here if you fancy a treat in London anytime soon, especially as it is within walking distance to most of the good theatres.

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Are You Dating In The Wrong Area?

Features, Lifestyle, Out & About, Travel

Do you ever feel like you have literally exhausted the dating pool? I mean, I live in Essex and work in London and even I scroll through dating apps sometimes and think “wait, I’ve seen this person before”. We live in a day and age where there really are just a select few of the best dating sites. One of the things that is amazing about London is that there are so many places to go on great dates but unfortunately this doesn’t change the fact that you keep coming across the same people time and time again. If you use a really niche dating site like date divorced singles you will find that the pool is even smaller. You may also find that city people are just not your type. Many people have moved into London from more rural area’s and would like to meet someone who shares their passion for all things green. So there a few places outside of London that you can try dating that are far from boring, with plenty of things to do.

Suffolk

Suffolk is a mere couple of hours away from central London on the train – and let’s face it, it can take that long to get from A to B in the city in a car due to traffic. Search for dating agency Suffolk and once you have registered you ca start trying to find a potential partner. There are plenty of things to do in Suffolk on dates and some of them are much more exiting than just sitting in a restaurant or bar in the city. Walk around Hemlington Hall or if the weather is nice visit Aldeburgh Beach for the famous sculptures. If you are feeling really fancy and adventurous you could even visit Newmarket Racecourses for the day. Suffolk has the ability to mix the countryside and the beach, and even if the weather isn’t great don’t let that stop you from visiting one of the many castles or country houses on your date.

Bedfordshire

Bedfordshire is an even shorter train ride from London, with journeys to most places there being around one hour. Find a Bedfordshire dating site and start browsing for that perfect someone because things to do on your date in Bedfordshire will be the least of your worries. Visit Bedford park and get a good fill of the fresh air and the countryside, or if you are more of an indoor person visit the Stockwood Discovery Centre and view the ever changing exhibitions. Getting out and doing something cultural will give you much more to talk about on a first date than visiting a noisy bar in the city.

Berkshire 

find a Berkshire dating site and get going as soon as possible, because there is plenty to do in Berkshire on a first date or even a few dates into your budding new relationship. The shortest journey from London on the list, clocking in at around half an hour to get into Reading station, Berkshire is one of the best places for a short burst of culture. Basildon park is a great place to have a walk and really get to know each other, and Reading Museum is a great indoor location that has incredible exhibition as well as historical displays like the copy of the Bayeux Tapestry.

A Wedding In Bedford

Features, Out & About, Travel

Bedford Wedding 1

When you get to a certain age you can guarantee that if someone asks for your address – it’s to send a wedding invite. So when one of my friends who I did my season in France with in 2008 ‘asked for my address’ I was thrilled she wanted me to be a part of the big day. Not least because 20 year old me was a lot more of a handful than 29 year old me and I was frankly surprised she trusted me in a Church.

The wedding took us to Stagsden in Bedford. I have literally never been to Bedford in my life but luckily it was super easy to get to from London so I was looking forward to a little weekend away somewhere with actual fields and cows instead of sweaty people trying to get into my pocket on the tube.

Garden Rooms B&B

The journey was painless and upon arrival at the Garden Rooms B&B  we were greeted by an incredibly friendly owner called Jo who made us a pot of coffee and told us there were freshly baked brownies downstairs in the kitchen we could help ourselves to. I was going to like Bedford. We chose it because it was near to the village hall where the wedding reception was to take place but I can honestly say whenever I am in Bedford again I will choose this venue. The rooms were comfy and pretty with homemade biscuits and an amazing shower – not to mention cute pink soap!

One thing I mentioned to my friend who was the Bride was how much I enjoyed the fact that she had planned out the whole day so the guests wouldn’t be bored. We arrived at the village hall for a bit of chat and then to our surprise were picked up by a big red double decker bus and taken to the Church.

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Now if there is one thing places that are ‘a bit countryside’ do well it’s Churches and this is no exception. The Church was beautiful with huge stained glass windows which have always been my favourite and of course the obligatory organ player.

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I must admit – I am the most heartless bitch you ever did meet, but when my friend arrived she looked so beautiful I shed a tear. Knowing her like I did, I was waiting for some sort of sarcastic comment during the vows but she managed to hold it together and put more appropriate personal touches to the ceremony – like playing the Sound Of Music soundtrack while we were waiting for the registers to be signed.

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When we got back to the village hall we were finally allowed inside to see that it had been transformed into a beautiful afternoon tea. Literally every single last detail had been thought out and it was great to sit and listen to all of the speeches while eating sandwiches and scones (also helped the people on mine and my friends table didn’t show up so we had triple the food and wine).

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After the speeches it was time to get the hall ready for hands down the best bit of any wedding – the disco. Instead of just leaving the guests to mill about with nothing to do it was announced that there were actually garden games outside. Like proper ones. A coconut shy and everything. This led to an exchange where my friend insisted I could spin plates (there were loads of circus games). It went on for a while and she walked away still insisting I could spin plates and I walked away thinking she may have accidentally taken some of my Amytriptaline. I swear I have never spun a plate in my life but we were pretty drunk for our whole season in France so who knows – if marketing goes tits up I might see how I go with that one.

When we got back in to a fully set up disco, there was also cake cutting. This was important because being the funner the Bride is she had a normal wedding cake and then one made of cheese. Are dreams really made of anything else than cakes made entirely out of cheese? Needless to say we ate a lot of cheese and drank a lot of gin. One of the most pleasant parts of the day/evening was that I hadn’t yet met my friends Son who could not be more like her if he tried and provided much hilarity, especially when he said a blatant “no” to all forms of food except cheese.

The end of the wedding saw an arrival of a fish and chip van which I must say I didn’t utilise because I was already drunk and had already eaten a fair amount of cheese. Usually in situations like this I would be somewhere less remote, crawl back to my Travelodge and leave in the morning on an empty stomach hungover with some cheap coffee inside of me. This is where staying in a small B&B becomes the most beneficial you can ever do in life. Hangovers, most of the time, are curated by the fact that you lay in bed and feel sorry for yourself.  A quick go of the amazing shower made me feel a lot better, and of course so did walking downstairs to a home cooked breakfast.

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The only thing I wouldn’t recommend on a hangover is travelling on three trains back from Bedford, stuck next to the loudest chewer in the world on a seat that feels like the rock they hold Simba up on when he is born.

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Holi Fest 2017

Features, Out & About, Quick Reads, Travel

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I am one of those people that can have fun anywhere. You could honestly put me alone on a desert island alone and I’d probably still get up to some mischief and have some fun. So when my friend asked me to go to Holi Festival for her birthday there was no way on this earth I was going to turn down the opportunity to have a few drinks in Wembley Park and chuck paint all over people.

In the lead up to the event the weather was looking more and more grim but like the true runners we are we decided we were not going to waste our ticket money and were still going to give it a good go. I woke up in the morning to some sunshine which was shocking so I had high hopes for the day. To be honest though my friend was so spectacularly late (4.5 hours – a new world record) we just about managed to get there before it got dark.

Wembley Park is literally just below Wembley Arena. It isn’t a massive area, and I must admit I can see the rain having done us quite a favour because at full capacity I can imagine an area as small as Wembley Park getting quite packed. After we made the wonderful journey of about 356 stops on the Jubilee line we were welcomed to the heavens opening just as we walked to the queue and literally no where to go to the toilet. Now I like to remain positive but when you desperately need the toilet and you are shitting yourself about your eyebrows washing off it is mildly challenging to try and stay positive.

None the less we got there, I purchased a £2 rain mac and got myself two vodka and cokes and my spirits lifted considerably. So I am going to get the negatives out of the way first. For a start, they operate on one of those ridiculous systems where you pointlessly top up a card instead of using cash or you own debit card. This means twice the queuing and while I can see the benefit of this for a weekend festival it is only a day one so this was frustrating and unnecessary. The second issue was that they didn’t sell Gin. I mean, was I really in London if I couldn’t get a G&T?

Anyway with those minor annoyances out of the way I focused on the best thing about the day – the music. I really wasn’t expecting much I actually liked considering I listen to house and techno but it was actually really good. Sure, a few commercial songs were thrown in for the crowds but it mostly was house music so I actually felt like I was at a real festival. Well, a real festival where you get powder painted chucked at you every hour on the hour. I have to say this was by far one of my favourite elements of the day. Every hour after a certain time, you just literally open your bag of paint and duck it over whoever you fancy. I know there is more to it and the original Holi Festival has a lot of religious significance, but I think it is great that they now make it something everyone can join in with. There really is nothing more liberating than standing in a giant car park having paint thrown all over you while you dance to house music.

The organisation of the day was actually pretty good. Obviously I wasn’t a fan of the token system but the rest of the facilities like the toilets, bar and food stalls were well managed and the queues were not as long as they can get (if anyone went to Dance Crusade years ago at Orsett Showground you will remember the four hour queues for the bar).

Tickets are only £20 – £30 depending on when you buy them and it really is worth going if you want to do something different.

Coral Bay, Cyprus 2017

Features, Out & About, Travel, Youtube

It wasn’t until I actually went on my summer holiday this year that I realized I haven’t had a relaxing summer holiday for a good couple of years, probably since I last got out to Marbella. Because my holidays usually involve visiting family and friends, I am always in a whirlwind of seeing different people and going different place. So four months into a new busy marketing job in London, the opportunity to go and sit around a pool in a private villa and do nothing was incredibly welcome. Cyprus is a wonderful country, and even though they are independent, they still manage to keep the Greek charm that entices holiday goers year after year.

Travelling there

Birmingham Airport Lounge

Our booking was made through James Villas, who do not do flights, so these were booked through Thomson. Because my friend lives in the Midlands, we were going to Birmingham airport to start our trip. I must say, it is the second time I have been, and I love it. Quite similar to Stansted in size, Birmingham airport is a hassle free start to a holiday.

We booked the airport lounge, and I have always been vocal in my blogs about how much I like the No1 Traveller lounge in most other airports, especially Gatwick, but I do have to say I was slightly disappointed with the Birmingham one. The buffet food wasn’t as good as it is in other lounges, although the hot options were still fairly palatable. For some reason, no one believes in air con or fans in this neck of the woods, so expect to be sweating your tits off before you even leave England. The main gripe though, was the toilets. One of the main pulls for me of an airport lounge is being able to drink as many Gins as possible before I’m forced onto a plane and stuck there for hours, so needless to say not having to queue in the public toilets is something I’m happy to chuck out £30 for. In Birmingham though, there are no lounge toilets, so this was a waste.

As you can imagine after this debacle I was looking forward to getting on a plane. Which is unusual for someone scared of flying. I’ve never flown with Thomson, and seeing as they have fancy adverts and are a massive company, I thought they would at least be a bit better than the budget airlines. Well I thought wrong. They are so shoddy, they didn’t even have any hot drinks on the flight on the way there, and this forced me to have to have Gin and turn up to the transfer incredibly merry. Shame on you Thomson. The best bit though was coming back. I appreciate that the people who work in the airport are nothing to do with Thomson, but if you are going to slap your branding everywhere you should at least keep in contact and make sure your staff are adequate.

What definitely wasn’t adequate, was piling us all onto the airport bus, and leaving us there 20 minutes with no air con, no explanation and no advice on when we would be moving towards the plane. The conditions were so bad that my friend had a panic attack – but do Thomson care? No.

Accommodation

Queens Paradise 6

Spirits were lifted when we got there. The villa, Queens Paradise 6 booked through James Villa, was stunning. Three en-suite bedrooms, a living room, a private pool and a balcony big enough to do a forward roll on and also a massive living room. As well as the fact that the actual villa was incredible, it was really close to the strip of bars and clubs, and also the local supermarket. I’ve never really looked into hiring a villa, as I’m lazy and I like a hotel, but because eating out is so cheap, you really can afford not to have to keep cooking.

You also get a cleaner, who comes once a week, a towel change twice a week, and a pool guy who unfortunately isn’t hot if you want to carry out any ‘The OC’ fantasies but was fantastically friendly.

Travelling around

The strip of Coral Bay, and most of the accommodations are pretty close to the beach. It is about a 15 minute walk from the far end of the strip, and it’s downhill which sounds great but isn’t the best when you are walking back sunburnt after a day in the sea and sand, so be mindful of that. The nearest ‘big’ town is Paphos, and the busses are about every ten minutes and run until midnight. With a single on the bus costing around £1, there really isn’t much reason to get a cab, but if you are not a public transport person they will set you back around £17.

Most excursions will either come and get you from a pick up point, or your villa, but don’t book from Atlas travel who are opposite Blazing Saddles. Not only did they give us the wrong information about where to get picked up and about the waterpark, they actually left us a shitty, sarcastic message when we put it on their Facebook page saying ‘sorry you had to cross the road’. Walk up the strip past the small supermarket, and there is a much better travel agent there.

The Beach

Coral Bay Beach

The beach in Coral Bay is more or less close by wherever you stay. You can hire a sun lounger for 5 euro, and an umbrella for 2.50euro, and you get to keep this for the whole day which is pretty reasonable. Although there are places to get drinks, food is very limited so take your own or don’t go there without consuming as much as possible before hand. They have water sports available, so make sure you are not swimming in the wrong part of the sea unless you want to get KO’d by a paddle boat.

Fasouri WaterPark

Fasouri Watermania

There is a waterpark in Paphos, but we hear Fasouri was bigger so we booked there. On an excursion transfer, it is about an hour and a half because you pick everyone up, but it is well worth it. The locker hire is a bit pricey, considering some give them out for free, but the food and drinks are actually quite reasonable as far as waterparks go. Although there are only a few ‘big’ slides, there is plenty of other stuff to do, including a spa for an extra charge. It is incredibly clean, and even if you are not a thrill seeker just lazing about in the wave pool or the lazy river will suit you fine.

Even the kids pool was amazing, and had a massive bucket that filled up and rained water down on everyone, which is a welcome addition when the temperature can hit up to 40 degrees.

 Eating and Drinking

Kleos Coral Bay

Because there is a strip of bars and restaurants, you won’t be disappointed when it comes to food. Coral Bay has a bit of everything from Italian to Mexican, and obviously traditional Greek food like Meze. To stay competitive, prices are really similar in each place, it will cost you on average 10euro for a main and 5euro for a cocktail. Some of the bars have happy hours, and some are better on weeknights than weekends. There are a lot of PR people on the strip, so just get chatting to them to find out what night is their best night. Kleo’s bar is probably your best bet if you are a bit younger, and you fancy listening to something a bit more compelling than an ABBA tribute.

As you tend to on holiday, we found a restaurant where the food and staff were so nice, we just continued to go back. I have written them a separate blog – but I really would recommend Coral King if you are in the area. Neo the owner is fantastic, and he will even let you add him on Facebook to book tables. I can’t wait to return next year! They even let us smash plates on Greek dancing night.

If you want to find out more, here is a little Youtube video I did of my trip…

Tips for Travelling When You Are Scared Of Flying

Features, Health & Beauty, Travel

Emirates

As someone who is basically petrified of flying, it surprises me that I haven’t wrote a blog post about this sooner. Not that I will ever let it stop me going anywhere. Fortunately I’ve still managed to calm my tits enough to travel to many places in Europe as well as the Philippines and Thailand. One thing I’ve learned in this process, is there is not one thing that works. I’ve managed to keep my fear of flying in control quite a bit recently, and this is by using a number of different techniques I have learned from different sources.

Before you go

Preparation is always key, and having a fear of flying is no exception. There are a few bits you can do to ensure that you minimise your anxiety before you go.

Track your flight for a couple of weeks

This is a brilliant technique I learned from the book ‘Soar’ and reading this blog isn’t going to completely rid you of your fear of flying, so I couldn’t recommend buying this book and reading the whole thing more highly enough. If you don’t get round to it, one of the things that helped me massively was to track my flight for a couple of weeks before I left.

The idea is, that you see days and days of data, which include your flight getting smoothly from A to B with no issues. I know what you are thinking – what if something does go wrong? You’ll be terrified to get on a flight ever again. Well can I let you into a little secret? I’ve done this at least the last ten times I have flown, and it has never happened. Try it and weigh up how it helps. There are loads of websites like Flightradar that will not only let you track your flight, but see how many planes there literally are in the airspace at any given second. Last time I went to the Philippines, I couldn’t begin to tell you how happy it made me to see that little green line every two weeks before I went.

Play seat raffle

If, like me, you basically have quite a high functioning fear of flying where you still go, you will probably have quite a good idea of where you need to sit to keep stress levels to a minimum. If your seat isn’t available when you book – don’t give up. Keep an eye on the seats, because someone could easily move or decide not to fly, who is in the seat you want. Check online every couple of days to see if you can get a better seat.

Book a lounge

It still shocks me that so many people don’t know about airport lounges. Most of them range from £20 – £30 pounds per person, and as well as unlimited free food, drink and magazines, you get a much quieter environment than that of the terminal. Most of them also have private toilets, and the Skyteam lounge at Heathrow even has a Clarins spa. I don’t know about anyone else, but one of the things that makes me anxious is the fact that I need to wrestle 37 other people to try and find a seat in the terminal and pay a months wages for a mediocre meal in Wetherspoons with prosecco so cheap it tastes like it’s been filtered through an Italians shoe. The lounge not only offers all of the amenities one could want in an airport for free, but it also a certain amount of peace and quiet.

On board

Pack hand luggage well

There’s nothing worse than being on a flight bored and with nothing to do. Long haul – fabulous! Unlimited alcohol and as many films as you could ask for. Short haul, not so much. If you are scared of flying, the chances are you will seriously need to distract yourself while you are on the flight. Most streaming services will now give you the opportunity to download things to watch online, so immerse yourself into a Netflix series to kill the time.

Try and stay awake

This probably sounds so counter-productive right? If you are asleep, you won’t even know you are on a plan and life will be fabulous! Amen to knocking yourself out with the Diazepam the Doctor gives out for fear of flying like sweets and a couple of Gins. All well and good for that specific occasions, but what you need to remember is, if you are unconscious for every single flight you take, you will probably need to do it all the time. You won’t experience all of the thoughts and feelings of flying, and essentially, you won’t ever get over your fear. If you need to take something to relax, completely understandable, but remember if the worst does happen you’ll be navigating an emergency situation off your tits. Try more natural remedies like meditation.

Let people know of your situation

There’s not really any reason for you to be kicking about in a massive badge that says ‘I’m scared of flying’, but telling some of the staff what situation you are in, especially if you are travelling alone, can really help. I’ve been on a flight a couple of times, with Etihad and Qatar, completely on my ones to the Philippines, and as soon as I have told the staff on board I am scared of flying they make a point to check on you. It’s also worth telling the person next to you, so they don’t wonder why you are smashing the alcohol on board at 5am.

Fly upper class

You may also want to give some thought to flying upper class if you can afford it. Then you can have a flat bed and go to sleep whenever you want, comfortably. It may sound expensive, but companies like Virgin have some great deals you can check out. 

After the flight

After the flight, you need to fully remind yourself how well it went, and how much the anticipation was worse than the flight itself, so that you can remember that for the next one.