How to Plan a City Break

Planning a trip

If any of you are like me, then when you go away, whether it be for a short city break, holiday, or a long trip travelling, then you’ll like to be prepared. I mean, packed a few days before, with about 3 different lists, guide books galore, and various maps of your location with hotel, train stations, and airports circled and ready to navigate.

Or maybe, you’re a chilled out traveller, who picks up their currency at the airport, and books accommodation a few days before.

I have done both kinds of holiday, and both have their merits, but everytime I’ve done a city break without planning, I’ve always left regretful that I’ve missed out on things, or not done enough. I’ve always been a planner, and thought I would share my tips for getting the most out of a holiday.

1) Before booking, pick up a guide book…

and see what’s there, check what time’s/days/months the attractions you want to see are open, and make sure your trip cover’s those times. Let me tell you, I once went somewhere in europe for a mini-break on a sunday and monday and there was NOTHING open. We spent about 4 hours watching TV in the hotel room because there was nothing else to do. A mistake I will never again make.

2) Make a shortlist of things you would like to do.

Divide them into ‘Musts’Would like to’s’ and ‘ if we have a day spare’s’  This way you can be flexible when your there – if you are round the corner of a ‘Would like to’ with some time to spare, pop-in. Likewise if you are in the middle of a must, and having so much fun you don’t want to leave and head to that thing that you think might be cool, but you aren’t really that fussed (*cough* me and famous churches *cough*) you don’t have to rush off to make sure you fit it in. It also mean’s if you’ve booked perhaps a few days more than you needed somewhere – you can fit that church/museum in that will make you feel good and cultured.

3) Make sure you can be flexible

Don’t get too caught up in the schedule that you are rushing around and don’t have any time to relax and do the things that you enjoy. Sit at a street-side cafe, do a bit of shopping – whatever makes you feel like your on holiday!

4) Walk.

I always try to walk, or get buses rather than tubes so that I get to see as much of the city as possible. When you are travelling underground, you miss so much of what is going on – and you never know what you might discover. It’s also the best way to get your baring’s in a new place. So don’t forget to schedule in a bit of extra time to take a wander round the back-streets.

5) Know why you are going.

If it’s a girly weekend away, find an alternative guide book and look up a few local shopping hotspots so you don’t just end up in Zara again.

Research some restaurants and bars, you don’t have to go to them – but have some back-up’s if you don’t find something easily. If you are travelling hundreds or thousands of miles to a new city – there’s nothing worse than ending up shopping and eating in places you could’ve gone to down your local high-street because you weren’t prepared and didn’t know where to look to find the gems.

What are your top travelling tips? 

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Life Lately: Exploring London, and Finding Good Things

So, since I’ve been a little on and off recently with this blogging malarkey, there are a few things I’ve been up to recently that I haven’t shared, so thought I’d do a little summary post for you all. I’ve been exploring and found some lovely new places around London to head to this summer. All these photo’s are just some snapshots I took quickly on my iphone, the kind of one that you take, and eventually gets deleted (because at the end of the day, there are only so many photo’s of wine a girl needs) so what better place to store them than on here.

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Wine and Puppy’s

Less of a discovery more of just an excellent thing. But sipping on Rose whilst sat outside with a puppy at your feet…bliss.

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The London Riviera 

This fun little pop-up is sat right outside Boris Johnson’s office at More London. It has cocktails, coffee and food, and lots of cute little stripey summer outdoors bed furniture things (you know what I mean) to lie down on and relax if you’ve had a long day shopping or walking in the summer sun. There are also flamingo tables. Yes, that’s right, I said Flamingo tables. Find one. grab a cocktail or coffee depending on your mood and possibly the time of day, and *ahhh* relaxation in the city at it’s most kitsch.

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Eating Ice Cream 

Nothing beats Ice cream when it’s summer in London, and if it comes in a waffle cone then I’m pretty much sorted for the day. This beautiful stuff by the Benugo cafe in Hyde Park was pretty special, and beats a Mr Whippy any day. (I did post about my trip to Hyde Park here if you want more ducks, and summer fun!)

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The Rum Kitchen

What a discovery. I’ve always been a fan of Kingly Court in a kind of walk through or sit and eat a sandwich on the benches, but haven’t really been paying close attention to it. And my word has that place gone through a bit of a transformation. It’s now a thriving little hub of cute restaurants, bars and shops and well worth a visit. We picked the rum kitchen as destination of choice, and all the cocktails (all rum based – unsurprisingly) were gorgeous, and a little bit different from the usual too. Plus sitting in the window and looking out at this view, as the sun sets is a pretty lovely way to spend an evening.

What do you think? Have you made any new discoveries in your city recently?

Meet Sylvie

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I told you there would be a little bit of life news for you this week! If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram (if not, you can do, here and here) then you will probably be well aware already, as I have had no shame in spamming your newsfeed’s with this little bundle of loveliness!

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I have adopted a little Westie Puppy named Sylvie, and I love her more than I ever thought possible! She is an absolute darling (when she’s not chewing everything in sight) and has giant ears!  If you would like to see more of her face you can follow her on instagram here, because yes, I am that person now!

Here we are on one of her very first walks, the grass is like a desert thanks to this hot weather! Let’s get some rain please, so Sylvie can romp about in some luscious greenery for her next photoshoot! On the plus side – a pretty great view for an evening walk in your local park!

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Yes I am trying a new hair thing out here, no it’s not due to the hot weather, but due to Sylvie having a bit of a thing for long dangly things.

What I wore

Skirt / Topshop, Top / Vintage

Thought of the Week: When Life Gets Busy.

Busy life

Now you may or may not have noticed my absence from the internet for the past 10 days or so. But basically, I’ve been busy. I’ve been busy at work, and I’ve been busy when I’m not at work, and I haven’t found much time to do anything other than work really. That means no exercise, no reading, no seeing friends, no conventional methods of relaxation whatsoever.

(I now have even less time on my hands thank’s to a certain new family member (no not pregnant) but more on that later)

If I’m honest, I probably have had time to do things like read or exercise, it’s just that once you get out of a routine, or habit, it’s much harder to start again – I’m sure at least some of you will agree with me there. It’s what I like to call the ‘It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that I can’t be bothered right now’ mentality. And it’s not laziness, I mean, after working a 48 hour week, who wouldn’t choose to lay in front of the telly and watch Netflix over going to a Yoga class? Certainly not me!

Anyway, after trying to re-kindle my affection for my weekly routine, I’ve come up with a few ideas to help get back on track when life throws you off course for a while. Whether that be through tiredness, business, illness or whatever has made you need to take a step back for a while.

1) Take a step back for while, don’t feel guilty. If you have been working really hard, or just need a day of self-care without checking up on your to do list then do it. Eat some chocolate, have a glass of wine if that’s your thing, but relax in whatever way you want to. Who know’s it might even be a trip to the gym for you!

2) Make time. If you are starting to feel guilty about never making it to that fitness class, or never finishing that book. Make some time to do it. Try and switch your brain to focus on nothing but that activity whilst you are doing it! Give it 100% of your attention.

3) Get on top of those stress levels (read my tips for coping with stress and anxiety here)

4) Talk to a friend. Don’t meet up and instagram your lunch. Don’t tweet through dinner – even if you do love the topic of the chat that night. Again, 100% full attention on the task at hand. Face-to-face human interaction. You, and said friend will both have a brilliant time, internet-free.

5) Last resorts, if everything has really got on top of you, and you feel like there just aren’t enough minutes in the day to get what you need to done. (I’m talking that phase when there’s nothing left in your underwear drawer but a pair of old tights, but your washing basket is looking very well fed.) Take a day off. Whether you are able to take it from work, or have to take it cancel plans over the weekend to do it. Don’t feel guilty, or like you’re wasting a perfectly good day doing washing. Always remember – you deserve clean pants.

How do you cope when your life gets a little hectic?

My favourite Instagram Accounts: Part 1

Instafave

After having such a great response to my blogging favourites a couple of week’s ago (here) I  thought I’d share a few of my instagram favourites. These are three account’s I follow that I just can’t help but like every photo they post.

@melodramablog

This account is run by a fab lady based in the US of A. She is a creative blogger, and is always posting cool and quirky things that she’s either made or found. I love this Vnyl sign, (and the ‘M’ because I just really want one of these for my own bedroom right now!) There is always lots of colour, and fun in her post’s, and the captions are amusing too! What more could you want!

@carnetprune

This beautiful minimalist account is run by a blogger in Paris called Angeline. Now I’m a sucker for any Paris based instagram account, I think the city is pretty much the most aesthetically pleasing place on the planet, and I’ve always had a deep rooted love for it, so I probably am biased. But, basically, I just want all my photo’s to look like her’s all the time. There is a great mix of food, fashion and everything in between. And this lady has got that instagram theme thing DOWN!

@_hollywhite

Holly has one of those accounts where it’s all just lovely and monochrome all the time. She’s got the art of a good pic down to a T. Like Angeline, she has a nice mix of fashion, beauty, lifestyle (and of course the obligatory morning cup of coffee snap). And her account is less of a ‘If only that could be my life’ and more of a ‘That could actually be life if I just spent more time arranging my photo’s’ and I mean that as a good thing. (obvs – she’s in the favourites!)

So if your after some new accounts to follow, these ladies come highly recommended by myself! And (cheeky plug) you can find my account here too, if you would like to come and say hello!

TopshopXOlympusPEN: Photography Basics.

light

Now, don’t get me wrong I am by no means an expert when it comes to taking a photograph. In fact, until a few weeks ago I could get to grips with composition of a photo, then stand there with my camera in auto and hope for the best. But then I attended the TopshopXOlympusPEN workshops, and I basically learnt the basic’s of operating a camera in manual, and I’ve found it SO useful, that I thought it would only be fair to share my knowledge!

The Event

The event itself was brilliantly organised, and well thought out.  The session I attended was taught by Cleveland and Victoria from In the Frow. We had nearly an hour, and were all given an Olympus Pen to try taking the perfect flat-lay with the props Topshop had provided. The camera was lovely to use, I also brought by own along and used that for some of the shots as well, and these are the ones I’ve used here.

Both the teachers, and the other Olympus staff there were super helpful, and now I’m so much more confident using my camera, and I hope my photo’s are starting to slowly improve too! So here’s a summary of what I learnt, and hopefully it will be useful to someone out there who was as clueless about this as me!

 

What I learnt

This is the before snap –  when I shot the photo in auto, (my camera does normally take better photo’s than this in Auto but given that we were undergound in Topshop with TerHERible lighting, this is what it produced.)

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So exposure is basically to do with how much light is coming through your camera lens, this is important for quite obvious reasons. Too much light = photo is too bright. Not enough light = photo is too dark. You get the idea. But the exposure can be controlled but changing these three elements.

Aperture 

This is the setting that controls the size of the opening that is letting the light through the lens. Aperture is measured in f-stops, and basically the lower the f-stop number, the larger the opening and the more light will come in through to your lens, and vice versa.

Aperture is also what allows the focus to change between the items in the foreground, or background. Basically when you see those great looking photo’s with a product nicely in focus and a blurry background – this isn’t done in editing, but by changing the aperture settings! A high f-stop should be used for this effect, and low f-stop for a landscape or similar where you want both the background, and foreground in focus.

Shutter speed

Shutter speed controls the amount of time that the light is let in for. Changing this allows you to take photos of moving objects.

ISO

This is useful if you are shooting in different lights. So for example, a lower ISO on a bright day, and your image will come out crisp and sharp. In low light, you will probably need to have a higher ISO, but too hight and it may decrease the sharpness that’s achieved with the lower ISO.

And this is the after photo, after applying my new knowledge. As you can see I spilt a LOT more nail polish after this process, and the photo is brighter, sharper and less shadowy than above!

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I hope this helped even a little – if you have any tips to share please feel free!

Bonus snap: me practicing at home with better lighting and the amazing items Topshop gave every participant in a goody bag! I’m now completely addicted to these Vita Coco coffee things!

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Travelling – Fantasy’s and Fears

Travel

Travel

‘I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list’ 

So if you’ve ever entered the world of pinterest, you may have seen a inspirational travel quote or two floating around, and these are often followed by pictures of lots of incredible places all over the world, that no I have never been to, and in reality probably will never go to. It’s not that I don’t want to. Believe me, I can think of nothing I would rather do than spend the rest of my life seeing those places – that is – as long as I could snap my fingers and be there.

People often talk to me about travelling, and all the marvellous places they’ve been, and want to go to. I always feel a little like I can’t join in when the conversation turns global. I have travelled to a few places, and only ever really on holiday’s. I’ve never been backpacking, I’ve only once been to a different continent and that was to the USA – again on a very comfortable family holiday.

People often tell me I’m just the sort of person who like’s being near home. Although that is I guess in some way the case – I do feel more comfortable at home, of course I do, who doesn’t? But there are several reason’s I’ve not yet made the time to travel.

‘And then I realised. Adventures are the best way to learn’ 

I’ve been busy. Terrible excuse I know but I have been. When everyone else was on a Gap Year – I was doing a foundation course, then already a year behind I couldn’t start uni any later. Every summer I needed to work, or had week’s of work experience and internship’s lined up, and I never made the time to go anywhere. I also thought it was more important, and that I could travel any time, and everywhere would still be there when the time was right.

‘If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine – it’s lethal’ 

Well guess what destinations have always been top of my list?  Venice is sinking, and Cuba’s on the path to Starbucks and Mcdonalds. Suddenly I’ve found myself in a full time job, with quite little holiday time, and restrictions on when I can take it, and I don’t know when I’ll ever be able to go.

But then, I brought this on myself a little. This is surely what I wanted when I put in all those hours over summer volunteering and interning – surely this is what it was for?

But in reality, I didn’t make that choice because I would have rather one than the other. Really I was scared. I was scared of the flights, the trains, the hostel rooms. I was scared of getting mugged (when I live in one of the areas of the country with the highest crime rates…make’s no sense) scared of eating something that has a secret nut in it that might kill me. I’ve made excuses and found reasons not to go, and now my anxiety has come to fill me with fear of what I’ve missed out on.

‘Your heart is free. Have the courage to follow it’ 

Well if you are still reading, I hope you’ll be pleased to know that I’m taking steps to overcome this. I’ve booked a week in Paris in August- it’s not far, and it’s not new – but I am going completely solo! I am terrified, but also excited. Hopefully it will help me get over some of my fears, and I’ll be travelling a little further away from home in no time!

Here are my 5 most longed for trips. I may put them on my before 40 bucket list (I think before 30 is probably a bit ambitious, as some will probably be quite expensive, and time consuming!) If you’ve been to any I would love to know your recommendations.

My dream trips 

Thanks for listening to my ramblings!

A British Summer and Another Button Down Skirt.

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Stormy Seas

After making plans for a weekend trip to the seaside, booking a BnB and train tickets, you can imagine how thrilled I was when I read the weather forecast and it showed high winds, and lots and lots of rain. As it is now officially summer I decided to just pretend that this wasn’t the case, and we ventured on regardless.

Thankfully,  Brighton is one of those places with enough to do, that even a storm can’t ruin the fun. (I actually have always really enjoyed being by the sea when it’s stormy  – it  makes me feel like I’m in a dramatic scene in a period drama movie – not sure why…). But back on topic, we had a lovely day strolling the laines, eating cake, and making up new rules to play at the 2p machines in the arcade. In one of few breaks in the rain we managed to take some rather windswept photos, so I could share my weather inappropriate outfit with you.

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Green house

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Brighton

What I Wore

Jacket-Vintage / Shirt-Zara / Skirt-Topshop / Shoes-Topsop

I’d been very reluctant to go for a button down skirt as it’s just become a bit too trendy, but my only other denim skirt is a rider, and I was need. I had a Topshop voucher, and this one had to do. But then, I haven’t taken it off since I brought it. It’s easy to wear, comfy and incredibly versatile. Ignore the hype, if you want one then buy one!

I stupidly decided that a non-waterproof, hoodless jacket would suffice and of course I wouldn’t need an umbrella – don’t be silly this is BRITAIN it’s always sunny and it never rains – ever! You’d have thought that after 24 years of holidaying round the English coast I would’ve learnt my lesson, but alas, no. I got very wet, yet again.

To top it all off, my favourite comfy walking shoes that were the only one’s I had brought down with me, are not only velvet (yet again, excellent choice considering you had actually checked the forecast Milli) and they then also got a hole in the sole. (The ever fantastically well made Topshop for you ladies and gents) So naturally, my feet got very wet also.

But the moral of the story is never let a bit of rain, wet feet, and a crumpled shirt spoil the fun!

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Brighton 5

old pier