Pergola on The Roof

What I love about London is all the unique pop ups you get in the summer! As I don’t actually live there now it’s hard to squeeze them all in, but don’t worry I do find away! 

With an afternoon free when visiting my family for a weekend, it was the perfect opportunity to catch up with a friend and go to one of these lovely places! 

First on the list was Pergola on the Roof. Situated just past Westfield Shopping centre in West London and both of us based that way it was meant to be! Also helped by the fact it was a gorgeous sunny day (annoyingly though sunglasses were forgotten!) we headed up. We didn’t have a reservation but they do have a few seats available for walk ins. They obviously aren’t as swanky as the reserved ones, just being garden folding chairs but still in did us perfectly. Like I said annoying we forgot the sunnies, the stones reflected a lot of light so I did spend a lot of time squinting at my friend! Thankfully she didn’t take too much offence to it – well I hope she didn’t!! 

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Obviously the first place to start is the bar! After lots of debating we ordered two frozen margaritas…what they don’t mention is you can only get that from the main bar, frustrating but as it wasn’t busy not too irritating. They were pretty good, alcoholic slushes, what’s not to love?! Down side though, and yes we know why it’s the case, but they were served in plastic cups. When it’s around £8 a drink you would think that you would get at least a hard plastic glass but unfortunately not. This bugs me not because no one really likes drinking out of them but they aren’t exactly great for the environment. Maybe something they should think about for next year…or even their winter event! But let’s move on from that, they were refreshing which was exactly what you want on a warm summer day in London. 

After drinking and chatting food was going to happen. Starting with Breddos Tacos, we ordered a couple of Tacos (obviously haha) to share. And man, they were good! We didn’t look amazing while we ate them, but what are friends for but not to mock you while you try not to drop your food everywhere.

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With the second drink in hand we then moved on to 8 Horton Square. Describing 20170507_143625themselves as Mediterranean Food Shack, you really can’t go wrong. If we are honest though, we wanted chips, picky food is what we were after but with Salt n Sauce only serving them with their fish – I don’t think they had prepared for being so busy as they did have just chips on their menu! And with Patty &a Bun being so busy we went to 8 Hoxton Square. And oh we were delighted! With them doing deep fired baby potatoes with probable the best mayo ever we felt like we had landed the jackpot. Safe to say we got our own massive bowls and polished them off easily. I think we will actually need to head to their actual restaurant to try some more of their food soon…maybe when pop up season is over! 

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The atmosphere was perfect – lots of young people with friends, family lunches and definitely some first dates going on. It felt relaxed, yet energetic. There was a buzz that you only get with day drinks in the sun. 

Head up, and don’t forget those sunglasses! 

 

Planning a Hen Do!

I had the great experience of helping to plan my Big Sister’s Hen Do. I was so excited when she asked me to be her bridesmaid but the thought of planning a Hen Do made me nervous, like really nervous! Who do you invite? What should we do? Where should we go? So this is my mini guide for all those out there having the same stresses as me.


Talk to the Bride

The best place to start is to talk to the Bride – it is her day (or weekend) after all! Find out what she would like and go from there. Some people want a lots of classic hen do things (talking willies everywhere), some people don’t want any of that and other will want a combo of the two. It’s hard when you fall into one category but the Bride another. Obviously bring some of your own personality to it too, otherwise it will end up feeling very forced but not just that you won’t enjoy yourself either. The main thing is though, don’t force the Bride to do anything they won’t like. 


Guest List

Also get the Bride to do up a guest list!! Don’t guess as you never know you might miss someone off or invite someone they aren’t that close to anymore! Either way make sure you get that list very early on. In fact, pester the Bride until you do and don’t start any major planning until you know. If you’ve got a group coming from all over check everywhere flights/trains to that location or make sure people can drive to it. Pick a location and give everyone an idea. We planned for the most number of people but made sure that if X number of people couldn’t make it it would still be affordable for everyone else.


Pick your location

This is hard, but hopefully your Bride will give you an idea of what she wants. My Sister was after sun and relaxation. So as she lives in the UK that meant time to head abroad, as, let’s be honest the UK isn’t the sunniest. We went off to the amazing Lisbon! It was perfect for what we were after, sun, scenery and lots of bars and restaurants to choose from. We were able to get an AirBnB big enough to fit us all in and still have space to hang out and play games. Now that leads me on to the next point…


Games

I was feeling uncomfortable about thinking of games to play – remember it’s my big sister’s hen do, not a friends. I was lucky enough though to be planning with one of her best friends! She came up with some amazing ones, here they are so you don’t have to worry about thinking of things to do:

Pass the Parcel – instead of music you stick an embarrassing story of each guest on the different layers. Whoever has the parcel has to guess who the story is about. It’s a great one to ease people in when not everyone knows each other. They get it right first time they nominate someone to do a shot, get it wrong first time and they have to do one.

Find your Partner – everyone picks a piece of paper out of a bag and they have “position” on and you have to get into them with your male/female counter part. This can cause lots of screaming! Be warned your neighbours might not like this one as we found out!

Build your Willie – you have 2 minutes to make a willie out of play dough. The bride picks her favourite 

Make a Wedding Dress – lots of loo roll is needed for this. Split into teams, pick one person to dress up (one should be the bride!) you have 5 minutes to make the best dress. The game host picks the best one.

For our winners – they nominate a shot

Our losses – got shots


But you don’t have to have alcohol! These games are just as funny sober! 


When we looked for our accommodation we made sure there was a space to play these games. Lots of people just get hotel rooms but this felt much more personal, I would highly recommend getting a house/flat!


Cost

This is a hard one! In groups you are always going to have people on different salaries. Don’t make people feel pressured to come, never ask why when they say they can’t attend. Main thing is plan to a budget and make people aware of that when you start planning. Give a list – flights, accommodation, an activity, food/drink and what you think they will cost. Also some hen groups will pay for the bride…I personally don’t think that’s necessary and thankfully neither did our bride. Ours came to about €240 plus spending money. I didn’t think that was too bad for 3 nights in a different country. 


Activity

It’s great if you can to plan an activity out. We went for wine amd port tasting, we were in Portugal after all. It meant the Bridesmaids could also relax and not worry for a few hours as we were very much in the hands of someone else. It doesn’t have to be very big but try to do something that the Bride has always wanted to do or will just enjoy. If she’s an out doors girl maybe go rock climbing or if she likes to be pampered book nails to be done. Don’t make it an expensive thing, I would aim for around  £30 per person if it’s a full afternoon thing.


Goodie Bags

Now this has become a thing to do recently and I think it’s entirely optional. You should never go expecting a gift bag. And if you do do one, it doesn’t have to have anything expensive in! Plus remember you have to get it all to the location to so try not to get anything too heavy or bulky. I did not take my own advice – I took 13 glasses with Beyoncé quotes on a plane, in my hand luggage! Safe to say I did not have many clothes! Get the transfers from here – bespokebride.com – if you fancy being as crazy as me! 

We then got paracetamol, tic tacs, Bride Tribe transfers and a homemade glass charm! I have to say one of my favourite parts was the Bride Tribe transfers, super simple but brings everyone together. I also advise you take spares just in case anything goes wrong, don’t want one person feeling left out. One of the other bridesmaids also found some fantastic personalised bags too! “Lets Party Bitches” one side and the girls names on the other! It was a great little touch.


Decorations 

I think the more the better – and they don’t have to be expensive. We printed off 80 photos of the bride through the ages and stuck them all up around the flat. Safe to say this was one of the best things we did. All the girls had a great time laughing at them all…

We also got the classic “Team Bride” banner and some colourful pom-poms. Also, it tends to be the case, but a lot of one group will start to get married and have hen dos around the same time. So when packing up, don’t throw them away, up-cycle and give them to the next person planning a hen do! They will appreciate it and it doesn’t feel like a waste of money!


Number One Rule

ENJOY YOURSELF! You’re going to have put a lot of effort into it all and it is a break for you too so make sure you’re having fun! 

Mini Road Trip – Wicklow National Park and Glendalough

When we moved to Dublin we promised that we were actually going to see a bit of the country. We had lived in Edinburgh for a year and never quite got round to leaving the city! I worked weekends and The Boy was at uni during the week, making it harder to really get a few days to go somewhere. So this time we said we HAD to see more of the country. Plus all the pictures I’ve seen of Ireland make it look so gorgeous, I didn’t want to miss out.

20161030_103400We hired a car for 24hrs (not long!) but we just wanted to head down to Wicklow and Glendalough for some walks and a scenic drive. We do try to make the journey as part of the day as much as the destination. We went via Greystones so I could try out The Happy Pear café! And oh my, it was so worth the little detour. We 20161030_105722parked next to the beach and walked along the sand up to the café. It was so lovely to be on the beach…it has been a while since I’ve properly seen the sea. The café is a healthy little place with a great courtyard to sit in while you enjoy your breakfast. I went for the porridge with everything on. It was so good and super filling – just what I needed before the long walk we were going to do. The coffee was also pretty tasty. The café was really busy but still the service was quick. Unfortunately though they had already sold out of their avocado on toast but one of those things…just gives us an excuse to go back again. We headed back to the car but walked through the town this time, it’s a classic seaside town which always makes me really happy. Reminds me of my childhood! I could have happily spent an afternoon just wondering around there. But we got back to the car and headed down to Glendalough and the Wicklow National Park.

 

20161030_133432The drive took about 30-40 minutes from Greystones but what we didn’t realise was the rest of Ireland seemed to have the same idea! To get into the car park took us about 45 minutes!! So if you do go down, go down early or try to not go down whenever one else is!! I know that’s easier said than done. Anyways, we parked up and set off. We took the long ish walk (I believe it’s the orange one on their map!) which is about 8km taking around 2 hours. And it was gorgeous!! We went left passed the medieval ruins, which are pretty cool. The most obvious part is the 30m Round Tower. It’s a pretty spectacular building. I loved how the door is high off the ground as to stop intruders coming in. There are also ruins of a Church built in the 6th Century along with all the grave stones. It’s amazing what can survive.

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20161030_150229Not many people were doing the full walk, or if they were they were walking in the opposite direction to us, and even then it was probably only 3 or 4 couples that passed us! We felt truly alone and it was wonderful. The walk was of medium toughness, though take into account we are both semi fit. There is a small incline about half way. This takes you to one of the most beautiful views of the valley! We just stood there for about 15 minutes taking it all in. It helped that the weather was perfect too… warm with blue sky with a little overcast, perfect walking weather in my eyes. Once I had finished taking lots of photos we moved on. You then go into the more foresty part. This is where the Poulanass Waterfall is. It’s so pretty but I warn you now this is where it is a lot busier! It does take away from it a little but it’s still gorgeous. Plus the sound of the waterfall semi-drowns out the other people.

From here, we walked back passed the car park and headed to the Upper Lake. Yet another fantastic view. Between the refection and the mountains it was stunning. There are also a lot of people with their dogs which I find great fun to watch! Watch them bounding in and out of the water. Wicklow is a real family place, it’s great for kids get them out the house and running around.

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We headed back and instead of taking the main roads we drove through the park. It was dusk at this point but it was still so gorgeous. And, much like our walk, it was quiet! The roads are super bendy so at points I did get a little nervous. Though I always do when I’m not too sure on the road. It only took about an hour and forty five minutes to get back, not too bad in the grand scheme of things. And it was worth taking the scenic route, to me it just makes it feel so much more special.

I found it so lovely to see this part of Ireland and it really isn’t far from Dublin. You can easily get there by public transport, so you don’t have to get hire a car. I highly recommend going down if you want to get out of the city.

 

 

Mosa – Sushi Burritos in the heart of Dublin

20170329_180632Every month I get my BBC Good Food Magazine (via my Mother as it’s posted to her house in the UK!). And to my great delight on their feature page was a restaurant in Dublin – Mosa! Not just that it was Sushi Burritos – two of the best things, Sushi and Burritos!! So come date night it was obvious where we were going to go for dinner. It was a bit odd at first as restaurant is a bit of a stretch, probably more café/fast food! They specialise not in the sushi burrito but bubble tea. I know a lot of people love this but I just can’t get over the texture so we didn’t try it. Though I do think next time I go I will, just to see if it was because I had a bad experience once.

20170329_180452There is a wall covered in colourful post-it notes where people have written everything from reviews to love notes to quotes. It’s sweet as you sit there waiting for you food having a little insight into other people’s lives. There are also origami cranes hanging from the ceiling. I have a massive soft spot for the cranes, as a long time ago I made them for The Boy when we weren’t seeing each other regularly.

To the food…I managed to convince The Boy that he wanted to go halves, which was a miracle in itself! I went for the California Dream – Crispy chicken, sesame seeds, avocado, cucumber and mayo. While The Boy went for the Fantastic Salmon – lettuce, 20170329_181150avocado, salmon and lots and lots of mayo! He was definitely glad we went halves as mine was definitely the better one. The Salmon was just not as flavourful, and had way too much mayo on.
The sizes were also pretty small, definitely more snack size than dinner size. Two things wrong here – the price is not snack size and we went there for dinner! So we ended up getting some popcorn chicken which was deliciously salty.

20170329_182621The service was great! They all seemed to be really happy bubbly people. It’s always so nice getting great service in places, however big or small they are

In all it was good but that’s just it, it was good…nothing to spectacular. I might go back again but there is a lot of other places I would like to try before I do.

Travel – is it ticking boxes or experiencing cultures? Asking and attempting to answer the question

This is a hard one to write. Are we travelling to tick boxes, to say we’ve been somewhere, to get that perfect Instagram picture or to learn about other cultures, to admire the natural world, to explore the untouched? Just because our experiences are different does it mean that theirs was wrong, or even ours was wrong?

I went off for 6 months with The Boy and went to South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. The stick I got for picking those locations was ridiculous, upsetting and judging!

“Why do you want to go there? It’s so touristy? Everyone does that?”

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Yes I knew people that had been, in fact my stepbrother had done it years before me and the stories he came back with made me want to go. I wanted to see a different culture, eat different foods and see a new world, something I had never seen before. Yes, I did touristy things, but are things touristy just because a lot of people do them? Would you say Angkor Wat is touristy? No. So why is going to S.E.A classed as a touristy thing to do? Once you start digging (or lightly scrapping the surface) you can see why – drunk westerners in Bangkok, the Full Moon Parties and the Island Hoping. This isn’t the South East Asia I saw, this was “Lads on Tour”, “I want to lay on a beach”, “I need a tan to show I’ve been away”. Why have these people travelled so far to do something they could do in the South of France for a fraction of the cost? Have they come just to say they have been, and got that perfect Instagram picture?

“If it’s not on Social Media did it really happen?”

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Is this what we’ve become? Or are they trying something that doesn’t interest me? Am I wrong for judging people’s travels or holidays because I think they could have just done that at home, because it doesn’t seem “cultural” enough? I think that if you go somewhere, you respect their culture, just like I feel when people come to the UK. Respect is key. So as long as they are respectful why does it bother me that they are just partying and drinking? In my view we should want to travel to explore what makes our planet so beautiful, so diverse, and so original. I personally don’t think you get that at the bottom of a bottle. Some cultures have a lot of drinking in them, look at Ireland, and imagine visiting and not having a pint of Guinness. But Ireland isn’t just about the black stuff, it’s about its history, Vikings, scenery, religion and so so so much more. A beach is just a beach unless you explore the area around it. A city just a city if you don’t go into the buildings. A country is just another ticked box if you don’t find out what that country is about. In my view, don’t go to a country just to do what you would do at home…

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I also know some people pick their location based on the land mass they can scratch off on their map. When I first heard this is how they were picking their next trip it was hard not to laugh. It sounded so ridiculous to spend all that money to go somewhere just because it’s a big land mass to show off on your map. Why not read about different places and pick from that? But then I started to thinking about it more. If you know you want to see the world and you can’t decide where to start why not start by picking large countries? Then do your research on that country? Can you really go wrong, you’re still going to see the culture of somewhere new? I suddenly felt bad about the fact I had been that judgy person. If you want to see the world does it matter how you choose your location? I mean, I made a promise to myself that I would visit one new country every year but why a new one, why not go back to something I loved? Because I want to experience somewhere new, or because I want to have another country ticked off. And if I am honest, it’s both. When I’m old and grey I want to look back at all the places I’ve been to, to have got as close to seeing all 196 countries (and yes I’m including Taiwan as its own country) as I possibly could. But not just to say I have been there, to have seen as many cultures as I can, to try new things, to eat and learn to cook new foods.

Yes travel, pick your location however you want, but don’t go somewhere because you feel you have to, go because YOU want to. Explore what that country has to offer, do those touristy things, and learn something new.

Cheap Flights – is it worth it?

I’m sat here after receiving yet another email from Ryanair saying my flight has changed. It has made me wonder, is it worth flying with these cheaper airlines? What do I actually get from it…

img_20160814_235219As it stands, I am flying back to the UK every other (ish) weekend so I have spent a lot of time on Ryanair and at the airport. Sometimes if I am lucky I fly Aer Lingus! Every time I arrive at the gate I look at the people queuing, and every time without fail I ask why? And then that well-known announcement comes on – “this flight is fully booked so you may be asked to put your bag in the hold”. And this is why people are wasting more time checking in early so they are guaranteed getting their hold on wheelie bag with them. Is it worth it?

I know I am not the only one that lives on Skyscanner looking for that cheap break to img_20160817_173901anywhere. It’s great going away for a city break, throwing your clothes into your handbag, making sure your liquids are in a plastic bag and making sure you can fit in your camera. But most of the time these flights are run by people like Ryanair. And this for me is starting to get a tad annoying! These cheap flights actually aren’t great, the planes are cramped, the landings bumpy and the service average, nice, but nothing to write home about. Compare this to Virgin or BA and it’s terrible. Not that they are rude or horrible people but they just can’t go the extra mile like these other premium companies can. So why do we accept it?

For someone like myself, I accept it because it means I can travel, see new things. But am I just fuelling the fire. If I stopped, started paying that extra €20 would they up their game, upgrade their planes so they can fit on everyone’s bags? Look at Aer Lingus, they are relatively cheap, but I have never had a problem with space. They have managed to make themselves the halfway airline. It’s great, there is so much less stress when you are getting to your gate. But that extra €20 could buy us lunch on the first day, coffee on arrival…do I really want to spend it on a better journey when I’m going for the destination.

img_20160822_061232Everyone does complain about the food and drink being stupidly expensive, and it is. They are running a business after all. So many companies will charge more if they are the only ones serving that one item but we don’t seem to keep up as much of a fuss then! It’s really down to you to plan a little better and pack yourself a lunch to take on the plane. Or pick something up in the airport? Or you know, survive 2 hours without eating? So this doesn’t bug me as much as it seems to upset most. Just plan better! It’s really not that hard! Tad more understanding if you’re going a bit further, but still you can pack food.

People always say – you can pay to take luggage so you don’t have to queue, you can pay for the food so you aren’t hungry and you can pay for extra leg room. So at this moment I would have added at least €30 onto my flight. So by the time I’ve done all of this I could afforded the better airline. But here I am, not paying for these things struggling away and taking the smallest bag possible. All so I have the extra money to spend at the place I actually want to see. And that’s why however much I (and everyone I fly with) complains about them we will always fly with airlines like Ryanair.

But let’s be honest here, if I could afford to fly all the time with companies like BA I would. Without hesitation. It might seem like a waste of money to some, “It’s only a few hours of your life!”, but that’s it a few hours add up and if I can make the journey as nice (well more relaxed!) as the destination I would. It’s just a great way to start any trip! You arrive relaxed and ready to start your break!

What are your thoughts? Do you always pay that bit more? Or stick with the cheaper airlines?

The Guinness Storehouse

You can’t live in Dublin and not write a blog on Europe’s leading tourist attraction. The Guinness Store House has over 1.4million tourists visiting last year! And I’ve been 4 times!

First and foremost, book your tickets online! Beat the queues!! You’ll thank me later!

It consists of 7 Floors – Ingredients, Brewing, Tasting, Marketing, Pour your own Guinness, Dining and the Gravity Bar. It’s a self-guided tour so no set times to arrive by which I find a lot nicer and more relaxing. It means you’re not tied down and can insure you get to do some other things before without any time pressure. They do however, do an introductory talk at the beginning if you miss the talk just make sure you see the 9000 year lease in the floor! And look up, the Atrium of the Storehouse is the world’s largest pint shaped glass. Also don’t forget to walk around the outside and fine the famous James Gate Gate! img_20160923_173633

Now let’s go floor by floor…

Ingredients – I have to say I think this is one of my favourite parts! They have the four ingredients all set out in pretty large consistencies. There is almost a sandpit of Barley, img_20170206_212249_390stick your hand in and feel it round through your fingers. See how tall the Hops can grow. Try to peak in and see the Yeast in the safe, protected from all competitors. Hear the waterfall of Water rushing down, brewers are very protective of their water! It’s very informative if you don’t know a lot about how beer is made. I however have been to many brewer tours, plus you tend to pick up a few things when The Boy is a brewer with a Masters degree in it! But I think that Guinness have done a great job in the way they have set it up, very original! Compared to others they have managed to make it a feature of the tour rather than just having it there for the sake of it.

From here you go up a floor to the technical part – how they make the brew! Though first you do go through moving portraits which I just find odd (read pointless)! It’s about Arthur Guinness…the founder if you didn’t know. They clearly don’t have some pictures of him 20161113_140050and his family so they get “normal” people to talk about him and his life. I personally think that this could have been done in a different way but hey-ho each to their own. Anyways, head through there and you get to how they brew The Black Stuff (which isn’t black at all, its Ruby Red in fact!) Remember that – you’ll get a cheeky extra taster later on! You’ll learn about how they roast the barley to 232°C, mashing it to create wort, fermenting it to get that lovely alcohol and everything in between! It’s really interesting! And again well done by Guinness. Follow on to where you can watch videos of Cooperage and how Guinness made it around the world (over 150 countries!!). Spot the sculptor of the “Guinness Pint – Made of More” depicting the past and future of Guinness. It was done by more than 20 artists and took more than 600 hours to do, take time to appreciate their work.

Head on up and don’t miss the Tasting Rooms like two of my friends did! Though this was entertaining to watch as they got on to the escalator with no way of coming back. You go through to a white room filled with aromas of beer. You get given a teeny tiny perfect “pint” of Guinness and get taught how to drink it – sounds odd but it is fun to do! Remember the colour of the beer – if you’re lucky this is where you’ll get an extra taster! They also have all the aromas in smoke form, gives the room a Willy Wonka vibe!

Keep on going up, this time to the marketing…I think this will appeal to the older generation a bit more – all those adverts they grew up with are there as well as some of the newer ones. Don’t miss the room of screens were you get submerged into their adverts. I really love their adverts, I actually don’t know anyone who doesn’t. Their marketing team has always done well, from the super simple posters to the completely out there TV adverts. And the fish on a bike, a classic!

Now if you’re a bar(wo)man this is a lot less fun, it will remind you of all those times someone came in, ordered 5 drinks and then saying they will have a Guinness at the end! Probably the most annoying thing someone can do as to get the perfect pint it takes at least 2 minutes, doesn’t sound like a lot until you have 5 other people waiting to be served! But if you’ve never poured a pint its good fun. You’ll learn how to pour the perfect pint and why it’s done that way. You can opt out of pouring your own if you think you’ve had enough experience or really want someone else to serve you. You also get a little certificate to show off to your friends. And well, you get your pint! Time to head on up for the final time and drink up…20161113_151038

 

To the Gravity Bar you go! 360° (almost, the stairs up block some of it off if you want to be pedantic about it) of Dublin! If you didn’t know Dublin is VERY flat so the bar is the highest point and you can see all the way across to the Aviva Stadium and further! Try and pick out the highlights of Dublin, they do give you some clues as to where to be looking! Try to get a seat, relax, and drink up!

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