Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Four Year Blogversary.

Is it a Blogversary or Blogbirthday or Blogirthday? Who knows. But it's been four years since I wrote my very first post. Four. Years.

Pablo Picasso Idea Quote

When I first started this blog I thought it would be a place for me to just dump thoughts and feelings, a secret piece of the internet where no other person would dare enter. Fast forward four years my blog has had over 1 million pageviews, and has over 10,000 followers across all of the blog following platforms/social media sites. I never really thought my blog would take any direction, but I'm so happy that six months in I decided to focus on food, lifestyle, and travel.

I feel like every year I say the same, but I just can't believe that something that started on a total whim has turned into this. It was one of my best friends and my brother who told me to start another blog (my first one was part of a charity challenge), so really I have them to thank for all of this! 

Anyway, I'm going to keep this post short. Thank you to all of you who continue to come back time and time again and read my posts - I really do appreciate it! That includes you Nanny.

Also massive apologies for the lack of blog posts over the past week, work has been insanely busy and I haven't been feeling great, so I've been really exhausted in the evenings and too tired to function properly let alone write a blog post. So I'm going to leave this post here with the trailer I made for my Youtube Channel. Please do subscribe! I'm really loving this whole Youtube thing, it feels good creating a modern form of a home movie. Something to watch back and laugh at in a few years time.

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Thursday, 23 July 2015

Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup at Cowdray.

You all know how much I love the Polo by now. From Polo in the Park, the Veuve Clicquot Launch PartyHam PoloVarsity at Guards, and Cowdray. Last weekend Jasiminne and I went to Cowdray for the second time, we went last year and loved it, so when I was invited as a guest of the Barbados tourist board who are one of the sponsors, of course I said yes. As luck would have it we then actually ended up going as guests of the main sponsor, Jaeger-LeCoultre as well.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup at Cowdray

This meant we got VIP parking right next to the pitch. When we showed our badge to the first parking usher he exclaimed at the top of his voice 'OI LOOK ERE BOYS, THEY GOT ONE O' THEM POSH ONES' no joke. He actually said it like that. We cringed - after all, we were driving in the Luxmobile, my little Hyundai I've had since I was 18, which is covered in dents and scratches from my roadtrips all over the country, and all of my various arguments with hedges, walls, and other cars. I'm hoping my personalized number-plate made me look less out of place next to the Bentley....HA who am I kidding.

After parking up we went and found the Jaeger Le-Coultre VIP Hospitality tent, and after receiving our bracelets and 100% genuine Panama hats, we were handed a glass of champagne each. The hospitality tent was absolutely beautiful and pure luxury.

Jaeger-LeCoultre VIP hospitality tent

Louis Roederer Champagne

Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup Cowdray

There was unlimited complimentary drinks, I had my one glass of champagne and then non-alcoholic cocktails for the rest of the afternoon. It was a gorgeously refreshing drink called a 'summer garden' - a combination of sparkling elderflower, mint, apple juice, ice, and lime.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup VIP Enclosure at Cowdray

Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup VIP Enclosure at Cowdray

There was even a photobooth were we could take photos and rock out having some fun!

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polo Gold Cup VIP Enclosure at Cowdray

Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup Polo Photobooth

And of course we were in prime position to watch the polo as well as the players warming up their ponies...

Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup Cowdray

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polo Gold Cup Cowdray

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polo Gold Cup Cowdray

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polo Gold Cup Cowdray

Photo from Jasiminne

My lipstick melted off and I'd left it at home *waaaaa* so my lips looked all plain and boring. It was insanely hot, but thankfully the staff very kindly brought an umbrella over to our table to keep the sun off us (we both forgot sunscreen!), and then afternoon tea was served. A gorgeous mix of carrot cupcakes, passionfruit pavlova, chocolate brownies, and perfectly cut sandwiches!

Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup VIP Enclosure at Cowdray

Carrot and walnut cupcakes at Jaeger-LeCoultre VIP Enclosure

Passionfruit pavlova at Jaeger-LeCoultre VIP Enclosure

Afternoon tea at Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup VIP Enclosure

Naturally we also had to partake in the stomping of the divots!

Cowdray Polo Gold Cup

Cowdray Polo Gold Cup

Cowdray Polo Gold Cup

As well as providing afternoon tea, Jaeger-LeCoultre also provided endless hot savoury canapes that were all completely delicious! Jasiminne and I decided to spend a while catching up and sipping on our drinks inside the tent, it was nice and cool in there and perfect for people-watching.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup VIP Enclosure at Cowdray Polo

Photo from Jasiminne

They had a watchmaker inside to show guests how their watches are made, as well as many of their luxury watches on display. They really are a show of true craftmanship, absolutely beautiful, and we spent quite a while gazing at them through the glass.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup VIP Enclosure at Cowdray Polo

Jaeger-LeCoultre Watches in the VIP Enclosure at Cowdray

As the evening drew in and the winners celebrated their win, the real party started; music started pumping and two bars outside opened up offering complimentary cocktails. I had a little sip of Jasiminne's Lychee and Vodka and it tasted so good!

Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup winners at Cowdray polo

Lychee and vodka cocktail at Jaeger-LeCoultre VIP Enclosure

A huge thank you to the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc and Jaeger-LeCoultre for inviting us to the Cowdray Gold Cup, we had such a wonderful day and it was so good to catch up - can you believe the last time Jasiminne and I saw each other was our dinner at Roka!? We've both been so busy lately!

The polo season in the UK ends in the Autumn, however if you're a fan and you're in Barbados, their season at the Apes Hill Polo Club runs from Christmas to May! Sporting Barbados has more info on the next season's fixtures if you're interested.

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Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Dining at Michelin-Starred Galvin La Chapelle.

One of the things I miss most about being in a relationship is the excuses you have for going out for dinner. Birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations, and even just for the hell of it. When I was last in a serious relationship my boyfriend and I both gained a heap of weight because we used to go out for dinner all the time. Literally all the time, as in 2-3 times a week, sometimes more. I still go out for dinner a lot since being single, but I don't feel as though I can go 'all out', there's something special about going for a fancy dinner and just getting all the food with someone you love. 

So now I tend to go for set menus, I don't know why but I just feel like a super fancy expensive meal costing £100+ at a Michelin starred restaurant should be saved for a special occasion with 'that person'. However set menus allow me to eat there and treat myself but not feel like I'm blowing a load of money on a meal with a friend just for the hell of it. Still with me?

Ok I'm rambling now, sorry. So Jemima and I are both single but love good food, and both of us have agreed that we really miss being taken out for dinner or whisked away for a weekend break. So we thought we'd check out a restaurant we've both wanted to eat at for a while; Galvin La Chapelle. I've eaten at Galvin at Windows before with my mum and I wasn't a huge fan, I was really disappointed with the food there, but a friend told me that La Chapelle might be more my thing. And it was. Oh my it was.

After a stressful ten minutes when Google maps failed to work and I got lost near Liverpool Street station, I ran into my friend Trent who I have literally never been so happy to see. I was close to tears from annoyance at my phone and quite literally ran into his arms and wouldn't let go - I held him so tight he laughed and said 'well this is a very nice surprise!'. He thought it was hilarious that I was so worked up about not knowing where I was, and after a quick chat he showed me where to go. 

I arrived and was absolutely blown away by the beauty of the restaurant, which is in a former Victorian chapel with huge vaulted ceilings. The restaurant is very open, and very glamorous, but with a touch of trendiness. Jemima was already sat down at our table, so I explained my issue with getting lost and we ordered champagne to de-stress.

The Menu du Chef at Galvin La Chapelle is only £29 for three courses, which for a Michelin starred restaurant is amazing value. Often I worry that the set menu dishes aren't as good as the A La Carte, however here this definitely wasn't the case. Our entire meal from start-to-finish was perfect.

While perusing the menu we were offered three different types of bread. I went for a slice of the white and coated it in butter. I'm such a bread lover but don't eat it very often, I tend to only have it when I'm at a restaurant, so at La Chapelle I made the most of the fresh bread and had three slices :| *ahem*.

For starters I wanted something light so opted for the Charentais melon, Bayonne ham & Arbequina olive oil. I was worried that it might be old-fashioned melon balls, but I needn't have worried as the dish was exactly what I wanted. Fresh and light and full of flavour from the combination of the melon and ham, the ideal way to start a meal.

Jemima is a veggie so had the Chargrilled mackerel, pickled gooseberries & dill crème fraîche, and said it was just perfect.

For mains I went for something heavier; the Suffolk confit lamb belly, Summer green vegetables & lamb jus. Oh my gosh. The meat of the lamb was so tender, it was easy to separate from the fat, and it was so tasty and full of flavour. It also felt really healthy with all of the summer green veggies.

Jemima had the Risotto of wild mushroom, pied bleu & grated hazelnuts. I find that often restaurants don't get risotto right, but Jemima said this one was delicious. 

Dessert really was the pièce de résistance, I went for the White peach financier & elderflower, while Jemima had an off-menu item, the dessert special of the day which was a Dark Chocolate tarte with raspberry sorbet. My dessert was incredible, very light and the perfect way to finish such a fantastic meal. Jemima's dessert however was pure indulgence, I tried a bit and it was incredibly rich, so rich she couldn't finish it all. 

There's no doubt about it that La Chapelle is a very special place, and I can't stop raving about it to everyone who asks me which restaurant they should go to. The portion sizes were quite large and really rather generous, and despite choosing somewhat 'lighter' options, I left feeling incredibly full. The only qualm I had is that we didn't get any petit fours, while we saw lots of other people getting them. I'm not sure if you get them with the set menu though? And I guess in hindsight, we didn't exactly need anymore food!

Anyway, it was also really nice to go to a Michelin starred restaurant that didn't feel 'couple-y', it was full of big groups of families, friends, and work colleagues, with only the odd couple dotted around. I will definitely be back!

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Monday, 20 July 2015

The Important Travel Stuff.

With a few holidays and press trips coming up, there are a whole heap of super fun and wanderlusty posts coming your way over the next few months. But until then, I thought I'd tell you about the important stuff. The stuff that people forget about or don't really think about when travelling until the last minute.

When I went to Cuba last year I went into panic mode and realised that I had no idea whether I needed any vaccinations. I looked online and it said I might need a couple, so I had to take a morning off work to go to the doctor and ask him, then I had to get a separate appointment with the nurse, and then after all of that I didn't even need any as they were all up-to-date! It was a total waste of time, and when you have a full-time job the last thing you want is having to take an entire morning off work for no reason!

If I'd known earlier that Boots has a team of travel health Pharmacists, I could have just used their quick online check tool to find out whether vaccinations should be considered. Then instead of taking two mornings off work to discover that I didn't need them, I could have just made an appointment with a Boots pharmacist and run across the road during my lunch hour and found out without wasting too much time with the back and forth. 

As well as the vaccinations for Cuba I also went crazy with stocking up on travel medication. I'd heard that it's super difficult to get normal things like tissues and wet wipes in Cuba, so I went to the Boots across the road from my work, and stocked up on everything. I got bumper packed of tissues, wet wipes, toilet wipes, bandages, plasters, anti-bac, painkillers, anti-allergy tablets, anti-diarrhea tables, anti-sickness tablets, water purifiers, antihistamine, and savlon amongst a whole host of other things. The girls were mighty impressed with my organization skills, and you know what? The only things we actually used were the tissues, wet wipes, anti-bac, and savlon.

Apparently you can get sick from eating the ice-cream (helado) ^^ in Cuba as they often use unpasteurized milk, so I took plenty of anti-diarrhea and anti-sickness tablets just in case! Thankfully we didn't need them as the ice-cream was fine (and delicious!), but better to be safe than sorry, especially in a country where you can't buy those tablets if you did get sick!

I'm off to St Vincent and The Grenadines in September so I've already checked vaccinations for that and as far as I can tell I'm all fine! You can find out more on the Boots UK website.

If you're flying really soon and haven't thought about vaccinations yet, it's OK, it's not too late. There are last minute treatment options available; it’s better to be protected, even at the very last minute, than to not have any protection at all. Whilst it’s always better to be prepared, if you have a last minute opportunity to travel don’t forego any preventative treatment believing it’s too late and you don’t have time. Boots UK can provide you with protection options; for example, some malaria prevention medication can be started one to two days before departure.

So kids, stay safe when travelling, and be prepared! Everyone thinks 'it won't happen to me', but it might be you who needs that Malaria medication, or who is glad you had that tetanus shot.

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*This post is in association with Boots, however all opinions are my own.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Memphis the Musical.

I absolutely love musicals and going to the theatre (I'm a total musical geek), and so I just have to share this one with you. I've previously written about my love for musicals and the theatre in some of my previous posts (Les Miserables here, and Phantom of the Opera here, and then more recently Twelve Angry Men here), but I've seen so many more musicals that I just haven't written about. But, well, Memphis the Musical was one of the best I've seen. 

Mimi and I have been friends since we were about 14 years old. We just clicked in German class, and pretty soon we were causing mayhem and mischief in every lesson we had together. We were the disruptive kids and generally just a total pain in the arse for every teacher we had in German, Science, and Maths. The three subjects we found really difficult. Looking back now we both feel absolutely awful for being such a pain, but at the time we thought it was hilarious. We always joke that we have to stay friends because we each know too much about the other.

The teachers we had in those classes all told the two of us that because of our behaviour and bad grades we would never do anything with our lives. Mimi was always obsessed with Drama and absolutely thrived in her Drama lessons, while I thrived in my English lessons. Whenever Mimi told anyone she wanted to be an actress, the teachers would laugh at her and tell her she was just dreaming.

Well. There's a reason I asked Mimi to come along and see Memphis with me on the gala press night. She completely adores Beverley Knight, like, adores her. Mimi is also a pretty amazing singer, and also an amazing actress. Those teachers who told her she was just dreaming? Well they're gonna get the shock of their lives next year when they see her in the new Tarzan movie, as well as a regular character in Mr Selfridge (make sure you keep an eye out for her - she's gonna be huge!).

Anyway, the press night was the press night for Matt Cardle's run as Huey Calhoun, as he's just taken over from Killian Donnelly. Before the show we started our evening with dinner at The Diner, we both had buttermilk fried chicken burgers and sweet potato fries, and they were so yummy and exactly what we needed! I also had an oreo milkshake, because, ya know, go big or go home right?

We didn't realize the time as we were so busy catching up, so when I realised how late is was I sort of screamed at our waiter that we needed the bill 'right now!' :/ woops. He was absolutely lovely and brought it over straight away! 

We hurried over to the theatre and after a bit of an issue with the tickets due to miscommunication between the different agencies, we were finally in our seats (which were amazing - second row of the Royal Circle) right as they sung the very first note.

Straight away we were blown away. When Beverley Knight started singing Mimi and I just looked at each other and did that 'sitting-down-fluttering-hands-excited-thing'. The power. Her voice had me utterly mesmerized and Mimi's 'glory-hand' kept flying up whenever she hit a big note. Before we went to see Memphis I had no idea what the storyline was, all I knew was that after seeing them win an award and perform a number at the Olivier Awards a coupla months ago, I needed to see this musical. 

The story is all about a black bar singer Felicia Farrell (Beverley Knight), who sings in her brothers jazz club on Beale Street in Memphis, and a white guy who can't hold down a job called Huey Calhoun (Matt Cardle). Set in the 1950's when racism and segregation was rife, Huey falls in love with Felicia and promises her that he'll get her voice on the radio. He manages to get a job as a DJ for a local radio station because he plays real R&B music, or 'race' music, which all the kids love and the ratings go crazy! 

I won't tell you too much as I don't want to ruin it for you, but the story follows their relationship and careers, and the reactions to their relationship from various people. At times I cried from sheer disgust, at times I cried and laughed from the happiness that the show made me feel. It's such a feel good musical and the entire way through I had my arms crossed because I just wanted to get up and dance. Without crossing my arms I'm pretty sure I would have been on my feet annoying the people behind me.

Photo by Johan Persson

The show is full of soul music, rock and roll, and rhythm and blues, as well as Gospel, and every single number just blew me away. The talent in that cast is insane, and I can absolutely promise you, that you will not regret seeing Memphis. I was so surprised at how good Matt Cardle was, I voted for him on the X Factor but wasn't sure how his acting would be. He was a complete natural as the clumsy but lovable Huey and provided a sensational performance that had me believing every word he said.

After giving them a standing ovation we walked out of the theatre on such a high, and walked back to the tube station in such deep discussion about how good it was that we didn't see our waiter from earlier in the evening...until he shouted 'night ladies!' and we sprung into 'Oh, hiiii' and quickly straightened up from our food baby slouching/waddling.

You can find out more and get tickets on the website here. Go! You will not regret it! Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go and look at my photos from when I went to Memphis ten years ago, because after hearing all that music, I just wanna get on a plane and head right on back to Beale Street!

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*Our tickets were complimentary, this does not in any way influence my views. It really is a rockin'  toe-tapping show!
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