UncommonGoods.Com – an unusual gift givers delight!

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My favourite item on the site so far – this set of four Agate Coasters – beautiful!

For those organised people who are already thinking about this year’s Christmas gifts – if you are stuck for ideas or fancy something really different this year then I have got a brilliant website for you!

I start my Christmas shopping really early, not just because I have so many people to buy for, but because I am not one of those people who leaves it until the last minute and then hits the stores with a massive list and basically grabs whatever is left on the shelves! I like to give each present I buy some significant thought to ensure I am buying something the person will love and either use regularly or treasure forever!

As the years go on it is becoming harder and harder to find such unusual gifts for people. Trends change really quickly and as soon as someone has introduces a great idea, it is not long afterwards that the market becomes flooded with copycat ideas and everyone ends up with one of these latest gifts or gadgets under the tree.

This is where Uncommon Goods comes in!

The website is an American website but they make it incredibly easy to shop online from the UK. All prices are quoted in Pounds sterling and all the duties and taxes are calculated at the checkout – so you know exactly how much something is going to cost and aren’t left with any outstanding fees surprises when the item is delivered! Uncommon Goods also keep the international shipping rates as low as possible so you aren’t stung on delivery costs which, on some websites I’ve used, end up costing more than the item itself!

I’ve spent lots of time searching through this brilliant website – there are hundreds and hundreds of amazing gifts to choose from, it was really hard to whittle it down to just a few but here are some of my favourites from the following Uncommon Goods collections:

Perfect Christmas gifts for her

I love this necklace which reads “do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and make a trail” because I first came across this quote on a plaque in Las Vegas at the New York New York hotel in 2009 – I loved it then and I’m so pleased I came across this!

Travel Stub Diary – ideal for storing tickets, maps, postcodes and any other memorabilia you’ve collected from those special places you’ve visited.

I LOVE snow globes – how beautiful is this cherry blossom snow globe?! My sister adores cherry blossom so she might find one of these hiding under the Christmas tree this year!

Bath salts are always a firm favourite – I love these Chakra bath salts in these bright cheerful colours!

How elegant is this wine tasting flight? Ideal for a girls night in to give guests the opportunity to sample different wines!

I’m not normally a fan of mugs but how cute are these little owl mugs?? I hosted a Harry Potter themed party recently – these would have been ideal for it!

Check out this amazing Elwood unicorn mug! There’s also a matching bowl! You can’t go too far wrong with anything unicorn themed as a present at the moment!

This woven wine tote with glasses is a great idea for picnics or even when just sitting in the garden – no more knocked or kicked over wine glasses when they are put safely back in this woven tote!

These cocoa butter truffles bathtub soaks look good enough to eat but you will have to settle with using them in a nice hot bath instead! Ideal for relaxing with during those cold winter months!

I love this set of three loofah scrubbers! The embedded loofah is made of dried gourd which is a natural skin polisher.

Perfect Christmas gifts for him

Check out this whiskey wedge! Simply make the “ice slope” from the mould to keep drinks cold but with minimal dilution.

This bottle loft is brilliant and definitely something hubby will be adding to the Christmas list! It looks really impressive and saves space too!

My father in law loves guitars and has built up quite a collection over the years so these coin guitar picks and guitar themed socks will probably end up in his stocking this Christmas!

Carrying on with the music theme – these two are great for music lovers! Check out the record clock and record bowls! There’s also a matching doormat if you’d prefer…

If you want to avoid having ice in your drinks altogether then these nautical whiskey stones are brilliant! Simply freeze them and add them to your drinks to keep them cool and prevent watered down drinks.

How unusual is this stone drinks dispenser?? I’ve never seen anything like it before! Probably why it appears on the UncommonGoods website though!

If food is more of a perfect gift for the man in your life, how about this brilliant beer jelly? It comes in a set of four preserves which are infused with craft beers!

Or these boozy Jonboy caramels? A set of three in absinthe, whiskey and fleur de sel flavours!

Perfect Christmas gifts for Mum

I was really looking forward to rifling through this section of the website because I love choosing special presents for my Mum!

I really love these birthstone wishing balls – each one comes with 52 slips of paper for you to write down your wishes, memories or accomplishments every week of the year! Coil them up and put them in the tiny hole near the base and they become a permanent part of the display! Stunning!

Continuing with the birthstone theme (this features a lot in my choices I’ve noticed!) is the birthstone jewellery dish – ideal for Mum’s dressing table!

I also love this Nordic tea light trough – really cosy looking and relaxing!

I love this molten sculptural bowl – probably more for myself than for someone else! The base is the root of a gamal tree and it can be used as anything from a vase to an unusual wine decanter. Absolutely beautiful and utterly striking.

I thought these wine cork candles were a brilliant idea! Really effective, they come in a pack of 12 to keep you going for a while.

How unusual is this real sugar maple leaf night light?? It is preserved in 24 karat antique gold so it retains its delicate shape and veins, and is stunning as an ornament in the day and a night light in the evening.

Sorry… birthstone related gifts again! But believe it or not these are SOAPS! Aren’t they great? They are all handmade and look just like gemstones, I would like one of each in my stocking please Santa!

My Mum loves her herb garden, and so these brass herb plant markers are a perfect present for her!

Or how about this slow brew iced tea maker?! A great idea if your Mum enjoys her iced teas whilst working in the garden!

 

If this hasn’t been enough to convince you, UncommonGoods also have a really admirable mission statement, and are working hard to make sustainability a key part of their business. They are constantly working to make UncommonGoods more environmentally friendly and more socially responsible.

Here are just some things UncommonGoods focus on as part of the everyday running of the business:

Handmade, Recycled and Organic Products –

“We’re committed to offering you a creative and exciting merchandise assortment and are working with our suppliers – from artists to small manufacturers – to make their products in a more socially and environmentally responsible manner. Since our founding, we’ve featured products that contain recycled components and have not sold products containing leather, feathers or fur – we’re committed to selling products that do no harm to people or animals.”

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

“We understand that by producing a catalog we use the earth’s resources. We try our best to minimize that impact by shifting more business online, limiting how many catalogs we mail, and printing our catalogs on either recycled paper (virtually all of which is from 30% post-consumer waste) or paper sourced from FSC certified forests (which are harvested in a sustainable manner).”

Better To Give

“Giving back is important to us and we want to share this passion with our customers. That’s why we created the Better to Give Program in 2001, which allows you to select a non-profit organization to receive a $1 donation from us at checkout. UncommonGoods has donated over $1,000,000 since we created this program.” Learn more about this here

B Corporation

“UncommonGoods is proud to be a founding member of B Corporation, an organization created to help customers understand the social and environmental impact of their purchases. The B seal means that a company has met the standards outlined in a comprehensive screening questionnaire, which evaluates a company on issues ranging from providing a living wage, to lessening their impact on the environment, to giving back to the community.”

So as  you can see, they are a wonderful company to purchase from!

Happy shopping – I’m sure you will find some truly amazing gifts for your loved ones from UncommonGoods! I would love to hear from you about your fantastic finds! Don’t forget to sign up to their website – secret sales are available to their email subscribers only!

A fly-by trip to Florence

We visited Florence as part of our grand tour of Italy and to be honest it was the place I was looking forward to visiting least, as I was really excited about finally getting to visit Rome and Venice. It turns out I was completely blown away by this beautiful place and it ended up being my favourite out of all the places we visited in Italy during our trip!

We did a walking tour of the centre of Florence with a local guide who was brilliant – he really enjoyed talking to us about his amazing city and was so knowledgeable. Our walking tour around Florence included stops at these wonderful places:

The Church of Santa Croce

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The Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross) is the burial place of some of the most famous Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, the poet Foscolo, the philosopher Gentile and the composer Rossini, and it is therefore also known as the “Temple of the Italian Glories.”

The construction of the current church, to replace an older building, started on 12 May 1294. The Basilica became popular with Florentines and it became common practice for greatly honoured Florentines to be buried or commemorated there. As time progressed, space was also given to other notable Italians from elsewhere. For 500 years, monuments were erected in the church including those to:

  • Leonardo Bruni (15th-century chancellor of the Republic, scholar and historian)
  • Dante (buried in Ravenna)
  • Galileo Galilei
  • Giovanni Gentile (20th-century philosopher)
  • Niccolò Machiavelli by Innocenzo Spinazzi
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The tomb of Galileo
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The tomb of Leonardo Da Vinci

You can read more details about the Church of Santa Croce here.

Outside the Church of Santa Croce you will find the statue of Dante. Dante was a major Italian poet of the late Middle Ages and the statue was erected in 1865 to celebrate the 600 anniversary of his birth. Dante’s “Divine Comedy” is widely considered the greatest literary work composed in the Italian language and a masterpiece of world literature. 

You can read more about Dante and his work Divine Comedy here and here.

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Dante Museum

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The Casa di Dante is a three floor museum which shows the life and works of the great Italian poet. The original building was rebuilt in the first decade of the twentieth century right where the family homes once stood and where in 1265 Dante was born.

The First Floor covers the life of Dante and medieval Florence, the Second Floor continues with the life of Dante and his exile and the Third Floor covers the Divine Comedy, including original editions of this amazing work.

It’s a very interesting museum, and the entrance fee is only €4 per person!

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence Cathedral)

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I will always remember the first moment I saw Florence Cathedral and Bell Tower. We had walked through the winding streets of Florence with our local tour guide learning about the city’s history when we turned a corner and walked into an open area with this beautiful building right in front of us with the sun beaming down on it. I remember gasping aloud and turning to my Mum who was a few paces behind me and saying “oh my god!” She looked at me for a second and then walked forward into the view of the cathedral and then said exactly the same thing! The Duomo Cathedral and Bell Tower along with the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona are probably the most breath taking buildings I have encountered on my travels!

The camera I had with me for this trip was rubbish but believe me, I think even photographs taken with a top of the range camera would not do this building justice! It has to be seen to be believed!

The exterior of the Cathedral is covered with marble bands in various shades of green and pink and bordered by white. These marble bands had to repeat the already existing bands on the walls of the earlier adjacent baptistery the Battistero di San Giovanni and Giotto’s Bell Tower.

The Cathedral was the location of the murder of Giuliano di Piero de’ Medici. He was assassinated on Sunday, 26 April 1478 by Francesco de’ Pazzi and Bernardo Baroncelli as part of the Pazzi conspiracy (a plot by members of the Pazzi family and others to displace the de’ Medici family as rulers of Renaissance Florence).

Giotto’s Campanile (Bell Tower)

Giotto’s Campanile is a free-standing Bell Tower that stands next to the Cathedral and the Baptistry of St. John. The structure is square with 14.45 metre sides and it is 84.7 metres tall. You can read more about the Bell Tower here.

The Dome

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The Cathedral’s dome remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.

Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici decided to have the dome painted with a representation of The Last Judgment. This huge piece of work (3,600 metres² of painted surface) was started in 1568 by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari and wouldn’t finish until 1579. 

The Baptistry (Battistero di San Giovanni)

The Florence Baptistry (also known as the Baptistry of Saint John), is one of the oldest buildings in the city, constructed between 1059 and 1128. The baptistry is an octagon shape, which was a common shape for baptistries since early Christian times. The number eight is a symbol of regeneration in Christianity, signifying the six days of creation, the Day of Rest, and a day of re-creation through the Sacrament of Baptism.

The Baptistry is renowned for its three sets of incredible bronze doors! The east doors were dubbed by Michelangelo the “Gates of Paradise.” These doors consist of 28 panels, with the twenty top panels depicting scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist. The eight lower panels depict the eight virtues of hope, faith, charity, humility, fortitude, temperance, justice and prudence. They are really beautiful but you can only get so close due to the gates – I’m sure up close the detail on them would be all the more incredible.

Dante and many other notable Renaissance figures, including members of the Medici family, were baptised in this baptistry.

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The Academia Museum (Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze)

The Gallery of the Academy of Florence, is an art museum which is most well known for being the home of Michelangelo’s sculpture David. The Academia has housed the original sculpture since 1873. It also holds other sculptures by Michelangelo and a collection of Renaissance paintings.

I really wanted to visit the museum but we were very rushed for time and the queues to the museum were very long so we didn’t get the chance to visit. The museum itself is very vast and so we would have needed a good few hours to get round and see everything inside. Very disappointing but a good reason to go back again one day!

There were, however, some great statues outside the museum which we thoroughly enjoyed looking at, including a replica of the statue of David, and the Fountains of Neptune.

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Replica of Michelangelo’s statue of David
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The Fountains of Neptune

Florence is such a beautiful place full of fascinating history and is definitely somewhere I would love to re-visit to spend more time here. You could spend days just visiting the fantastic museums and even more time absorbing all the wonderful culture and friendly and relaxed atmosphere! It is worth going just to see the incredible Cathedral and Bell Tower, if Florence is not already on your bucket list then I highly recommend adding it – and placing it somewhere near the top!

Lush Cosmetics – the jelly edition!

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Hello fellow Lushies!

I couldn’t wait to try the new jelly range from Lush and ordered all of the items as soon as they were released! The jelly masks are long-lasting and easy to store and transport because they don’t leak everywhere, and I couldn’t wait to try out this new found phenomenon known as the “jelly” bomb!

I actually used all the products a couple of months ago but had so many scheduled blogs, I’ve only just got round to publishing this one! Here’s what I thought of all the products in the new range –

Fomo Jelly Face Mask

Fomo was the first of the five new Lush jelly face masks I tried – no particular reason why I tried this one first, it was just the first one I grabbed out of my stash!

The main thing I love about these masks is that they are far more longer lasting than the other Lush face masks currently available – you soon find that the use by date on the fresh face masks comes around very quickly!

Fomo has been designed for all skin types and is ideal for those fans of the floral scented masks. The mask features calamine powder and rose absolute and a tiny bit of neroli to give it a little bit of sweetness. The calamine powder ingredient makes this mask ideal for people who have sensitive skin, as it acts as a calming ingredient. It is also ideal if your skin is suffering from a little bit too much time in the sun. The mask also contains kaolin clay, which is designed to absorb any excess oil.

To use the jelly masks, tear off a grape sized piece of the jelly (to be fair, I do use more than this as I like a nice thick mask) and work into a paste in the palm of your hands (with a tiny bit of water you wish) and then apply to your skin, leave on for 15 to 20 minutes and then wash away! Simple!

I found my skin was lovely and clean and smooth after using Fomo, and I am surprised at how many uses you can get out of a single 65g pot, I am estimating around 15! So very good value for money and of course, as they are long lasting masks, you don’t have to rush to use them up!

Dark Arts Jelly Bath Bomb

I couldn’t wait to try this! A new jelly style bath bomb named after Harry Potter! Brilliant! (Although after writing this blog, the name of this jelly bomb has now been renamed “Secret Arts” not “Dark Arts” – I assume there were issues copying the Dark Arts name!?)

These new jelly bath bombs feature an ingredient called sodium alginate, which is what causes the jelly like substance in your bath water. This ingredient is really rich in minerals and is known for its moisturising properties, so is an ideal ingredient to use in a bath bomb.

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Dark Arts has some of my favourite scents in it – cinnamon, orange oil and almond oil which create a really lovely warming scent. It’s a definite autumnal/Halloween style scent, and not a scent I would go for in the hot summer months!

As soon as it hits the water, Dark Arts begins to fizz away and thick black gloopy mounds begin to fill the bath. It didn’t take long to fully fizz away and before long the bath rather resembled an oil slick! Not joking!

As soon as you climb into the bath, the jelly like substance almost clings to your skin, but after you have been settled in the bath for a while, the jelly begins to dissolve. After around 15 minutes, all the jelly should be completely gone.

A word of warning – be careful when first stepping into the bath when using a jelly bomb as the base of the bath is VERY slippery!!

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Once I got out of the bath I was impressed at how soft and moisturised my skin was without it being greasy or oily! I have to admit I didn’t stay in the bath as long as I would have normally because I was worried about the black gloop staining our bath tub (we are moving out in a few weeks so I don’t think the new owners would have been best pleased!) I also didn’t feel comfortable washing my hair in the bath with a jelly bath bomb – I’m sure you understand why!

Due to its extremely dark colour, it did make a mess and leave marks in the bath tub which needed a good scrub, and you have to make sure it is all washed off your skin before wiping your skin with a towel – especially if you have white towels!

A very novel experience – it’s almost like a mud-bath style of relaxing – your skin feels really moisturised and hydrated afterwards but you don’t feel as clean and refreshed as you would do after a normal bath bomb experience in my opinion!!

Birth of Venus Jelly Face Mask

The Birth of Venus jelly mask sounds very exotic and contains fresh sea water, lavender, chamomile, frankincense and myrrh!

I found the lavender scent to be the most prominent in this mask, and the scent is one of my favourites so far. The mask left my skin soft and smooth and with a really lovely glow about it which I didn’t get with the other jelly masks. Some fellow Lushies have found this mask to make their skin quite oily, but as I have quite dry skin it seems to match my skin type perfectly. A couple of friends have used this mask and really loved it as well!

I came across a tip from a fellow Lushie which gave me some thought – she said to use a spoon to get the amount of face mask you need out of the pot (both jelly masks and normal masks) as this stops you adding bacteria to the pot and contaminating it! She said since she changed to using a spoon to get the product out of the pot she has found her Lush fresh face masks last a lot longer after their sell by date too – I’m definitely going to do this from now on!

The Big Sleep Jelly Bath Bomb

This was the second jelly bomb I tried and to be honest, after using the Dark Arts jelly bomb, I wasn’t too sure what to expect! The bath did take a lot of scrubbing after using that little rascal!

Anyway, although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I am an insomniac, I do really struggle with sleepless nights and spending hours on end trying to wind down and relax and go off to sleep, so anything which helps me with this is a welcome addition!

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The Big Sleep jelly bath bomb is lovely smelling and contains scents of lavender, neroli, tonka and chamomile – its making me feel more relaxed just writing about those ingredients!

As you can see this jelly bomb is another fast fizzer, but didn’t seem to be as aggressive or “gloopy” as the Dark Arts jelly bomb had been – maybe it was because the colours are far more subtle? I did find, even after around 15 minutes, that not all of the bomb and the jelly had dissolved in the bath and they needed to be crumbled up to finish them off.

I did find that the jelly didn’t stick to me and need to be scrubbed off as much as it had with the Dark Arts jelly bomb, in fact it seemed there was less jelly in The Big Sleep. Again, maybe this is just due to the fact that the colours aren’t so obvious?

This jelly bomb is very moisturising and I did find the lovely scent of lavender and chamomile to be very relaxing. Did I have a better nights sleep that evening? Yes. Was it due to The Big Sleep jelly bomb? Not sure, but I would definitely buy it again regardless! I’ve already added a couple more to my Lush stash!

Bunny Moon Jelly Face Mask

Bunny Moon was the mask I was looking forward to using most, basically because it looks so pretty! An added dash of sparkle on top made it all the more appealing!

Bunny Moon contains honey which is antiseptic and moisturising at the same time. It also contains rose oil to help soothe and balance the skin and chamomile and marigold to calm. Throw in a dash of vanilla and I think I may have found my favourite smelling mask!!

I found Bunny Moon was easier to apply than a couple of the other masks (I found Just To Clarify quite grainy and difficult to work into a paste for example) and found it to be just the right amount of cleansing and moisturising. My skin felt amazing straight after removing the mask but this seemed to wear off after a couple of hours. Definitely one I would use again though – probably on a daily basis I think.

Green Coconut Jelly Bath Bomb

I’m not actually a big fan of coconut scented things but I was pleasantly surprised when the Green Coconut jelly bomb when it arrived. Coconut is the overall smell but it is much more subtle and is not over powering and gives off an almost musty smell. The bomb also contains cinnamon leaf oil and lemongrass, however it does not have any kind of a citrusy aroma about it.

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This jelly bomb fizzes immediately but in my opinion slightly more slowly than the Dark Arts jelly bomb. It is not long until thick green blobs of jelly are floating across the surface of the water. I found that Green Coconut didn’t give off as much jelly as the other two, and I also found that Green Coconut and The Big Sleep take a lot longer to dissolve, and the last remaining chunk needs to be crushed up to dissolve it all.

I cannot state this enough – please be careful stepping into the bath – the bottom of the bath is SO slippery! I guarantee it won’t be long until someone has a bad slip on this stuff, and it catches me off guard every single time, even after using the third jelly bomb!

As with the other jelly bombs, when you step into the bath the jelly sticks to your skin and you can feel how moisturising it is. After around 15 to 20 minutes, all of the jelly has completely dissolved and you are left with a lovely green “slimer” coloured water which feels incredibly moisturising and is not at all oily! Plus this jelly bomb didn’t leave any mess in the bath, unlike the Dark Arts bomb. This one is a very close second favourite after The Big Sleep jelly bomb!

1000 Millihelens Jelly Face Mask

Another lovely jelly face mask but I am not a fan of the smell of this one as it contains witch hazel which I am not keen on! Each to their own though – my sister loved the smell of this mask!

I was looking forward to trying this one as although I am not keen on the witch hazel smell, it is well known for soothing irritated skin. As an added bonus it also contains kaolin clay to remove grease and green tea to detox the skin. To top it all off it contains lemon oil to brighten the skin – a brilliant all rounder really!

After using it I found my skin to be smooth and soft and a little dry to start off with, but after around an hour my skin felt even better than it had when I had first washed the mask off. This is definitely a mask I would use again but probably not on a regular basis purely because I dislike the smell! I wouldn’t find it relaxing wearing a facemark which I don’t like the smell of!

Marmalade Jelly Bath Bomb

I had to wait a long time to get my hands on this one as it wasn’t released at the same time as the other jelly bombs – I had heard this was due to Lush having problems obtaining one of the ingredients they required to make the bombs but how true this is and what ingredient it was they couldn’t get hold of I really don’t know.

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This was the one I was most looking forward to trying because it has grapefruit and orange oils in it and I really love citrusy smells, but I can’t explain how disappointed I was when it arrived and this was before I had even got it out of the box!

The smell is really hard to explain and, in all honesty, is not very nice. I could smell it before I even opened my Lush delivery! It isn’t citrusy at all although you can detect the scent of orange flower, however it is very bitter and far too potent for my liking. So much so in fact that I wasn’t looking forward to bathing in it at all!

It was a shame I didn’t like the smell because I think it was actually the best performing bath bomb of all of them – it was a fast fizzer which left lots and lots of lovely moisturising jelly. It did however leave quite a few hard chunks which I couldn’t even crumble up and had to be thrown away which did seem a bit of a waste.

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Despite the weird smell, Marmalade was very moisturising and left my skin feeling lovely and soft. Would this be enough to persuade me to buy another one and to try and ignore the smell? No, I am afraid not. Always the way – the one you look forward to the most ends up being the most disappointing!! The worst smelling Lush product I have come across I am afraid!!

Just to Clarify Jelly Face Mask

Forget the smell of all the others – this scent is my absolute favourite! This one is a lovely citrusy mask containing Enzymic papaya juice to brighten, Bamboo stem to exfoliate, Grapefruit and bergamot oils to lift your mood and finally Fresh orange juice to perk you up!

When rubbing this one into a paste I did find this one to be far more gritty than the others I had tried – I didn’t find anything wrong with this, it was merely an observation, and to be honest the texture being slightly grainy only made me think what a great exfoliant it would be.

Absolute favourite mask out of the five new jelly masks – my skin felt cleansed and refreshed and revitalised after using it – I love citrusy scents, this would be an ideal mask for first thing in the morning to perk you up and get you ready for the day!

So to sum up my jelly products experience, out of the jelly bombs my favourite is the Big Sleep (which I have already bought several times), followed by Green Coconut, Dark Arts and Marmalade. I would probably buy all of them again at some point, apart from Marmalade!!

Out of the jelly masks, my favourite is Just to Clarify, followed closely by Birth of Venus, Bunny Moon, Fomo and 1000 Millhelens.

I really enjoyed using all the jelly products despite my concerns that they would just be a gimmick and not as good quality as the existing Lush range, but although there aren’t any jelly products which are my absolute favourites over the existing Lush products, there are several from this range which I would definitely buy again! Give them a try and let me know what you think!

When in Rome…

I have always wanted to visit Rome, it is definitely another place I need to re-visit so I can spend more time exploring (and to take better quality photos than the last time I went!)

It was only when I was researching Rome to write my blog that I realised how much I had missed during my short trip. I think, unlike other places in Italy like Venice and Florence, it is partly due to the fact that many of the attractions are quite a distance apart, and not within walking distance of each other. Here’s some of the amazing places I visited during my time in Rome –

The Colosseum

The Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, is an oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city. It is built of concrete and sand and is the largest amphitheatre ever built. It is certainly very impressive to look at! Construction began under the emperor Vespasian in AD 72, and was completed in AD 80 under his successor, Titus. Further modifications were made during the reign of Domitian (81–96). These three emperors are known as the Flavian dynasty, and the amphitheatre was named in Latin for its association with their family name (Flavius).

The Colosseum is estimated to be able to hold between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators. It was originally used for gladiatorial contests and other public spectacles, however it ceased to be used for entertainment purposes during the early medieval era.

It is easy to see why the Colosseum is one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions! 

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Arch of Constantine

I can’t believe I took such an awful photo and didn’t get in a better position so the arch wasn’t blocked by the trees! I’m so annoying sometimes!

The Arch of Constantine was built on the order of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, in 315 AD. The arch was built to honour the victory of Constantine following the Battle of Milvian Bridge that took place in 312 AD.

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The Domus Augustana

The Domus Augustana is the modern name for the so-called domestic wing of the Roman Palace of Domitian (92 AD) on the Palatine Hill.

This was the principal residence of the emperors in the city from the late first to the third centuries A.D.

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Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain is a beautiful fountain in the Trevi district which was designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Pietro Bracci. Standing just over 26 metres high and 49 metres wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world.

In January 2013, it was announced that the Italian fashion company Fendi would sponsor a 20-month, 2.2-million-euro restoration of the fountain – the most thorough restoration in the fountain’s history. Restoration work began in June 2014 and the fountain was reopened on the evening of November 3, 2015. The restoration included the installation of more than 100 LED lights to improve the night time illumination of the fountain – the main reason I want to re-visit Rome is to see the results of these amazing restorations! I bet the night time photos of the fountains with these LED lights will be spectacular! 

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Vatican City

Vatican city (Citta del Vaticano) was built over the tomb of Saint Peter and is the smallest state in the world.

Inside the Vatican city you can find 11 Vatican Museums which include Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, and Vatican Gardens – a place full of large and small gardens, fountains, a fish pool and an enclosure for rabbits!

Arguably the most important building in Vatican City is –

St Peter’s Basilica

The Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican, more commonly known as St. Peter’s Basilica, is an Italian Renaissance church designed by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. St. Peter’s is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and one of the largest churches in the world. 

Catholic tradition claims that the Basilica is the burial site of Saint Peter, one of Christ’s Apostles and also the first Pope – Saint Peter’s tomb is supposedly directly below the high altar of the Basilica. Construction of the present basilica, which replaced the Old St. Peter’s Basilica from the 4th century AD, began on 18 April 1506 and was completed on 18 November 1626.

St. Peter’s is famous for its public worship functions, especially those attended by the Pope. These events have been known to attract audiences of between 15,000 to over 80,000 people, either within the Basilica or the adjoining St. Peter’s Square.

St. Peter’s is one of the four churches in the world that hold the rank of Major Basilica – all four of which are in Rome!

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The Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel was top of my list of the places to see when we visited Rome but the queues were so long we just didn’t have the time to fit it in so I was really disappointed. I do hope to see this beautiful creation one day!

The Sistine Chapel is a chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope. The fame of the Sistine Chapel lies mainly in the Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michaelangelo between 1508 and 1512, and particularly “The Last Judgment” which was painted between 1535 and 1541.

Many people visit Rome for a long weekend but after doing all my research I don’t think a weekend is long enough to see everything that this amazing place has to offer! Definitely one for the “re-visit” list  – I’ll have to ask hubby if he fancies paying a visit!

Desserts Delivered Bakery

For all you cake lovers out there – this is the blog for you! Let me introduce you to one of the best online finds I have come across so far!

Desserts Delivered Bakery is a fantastic online bakery which delivers a variety of amazing cakes all over the UK. They even guarantee to deliver your selected cakes within 24 hours and offer next day delivery as standard!

Here’s a selection of some of the great cakes they have on offer:

The Rainbow Cake

The first cake I ordered from Desserts Delivered Bakery was the amazing Rainbow Cake. I was slightly disappointed when it first arrived as it turns out they have recently changed the design, and I actually preferred the original one, but as soon as I tried the first slice I was so pleased I had ordered it – especially after a particularly rubbish week!

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The colourful Rainbow Cake is a plain vanilla sponge with multicoloured vanilla flavoured buttercream and decorated with white chocolate jazzies, coloured fizzy sweets and a stick of multicoloured rock!

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This cake is one of the best sponge cakes I have ever eaten! It is incredibly light and very, very tasty! As soon as I ate my first slice I knew I would be ordering more cakes for Birthdays and special events from this company!

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The Bubblegum Cake

The next cake I ordered was the bubblegum cake for hubby’s Birthday!

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This is a really unusual one – I think people will either love it or hate it but I absolutely loved it and it was a real hit with family and friends – even with those who you wouldn’t have thought would like it!

A delicious light fluffy bubblegum flavoured sponge with bubblegum flavoured icing and pink and blue bonbons on top!

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This is another top seller at the Desserts Delivered Bakery and it’s easy to see why! I’ve never tasted another cake like it!

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The Cookie Cake

If you like cookies then this cake is for you! And as I am basically a cookie monster myself, I couldn’t wait to try this cake!

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A vanilla sponge cake with a butter cream centre which is topped off with milk chocolate and broken cookies on top! Perfect for those who have a sweet tooth but who find chocolate cake too heavy and sickly! Will definitely be ordering this one again!

The only thing I would say is it would have been a nice touch if the buttercream was cookie flavoured or had cookies in the mix – just to separate it a little bit from a plain vanilla cake with vanilla sponge. Again, the sponge was incredibly light and very delicious, a definite second favourite after the Rainbow cake!

The Cookies and Cream Cake

If you like milk and cookies then the cookie and cream cake is definitely for you!

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The cookies and cream cake is a lovely light chocolate sponge cake with a buttercream centre, which is then topped off with cookie and cream biscuits. Amazing. I thought it would be really heavy and sickly but the sponge is so light, it’s one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve had!

The Peanut Butter Cake

Here is the perfect cake for you Peanut Butter lovers! I love peanut butter but have never tried a peanut butter cake before!

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This cake is a rich smooth peanut butter flavour chocolate sponge cake topped with a variety of Peanut butter chocolates such as mini Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and Reeses Pieces!

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I thought this would be the least popular out of all the cakes I ordered but our guests loved it and it was the flavour which went the most quickly when we ordered a few of the cakes for a family celebration! I only got one slice out of it in the end!

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There are also other cakes available from the Desserts Delivered Bakery if none of these other cakes tickle your fancy! These include the chocolate hazelnut truffle cake (perfect for those Ferrero Rocher fans like my brother in law!), the chocolate junkyard cake, and the jammy biscuit cake!

They have also recently released a red velvet cake which looks incredible! I can’t wait to try that one!

Order your cakes from Desserts Delivered Bakery here. Prices are £20.00 per cake and each cake serves ten people, delivery starts at £4.95, and extras such as candles and balloons are also available to add to your order.

Every cake is delivered in a strong corrugated cardboard box to ensure your cake isn’t damaged when you receive it. The parcel includes dry ice as the cakes are sent frozen to retain the freshness and quality of the cake. Fear not though – you only need to defrost the cake for four to five hours and the cake is then ready to eat! You do not need to refrigerate the cake either, it can be left in its box for up to a week and it will still be perfect to eat!

On one occasion I ordered three cakes together and was really pleased to find out that the next day delivery cost was still only £4.95! The cakes arrive well packaged and secure and with dry ice in the boxes to keep them cool – fantastic service!! Some online bakeries charge a fortune for their items to be delivered so the cost of delivery was brilliant in my opinion!

Get stuck in!

Eastnor Castle Firework Championships

If any of my readers like fireworks then I’ve got the perfect event for you! Needless to say, the photographs just don’t do these fireworks justice, but then, I’ve always argued that you could say this about any photograph you take!

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I came across a leaflet about Eastnor Castle in my local sandwich shop believe it or not! I thought it looked like a brilliant day out so when I got home I had a look at the Eastnor Castle website. Whilst I was on there looking at ticket prices etc, I came across this fantastic looking event called the Eastnor Castle Firework Championships.

Hubby and I love fireworks but unfortunately we seem to miss out on attending any fireworks night events, either because they start too early and we can’t get there in time after finishing work, or because we have to stay at home to look after our poor dogs who become quite distressed by the loud bangs and whizzes!

This event seemed ideal – it is in September so the weather would hopefully still be mild, and we could go to the event leaving the dogs unsupervised knowing there wouldn’t be a load of fireworks going off in our local area at the same time which would upset them!

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The event is organised by MLE Pyrotechnics and involves three professional firework companies who compete for the title of Eastnor Firework Champions. MLE do a fourth display after the three competitors have finished and whilst the votes for the best display are being counted.

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Gates open at 5pm, we arrived at around 7pm because we wanted to grab something to eat and get a good spot before the show started. I would recommend getting here as early  as you can – parking takes a while and as we were sat down ready to watch the show at 9pm, cars were still queued up and trying to get into the event, so no doubt they missed the beginning!

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There’s a small fairground with a few rides and games to keep kids entertained whilst you wait for the fireworks and they encourage you to bring along picnics to enjoy whilst you watch the shows (although they don’t allow barbecues).

If you don’t fancy bringing your own picnic, food and drink is also available on site, but to be honest, we weren’t that impressed with the selection and wished we had brought our own picnic. There’s a pizza place (I love pizza but they didn’t look very appetising and I overheard a guy say he had waited ages but his pizza was cold when he got it), then there’s a burger and hotdog place (their cheesy chips were nice!) and a wrap place who did a choice of lamb, chicken and hallumi in a tortilla wrap (in my opinion the best of the three but also the most expensive!).

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The evening started with a small firework demo at 9:00pm and then the competition displays begin at around 9:30pm. Each team fires a ten minute show which is choreographed to music and the winner is decided by audience SMS voting. The evening then closes with a larger scale finale by MLE Pyrotechnics.

Camping is available on the Friday or Saturday night if you fancy it. You do have to buy permits for this which are available on the website, but on site parking is free.

This years competing teams are:

Shockwave Pyrotechnics

This was my favourite show and was this years winning team! I especially loved the part which was choreographed to the song “Hallelujah”. The show was amazing – some really big fireworks which completely lit up the sky – absolutely stunning!!

Skyburst Fireworks

Another amazing display with the best soundtrack so far (Feeling Good – Nina Simone!) but the fireworks on this display were smaller on the ground fireworks rather than the big “light up the sky” types and just didn’t quite take your breath away like the other two displays.

Firework Crazy

Another fantastic show and a very close second for me – I loved the part which was choreographed to Bruno Mars! They had some really unusual fireworks I have never seen before – especially some amazing side to side fireworks! This one was hubby’s favourite!

Tickets for the championships are £18.00 per adult and £8.00 for child if you pre-book online (on the gate prices are £20.00 per adult and £10.00 per child).

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I would highly recommend this event if you are a firework fan so put a reminder in your calendars for next year to check it out! Other dates at other locations are also available from the end of July onwards if Eastnor Castle is too far for you to travel – locations which include Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire and Arley Hall in Northwich, Cheshire.

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After such a great event hubby and I can happily say we attended a brilliant firework display this year once November comes back round again!

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Addicted to Lush Take Three!

Hello fellow Lush cosmetic fans!

The Lush cosmetics experiments and reviews continue! Here’s the latest batch of products I’ve been sampling over the last few weeks –

Sex Bomb Bath Bomb

This was the first bath bomb I ever tried from Lush – my friend bought me one for my birthday a few years back and I have been a fan of the Sex Bomb bath bomb ever since!

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This lovely bath bomb is a swirly combination of pink and purple, with a lovely pink rice paper rose in the top. It contains jasmine which helps ease stress and ylang ylang and clary sage. It also contains soya milk which has soothing and conditioning properties for the skin.

Not a very strong bath bomb, Sex Bomb is a slow and gentle dissolver which creates beautiful pink swirls and releases the rice paper flower which floats around the water. I love the smell of this bath bomb and would buy it again for the scent alone, although I don’t find it very moisturising when compared to some of the other bath bombs.

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A lovely relaxing and calming bath bomb – ideal for a cosy night in and one I would definitely buy again!

Avobath Bath Bomb

This lovely bomb has a very strong lemongrass-bergamot citrusy scent. It also contains rosewood oil, gardenia extract, real mashed up avocado and olive oil, meaning it’s fantastic for dry skin. If, like me, you hate covering yourself with oils and creams to moisturise, then this is the perfect bath bomb for you!

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The scent is lovely and uplifting and perfect for the summer months. The bath water changes to a pretty shade of green with tiny gold glitter flecks which shimmer on the surface. 
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This lovely little bomb leaves your skin feeling very refreshed and hydrated and I really loved the strong citrusy smell. Even better – it’s one of the best bath bombs you can get for moisturising!

Rub Rub Rub Shower Scrub

The price of the Rub Rub Rub shower scrub (£8.95) did put me off buying it for a while, as it is only sold in 330 gram pots which I thought I would end up getting through in 2 showers!

It is a product which contains sea-salt (for exfoliating) and lemon juice (for cleansing). The fragrance is a combination of mimosa and orange flower absolute.

It leaves your skin feeling silky smooth and incredibly soft and has a surprising cooling effect on the skin. You can use it gently whilst in the shower or use it on dead or dry skin before you have a shower and then hop in the shower to wash it off.

Some people aren’t fans of the smell of Rub Rub Rub shower scrub and I do have to admit the smell is rather reminiscent of toilet cleaner, but isn’t off putting or horrible in any way! The smell certainly grows on you, and even if you aren’t a big fan, it is worth putting up with the unusual smell as it is a fantastic exfoliator! You can actually feel the lemon juice tingling on your skin (and sometimes stinging slightly if you leave it on for too long!) as you rub it in!

I was pleased to discover that the 330 gram pot lasts a surprisingly long time and I have so far slathered myself in the stuff for four or five uses and reckon I’ve still got another use left in the pot. I will definitely be buying more – one thing I will say is that I have found I have used it more when I’m in the bath rather than the shower – I like to apply it and leave it for a couple of minutes to work its magic before washing it off and it is far harder to do this whilst under running water in the shower as most of the product gets washed down the plughole!

French Kiss Bubble Bar

I really love lavender scented products so was really looking forward to using this!

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Ok so I have been trawling through Instagram far too much but what all the other “Lushie’s” do with bubble bars is cut them up and crumble them, store them in a small airtight container and then use them a little bit at a time. The bubble bars don’t look much when they are all crumbled up but you can easily get three or four bubble filled baths out of one bar! If you are feeling particularly indulgent, of course you can crumble the entire bubble bar under the running bath water!

The bath is very soon filled with mounds of lavender scented bubbles and the water becomes a lovely shade of purple.

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The bubble bar is made with lavender oil, a hint of rosemary, thyme, and coconut oil, however the smell is predominately lavender  – ideal for helping you to relax and get off to sleep after a long stressful day. A lovely bubble bar which I will be adding to my regular purchase list! Anything which helps me nod off after a hard day at work is very welcome at the moment!

Golden Egg Bath Bomb

This was part of Lush’s Easter range and I loved the look of it so I ordered a few online. Unfortunately when they arrived I unpacked the box of goodies and the glitter from these golden egg bath bombs was EVERYWHERE. I got them out of the box to put them away safely and again got glitter EVERYWHERE. After that I must admit I was put off using them as I had an image of the bath tub being absolutely covered in glitter and needing a good clean afterwards which I couldn’t be bothered to do!

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This bomb is unique in a way because it is part bath bomb, part bath melt. Underneath the top shell of thick golden glitter is another shell of cocoa butter with orange oil which melts away into a lovely yellow foam when it’s submerged in the bath water. Once the middle is exposed, a thick white foam is revealed which mixes with the yellow, resulting in golden yellow shimmery bath water.

Although not at all a fan of the over the top glitter this bath bomb contains – it does give off a lovely warming syrupy scent which is very long lasting. Lush do warn that because this is part bath melt, you may find your bath bomb sink to the bottom of the bath due to it’s weight, so don’t think you have a dud if yours does this!

I’m a big fan of the scent and how moisturising it is but not the design – the glitter really is just crazy! I was pleased however that the majority of the glitter did just disappear along with the bath water, with only a small amount of glitter left at the bottom of the bath tub which was easily washed away with just water – no hours of scrubbing the bath as I had expected after all!!

Experimenter Bath Bomb

The bomb I used for these pictures was actually an Easter special version of Experimenter, known as Eggsperimenter, and it is MASSIVE! Yay!

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It’s a lovely looking bath bomb – a bomb consisting of vivid blue, pink, purple, white and gold colours! One of its key ingredients is vetivert oil. Vetivert is a tall grass with long and thin leaves which is found growing in places such as India, Java and Tahiti. Vetivert oil is obtained from the dried, chopped roots and rootlets of the Vetiveria zizanoides plant and therefore provides a smoky earthy kind of scent in this bath bomb. To even out this strong scent, vanilla absolute and tonka also feature.

The Experimenter is a loud fizzer and provides an amazing visual display of colour – vivid blue, yellows, pinks and greens all swirl to form a beautiful blanket of colour in the bath water. There’s also popping candy thrown in for added effect!

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Once the bomb has dissolved, the bath water is left a slightly disappointing grey colour but, in hindsight, with such a variety of colours contained in the bomb – I can’t see what other colour the water could possibly end up! If you are after a fantastic firework display of a bath bomb then this is the one for you!!

Blue Fun Bar

Fun bars are a squidgy versatile product (like play-dough) which can be used as a bubble bar, shampoo, shower gel, soap and you can even shave with it!

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Fun Bars consists of several different colours and flavours – Blue (lavender scent), Pink (Vanilla and Sweets flavour), Purple (Blackcurrant/Blackberry smell), Green (Lemon and Lime flavour), Red (Mandarin and Orange flavour), Orange (Orange Flavour) and Yellow (Vanilla flavour).

It is recommended that you break a bit off the fun bar to use a bit at a time, and keep the remainder somewhere cool so it doesn’t “melt”. I must admit, I use mine just like a bubble bar – pull off a chunk and crumble it under running water and soon your bath is full of lovely bubbles, an amazing scent and beautifully coloured bath water.

The third Fun Bar I tried was the Blue one – I was very disappointed with the pink fun bar but really liked the scent of the purple one. This one, I am afraid to say, is akin to the pink one in that the scent of it is incredibly weak. It is supposed to smell of lavender but I really couldn’t detect this at all! Still, it filled the bath with lots of lovely fluffy bubbles so all was not completely lost! I’m afraid this is another fun bar I will be scrapping from the regular list….in fact, I am not overly fussed on any of the Fun Bars so far so don’t think I will be investing in any more. A good idea but just not my bag baby!

My next blog on Lush products will be at the end of the month where I will be reviewing the newly released “jelly” range! Looking forward to trying these out!

Mardi Gras!

Hello fellow travellers and wanderers! Welcome to my latest travel blog which is about the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans!

I have always wanted to go and see the Mardi Gras parades and spend time in New Orleans – amazing history, culture, architecture, food and one of the biggest celebrations on the planet – what more could you want in a destination??

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Lundi Gras

We arrived in New Orleans the day before Mardi Gras (otherwise known as Lundi Gras) and the streets were already alive with people preparing for the big day. We ventured out in the early evening to watch the Uptown Route parades and the streets were already really crowded. We thought we wouldn’t have the opportunity to see much but every  person we encountered was so friendly! People moved aside and made space for us to see the floats going past, and a couple of hours into the evening there was a group of eight of us who stuck together and took it in turns to buy rounds of the world famous Hurricane cocktails!

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We watched the 20 float parade of Krewe of Proteus which depicted the theme of “Ancient Elements of Alchemy” followed by the 32 float parade of Krewe of Orpheus, whose king of the parade this year was none other than Quentin Tarantino! The Krewe of Proteus is the second oldest parade Krewe in the New Orleans Mardi Gras and was founded in 1882. The parade floats still use the original chassis from the 1800’s! The Krewe of Orpheus was founded in 1993 and takes its name from the son of Zeus and Calliope. The Krewe of Orpheus were the first super crew who allowed both male and female riders on the floats.

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One of the most well known Mardi Gras traditions is the throwing of beads and other trinkets.  The throwing of trinkets to the crowds was started in the early 1870s by the Twelfth Night Revelers and as well as beads, throws include doubloons, cups, stuffed toys and even coconuts! Doubloons are aluminum coins and come in many different colours. They depict the parade theme on one side and the Krewe’s emblem on the other and are collectors items, particularly ones from the Bacchus parade which includes the image of the celebrity king on one side! By the end of the evening we were already laden down with a huge stash of beads, cups, and doubloons! Check out just some of the stash we came away with:

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After a rather long cocktail filled evening we crawled back to the hotel to prepare for next day’s big event!

Mardi Gras 

We were up nice and early for the day’s celebrations – we had pre-booked tickets at the Royal Grandstand in Lafayette Square on St Charles Avenue, directly opposite the Gallier Hall. Tickets were $50 per person but it meant we had a great view of the parades and for an extra $5 each we were given VIP access which included easy access to toilets (you’ll understand how important this is if you ever get the chance to go!).

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The parades started early (around 8:00am) and Mardi Gras starts with the Zulu Parade (keep your eyes peeled for the very special most-prized golden coconuts which are handed out as part of this parade!). “King of Carnival” Rex follows the Zulu parade and is the oldest Krewe of New Orleans and also the founder of the Mardi Gras colours of purple (justice) green (faith) and gold (power). Following Rex was the Truck Krewes of Elks and Crescent City.

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I would highly recommend booking tickets for the grandstand – it gives you a brilliant viewpoint and great opportunity to take photos and also gives you the best chances of catching all the amazing throws and trinkets from the parades! Tickets for the grandstand sell very quickly so book them as quickly as possible!

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After watching the amazing parades we ventured over to the French Quarter to continue the celebrations – if you are a cocktail fan then this is the place for you! Try one of New Orleans’ famous Hurricanes and be sure to have a Jester Mardi Gras Daiquiri – any flavour daiquiri you would like served in an amazing Jester cup! Other drinking options in this part of town include “the strongest cocktail in the world” – so take things steady!

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Things were relatively quiet this year in general as unfortunately the year we chose to go  was the coldest year for 100 years! A couple of extra jackets were bought and as you can see from the pictures, the streets were rather empty and the umbrellas and waterproofs were out!

The majority of people who attend Mardi Gras wear masks during the celebrations and float riders are required to wear masks by law! During our wander around the streets of New Orleans we came across some amazing shops selling the most beautiful array of masks, ranging from simple to elaborate! Some places also sell handmade Italian masks created in the old traditional Venetian style. I had to have one, it would be rude not to!

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Another tradition I knew I wanted to partake in was to try a King Cake!

As part of New Orleans’s Christian faith, the coming of the wise men bearing gifts to the Christ Child is celebrated twelve days after Christmas. We refer to this as the Feast of the Epiphany, or Little Christmas on the Twelfth Night. Today, the tradition continues as people all over the world gather for festive Twelfth Night celebrations. A popular custom was and still is the baking of a special cake in honor of the three kings, called “A King’s Cake.”

Each king cake has a tiny baby inside (generally plastic now, but it’s possible the baby might be made of porcelain or even gold). The tradition of King Cake Parties have evolved over time, and the “lucky” person who receives the slice of cake with the baby is asked to continue the festivities by having the next King Cake party (or at least purchasing the next cake for the office!).

Originally, king cakes were a simple ring of dough with a small amount of decoration. Today’s king cakes are much more festive. After the rich Danish dough is braided and baked, the “baby” is inserted. The top of the ring or oval cake is then covered with delicious sugar toppings in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold.

They were sold out in most places but I finally managed to get my hands on one! Yummy!

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What an amazing couple of days in New Orleans for Mardi Gras! We spent a couple more days in New Orleans afterwards and because we saw and did so much I’ve written a separate blog on this which I should be able to publish quite soon!

I would love to go back, I loved it so much but also hopefully the next time the weather wouldn’t be freezing and throwing it down with rain!!! Despite the dreadful weather, this was one of my all time favourite trips and favourite destination!

Barcelona Bliss

***Update 18/08/2017 – Thinking of everyone affected by the horrific terror attacks which took place in Barcelona yesterday. We all stand with you – there’s no place for terrorism on Earth. Sending you all love and best wishes.***

I have been to Barcelona twice now with two different sets of people and ever since then I’ve been trying to persuade my sister, brother and law and hubby to come back with me for a third visit!

Barcelona’s influence in commerce, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world’s major global cities.

I spent four days in Barcelona both times I visited, and easily filled all of my time with the amazing sights and activities this fantastic place has to offer! Some of the highlights of my trips to Barcelona include:

Barcelona Cathedral (The Gothic Cathedral)

The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia is the Gothic cathedral and and is one of the most beautiful cathedrals I’ve seen. It was constructed from the 13th to 15th centuries, with the principal work done in the 14th century. The roof features some incredible gargoyles of a wide range of animals, both everyday animals and mythical creatures.

The cathedral is dedicated to Eulalia of Barcelona, co-patron saint of Barcelona, a young virgin who, according to Catholic tradition, suffered martyrdom during Roman times in the city. The body of Saint Eulalia is entombed in the cathedral’s crypt.

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The inside is very grand and ornate, but also very tasteful and beautiful.

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The Columbus Monument

The monument is a 60 metre tall monument to Christopher Columbus at the lower end of La Rambla, but in my opinion is relatively easy to overlook! It was constructed for the Exposición Universal de Barcelona (1888) in honour of Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas. The monument serves as a reminder that Christopher Columbus reported to Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand V in Barcelona after his first trip to the new continent.

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Port Vell

Port Vell translates to ‘Old Harbour’ and is part of the Port of Barcelona. It was built as part of an urban renewal program prior to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. and is now a huge tourist attraction, containing shops, bars, restaurants and a cinema. It also holds Europe’s largest aquarium containing 8000 fish and 11 sharks!

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Sagrada Família

The main reason I wanted to visit Barcelona was to see this incredible building!!

The Sagrada Família is a large Roman Catholic church, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. The construction of Sagrada Família commenced in 1882.

Sagrada Familia’s construction progressed slowly, as it relied on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, in fact, when Gaudí died in 1926, the basilica was only between 15 and 25% complete.

In October 2015 it was announced that construction is now 70% complete and has entered its final phase (the building of six huge towers) The towers and most of the church’s structure are to be completed by 2026, which marks the centennial of Gaudí’s death. Visitor entrance fees currently finance the construction, which has an annual budget of 25 million euros!

Gaudí’s original design was for a total of eighteen spires, representing in ascending order of height the Twelve Apostles, the Virgin Mary, the four Evangelists and, tallest of all, Jesus Christ. The Evangelists’ spires will be topped with sculptures of their traditional symbols: a winged bull (Saint Luke), a winged man (Saint Matthew), an eagle (Saint John), and a winged lion (Saint Mark). The central spire of Jesus Christ is to be topped by a giant cross with a total height of 170 metres. The completion of the spires will make Sagrada Família the tallest church building in the world.

The Church will have three grand façades: the Nativity façade to the East, the Passion façade to the West, and the Glory façade to the South.

Nativity Façade

Constructed between 1894 and 1930, the Nativity façade was the first façade to be completed. Dedicated to the birth of Jesus, it is decorated with scenes reminiscent of elements of life. The three porticos are separated by two large columns, and at the base of each lies a turtle or a tortoise, to represent both land and sea. In contrast to the figures of turtles, two chameleons can be found at either side of the façade, and are symbolic of change.

Each portico represents a theological virtue of Hope, Faith and Charity. Four towers complete the façade and are each dedicated to a Saint (Matthias the Apostle, Saint Barnabas, Jude the Apostle, and Simon the Zealot).

Passion Façade

In contrast to the highly decorated Nativity Façade, the Passion Façade is plain and simple, with bare stone, and is carved with harsh straight lines to resemble the bones of a skeleton. Dedicated to the Passion of Christ, the suffering of Jesus during his crucifixion, the façade was intended to portray the sins of man. Gaudí intended for this façade to strike fear into the onlooker.

The Passion Façade is supported by six large columns. Above is a pediment (triangular part of the façade), made up of eighteen bone-shaped columns, which form a large cross with a crown of thorns. Each of the four towers is dedicated to an apostle (James, Thomas, Philip, or Bartholomew).

The scenes sculpted into the façade may be divided into three levels. The lowest level depicts scenes from Jesus’ last night before the crucifixion, including The Last Supper, Kiss of Judas, Ecce Homo, and the Sanhedrin Trial of Jesus. The middle level portrays the Calvary, or Golgotha, of Christ, and includes The Three Marys, Saint Veronica, Saint Longinus, and a hollow-face illusion of Christ. In the third and final level the Death, Burial and the Resurrection of Christ can be seen. 

Glory Façade

The largest and most striking of the façades will be the Glory Façade, on which construction began in 2002. Dedicated to the Celestial Glory of Jesus, it represents the road to God: Death, Final Judgment, and Glory, while Hell is left for those who deviate from God’s will. Purgatory and death will also be depicted, the latter using tombs along the ground. It will include seven large columns dedicated to spiritual gifts and at the base of these columns there will be representations of the Seven Deadly Sins, and at the top, The Seven Heavenly Virtues.

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Interior

I don’t even know how to begin describing the inside of Sagrada Familia! The ceilings are high and the decoration and designs made me feel like I was walking through a beautiful forest, with the canopies of the trees protecting me from all the elements. It was absolutely breath-taking…

 

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It has been a while since I have visited so I can’t wait to go back again to see what progress has been made on Sagrada Familia!

Park Güell

The park was again designed by Antoni Gaudí. The park was built between 1900 and 1914 and was officially opened as a public park in 1926. 

From the park’s high point it is possible to view the city, with the Sagrada Família and the Montjuïc area visible at a distance.

Within the park you can find:

Gaudi’s House

Casa Museu Gaudí was the residence of Antoni Gaudí for almost 20 years, from 1906 till the end of 1925. On 28 September 1963 it was opened as a museum.

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Hansel and Gretel Houses

The amazing Hansel and Gretel style houses, again designed by the famous architect  Antoni Gaudi.

Hypostyle Room

The great entrance stairway leads to the Hypostyle Room, which was designed to be the market for the estate. It is made up of 86 columns and the ceiling is formed of small domes constructed using the traditional technique of clay bricks decorated with original tile-shard mosaics.

The Salamander

Gaudí’s multicolored mosaic salamander, popularly known as “el drac” (the dragon), is at the main entrance.

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Other places in Barcelona also worth a look are:

Casa Batllo

Casa Batlló is a renowned building located in the centre of Barcelona and is another one of Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces.  The local name for the building is Casa dels ossos (House of Bones), as it has a skeletal organic quality.

The Olympic Stadium

Originally built in 1927 for the 1929 International Exposition in the city (and Barcelona’s bid for the 1936 Summer Olympics, which were awarded to Berlin), it was renovated in 1989 to be the main stadium for the 1992 Summer Olympics. The stadium has a capacity of 54,000 (67,007 during the 1992 Olympics), and is located in the Anella Olímpica, in Montjuïc, a large hill to the southwest of the city which overlooks the harbour.

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Camp Nou

Camp Nou has been the home stadium of FC Barcelona since its completion in 1957.

It is the largest stadium in Spain (seating for 99,354), is the largest in Europe and the third largest football stadium in the world in terms of capacity.

As part of your tour around Camp Nou you visit the changing room, pitch, presidential box, press room, and the FC Barcelona Museum.

You can book your tickets for tours of Camp Nou here.

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Palau Real de Pedralbes (The Royal Palace)

The Royal Palace is a building in the district of Les Corts. From 1919 until 1931 it was the residence for the Spanish Royal Family when they visited the city. It houses the Museu de la Ceramica (ceramic museum), Museu Tèxtil i d’Indumentària and Museu de les Arts Decoratives (interior design museum), and is the permanent seat of the Union for the Mediterranean.

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Isabella II showing her son, Alfonso XII, by Agapit Vallmitjana i Barbany

As you can see, Barcelona is a wondrous city full of amazing architecture, fascinating places to visit and incredible photo opportunities! Make sure to add it to your bucket list! I’m going to keep on trying to persuade someone to come back with me again for a third visit!

Rainbow Roses

I was never really a “flower person” until I came across these incredible roses!

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My husband stopped buying roses for me several years ago as the last time he did, it was a few months before we were about to move into our first home. He brought home a lovely bunch of white roses and I remember saying to him “thanks so much babe, they’ll look lovely when we move into our new home in a few months!” He looked at me in the strangest way, and then said he didn’t understand? The lovely bunch wouldn’t be alive in a few months time! I smiled at him and tapped the bunch of flowers on the dining room table and said “of course they will be babe, these flowers are plastic!” He then had no choice but to admit that he had grabbed them from a petrol station on his way home without even looking at them and like I say, I tend to have to buy my own flowers nowadays!

I know I say this a lot in all my blogs but again, these photos just do not do these flowers justice! They are known as “Rainbow Roses” or “Happy Roses” and each rose is completely individual. The roses are created in these spectacular colours by splitting the stem and dipping each part in different coloured water. The colours are then drawn into the petals resulting in a multicolored rose. The drawback to this? It means that Rainbow Roses don’t last as long as regular roses which is an incredible shame.

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Rainbow Roses were initially quite difficult to get hold of – I’ve always ordered mine from Flowers Delivery 4 U and they’ve always been beautiful when they arrive. I often get emails from them offering up to 40% off all of their bouquets which do include the Rainbow Roses so I can order them for nearly half price! Prices start at £39.99 for 6 Rainbow Roses all the way up to £219.99 for 48 so take advantage of any discount codes you can get your hands on! I have also seen at least two deals on Groupon for Rainbow Roses from Flowers Delivery 4 U as well so its worth checking there for a good deal too!

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Rainbow Roses are starting to become a bit more common now – Tesco’s were selling single Rainbow Roses for Valentines Day and even places like Lakeland (yes they sell flowers online!) are selling bouquets with Rainbow Roses in them!

I’ve bought a couple of Rainbow Rose bouquets for friends for their Birthday’s and they absolutely loved them – it’s a real surprise to open the delivery box and find such an unusual colourful display!

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More recently I have also come across Rainbow Lillies and Rainbow Chrysanthemum bouquets on a website called Blossoming Gifts! I will have to give them a try as well!

Simply beautiful Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia is the perfect destination, whether you’re after romance, rejuvenation or adventure. A genuine, natural landscape of gorgeous palm-fringed beaches, miles of unspoiled rainforest and the majestic Piton Mountains, are sure to indulge every taste.

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During our visit to Saint Lucia we stayed at the beautiful Coconut Bay Resort and Spa on an all inclusive basis. The hotel is divided into two sections – the Harmony section which is for adults only, and Splash, designed especially for families.

We wanted to see as much of Saint Lucia as possible during our stay so we booked a trip through Viator called the Soufriere Island Delight half day trip. This trip was fantastic – we had a scenic drive to the town of Soufriere through traditional Caribbean fishing villages, tropical rainforest and banana plantations along the way.

We had beautiful views of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed twin Pitons. The Pitons are two mountainous volcanic plugs (also called a volcanic neck or lava neck). The Gros Piton is 771 metres high, and the Petit Piton is 743 metres high and they are linked by the Piton Mitan ridge. Saint Lucia’s local brand of beer made by the Windward and Leeward Brewery is named after the Pitons!

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As part of the half day trip we also visited:

Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens and Mineral Baths 

The Diamond Botanical Gardens (also known as the St. Lucia Botanical Gardens) is a 6-acre area with a river running through the estate called Diamond River. The river is black through the volcanic mud and there are mineral deposits on the river’s banks.

The centrepiece of the gardens is the colourful Diamond Waterfall. This beautiful waterfall is approximately 17 metres in height and is a mixture of rainwater and volcanism fed by the Sulphur Springs. The water is laced with minerals, sulphur, copper sulphate, magnesium, iron, manganese and calcium, all which contribute to the kaleidoscope of colours that appear in the rock behind the falls. The rock face changes colour depending on the mineral content at that point in time.

Superman, in Superman II, flies between the Pitons and then pauses before Diamond Falls and picks the beautiful bird-of-paradise plant to give to Lois Lane.

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Diamond Waterfall
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Diamond Waterfall

Sulphur Springs

Sulphur Springs (described as the World’s only drive in volcano!) consists of mysterious boiling pools of dark water which emit the pungent smell of sulphur. Sulphur Springs were deemed by folklore as a place where one’s soul meets death.

The creation of the sulphur springs, came from a weak spot in the crust of the enormous collapsed crater creating an upheaval of lava 410,000 years ago. The water located at the center of the springs boils at roughly 340 Fahrenheit (170 Celsius) creating large plumes of steam. The water coming out of the spring is blackened by a chemical reaction between the high content of sulphur and iron. The spring water also contains large deposits of copper, iron oxide, alkaline, lead, calcium oxide, and carbon.

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The Sulphur Springs are a popular tourist destination in St Lucia due to their ability for tourists to literally drive up to the edge of the springs. Up until the mid-1990s, tourists were able to walk right up to the end of the tar-colored pits however following a terrible accident where a local tour guide fell through the crust into a pit and received second degree burns, the formation now has restricted viewing to a platform a few hundred feet away.

A couple of hundred yards downstream from the springs, the water temperature is still hot (around 110 Fahrenheit or 45 Celsius), but cool enough for tourists to enter and give themselves mud baths!

 

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After our amazing trip to the Botanical Gardens we went for lunch at a restaurant high in the hills with beautiful views of St Lucia. Lunch was shortly followed by a trip to a rum distillery for some rum tasting!!

Speaking of rum… on the way back to the hotel we passed this beautiful place where some scenes from the film Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed…

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A truly beautiful place to relax with loved ones with lots to see and lovely friendly people to show you around!

Addicted to Lush Take Two!

Ok, so I thought I had a Lush addiction when I wrote my first Lush blog but since then I have spent even more time scouring the internet and popping into my local Lush for more products to test out! And I have to admit, I’ve really enjoyed doing it! Here’s some of the latest Lush products I’ve tried and tested over the last few weeks –

Blackberry Bath Bomb

Apparently, the Blackberry bath bomb was the first ever Lush bath bomb, and is still one of their most popular today!

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The Blackberry bomb is a beautiful lilac bath bomb with the word BOMB printed on the side of it. The key ingredients of the Blackberry bomb are bergamot and frankincense, and obviously a Blackberry flavour. I did find the scent of this bomb to be more flowery than fruity, however.

This bomb is a fast and quick fizzer! After only a few seconds the bath water turns a beautiful shade of lilac and a nice surprise can be found in the centre of the bomb!

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This is a really refreshing bomb and definitely one I would buy again. It makes your skin very soft but is not too oily like some of the other bath bombs available.

Sakura Bath Bomb

This is a Japanese themed bath bomb – Sakura translates as “cherry blossom”. The bomb has lemon oil, orange flower blossom, mimosa and jasmine. I really like the scent of this bath bomb, and it’s a pretty pink and purple colour.

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When put into the bath, the bomb doesn’t create any colour at all which I was quite disappointed about, but once the bomb dissolved, the scents of jasmine and mimosa become much more apparent. Unfortunately, the colour of the bath water isn’t much to talk about either – hardly any colour, just a bit of murkiness!

One of the strongest scented bath bombs I’ve used and very refreshing and uplifting, and leaves your skin beautifully smooth, just not much to look at I’m afraid! Ideal for those who are new to bath bombs and prefer the smell of a bath bomb rather than a colour show – for example I got my Mum and Mother in Law one of these each for Christmas to go in their Christmas Eve boxes.

Candy Floss Showder

Presented in a box reminiscent of the old-fashioned washing powders, this is the first Showder product I have tried.

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Candy Floss Showder contains calamine powder, clove bud oil and vanilla absolute, and the ylang ylang oil and vanilla gives the showder its sweet candy floss aroma. It includes granulated sugar to help exfoliate and polish the body, and the calamine to soothe the skin.

One thing which annoyed me straight away about this product was that it is a product which is designed to be used in the shower, yet it is packaged up in a cardboard box which is almost impossible not to get wet in between uses and will of course just disintegrate after getting wet a couple of times. I note a lot of Lushie’s on Instagram decant their showders into pots and bottles which are far more suitable for shower and bath use! I think I may have to look into this – especially due to the price of the product (£15.95 a box!).

I also found generous helpings of the product were required as it didn’t foam up at all, and if you weren’t quick enough, you’d find most of the product being washed away down the plug hole! I can’t see my box of Showder lasting as long as I had anticipated when I bought it!

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I do think it is a great gimmick, but I can’t see myself using this as an alternative to shower gel on a regular basis – due to both the price and practicality really! Overall I was a bit disappointed, I didn’t even find that the granulated sugar in the product was at all exfoliating. My top tip – use it in the bath rather than the shower – at least you have half a chance of mixing up a decent paste to use rather than it just being washed away down the plug hole! Afraid to say once I’ve used this up, I doubt I will be buying anymore….

Scrubee

How cute is he?? In case the name hadn’t given it away – he’s a bee!

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The dark striped areas are ground coconut shells and ground almonds, which give quite a harsh but natural exfoliation. The rest of this lovely little character is a solid body butter made of shea and cocoa butter which makes your skin feel beautifully soft and moisturised. It is a strange sensation when you first use it because it is really buttery and quite oily but works so well on keeping your skin soft so bear with it!

You may have already guessed the magic ingredient in Scrubee is honey! Scrubee smells delicious and the amazing scent stays on your skin long after using it.

This little guy has had rave reviews since its release – it has now been made a permanent Lush product after proving to be so popular. I missed out on getting one for a long time so I was so pleased when I finally got my hands on a couple! Just be careful when using in the shower – I stupidly balanced mine on the shower taps and as they got hot my poor little scrubee started melting and made the floor of the shower very slippery!

After a couple of uses the coconut shells and ground almonds start coming through and he starts to look more like this:

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A highly recommended product – grab one as soon as you can! I’m so pleased I bought a couple!

Fizzbanger Bath Bomb

A plain looking little guy, but don’t overlook it for this reason! Fizzbanger is another one of my favourites! This bath bomb is apparently known as the Big Friendly Ballistic and is based on the Road Dahl character “BFG”.

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Amazing blue and yellow coloured froth swirls around the bath along with the crackling of the popping candy which can be found inside this brilliant ballistic!

The Fizzbanger contains cinnamon leaf oil, Petitgrain oil, ylang ylang oil and gardenia, but the scent is almost lemony and is very refreshing, so it would be ideal for a morning bath to set you up for the day!

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Fizzbanger is a slow dissolver, beginning with yellow foam with an apple scent, which eventually became mounds of blue foam, resulting in a lovely green shade of bath water (think Slimer from Ghostbuster’s green!)

Once the middle of the bomb is cracked open, you will find a little piece of paper with the word “bang” written on it, which floats to the surface of the bath water. This bomb is a real character and demonstrates some amazing bath art once it gets fizzing!

Think Pink Bath Bomb

A lovely bright hot pink shimmery bath bomb! Apparently this version is the more updated version of the Think Pink bath bomb which only became available earlier in the year. After reading a few blogs of other fellow Lush fans I understand this came as a bit of a shock to them first of all, but after testing the updated version, everyone seemed happy with the tweaks which had been made!

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Think Pink is a fast fizzer and as soon as it hits the water it releases mounds of pink and white foam which soon turns the water a beautiful pink colour. When the core of the bomb is cracked, mounds of silvery lustre are released. This isn’t obvious at first, but more noticeable once the bomb has dissolved and the water has settled.

This lovely bomb contains tonka, vanilla absolute, lavender absolute and neroli oil, so its scent is both sweet and fruity and the lavender scent was very, very subtle in my opinion. Although not the best bath bomb for skin softness I’ve tried, it’s definitely not the worst either.

A beautiful bath display however I was rather disappointed with the scent – I didn’t find it anywhere near strong enough, but to be honest this wouldn’t put me off buying Think Pink again, and think this bomb would be great to give as a gift to friends.

Purple Fun Bar

Fun bars are a squidgy versatile product (like play-dough) which can be used as a bubble bar, shampoo, shower gel, soap and you can even shave with it!

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Fun Bars consists of several different colours and flavours – Blue (lavender scent), Pink (Vanilla and Sweets flavour), Purple (Blackcurrant/Blackberry smell), Green (Lemon and Lime flavour), Red (Mandarin and Orange flavour), Orange (Orange Flavour) and Yellow (Vanilla flavour).

It is recommended that you break a bit off the fun bar to use a bit at a time, and keep the remainder somewhere cool so it doesn’t “melt”. I must admit, I use mine just like a bubble bar – pull off a chunk and crumble it under running water and soon your bath is full of lovely bubbles!

The second Fun Bar I tried was the Purple one (blackcurrant/blackberry), and to be honest I was so disappointed with the pink fun bar I used last time I wasn’t particularly bothered about using this next one, but the purple fun bar smell is much stronger than the pink one, and this time I was happy because I got some pretty coloured bath water out of it too! Definitely won’t bother with the pink one after this – will keep trying all the others to see which I like best.  Although I’m not overly fussed with the fun bar product, they do make nice bubbly baths which leave your skin feeling lovely and soft.

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I hope you enjoyed my second Lush blog – after having a stressful few weeks I’m getting through the products far faster than I thought (especially the relaxing bath bombs!!) so I get the feeling another Lush blog will follow shortly……

FYI – I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this week Lush made an announcement that a load of their products would be discontinued. The items discontinued shockingly included two bath bombs in this blog – the Fizzbanger and Blackberry bath bombs which I am most disappointed about. To make matters worse, another of my favourites which I blogged about in my last Addicted to Lush blog is also being discontinued – this bath bomb is Lava Lamp! The fourth bath bomb I am upset about being discontinued is the Frozen bath bomb, which I am going to blog about as part of my Christmas Lush blog in December. Seriously, grab as many of these amazing products as soon as you can!

For a full list of products which are being discontinued, visit the Lush website.

The good news is that they are replacing these products with a whole new range of “jelly” based products – I have already ordered some and hope to review these within the next month so fingers crossed they have got rid of some of our all time favourites to make way for some even better products….

A Mexican Adventure

Mexico has always been a really popular destination for a lot of my friends, and some of them revisit year after year. I wasn’t particularly bothered about the destination itself but Chichén Itzá has always been near the top of my bucket list!

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We stayed in the Occidental Grand Xcaret hotel in Riviera Maya on an all inclusive basis. We choose this hotel because it’s full of animals and tropical plants in spectacular gardens, and has two Mayan ruins and a cove where you can swim with tropical fish.

Those who know me very well know that I absolutely love lizards and iguanas so I was in my element in Mexico!! Great big huge lizards EVERYWHERE!! Wish I had brought them home!! Hubby and brother in law weren’t so keen though!

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We also had a couple of really lovely parrots living in the hotel!

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Located next to the hotel is the Xcaret eco-archaeological park. The park features river formations, five outdoor pools (three of them fresh-water pools, one adults-only salt water pool and one kids’ pool), a swim-up bar and a private cove with soft white sand and so much more it would take too long to list here! Find out more information here.

Whilst we were here we saw tropical birds, huge marine turtles, jaguars, and manatees. We did the tropical jungle trail and admired the paradise river. There is so much to do here we were kept occupied for the entire day!

In the evening we attended the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular which was an amazing performance depicting Mexico’s rich culture and history from pre-historic times all the way to modern day times through dance and other performances. The show was well worth a watch!

The best part of the holiday was our trip to Chichén Itzá which we booked through Viator.

Chichén Itzá is a world-famous complex of Mayan ruins, a massive pyramid known as El Castillo dominates the six and a half square kilometre ancient city, which thrived from around 600 A.D. to the 1200’s. The city may have had the most diverse population in the Maya world, a factor that could have contributed to the variety of architectural styles at the site. Chichén Itzá is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico; an estimated 1.4 million tourists visit the ruins every year!!

El Castillo (The Kukulkan Pyramid)
Possibly the best known construction on Chichén Itzá is Kukulkan’s Pyramid – a pyramid approximately 75 feet tall. Kukulkan Pyramid was built for astronomical purposes and during the vernal equinox (March 20) and the autumnal equinox (September 21) at about 3pm the sunlight bathes the western balustrade of the pyramid’s main stairway. This causes 7 triangles to form, imitating the body of a serpent roughly 37 yards long that creeps downwards until it joins the huge serpent’s head carved in stone at the bottom of the stairway!

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The Great Ball Court – Archaeologists have identified thirteen ball courts for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame in Chichén Itzá, but the Great Ball Court about 150 metres to the north-west of El Castillo is by far the most impressive. It is the largest and best preserved ball court in ancient Mesoamerica and it measures 168 by 70 metres! A whisper from one end can be heard clearly enough at the other end 500 feet away and through the length and breath of the court as the sound waves are unaffected by wind direction or time of day and also night. Legend says that the winning captain would present his own head to the losing captain, who then decapitates him. While this may seem very strange reward, the Mayans believed that this to be the ultimate honour!

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At the base of the high interior walls are slanted benches with sculpted panels of teams of ball players. In one panel, one of the players has been decapitated; the wound emits streams of blood in the form of wriggling snakes.

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At one end of the Great Ball Court is the North Temple, also known as the Temple of the Bearded Man. This small masonry building has detailed carving on the inner walls, including a center figure that has carving under his chin that resembles facial hair.

Built into the east wall are the Temples of the Jaguar . The Upper Temple of the Jaguar overlooks the ball court and has an entrance guarded by two, large columns carved in the familiar feathered serpent motif. In the entrance to the Lower Temple of the Jaguar, which opens behind the ball court, is another Jaguar throne, similar to the one in the inner temple of El Castillo, except that it is well worn and missing paint or other decoration.

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Tzompantli – The Wall of Skulls
The Tzompantli structure at Chichén Itzá is very interesting structure, where the heads of sacrificial victims were placed. The platform walls of the Tzompantli have beautiful carvings – the skull rack itself, scenes with human sacrifices, eagles eating human hearts and skeletonized warriors with arrows and shields.

Platform of the Eagles and the Jaguars
The elaborately carved platform is located on the central plain between the Temple of Venus and the Platform of Skulls. The pedestals that top the platform are crowned with serpent many heads, over which it is believed that there had been standard bearers in the form of jaguars. The figures of jaguars and eagles devouring hearts are said to represent the warriors who were responsible for obtaining victims to sacrifice for the gods. The “Eagle Knights” were archers who attacked the enemy before all other soldiers fought hand to hand. The aggressive eagles which sculpted on the walls of the platform are the symbol of these elite vip group of archers who stood out on the battlefield because they wore clothing of feathers from the bird for which they were named.
The “Jaguar Knights” were believed to be the army fiercest members, modeled after those found elsewhere in the Central Mexico. They fought hand to hand, with wooden clubs tipped with obsidian knives. They covered themselves with armor made of jaguar skins and also helmets of jaguar heads. The figures of jaguars represented the soldiers who were often charged with obtaining prisoners for sacrifice to the Gods of city.

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Platform of Venus
There are two different structures with this name at Chichén Itzá, the first is located at the Great Plaza and the second one is located near the Grave of the High Priest. In the corner of one of its panels, there is a Serpent Bird Man, which is considered to be the Quetzalcoatl-Kukulkan’s representation as the ‘Morning Star’. The Round Platform, one of the few buildings so shaped in Chichén Itzá, held a small stone-paved area and a container with offerings. The function of these buildings was probably as podiums for rites, ceremonies or dances.

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The Temple of the Warriors is one of the most impressive and important structures at Chichén Itzá. It consists of a large stepped pyramid fronted and flanked by rows of around 200 carved columns depicting warriors. All square columns are carved with Toltec warriors; in some places they are cemented together in sections, painted in brilliant colors and covered with plaster. The Temple of Warriors has a broad stairway with a plain, stepped ramp on either side, and each ramp has figures of standard-bearers to hold flags. On the top there are serpent columns which had S shaped supported wooden lintels (which are now gone) above the doorways. Astronomical signs and decorative features on the head of each serpent are carved over the eyes. On the top of each serpent head is a shallow basin that could have been used as an oil lamp.

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El Caracol, the Observatory, is a unique structure. El Caracol means ‘snail’ in Spanish and is so named due to the spiral staircase inside the tower. It is suggested that the El Caracol was an ancient Mayan observatory building and provided a way for the Mayan people to observe changes in the sky due to the flattened landscape of the Yucatán with no natural markers for this function around Chichén Itzá. The observers could view the sky above the vegetation on the Yucatán Peninsula without any obstruction and Mayan astronomers knew from naked-eye observations that Venus appeared on the western and disappeared on the eastern horizons at different times in the year, and that it took 584 days to complete one cycle. They also knew that five of these Venus cycles equaled eight solar years. Venus would therefore make an appearance at the northerly and southerly extremes at eight-year intervals.

Of 29 possible astronomical events such as eclipses, equinoxes and solstices believed to be of interest to the residents of Chichén Itzá, sight lines for 20 can be found in the structure. 

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The High Priest’s Grave is the name given to this pyramid because it contains an ossuary (which is a communal graveyard) beneath its foundations. The High Priest’s Grave includes a pyramid about 30 feet high with four stairways on each side, with a sanctuary in the center and a gallery in the front. The sides of the stairways are decorated with interlaced feathered serpents.

Between the first two pillars is a square stone-lined vertical shaft in the floor which extends downwards to the base of the pyramid, where it opens up on a natural cavern. The cave is 36 feet deep and when it was excavated, bones from several human burials were identified along with offerings of jade, shell, rock crystal and copper bells.

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After our visit to Chichén Itzá we were lucky enough to visit the Ik Kil cenote. A cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. The cenote is open to the sky with the water level about 26 metres below ground level. There is a carved stairway down to a swimming platform and the cenote is about 60 metres across and about 40 metres deep. There are vines which reach from the opening all the way down to the water along with beautiful small waterfalls and there are also black catfish which swim in the cenote.

Hubby was very brave and jumped into the sinkhole but seeing as I am not a good swimmer I thought it best I just stood back and took photos! A very beautiful and calming place despite the huge amount of tourists passing through!

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I’m so pleased I got to go to Mexico and see Chichén Itzá! A really lovely location and great hotel! The only downside to our visit was the scores of mosquitos we encountered! Even the locals and the lovely people working at the hotel said they had never known there be so many at that time of year and the sprays and creams were just not keeping them away! It was frustrating at the time but looking back at all these amazing memories and adventures I think it was well worth being bitten for a few days!

Winky Lux Lip Balms

A few months ago I came across these amazing lip balms on Instagram and I knew as soon as I saw them that I had to have them in every colour!

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Check out these Flower Balm Jelly Lip Stains by Winky Lux!

This balm stain applies on clear then reacts with your skin’s pH levels, uniquely creating the perfect shade of pink lips!

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Each Flower Balm contains a real chrysanthemum in the colour of your choice. Plus these amazing balms are coconut scented!

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So far I have found the balms with Green, Yellow and Pink flowers, but there are also Blue and Purple versions available. I’ve bought several for friends for their Birthday’s and they absolutely loved them!

You can order your Winky Lux Flower balms from Beauty Bay (£13.00 each) or I recently came across this set from ASOS where you get the Pink, Yellow and Green balms for £25.00 with a lovely free gold makeup bag – this set sells out very quickly because you save 35% on the total cost of the three balms so grab it while you can!

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Our anniversary in Prague

I’ve been meaning to visit Prague for ages now, everyone I’ve spoken to who has visited says it is a beautiful place with lots to see. I originally toyed with the idea of visiting during December for the Christmas markets but as we are moving home in the next few months we settled on a long weekend away for our eight year wedding anniversary instead.

I’m so glad we made this decision – the weather was beautiful during our visit and we stayed in the Prague 1 area which meant every place I wanted to visit was within walking distance.

Some of the lovely places we visited during our visit included –

Prague Castle

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Prague Castle is a castle complex dating from the 9th century. It is the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic. The Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept within a hidden room inside it.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world, occupying an area of almost 70,000 square metres. The castle is among the most visited tourist attractions in Prague attracting over 1.8 million visitors annually.

The history of the castle began in 870 when its first walled building, the Church of the Virgin Mary, was built. The Basilica of Saint George and the Basilica of St. Vitus were founded under the reign of Vratislaus I, Duke of Bohemia and his son St. Wenceslas in the first half of the 10th century.

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The view from Prague Castle

During the Hussite Wars and the following decades, the castle was not inhabited. In 1485, King Ladislaus II Jagello began to rebuild the castle. The massive Vladislav Hall (built by Benedikt Rejt) was added to the Royal Palace and new defence towers were also built on the north side of the castle.

The last major rebuilding of the castle was carried out by Empress Maria Theresa in the second half of the 18th century. Following his abdication in 1848, and the succession of his nephew, Franz Joseph, to the throne, the former emperor, Ferdinand I, made Prague Castle his home.

The Black Tower

The Black Tower is one of the oldest existing buildings in Prague. It was built in 1135 as an eastern gate of the Romanesque fortification of the Prague Castle. You can still see the former gateway there in the ground floor, it is walled up now.

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The Black Tower belongs to the area of the Supreme Burgrave’s House at Prague Castle. Its name “Black” originates from the time of the big fire of the Prague Castle in 1541 – its walls remained black for a long time. The tower had also been called “Golden” in the era of Emperor Charles IV in the 14 th century as its roof was covered with gilded plates of lead.

The Black Tower was mainly used as a prison, as well as most of the towers at Prague Castle and many inscriptions written by prisoners can still be seen on the walls of the tower.

The Black Tower looks almost the same as it did after some modifications in 1538. The depository of the archaeological discoveries of the Prague Castle is kept here.

St Vitus Cathedral

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert is a Roman Catholic metropolitan cathedral and is the seat of the Archbishop of Prague. Until 1997, the cathedral was dedicated only to Saint Vitus, and is still commonly named only as St. Vitus Cathedral.

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This cathedral is an excellent example of Gothic architecture and is the largest and most important church in the country.  The cathedral is located within Prague Castle and contains the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors. 

Construction of the Gothic Cathedral began on 21 November 1344 and King John of Bohemia laid the foundation stone for the new building. The patrons the Archbishop Arnost of Pardubice, and Charles IV, King of Bohemia and a soon-to-be Holy Roman Emperor, intended the new cathedral to be a coronation church, family crypt, treasury for the most precious relics of the kingdom, and the last resting place of patron saint Wenceslaus.

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The entire building process came to a halt with the beginning of Hussite War in the first half of 15th century. The war brought an end to the workshop that had operated steadily for almost a century, and the furnishings of the cathedral, including dozens of pictures and sculptures, suffered heavily as a result. As if this was not enough, a great fire in 1541 substantially damaged the cathedral.

Golden Lane

Golden Lane is a street situated within the grounds of Prague Castle. Originally built in the 16th century, to house Rudolf II’s castle guards, it takes its name from the goldsmiths that lived there in the 17th century. 

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Golden Lane consists of small houses, painted in bright colours in the 1950s. The street originally had houses on both sides, but one side was demolished in the 19th century. A fee must be paid to enter Golden Lane, and many of the houses are now souvenir shops. There is also a museum of medieval armoury which runs along the top of the small houses and is really fascinating so is well worth a visit.

House number 22 used to belong to the sister of writer Franz Kafka, who used this house to write between 1916 and 1917. Jaroslav Seifert, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1984, lived there in 1929.

Dalibor Tower

Golden Lane is connected with Dalibor Tower, which used to be a dungeon. Dalibor Tower is also well worth a look!

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The community of prisoners condemned to live in Dalibor Tower varied greatly over the centuries. Apart from wrongdoers from the nobility, there were also burghers, craftsmen and serfs from the countryside who were serving sentences here. From the beginning, the burghers of Hradcany served as guards in performance as part of their duties subjects. They were not relieved of this task until King Ferdinand II issued a mandate on 22 September 1628, commanding the Royal Chamber “to have the offenders at the Dalibor Tower guarded by an artilleryman or craftsman serving at Prague Castle, should the need arise”.

The first and perhaps the most important prisoner at Dalibor Tower was the knight Dalibor z Kozojed. Dalibor was imprisoned in 1496 shortly after the tower was built, not only because he had backed the rebels against Adam Ploskovsky z Drahonie, the merciless feudal lord of Litomerice, but also because he had illegally confiscated the property for himself. After two years of bread and water he was sentenced to “the forfeiture of his chattels, his honour and his head”, and on 13th March 1498 he was executed on the courtyard of the Lord High Burgrave. Only much later did the romantic legend of Dalibor and his fiddle arise…

Out of boredom, so it goes, Dalibor learnt to play the violin so masterfully in prison that people came far and wide and listened, enraptured, to his soul-stirring playing. It is in the chronicle of Jan Frantisek Beckovsky of 1700 that you first come across the Czech maxim “necessity taught Dalibor how to fiddle”. The reality of Dalibor’s musical talent was, however, quite different: the “fiddle” was a nickname for an instrument of torture, a sort of rack on which the convicted man was stretched until “out of necessity” (under pressure, in suffering), the victim began to “fiddle” (change his tune, confess). A considerably altered version of the story of Dalibor appears in Josef Wenizig’s libretto for Bedrich Smetana’s Dalibor. The opera premiered in the Provisional Theatre on 16th May 1868, the day the foundation stone of the National Theatre was ceremoniously laid.

Frantisek Tengnagel z Kampu, Chancellor, Privy Councillor of Arehduke Leopold of Passau, and an intriguer at the court of Rudolf II, was condemned to an especially harsh imprisonment for his political plotting and in particular for his part in planning the Passauer invasion of Bohemia. After repeated torture he was eventually released and banished from the country.

Count Frantisek Antonin Spork, a liberal nobleman, patron of the arts and sciences, and builder of Kuks, was imprisoned in the Dalibor Tower in the winter of 1720 because of disputes over an inheritance. To spite his opponents, he had the cell in which he spent almost three months decorated with numerous maxims and religious thoughts. They were then printed and disseminated throughout Prague. After serious illness Count Spork was released. To commemorate his confinement in Dalibor he founded a charity for burghers of Prague who had been condemned to prison for not paying their debts.

The noblewoman Marie Katerina Zahradkova z Eulenfels – one of the few women residents of Dalibor Tower was imprisoned here in February 1732 as an accomplice to the murder of her husband. The great age difference between her and him, as well as his violent nature, led the young Marie Katerina to contrive an attack by robbers, in which her husband was killed. After four years imprisonment in Dalibor she was taken, half mad, to the prison in the New Town Hall, where she spent another 20 years. A contemporary, the knight Jenik z Bratric, mentioned in his memoirs how this unfortunate woman often cried out at passers-by from the window of her cell on the ground floor, desperately rattling the bars from her window “acting mad in every respect”.

The last prisoner left the Dalibor Tower after the introduction of the new judicial system in 1781. With this Josephinian reform the old provincial court and the court of the burgrave were abolished, and with them the towers at Prague Castle ceased to be used as jails.

Lennon Wall

The Lennon Wall or John Lennon Wall was once a normal wall, but since the 1980s has been filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti and pieces of lyrics from Beatles’ songs.

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In 1988, the wall was a source of irritation for the communist regime of Gustáv Husák. Young Czechs would write grievances on the wall and this led to a clash between hundreds of students and security police on the nearby Charles Bridge. The movement these students followed was described ironically as “Lennonism”!

The wall continuously undergoes change and the original portrait of Lennon is long lost under layers of new paint. Even when the wall was repainted by some authorities, on the second day it was again full of poems and flowers. Today, the wall represents a symbol of global ideals such as love and peace.

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Love Locks

Love padlocks (also known as Love Locks) are a custom by which padlocks are attached to a fence, gate, bridge or similar public fixture by sweethearts to symbolise their everlasting love. If you walk along the Lesser Town, very close to the Lennon Wall,  you will see small locks on the gates over the canal.

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Legend has it that when you find your true love you carve your names on a lock and lock it onto the gate and then throw the key in to the canal – so we did! On our 8th wedding anniversary too which was very apt!

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Charles Bridge

The Charles Bridge is an historic bridge that crosses the Vltava river. Its construction started in 1357 under King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of the 15th century.

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The bridge replaced the old Judith Bridge built 1158–1172 that had been badly damaged by a flood in 1342. This new bridge was originally called the Stone Bridge or the Prague Bridge but has been the “Charles Bridge” since 1870. As the only means of crossing the river Vltava until 1841, the Charles Bridge was the most important connection between Prague Castle and the city’s Old Town and adjacent areas. This “solid-land” connection made Prague important as a trade route between Eastern and Western Europe.

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The bridge is 621 metres long and nearly 10 metres wide. It is protected by three bridge towers, two of them on the Lesser Quarter side and the third one on the Old Town side. The bridge is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues originally erected in around 1700 but all now replaced by replicas.

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The Old Town Bridge Tower

Old Town Bridge Tower is a gothic monument located at the Old Town end of the Charles Bridge.

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It was built in the late 14th century, during the rule of the Emperor Charles IV. It was designed by the architect Petr Parléř and is one of the most astonishing gothic-style buildings I’ve seen.

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Clementinum

The Clementinum is a historic complex of buildings which originally hosted the National, University and Technical libraries. The Technical library and the Municipal library moved to the Prague National Technical Library in 2009 and it is currently in use as the National Library of the Czech Republic.

The Baroque library hall inside Clementinum is known for its interior, including the ceiling artwork by Jan Hiebl, and has been described as the most beautiful library in the world. I was absolutely devastated when we arrived here because it is currently closed for restoration and isn’t open to the general public…. it was right at the top of my list of things to see in Prague too….Google the images of it and you will see why!

Powder Tower

The Powder Tower or Powder Gate is a Gothic tower which is one of the original city gates. It separates the Old Town from the New Town.

The Powder Tower is one of the original 13 city gates in Old Town and construction began in 1475. The tower was intended to be an attractive entrance into the city, instead of a defensive tower. The foundation stone was placed by Vladislav II and the city council gave Vladislav II the tower as a coronation gift. 

The gate was used to store gunpowder in the 17th century, hence the name Powder Tower or Powder Gate. The gate suffered considerable damage during the Battle of Prague and the sculptures on the tower were replaced in 1876.

Church of our Lady Before Týn

The Church of Mother of God before Týn, often translated as Church of Our Lady before Týn, is a gothic church and a dominant feature of Old Town. It has been the main church of this part of the city since the 14th century. The church’s towers are 80 metres high and topped by four small spires.

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By the beginning of the 15th century, construction was almost complete; only the towers, the gable and roof were missing. The roof was completed in the 1450s, while the gable and northern tower were completed shortly thereafter during the reign of George of Poděbrady (1453–1471). His sculpture was placed on the gable, below a huge golden chalice, the symbol of the Hussites. The southern tower, however, was not completed until 1511, under architect Matěj Rejsek.

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After the lost Battle of White Mountain (1620) began the era of harsh recatholicisation.  Consequently, the sculptures of George of Poděbrady and the chalice were removed in 1626 and replaced by a sculpture of the Virgin Mary, with a giant halo made as a result of melting down the chalice.

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Old Town Square

Old Town Square is a historic square in the Old Town quarter. It is located between Wenceslas Square and the Charles Bridge.

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The square features various architectural styles including the Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn, and a medieval astronomical clock located on the Old Town Hall.

The Baroque St. Nicholas Church is another church located in the square, while the tower of the Old Town Hall offers a panoramic view of Old Town. An art museum of the Czech National Gallery is located in Kinský Palace.

At Christmas and Easter, markets are held on the square which resemble medieval markets. The Christmas Markets on the Old Town Square are the largest Christmas markets in the Czech Republic and are visited by hundreds of thousands of visitors from the Czech Republic and abroad. In 2016, CNN rated Prague’s Christmas Markets among the world’s best!

Town Hall

When I came home and started reading about the Town Hall, I wished I had taken more pictures of it as I couldn’t believe how much history it had! You can read more about Old Town Hall here.

Astronomical Clock

The Prague astronomical clock, or Prague orloj, is a medieval astronomical clock first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still operating.

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The Orloj is mounted on the southern wall of Old Town Hall in the Old Town Square. The clock mechanism itself has three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; “The Walk of the Apostles”, a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures—notably a figure of Death (represented by a skeleton) striking the time; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months. 

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The astronomical dial has a background that represents the standing Earth and sky, and surrounding it operate four main moving components: the zodiacal ring, an outer rotating ring, an icon representing the Sun, and an icon representing the Moon.

The background represents the Earth and the local view of the sky. The blue circle directly in the centre represents the Earth, and the upper blue is the portion of the sky which is above the horizon. The red and black areas indicate portions of the sky below the horizon. During the daytime, the Sun sits over the blue part of the background and at night it sits over the black. During dawn or dusk, the mechanical sun is positioned over the red part of the background.

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Written on the eastern part of the horizon is aurora (dawn in Latin) and ortus (rising). On the western part is occasus (sunset), and crepusculum (twilight).

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Golden Roman numerals at the outer edge of blue circle are the timescale of a normal 24-hour day and indicate time in local Prague time, or Central European Time. Curved golden lines dividing the blue part of dial into twelve parts are marks for unequal “hours”. These hours are defined as 1/12 of the time between sunrise and sunset, and vary as the days grow longer or shorter during the year.

Inside the large black outer circle lies another movable circle marked with the signs of the zodiac which indicates the location of the Sun on the ecliptic.

The Orloj suffered heavy damage on May 7 and especially May 8, 1945, during the Prague Uprising, when the Germans fired on the south-west side of the Old Town Square from several armoured vehicles in an unsuccessful attempt to destroy one of the centres of the uprising. The hall and nearby buildings burned along with the wooden sculptures on the clock and the calendar dial face. After significant effort, the machinery was repaired, the wooden Apostles restored by Vojtěch Sucharda, and the Orloj started working again in 1948.

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As you can see the building is still undergoing extensive ongoing restoration work.

Wenceslas Square

Wenceslas Square is one of the main city squares and the centre of the business and cultural communities. Many historical events occurred there, and it is a traditional setting for demonstrations, celebrations, and other public gatherings. The square is named after Saint Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia. 

Formerly known as Koňský trh (the Horse Market), for its periodic accommodation of horse markets during the Middle Ages, it was renamed Svatováclavské náměstí (Saint Wenceslas square) in 1848.

Wenceslas Square is lined by hotels, offices, shops and fast-food joints. Wenceslas Square is also a popular location for stag and hen parties.

Food and Drink

I’m afraid for our anniversary meal we visited Hard Rock cafe – not very authentic I know but I love their twisted mac and cheese!! Plus we’ve made it a bit of a tradition to visit Hard Rock cafes all over the world – so far we have visited New York, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Miami, Marbella and Barcelona Hard Rock cafes!

Whilst exploring I was delighted to learn that fried cheese seems to be a bit of a speciality in Prague! I took full advantage of this tradition of course!

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You also must try the goulash if you get the chance – hubby had some for his dinner which I managed to dip a few of my chips in and it was delicious!

Before we even arrived in Prague I knew I had to try a Vetrnik! This picture does not do it justice – it was absolutely HUGE! Three attempts and I still couldn’t finish it, but it was worth feeling sick for hours afterwards!

A Vetrnik is choux pastry with vanilla cream and caramel cream inside, topped with thick caramel flavoured fondant….

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Although these are spotted all over the world nowadays, I finally got the chance to try a Churro cone! An ice-cream shaped cone made from delicious sugar sprinkled fried dough pastry with a dollop of yummy ice-cream on top – need I say more??

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The drink Prague is most famous for of course is beer, and there’s certainly no shortage of places to go to partake! For those who prefer a sweeter taste than that of normal lager, try the Czech dark beer. Other beer brands you will find in the local pubs and bars include Pilsner Urquell, Krusovice, Bernard, Staropramen, Budweiser Budvar and Velvet.

If spirits are more your thing, try the Becherovka, a herbal liquor made out of several secret plants which is said to be good for digestion and to have medicinal properties. Becherovka is also used in some cocktails.

Fernet is another herbal beverage which comes in different variants, Stock (bitter), Citrus (lemon) and is best served  cold or with ice.

Also give Slivovice a try – an alcoholic beverage made from plums, but you can also find different flavours of this drink such as pear and apricot.

Prague is a beautiful city full of amazing history, beautiful architecture, and delicious food and drink – this years wedding anniversary will certainly be one to remember!

Addicted to Lush!

If you haven’t heard of Lush yet then where have you been hiding!? I use their products so much I can’t believe that I haven’t already taken the time to write about them!

So many fantastic products are available and every day more and more products are released including limited editions! Here’s a review of some of the Lush items I’ve tried recently:

Lava Lamp Bath Bomb

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A lovely bright orange bath bomb with three big purple dots on the side, this bomb contains orange flower absolute (one of the most popular essential oils used in perfumery), tangerine and mandarin oils.

This sounds a silly thing to say in view of its name, but it really does make your bath water look like a Lava Lamp!! This is down to the extra virgin olive oil contained in the bomb which provides that “lava lamp” effect across the top of the water.

This bath bomb is a very noisy, fizzy bomb which leaves an amazing orange scent on your skin (and in the bathroom!) for hours after use. It’s a very nourishing bath bomb – ideal for dry skin or for days where skin has been exposed to the sun for too long. Some users have found this bath bomb to be too oily, but I’ve not found this to be the case.

The only downside to this lovely citrus bomb is the mess that is left behind in the bath tub! The olive oil results in the purple “lava” sticking to the side of the bath and does take some elbow grease to get off again! Not the thing you look forward to doing after having a nice relaxing bath!

Other than the cleaning session of the bathroom you have to undertake after using Lava Lamp, it is one of my favourites. The strong citrus scent is really relaxing and the colours and noisy fizz make it one of the most exciting bath bombs!

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Twilight Bath Bomb

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This is one of Lush’s most popular bath bombs so I put it to the top of my testing list! I have to admit the name does put me off (makes me think of vampires!) and I don’t think the name really suits the colour and scent of this bomb….. maybe it’s just me.

Twilight is a lovely soft pink coloured bomb and it’s main scent is lavender. This bath bomb dissolves far more slowly (and much less violently than Lava Lamp!) and creates a lovely thick pink and blue froth. Once the bomb is fully dissolved, it leaves the water a lovely violet colour filled with tiny pieces of silver glitter.

As well as lavender, this bath bomb also contains ylang ylang oils and vanilla essence to stop the lavender scent from being over-powering. This bath bomb is absolutely perfect for using in the evenings if you are struggling to sleep.

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Cup O Coffee Face Mask

As a self-confessed coffee addict, it’s like this product was made especially for me! An exfoliating mask designed for both the face and body, this amazing mask features a blend of coffee and cocoa extract. The coffee smell is dominating but you can also smell a lovely underlying chocolate aroma too, and the algarve nectar and vanilla absolute give it a bit of sweetness.

As a coffee lover I found the smell absolutely amazing! Other’s have said they aren’t too keen but I think it’s lovely! You add a generous amount of the mask to your face or body, massage it for a few minutes, leave it for 10-15 minutes and then rinse it away. The coffee grains in the mask will remove all the dead/dry skin and leave your skin feeling really clean and refreshed.

I’m not a big fan of face masks generally, but this is most certainly the best I have tried. A definite addition to the favourites list!

Bubblegum Lip Scrub

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This is the only Lush lip scrub I have bought so far but it is by far my favourite going by the smells of the scrubs alone! I loved this product so much I bought several for my family and friends for Birthday presents and demanded my sister bought one for herself when she visited the Lush shop in Cheltenham with me!!

The smell is amazing and this lip scrub works so well! The scrubs clear dead skin and flakiness from lips and make them feel so soft and smooth! The scrubs are mostly made from castor sugar and jojoba oil – to exfoliate and moisturise.

The smell is amazing – strawberry bubblegum flavour – and the colour is a bright hot pink. To use you just need a small scoop on your finger, and then rub it all over your lips in a circular motion, and then just add your favourite lip balm afterwards to moisturise.

Don’t be put off by the seemingly expensive price (£5.50 for this little tub), as you don’t need much for each use and you will find this small pot will last you for at least six months (unless you start eating it out of the pot!) I’m looking forward to trying some of the other flavours now – honey or popcorn are next on my list!

Dragons Egg Bath Bomb

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Ooh another one of my favourites!!! I love the name too!

This bath bomb begins with a white outer layer of Dragon’s Egg foam, which then releases “Dragon scales” in the form of rice paper confetti and popping candy!!

This bath bomb contains bergamot and citrus flavours and is quite a zesty bomb. It’s very refreshing and is recommended for use in the mornings or during the winter months.

It is a slow release bomb, creating more foam and froth than bubbles and fizz, but once the centre is cracked, it begins throwing out a beautiful golden, yellow, glittery flow. Due to the golden inner core your bath water ends up a beautiful amber colour with golden glitter floating in it!

Don’t be fooled by Dragon’s Egg’s relatively plain exterior! Dragon’s Egg is an absolute must try!

Big Blue Bath Bomb

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One of the key ingredients in this bath bomb is seaweed! Arame seaweed to be precise, as it is rich in vitamins and minerals. Big Blue also contains lavender, lemon and sea salt.

Big Blue turns the bath water a lovely vivid blue colour, as the seaweed swirls around the bath before sinking to the bottom.

A lovely invigorating and refreshing bath bomb, I did find this bomb to be more de-toxifying than moisturising but it is definitely one I would use again – despite having to clean up the remnants of seaweed from the bottom of the bath afterwards!

Pink Fun Bar

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Fun bars are a squidgy versatile product (like play-dough) which can be used as a bubble bar, shampoo, shower gel, soap and you can even shave with it!

Fun Bars consists of several different colours and flavours – Blue (lavender scent), Pink (Vanilla and Sweets flavour), Purple (Blackcurrant/Blackberry smell), Green (Lemon and Lime flavour), Red (Mandarin and Orange flavour), Orange (Orange Flavour) and Yellow (Vanilla flavour).

It is recommended that you break a bit off the fun bar to use a bit at a time, and keep the remainder somewhere cool so it doesn’t “melt”. The first time I used the fun bar, I used it like a bubble bar – I pulled off a chunk and held it under the running tap water and soon the bath was full of lovely bubbles.

The first Fun Bar I tried was the Pink one (although it looks a bit multicoloured as I accidentally mixed some blue and purple in with this one!). I must admit overall I was a little bit disappointed with the product. Yes the bath was full of lovely bubbles but I found that I could hardly smell the scent of the pink one, and I was disappointed that it didn’t turn the bath water a lovely pink colour either, plus the bubbles soon disappeared.

I found that using the fun bar as a soap made the scent much more prominent, but still no where near as strong as if you are using a bath bomb. On the plus side I pulled off a big chunk of the bar to use but didn’t even use a third of this – so it’s much more long lasting than I originally thought.

I hope you enjoyed my first Lush blog – if not then I am afraid I have two boxes full of Lush products I am hoping to blog about in the near future!

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Popaball Rose Gold Shimmer for Prosecco

I came across PopaBall a couple of years ago when I was shopping online at Lakeland to buy some bits and bobs for Christmas. I ended up ordering some of their Strawberry Popaball Bursting Bubbles – you just add a few of the little bubbles to your drink for a burst of strawberry flavour! You don’t have to just add to alcoholic drinks or cocktails, they also go down really well as toppings for ice cream or mixed into yoghurt! Yum!

The bubbles are real fruit juice in a shell made from seaweed extract, there are many, many flavours available as well as the strawberry including peach, blueberry and lemon. The blueberry and lemon flavours are specially designed to compliment your gin and tonic!

The pots of bubbles are 125g each, provide about 6 servings and retail for around £3.49. The bubbles proved very popular and jazzed up our champagne and prosecco’s over the Christmas period!

Anyway, a couple of months ago I came across one of Popaball’s new products:

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Raspberry Shimmer Popaball for Prosecco

This stuff is absolutely amazing! I’ve already used two packs and ordered packs for friends Birthday’s! It comes in a small pot of 21 grams which works out at about 14 servings and each pot retails at £6.99.

All you do is add a tiny amount (around 1/3 of a teaspoon) into a glass half filled with Prosecco and watch as the Prosecco changes into this beautiful rose gold pink swirling glitter shimmer- there’s even tiny little heart-shaped pieces of gold leaf added too!

The shimmer is raspberry flavour and sweetens up the Prosecco so don’t add too much if you like your Prosecco dry! Your girl-friends will go crazy over it and it’s absolutely ideal for events like hen parties and cocktail evenings! The photos and videos really do not do the product justice!

Don’t forget to upload your photos and videos to Instagram and Facebook and to tag Popaball in them!

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Order from Lakeland or directly from the Popaball Website!

Hello Oahu!

Oahu, Hawaii – one of the best places I have visited over the years! I can see why people continue to return here year after year! The people are so friendly, the weather is beautiful, the food is amazing and no matter which island you stay on, there’s plenty to see and do!

We struggled to decide whether to visit Maui or Oahu on our first visit to Hawaii but eventually settled on Oahu – it did not disappoint!! The name of Oahu translates as “the gathering place”.

We stayed in a hotel very close to Waikiki Beach and just over the road from the International Market Place.

There are so many amazing places to visit whilst staying on Oahu. Some of the highlights of our trip included the following:

Pearl Harbor

You don’t often expect to burst into tears on holiday but the tour was so so insightful and incredibly moving and very tastefully done. During the massive attack on Pearl Harbor, one of the ships that sank was the USS Arizona, and as part of the trip you can stand above the wreckage of this incredible ship, and visit the monument to the men who were killed in this ambush. You can also tour the Battleship Missouri.

On December 7, 1941, Washington intercepted a written message from Japan threatening war. The United States did not appreciate the full implications of the 7:30am Hawaii deadline. A last minute warning was sent to the Pacific commanders, however General Short did not receive the message until hours after the attack. Poor communications between Washington and Hawaii helped the Japanese achieve the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Japanese began their air attack. The first wave arrived over Pearl Harbor at approximately 7:45 am to find seven U.S. battleships moored along “Battleship Row”, on the east side of Ford Island. Other moorings which the Japanese believed might include battleships, or the equally important aircraft carriers, were at the Navy Yard’s 1010 Dock and along Ford Island’s western side.

The Japanese initially hit the airfields, destroying many aircrafts located on the southern tip of Ford Island. This attack was the World’s first notification that war had begun in the Pacific. Moments thereafter, torpedo planes attacked from the west hitting the USS Helena, USS Utah and USS Raleigh, all on the west side of Ford Island. From the east, torpedo planes came in and hit the USS California, the USS Nevada, USS Oklahoma and West Virginia located on the east side of Ford Island.

As the torpedo planes continued the first wave attacks, additional bombs were dropped on “Battleship Row”, hitting several ships. The USS Arizona received a death blow followed by a huge explosion. As the first wave departed, the Japanese telegraph operator taped out Tora, Tora, Tora: the code word for surprise attack achieved.

The second wave of planes further attacked some of the ships already hit, further destroying the Navy Yard. The battleship Pennsylvania and three destroyers were bombed in dry dock. Other bombers went after the Nevada, which had left her berth and was trying to get to sea. Anti-aircraft gunfire met these ships, causing losses which were far greater than those of the first attack wave.

You can find out more about Pearl Harbor here.

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Tour of Honolulu – Ko’olau Mountains

It is not a mountain range in the normal sense, because it was formed as a single mountain called Koʻolau Volcano (Koʻolau means “windward” in Hawaiian). What remains of Koʻolau is the western half of the original volcano that was destroyed in prehistoric times when the entire eastern half slid into the Pacific Ocean.

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Iolani Palace

The ʻIolani Palace was the royal residence of the rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii beginning with Kamehameha III under the Kamehameha Dynasty (1845) and ending with Queen Liliʻuokalani (1893) under the Kalākaua Dynasty, founded by her brother, King David Kalākaua. On a more modern note, it as where the most recent series of Hawaii 5-0 was filmed!

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Eternal flame memorial 

The Eternal Flame is an abstract sculpture erected just across the street from the Hawaii State Capitol Building in Honolulu. It is a lovely memorial which honors those who have served in the armed forces of the United States.

The Honolulu State Capitol building

The Hawaii State Capitol is the official statehouse or capitol building of the U.S. state of Hawaii. From its chambers, the executive and legislative branches perform the duties involved in governing the state.

Wedding Vows!

The hotel we were staying in organises a complimentary renewal of vows ceremony on Waikiki beach every week and so we took full advantage of this during our stay! It was a lovely event hosted by a real Kalu (priest) complete with Hula Dancer. It was really magical and a lovely memory to add to our holiday!

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Learning to surf

Hubby also couldn’t wait to take advantage of the waves of Waikiki beach and had soon signed himself up for a surfing lesson. As you can see from the pictures, he is one of those irritating people that attempt something for three minutes and then somehow seem to master it! I sat on beautiful Waikiki beach and worked on my tan and played the part of paparazzi whilst he showed off his new found skills!

Paradise Cove Luau

As soon as we had booked our trip to Hawaii the one thing I knew I wanted to do was to go to a luau!! After a bit of research we decided on booking tickets to the Paradise Cove Luau.

Your Paradise Cove Luau begins with a Mai Tai greeting. You then stroll through the Hawaiian Village and learn the Arts and Crafts of the islands and play traditional Hawaiian Games such as:

  • ‘O’o ihe: Spear throwing. ‘O’o ihe, which once trained young warriors in hand-to-hand spear fighting and helped develop skills for food gathering, is frustratingly difficult. A target, sometimes the stalk of a banana plant, is set up. Contestants stand 15 feet away and attempt to stick a lightweight wooden spear into it!
  • ‘Ulu maika: Rolling stone disks. ‘Ulu maika or ‘olohu was one of the most popular sports in early Hawaii. It consisted of rolling carefully crafted playing stones, resembling modern hockey pucks, on specially prepared courses. The stones were rolled between stakes to test a player’s skills or rolled down long courses to show strength.
  • Moa pahe’e: Dart sliding. A player slides a moa, or wooden dart, between two stakes or for long distances much like the competition in ‘ulu maika.

After the delightful Shower of Flowers, where men climb trees and sprinkle beautiful flowers onto the beach and crowd below, you can learn about the net fishing techniques of old Hawaii.

Later you can witness the time-honored techniques of underground oven cooking at the Imu Ceremony. An imu is an underground oven that uses a combination of hot coals, stones and layers of leaves and cloth or mats to steam food.  For a luau, the imu is primarily used to cook the delicious shredded kalua pork, a staple on any luau menu. The ceremony consists of removing the layers of cloth and leaves from the pit oven to expose the cooked pork. The pork is removed from the pit and taken to the kitchen for shredding.

After watching the beautiful sunset, the evening then continues with a traditional Hawaiian feast and an unforgettable display of songs and dances by amazing performers (including fire in some performances!)

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Byodo-In-Temple

The Byodo-In Temple is a temple located at the Valley of the Temples. It was dedicated in August 1968 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. The temple is a replica of a 900-year-old Buddhist temple at Uji in Kyoto prefecture of Japan. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a functioning Buddhist temple in the proper sense as it does not host a resident monastic community nor an active congregation.

The TV series Hawaii Five-O and Magnum, P.I. featured several episodes where the temple is incorporated into the plot. The temple and its vicinity also served as a stand-in for South Korea in one episode of the ABC series Lost and as the Presidential Villa in an episode of seaQuest DSV.

The temple was also used in the 2001 movie Pearl Harbor as a replica of the Byodo-In Temple in Japan.

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Chinaman’s Hat Island

Mokoliʻi, commonly known as Chinaman’s Hat, is a basalt islet in Kāneʻohe Bay, Hawaii. Mokoliʻi is part of Kualoa Regional Park and is located 13 mile offshore of Kualoa Point, Oahu. 

Mokoliʻi translates from Hawaiian as “little lizard.” According to Hawaiian mythology, the island is the remains of a giant lizard’s or dragon’s tail that was chopped off and tossed into the ocean by the goddess Hiʻiaka. The common name of Chinaman’s Hat derives from its likeness to the Asian conical hat.

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La’ie Point

La’ie Point is tucked away behind a neighborhood in Laie, a small town on Oahu’s north shore. This small strip of land is called Laie State Wayside Park but most people just call it Laie Point. The iconic landmark of Laie Point is this small islet with a big hole in the middle. La’ie Point is apparently a popular cliff jumping spot! Rather them than me!!

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Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach is on the North Shore of Oahu and is known for big wave surfing during the winter season. The original Hawaiian name for this place is Paumalū. Today Sunset Beach is home to the prestigious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, which is part of the World Cup of Surfing.

Like many beaches on Oahu’s North Shore, Sunset Beach is considered dangerous for inexperienced surfers, due to extensive coral formations near the surface! All the surfing contests take place in the winter around December and January, that being the time of the largest and best waves for surfing.

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Turtle Bay

The area which is one of the last undeveloped areas on Oahu is recognised for its rock formations, wild coastal beaches, threatened green sea turtles and endangered Hawaiian monk seal habitats. The beach is sandy but the swimming conditions are very poor at Turtle Bay because the ocean bottom near the shore is very rocky. There is a large limestone shelf that spans almost the entire length of the bay.

Due to its still largely unspoiled landscape, natural beauty and large waves along with its proximity to Honolulu, it is a popular area for filming. The area was the setting for the 2008 Universal Pictures film Forgetting Sarah Marshall and also served as a backdrop for the ABC TV series Lost.

Anyway, down to the real reason I wanted to visit this amazing place – check out these beautiful guys who were there to greet us on our arrival!!

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Dole Plantation

Originally operated as a fruit stand beginning in 1950, Dole Plantation opened to the public as Hawaii’s “Pineapple Experience” in 1989. Today, Dole Plantation is one of Oahu’s most popular visitor attractions and welcomes more than one million visitors a year.
Dole Plantation provides enjoyable activities including the Pineapple Express Train Tour, the Plantation Garden Tour, and the Pineapple Garden Maze. And, before you leave you can purchase fresh pineapple to take home!

Diamond Head

Diamond Head is the name of a volcanic cone on the island of Oahu and was given its name by English Sailors who mistook the calcite crystals on the adjacent beach for diamonds. Diamond Head is estimated to be around 400,000 to 500,000 years old and was created after a series of eruptions from the Koʻolau Volcano.

A 0.75-mile (1.1-km) hike (!!) leads to the edge of the crater’s rim. The hike is not a casual one: the mostly unpaved trail winds over uneven rock, ascends 74 steps, then through a tunnel and up another steep 99 steps!! Next is a small lighted tunnel to a narrow spiral staircase (43 steps) inside a coastal artillery observation platform built in 1908. From the summit above the observation platform both Waikīkī and the Pacific Ocean can be seen in detail, and the views really are spectacular and well worth the climb (although – highly recommend not doing the climb in the midday heat, in flip flops, like I did!!)

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As you can see, an incredible place with so much to see and do and so much history to learn about! I would highly recommend paying a visit – if I was offered the chance to go again I would absolutely jump at the chance!

CocoChlo in San Francisco

San Francisco – what a fabulous place!! Another place I visited which I wish I had visited for longer! We only visited for three days but what a fun-filled amazing three days it was! During our trip we saw the following places:

Union Square – the central shopping, hotel and theatre district of San Francisco! Pack a credit card! Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany’s and plenty of other high end stores await!

Coit Tower – also known as the Lillian Coit Memorial Tower. Coit Tower was paid for with money left by Lillie Hitchcock Coit. Lillie Coit was one of the more eccentric characters in the history of North Beach and Telegraph Hill, smoking cigars and wearing trousers long before it was socially acceptable for women to do so. She was an avid gambler and often dressed like a man in order to gamble in the males-only establishments that dotted North Beach. Lillie had a special relationship with the city’s firefighters. At the age of fifteen she witnessed the Knickerbocker Engine Co. No. 5 in response to a fire call up on Telegraph Hill when they were shorthanded, and threw her school books to the ground and pitched in to help, calling out to other bystanders to help get the engine up the hill to the fire, to get the first water onto the blaze. Lillie’s will read that she wished for one third of her fortune “to be expended in an appropriate manner for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city which I have always loved. “Two memorials were built in her name as a result – one was Coit Tower, and the other was a sculpture depicting three firemen, one of them carrying a woman in his arms.

Alcatraz – Be prepared to spend a good few hours at this fascinating place! During your tour you can expect to see, amongst many other things, the morgue, the showers, the cells, the dining area, the recreation yard, the lighthouse and the prison office! I think hubby was keen on locking me in a cell and leaving me there though!

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Also while at Alcatraz they cover the amazing stories of those who have escaped the prison, the most famous escape being the June 1962 prison break. More info can be found here.

San Francisco Cable Cars – the worlds last manually operated cable car system and an icon of San Francisco! Only three routes now remain – two routes from downtown Union Square to Fisherman’sWharf (Powell-Mason line 59 and Powell-Hyde line 60) and the third along California Street (California Street line 61).

We travelled on the Powell-Hyde line which I was told was the best one to take to capture pictures of the fantastic hilly streets of San Fran. The route also takes you past the infamous Lombard Street – a street with eight hairpin turns and described as “the most crooked street in the world”.

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The Golden Gate Bridge – The bridge has been described as the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world. As you can see, unfortunately on our trip to the bridge we were the victims of San Francisco’s well known microclimate and the majority of the bridge was covered in fog! Such a shame!

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Presidio Park is a park and former U.S. Army military fort and is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The park is characterised by many wooded areas, hills, and scenic vistas overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. It was recognized as a California Historical Landmark in 1933 and as a National Historic Landmark in 1962.

The Painted Ladies Victorian Houses is the row of Victorian houses at 710–720 Steiner Street, across from Alamo Square park, sometimes known as “Postcard Row.” The houses were built between 1892 and 1896 by developer Matthew Kavanaugh, who lived next door in the 1892 mansion at 722 Steiner Street. This block appears very frequently in media and mass-market photographs of the city and its tourist attractions and has appeared in an estimated 70 movies, TV programs, and ads. 

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The Financial District serves as San Francisco’s main central business district. It is home to the city’s largest concentration of corporate headquarters, law firms, insurance companies, real estate firms, banks, savings and loans, and other financial institutions. The city’s tallest buildings, including 555 California Street and the Transamerica Pyramid (see below), and many other tall buildings, such as 101 California Street and 345 California Street are located there. Montgomery Street (sometimes called “Wall Street of the West”) is the traditional heart of the district.

The Transamerica Pyramid is the second-tallest skyscraper in the San Francisco skyline and on completion in 1972 it was the eighth tallest building in the world. The building no longer houses the headquarters of the Transamerica Corporation, but it is still associated with the company and is depicted in the company’s logo. It’s a very fascinating building!

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China Town centered on Grant Avenue and Stockton Street is the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinese community outside Asia!! Since its establishment in 1848, it has been highly important and influential in the history and culture of ethnic Chinese immigrants in North America. Chinatown is an enclave that continues to retain its own customs, languages, places of worship, social clubs, and identity. There are two hospitals, numerous parks and squares, a post office, and other infrastructure. China Town is also a major tourist attraction, drawing more visitors annually than the Golden Gate Bridge!! Well worth a visit whilst you are in San Fran!!

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Pier 39 – also worth a visit whilst you are here! At Pier 39, there are shops, restaurants, a video arcade, street performances, the Aquarium of the Bay, virtual 3D rides, and views of California sea lions hauled out on docks on Pier 39’s marina. California sea lions have always been present in San Francisco Bay and they started to haul out on docks of Pier 39 in September 1989. Although fluctuations in the number of sea lions at Pier 39 are dramatic, (as many as 1,701 in Thanksgiving Week in 2009, have been officially reported at one time) many of whom are recognisable and some of whom have been unofficially named! 

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An amazing city unlike anywhere else! If you get the chance to visit then do so – my only other piece of advice is to check the temperatures before you go – the weather is very unpredictable and for the majority of the three days we were there, hubby and i were absolutely freezing when we were out at Alcatraz and near the pier! Speaking to some locals, they said that local traders make the most of their profits through tourists mis-judging the weather! Apparently the most popular items purchased from local stores are hoodies and sweatshirts!! Travel prepared guys and wrap up warm!!

Chatsworth House

We visited Chatsworth House in December as part of a trip through Newmarket Holidays, we spent one day at Chatsworth House and then spent the evening in a nearby hotel and the following day shopping in Chester.

Chatsworth is home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and has been passed down through 16 generations of the Cavendish family.

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Today, Chatsworth contains works of art that span 4,000 years, from ancient Roman and Egyptian sculpture, and masterpieces by Rembrandt, Reynolds and Veronese, to work by outstanding modern artists, including Lucian Freud, Edmund de Waal and David Nash.

There are over 30 rooms to explore at Chatsworth, from the magnificent Painted Hall, regal State Rooms, restored Sketch Galleries and beautiful Sculpture Gallery.

Chatsworth House is built on sloping ground which is lower on the north and west sides than on the south and east sides. The main entrance was on the west front, which had four turrets, and the great hall was on the east side of the courtyard, where the Painted Hall remains the focus of the house to this day.

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Chatsworth has 126 rooms, with nearly 100 of them closed to visitors. The house is well-adapted to allow the family to live privately while the house is open to the public.  The family occupies rooms on the ground and first floors of the south front, all three floors of the west front, and the upper two floors of the north front. Staircases in the northeast corner of the main block and in a turret in the east front enable them to move about without crossing the public route.

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The Garden and some of its features

Chatsworth’s garden attracts around 300,000 visitors a year. It has a complex blend of different features from six different centuries and covers 105 acres!!

The Cascade and Cascade House is a set of stone steps over which water flows from a set of fountains at the top. It was built in 1696 and rebuilt on a grander scale in 1701. In 1703 a grand baroque Temple or Cascade House designed by Thomas Archer was added at the top. In 2004 the Cascade was voted the best water feature in England by a panel of 45 garden experts. It has 24 cut steps, each slightly different and with a variety of textures so that each gives a different sound when water runs over and down them.

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The Canal Pond, dug in 1702, is a 287 metre long rectangular lake to the south of the house.

The Seahorse Fountain is a sculptural fountain in a circular pond on the lawn between the house and the Canal Pond.

The Willow Tree Fountain is an imitation tree that squirts water on the unsuspecting from its branches!

The First Duke’s greenhouse is a long, low building with ten arched windows and a temple-like centrepiece. It has been moved from its original site overlooking the 1st Duke’s bowling green to the northern edge of the main lawn and is now fronted by a rose garden.

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Flora’s Temple is a classical temple built in 1695 and moved to its present site at the northern end of the broad walk in 1760. It contains a statue of the goddess Flora by Caius Gabriel Cibber.

The West Garden—now the family’s private garden with modern planting in a three-section formal structure.

The Emperor Fountain: An eight-acre lake was dug on the moors 350 feet above the house to supply the natural water pressure. The work was finished in just six months,  and the resulting water jet is on record as reaching a height of 296 feet (90 m)!!

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Although it was magical visiting in December, the house was decorated inside from top to bottom with Christmas decorations which was lovely, but it was also a shame because in some places you couldn’t see the traditional decor and ornaments, so in my opinion it would be good to visit at another time of the year in order to view the “real” Chatsworth House.

The house is open mainly from 11am until 5pm but double check the dates you are going for more accurate opening times depending on the season. Pre-book your tickets here. My suggestion is to get there as early as possible as there really is so much to see and lots of ground to cover, especially as you will need to stop for some lunch at some point!!

You can read even more information on Chatsworth House here.

 

 

Welcome to Miami!

My only regret about visiting Miami was that we didn’t visit for long enough! We travelled to Miami as part of a multi centre trip and only ended up spending three days here which was no where near enough time!!

We arrived in MIA airport in the afternoon but due to the ridiculous queues we encountered in customs we didn’t arrive at the hotel until the early evening! Be prepared to allow plenty of time to clear customs before making arrangements!!

Our first full day in Miami started at the Miami Seaquarium where we got to see Dolphins, Manatees, Sea turtles and Sea Lions and of course the infamous Killer Whale. We visited here before all the controversy surrounding the treatment of Orca Killer Whales in captivity (which came about as a result of the Blackfish Documentary) and although it was amazing experience to see all these incredible animals, and they all appeared to be well looked after, I’ve made a conscious decision to boycott these types of places from now on…

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The following day we took part in a full day tour of Miami, I usually like us to explore most places by ourselves but because our time was so short here in Miami this day tour was absolutely perfect to fit as much in as possible.

The tour started with a Miami city tour which included sights such as The Versace House,   Ocean Drive, Biscayne Bay and even the cemetery where the video for Michael Jackson’s Thriller was filmed!

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The Versace House
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Ocean Drive

The second part of the tour was a boat trip around Biscayne Bay which was absolutely brilliant! We had excellent photo opportunities of Star Island (where all the celebrities live) and the amazing Miami Skyline. We even got the chance to see the infamous house where Scarface was filmed (and just in time, as it was very sadly demolished shortly after our visit) and the houses where Bad Boys 1&2, Cocoon, Addam’s family and Miami Vice were filmed!! Throw in Madonna’s and Robert De Niro’s house and all in all it was a real star spotting afternoon!!!

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The Scarface House
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The Addams family House

The third part of our tour was a trip to the Miami Everglades!  We started off with an airboat ride through the everglades which was windy and extremely loud but a fantastic experience!! The guides talked us through the different animals and birds we encountered along the way, including baby alligators and GIANT toads!

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After our airboat ride, we sat down and had talks from the guides about alligators, toads, parrots and other animals they encounter on a day to day basis. Check hubby out with the baby alligator named Larry!!

We finished the evening off with a visit to Miami’s South Beach to catch it when it was relatively quiet and to see the sunset. If we had had more time in Miami I would have definitely spent the day here!

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Miami is somewhere I would love to visit again, and to spend far longer here as well, particularly as a few months ago I ended up binge watching the series Dexter on Netflix which is filmed entirely in and around Miami! Watching this series has only made me want to return to Miami even more!

Peonies and Petals

Just before Christmas I came across the most amazing website called Peonies and Petals. The ideas and flower designs they were showing on their website are nothing like I have ever seen before!

Peonies and Petals specialise in “one year roses” – real roses which last a year or even longer and are delivered in beautiful Parisian style keepsake boxes.

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The flowers are hand delivered to you, but at the moment delivery is limited to the Gloucestershire area. When the flowers are delivered, they are brought to the delivery address in a lovely black car with an incredibly smartly dressed driver who carefully brings them to your door for you (it was raining at the time mine was delivered so he arrived holding an umbrella over my rose to keep it dry!)

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The colours they use in their designs are spectacular – the “Tiffany Blue” colour is proving to be especially popular but they also have rainbow, gold and rose gold coloured roses.

As soon as I found them online I knew I had to have some! I trawled through the website for days trying to make my mind up which design and colour to go for when I learned about their new product – the Enchanted Rose. I fell in love with it then and there and contacted them straight away to place an order for a gold enchanted rose – and luckily for me it was the last one they had in stock at the time!