Travel

Ibiza in October Diaries #3 | San Antonio Beach & Cafe Mambo

I could SO jet off on a beach getaway right about now! These pictures are totally making me dream of summer. It's the third instalment of my Ibiza holiday and our second full day was sunny and warm. Around 25 degrees to be exact! Perfect. We were set for our first beach day, and I just had to go straight to the nearest shop and buy a huge blue lilo. Beach bags packed and hair bunned up, we set off to the sea!

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Our hotel was literally on San Antonio beach so we grabbed breakfast before walking along the sea to a slightly nicer stretch of sand. I imagine this beach is packed full in high season but it was very quiet while we settling onto the sand with a few Coronas. There was a sweet beachy vibe but no lairy groups or pumping music, which suited us fine! It's not the greatest beach in terms of clear water or an absence of litter, and I assume it could be hit and miss at busier times, but a splash in the sea was all we called for. We took some great self-timer shots but I won't share bikini photos of my friends here!

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I'm not even going to share a full-on bikini photo of myself as it felt a little TMI, but the new bikini I took was so lush! I spotted the brand Boho Rose on Instagram and the fluorescent coral hue of this set won my heart. All bikinis are hand made in a stretch, shirred-style fabric that is super comfortable and thick, yet the cut is seriously flattering. With a cool high-cut hip and at least ten different bra shapes to choose from, I'd so recommend this brand! I'd really like an acid yellow set for this summer, or the apple green.

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The day quickly ran away with us and we vowed to be ready for 6ish to catch the sunset at the Cafe Mambo closing party. I had looked at booking a table before the trip but there was a €100 deposit so we chanced it. I wore this PrettyLittleThing set I've had for a few years but never actually wore due to the tiny amount of material it is! It's a wash of minty pastels and so pretty.

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We made the sunset right on time and Cafe Mambo was much more laid back than I had anticipated. We walked straight in and spotted a free table as we queued for the bar. It was only after we ate dinner there too that we realised just how lucky it was to walk right in and get a table for food without a reservation, and apparently we had walked past a huge queue and just strolled right in! I just thought the crowds outside were milling around but it turns out there was some sort of door check and we'd been none the wiser.

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A few more cocktails and the music really got started, but it wasn't quite our style. No matter how long I could spend in Ibiza, house music is just not my jam! We stayed until late and walked back through the West End, popping into a few bars that promised to be absolutely heaving after midnight. A week or so before and the nightlife may have been still alive, but most places were shut by mid October. We were soon back at the hotel of pensioners, getting a few hours sleep before another beach day tomorrow.


Ibiza Out of Season Diaries #2 | Dinner at Eivissa Castle

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It's that time of the year when winter festivities are firmly packed away and you're realising one can never own too many bikinis. Here is the next instalment of my Ibiza trip last year after a breezy flight and first night adventures, and it was our first full day! After leaving the land that was closing down for winter, it felt like we had a second chance at summer as we awoke to blue skies, warm air and the promise of that Ibiza magic. First agenda: breakfast! With only one night down, we passed upon the breakfast at our Hotel Arenal as it was clear it was an over 50s affair. A programme of show dancers and a magician in the evening, plus various OAPs in hotel towels sitting back on plastic chairs, revealed that either the party season had long ended, or we were certainly in ancient accommodation!

The best thing was the proximity to San Antonio beach and we strolled along the pretty much empty sands to a nearby classic greasy spoon with a sea view, right next to a KFC. It's clear San Antonio has every fast food joint you could wish for when you're abroad with the lads, lads, lads, and that was cool with us. As I mentioned in my last post, we really chose Ibiza on a whim and I was so ready for an easy, breezy ride. One of our only planned activity days was to visit Ibiza town so we hopped on a nearby bus and was soon at the capital. 

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A definite upgrade from San Antonio's startling booze cruise advertisements and 2-for-1 fish bowls, the town has a rustic, Mediterranean vibe with pretty pastel apartments and a port untouched by under age tourists. We couldn't help stopping by Pull & Bear and Berksha, and I observed what seemed to be the island 'locals'; those with deep tans, threaded hair braids and tie dyed clothes.

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The first goal was to climb Eivissa Castle for the sunset; the beautiful highlight Ibiza is known for. One of the things I enjoyed the most about this holiday was packing a small case exclusively of bright, summery clothes! Wearing these Missguided flares in Ibiza was the perfect place, and all of my festival floral crowns came in perfectly handy. My legs look freakishly long here due to my lens! 

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It's a surprisingly quick stroll along the cobbles to reach the 360 degree views from the top of the castle. We took in the views during dusk and could truly appreciate we were on such a small drop of an island in the gorgeous Balearic sea. I loved the beauty of a relaxed vibe and not having a 'holiday' in a rushed city with an overwhelming itinerary. 

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We wandered back down towards the centre, where the edges of castle are bursting with charming, open fronted restaurants with chalked menus on wooden plaques leaning against white walls. We chose La Oliva and a few glasses of Spanish wine perfectly complimented the fresh fish on offer. I love quaint restaurants that have beautiful, delicate dishes in a rustic, casual setting.

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I had the sea bass followed by a crème brûlée, which is fast becoming my go-to dessert. Despite the pudding, it was an extremely light and fresh dinner, made even more atmospheric by the falling daylight into a balmy evening of eating and drinking outdoors on the cobbled streets as passersby lazily strolled on. On a city break it's often hard to sift the best restaurants from the tourist-calling, laminated menu offerings that you always tend to plump for. This was such a treat to dine leisurely with friends and enjoy a relaxed evening meal!

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We headed back towards the bus stops, stopping off for one drink along the way as the town had such a perfect vibe. Once returned to the hotel, I experienced another pro of beach holidays. It literally took a shower, quick smoky eye and highlight, a party dress and soon we were ready to head out again and felt great. I wore a Boohoo dress that can only be reserved for a place that you spend most of the time wearing a tiny bikini anyway, as it's literally pants with a few strips of material here and there, and off we went off to the West End! I explained in my previous post but this is essentially the strip of San Antonio, Ibiza's party town. Our hotel was a quick stroll there in the warm evening air, so we arrived to the criss-crossing streets lined with bars raring to go. 

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Unfortunately the bars themselves were not... as in they were all closed. We wandered around, looking right and left for some signs of life or sounds of a bass, until we turned a corner and saw Soho's, the bar we had visited last night! It was their summer closing party (not quite in an epic proportion though) and all drinks were 1€. ALL DRINKS. Despite it being a crowd inside of around 40, the place was filled quite nicely and again we had the mercy of the DJ. A million requests later, the DJ had his hands in the air as Faithless blasted out to our modestly sized adoring crow, and we made friends with just about everyone. Sadly my floor length dress was not the item to wear in a bar that was attempting to drain every liquid in the place as by the end of the night, the hem was literally sodden by about a metre in whatever was on that floor. Nice. I literally left it to soak for about a week before washing it 20 times once I had brought it back home in it's own shameful bag. Never the less, a hilarious night!

And if you can't wait for all of the gossip from the other nights, my vlog is live! Would you consider an Ibiza visit?


Ibiza Out of Season Diaries #1 | World Duty Free

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It's January: the peak time for booking holidays. I already have one booked up for February as I really do work to travel at this point in my life/career/single status, and you may be pondering your 2017 destinations too. Ibiza could be a destination you hadn't considered (or you just like to read my super long holiday adventures?!) so I have a series of posts coming up this week of my trip to Ibiza in October!

Now my friends and I usually choose cheap, obscure cities for our holidays so we only need to use a few days annual leave and we can be assured we won't exclusively meet a) teenagers or b) British tourists, but also we look to party every night and sight see every day. Sleep is not part of the itinerary evidently! Ibiza came about because we wanted some late winter sun, wanted to stay in Europe and wanted some fuss-free nightlife. I've always been intrigued by Ibiza because I've always told myself I'm not enough of a beach babe to shine somewhere that a bikini is a dress code. Since the slightly disastrous trip to Dubai, I knew I never felt great with my hair bundled up to combat any sea water and the sand rubbing off my fake tan. I prefer cities to beaches and don't like sitting all day... or so I thought. Once October rolled around, all I wanted to do was sit in warm sunshine sipping cocktails! I didn't want to soak up culture or creativity; I just wanted to relax with a capital R. We spotted a super cheap deal and booked up!

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I spent a few weeks shopping for cute bikinis in the sales and making an itinerary of secluded beaches. In Dubai we were super rushed to get ready each day and I felt almost scruffy compared to the luxe vibes there, but this time I had all of the pretty damn lovely holiday clothes I'd bought especially for that holiday and never got to wear, plus it all fitted neatly into a hand luggage-sized suitcase as jumpers, jeans and heels were not needed. I packed loads of headwraps, beachy jewellery and a head full of hair style ideas in order to feel happy on a beach. I didn't know how that would fare but read on to hear my revaluation.

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It was actually pretty funny to be going to a classic holiday destination in an Inbetweeners-style jaunt. It was somewhere we knew we didn't need to take too seriously. I had low expectations as October was officially out of season, and while some places were still  open, most of the prestige super clubs and beach parties were well and truly over. A few cocktails at a cheesy bar and a few books on the beach suited me fine! And as the UK was heading straight into autumn, it was great to pack a bag bursting with colour, choose a fluorescent orange for my nails and bring out the sandals, sun cream and shorts. I didn't care about going to the gym or glamming up before we went as there was no prestige, no expectation and no drama with this trip. It was one of the first holidays I felt no pressure to be extremely prepared and make the absolute most of; I was more curious to see what vibes this island had to offer.

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Our flight was during the day time so we leisurely headed to our very local airport and were treated to a World Duty Free experience before our flight. We first perused what was new at the counters and admired the insane Liptensity shades at MAC, taking some awesome tips from the MUA who had lived in Ibiza for a few seasons. For some reason my friend and I bought the most ridiculous shades as we were SO in the Ibiza spirit, and I pictured myself rocking purple lipstick with my space buns and bikini at a fabulous pool party. Oh yes!

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We wandered over to the new Jo Malone area that felt a world away from the bustling airport departures and explored the different scents. I chose Oud and Bergamot for my complimentary hand massage, and just check out my tan! I'd gone a little wild in my holiday prep and made the rookie error of not scrubbing my hands straight after. The hand massage definitely took the edge off this and was an absolute dream before our flight. I'm not the easiest of flyers but I am a huge fan of holistic remedies and even a short massage with the delicious scents helped to set the tone for a smooth and easy flight.

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Some trashy chic lit later and we were zipping through Ibiza at dusk to our hotel. I'm not sure what I expected but it was at first a series of long tarmaced roads boardered with brash billboards of the hottest parties of the season. It was quite peculiar to know these dates had all passed and we had arrived to somewhere that was winding down. The hotel had a lobby full of a few towel-wrapped holiday makers and laminated evening entertainment programmes, and our room was something out of the '70s. Pink tiles, wooden sliding doors and turquoise pattered curtains contained two wooden single beds. The TV was ancient and the balcony view was of air conditioners and Burger King, but the room was massive, airy and cool. We grabbed some drinks and snacks from the open shop across the street and welcomed the other half of our foursome who had flown in from London and had most definitely already started the cocktail party on the plane! 

I'd spent a summer in jeans and crop tops so quickly showering and cracking out a strappy orange mini dress from Pretty Little Thing, diamante choker from Claire's and flat embellished sandals felt damn amazing. Sandals! There's something so freeing about going strictly casual but of course all-out at the same time and only taking 15 minutes to get ready. Somehow a little makeup goes a long way and I had nothing to prove. Unfortunately we hadn't realised the average age of the hotel guests was around 65 and we were told instantly by the knocking night porter that any sound would not be tolerated. We sipped and chatted and selfied as quietly as we could before grabbing out clutch bags and doing that satisfying here-come-the-girls strut out to the cabs.

We made the mistake of taking one across the island from San Antonio to Playa D'en Bossa but the advertised pool party was like a ghost town! Luckily two of the group stayed in the taxi while we crept through the entrance and onto a completely deserted beach, made ever so eerie by the dark crashing waves. Back in the cab, we sailed back to the West End and found there too almost everywhere was shut up. We followed the calls of music and stumbled across one bar with just enough of a small crowd meaning we were constantly served within ten seconds and could request almost all of the music. 

And that's how our first night went! I don't have any photos to share because they are all candid shots of us piling onto the single beds and talking each other into wearing our most fabulous dresses, but you can be sure it was a perfect first night! Maybe beach holidays were better than I first thought? Tune back in later for more!


MTV Crashes Plymouth!

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Hello! Last Friday was spent very differently to this week as I whizzed down to MTV Crashes Plymouth! I LOVE a festival or any music event really; what could be better than a huge mass of people totally in the zone and sharing the sunshine vibes! That feeling you get after any concert, gig or event is something you can’t replicate.

CrossCountry trains treated my bestie and myself to a trip to the south for a day in Plymouth as loads of artists crashed the town with MTV. I used to holiday in Weymouth a lot when I was a little kid and would sit in the shallows of the sea with my legs to the side pretending to be a mermaid! But heading to the nearby Plymouth for the first time couldn’t have been easier as the route is direct from Birmingham New Street. A few hours flew by as we traveled across beautiful coastline and had those essential hours to fill each other in with all of our latest gossip. My friends and I mostly will meet for Friday night drinks now but when we do, it has to be especially early to reserve a few hours for chatting.

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I JUST passed my driving test (wahooooo, that’s another post!!) but there’s no reason to sit on the motorway for hours when you can hop on a train with snacks, magazines and mates and actually relax before reaching your destination! Last year we had a few mini city breaks to Sheffield and Leeds, and it’s the perfect treat when a summer holiday is way too far on the horizon, and you can reach cities across the country so easily. The CrossCountry network is the most extensive in Britain, stretching from Aberdeen to Penzance and from Stansted to Cardiff, calling at over 100 stations, and we are so lucky to live in a country with so many easily accessible cities and landmarks just waiting to be checked out.

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After an incredibly smooth journey peppered with multiple cups of tea and biscuits, we pulled into Plymouth Station and strolled across to our hotel to freshen up and decide on our outfits. I had to bring about 200 options and we chose really casual looks in the end as the festival was so central in the town and we didn’t want to go overboard with glitter, feathers and flowers!

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Plymouth is a beautiful mix of cobbled streets and a thriving port with a classic British seaside vibe. I had a birthday voucher for Pizza Express so we stopped off for dinner before heading across to Plymouth Hoe to a HUGE crowd against the shore. It was a festival stage of epic proportions and one of the most excited and happy vibes of any music event I’ve been to, especially as the weather held off and it was a warm summer night. We grabbed a Pimms and partied with Afro Jack, Sub Focus and Example, featuring laser shows, smoke and mega beats. The shows were blended by independent DJs from Plymouth so it was literally one long, non-stop party all night!


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Feeling hyped and happy, we went onto a local bar called The Dairy that served cocktails in milk bottles before heading back to our welcoming hotel beds! The next day we browsed the port again before leisurely hopping back on the train and chilling to the max all the way home.

Thank you to CrossCountry trains from us both! For students or about-to-be students, a 16-25 Railcard can get discounts of up to 1/3 on most adult Standard and First Class rail fares AND you can also get an exclusive 10% off CrossCountry Advance tickets with your NUS extra, or Apprentice extra card. Follow their student Facebook page here


A Week in Paris

GOSH it's hot! I'm writing this lying stretched out on my bed in the most awkward style but it's extreme weather in the UK right now and I can't find a way to sit and type that doesn't feel like I'm wearing the air as a blanket. But hey, summer is here and sadly I don't have a tropical holiday on the horizon! Maybe this will change but my friends and I always prefer to discover another city rather than sit by a pool. I'm not sure you could look forward to a week of lounging as you can with a week of discoveries, but I probably need to widen my beach destination list. I need to feel like I've accomplished something when I have time off work and I figure I can sit on a sunbed when I'm older. I guess I'm not a sun worshipper!

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My holiday to Dubai in November wasn't all it was cracked up to be and was mega pricey, so we'd waited a while to book another break. I'd heard the getaway idea of spending a few days in Paris and a few days in Bordeaux, and we looked at switching that up to Paris plus the south of France. This would have been even more costly than two separate holidays so we booked off 6 days to spend in Paris! I've been to Marseille with my friends in a hilariously impulsive trip that cost just £20 to fly and it ended up being truly awesome and effortless, so Paris was the city to ticket off next. My friend is a huge Mumford and Sons fan and they were touring there at the time we wanted to go.

So Paris it was! And it was also a New York reunion for myself and two of my friends who are always up for an adventure; our aim is to be as social as possible. I had my sights set on seeing some beautiful landmarks, mixing with the ‘locals’ and drafting ourselves into the coolest circles and hotspots.

The flights from Birmingham airport are easy peasy as you’re at Charles De Gaulle in little over an hour and we lazily took an Uber to our (Booking.com) apartment; it worked out pretty much the same cost as train and metro travel into central Paris, and we all had large suitcases for the six days rather than our usual overloaded 10kg hand luggage allowance that we always abuse. We picked the central 14th arr. which had a host of local restaurants and supermarkets nearby, but we did end up getting Ubers and the metro during the day and night towards the centre of the city. I’d aim to stay as close to the Seine as possible to be the most central to the night life!

Our apartment absolutely blew us away as we were welcomed in by the owner, Bertrand. This flat was a work of art itself, with incredible 19th century furniture, hundreds of guide books on Paris culture and sights, and actual art and sculptures with their own spotlights. We charmed our way through his meticulous tour of the flat, “this is the kettle”… *extensive how-to lesson*… “this is the cleaning cupboard”… *extensive description of all items*... and he kindly left us with a bottle of champagne and a beautiful cake! What a delight. A hotel is great if you want the upkeep of new towels and a tidy each day, but an apartment crucially gave us the freedom to buy supermarket food to save on eating out constantly, and have some chill time rather than be cramped into one space. We had a hotel in New York but an apartment really worked in Paris as we did spend a fair time eating and getting ready there each days.

After a day of travelling, we browsed the local area with Bertrand’s handy custom maps and recommendations, and tucked into some fair French food with a slight touristy edge. Finding great restaurants is still not my forte as I’m not the biggest foodie but it does pain me to pay top dollar for dull food from a laminated menu full of photos. I was very torn on what to do that evening but one of my friends and I decided to head to a bar just for a few drinks as to not waste our first night, and I literally wore my matching leggings and lace up khaki set that I’d worn on the plane and just topped up my lipstick!

In the run up to travelling, I was actually the most chilled out I've been for any holiday. I had just changed my job a few weeks before and we unfortunately had a furry visitor under our floorboard at home, so I was too wrapped up and stressed about other things to spend my usual weeks leading up to a holiday knee deep in online guides and top 10 listicles. I did manage to collect a selection of bar and club descriptions, though this is an extremely hard task as there’s so much dated information online and a description of a club is so subjective. I’d managed to collect a list of decent-sounding bars and clubs though I annoyingly can’t remember the one we headed off to, which was a tiny dark hole in the wall with a basement cove of open brick-work packed with people dancing to a live band, and a bar circled with the most attractive French hipsters. It was all beards, long hair and smouldering looks, and after ordering two gin doubles that came to around 40 euros, we were slightly apprehensive this would be an EXPENSIVE holiday! A band of older dudes joined the first band on the tiny stage and they encored to the crowd’s delight, and we had a giggling gossip before heading home around 1am as we had to be up and out the next morning for DISNEYLAND!

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Now I’m not the hugest Disney film fan as I’m not particularly into cartoon films but obviously I appreciate Disney, the magic and a great chance to be entertained. We chose an off-peak day and the tickets for both parks were under £40 each, and we took a train from Paris straight there easily. I’m hilariously scared of rides and my friends had to coax me onto even the child-friendly ones, but we soon learnt that some queues were not worth waiting in as we spent way too long in the Toy Story area. We had a fast pass but didn’t realise you had to queue up at the start of the day to each separate ride and collect a timed ticket, and by the time we tried to go straight into Ratatouille, the fast pass ticket times were all sold out – oops! We queued up anyway for the top rides so next was the Finding Nemo rollercoaster which was actually super scary, and some 15 year old French girls in the queue were totally making fun of us behind as we waited which made for some hilarious commentary for our friends back at home when we sent an SOS Whatsapp message that we were being bullied by teenagers.

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After circling some more rides on the leaflet map and making a rough order of the day, we headed back to Ratatouille and skipped the massive main queue to get straight on in the ‘single riders’ queue. If you don’t have kids that have to be with you at all times, I’d recommend taking this queue as generally you are in the same set of carriages or cars as your friends, and most experiential rides don’t need you to be next to your mates as you aren’t exactly having a chit chat during them! That 3D experience was completely awesome, and I think we then went off for some lunch at Annettes, where I lived my dream of being at a restaurant with servers on rollerskates! We made a slight error in queuing up for ages for the Armagedon ride that just made loads of little kids cry, and the Tower of Terror was absolutely the scariest thing I’ve ever been on! Especially when my friend were secretly touching my hair and I thought it was part of the ride.

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A few rides were shut for maintenance but we completed them all and then headed to Disneyland Park for the 5.30pm parade. At 5pm there were spaces along the street but after we grabbed a drink, the pavements were lined with families and it was harder to get a great spot. I’m gutted Ariel wasn’t in the parade but it was a delight to see all of the characters and dancers! I assume the parade is the time when lots of families call it a day as this park was open until 10pm and there were hardly any ride queues from there on in. We worked out way around Buzz Lightyear Lazer Blast, It’s a Small World and every ride that was open that day, although I was too chicken to go on Space Mountain! Soon it really was late and we had to head all the way back home, make a supermarket stop for dinner, and get set for a night out.

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Another ingenious thing I did was to put in my Tinder profile that I was in Paris for a week and needed nightlife recommendations, and then swipe right for the first 100 guys that popped up. Dodging the many ‘I recommend you hang out with ME’ messages, most people did send over some great suggestions and we chose the hilariously named Le Titty Twister as our destination. We heard it was a rock club but as we stepped out the Uber, we didn’t realised it would be a roped off entrance reminiscent of New York. The door lady surrounded by bouncers asked if we were on 'the list', to which my friend replied yes and improvised with a random name, and we were let into the dark, swanky space themed on Tarantino film and playing hip hop and trap music all night. This wasn’t quite what my friends had in mind but it was more up my street, though we didn’t stay too long as it was rather pretentious and we weren’t feeling that for a Thursday night. We spoke to a few 'business owners' but whether they were real or phoney will remain a mystery!

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Plus the next day we were out and about in Paris as we’d bought the Paris Pass. We didn’t end up visiting all of the sights we’d hoped but it’s always useful to prebook as much as you can before heading somewhere so it’s as easy breezy as possible to get up and GO. We headed straight for the Louvre of course and browsed around the galleries before scoping the Mona Lisa, which has apparently been subject to theft, an acid attack and a fire?! She is one rad babe.

We explored Notre Dame and had some massive omelettes by the Seine, and paid a pilgrimage to Sephora before passing some hotties in the street and getting another recommendation for the best parties. The weather was beaut that day and we took a final walk to the impressive Panthéon for a browse before heading off home and getting set for that night. As it was Friday we hit a cocktail bar first in a cool side street packed with after-work drinkers, and got an Uber to Wanderlust. The queue was absolutely massive and about five people thick, snaking all the way down the road, but we confidentially walked straight to the front and basically just asked to come in. At first the bouncers looked bemused and grabbed a guy that could speak English, and we literally just said we need to come straight in while trying to look like we were ‘somebodies’ in an aloof, prestige sort of fashion, and somehow we just casually strolled in. I don’t quite know how we do it but you just need to walk straight in without a bouncer saying yes or no, giving the air that you are meant to be there! My one friend also casually walked straight past the 18euro entrance desk and we were on the huge rooftop party dancing all night and meeting Insta-famous body builders apparently.

Satisfied but a little delicate, we awoke to Bertrand’s alarm clock of a sublime classical music CD and headed on the train to the Palace of Versailles on the boiling hot Saturday. We spent most of the time walking and queuing, and saw little of the Palace after we discovered despite our entrance pass, visiting the gardens was a further 10 euros. 10 euros for open air seemed a little mean and we continued around the grand palace before travelling back to central Paris and not visiting Opera in time. We still had a few hours before we needed to head back to get set for the night out so we hopped on the nearby open top bus tour and chundered round the sites in a bus that really felt like it would topple over at any point! The extended tour did start lulling us to sleep and we soon hopped off and onto the metro home, refreshing ourselves for another night out at the Moulin Rouge club, La Machine. After our recent experiences of club entry, we mentally prepared ourselves to encounter some super strict bouncers, but this club seemed to be super casual and it was a night called Chronologic, where each hour played music from the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s and then the ‘00s in order - of course! We walked in at the end of the ‘60s era to a swimming pool-style low dance floor surrounded by balconies, and a stage with super camp dancers and crowd invasions. On the hour there was a grand countdown and the next decade of tunes began. This place was absolutely awesome but IT WAS SO HOT. It was literally the temperature of a sauna and I managed only a few songs before having to go stand near the entrance and popping back in to instantly hit a wall of heat. Next time I would wear something dark and super loose, and NOT wear your hair down! It was such a party but really impossible to stay very long - it was honestly a million degrees!

The next day we had our Mumford and Son’s gig in the evening so we attempted to book a wine tour but instead went on a boat tour down the Seine, which I wouldn’t really recommend unless it’s a sunny day and you can sit on the boat roof. We were so low down in the boat that you couldn’t see any sights over the river walls anyway and listening to a telephone spiel of the commentary was annoying so we just chatted and face swapped instead! I’d choose the bus tour over a boat tour any day.

We grabbed dinner and got back to the apartment just in time to get ready again and take an expensive taxi to the Zennith arena at the edge of Paris. The arena was quite small so it was an intimate-enough gig, and though I’m not a huge M&Ss fan it was a great show. We met some French hippies and a few English guys and hung out before it was home time in a giant shared Uber.

And then it was our last day! Which was actually rather lovely as we got up slowly and packed, realised one of Bertrand’s DVD collection was a film we had been talking about all holiday, and went back into central Paris to have a meal at the cutest, most authentic French restaurant that was truly delicious and opposite Laduree. We strolled down the Seine until sundown and grabbed snacks for an evening of Saved the Last Dance in our cool apartment, before our early flight the next morning.

As I hadn’t been away or taken a break from work for for 6 months, and I’m lucky enough to usually go on a short break with my friends every few months for the past few years, it was SO a few days away that I really needed and I came back feeling refreshed and motivated. It was the perfect mix of action and chill, and my camera was playing up so I didn’t concern myself with documenting the holiday too much. I did get a few shots for the vlog below but there was no full video this time!

We're thinking about a late September break that is relaxing and laid back with just a few cheeky local bars and a whole lotta sea and sand - can you recommend anywhere? We are considering Venice!


Abu Dhabi & Dubai Bae-cation Part 4: Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

I hope my previous post didn't send you into despair but here is my penultimate round up of my holiday! We were onto the Dubai stretch and it was bliss to have a shower without a queue of eight girls, though I still felt pretty horrible. One of our group had a cousin who works in Dubai and stays at the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah Resort. Let's just say it was fancy. And I mean fancy!

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He said we could use the resort's beach that day and we all trooped off in taxis with me skipping breakfast. I was wearing my new River Island bikini with a gorgeous jewel toned maxi dress from Boohoo that I'd picked up for next to nothing, but was feeling quite quiet and took more of a back seat. Usually I'm the one sharing plans, gossiping and laughing at every moment so it really was rather rubbish to be feeling so under the weather! 

After a few questionable moments on whether we were allowed in, we soon met the elusive cousin and were setting off in golf buggies towards the resort, as of course you do not take one step on foot when you stay in a place that costs £6,000 a WEEK! It was such a strange place - who is this rich?! It was hard to figure out if it was full of holiday makers having a dream vacation or just filthy rich people. Of course it was amazing to be there and just so surreal.

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You can just see the golden horses lining the drive, which we whipped past and soon came to the most luxurious villas with incredibly plush interiors and personal butlers. Another buggy later and we were at Jumeirah beach. The paradise was complete with massage tents and various waiters bringing around fresh fruit, ice lollies and of course cocktails. Feeling like I was surely going to turn a corner at some point, I ordered some plain wedges and a drink with ginger beer, hoping to keep my stomach settled. I've always wanted to go to an idyllic beach like this but in reality it was missing any character. It's quite artificial and like a picture had come to life; there's nothing to take away because it's all aesthetic. It's quite hard to explain but maybe there just wasn't the atmosphere that a seaside or natural beach can have. That said, instead of feeling fabulous and glorious, I was feeling pants so maybe that is why! It was of course absolutely beautiful.

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I took a dip in the sea and relaxed on the sun loungers, just chilling really as there wasn't a lot of potential for people watching. Sadly I started to get really bad tummy pain and literally found the nearest bathroom and just sat on the floor of it for about half an hour feeling so terrible and absolutely gutted that things were not getting better. I had to get back to the hotel as soon as possible and just lie the heck down, you literally couldn't have got me there fast enough! I dramatically said a very swift goodbye to the group and tried to find my way out of the maze of the resort with one of my friends, covering my tears with sunglasses. Oh it was miserable! What felt like an eternity later, I was finally in the hotel room. I was so sad to be missing out on the event of the holiday which is when we always make the time to have a really lovely meal, and my friends were heading out that night for the first night out in Dubai. I would have definitely been keen to even go out the night before if I'd felt better and I gossiped with my room mate as she got ready before she headed off out to Mahiki with everyone. They were of course all gutted too and I wished them an awesome night and watched BBC World News for the rest of the evening!

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My friend rose bright and early the next day as we had been booked onto a visit to the top of the Burj Khalifa and a desert safari. When she told me that the night had been terrible, I told her not to make it seem worse just because I couldn't go too, but apparently Mahiki was like any old mainstreme UK club, full of Brits abroad and the free ladies night drink was watered down mohito. I still didn't feel up to coming out so I stayed behind until around 3pm when the girls arrived back with a mission. They plied me with more tablets, crackets, bicarbonate of soda, and even asked if I wanted to fly home, but somehow the fact that we were still there until Sunday and it was only Wednesday really made me stay for sure. Even if I just chilled in the hotel room, I was there.

They trekked off to the desert safari and again I stayed in watching movies. At first I kept thinking the films were full of errors but then I realised that any scene to do with love or kissing was cut out due to the country's religious laws, and seems as all of the movies on the odd film channels were romcoms, half the plots were missing! It was actually quite funny. Another thing about Dubai is that there feels like a huge rich/poor divide and when the hotel porters were kindly cleaning around the room while I sat in a chair and were asking if I was OK, I think I tipped them about £30. I wasn't using my Dirhams anyway as I wasn't going anywhere!

Unfortunately my room mate pal returned and said the desert was essentially crowds of people at the side of a motorway road and hardly the middle of the desert, and the camel ride was just cruel. It wasn't quite the Sex and the City 2 vibe that I had hoped for and I even felt bad for putting it in our original itinerary!  The consensus of most of the group was the the top of the Burj Khalifa was also a slight waste of time. Three girls were heading home the next day and I think the general thoughts were that we'd had some surreal and amazing moments, but that we didn't have so many of the usual traditions we have when we go away together, such as spending hours getting ready while being super silly, having nights where we are the only English people in the bars or clubs and meeting the locals, and browsing around our destination at a more casual pace, rather than taking taxis everywhere and feeling like everything was making a huge effort to be flashy and luxe or in a rush. Have you ever been to Dubai? Well tomorrow I'll show how we explored Old Dubai and went to the top of the Burj Al Arab with lots of eventful happenings along the way... of course!


Abu Dhabi & Dubai Bae-cation Part 3: Things take a turn for the terrible...

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Oh no, the time as come to introduce the third day of my holiday and the beginning of the demise. We awoke on Sunday, the final day of the F1, with the big deciding race. I was excited for the best day yet, feeling as good as I could after a semi-decent number of hours' sleep. and vocally planned to actually start getting ready really, really early that day and spend ages on my hair and makeup in order to feel most fabulous later. Well I spoke too soon!

We all trooped out to the nearby shopping zone that had the Waitrose from yesterday and hit a restaurant for breakfast, pronto. I think I had maybe a juice and ordered eggs royale, which is smoked salmon, poached eggs and spinach usually. The restaurant was as lovely as they all are there and the food arrived on cool plates, mine being cold but nice. I suddenly felt really rough and I'll usually wait for my friends, but everything was telling me to get to the bathroom, pronto. I tapped through the echoing mall to the bathrooms that felt like 300 miles away and let's say that meal did not stay down. I'm never ill and I knew it wasn't from drinking the night before. I just felt seriously weird! We had planned to head to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque but I ducked out and went back to the apartment with one friend to chill as I was feeling a bit worried - what was going on?! It was already the afternoon and I laid on my foam mattress on the floor (at least I didn't have the popped airbed!) and felt disastrous. I started sipping lots of water but it just made me set up camp in the bathroom, not keeping anything down and afraid to drink any more. This was for a few hours and at one point I even made a bed of towels and just laid there, afraid to be too far away!

I'm so sorry if this is not the most fun read so I'll stop here! My friends kept dipping in and bringing tea and reassuring me that it would be a momentary thing, and I even started watching YouTube Vlogmas vlogs on my phone to try and keep calm, but they all involve food and it made me feel even worse! I surfaced a few hours later and by this time my friends were getting ready. I had a few choices really: I stayed in or headed out without eating or drinking anything. Well I chose the latter! I decided to start by getting ready to see how I felt and then whatever happened, I could always jump straight in a taxi and come home. It almost was OK that it was a foreign country as I had nothing to loose and it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the F1 race. The overhwleming feeling I had at that point was mostly nervousness at whether I was legit about to die or what would happen next. I got ready slowly, this time focusing on a statement berry lip above everything else so I didn't get tied into a difficult eye look. Lace applique dress with bralette and skirt underneath chosen, I ventured out and tried to just keep calm and feel normal.

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As we were in a few separate taxis, we lost half the group once we'd arrived to Yas Island and so went into the nearest entrance. The cars were whizzing down the track and it wasn't as loud as I thought it would be, but it was awesome. We had no idea how long the race was and who was in each car so it was rather lost on us and soon enough we headed off to the bar! I was feeling incredibly tentative and sipped a lemonade for a bit of energy as the race finished and endless red fireworks were launched in all directions. We linked up with our other friends and headed towards the arena for the final concert - Blur! My body felt really sore and achy and I had absolutely no energy so headed to the boutique food stands where we had had the phenomenal falafel the day before. I'd based my illness on the food or water that morning as I had felt absolutely fine the day before, but as one friend and I queued up at the food stalls, some guys approached us with a box of Golden Circle wristbands, giving them out to select people in the area as they had lots left over and apparently needed to keep the front of the arena nice and full-looking. The stars were obviously shining on us and somehow my knack of getting us to VIP heights paid off again. If I was feeling better I definitely would have tried to work some Golden Circle magic anyway in order to get there again!

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The guys with the wrist bands couldn't give us the 15 we needed so my friend ran to get the rest of the group and soon we were all on the way to the side entrance leading straight to the front of the stage. I had felt quite wary about getting food anyway so I just carried on without any, still sipping on lemonade. My friend somehow bumped into a colleague who booked us into a club that apparently cost £1k a ticket, and we tried our best to part a man with crazy eyes we had somehow adopted, but he just would not leave! In the end we had to say a very firm 'nice to meet you, GOOD BYE' after Blur's set, which was all kinds of awesome and of course even better right infront of the stage.

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My friend who lives in Abu Dhabi had work the next day but she left us in the capable hands of her expat pals and we all got a shuttle bus to the club, which pulled up at a huge car park with a glowing white block far off in the distance, quietly pumping a beat that got louder and louder as we walked towards it. The fancy sports cars infront of the warehouse were insane and we collected our tickets (and yes, the other queuers paid upwards of £1k!?) and stepped onto the red carpet entrance.

The first warehouse room had the likes of cars and artwork up for sale... yes you can go clubbing while also buying a piece for your wall. Insane! Around the corner was the main club with a huge 15ft high catwalk and a bar around the base of it, plus side levels with tables looking over the dance floor. I was still on the lemonade and my tummy was all cramped up, and now I know what it's like to be a sober person around drinkers! I was happy but just less energised and not really in the party or holiday spirit as the day had been so draining. The expat friends came up trumps and actually started chatting to a very short and bald yet very rich and drunk man who had a table, which essentially means a table full of endless drinks at the ready. Sometimes it's cheaper to all put in money for a table if you get a good amount of free drinks in return, but this guy only had one friend and was damn crazy. Soon shot after shot were being passed around and he was flaunting himself all over the place, it was hilarious! It turned out he was a lawyer but he shouted 'there are no rules when we're rich!' before ordering more Grey Goose. I did tell him I wasn't drinking which was met with a funny look, and soon I was helping the group hide their shots in all manners of ways as this guy was insane! He had up most respect for my one friend who was taking every shot he gave her, but while taking a sip of her drink after she was subtly putting the vodka back in the glass through the straw, having never swallowed the shot! I was leaning at the table feeling more and more tired and sore, and soon a friend wanted to go back to the apartment and I volunteered to go with her. It is SO not like me to bow out of a night but it was SO time to go home.

I'll fast forward a few days until I have photos again as the next day we hit Yas Waterworld, which aside from a poor camel standing at the entrance all day, was pretty cool and free with our F1 tickets. It was around 24 hours since I had ate anything and I very tentatively went on a few slides until we worked out way onto the huge ones, which are probably not legal here as they were super crazy! Six people on a float literally entering a whirl pool and flying over huge bends. Insane! I was just thinking 'don't be sick' the whole time and I started to feel a bit rough after a while and really fed up that I was almost wasting the opportunity. It was miserable and I was in a rubbish mood and looked pretty awful too. My friend saw some lads she had met the day before (and told that we were at the water park that day) who had a go-pro. We all had a little snooze on the sun loungers (next to a pram with a baby in it - yes someone had left their sleeping baby completely alone and must have been off on the slides) and weirdly at one point a friend had woken up and saw one of the guys seemingly filming us from every angle as we were sleeping. He shrugged when she asked what he was doing, but later low and behold the guy send my friend around ten photos of us asleep for no apparent reason, 'just in case we wanted them'?! Weird!! They were definitely not contacted again.

That evening we headed to Dubai finally, which involved packing up and spending a few hours trying to flag a taxi that would take us. It was so tiring and I was exhausted. We ended up taking two taxi journeys, my friend lost a bag along the way, and I stopped at a pharmacy for a rather embarrassing yet hilarious conversation to get some medicine, walking away with about four different varieties. By the time we had got to our hotel we were just relieved to be there and didn't quite take a close look at the erm, clientèle. We headed to our room and wow, it was huge and lovely, with a gloriously plush bed. I've never stayed anywhere with nicer furnishings but we discovered a few things about the wifi, bars, water and lighting later as the week went on! After a few hours of BBC World News and the glorious feeling of being in a real room with a real bed and bathroom (I was sharing with just one friend instead of seven!), we went straight to sleep.


Abu Dhabi & Dubai Bae-cation Part 2: Florence + the Machine and the Golden Circle

Onto the second day of my Abu Dhabi adventure and we all woke up in our various air bed situations and headed out for breakfast. We look taxis to a local café and refuelled with eggs and smoothies, and it's great to note the restaurants in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are such a high standard. There are no tourist trap joints with laminated menus that usually litter our holidays!

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I'd bought a bunch of maxi dresses and kimonos from Boohoo for the trip but beach wear really isn't my vibe. I should have stuck to my usual style which I did in the most part, but none of my wardrobe suits anything remotely summery. I'm no beach babe! I'd also just had my hair done (more on that soon!) and it was back to my natural ginger shade with blonde ends, so I was getting used to a new look. That day I wore a bright blue kimono I believe that I'd managed to pull out of my unpacked case and again threw my hair up in a bun to save time, and to be fair it was difficult to get any mirror time! We headed to Waitrose near my friend's apartment, which was on the ground floor of the neighbouring sky scraper in a cool, sleek mall. Again there was no hustle and bustle, it's very sleek and calm in the air-conditioned buildings. The day before we had barely had time to even eat so we stocked up on snacks and a handy pizza for a late night return, and we had a peek in the designated separate room full of pork products in the supermarket, as the UAE is a Muslim country.

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We planned to head off to the first day of our Formula One package at around 5pm, and took a quick dip in my friend's apartment swimming deck, racing each other around the doughnut shaped pool and laughing our heads off until it was nearing an hour of getting-ready time - uh oh! I had a bit of a brain fail and began warm, rust coloured eye makeup, but having just a hand mirror, I couldn't save it and ended up not liking it too much. I'd planned to wear a skater dress that I'd worn to a friend's wedding earlier in the year but since the previous day, we had realised you could basically wear anything to the F1! I felt a bit too 'safe' so I threw on around five outfits and almost all were new so needed a little pinning or sewing. I'd bought one from House of CB (formerly known as Celeb Boutique) that was so low cut and gaping open, it was hilarious! With eight girls to a one bedroom apartment, it was another hour of chaos, with a memorable moment of my friend thinking I was topless but then I turned round perfectly concealed with a stick on bra! 

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Vowing that the next day I would spend hours getting ready, I settled on a Boohoo maxi dress that felt way too dressy for day time but was the best solution. I even wore it with flip flops because I couldn't figure out which shoes I had and the taxis were already eight floors down and calling us. Flip flops?! You probably wouldn't know the chaos that had happened once eight glammed up girls hit the lobby, and soon we were whizzing across the motorways to Yas Island again. Arriving at the F1 site is quite tricky as the cars can only reach so far and they drop you off at different points, but I think we all managed to link up and we explored The Hill - our spot for the race. Imagine humongous outdoor stadiums with crowds of smartly dressed spectators and groups of 'dad' racing fanatics. The Hill was basically everywhere in the area that wasn't the seated stands, so we stood for a while watching the cars practice and I must say, it was rather lost on me! With no sporting or racing knowledge, we were soon exploring the activities in the hub of the area and hit the bar zone with picnic tables and screens.

Sizing up the crowd, there were groups of people our age but it was mostly hoards of adult men. A few drinks later costing around £15 each, we were off down the huge roads to walk to the outdoor stadium for the Saturday night concert - Florence + the Machine! We grabbed some delicious food from a falafel stand, which was more boutique than your usual festival affair. We met up with other expat pals of my friend and it wasn't long before Florence took to the stage in an amazing white flared suit and did her thing. Their music is just made to be heard live! Our group was hanging near the back of the massive arena space but myself and two girls decided to head further forward. We couldn't convince the others to join us but it was just as spacious as we headed even further towards the stage, hitting the 'Golden Circle' barrier as we go so far. Often at festivals they put up a gigantic semi circle of barriers for so many metres in front of the stage so only select ticket holders have a chance to be up close to the front, We stayed as close as we could until the faux break before an obvious encore, and I saw my mission so clearly. I needed to get us into the Golden Circle!

Telling my friends to wait right there I dashed off through the crowd to the side of the arena, where there was a small opening in the barriers with security. Some lash fluttering and story of how my friends were inside but I'd lost my golden wristband later and the guards were happy to let me through. The only problem was my friends next. A group of guys were walking out and said they'd give me their wristbands as they were leaving. I said I needed three and they offered three 'for a kiss' which was pretty gross and I took two before saying a very speedy thank you and literally darting off into the crowd never to be seen again! Sure it's fun to blagg your way into somewhere but for a kiss, I think not.

I reached my two friends, produced the wristbands to their shock and we all dashed to the side, them flashing their newly acquired wrist candy to the guards and me exclaiming how I'd found my lost friends before slipping in. We'd made it! The crowds behind the barriers were thick but inside the circle it's more spacious and we weaved right to the front just as Florence came back for her encore. Being right under the stage is amazing! A few songs later and it was all over, and we got chatting to a group of the most weird and wonderfully beautiful people, who turned out to be part of an Alice in Wonderland show. They invited us there but to be honest I forgot all about this encounter until now as we were moving on swiftly to find our friends again and attempt to find cabs or a shuttle bus to a club, which was an adventure in itself as the expats guided us and thousands of people left the arena. We ended up in an Irish bar of a hotel with a hilarious live band, and let's say it's definitely true that if you even stand arm to arm with a member of the opposite sex, the bouncers will be approaching and ready to exit you from the premises! There's something so different about dancing with your friends abroad to being in your home city, and even if the music is old or cheesy, it's even better! The night ended with chatting to the taxi driver whose family, like most, lived on the other side of the continent, and all of us girls staying up chatting with pizza until the even earlier hours.


Abu Dhabi & Dubai Bae-cation Part 1: Al Maya Island & Enrique

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Hello everybody! It's time to detail my trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in a few epic posts - just because! Writing these is pure indulgence and an awesome way to recall the memories. Now not all memories of this holiday were fantastic but we will come onto that. For now, here are the first two days!

As a little background, Dubai has always been on my list of top destinations and luckily for us, one of my girlfriends is now a teacher in Abu Dhabi and invited us over. She said a good time to visit is October/November as there are no religious holidays and it's just the right temperature at around 25-30 degrees. The final race of the Formula One is held in Abu Dhabi at the end of November and flights were exactly the same price as any other dates, so we booked up!

There were three of us in New York but this trip would mean eight girls, making for a totally different experience. We were all arriving in batches from different places and spent weeks chatting in a chaotic Whatsapp group. I tried to make headway by creating a huge itinerary to share in Google Docs, which was really time consuming and I didn't get a definite feel of how Dubai is laid out or more importantly, how to dress! Now this really was a bone of contention as people were offering such different advice. Many people stated shoulders and knees must be covered at all times, friends said that clubs and beaches were 'free' zones but you still have to get there via a taxi or public places of course, and some travellers told me they just dressed as usual. My friends and I spent weeks buying outfits and after ordering Missguided's entire stock, we all had an arsenal of knee length, 'nice' daytime dresses for the Formula One, and respectable outfits for the clubs, plus a host of maxi dresses and kimonos for the day time. I got most of mine in the Boohoo sale and picked up some rather lovely beachy pieces at seriously low prices. Not really my usual style as I'm not a summery person, but I got what I needed. I had a few bikinis in my draw but also bought an embellished River Island number, and then ensured all of my shoes were re-heeled and I had stocked up on products, makeup and lashes. My look was very Ibiza-inspired and I imagined wearing jewellery to the beach and sashaying into the club in gorgeous prints.

I really spent weeks planning this gig and even started going to the gym on the *sort of* regular, plus eating really well during November. Then sods law, I got sick. The exact same thing happened just before New York and I spent the Tuesday working my way through a million tissues while working my way through my workload. I had cunningly booked the Wednesday off work but had packed the day with nail, pedicure, brow and tan appointments, and I had to find dirhams in my local high street too, which is not an easy task. So I trudged around feeling like I just wanted to curl in bed, and finally packed up my case ready for a 4.45am early rise. 

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Luckily my cold cleared up almost as soon as I arrived so maybe the air pressure or the in-flight regime I adopted worked. We flew from Birmingham to Dubai with Emirates and while the personal movie selection was endless, the food was that stodgy, synthetic plane food that made us dash to grab a few Boots meal deals at the airport before boarding. I was flying with just one friend and we glugged litres of water and Lemsip before landing in the evening. The first impression you get at a airport is always interesting and Dubai was towering, chic and ominous, with huge indoor waterfalls, glass lifts and extensive marble surfaces stretching everywhere. Taking a taxi to Abu Dhabi was a little crazy as we had no idea if the driver was even taking us 1.5hrs in the right direction or not, but soon we were speeding past the Burj Khalifa on the impossibly fast, weaving motorway trails and trying to locate my friend's apartment on Reem Island. Abu Dhabi has no post codes and the driver didn't have a Sat Nav, but on the phone my friend advised to just to look up at the skyscrapers to pick out the one she was describing. The area is so vast that each tower powers into the blank sky above the spirals of tarmac, and we soon spotted just the building she meant. We managed to let ourselves into the 8th floor apartment with a key under the mat as my friend had already set off to pick up the next arriving party from Abu Dhabi airport.

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We sat in my friend's apartment for an hour basically asking ourselves 'what are we doing with our lives?!' The building was insane and the balcony view looked out onto a stretch of undisturbed warm, black night, only peppered with the odd 50 storey sk scraper. Being a teacher means my friend's apartment is totally funded and I can only dream of having my own flat to call my own! Well I'm not keen on tying myself to a bunch of bricks, but if it were free, then of course I would love to call a home like that my own! It was gorgeous. Far from the dreary weather in the UK, the night was balmy and just right in AD. After claiming one of the foam beds on the floor, finding a side of a wall to sit our suitcases and tentatively exploring the fridge, three more gals arrived with my international friend and we all caught up and cheered over the setting. We had somehow all made it half way across the world to visit one of our group and it was a real 'we've made it!' moment!

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We got a pretty good sleep compared with usual holiday evenings and awoke to tea and toast. Before visiting we knew the time would be first spent in Abu Dhabi for a few days for the Formula One and then onto Dubai, so I needed day outfits and F1 outfits first. I considered separating my suitcase into batches for when I needed things, but I basically needed to tap into every section of my case to get ready each day. This is pretty much impossible when you can't actually unpack and only have a hand mirror and seat on the floor to get yourself set for the day. Yes there were mirrors and plug sockets around the apartment, but one bathroom to six girls was difficult! It really reinforced the fact that I need time and focus to get ready and feel good about myself. It doesn't matter what I do, I just need to do things calmly or else I'll have a bit of a mind-blank when getting ready and just go through random robot motions, applying any makeup I tend to use and just getting at least ready enough to leave in case I'm running behind. Teamed with not being able to unpack and see what I had brought with me, I only managed to add a touch of BB cream, waterproof mascara and lip balm, shoved my hair in a bun as I knew I would be sorting it out later for the F1 concerts, and picked out my outfit of planned pieces from S365 for my collaboration. Chucking sun lotion, towel, dirhams, shoes, hat, camera, sim card, etc, etc into a beach bag also proved time consuming and soon enough we were all out of the door. Now this may not seem like a big deal but I can spend 15 minutes getting ready and feel better than if I'd spent an hour getting ready if it meant there was no rush or pressure. I can't rush basically! Also we were thinking about how revealing out outfits were, as we only jumped in taxis whenever we went anywhere, but there's a level of respect you need when in the UAE and that means outfit must be considered carefully.

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So we set off feeling pretty good really and I adapted to beach life best I could. I realised I'm not a beach person or a summer person maybe - I need outfits and layers and makeup and effort, and cool, boho vibes do not come naturally to me! Also I'd just had my hair coloured back to more of a natural red so I almost wish I'd stayed blonde and channelled a beachy look. Anyway - you're probably thinking wow, how self absorbed do you need to BE on holiday! Relax! Well I wasn't thinking of these things at the time, they are more of a reflection now on how I imagined the holiday would be but didn't quite have time to implement. I'd bought gold transfer tattoos, jewellery, hair crowns and all sorts for the beach, but what took priority was getting out into the beautiful sunshine and to the local beach club that my friend goes to at least once a month, and has sent us the pictures to prove it! We ordered taxis across the city of motorways and met up at a concrete dock with a few expats, and were first on the small boat to set off to Al Maya Island. I was worried I would find it really hot and burn easily but the temperature was perfect.

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One windy journey across the sea and 15 minutes later we stepped onto literal paradise. I didn't think in my lifetime that I would visit a place like this! Straight out of a Sandals advert, the wooden dock, lined with Absolut vodka banners, lead onto a gorgeous pool area with in-pool bar and pool-side DJ stage, neighbouring a creamy white beach leading into bright aqua water. Complete with endless cushioned sunbeds and straw parasols, this was IT. We bought towels and drinks and headed straight to the beach. It was so incredible that it almost felt artificial and surreal. The day before I was sniffling around Birmingham and now I was in the most turquoise sea with a cocktail in hand, surrounded by my friends! We've never actually been on a beach holiday together so that in itself was a novelty, and it was overwhelming and just amazing!  

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We chilled at the beach, had a dip in the pool and looked on in curiosity at the other guests. Mostly expats, the island does get busy on weekends, which is Friday and Saturday in the UAE, but as it was theF1 weekend, it didn't get too hectic while we were there. Did I mention it is free entry for ladies too?!

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We didn't quite have chance to stay there and really get into the party spirit as it was soon time to head back to Reem Island for the concert later. The F1 takes place over 3 days with the race on the Sunday, and each night there is a concert. We had tickets to the Saturday and Sunday F1 events which were around £100 total and included entry into the concerts, but the Friday concert had loads of free tickets distributed so my friend had secured us some. We roamed around on what felt like an endless construction site for taxis to take us back to the apartment and began getting ready. By now there were eight girls, every inch of floor space was covered in a suitcase, and we all had to shower and be ready within the hour. One hour! In hind sight I would have gone basic on my makeup, added a bold lip, sorted my hair and threw on a dress, but at the time it was a 10 minute effort to even locate my toiletries inside my unpacked case.

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We soon determined too that our sophisticated (read: dowdy) outfits we had all sourced to look respectable at the F1 were not needed at all - we all threw caution to the wind and ended up in backless, mini and strappy dresses! My friend had advised you had to look chic and not have a combination of legs/boobs/bodycon all on show at the same time, but my friends and I are usually in midi dresses or the like anyway. The rules are relaxed at the F1 as it's a more Westernised event, but you still cannot touch or kiss a man! I ended up shoving my planned outfit to the side and throwing on three different dresses, all needing some sort of tit tape assistance, pinning or some maintenance that wasn't 'dress and go' ready within my 2 minute time frame. I'd applied my usual makeup, curled my hair a little while standing behind a few other girls of all different heights in a full length mirror, and ended up in a Boohoo berry-coloured midi dress with berry ankle strap heels. Not the outfit I had planned, and I barely had chance to assess what it even looked like in the mirror before the taxis were waiting outside and calling up repeatedly. And with that, we were off!

I hope this all seems like hilarious chaos rather than me moaning as I think it sounds negative, but it wasn't. Getting ready with friends is a mess of heels, hairspray and handbags anyway, and we were all surprised we had managed to step out again in the bright daylight dressed up to the nines in what was basically night club attire. We were heading to the Marina for drinks before the concert, which meant a 20 minute taxi across vast motorways to Yas Island, then a shuttle bus from the sandy drop off point and a walk past some pretty huge yachts. Yes the aim was to find a dude with a yacht of course! We picked out a bar next to the wooden deck of the Marina walkways and chose out incredibly expensive drinks - and note that the bar people keep the change as their tip. £25 down and one mojito up, we looked around and decided that the girls dress just as they do in classy bars at home, but it would not be the place for outfits fit for Walkabout, Oceana or any of those haunts. If there were no unspoken rules of the UAE, it would be an 'anything goes' vibe, where as the events had an air of prestige about them. We had barely ate and a few girls went off to fend for food while we sized up the crowds and were soon a shuttle ride way from the stadium for Enrique. Yes the Friday concert was Enrique Iglesias! Hilarious!

There were huge crowds slowly filtering into the huge stadium and we soon found each other and took out place in the crowd for Enrique. There were some strange warm up acts including a pole dancing cowboy, and the drinks were £16 for a double vodka. Soon the show began and thousands of people were having a blast - the concert was awesome! I love live music and being outside in the warm evening was superb, and everyone knows every word to Enrique songs even if you don't know you do. It was like a festival! We had met up with my friend's expat friends too and soon a troupe of us was walking to a hotel party. Like New York, the clubs and bars are in hotels rather than dedicated venues. We walked for what felt like 30 minutes down the huge sandy dual carriageway as all taxis were full and my feet were dying, but soon enough we were in the bar and enjoying the night. Far from being a place where being drunk is 'illegal', there was an incredibly rowdy group of Irish lads among the crowd and the drinks were flowing like normal. You can't be drunk in the street but you are allowed to drink on a dedicated premise. We ended up chatting to some guys who apparently fixed race cars but all they wanted to do was talk about themselves, despite my friend and I playing the 'who has the coolest job' game as I work for a chocolate company and she works for a jewellery brand. I didn't take my camera out as I wasn't sure I was allowed so I don't have any snaps to share, but that's a wrap for part 1! I have a whole eight more days to go so stay tuned for more including my blag into the golden circle, drinks at the 7* hotel and the reason why we definitely didn't go on a yacht!


The New York Diary - My week in NYC, The Final Day 8: SATC and The Standard

And here it is, the last serenade to New York! Can you believe it? I'm so chuffed to have received some lovely tweets and comments saying you have enjoyed reading these posts. It's possibly quite rare to read a blog post where nothing has been gifted, arranged or set up, rather than a true account of events that would have happened even if I wasn't a blogger! Maybe I wouldn't have taken this many photos though, but you may have noticed that I'm not actually in many photos apart from this post! We were more concerned about seeing and doing everything rather than stopping to pose and reflecting the camera back on our own faces, and every second was precious due to the amount of time it takes to get from A to B in New York. 

And so we begin the last day of Friday and it had really sunk in that this trip was coming to an end! The first few days with the Yankees game, Coney Island and the Pendulum gig in Brooklyn seemed so long ago and we had been all over Manhattan by now. We had managed to book onto the Sex and the City sights tour the day before as annoyingly you had to go to their invisible office in person, and also I arranged to meet up with a fabulous blogger (more on that later!). We had a few more things to tick off our list though before we began the SATC tour!

We awoke from an amazing night that ended up at The Jane and grabbed breakfast at a place that we had visited for food at about 4am the night before. How these guys were working all night and throughout the day I do not know, but we hoped they didn't quite recognise us behind our sunnies. You're invisible behind sunglasses, right? First mission of the day was to visit Grand Central Station!

XOXO! We didn't spot Serena Van De Woodsen but it is a breathtaking place. You can do full walking tours to uncover the secrets and history but we took a fleeting look before hot-footing it to the meeting point for the SATC tour, booked with our Explorer Pass. 

Bloomies! 

Now the SATC tour was possibly my favourite touristy thing we did. Is that bad? I've wrote before how visiting sights and attractions wasn't my main prerogative and it was my wish to just soak up the atmosphere and lifestyle, and watching Sex and the City as a teenager and beyond was so my inspiration to visit the Big Apple. I would advise you to do this tour and any other bus, boat or sight seeing tours at the beginning of a trip as it really helps you get your bearings, and we might have explored East Village more if we were familiar with it earlier in the week as it was achingly chic.

We located our tour guide with her giant blue umbrella and boarded the coach with around 60 other giggling ladies (and a few men), with every seat filled. An open top bus would have been better for the views but the New York traffic means you edge through the streets slowly anyway and so you don't miss any key points. Like the hanging screens on aeroplanes, there were TVs up and down the coach playing clips of the shows and movies as we passed each point, and our tour guide was the most fabulous, over-the-top host! A guidebook listed the tour guides as aspiring Broadway actors so that explained the super sunny, all-American welcome and quotes such as 'Ladies - cute guy to the left! I die!' *cue everyone peering onto the street to a supposed cute guy, 'Ladies - do we all remember Saggy Ass?' and various other hilarious, girly anecdotes from the show that got pretty X-rated as we continued on with our journey.

We drove around the city and our guide picked out places featured in the show and played the matching clips, such as the park where Miranda met Steve's girlfriend Debbie, Aiden's furniture store where Carrie once visited with Stanford, and around 50 other scenes. The tour was over three hours long and our first stop was to browse the sex shop where Charlotte bought her Rabbit and grab a giant pizza slice where Miranda and Carrie once filled up after an unsatisfying raw dinner served by Smith Jared (a very random combination of scenes there!), and then onto Buddakan, where Carrie and Big hosted their pre-wedding dinner in the first movie and they emerged on these stairs to applause from all of the diners below. You got a good look round the place and a discount on drinks there for the future.

The climax of the tour was of course Carrie's apartment near Bleecker Street, which actually has a fictional address. I felt it was almost a pilgrimage for me to visit her stoop. We had 25 minutes to take a look at the building, as it does have real residents so you can't quite browse around, and visit the nearby  Magnolia Bakery, where Carrie told Miranda she had a new crush called Aiden who she believed to be very cute. As the tour group continued onto Carrie's place, we first grabbed a delicious cupcake and a slab of thickly iced cake, that was every bit as delicious on the spot as it was later that night at 4am!

Carrie's apartment! On TV the street looked huge and towering but in real life it was but a doorway and some steps that you can't climb, but can certainly take a snap or selfie in front of. We had mere moments to take one before running back to the coach as it was due to set off. This is my favourite picture of the whole holiday!!

Many people hadn't had chance to get a cupcake due to the huge queue so it was lucky we nabbed those first. East Village is very hip and laid back so would be a beautiful pit stop for a delicious lunch or some window shopping if you visit NYC. There are also very few tourists so you could strike up conversations with locals!

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Next up was to sample a Cosmopolitan at Aiden and Steve's bar Scout, but we departed the tour as this was the final destination and we had someone special to meet! I would say that it is so fun to relive each clip as you travel across New York and the tour guides are so fun, but you could save money and take a trip to the buildings yourself if you planned it well. Some of the clips we drove by were quite insignificant, though I know every scene to every episode so they all resonated with me! 

We soon hit the subway and headed even further East to met with the unbelievably sweet Erin of Spikes and Sequins and her equally gorgeous cousin! I worked with Erin when I worked with fashion bloggers at Motel and she always took such amazing photos in the garms' I sent that we became Instagram friends and I just knew we had to meet up! She is every bit as hot as her smokin' snaps reveal - you have to drop her a follow for ultimate inspiration on bodycon style with added sass. I don't think I said in person how cute she was but just look at that super high ponytail and fabulous outfit! These girls were such fun to hang out with and I hope they visit the UK soon!

We dined at the Frying Pan which is actually a boat on the water! The food was really fun, with mini burgers, watermelon salad and crab cakes, and we of course sampled a few cocktails too while subtly rocking back and forth on the waves. As it was Friday night it was brimming with hip New Yorkers and I bet is amazing at night.

There was then just one more stop to make. My dad is a fire fighter and he said we could take some shirts from the UK and swap them for FDNY shirts. This wasn't exactly a policy but you can knock on the fire station doors and purchase their shirts anyway, of course not if distracting them from work. We were like giggling school girls when we paid our local station a visit, but the guys welcomed us in and offered to take a photo - and gladly took the shirts! We giggled away with a free support bracelet and regaled that yes, these American guys are just so wholesome. Swoon! Just look how happy I look, haha!

And then it was onto the final night and the final farewell! Such mixed emotions and sadness as we realised we had literally ruined our own lives (not really) - how could we head back home after we had experienced such sights and such wild nights! We got ready one last time and FYI the 'songs of the holiday' ended up being Nick Jonas, Carly Ray Jepson and Miley Cyrus (of course!) - not sure why the first two became apparent but we just ended up singing them over and over!

We embarked on our final destination - The Standard Hotel. Hosting the absolute most exclusive set of rooftop clubs that light up lavishly in the sky each night, I was determined to have a go at getting in. We had already tried the previous night to go but were told it was a 'private party' by some people outside, but we soon realised that was tough bouncer code for 'You're not coming in'. We had more faith in ourselves and so we formed a plan, stood tall, threw our shoulders back, and strutted into the huge marbled reception area that was deathly silent and infinitely long.

We were informed by a person at the desk that the club entrance was actually around the corner so I casually asked him who the promote was that night before we turned away. He mused 'Um, Troy I believe'. We were in! Around the corner were streams of people lingering before giant bouncers, and we haughtily named dropped good old Troy and got right in! Whoever you are Troy, thanks a bunch!

As mentioned, it helps to be silent, aloof and not smile or voice your foreign accent. Soon we were whizzed up in the infamous lift with the Solange and Jay Z altercation, and were on the rooftop of this dazzling bar. Like clockwork, we grabbed our first drink a few mere moments before people began chatting to us, from Wall Street moguls to Google guys. It's casual, it's friendly and there are no strings attached to these chatty encounters. Le Bain was an amazing space, made even more outrageous by an actual swimming pool in the middle of the dance floor. A steamy concoction of bikini bodies in the dark club, a literal pool of debauchery! I was transfixed by an actual swimming pool in the middle of a club, 18th floors up!? Cray cray! It was like a warped dream! There were loads of people running around and to the toilets in swimwear and towels amongst those enjoying drinks and dancing in cocktail dresses. We didn't depart until the very end and left on an absolute high.

And then it was time to depart! I've called Day 8 the last day as we only had a few final hours on the Saturday morning to grab a last breakfast of French toast with eggs (sunny side up of course), chuck everything into our straining suitcases, and spend out last cents on American candy and I Heart NYC souvenirs. We booked a taxi with our hotel which turned out to be a mini bus that picked up various passengers from ALL over the city and was driven by a cursing, raving mad lady! We didn't think we'd make it in time or alive but we had plenty of time to chill at the airport, check out just how many dudes were on Happn in JFK, and set off back for the UK.

Wow - such a whirlwind! It was such a difficult trip to plan as we were all under the weather in the weeks leading up to it and my nature is to plan every aspect all the way down to my makeup look each day. I'm not a clean or control freak - I just love planning in order to make the absolute most out of things! Hopefully there are some tips throughout these posts that could help if you are considering visiting, my main advice being to list the attractions and sights you hope to see, arrange them into a rough itinerary for one in the morning and one or two in the afternoon, and pre-book as much as possible. Getting a multiple attraction pass saves so much money! I'd also go off the tourist track to a football, baseball or basketball game, Coney Island if time allows, and also going to music gigs is a great way to meet locals. Dining, as always can be quite difficult and I never see how people 'stumble' across places, especially in a city this big. Research the best places near your accommodation and bookmark a few fancy restaurants for evenings out.

Thank you for reading my posts and coming along for the ride! Here is my full vlog again in case you didn't catch it in my first post. Enjoy!