20 November 2017

Guest Post - Road-tripping the UK & Where to stop


A lovely little guest post by Lady A (Alix)


Now, you may not know that I don't currently drive (though I'm working on it!) and this would mean that poor Liam would have to drive us all the way there and back, and it just wasn't fair on him. His family desperately wanted us to go though, so I came up with an idea. I suggested that we make it a two week road trip up and down the UK, with our mid-way point being the Pitlochry wedding date. After discussing the logistics a bit more, looking at prices of B&B's and where we'd like to stop along the way, we decided to go for it. We'd not been on holiday in a long time and it seemed like a great way to experience new things in the UK.


We decided to stop at the following places:
  • Derbyshire - Castleton and Ladybower Reservoir
  • Lake District - Thirlmere, Ullswater and Keswick
  • Galloway Forest Park -  Red Deer Range, Loch Doon and Carsphairn 
  • Pitlochry - Pitlochry Dam, Queens View, Atholl Palace (where the wedding was held) 
  • Rothbury - near Northumberland National Park
  • Newcastle - Angel of the North, visit my partners family
  • Pickering - Dalby Forest, Whitby 
  • Nottingham - Cat CafĂ© (Liam surprised me by driving here on the last day, I was thrilled!)
Each day we had either a B&B booked or a Travelodge, and the idea was that Liam wouldn't have to drive for more than roughly 2 hours a day to get to the next stop. It broke up the 16 hour journey and meant that we got to visit some of the most beautiful places in the UK. 


To keep this from being an essay, I decided that I should talk about my favourite stop on the whole trip. Don't get me wrong, I loved everywhere we visited and have been privileged enough to see some of the most beautiful scenery in the whole country, but the one place that really stood out to me was our visit to Galloway Forest. 



People who have travelled the UK know that most of the time if you visit a national park, you have to walk miles to see the waterfall or caves or climb to the tippity top of the mountain. Our expectations were the same for Galloway. There were waterfalls we wanted to see and the Glen of the Bar and the Red Deer Range, and we had our walking boots ready as we had done the whole trip, expecting miles of trekking, hunting down these wonderful things we'd heard about. 

We could not have been more wrong. To our absolute surprise, it turns out everything was just.. there. Literally there. You wanted to see the deer, here they are practically at the side of the road, feeding hut open and ready to say hi. Waterfalls, everywhere. We stopped at Grey Mare's Tail Burn which was literally at the side of the road. Glen of the Bar was again, at the side of the road. We spent nearly our whole time just driving up and down the A712 looking at all these places we expected to have to really hunt down. We even found a wild goat park, again, at the side of the road, looking for any nibbles you had to spare. To prove just how "there" everything was, they even have forest drives specifically designed to take you past all of these wonderful places. Unfortunately, because we went in March, the drives were mainly closed off due to flooding, but we still saw so much on the roads that were open.



Galloway Forest is also recognised as a "Dark Sky Discovery Site", announced on the 16th November 2009 in the International Year of Astronomy, the Forestry Commission Scotland established part of Galloway Forest Park as the first Dark Sky Park in the UK. The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory is nearby, having recently opened a Planetarium and regularly holding events to attend. We stayed in a stunning B&B called The Knowe in Carsphairn (absolutely recommend, Karen is the nicest person I have ever met and her shortbread is incredible), just 11 miles from the observatory, and honestly, I was so excited about seeing the stars. Sadly, the weather was poor the day we visited and it rained during the night, meaning we never saw the beautiful dark skies. 



We did go and see where the observatory was though, and ended up having a little stroll around Loch Doon which was beautiful. It should come as no surprise to you that I would recommend visiting Galloway Forest in a heartbeat. I'm desperate to visit again (I didn't want to leave!) and really hope that Liam and I can book a longer stay in the warmer months so we get to experience all of the things we missed due to the weather. It really is an absolutely stunning place, and I can't rave about it enough!

A x

About the author: 
Hi, I’m Lady A, also known as Alix, a 23 year old beauty blogger from the UK. While my blog is predominantly beauty based, you’ll also find I post about a lot of other things too! You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter @AllLadyA and find my blog at allladya.com.

If you enjoyed the post don't forget to check out 'Lady A.' If you would like to be featured just message me on twitter about your ideas.


17 November 2017

Current Favourites


I was planning on doing an October favourites, but time has gone by so quickly and it's suddenly already mid November. Honestly, I have no idea where time goes, wasn't last week June? Anyway seeing as It's probably long overdue, here are my October/mid November favourites. 

1. Ollie and Olivia make up brushes 
I've been  using the same eco-tools make up brushes for probably 5 years now (oops), so when I bought these Ollie and Olivia brushes I was very much in need. I love the white and gold combo, and think the italic writing is beautiful (I know i'm a little weird). On top of the beautiful design and amazing blending ability, the whole set was only 15£ from target! 


2. Benefit Roller Lash Mascara and Nars sheer glow concealer
I've tried several concealers and always found they never have the right shade for me. The Nars concealer not only blends perfectly and has great coverage but also has a good range of shades. The Benefit roller lash mascara is just perfect in all ways. My biggest pet-peeve is clumpy eyelashes and this mascara is one of the best for curling and separating lashes. 


Although these are current favourites I will unfortunately not be repurchasing either as they aren't completely cruelty-free. 

3. 'Man vs Mind, Everyday Psychology Explained' by Daniel C Richardson
If you're interested in Psychology or how the brain works this is the perfect book. I picked this up in London and read the whole thing on the 2 hour train ride to Oxford to visit my friend. It can sound a bit daunting if you've never read any Psychology books before, but it's simple and easy to understand. Richardson explains things in a way that anyone could understand. There are also some stellar drawings and funny anecdotes. 


4. Thoughts and Reflections, a line a day journal
Basically just a question a day for 4 years. I've found it quite a calming and reflective task to do at the end of the day. Plus I love looking back at things I used to like doing/reading/wearing. Also can we just take a moment to appreciate how beautiful it is... 


5. New Scientist October edition
I love reading about new discoveries and whats going on in the world from a scientific perspective. While I found this whole magazine interesting, I especially enjoyed the article entitled "In what? we trust" which explained the cognitive mechanisms behind trust. If you like this sort of thing I would definitely recommend getting a copy, or if you even if you don't get one anyway (trust me, it'll make you sound pretty damn smart). 


What have you been loving recently?

Also I just got twitter. I'm a major technology noob so I don't know how to use it, but if you want to follow me it's @Meera_ltt . (I'll probably follow you back)

15 November 2017

Vintage - The fuzzy pink jumper dress


Aside from the odd glorious moment of sunshine, I think it's pretty safe to say that winter is definitely on its way. I literally woke up the other day, threw on some ripped jeans and a t shirt, only to walk 2 steps outside before turning straight back to add on about 50 layers, my hat and a scarf. It's finally the perfect time of year for giant cosy jumpers and hot chocolate movie nights. So while I was frantically searching through my closet for potential winter clothes, I came across this vintage oversized jumper dress. If i'm honest It was definitely one of those, 'shit I actually own this' moments, but i'm glad I found it. 

I found this vintage jumper dress a while back and assume it's 1990's (though don't quote me on that), it's a beautiful warm fuzzy knit with a wide neck. The main reason I loved this jumper, was the colour, although it's majority pink, it also has blue, yellow and grey thread mixed in. Combined it softens the pink ever so slightly. I also love that it can be worn without a belt or with and look equally as good. Personally I prefer the belted look as it creates slightly more shape and means the dress doesn't drown me as much, sometimes it can be hard to find a jumper dress that doesn't make me look like a walking winter duvet. I think it would go perfectly paired with over the knee boots or socks. 

The only real downside is the material, although super chunky and warm, it's made of a slightly itchy wool. I like the unkempt, slightly messy effect this makes, but in terms of wearing it for long periods... not sure I could handle the itch. 







Do you like vintage? 
*Yep there's actually nothing in the mug.

13 November 2017

7 things I learnt about travelling in Singapore

Universal Studios Singapore
1. Never go to the restaurants in the shopping malls. 

Strange as it may sound, this is pretty much the very first thing I learnt when I arrived in Singapore. Considering it was our last day together, me and a group of friends decided to treat ourselves to one of the many (and I mean many) restaurants in one of the swanky Singaporean shopping malls. After trailing around for what seemed like hours, trying to find one that catered for vegetarians, I ended up just deciding to get a Subway after the meal. Although I didn't know it at the time, I had effectively just dodged a massive 50$sd bullet. Everyone settled on a fairly fancy, but seemingly reasonably priced at 25$sd, all you can eat sushi restaurant. It was all very high tech and efficient, with what seemed like a never-ending menu and multiple platters being rolled out in seconds. Needless to say, the Ipad menu was basically the perfect over ordering machine. It was only at the very end, when everyone was gulping down their final Californian sushi roll and lazily licking up the soy sauce residue, that they realised that the 5$sd over-order charge was probably the least of their worries. The bargain original price of 25$sd had suddenly morphed into a huge 50$sd each. All I can remember is the unanimous "shit this can't be right," turns out it was, we had all just blissfully neglected to notice the +++ next to the price. Yep, not just one plus... three. 

After a few days I noticed this was a pretty common occurrence in Singaporean restaurants, especially those in the shopping malls. If you do want to eat in a mall I would recommend the food halls which serve a huge variety of different foods at a reasonable price. Of course if you want really cheap, good food, I would definitely check out the hawker food stalls.  

2. Gardens by the Bay is best at night


It probably comes as no shock that Gardens by the Bay is one of my recommendations, being an essential tourist attraction it's definitely one of the most recommended places to go in Singapore. However as much as I loved the gardens in the daytime (although, I also found they burnt a giant hole in my pocket), I found the real excitement came at nighttime. The light show is completely free and starts at 7:45pm. It is quite honestly magical, almost like stepping into another world. You can also choose to buy a walkway pass to be on the trees while they light up, as I was conserving money I didn't get a chance to do this, but I imagine it would be amazing. I would recommend getting there early as it gets crowded quickly and you'll want to get a good view. Being an idiot I spent so much time trying, and failing miserably, to get photos and video footage which also resulted in a very blurred Polaroid of one sad measly pink light in a sea of black. It's fair to say, I wish I'd just sat down and really watched the damn show.   


3. Little India is the place for cheap great food...


As I mentioned before I wouldn't really recommend central Singapore for cheap food, but the areas around are definitely cheaper and have pretty great food. I found that Little India had a great selection of hawkers, food markets and even restaurants to choose from. One street stall was selling freshly made chapatis, aloo and dahl all for around 3$sd! I was pretty sceptical at first, with the equipment looking a little rusty and some of the curries merging into one odd looking greenish gloop, but after trying it I was instantly impressed. I didn't even get any tummy problems afterwards, which, let me tell you, is the trademark of a good hawker/street stall. 

I also found that the Little India area was much cheaper in terms of shops and hotels/hostels. Rather than staying in a dodgy hotel in the red light district (and then only being told by your taxi driver as you're pulling up to the derelict looking building), I would suggest checking this area out instead. They also have tons of cheap gold/silver jewellery stores and sell some interesting tropical fruits in the shops. It is definitely the place to go for food and interesting exotic souvenirs. 



4. ... but also some awful restaurants, check reviews before going to a restaurant. 


That being said, Little India also has it's fair share of shitty restaurants. For our last Contiki Group dinner we all went to this little Indian restaurant. We immediately noticed something was wrong when the one waiter, led us up the narrow dingy staircase to the top floor of the four story building... 2 floors away from the kitchen. And before you ask, no there wasn't a lift and nope it was just him serving 25 people. When we arrived the room had several suspicious looking stains on the floor and an even stranger scratching noise coming from above, this was accompanied by some awful load tinny music. Despite one of the group getting up to turn the music down several times the waiter insisted on it being at ear drum breaking levels, so loud at some points I wasn't sure whether I was at a shitty rave or a restaurant. The high spirits from the promising menu were instantly dampened by the 3 hour wait for our food to be cooked, plated and carried single dish by single dish up the 2 flights of stairs. And even then about half of our group didn't get their food, they were basically left to eat a plate of freshly cooked air. Don't get me wrong, i'm not heartless, if I hadn't known the waiter was also the owner I would probably have felt sorry for him. This paired with our continuous pleas to have at least two waiters, made me realise that we were basically in the perfect restaurant for Kitchen Nightmares. 

Basically just make sure you check restaurant reviews first. 


Universal studios Singapore
5. Hands down cleanest underground I've ever been on. 

It looked like someone had meticulously polished every surface continuously for the past five years. Even the trains seemed to glow. Not to mention there was actually people in charge of getting people on and off the trains safely. 

6. Hostels on the quay are nice, but very noisy. 


We stayed in a lovely hostel called '5 Footway Inn' right on the Quay. Aside from the strange slightly pee smelling entrance located in front of a fish restaurant it was surprisingly nice. It had a large room with a line of apple macs and a rooftop bar. If you don't mind lots of noise I would definitely recommend this hostel and others on the quay.  



7. Taxis are fairly cheap & the drivers always have great stories.


With the immaculate underground I don't even know why you'd want to take a taxi, but I was surprised to find that most people do take taxis. After taking one I realised why, they're so cheap! Not only that but the drivers have absolutely stellar stories, one of my drivers told me about how once he snuck in some chewing gum and felt like a total badass. Another one explained how he was called to take a lone 6 year old about 2 hours across town, which is another thing, Singapore feels so safe. I think I could happily roam around at 3 in the morning and still feel safe, it actually has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. 

✈ Next Australia

Links:


Sorry for the lack of photos, I only realised afterwards that I hardly took any!


10 November 2017

My Designs - Sketch Friday


A few days ago I was sketching a few designs and decided that I might as well share them on here too. I've only recently started sketching & drawing again, so they definitely aren't perfect, but I thought this would be a good way to track my progress over time. 




This one is mainly inspired by Taylor Swifts pink and orange co-ord she wore to the Grammy Awards. I love the deep pleats, in a heavy satin or silk, and sheer panelling on the top half. There is also an interesting mix between traditional evening gown, e.g. long skirt and pearl rimmed high neck, and modern wear, e.g. cropped sleeveless top, deep plunging sheer panelling and co-ord style.




Here I wanted to contrast street style and more traditional 'girly' style. For example the currently popular ripped mum jeans and cropped jumpers, vs the pom pom and knee high socks trend. I like the juxtaposition between the distressed jeans and the more formal sheer shirt in the first sketch. In the second sketch the varying styles are more toned down, the loose fitting boyfriend style jumper with the playful pom poms, furry ears and frilly socks. 



I have to start by saying I love 1950's fashion, so much so part of me wishes I was born in the 50's just so I could wear all the pretty, full skirted, butterfly sleeved dresses. I cheated slightly with this one as it was part copied from a photo I found on the internet, but I just couldn't help it. I'm a sucker for bright colours and big patterns, which is reflected perfectly in this floral dress. I am also drawn to the fit of this dress, I love the cinched waist and giant skirt. 


7 November 2017

Addictive TV - 3 great series


After over an hour of aimless Netflix browsing, trying to find a good tv show to watch, I was finally forced to conclude that great shows are too much of a rarity these days. With TV hosting platforms, such as Netflix and Amazon video, more popular than ever I expected my search for a quality tv show to be short and simple. However, I’ve started to realise that more options doesn’t necessarily equate to good options. While I can admit to finding tv shows like Riverdale, Pretty Little Liars and The Walking Dead entertaining, I can’t say they’re anything special, more just time-fillers. What infuriates me even further is, what seems like, the use of beautiful actors/actresses in an attempt to make up for average storylines and sloppy writing (particularly apparent in Pretty Little Liars).


So, in case you’re having the same problem as me, I’ve decided to share three of my favourite (non-comedy) tv shows for homey days when you just feel like curling up on the sofa and relaxing. 


Prison Break

"After Lincoln Burrows is convicted of a crime he didn't commit and put on death row, his brother creates an elaborate plan to break him out" 


Hands down one of my favourite tv series of all time. With a cleverly written plot and great characters, this is perfect if you want something thought-provoking. Every character is equally as interesting as each other and each episode leaves you wanting more. I especially love the way each moment is well thought out and how all the elements come together at the end. You are also given a great raw insight into prison life.

The Night Of 

"A complex New York City Murder case with cultural and political overtones. Follows a Pakistani American born college student and his unfortunate involvement in the murder." 

You'll find yourself hooked right from the first episode. The series plays around with the idea of racism and its role within the Criminal justice system, perfectly highlighting that racism is still very much a problem even in modern day society. The whole series is brilliantly written with an amazing cast (including John Turtorro who is just right for his part). The murderer is cleverly unveiled through tiny clues and intricate details, making it extremely hard to guess the killer.

Big Little Lies 

"Follows the seemingly perfect lives of the women of Monterey, Calif. However amidst the doting moms, successful husbands and beautiful children, exists a broken community fueled by rumors and consisting of fractured relationships." 

I first discovered this series after reading the book it is based off by Liane Moriarty. I usually find movies/tv series never live up to the books they are based off, however, considering I watched the entire series on a 13 hour flight, this is definitely an exception. The close reflection to reality and great intricate, but also relatable, characters, are what make this series so compelling.

What are you're favourite tv shows?

5 November 2017

My Designs - Preppy Pinafore Style Skirt


A few days ago I suddenly had the desire to make my own skirt. Yes I know it's kind of strange and a totally on-the-spot decision, but I thought, hey, it's a new year why not try something new?

Jenny (Gossip Girl)
So I went on youtube and found a really good, simple 'How to make a skirt' Tutorial and decided to do it. The next day I went out to the fabric store, which was a very new and kind of weird experience for me, and picked out some fabric. In the end it turns out I didn't buy the right fabric as I chose a non-stretchy material instead of an elasticated material which was used in the video, however I just added a zip into the skirt which turned out to actually be quite easy! The whole process of making the skirt surprisingly only took me a day (considering I was sewing it by hand) and was actually quite enjoyable. 

After making the skirt I decided I wanted to do something different and make it into a pinafore style dress as I had seen Jenny (from gossip girl) wear one and I thought It looked pretty.   

I'm really pleased with the way it turned out and will definitely be doing something like this again! 




Youtube tutorial 

Top - Zara
Shoes - Primark 

2 November 2017

An honest review of Contiki Tours


For the second half of my travelling I decided to go with the company 'Contiki Tours,' like with IVHQ, this was mainly due to recommendations by friends who had used the company before. It is a well known organisation operating in 6 continents and providing part-inclusive tours over 6 continents. The tours can last anything from a few weeks to two months and usually include, accommodation (a mix of hotels and hostels), transport within the dates, a few meals throughout the trip and a couple group activities. They operate all year round for the ages of 18 to 35. 

My tour, 'Bangkok to Singapore', was 2 weeks long and included Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. The group, of around 30, was very warm and welcoming, with the majority being solo travellers under the age of 30. This tour included 16 meals and two optional activity add on's (extra), with a mix of accommodation types. It's important to note that my review is specific to this particular tour, I know that others operate in different ways (bigger groups & more activities) so some of my review may or may not be relevant. 

The positives: 

- You get to stay in some incredible places. My personal favourite were these tiny, basic floating huts in the middle of a giant lake in the heart of Khao Sok national park. All the accommodation was clean, fairly well located, and safe. 

- You don't have to worry about anything. My trip manager (who was lovely) always had everything planned and would pass out day sheets which gave suggestions for places to eat and go at each stop. She would also make sure you knew timings for the next day e.g. When to meet in the lobby & what time dinner was. 

- Transport is all organised, you just have to make sure to be at the meeting place on time. 

- You meet some amazing people. Because you're with the same group of people for multiple weeks you tend to bond with them quickly. This is also easy as you will usually have a roommate. In my case this was done well as Contiki try and put people of the same age together. 

- There's no obligation to do the group activities. It is a tour but you can mostly just do what you want so long as you're on time for transport. 

- You get to do activities you might not have thought of doing if you were on your own. For example I went canoeing, trekking and caving. 

- Fun nights out. Again you obviously don't have to go if you don't want to. The trip manager usually knows all the best places to go. 

- It's a good way to see a lot in a short amount of time. Think of what you want to do before going as you have usually very little time at each stop.

- There are tour guides for many parts of the trip. 

The negatives: 

- The website and customer service was terrible. I constantly received spam mail from them and about 10 copies of the same invoice and trip schedule. The customer service was pretty abysmal, when I asked a question they usually either avoided it or gave an inadequate short reply. They were not helpful at all in regards to visas and travel vaccines. 

- Despite them knowing I was vegetarian and telling the trip manager to check if the lunch had meat in, I was given a sandwich with tuna in. What's worse, is that I only found out after taking a bite out of it. I didn't get lunch that day. 

- The extra activities were fairly expensive as is the trip itself. I would have expected the extra activities to be at least discounted. 

- You have to be the kind of person who enjoys tours. This means the organised timings, places and always being around the same people. I remember some of my friends absolutely hating one stop on the trip. 

- These trips can be orientated towards going out and partying, obviously it's how you choose to make it, but this can be seen as a negative and wasn't especially a positive for me. 

- Tour song. I found this slightly cheesy, not everyone joined in and it seemed slightly over the top. 

- Airport pick up and drop off is not included. You can arrange this with the company but it is ridiculously expensive compared to getting a taxi in-country. 

In conclusion I found that Contiki was a good way to experience Asia as a first time solo traveller, however, if I were to go back I don't think I would use them again. It was a good way to ease myself into travelling alone as I knew I always had a group and tour manager if I had any problems. Now having travelled on my own and knowing what to expect I don't feel I need this security net as much. I would recommend others to research what they actually want to gain from the experience before choosing Contiki and maybe look into other options such as Gadventures or volunteering. Personally, I would definitely choose a volunteer experience over the 'Contiki experience.' 
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