The Budapest City Break | Day Three: Scary Labyrinth, Vegan Delights and Bob

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I'm 99% sure I already typed up this post but all of the text seems to have disappeared! But alas, onto the third day of my Budapest trip and I do think the cool tone of these photos shows just how chilly it was. Our apartment was right next to Fisherman's Bastion so we walked over and took in the beautiful turrets. All of these sights are totally free to explore, even with the city already being so low cost.

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I do think I look like a green snowman above but it was freezing! We warmed up with a hot drink and made our way towards Buda Castle, until we passed a sign advertising a 'unique and amazing labyrinth' just around the corner. Our intrepid explorer instincts were ignited, though I did feel slightly uneasy as the stone tunnel entrance lead underground via steep steps. A few paces in and a fee of round £5 let you into a mile of tunnels, some pitch black, with random Edwardian party scenes with mannequins at different points... ? It. was. CREEPY! It didn't help that smoke and eerie music was pumped out, and there was a Dracula themed section. Argh! A bunch of potentially German tourists behind us too were making spooky noises as they laughed at our screams. It was hilarious and terrifying at the same time and you can see in my vlog it was more of a Blair Witch-style filming experience. I was glad to finally reach the end!

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After our slight trauma, we browsed the castle grounds, with plenty of epic views, and worked up an appetite for the local vegan restaurant. We had spotted Eden right by our place and there's a hefty menu, but the star is a daily selection of special dishes that you can pick 10 of for around £10. I'm not vegan but my friends are, and this was super tasty despite it looking a little like a plate of slop!

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We snapped the parliament building from across the river and took a trip to a supermarket for pre-drinks (aka prinks) and frozen chips, though we forgot we didn't have an oven at the apartment and ended up pan frying them dry. Yum!

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There are a few larger clubs in a square so we jumped in a cab to one called Bob first and ended up staying there all night! First it was playing salsa music but then it was a load of chart stuff and everyone was dancing; there was no posing or perching at the sides. We were dancing with some guys and all I saw was one of my friends being lifted up by some random boy and then soar through the air like a bird when the guy dropped her! It was so funny but also completely not cool but also we were all  laughing so much. It was another easy, effortless night with so many fun moments. Budapest was a breeze! Every activity was just completely effortless, inexpensive and unique. Let's just not mention that labyrinth! 

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The Budapest Trip | Day Two: Free Walking Tour, Terror Haza, Karaoke Wars

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 As I said on the 'gram, are you even a tourist if you don't wear your bag to the front?! Onto day two of my Budapest trip and thinking back, we did so much that day! We'd only had a few drinks the night before so we were up and out bright and early for a free walking tour. Our apartment was on the opposite site of the Danube but we swiftly crossed the beautiful bridge and met the walking group, thinking it was a good opportunity to get our bearings and cover lots of sights in one go. One of the best things about Budapest is that there are SO many free sights and experiences, or it's super cheap. It was February so it was damn freezing and we departed with the group to take on St. Stephen's Basilica and the Parliament building. We were paying more attention to taking photos than keeping up with the group though!

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I wasn't sure whether to include a photo of the Shoes on the Danube but you can read about this moving memorial here. Budapest is cloaked in history and this felt open and significant, ready to reflect on without the tourist crowds around you.

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Despite it ending right by our apartment, we actually snuck off from the walking tour pretty soon! I would say you could plan out a tour yourself as the city streets are clear to navigate and sights are close to each other. It was so cold that it wasn't making sense anymore to be pounding the streets so we hung back and slipped away in search of a hot drink. The town wasn't very bustling but this made our search for a coffee shop rather redundant. In the end we grabbed a chai latte in an average Starbucks before moving onto the Terror Haza, a museum set in a place of great horrors of the fascist and communist regimes. The exhibits are hugely varied and use so many different, creative mediums to tell the story of the time, leading up to an eerie walk through the cells that's scary to think about even now.

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It was time for some fuel and we walked across the city to vegan restaurant Napfenyes to sample giant pizzas. The difference wasn't too obvious but a sprinkle of real cheese wouldn't have gone amiss for me! Dining is so cheap that we could have visited there every day and this cute eatery made for a lovely rest.

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Back to the apartment and onto the night! We joined Tinder purely to ask for local recommendations and made a plan to head towards another ruin pub. The apartment was an absolute delight and we were blasting music, applying piles of makeup and dancing around in pure comfort. This is going to sound ridiculous but half the clothes I brought didn't actually fit! Literally I walked into my friends' room with a dress barely covering my hips, so potentially that winter snacking crept up on me by surprise! Bring it on I say - the only problemo was that I only had limited outfits with me! I'd luckily packed a fair few extras of course. My friend Catherine had packed a set outfit per day but I always find I need so many options to mix and match. I dress on instinct and it strikes fear in my heart to think you might have to wear something that doesn't feel right on the night!

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I had this faithful Missguided midi skirt that looks like faux suede but is actually rather stretchy, and a handy Missguided cropped bralette that may seem off-shoulder, but it actually has sweet straps. My hair was damn curly from the day in the freezing weather so I had to tie a little up to appear somewhat less dishevelled!

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We snapped away on my Instax (the first thing I exclaimed when I saw the size of the apartment was 'this will be amazing for photos!') and had one last drink before heading to the bar. Gozsdu Udvar was an arcade full of cafes and pubs but on a Wednesday it was rather quiet. We dodged a bar with girls dancing on the tables and ducked into Blue Bird Cafe, soon realising... it was karaoke night!! Amazing. I usually hate karaoke but I included Snapchat videos in my vlog below because it was actually completely hilarious. We tapped our request into the iPad (Tribute - Tenacious D) and enjoyed streams of tourists singing everything from Disney songs to Queen in terrible accents, taking it extremely seriously, before complaining our song was taking forever. A traveller told us she had sneakily deleted all of the other requests before hers and that was the only way it played! By now though it was rather late and we just crashed other people's songs! It was such a fun night and didn't matter that we ended up staying in the bar as I've never laughed so much! Look out for my next instalment soon, or check out my vlog below for a sneak peek!


Pretty Western with The Gracechurch Centre

I just love trends! Is there anything more satisfying than a new season full of fresh garms to discover? The promise of unearthing a favourite new staple or cultivating the perfect head to toe look is what makes me dive into a stack of magazines, pages of the latest fashion weeks' street style, and of course hunting around the shops. Even before I started my blog ten years ago, it's what I've always loved to do! Working in retail makes this habit my day job too, so I never really stop thinking about what people are currently buying.

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It's a delight to be part of The Gracechurch Centre's summer campaign, Fashion in the Frame. Store windows are being graced with a new trend each week and when you snap and share your favourite on social media, you could win it! This week's trend is Pretty Western, and I'd bet this is the biggest hit on the high street this season. Gingham? Check. Embroidery? Check. Embellished denim? Check! It was not hard to hit the shops and peruse so many cute items with a western twist right now. 

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However I chanced upon this yellow prairie dress in Marks and Spencer, displayed on their campaign model in all its sunny glory. How beautiful is this colour! Complete with tassels and tiers, I was all over this buttercup beauty. It also left the trend open to a gorgeous embroidered bag or pair of heels - or both! These River Island sandals are undoubtedly the shoe of the season, with a perfect block heel and bold florals across the sole and straps too. How good would these look with a pair of frayed hem jeans or gingham smock dress?  The New Look clutch was another dose of punchy florals in orange, pink and blue, picking out the yellow of the dress with a burst of flowers and leaves. Such a pretty way to nod to the trend but also chance to accompany just about every outfit this summer with this bag of applique dreams.

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Have fun checking out the framed outfits at The Gracechurch Centre and good luck with the competition!

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A taste of lagom with Rekorderlig Cider #spon

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#StartTheSwedishWay

I was recently approached about the subject of lagom and was instantly transported back in time. Do you remember when I lived in Sweden for a year during University? I’m not even sure if Erasmus still exists but I studied in the small town of Borås and followed my fashion blogger dreams. Yes - then fashion blogging consisted of a handful in the UK but an absolute heap over in Sweden. Their forest photos, simple blonde top knots, giant circle scarves and understated vintage wears were just what the blogging community strived for. Rekorderlig Cider asked me to share how I could start my summer the Swedish way, as the ethos of lagom is that just enough is the perfect amount of everything, with a lack of fussiness being the key. To celebrate a cool, chilled summer, they are going on tour across the UK to give away free samples of cider! Read on to see just where they are heading.

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I even wrote about the vibes of the Swedish custom of lagom in a post here in 2009! It’s SO nostalgic to dip into the past and read a whole year’s worth of blog posts from my time there, which were often very personal as it lives out the true adventure of living abroad. The word lagom is literally translated as ‘just enough’ or ‘just the right amount’. When you visit Sweden, you are absorbed into a world of family time by the lake, picnics in the forest and chatting over fika – a coffee and a cake! The lifestyle is laid back, calm and mindful. If you take just the right amount from life, you reach peace and content. Is happiness balance? I think so! It’s the life you have around those Instagram moments and expensive events that make the difference.

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Over the Bank Holiday I dipped back into the lagom lifestyle and chilled at my mom’s pretty house with my family, enjoying the delicious Wild Berries and and Mango-Raspberry cider in the sunshine, served over ice with a zesty, refreshing twist. My siblings fought over the flavours as it's a truly fruit experience. My mouth is watering just writing this! Instead of organising a grand outing, we all moseyed our way over to Lichfield on the sunny Saturday and sampled that comforting home cooking that I so miss. Chilling on the sofa, cuddling the cat and admiring the birds. No fuss. Perfect!

It is truly nostalgic as Rekorderlig Cider is what we drank in Sweden at the international flat gatherings celebrating cultural days from around the world, and by the lake hidden deep in the huge, towering forest literally just next door to our student halls. I can remember collecting it during the trips to the nearby supermarket while slipping and sliding on ice, surrounded my metre-high snow during winter.

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You can also #StartTheSwedishWay this summer by visiting the Rekorderlig Cider sampling Van in Birmingham on 24th June. The van will be gracing a number of cities across 28 days so you can try a slice of Scandinavian style, drink, and culture too!

The Lagom Tour Dates:

  • Every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 15th June to 23rd July 2017
  • Box Park Shoreditch, London– 15th June
  • High Street, Birmingham – 24th June
  • Gunwharf, Portsmouth – 30th June
  • Jubilee Street, Brighton – 1st July
  • Rose Lane, Canterbury – 2nd July
  • Queen Street, Cardiff – 6th July
  • Crown Square, Spinningfields, Manchester – 21st July

The post is in collaboration with Rekorderlig Cider.


The Budapest Trip | Day One: Apartment surprise and Szimpla Kert

I hope you enjoy reading these lengthy travel diaries as I have two trips up my sleeve - my solo New York whirlwind and my bae-cation with besties to Budapest earlier this year! I created the vlog at the end of this post almost as soon as I returned as I had so much fun documenting this trip. Proving you can make friends as an adult, I've only know Sarah really well for a few years, and it was less than a year ago that I met her friend Catherine, who has a YouTube channel too! No friends have ever really been keen to be in my videos but this time it was constant cameras out!

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So why Budapest? We were looking for a bargain break that wouldn't be too icy and still had plenty of nightlife. Discovering handy flights out of BHX and the cheapest accomodation ever, we booked up pretty sharpish. Planning our Hungarian adventure was straightforward and stress-free too. The sights are clear and readily explained across the net, and a large handful of bars and clubs stood out right away.

We didn't fly until the evening but I did take the day off work to pack and prep. After a log slog in the office, I would not be starting the holiday in the freshest place, right! We booked checked cases for our 5 day trip so I greedily packed up practically every outfit in my modest wardrobe and we ubered off to the airport. We were in the middle of debating drinks and snacks before our flight when it was suddenly called to final boarding, so we hot footed it to the gate and away we went! 

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I'll spare you the rather alarming photo of my sheet mask during the DIY plane facial I created, but soon we were being whizzed through the streets of Hungary by our new favourite cab driver who shared many recommendations. He pulled up to a huge, eerie church cloaked in darkness and announced "girls, this is your home"... before laughing his head off and pulling up to our actual apartment. In a towering stone building with heavy iron doors and winding stone staircases, this was more like staying at an abbey too! We were met by the host and as he showed us around the glorious space, we kept our cool until he finally vacated and we could run around our pad. I cannot believe what money can buy in Budapest! You can see more of our flat in the vlog but the high ceilings, stained glass and major space meant it was Instagram-photo perfection and such a welcoming home. I've only realised recently how your accommodation can really make the difference to a holiday, even if you always intend to be out and about, as your choice sets the scene for the whole trip. The impact feels short lived as soon as you arrive, but the time you spend getting ready for adventures, gearing up for a night out and gossiping in the morning do play a major role in the getaway vibes. From eight girls in a one bedroom apartment in Abu Dhabi, to my recent New York room that could have fit in the bathroom of our Budapest apartment (more on that at a later date!), I've really overlooked the part accommodation has played in the past. I would highly recommend Piano Castle Hill apartments!

It was fairly late but the gals on this trip know how to party right. Within an hour we were dressed, drink in hand, finding the best photo spot and planning our escape. The cab driver had gave us the number of a local taxi firm and that's where we put his first top tip into place. The taxis have a set fare per kilometre so be careful you are not overcharged. You can check the distance on Google Maps and estimate how much you should be paying, plus a small initial charge, so when the driver quoted us literally four times what it should have been, we definitely disputed! Once fairly settled with a shrug from the driver, and despite it being a Wednesday night, we were destined for the best 'ruin bar', Szimpla Kert. Set in the Jewish Quarter a 10 minute taxi ride across the nearby Danube, the ruin bars take up abandoned, sprawling buildings left after World War II and create a maze of a pub-come-club, with walls covered in quirky graffiti, dog-eared posters and arty paraphernalia. With so much personality, you're in a hippy paradise and, quite importantly, surrounded my travellers. We walked into plenty of casual student types dancing up a storm and after a few rum and cokes later, we were too! We did meet some Brits abroad, most memorably a bunch of guys who said one of their dads had paid for everyone's trips, but we side-stepped these pretty sharpish. After a few hours we went in search for a vegan takeaway as I was indeed travelling with two veganistas. Three falafel wraps later and  we were back to our apartment and sleeping soundly. Look out for my post about day 2 soon, but if you want to jump ahead already, here is my vlog! Enjoy watching.


In tune with Sixth Sense Salon | Birmingham Life

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A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a fantastic blogger event at a local salon. The recommendation already proceeded Sixth Sense Salon as fellow blogger and event extraordinaire Ting had already recommended them to me a few months prior for their inventive colours. When she invited me along to a preview of the refurbished salon and a complimentary treatment, I said a delighted yes please! I don't really have a regular hairdresser as my previous favourite has moved to a salon a little outside of town now, and as happy as I was with the colour, I can't justify the price of a Nicky Lazou balayage unless I went back to a more natural colour.

Off I trouped after work to my old school town of Sutton Coldfield and right by the train station (and near US beauty mecca Cocktail Cosmetics) was a red carpet leading into Sixth Sense. Bloggers with bubbles in hand meant I was at the right place, and I was greeted by staff members and blogger babes a plenty. When an event hasn't even started and already everyone is chattering and snapping away, you know it's going to go well.

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Sixth Sense has a completely different vibe to any salon I've visited before! You know my hair is my thing, or at least it was my thing. I have strayed away from my natural colour and while I haven't masked it completely, I'm in a real rut. My balayage has grown out, my layers are long and I needed some drastic advice. While I've had roots and cuts at local salons across the city, I really want someone to actually care about my hair and not be rushing off for a lunch break or suggesting to slap on dark grey dye over a colour mistake (a recent happening!).

Sixth Sense is a family in tune with every aspect of a salon experience. Owners and partners Dean and Dean introduced every single member of the team and their role in the business, and explained the ethos behind the salon makeover. Business-head Dean revealed all of the on-going work with local cancer patients, trialling new treatments for hair growth after chemotherapy. This was a journey for all involved as the salon were keen to explore and nurture how they could build a relationship with women going through that change and how they could offer their specialism, with training from oncology nurses too.

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All of the endeavours and features of the salon are customer-led and experimental, and it goes beyond pulling customers through the door on rotation. The murals on the walls are by a local graffiti artist and the mantras dotted around are just as personal to the owners as they are inspirational. Could there be more personality?!

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The salon is hot to apply for every award, training and innovation, and a company that invests so much into all of their staff members meant I felt any stylist I had would be striving towards that high standard. Luckily for me my stylist was salon director Dean himself! We tried the new System Professional Energy Code assessment to choose my most suited products, and of course a hair oil featured in there to feed my parched locks.

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Such a unique highlight is the new treatment room, aka the spa room from heaven. It's like the salon took the hairdressing rule book and ripped it up. Gone is the bustling side room and on offer is a serene spa sanctuary with a Santorini mural, ambient lighting and soothing spa tunes. It's like another world in there! I absolutely love and need well-being in the form of massage, facials and now it looks like a trip to the hairdressers can be a stress reliever too. Bliss!

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After a hair wash lying back in a custom massage chair - yes, really! - it was time for another Bellini and a fabulous, bouncy blow dry that lasted the week. It's no doubt Dean is an absolute pro but the finishing touches to the front of my hair as he framed it carefully around my face really made the difference.

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And look how fabulous everyone's hair looked! There were glossy curls taking over the town that night and we were buzzing from the uplifting experience. We all had to pull a cheesy pose in honour of Sixth Sense, just like those dotted around the salon of the team. As you can see, my balayage has really grown out so I have booked myself an appointment in June and can't wait to do something new with my locks! Watch this space!

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Some images credited to Matt Beach Photography.