A picnic at The Bush Inn

For all of you who love a good old Afternoon Tea, have I got a treat for you! This is no ordinary Afternoon Tea, it is called a Picnic Bench and is piled high with delicious home-made treats, and it can only be found at a place called The Bush Inn in Hereford.

I have been meaning to visit here since towards the end of last year after seeing their amazing Winter Picnic Bench doing the rounds on Facebook, but with the house move going on and loads of family events, I just didn’t get round to going!

My friends husband booked for them to go as a surprise for Valentines Day and as soon as I saw the photos I knew I had to go as soon as possible! My friend booked the four of us in at the end of April and I was counting down the days until we could go!

Anyway, we booked just in time for their Spring range of picnic benches, and the food on offer was all of my absolute favourites!! I couldn’t believe it when the menu was released,  it was like it was made especially for me!

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Here’s what the Spring picnic bench is made up of:

Chicken burger with salad

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Mozzarella stick with salsa

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Basket of seasoned waffle fries

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Mini macaroni cheese

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Mint Aero cheesecake in a shot glass

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Citrus jelly in a shot glass

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Mini jam jar of passion fruit posset

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Rocky Road slice

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Lemon Victoria sponge cake

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White chocolate coated cake pop

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all served with a mini bottle of Berry Fizz and a Mini Mojito!

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A vegetarian version is available on request – this option is a nut roast burger as an alternative to the chicken burger and everything else remains the same as it is all suitable for vegetarians.

You can only book by calling them directly (01432 830206) and 24 hours notice is required – although be warned, they only serve their picnic benches for a couple of hours a day (12pm to 2pm Tuesday to Saturday, 6:30pm to 8:30pm Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, Fridays 6:00pm to 8:30pm and Saturdays 5:45pm to 7pm) and so places sell out extremely quickly!

The price is £16.50 per person which is an absolute bargain for the amount and quality of food you get per person, I have paid double this for a posh afternoon tea which left me feeling hungry afterwards!

They don’t have a specific website but if you are on Facebook you can find their Facebook page here.

I highly recommend paying a visit if you have the opportunity! I will definitely be coming back! The seasonal picnic benches they have are brilliant. The Easter one they served recently looked delicious and the Winter version they had last year looked incredible so I would definitely like to try another seasonal one at some point! They are currently considering doing a Summer Picnic Bench and a Royal Wedding themed Picnic Bench in May to celebrate Harry and Meghan getting married – sounds a great idea to me!

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A trip to Kensington Palace

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I hadn’t ever thought about visiting Kensington Palace but when I told my Mum I wanted to visit London for the day and asked her what she fancied doing she said she had always wanted to visit! Even better, you can get Kensington Palace entry tickets by exchanging your Tesco Clubcard vouchers, bargain!

Kensington Palace is situated in Kensington Gardens and has been the residence of the British Royal Family since the 17th Century. It is currently the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, and Princess Eugenie.

Kensington Palace was built as a royal home for William III and Mary II at the end of the 17th Century. It has had many roles over the years, including a museum and a barracks for soldiers guarding the Great Exhibition. It used to be a small mansion known as Nottingham house. In 1689 the new monarchs, King William III and Queen Mary II, purchased Nottingham House for £20,000 and only weeks later, Sir Christopher Wren began work on transforming it into a royal palace. The new palace had a chapel, courtier accommodation, kitchens, stables, barracks and many grand rooms and state apartments. Queen Mary died in 1694 of smallpox in her bed chamber in the palace but had spent many years before designing and furnishing the palace.

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William didn’t make many alterations to the Palace, and his successor, Queen Anne, only reigned for a short time and so only added the orangery during her time. Anne left no heir and so the palace passed to her distant relative, George Ludwig.

The new King George liked Kensington Palace but found it to be in very poor condition and so plans were made to rebuild it on a much larger scale. A new set of State Apartments were built to replace the old Jacobean house in 1718 to 1722.

During the reign of King George II between 1727 and 1760, the Palace was used to its full potential as George and Queen Caroline enjoyed entertaining their guests in lavish ceremonies. Unfortunately, after Queen Caroline’s death in 1737, the King closed off half of the palace. King George died in his private apartments at Kensington Palace in October 1760.

George III showed little interest in Kensington Palace throughout his reign (1760-1820), but this did mean that the furnishings and paintings were left untouched in dark rooms for this time. The Palace eventually became home to George III’s two sons, Prince Augustus, Duke of Sussex and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent. Prince Augustus was a book collector, and amassed over 50,000 volumes in his apartment! Prince Edward was the father of Queen Victoria, who was born in the palace in 1819. In June 1837 she was told of her accession to the throne, and held her first council in the Red Saloon.

Queen Victoria’s daughters, Princess Louise and Princess Beatrice, later lived in the palace. Louise was a really gifted artist and left the legacy of the statue of the young Queen Victoria which sits at the east side of the palace.

A major restoration of the palace took place in 1898 under the orders of Queen Victoria and in 1912 the rooms were filled with display cases when the palace became home to the London Museum. A lot of damage was caused to the Palace by incendiary bombs during the Second World War.

In the 1960’s, Princess Margaret came to live at the Palace, and further members of the Royal Family began to arrive in the 1970’s and 1980’s, one of the most famous of these being Diana, Princess of Wales, who lived at Kensington Palace up to her death in 1997.

There are several tours you can take within Kensington Palace which are:

The Kings State Apartments

The Kings Staircase leads to the King’s State Apartments, and all visitors for the King would have climbed this staircase, (provided that their clothes and jewels were acceptable to the guards!) The staircase paintings were completed around 1726 by an artist called William Kent, who included a portrait of himself on the ceiling in a brown artists cap and holding a palette. Kent’s work was inspired by the work he had seen in Rome, where he trained to be an artist.

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The Presence Chamber was where the King would sit on his throne, under a crimson silk damask throne canopy, and important guests would be ushered in to bow to him.

The Privy Chamber was one of Queen Caroline’s favourite entertaining spaces. It has another amazing ceiling created by William Kent in 1723 and shows Mars, the Roman god of War, and Minerva the goddess of Wisdom, and surrounding them are the emblems representing the arts and sciences.

The Cupola Room was probably my favourite room of the Palace. This room was the first room decorated by William Kent. In this room he re-created in paint a baroque Roman palace but with the Star of the Order of the Garter as the ceiling’s centrepiece. George II and Queen Caroline hosted really lavish parties in this room.

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The strange object in the centre of this room is a clock and a music box as well as a piece of artwork, and was completed in 1743.

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The Kings Drawing Room would have been packed full of courtiers back in the day, who would have all attended the King’s parties seeking power and patronage.

On the ceiling William Kent has shown the powerful god Jupiter, who accidentally killed his lover Semele, and portraits of Venetian doges line the walls. Next door to this room was the King’s bedchamber, and halfway through the evening he would emerge to make his grand appearance.

The Council Chamber is located in one of Christopher Wren’s pavilions, built on the corners of the original Nottingham House and it has served William III, George I and George II as a meeting place for the Privy Council. The sort of court dress that would once have been worn in these state rooms is on display here.

Queen Caroline’s Closet is a small room which originally belonged to William III as his bedchamber. George I used this room to store books but these were removed after Queen Caroline made one of the most important art discoveries of the era. In 1727, she found hidden in a cabinet a portfolio containing many drawings made by Hans Holbein, the younger of Henry VIII and his courtiers. Caroline later made this room a gallery filled with 300 paintings, miniatures and embroideries.

The Kings Gallery was built for William III as an addition to Wren’s design in the new South front and was finished in around 1700. It was in here that William III played soldiers with his little nephew and intended heir, the Duke of Gloucester. After a riding accident at Hampton Court, it was here that the King caught the chill that led to his death on 8th March 1702.

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The gallery was transformed in 1725 by William Kent for George I. Red damask replaced the green velvet walls and the fine oak joinery was painted white and gilded. Kent and his assistants painted the seven large ceiling canvasses that show scenes from the life of Ulysses.

Queen’s State Apartments

The Queen’s State Apartments are deliberately plainer and lower-key than the Kings, both inside and out. Here you can learn more about the lives of Mary II, Queen Anne and the House of Stuart.

The Queen’s Staircase is a sharp contrast to the grand marble King’s staircase. These apartments were built for Queen Mary between 1689 and 1694.

The Queen’s Gallery was painted white and hung with full length portraits of Kings and Queens  of England. Later, Mary developed a passion for collecting treasures from India, China and Japan. She filled the gallery with artefacts such as Turkish carpets, embroidered hangings and lacquer furniture, alongside her collection of 150 pieces of oriental porcelain.

The Queen’s Closet was where a terrible argument took place between Queen Anne and her childhood friend Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough.

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The Queen’s Eating Room has beautiful panelling which has survived from the 17th Century. In here, William and Mary would share simple private dinners of fish and beer. Mary would also use this room to make tea with the ladies of her household.

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The Queen’s Drawing Room used to be filled with Mary II’s porcelain. This room is the room which is claimed to have lost most of its original character, as it badly damaged by an incendiary bomb on 14th October 1940. Most of the panelling was destroyed which is why the walls are now wallpapered.

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The Queen’s Bedroom was used by Mary as her State bedroom when she and William first moved into the palace. Just as soon as Christopher Wren had finished work on the Queen’s Apartments, Mary had her rooms extended to provide her with more accommodation. This resulted in the Queen’s Gallery and a new private bedchamber being built.

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Victoria Revealed

We were very disappointed because this exhibition was closed when we visited, and it was one of the main exhibitions we wanted to see! We will definitely have to revisit to see this. In this exhibition you can visit the rooms Queen Victoria grew up in and learn more about her life right through from her childhood to her final years. In this section of the palace we would have been able to see:

The Stone Staircase where Princess Victoria first met her cousin and future husband, Prince Albert, for the first time in 1836.

The Red Saloon where Victoria held her first Privy Council on the morning she became Queen in June 1837.

On this tour you will also learn more about how Victoria and Albert fell in love and Victoria’s lonely family life growing up at Kensington Palace.

There is also a separate exhibition about Price Albert known as the Great Exhibition, which was in 1851 and would later be known as his greatest piece of work. It showcased technological and cultural achievements from over the world and attracted over six million visitors.

Modern Royals

This is a changing display – when we were here it was a beautiful Diana exhibition showcasing some of her most famous outfits. Well worth a visit and it slightly made up for the fact that the Victoria exhibition was closed.

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The first dress below was designed by Bruce Oldfield, who designed many dresses for the Princess. She wore it at the Courtauld institute of Art, Somerset House in 1990 and again at the Buckingham Palace state banquet in 1991.The Princess chose the second dress in the below picture for an official visit to Japan. The colour was chosen to complement the flowering cherry blossoms.

Diana chose to wear the Spencer Tiara, a sparkling family heirloom, on a state visit to India in 1992. This second dress was designed to complement it. The embroidery on the bodice of this dress was based on traditional Indian patterns.

The Princess wore this first dress when she danced with actor John Travolta at the White House. This second dress was embellished with falcons, the national bird of Saudi Arabia, when the Princess visited there. The high neckline and long sleeves also respected local customs.

The second dress below was worn by the Princess when she visited Brazil, shortly after their national football team lost to Argentina in the World Cup. Conscious of her hosts feelings, she instructed the designer, Catherine Walker, to avoid the blue and white colours of the Argentinian team when she designed the gown.

The second dress below was worn to the New York gala event before the Christie’s Auction.

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You can also visit the beautiful Palace Gardens, which were transformed in 2012. During the winter months, Queen Anne’s orange trees were protected from the cold inside her magnificent orangery, which was built for her between 1704 and 1705. In the summer months, they were transferred to the terrace outside. Anne also added fountains and an alcove with a garden seat to the south gardens. This still exists but was moved to nearby Lancaster Gate in the 1860’s. In 1705, 100 acres were added to the east side of the palace to form a paddock for royal deer and antelope.

The majority of the works done to the gardens were down to Queen Caroline. She extended the plantings, laid the Broad Walk and had the Round Pond dug in 1728. The Serpentine was formed as a boating lake by flooding several smaller ponds.

The Sunken Garden was laid out during the reign of Edward VII and opened in 1909, and is the most popular of the Palace gardens.

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The east and the south sides of the palace were laid out in 2012 with a new scheme designed by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, inspired by the old layouts of lawns, trees, borders and topiary of George II’s time.

Queen Victoria is present at the front of the Palace in the form of a statue, which was designed by her daughter Louise.

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Kensington Palace was a lovely day out in spite of the cold, wet weather! A place I will definitely have to visit again so I can see the gardens properly in the sunshine and hopefully finally get to see the Victoria exhibition when it re-opens, which should be any day now….

Popaball Drink Shimmers

I first wrote a review over a year ago on Popaball’s amazing Rose Gold shimmer for prosecco, but things have come on a long way since then and Popaball now have a range of SIX of these amazing drinks shimmers, so I thought it was time to write an updated blog!

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Here is the full range of lovely drink shimmers you can currently get from Popaball;

Violet Shimmer

This one tastes delicious! It is blackcurrant flavour and can be used in any drink from champagne to lemonade!

Simply add 1/3 of a teaspoon of the shimmer to a glass of drink which is about half full and watch your drink turn a multicoloured unicorn effect until the bubbles settle, revealing your drink as a beautiful violet purple colour.

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This can also be used in cocktails as an alternative to creme de cassis! It is my favourite shimmer flavour-wise!

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Rose Gold Shimmer

The original drinks shimmer – I love this stuff! I bought several packs when it was released and it was brilliant to take to parties and on girls nights out to jazz up your prosecco. I’ve also bought several as gifts for family and friends!

Everyone loves the shimmery rose gold effect it creates in prosecco! It is raspberry flavoured and also contains edible gold leaf hearts!

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Just fill your glass 3/4 full with prosecco, slowly sprinkle in 1/3 of a teaspoon of the shimmer powder, watch it bubble up and then reveal a beautiful rose gold shimmering unicorn style prosecco! My favourite overall shimmer from the selection so far!

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Blue Pearl shimmer for Gin

This shimmer is designed to be used in gin and tonics, however, I don’t like gin so I have been drinking this in my prosecco just like the other flavours!

The Blue Pearl is blueberry flavoured and (if you are using it in your gin and tonics) you just need to fill 1/2 a glass with ice, add 25ml of gin, and top with tonic water, slowly sprinkle in 1/3 teaspoon of the shimmer powder and watch your gin bubble and then reveal a beautiful blue pearl mermaid style shimmery drink!

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If, like me, gin isn’t your thing, then as with the violet and rose gold shimmer, simply add 1/3 of a teaspoon in with your prosecco/champagne/lemonade or whatever you happen to be drinking!

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Popaball’s latest releases are the Gold, Silver and Bronze drink shimmers which are designed for any drink as they are completely flavourless. As with all the others just fill your glass 2/3 full with a sparkling drink of your choice and add 1/3 of a teaspoon of shimmer, watch it bubble up and then reveal either a lovely gold, silver or bronze coloured shimmery drink!

Gold Drink Shimmer

I was looking forward to trying the gold one most of all as gold is my favourite colour and we had gold and cream as our wedding colours!

When I used it for the first time I wish it had been around when we had got married – we could have put some in everyone’s toasting champagne so it matched our wedding theme!

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The gold one is lovely – really effective and really shimmery!

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Silver Drink Shimmer

This was the colour I was least bothered about out of the three, and when I first sprinkled the powder in I thought it didn’t have much of an effect….

However once all the bubbles have gone and you give the drink a good swirl, the silver colour is actually one of the most effective shimmers of the range!

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Again, if you are getting married this year and silver forms part of your colour theme, I would highly recommend the silver shimmer if one of your arrival or toasting drinks is prosecco or champagne!

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Bronze Drink Shimmer

I wasn’t too sure about this one as although I love bronze/copper colours at the moment, I thought the colouring might be a little bit too dark….. how wrong I was!

It’s true this is the darkest of all the colours from the range but it is also the most shimmery and effective.

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The pictures really don’t do it justice – I thought this had the best “shimmering” effect by far – maybe because the colour is so dark the golden glitter and sparkles stand out far better? This one is definitely another favourite of the range and will probably be the go-to shimmer as unlike my other favourites, the violet and the rose gold, this one is flavourless and so will go with any type of drink!

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I really highly recommend you trying them, the pictures really don’t do the shimmers justice and they are great for all kinds of occasions!

The shimmers cost £7.49 each, are 21 gram packs and each pack contains approximately 21 servings, so although the pots look small, they do last ages!

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Add more shimmer than recommended if you would like a greater effect and taste, but add only a little at a time because the shimmer does cause the drinks to fizz up and overflow if you aren’t careful! I’ve been caught out many times with this!

I wouldn’t add anymore than the recommended amount of the violet shimmer as the blackcurrant taste of this shimmer is quite strong and you only need a little bit for a great taste effect!

I have placed multiple orders with Popaball over the past year or so for their shimmers and bubbles, (and that doesn’t include their products I’ve bought from my local Lakeland), but over the Christmas period they sent me a free double pack of their bursting bubbles to say thank you for my custom over the past year!

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I thought this was a really lovely touch and customer service at its best! Thank you Popaball, it was much appreciated!

You can buy the whole range of shimmers and bubbles online at Popball’s website.

Sudeley Castle

I’ve been wanting to visit Sudeley Castle for ages and we finally went in December 2016 for their Spectacle of Light event. It was a fantastic event which you can read more about here, but we were a bit disappointed that the tickets for this event didn’t include access to the castle, just the surrounding grounds. Anyway, after we had finished wandering around the beautiful grounds we knew we would have to come back very soon to visit the rest! We chose a fantastic day to visit – bright sun and clear skies, and best of all, perfect conditions to take some photos!

The Tithe Barn is one of the first things you come across when you follow the path from the visitors centre. It is pretty stunning for a building which doesn’t have many walls left!

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A tithe was a compulsory payment to the church and represented a tenth of a person’s income. Tithes were frequently paid in agricultural goods and this barn was a store for these goods.

The barn was built in the 15th Century by Ralph Boteler but was destroyed by troops in the Civil War. Surrounding the barn are lovely flowers and shrubs including foxgloves, primroses and hydrangeas. Next to the Tithe Barn you will find a pond full of koi carp, along with your first views of the stunning castle.

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After visiting the Tithe barn you wander along the path until you come across “the Dungeons“. Above the Dungeons is the beautiful castle terrace where you can look out to the Isbourne Valley to Spoonley Wood, the site of a Roman Villa. The mosaic which appears on the terrace is an exact replica of one of the Spoonley Wood floors.

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Next you will come across the Mulberry Garden which lies alongside the terrace and was planted by Emma Dent in the 19th Century.

Mulberry trees were special to Emma, as she was the daughter of a silk manufacturer, and the leaves of a mulberry tree were the only source of food for the silkworms. There is in fact only one mulberry tree in the garden, however there look to be more than this because several trunks grow from one root.

The Dungeon Tower is next to the Mulberry Garden and is listed as an Ancient Monument in its own right.

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The basement area, (which you no longer can go down to unfortunately), housed the original dungeons which went down a total of three levels! In the 19th Century the tower was converted to stabling and offices. A human skeleton was found during the restoration works under the stones and another skull was discovered when the Mulberry Garden was planted. Unfortunately, to this day, it remains a mystery who the remains belong to….

The Royal Ruins are so beautiful to look at and great to photograph with the sun beaming down on them! During the War of the Roses, Sudeley Castle was confiscated by Edward IV, who gave it to his notorious younger brother, the Duke of Gloucester, (more commonly known as Richard III.)

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Richard recreated this area of the castle and built a huge and spectacular banqueting hall in the north east corner, the evidence of which still remains on show today. The huge gothic windows which formed part of the banqueting hall are particularly stunning.

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A large hole can be seen on the far side of the Octagon Tower in the corner,  caused by a cannonball during the second of the two sieges Sudeley endured during the 17th Century. After the war, the winning side ordered the castle to be snubbed and, as a result, most of the inner yard, including the banqueting hall, was destroyed.

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The ruins are now covered with plants and flowers including clematis and roses.

On the ground floor and mezzanine exhibition levels within the castle you will find a children’s museum, which includes a display about Brock, the family’s pet badger, and period-style costumes for the children to try on. Other exhibitions start at the Old Stables which show Sudeley’s timeline and some prehistoric and Anglo Saxon artefacts which have been discovered on the estate over the years. And if all that isn’t enough, you will also find a WW1 exhibition here!

In the upper exhibition levels in the room called the Long Room you will find the Richard III exhibition. In 2013, Richard III’s skeleton was discovered under a Leicester car park. As a result of this discovery his head was forensically reconstructed and in the Richard III exhibition you will find a model of this work. Richard was the owner of Sudeley at the time he rode out of the castle to lead his brother’s army into the battle of Tewkesbury. The model looks out through the Long Room windows towards the ruins of his beautiful banqueting hall….

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The Richard III exhibition leads into the Tudor Room. After Richard III came the Tudor’s, and the castle was owned by all three of the Tudor Kings at some point – Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Henry VII.

Henry VIII stayed here with Anne Boleyn and later, his widow, Queen Katherine Parr, came to live here with her new husband, Thomas Seymour, who had been granted the castle by Edward VI. Katherine Parr is buried in the beautiful church within the gardens.

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Along the corridor from the document room is the old Sewing Room, which is still used for the conservation of textiles today.

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Next you will come across the West Wing Rooms. These small areas haven’t long been opened to the public. In the West Wing rooms you can find some very rare documents, including an extremely important book known as the Bohun Book of Hours. The book contains works which were probably put together for Henry VIII including musical scripts and manuscripts. To this day it is not known how the Book of Hours came to be in Sudeley’s collections.

You leave the West Wing by going down the staircase known as the Haunted Staircase, which forms part of one of the most ancient parts of the castle.

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Sudeley’s housemaids often used to take the long way round to avoid using this staircase! There are said to be three ghosts haunting the grounds at Sudeley – the first is said to be Queen Katherine Parr, seen wearing a green dress, in the library and the gardens. The second is thought to be lady by the name of Janet, who was the housekeeper of the Dent-Brocklehurst family, and has been seen on the Haunted Staircase and in the South Hall. The third ghost is said to be a white hunting poodle called “Boy” who belonged to Prince Rupert of the Rhine and was given the run of the castle during the Civil War. Alongside these three, there were also reports of a darker, more evil presence which resulted in a shamanic exorcism which, hopefully, seems to have done the trick so far!

After you come down the Haunted Staircase this leads to the Queen Elizabeth Corridor. This corridor connects the east and west wings of the Castle. Along the corridor you will find the story of Queen Elizabeth I’s three day visit to the castle in 1592.

Around halfway down the corridor there is a door leading to the Knot Garden. It is a stunning garden and the pattern is based on the pattern of dress worn by Elizabeth in the famous portrait known as The Allegory of the Tudor Succession, a famous group portrait of the Tudor dynasty which was previously in the Sudeley collection.

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Beyond the Knot Garden, in a corner in the ruins, is the small Queen Elizabeth Garden. This is the oldest surviving part of the castle, with walls as old as the 12th Century. A beautiful tableau has been created here, showing Elizabeth in her Presence Chamber, ready to make a formal entrance to one of her banquets being held in the adjoining banqueting hall.

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If you return back to the Queen Elizabeth corridor you will reach the film shed, where a short film is shown about Lady Jane Grey, known as the tragic Nine Day’s Queen.

When the Castle was renovated by the Dents, the converted the East Wing into their principal rooms (I think I would have too, as they have stunning views of the garden and church from here!). The South Hall then became the main staircase of the house, and contains some beautiful Dutch Painted glass, dated between 1580 and 1620.

The Morning Room is a beautiful sunny room and is said to be the favourite of Mary Dent-Brocklehurst, the present owners mother-in-law. Despite being called the Morning Room, this room is still regularly used by the family in the evenings. Other rooms you can visit include the Library, Chandos Bedroom, and the Katherine Parr Ante Room and Katherine Parr Privy.

St Mary’s Church was formerly called the Castle Chapel. It was built in the 15th century and originally had a covered gallery linking it to the Castle. The lost gallery between the old chapel and the Castle has been recreated by a series of arches.

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Katherine Parr and Lady Jane Grey are represented by topiary figures draped in ivy and roses, as they often took this route. The last time they visited St Mary’s Church together was when Lady Jane was Chief Mourner at Katherine’s funeral. Awfully, Katherine’s widower, Thomas Seymour, did not even attend his wife’s funeral. Katherine Parr is the only Queen of England to be buried at a private residence, and you can visit her tomb inside St Mary’s Church.

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Strangely, her coffin was unearthed in the 18th Century beside a wall of the old chapel, and when it was opened her body was still almost perfectly preserved! Her remains were laid to rest again at Sudeley under a beautiful effigy, when St Mary’s church was restored.

The garden immediately surrounding St Mary’s Church is called the White Garden, with its colour symbolising the purity of the Virgin. Along the South wall you will find white roses, peonies, clematis and even a white passion flower.

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To the South of the Church lies the Queen’s Garden which is bordered by double yew hedges. A new rose garden was added to the site in 1989, as roses were the emblems of the Lancastrian, Yorkist and Tudor royal dynasties which the Castle is closely associated with.

In a corner between the castle and the church is the small East Garden. This garden was inspired by Marvell’s poem, “The Garden”, written during the Civil War. It was designed to be a “calm and meditative refuge based predominantly on shades of green”.

The walled Secret Garden can be found to the north of the church. This garden was replanted in 1979 to celebrate Lord and Lady Ashcombe’s marriage, and then replanted again in 1998 to celebrate the marriage of Lady Ashcombe’s son, Henry, to Lili Maltese.

You can find the Pheasantry on the far side of the secret garden which is thought to contain the largest private collection of rare pheasants in the country. You will also find a pair of Snowy owls and an Eagle owl here! When we visited the Pheasantry we managed to make a very pretty peacock friend who followed us nearly all the way back to the car! He seemed to bask in the attention thats for sure! Little scamp!

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A path from the pheasantry leads over the canal to a small Tudor Physic Garden which contains some of the plants that were used for medicinal purposes when Katherine Parr lived at Sudeley. Many of the plants in the garden are actually highly poisonous if not expertly prepared, such as Monkshood and Deadly Nightshade!

Further along the path is the Herb Garden which was created by Sir Roddy Llewellyn in 2011 with planting designs by Jekka McVicar. The final tableau at Sudeley, which you can find at the edge of the Herb Garden, is of Emma Dent. She is depicted in topiaries of yew and is relaxing in a quiet corner of the garden reading a book! I don’t blame her!

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As you can tell, there is so much to see and do at Sudeley Castle, and I’ve not even covered everything! A fantastic day out for all of the family and a place I would definitely re-visit very soon!

NellieNoo Fudge

Ok, so you’ve probably all realised by now that I have a really sweet tooth! Cakes, biscuits, cake pops, cheesecakes, meringues, marshmallows… you name it, I’ve tried stuffing my face with them! One of my all time favourite sweet treats, however, will always be some good old fashioned fudge!

I came across NellieNoo fudge when I was Instagram stalking for some new treats and really couldn’t choose between the wide range of flavours which were on offer! In true Chloe style I couldn’t make a decision on just a couple of flavours so I ordered a huge batch! Here’s what I thought of the fabulous flavours I’ve tried so far:

Malted

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The Malted flavour is a milk Chocolate based fudge and is deliciously creamy and malty tasting (think Malteasers flavour!). It is also one of Nellie Noo’s best sellers!

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Salted Caramel

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I love anything Salted Caramel flavour! I can’t get enough of it at the moment! The Salted Caramel flavour is a milk chocolate based fudge with loads of Salted Caramel stirred throughout. It’s lovely and creamy but you can also taste the crunchy chunks of salted caramel when you eat it! Another one of Nellie Noo’s best sellers and once you have tasted it, its easy to see why! This is my definite favourite!

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Tiramisu

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The Tiramisu is brilliantly designed fudge! A dark chocolate rich, crumbly based fudge which combines the flavours of espresso and lady finger biscuits and is then sprinkled with cocoa powder! Just like a real Tiramisu! Perfect to serve with after dinner coffee!

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Cookies and Cream

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The Cookies and Cream is a white chocolate based fudge and is filled with cream filled dark chocolate cookie chunks! I love the different texture of this one – creamy fudge with crunchy biscuits! A must try for all you Cookies and Cream fans!

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Mocha

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The Mocha is a dark and milk chocolate based fudge which has been combined with  espresso for a rich, dark, coffee flavoured hit! Again, like the tiramisu, great for serving with coffee after dinner at a dinner party! It is really delicious but very rich! I couldn’t eat many of these in one sitting!

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Dulce De Leche

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Dulce De Leche is a white chocolate based fudge and is a smooth and creamy caramel flavoured fudge. I liked this one but not as much as the Salted Caramel because I like the combination of textures however, I’d imagine this flavour is still very popular!

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Cookie Dough

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The Cookie Dough is a white chocolate based fudge with cookie dough swirled throughout to give it a great cookie dough flavour. This one is a Nellie Noo bestseller too and I can see why!

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You can order your Nellie Not fudge online here. The range of flavours on offer is so vast, I don’t think there will be a single person who wouldn’t find something they like! Some interesting flavours to keep an eye out for include Red Velvet, Sweet Carrot, Gin and Tonic and Lavender! They also have seasonal special (grab your Hot Cross Bun flavoured fudge whilst you still can!)

If you subscribe to email offers they will give you 10% off your first order and also have an offer of 3 selected fudges for £10!

Get stuck in!

A trip to Tewkesbury Abbey

Tewkesbury isn’t too far away from me but is another place I have never visited! I had a week off over my Birthday and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to have a long overdue trip to this beautiful historic river-side town.

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The main thing I wanted to see was Tewkesbury Abbey. It was such a shame about the weather – it was grey and overcast and drizzly and really cold! I should think this building looks even more spectacular with the sun beaming down on it!

The correct name of Tewkesbury Abbey is The Abbey Church of St Mary the Virgin. There has been a church situated here at this site since Saxon times, and the church is even mentioned in the Doomsday book, surveyed during 1086.

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King William II (aka William the Conqueror) gave the Manor of Tewkesbury to Robert Fitzhamon, who was a soldier and a great and loyal friend to the King. He and his wife, Sybil de Montgomery, founded the Abbey and brought Abbot Gerald and his monks here from the failing abbey of Cranbourne in Dorset to form the new monastery.

When Fitzhamon died in 1107 from wounds sustained in the Battle of Falaise two years earlier, his body was buried in the Abbey’s chapter house. Building work continued by his daughter Mabel and her husband Robert Fitzroy, who was the eldest illegitimate son of King Henry. The Abbey was consecrated in 1121.

The Abbey itself has some amazing Norman features including the arch and stunning turrets. The quire and transepts were probably the earliest examples of a three-storeyed building in Europe. The tower was created in the late 12th Century and and is the largest and finest Romanesque tower in the world. The tower is 14 metres square and 46 metres high.

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The West front shows six beautiful rounded classic Norman arches. Before the window was installed in the 14th Century there was a total of seven arches.

In medieval times the Abbey would have looked very different – everywhere would have been painted in strikingly bright colours and patterns and biblical patterns, but there is hardly any trace of this within the Abbey today.

The original Norman ceiling in the nave was higher than the one here today and was more than likely made of wood. It was replaced in the 14th Century with stone in the Gothic rib vaulting styling.

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The nave looking towards the high altar. The pillars are Norman but the beautiful vaulting is 14th Century.

The photograph below on the right shows the vaulting upside down as it is a reflection in a cleverly placed mirror so you can admire the detail without hurting your neck straining to look upwards! It is such a stunning vaulted ceiling.

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Stunning net vaulting above the quire. The centre is King Edward IV’s emblem, known as the sun in splendour.

For nearly 300 years, three successive medieval families were the patrons of Tewkesbury Abbey. When the Fitzhamon’s grandson, William, passed away the Abbey devolved through his daughter and into her husbands family, the de Clare’s. The patronage was then inherited by Gilbert de Clare’s daughter, Eleanor, and her husband, Hugh le Despenser II. In around 1320 the Despensers began to modernise the abbey. This work was halted temporarily when Hugh was executed for treason in 1326. Eleanor built a beautiful tomb for Hugh, which can be seen in the Abbey today. Eleanor and her son, Hugh le Despenser III, continued work on updating the abbey, including raising the nave roof and adding the beautiful nave vaulting. The high altar, presbytery and quire were transformed and new stained glass windows were added.

Lord Edward Despenser, Hugh Despenser III’s nephew and heir, is commemorated in the beautiful chantry chapel, commissioned by his widow, Elizabeth Burghersh. This is the oldest of the three chapels and has a beautiful fan vaulted ceiling and a statue of Lord Edward on the roof. Unfortunately because of it’s position, you cant get close enough to see the detail which is a real shame.

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A terrible picture I am afraid as this is the closest you can get but this is the wooden effigy of Lord Edward Despenser, kneeling on top of his chantry facing the altar. He is quite faded now but was originally painted with bright vivid colours – a very unusual effigy for its time.

The patronage was then passed to Isabella Despenser following the deaths of her brother and father. She built the most elaborate of the Abbey’s chantry chapels in memory of her first husband, Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Worcester, who died in battled aged only 22.

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The ceiling of the chantry Chapel designed by Isabella Beauchamp – this too used to be full of colour however very little colour now remains.
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The elaborate vaulting of the chantry Chapel built in the 15th century by Isabella Beauchamp for her first husband, Richard, Earl of Worcester.

Richard Neville became Earl of Warwick and Lord of Tewkesbury when he married Anne Beauchamp, the daughter and heir of Isabella and Richard. Richard Neville was known as the “Kingmaker” due to his influence and power.

Richard’s support was critical in the overthrowing of Henry VI and the crowning of Edward IV, however Richard and King Edward IV fell out soon after. Richard later travelled to France and was persuaded to make peace with the Lancastrians and provide his support in restoring Henry VI to the throne. Richard was defeated and killed in the Battle of Barnet in April 1471 when Edward returned to England from exile.

Henry VI’s queen, Margaret of Anjou, came back from France with her son Edward, Prince of Wales and was persuaded to stay and fight for her son’s inheritance. Her plans to combine the two groups in Gloucester were foiled when the Yorkist constable of Gloucester castle prevented their entry into the city. She had no choice but to follow the course of the River Severn, which resulted in her arrival in Tewkesbury on the 3rd May 1471.

On the 4th May 1471, a battle ensued known as the Battle of Tewkesbury. The Lancastrians were forced to retreat towards the town of Tewkesbury, and many sought shelter within the Abbey. It is said that the Yorkist’s pursued them inside the Abbey with swords. At the time, Abbot Strensham was celebrating mass at the high altar. He challenged Edward and his brothers and demanded that the troops did not defile the church with such slaughter and bloodshed. The King withdrew as requested but the Abbot was unable to argue that the Abbey was a place to grant sanctuary, and the Lancastrians were handed over to King Edward. The resulting bloodshed closed the building for a month sop it could be purified and re-consecrated.

There is a brass plate in the floor in the sanctuary which marks the grave of Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, the son of King Henry VI, and the end of the Lancastrian bloodline. He was killed during the Battle of Tewkesbury, was the only Prince of Wales to ever die in battle, and was only 17 at the time of his death.

After the battle, the monks of Tewkesbury are rumoured to have picked up pieces of horse armour from the battlefield which they hammered flat to strengthen the door of the sacristy.

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One of the best ceilings I’ve ever seen – the vaulting above the choir with the beautiful stained glass windows below.
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Both the vaulting and the stained glass windows pre-date 1440.

Between 1536 and 1541, to assert his authority as head of the Church in England, Henry VIII disbanded the monastic houses of England and seized all their lands and possessions. Tewkesbury Abbey was finally surrendered to the Commissioners in January 1540. The Commissioners ordered the dismantling of some of the monastic buildings.

The east end of the church once had a magnificent Lady Chapel of which only the foundations now remain. In the years following the Dissolution of the Abbey in 1540, the Lady Chapel was on of the buildings which was dismantled. The footprint of the chapel is outlined with stone slabs in the grass at the east end of the building. Today’s Lady Chapel is now in the south transept.

The townsfolk of Tewkesbury later petitioned the commissioners to be able to buy the church building. The price paid was £483, which was the value of the lead on the roof and the metal in the bells.

In 1609, King James I sold the manor to the Corporation of Tewkesbury for £2,454.

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Tom Denny’s windows were installed in the chapel of St John the Baptist and St Catherine and were to commemorate 900 years since the arrival of the monks at Tewkesbury.

The eastern exterior of the Abbey is my favourite view of this beautiful building. It is marked in the grass where the 14th Century Lady Chapel once stood.

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The eastern exterior

Also keep a look out for the two storey gatehouse, known in the 15th Century as “the grate gate”. This is one of three entrances like this and is thought to have been the monastery’s inner gate.

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The grate gate

As Tewkesbury is a river-side town, it unfortunately often sees the effects of flooding. The Abbey itself has flooded twice during severe floods in 1760, and more recently on 23rd July during the 2007 floods. There were signs of flooding during our visit, and no doubt the heavy rain over the past few weeks has not made the situation any better….

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If you are visiting Tewkesbury for the day I would also recommend paying the town centre a visit. Along Church Street you will find some beautiful half timbered buildings which are worth admiring!

A really lovely place, I am already looking forward to re-visiting. We had hoped to do a little boat trip up the River Severn but after a couple of hours walking around in the cold, wet weather we were really for some lunch and a hot chocolate!  Hopefully the next time we go, the weather will be a bit warmer and we can enjoy a little boat trip to see more of the sights Tewkesbury has to offer!

Having a Lush Easter!

I have to say after the Lush Mother’s Day collection contained so many great and innovative new products, I was rather disappointed when they released the details of the Easter range! I was expecting far more products (akin to the Halloween or Christmas range) and for some reason I was also expecting them to release a giant bath bomb of some sort – like the giant rose bombshell bath bomb they released as part of the Valentine’s Day range.

Anyway, as soon as the Easter range was released I quickly went online and ordered one of everything in order to test them out. It was only when I was half way through trying them all out that I realised the mistake I had made, which was that several of the products, although they looked different, were exactly the same product with exactly the same scent! It was completely my fault, I should have checked the ingredients of them all before I ordered them and I would have realised, however I’ve ended up with several duplicates which of course also means the Easter range was far smaller than I first thought!

Anyway, here’s what I thought of the Easter 2018 range:

Free Rangers Bath Bombs (blue, orange and purple)

The blue one was the first of the three Free Rangers bath bombs I used and it was at this point I realised that all three colours of Free Ranger bath bombs all have the same ingredients and the same scent! If I had known I think I would have just bought myself the purple one and not all three! Anyway, they come in blue, orange and purple.

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The Free Ranger bath bombs are incredibly fast dissolving bath bombs, especially in view of their large size, (seriously, blink a couple of times and you will miss them dissolving!), but the thing I found most disappointing about these bath bombs was the complete lack of scent they seemed to contain!

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After using the first one, I seriously wondered if it had been a dud – I honestly couldn’t smell anything when I was using it and the ingredients Free Rangers contains (Bergamot Oil, Blackcurrant Absolute and Cypress Oil) all should be smells which I think should be really prominent?

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Reviews of this bath bomb say the scent should be similar to that of the Comforter bubble bar which is a truly lovely blackcurranty berry smelling scent, but I couldn’t detect anything even remotely similar to this, so I’m really disappointed, especially in view of the £5.95 price tag.

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The bath water itself was moisturising but no where near as much as I had expected in view of the size and the ingredients it contains. I wish I had checked first and realised that they were all the same scent and then perhaps I wouldn’t have spent nearly £18 on three bath bombs that I don’t love! Having said that, I have bought a couple of these as Easter presents because the design is great (and as the smell is so weak it is unlikely that anyone I give them to will dislike it!)

Poisson D’Avril Bubble Bar

I really didn’t want to have to cut this little guy up as he looks so adorable! I knew I was going to love this bubble bar before it even arrived and I got to smell it and use it, just by checking out the ingredients it contained!

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Packed into this little guy is black pepper oil, cinnamon leaf oil, oak moss absolute and neroli oil – some of my most favourite ingredients!

Despite its size I think you would easily get three good baths out of one little fishy – he’s small but very compact! I used half in one go because I’d been on the sun bed earlier in the day so I could do with the extra moisturising and knew I would love the smell!

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I sprinkled half the chopped bubble bar under running water and this produced a huge amount of lovely thick bubbles and a deep red shimmery mermaid style bath water. The scent is extremely relaxing and warming, almost to the point of spicy but not quite. The water was so soft you could almost feel it working as you spent your time lazing in the tub. I seriously did not want to get out of this bath – if I could have got away with staying in there all night then I would have!

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As predicted, I absolutely love this bubble bar! I’d be hard pushed to say that it wasn’t my absolute favourite – I’m sat here struggling to think of any over bubble bars that even come close to how much I love this bubble bar. Onto the website I go to buy them all!

April Showers Bath Bomb

Not a very Eastery design but definitely an April design! It hasn’t stopped raining for most of the weekend!

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April Showers smells amazing! It dissolves pretty quickly but releases these lovely pink and purple blobs of oil to make your bath water lovely and moisturising. For those of you who are familiar with the now discontinued Lava Lamp bath bomb, this design is very much reminiscent of it.

April Showers contains an abundance of ingredients to make your bath water lovely and soft and make your skin incredibly moisturised! It contains fair trade organic cocoa butter, cypress oil, organic extra virgin olive oil, and organic castor oil. To give it its wonderful scent, April Showers also contains cedar wood, violet leaf absolute, and tonka absolute, so all in all it creates a woody, flowery and sweet scent all in one!

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April Showers is definitely one of my favourites from the Easter range and it’s great they are reusing the Lava Lamp idea after discontinuing it early last year. My boxes of Lush supplies are bursting at the seams at the moment but I may have to grab a few more of these before the Easter range is discontinued!

Which Came First Bath Bomb – Stripes or Spots

These two were the second “duplicate” mistake I made – both contain exactly the same ingredients but just look slightly different!

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These egg shaped bath bombs are slightly bigger than the usual bath bomb, but seriously, after dropping these in the bath, just like the Free Rangers bath bombs, blink and you will miss them! They are probably some of the quickest dissolving bath bombs I’ve ever used!

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They are also a little bit disappointing on the bath art side of things – a lot of pink foam and little bubbles which leaves you with a nice pink coloured bath water, but not much else….

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I liked the scent of these bath bombs but didn’t think the scent was very strong considering their size and their prominent smelling ingredients such as grapefruit oil and sicilian lemon oil. These bombs do also contain vanilla absolute to sweeten the scent slightly, but they still didn’t smell anywhere near as strong as I would have liked.

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Being as they dissolved incredibly quickly, and didn’t smell very strong or provide me with much bath art, I was hoping that they would at least be incredibly moisturising to make up for the lack in other areas….

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The water WAS lovely and moisturising as I had hoped, however I then remembered that these bath bombs are a lot bigger than regular bath bombs and thought to myself, so they should be!

They aren’t my least favourite bath bomb but they certainly aren’t “memorable” by any stretch of the imagination which is a real shame…

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A bit of a let down I’m afraid, especially in view of the £6.95 price tag they each had…

Cream Egg Bubbleroons in Spotty, Circles and Marbled

And finally, the third set of “duplicates” I ordered! I think I could be forgiven for these as they do all look completely different despite having the same name!

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The Cream Egg Bubbleroons come in Spotty, Circles and Marbled designs and are two pieces of bubble bar sandwiched together with a cocoa butter type cream.

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I’ve been chopping each of these in half and then crumbling them up to use half at a time and this seems to be the perfect amount for a lovely bath.

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The bubbleroons contain fair trade organic cocoa butter and fair trade shea butter for moisturising.

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The bubbleroons also contain spearmint oil. Mint is one of my least favourite scents but the cocoa butter and shea butter make them smell sweet and creamy.

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Half of the bubbleroon produces a lovely bath full of fluffy bubbles and soft moisturising water.

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As I say, they all have the same scent but I think that my favourite is the marbled one as the pink and blue create really lovely bath art when you sprinkle them in the bath water!

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A very nice bubbleroon which is just perfect for Easter, I am glad I bought three of them in the end! I’ve nearly used all three!

Bunch of Carrots Re-useable Bubble Bar

I really like the design of this one! Very clever! please ignore the glitter on it, it doesn’t come with any glitter on, its just the Golden Egg bath bomb glitter got EVERYWHERE as usual!

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Although I love the design, I am still a bit dubious of these re-useable bubble bars after my initial experience with the Magic of Christmas bubble wand I used as part of the Christmas collection. This was the first re-useable bubble bar I had used and after swishing it about for a few seconds and holding it under running water (as you are supposed to do!) the bubble bar basically disintegrated and fell into the bath in one clump!

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I held the Bunch of Carrots under the running water and swished it around a bit and it seemed fine but after a few minutes, again the same thing happened and the “carrots” came away from the green stalks! Luckily they came away still in one piece, and to be fair, if for my next three baths I used one whole carrot, I’m still going to get a total of four baths out of this reusable bubble bar, so it is pretty good value for money.

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The bubble bar does make a lot of lovely fluffy bubbles and I do really like the scent. Bunch of Carrots includes buchu oil, sicilian lemon oil and bergamot oil – some of my favourite ingredients! I am just not completely sold on the reusable bubble bar idea still, although if they made another product with this scent, I would definitely buy it!

Another thing to note with this product – be ever so careful once it is wet as the colours in the product are very vivid and will likely stain everything in sight!

Seven Deadly Spins Bubble Spinner

I am a bit unsure about this product, I’m not too sure what it is supposed to be based on but it very much reminds me of a golden snitch from Harry Potter!

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The first thing I noticed about Seven Deadly Spins was how small it was! I know it is a re-useable bubble bar but still, if it is this size it must pack a real punch surely?

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I held the little guy under running water and it did produce a lot of bubbles very quickly without reducing in size at all but I was shocked to see the colour of the water! It was bright yellow and almost radioactive looking!

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I did like its unusual scent (it contains bergamot oil, litsea Cubeba oil and benzoin resinoid, so an almost orangey/lemony/woody scent) but again didn’t find it to be strong enough for my liking! I’m starting to think I need my sense of smell checking!

Although it didn’t reduce in size at all after one use, I think going forward I will chop it and crumble it up and then use it like a normal bubble bar rather than the reusable spinner it is designed as, which kind of defeats the point I suppose!

The other thing which annoyed me about this product was that it stained my lovely white bath rack! None of the other products I have used, even the bright vividly coloured ones have done this before! It has left a bright luminous green/yellow stain on it which I just can’t get off which was very disappointing….

Here Comes the Sun Naked Shower Cream

I wasn’t entirely convinced about these new Naked products but I am definitely coming around to them, mainly because I think of them as being a far stronger and more potent version of a soap! I do like my scents strong!

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Here comes the sun naked shower cream is jam packed with a range of both familiar and really unusual ingredients! Some of the more familiar ingredients in here include fair trade shea butter for softness along with Mandarin Oil, tangerine Oil, bergamot oil, and good old fresh orange juice! The more unusual ingredients are St John’s Wort infusion, organic avocado oil and cup mushroom?? Very strange.

Looking at these ingredients written down I would have thought that they would be one of my favourite scents ever, but I did have concerns with the St John’s Wort infusion….excellent as an anti-inflammatory for the skin, but doesn’t smell particularly appealing to me (a kind of resinous scent). Still, the St John’s Wort is very faint and so I think this may be one of my favourite Naked smelling products!

It glides thickly onto the skin, smells amazing and leaves your skin feeling lovely and soft  – what more could you want?

Carrot Soap

How great looking is this soap?? Brilliant! I bought one for my Sister for Easter too as she didn’t want chocolate this year!

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Carrot soap, surprisingly enough, contains fresh carrot infusion and carrot powder to give it its very faint carroty scent! It also contains cedarwood oil, tangerine oil, and gardenia extract to add a woody and citrusy scent and fair trade organic cocoa butter, extra virgin coconut oil and organic castor oil to moisturise your skin.

Carrot lathers up really nicely and leaves your skin feeling lovely and soft – it is a delicate scent and don’t be put off by the carrot ingredient – you can barely detect it and you won’t get out of the shower smelling like Peter Rabbit’s next meal!

Golden Egg Bath Bomb Melt

I have reviewed the Golden egg bath bomb melt before and thought twice about buying another one as although I love the scent of it and the bath water leaves your skin feeling amazing, the glitter is just a little bit too much to cope with!

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I am really pleased that I invested in another one as part of this years collection as the one I bought last year sank like a stone when I put it in the bath! This one bobbed along quite merrily in the bath water as it should do!

When you order one of these little blighters and you unpack your box of goodies, just be warned that this bath bomb will get glitter EVERYWHERE. Then when you get them out of the box to put them away you will get even more glitter EVERYWHERE!

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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 white foam is revealed which mixes with the yellow, resulting in golden yellow shimmery bath water.

It has some lovely ingredients which give it its delicious scent – brazilian orange oil, bergamot oil and gardenia extract, and also contains fair trade organic cocoa butter,  fair trade olive oil and almond oil which is what makes this such a luxurious bath.

I’m a big fan of the scent and how moisturising it is but not the design – the glitter really is just too much! I will say though, the glitter does wash away very easily with the bath water – no hours of scrubbing the bath as I had expected after all!!

I hope you’ve all enjoyed the long Easter weekend and have been spoilt! It’s nice to have a short week this week – back to the gym tomorrow and hopefully a showing of Peter Rabbit at the cinema with my Sister too!

Genie’s Cave Afternoon Tea

I’ve got a real thing lately for afternoon tea’s – especially themed ones – so when an advert for the Genie’s Cave afternoon tea at Cutter and Squidge in London came up, I knew I had to pay them a visit!

Upstairs in Cutter and Squidge there is a beautiful tea room filled with incredible looking cakes and treats. For the Genie’s Cave afternoon tea you are escorted downstairs into an underground treasure trove where the walls are painted pink and purple and are adorned with all sorts of brightly coloured jewels, gold pieces and gold coins! It is just like a little cave of treasure!

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The only downside with this was that the lighting was so low that my camera didn’t take very good pictures so apologies for that, but hopefully you’ll get an idea of what to expect!

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A Genie’s Welcome

The first part of the afternoon tea was very unusual as it was a dessert type treat! The Genie’s Welcome comes in a little round glass bowl and is a raspberry flavoured yogurt type treat with raspberry sauce, raspberries and pomegranate seeds mixed in. This is then topped with pashmak which is a type of Iranian Candy Floss sometimes referred to as “Dragon’s Beard! They sell pashmak in Selfridges and I’ve always fancied trying it! It is very similar to candy floss but not as gritty, it is a bit “hair” like for my liking though, hence the Dragon’s Bear name!! This is then topped with a lovely home made thick fluffy meringue which has been torched on the one side.

Selection of Finger Sandwiches

Probably the most boring part of all afternoon teas but some people like sandwiches! The selection was Cucumber and Fresh Mint, Cheese and Tomato Jam and Coronation Chicken.

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Savoury Wishes

The Savoury Wishes part of the afternoon tea included these lovely delights:

  • Dessert Rose Tart with thinly sliced roasted vegetables

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  • Savoury Scones Swirls with roasted peppers and Feta cheese – These were really tasty – swirled pastry with roasted vegetables and feta cheese in. A nice alternative to “normal” scones as they aren’t as thick and heavy!

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  • Golden Cheese Clouds  – These were lovely, I really liked these! Imagine a savoury profiterole style choux bun is the best way to describe them! Very light and very cheesy! Yum!

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Sweet Wishes

The Sweet Wishes part of the afternoon tea included:

  • Raspberry and Rose Tart sprinkled with pistachio emeralds – tiny little pastry tarts filled with raspberry cream centres and topped with crumbled pistachios.

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  • Hidden gem Macaron with peanut butter and jelly.

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  • Magic Carpet Cookies – lovely little carpet shaped melt in the mouth shortbread biscuits topped with cocoa patterns.

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Ruby Dream Cake

A vanilla and strawberry cake with orange glaze and jelly ruby.

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Golden Treasure Biskie

Two chocolate cookie like biscuits with a delicious chocolate mousse in the middle decorated with 24 carat Gold! This was my favourite!

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The afternoon tea is £29.50 per person or £34.50 per person with a glass of bubbly, and Wheat free or dairy free options are also available for the afternoon tea which include a £5 surcharge. When we left they also gave us this lovely little treat to take with you which I thought was a lovely touch.

They are changing the theme at the end of March so get in there quickly if you want to experience it! The staff wouldn’t tell me what the new theme was as they have been sworn to secrecy but I’m looking forward to seeing what the next themed afternoon tea will be!

Happy Birthday to me!

It’s wrong to say Happy Birth”day” to me because in actual fact I have a Birth-week not a Birth”day”! I always pack my Birthday week full of fun and days out with family and friends and this year was no exception!

Here’s what I got up to during this AMAZING week!

On Monday, Mum and I caught the megabus to London! Yes it takes ages but it cost us only £8 each for a return from Gloucester to London! The coach stops at Victoria Coach Station which just so happens to be a five-minute walk away from one of my favourite bakery’s in London – Dominique Ansel’s! So, we popped in here for breakfast before starting our busy London adventure!

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I had an amazing turkey croque monsieur and one of their Blossoming hot chocolates, which I have wanted to try for ages!

I also had a delicious Cookie Shot, a shot glass sized cup made out of cookie and filled with delicious creamy vanilla milk! I bought a pack of six Cookie Shots to take home with me as well! The cakes in here are incredible – check out these lovely Blizzard Bear cakes!

After our lovely refreshment break we caught an Uber over to Kensington Palace. We had a lovely time here, so much so that I am writing a separate blog on this amazing place – the Diana Exhibition which is currently on was definitely an added bonus! Even better, we didn’t pay the entrance fee because we managed to pay for the tickets using our Tesco Clubcard vouchers!

After a few hours exploring Kensington Palace we moseyed on over to Cutter and Squidge for our Genie’s Cave afternoon tea! I really love attending these themed afternoon teas! I have been trying to get into the Tale as old as Time one for months but it is always fully booked. Then after going to the amazing Mad Hatter’s Tea Party afternoon tea in December last year I was on the hunt for something similar and came across the Genie’s Cave version! This was another brilliant experience with amazing food, so a a separate blog is to follow on this too! A word of warning though – the Genie’s Cave theme is due to end at the end of March so get booking if this is something you fancy!

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After stuffing our faces we wandered around and did the only thing we know best – bought more delicious treats to bring home with us! We visited Doughnut Time who sell THE BEST doughnuts ever! Move over KrispyKreme!

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After visiting all of our favourite food places we wandered slowly back over to Victoria Coach Station via Buckingham Palace to catch our coach home. What an amazing start to my Birthday week!

Tuesday was far less exciting but definitely a lovely day off – I basically got up at the normal time and got ready and then spent the morning in my local Starbucks catching up with writing my blogs and updating my Instagram and Twitter accounts. I managed to publish a blog every day in December for Blogmas, and over the Christmas holidays I had intended to get my blogs up to date and to have them scheduled several weeks in advance, but unfortunately this fell by the way-side and since mid-January I have been struggling to get my weekly weekend blog published. The week commencing 19th February I didn’t publish anything, which was the first time in a long time. I’ve found it especially hard to focus and get back into the blog writing since our lovely dog Skibba passed away last month as well. Anyway, today gave me a chance to catch up and draft as many blogs as possible, plus drink ridiculous amounts of my favourite coffee! A nice calm and relaxed morning!

After a few hours of getting square eyes I wandered over to the business park next door to have a look in some of the furniture stores to get some decorating ideas for our house. We’ve got the plasterer booked to plaster most of the upstairs and the dining room ceilings next week and after that we can get cracking with the decorating, so I need to start thinking about designs and colour schemes! I’m hoping by the time we have been in the house six months (beginning of June) I can write a blog about the progress we have made so far, but things are moving far slower than I had expected and the weeks and months just seem to be whizzing by!

Anyway, I came across some lovely dining room tables and chairs, bed frames and wallpaper and kitchens and nursery furniture so plenty of food for thought!

In the evening hubby and I went out for a lovely meal to Zizzi’s which is one of my favourite restaurants. Plus, we had £40 worth of Tesco Clubcard vouchers to spend in here, so it was practically a free meal which was brilliant!

On Wednesday, my Mum and I traveled over to the nearby town of Tewkesbury. I’ve always wanted to see Tewkesbury Abbey and, as it is not too far away, Tewkesbury seemed to be a lovely day out. It is a really beautiful building with lots of history so, you guessed it, a separate blog is to follow!

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After visiting the Abbey we grabbed lunch at a nearby restaurant called Café E Vino. The lunch was delicious and they had plenty of vegetarian and vegan options which I thought was very impressive! I had a delicious meal of gnocchi in a gorgonzola and speck sauce – really tasty!

After a hearty lunch we wandered down to the waters edge to see the river, although we didn’t hang around for long as it was absolutely freezing and the water level was really high after the recent snowfall had melted.

After a lovely day we hopped in the car to go and collect my amazing Birthday cake from Claire’s Cakes Cheltenham! Isn’t it beautiful!?

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She has made several cakes for us over the years including an amazing Winter Wonderland cake, two amazing Game of Thrones themed cakes and a Harry Potter themed cake! This year’s cake was a Geode cake and as usual she has outdone herself and made a spectacular creation! Can’t wait for friends and family to see it tomorrow!

Thursday was my actual Birthday so my Sister and I started the day going to Hubble Bubble, one of our favourite coffee houses, for one of their famous freakshakes! We tried the Easter edition this time!

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After our sugar overload we ventured into town for a bit of retail therapy,  coffee  and lunch. The centre of Gloucester isn’t great for shopping however Gloucester Quays Outlet Centre is only a short walk away so we spent most of our time here. I had planned for us to go to The Grill Shed for lunch but unfortunately I woke up this morning with a stinking cold so I didn’t feel up to having a big meal! We ended up having macaroni cheese in Costa instead which was just what we needed!

After our shopping trip I came home and prepared a little buffet for the family and friends who were popping over to visit me for my Birthday! It was really lovely to see everyone and catch up with them and after the buffet we all enjoyed a large slab of Birthday cake! My Mum and my Sister bought me some beautiful flowers and people came over with mounds of presents!

When everyone had gone I had the important task of opening all of my cards and gifts! I just hadn’t had the time so far! As usual, I’ve been absolutely spoilt! My Mum bought me the amazing shoes I included in my Valentine’s Day treats post (and believe me they look as good in real life as they did in that picture!)

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My Sister asked me if I wanted anything in particular but she knows me very well and is brilliant at present buying so I told her to surprise me! And she did! As well as my beautiful flowers she bought me a lovely pair of grey trainers, a keyring, a pen and a Columbo boxset! (I LOVE Columbo!!!)

Hubby asked me ages ago what I would like for my Birthday and I really couldn’t think of anything I wanted but as my Sister and I were walking through town today we walked past the Pandora shop to have a peep in the window. I’ve always wanted a Pandora bracelet and really love all the amazing charms you can get, but I have always worn gold jewellery, and all my existing jewellery is in gold! The gold bracelets and charms are available but are really, really expensive and I would never want to spend so much on a bracelet. Anyway, when we looked inside they were promoting the new Pandora Shine collection which is basically thick gold plated jewellery and obvious makes it far more affordable than the solid gold range, so it was as if it was meant to be!

So I had a beautiful gold Pandora bracelet and two charms from hubby in the end! I was so pleased to finally get one and he was pleased I had chosen something I really wanted for my Birthday! I’ve been very spoilt! I also had cash and vouchers from family and friends so I’ll take these with me when I’m working in London next week to see what lovely things I can find!

A perfect evening with family and friends – except the washing up afterwards of course!

The Friday was another brilliant day because I got to spend the day with my Sister and my Mum! It would have been nice to venture over to nearby Cheltenham as there’s plenty of places I would like to visit, but unfortunately my Birthday always lands in the middle of Race week at Cheltenham Racecourse, so Cheltenham and the surrounding areas are jam-packed with people! Even trying to get a restaurant reservation in Gloucester during this week is quite difficult so we thought it would be best to go a bit further afield and visit Blenheim Palace! It is only around an hour away from us and once again we were able to get our tickets using £8 worth of Tesco Clubcard vouchers! We’ve done extremely well over the years exchanging these vouchers for days out or restaurant vouchers!

Before we set off I wanted to treat my Mum and Sister to breakfast so I booked a table at one of our favourite restaurants for breakfast – Cote Brasserie. In fact, I’ve not been here for lunch or an evening meal, only for breakfast! I always have the Croque Monsieur – it is to die for!

After a hearty breakfast we set off for Blenheim Palace. I’ve wanted to visit here for a long, long time so I’m really pleased I finally got round to it! I definitely want to re-visit in December when they have the “Christmas at Blenheim Palace” theme going on. I can imagine the Palace will look even more beautiful at that time of the year!

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We spent a few hours here, there is plenty to do and see and to be honest I really underestimated how big this place is! I will have to come back soon to finish looking at the parts of it we hadn’t got around to.

As a special treat I booked for the three of us to  have Afternoon Tea in the Orangery which was really lovely and the food was delicious.

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We finally got home after sitting in traffic for ages and luckily I hadn’t made any plans for the evening, so this gave me the chance to have a sort through and edit all the photos I had taken this week (and to have a well earned rest and hot bath!)

On the Saturday night we went over to our friends house and they cooked us a delicious dinner, my friend also made me this beautiful cookie mermaid, rainbow and unicorn display! Isn’t it amazing? She’s so talented!

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She also bought me a mound of presents including some sparkly trainers, amazing cocktail liquors chocolates, keyrings and some amazing Pusheen slippers! I’ve been wearing them all weekend!

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Our friends only live about a 15 minute walk away so we walked home, and just in time really as shortly after we arrived home the “mini beast from the East” struck and it started heavily snowing again! I don’t ever remember there being snow around my Birthday before! Fingers crossed Spring will be here soon and we can start the Easter celebrations!

Another fantastic Birthday! I’m so grateful to have such great family and friends!

Gloucester Cathedral

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I am very ashamed to say that I have lived in Gloucester all my life however have only visited Gloucester Cathedral on three occasions! The first occasion doesn’t even really count as I am pretty sure I was only in junior school, and so I don’t remember much of it!

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The cathedral originated around 678/679 with an abbey which was dedicated to Saint Peter. The abbey was later dissolved by Henry VIII. The cathedral as it currently stands was build in Romanesque and Gothic style between the years 1089 and 1499.

 

 

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An interesting fact – one of the stained glass windows in the cathedral shows one of the earliest images of golf! This window dates back from 1350 which is over 300 years before the images of golf appeared in Scotland.

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The beautiful nave

As with most Cathedrals these days, there is no entrance fee and tickets aren’t required, however there is a donation box for you to leave what you would like to show your support.

If you would like to take photos inside the cathedral – whether this be with a camera or on your phone, you need to buy a ticket for £2 and you will be provided with a sticker to wear to show you have paid to take photos. I thought this was a really good idea, until the lady serving me said that they often find this policy to be abused, particularly by those taking photographs on their phone, which I thought was awful!

£2 to take photos of this incredible place was well worth it, and it’s nice to know all of this money will be put back into the restoration and upkeep of the cathedral.

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Whilst inside you will come across the Stained Glass Windows of the Thomas Chapel. The glass is the work of Thomas Denny and was installed in 1992. The windows are based on Psalm 148 – the right-hand window reflects the worship of the elements, and the left-hand window reflects the worship of all God’s creatures.

You may find Gloucester Cathedral to be very familiar after seeing it appear as a filming location for three of the Harry Potter films, Sherlock Holmes (The Abominable Bride scene at the end where Sherlock and Watson are in the ruins of a desanctified church) and the Doctor Who Christmas special!

The beautiful cloisters of Gloucester Cathedral are particularly memorable from the Harry Potter films!

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The stunning fan vaulted roof Cloisters – as seen in Harry Potter (first, second and sixth film)

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Inside Gloucester Cathedral you will find some famous historical tombs, including;

Osric, King of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the Hwicce.

Osric is claimed as the founder of two monastic houses, one at Bath (now Bath Abbey) and the other here at Gloucester Cathedral. 

Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy and the eldest son of William the Conqueror.

He died in 1134 at Cardiff Castle, a prisoner of his youngest brother, King Henry I. The exact place of his burial is difficult to establish, however legend states that he requested to be buried before the High Altar.

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King Edward II.

Born in 1284 and reigned from 1307 to 1327. The King’s funeral was held on 20 December 1327 and his coffin was placed under the floor. Sometime afterwards, presumably on the orders of his son, King Edward III, this stunning tomb was built over it. The canopy was carved from local Cotswold limestone and the base is covered with Purbeck marble. The King is depicted as a saintly figure with angels at his head; he holds a sceptre and an orb – the first time the orb appears on an English royal tomb.

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The stunning vaulted ceiling

Once you have had a good look inside,  I highly recommend you take part in one of their tours to the crypt! The tours run quite often and you can’t go down there unsupervised because it is dark, but my sister and I paid a visit and absolutely loved it!

Our tour guide was fantastic and we learned so much about the history of the crypt, and of the Cathedral itself. You can buy tickets in the shop at the front of the cathedral – tickets are £3 each and the tours last around 20 minutes.

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The crypt at Gloucester Cathedral is one of very few Norman crypts in the country and was used for praying, funerals and even to hide valuables during times of war and conflict. If you search for information about the crypt of Gloucester Cathedral you won’t find much, basically because so little is known about this mesmerising place!

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We are usually very lucky with the weather on most of our family day trips out, and our visit to Gloucester Cathedral was no exception! We chose a beautiful bright and sunny day which meant we could get some great photos of this stunning building.

The only downside was that we visited when there is vast building work taking place outside the front of the building to design a new garden, so I had to do my best to crop the diggers and high fences out of my photos!

If you are hoping to visit when there isn’t any form of building work going on then you will have a while to wait! Project Pilgrim is a huge project which is taking place over an approximate ten year period!

The project is split into several different phases as follows:

External Works

The external re-landscaping will create (amongst other things) level access to the West door, provide more disabled car parking spaces and add a green space with plants and trees.

Internal Works

This phase will include the creation of a new glass entrance lobby and glass cloister door, and a new welcome area which is going to include a lovely glass model of the Cathedral to help visitors navigate their way around – I’m looking forward to seeing this!

Lady Chapel

This 15th Century area of the Cathedral will have major restoration and conservation work done which includes new lintels, new lighting, cleaning of the stonework and stain glass windows and installation of new radiators and underfloor heating.  Work is also being done to the external walls of the Lady Chapel including restoration and conservation of the existing stonework.

Solar Panels

The solar panels were added as part of the Church of England’s “Shrinking the footprint” campaign. The aim of the campaign is to reduce the Church of England’s carbon emissions by 80% by 2050! The solar panels were installed in November 2016 and will reduce Gloucester Cathedral’s energy costs by 25%.

There are also some lovely shops and tea rooms in the surrounding area of the Cathedral, including a Beatrix Potter shop which is well worth paying a visit! The Cathedral is also within walking distance of Gloucester Quays where you can find a shopping centre, loads of restaurants and brilliant themed food fayres throughout the year!

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CocoChlo in Paris

Ooh la la!

What a beautiful place Paris is! So much to see and do and so much history! And so much style – I really don’t think there’s such a thing as being overdressed in a place like Paris!

I only spent a couple of days here but this is what I managed to fit in during my short visit:

Place de la Concorde

The Place de la Concorde is one of the major public squares in Paris and measuring 21.3 acres in area, it is the largest square in the French capital. Features of the Place include two identical stone buildings, separated by the Rue Royale. The eastern one houses the French Naval Ministry, and the western one is the Hôtel de Crillon. At each of the eight angles of the octagonal Place is a statue representing a French city:

  • Brest and Rouen by Jean-Pierre Cortot
  • Lyon and Marseille by Pierre Petitot
  • Bordeaux and Nantes by Louis-Denis Caillouette
  • Lille and Strasbourg by James Pradier

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Luxor Obelisk

The centre of the Place is occupied by a giant Egyptian obelisk decorated with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramesses II. The obelisk once marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple and is over 3000 years old! It is one of two the Egyptian government gave to the French in the 19th century – the other one stayed in Egypt, too difficult and heavy to move to France with the technology at that time. It arrived in Paris on 21 December 1833 and three years later, on 25 October 1836, King Louis Philippe had it placed in the centre of Place de la Concorde. In the 1990s, President François Mitterrand gave the second obelisk back to the Egyptians.

The obelisk, a yellow granite column, rises 23 metres high, including the base, and weighs over 250 tons! Given the technical limitations of the day, transporting it was no straight forward task and on the pedestal are diagrams explaining the machinery that was used as part of the transportation. Missing its original cap, believed stolen in the 6th century BC, the government of France added a gold-leafed pyramid cap to the top of the obelisk in 1998.

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Champs-Élysées

The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is an avenue in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, 1.2 miles long and 70 metres wide, running between the Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle, where the Arc de Triomphe is located. It is known for its theatres, cafés, and luxury shops, for the annual Bastille Day military parade, and as the finish of the Tour de France cycle race.

Palais Garnier

The Palais Garnier is a 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. It was called the Salle des Capucines, because of its location on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, but soon became known as the Palais Garnier, in recognition of its opulence and its architect, Charles Garnier. The Paris Opera now mainly uses the Palais Garnier for ballet.

The Palais Garnier has been called “probably the most famous opera house in the world – partly due to its use as the setting for Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera and, especially, the novel’s subsequent adaptations in films and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s popular 1986 musical.

The beautiful building includes very elaborate multicolored marble friezes, columns, and statues, many of which portray deities of Greek mythology.

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The two gilded figures on the apexes of the principal façade are Charles Gumery’s L’Harmonie (Harmony) and La Poésie (Poetry). They are both made of gilt copper electrotype. Bronze busts of many of the great composers are located between the columns of the theatre’s front façade and include Beethoven, Mozart and Spontini. 

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The Ritz Hotel

The Hôtel Ritz is ranked among the most luxurious hotels in the world and is a member of “The Leading Hotels of the World”. The Ritz reopened on 6 June 2016 after a major four-year, multimillion-dollar renovation.

The hotel was founded by the Swiss hotelier, César Ritz, in collaboration with the chef Auguste Escoffier in 1898. The new hotel was constructed behind the façade of an 18th-century town house, overlooking one of Paris’s central squares. It quickly established a reputation for luxury, with clients including royalty, politicians, writers, film stars and singers. Several of its suites are named in honour of famous guests of the hotel, including Coco Chanel and Ernest Hemingway who lived at the hotel for years.

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Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel is a triumphal arch located in the Place du Carrousel. It was built between 1806 and 1808 to commemorate Napoleon’s military victories of the previous year. 

The monument is 19 metres high, 23 metres wide, and 7.3 metres deep. The 6.4 metre high central arch is flanked by two smaller ones, 4.3 metres high, and 2.7 metres wide. Around its exterior are eight columns of marble, topped by eight soldiers of the Empire.

The chariot atop the arch is a copy of the so-called Horses of Saint Mark that adorn the top of the main door of the St Mark’s Basilica in Venice.

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Notre Dame

Notre-Dame is a medieval Catholic cathedral and is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world.  The cathedral treasury contains a shrine, which houses some of Catholicism’s most important relics, including the purported Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross, and one of the Holy Nails.

Read more about Notre Dame here.

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The Eiffel Tower and Parc Du Champs De Mars

The Eiffel Tower is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. Constructed from 1887–89 as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair, it was initially criticised by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but it has become one of the most recognisable structures in the world. The Eiffel Tower is the most-visited paid monument in the world; 6.91 million people visited it in 2015.

The tower is 324 metres tall, about the same height as an 81-storey building, and is the tallest structure in Paris. During its construction, the Eiffel Tower surpassed the Washington Monument to become the tallest man-made structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years until the Chrysler Building in New York City was finished in 1930.

The tower has three levels for visitors, with restaurants on the first and second levels. The top level’s upper platform is 276 metres above the ground – the highest observation deck in the European Union. The climb from ground level to the first level is over 300 steps, as is the climb from the first level to the second!!

The Champ de Mars is a large public space between the Eiffel Tower to the northwest and the École Militaire to the southeast. The park is named after the Campus Martius (“Mars Field”) in Rome, a tribute to the Latin name of the Roman God of war. The lawns here were formerly used as drilling and marching grounds by the French military.

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Les Invalides 

Les Invalides is a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the building’s original purpose. The buildings house the military museum of the Army of France, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and the Musée d’Histoire Contemporaine, as well as the Dôme des Invalides, a large church with the burial site for some of France’s war heroes, most notably Napoleon Bonaparte.

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Grand Palais

The Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées, commonly known as the Grand Palais is a large historic site, exhibition hall and museum complex located at the Champs-Élysées. Construction of the Grand Palais began in 1897 following the demolition of the Palais de l’Industrie (Palace of Industry) as part of the preparation works for the Universal Exposition of 1900, which also included the creation of the adjacent Petit Palais and Pont Alexandre III.

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Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile

The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is one of the most famous monuments in Paris, and is at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. The Arc de Triomphe has an overall height of 50 metres, width of 45 metres, and depth of 22 metres. It honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

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The Louvre

I had no idea just how huge the Louvre was! The Louvre is actually the world’s largest museum and is a central landmark of the city.  Approximately 38,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 72,735 square metres. The Louvre is the world’s second most visited museum, receiving 7.4 million visitors in 2016. We had planned to visit the Louvre but just did not have enough time to explore such a huge place! I was disappointed we didn’t get the chance to see the infamous Mona Lisa painting though!

The museum opened on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being royal and confiscated church property.  The collection was further increased during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, and during the Second French Empire the museum gained 20,000 pieces. The collection is divided among eight departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings.

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Inside the Louvre, find some world famous artifacts including:

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa – arguably the most famous painting in the world, due in large part to when she was stolen in 1911.

Great Sphinx of Tanis (Old Kingdom, 2600 BC, Old Kingdom) inscribed with the names of the pharaohs Ammenemes II, Merneptah & Shoshenq. Excavated in 1825 among the ruins of the Temple of Amun at Tanis, it’s one of the largest sphinxes outside of Egypt.

Venus de Milo (100 BC, Cyclades, Greece) Art Historians believe she’s a 100 BC replica, however she does have typical 5th Century BC details.

Winged Victory of Samothrace (190 BC, Ancient Greece) Her Hellenistic form merits her place as one of the Louvre’s top three most important pieces. During WWII she was evacuated with the Mona Lisa, Michelangelo’s Slaves and Venus de Milo to Château de Valençay.

Luxembourg Palace and Gardens

The Luxembourg Palace was originally built (1615–1645) to the designs of the French architect Salomon de Brosse to be the royal residence of the regent Marie de’ Medici, mother of Louis XIII of France. After the Revolution it was refashioned (1799–1805) by Jean Chalgrin into a legislative building and subsequently greatly enlarged and remodeled (1835–1856) by Alphonse de Gisors. 

On the south side of the palace, the formal Luxembourg Garden presents a 25-hectare area of gravel and lawn adorned with statues and large basins of water where children sail model boats.

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Sacré-Cœur and Bell Tower

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Sacré-Cœur Basilica was designed by Paul Abadie. Construction began in 1875 and was finished in 1914. It was consecrated after the end of World War I in 1919.

A mosaic in the apse, entitled Christ in Majesty, created by Luc-Olivier Merson, is among the largest in the world. It is absolutely stunning but unfortunately the use of cameras and video recorders is forbidden inside the Basilica.

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Cruise along the Seine

I was a bit unsure about going along to our pre-booked trip on a boat along the Seine because the weather had been so unpredictable all day but I am so pleased we went in the end. All the buildings you travel alongside are lit up beautifully and stunning views of the Eiffel Tower make this a fantastic photo opportunity!

There are several places online you can pre-book tickets for your river cruise, including Seine Cruises and good old Viator.

 

 

A fantastic trip to a beautiful place! Paris is a centre for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture – what more can you ask for in a destination??

In Love with Lush – the Valentine’s Day collection

Hey my little love bugs! I hope you’ve all got something nice planned for Valentine’s Day? We don’t tend to do much ourselves, especially when it lands on a Wednesday like it has done this year, but I do like to make a nice meal and decorate the dining room table for the occasion!

Anyway, if like me you are still wading through all the remaining Christmas chocolates and sweets and biscuits, and fancy something a bit different, then the Valentine’s Day Lush collection might include something you fancy! Here are the products the 2018 collection is made up of:

Rose Bombshell Bath Bomb

I have actually already reviewed the Rose bombshell bath bomb as part of my regular Lush blogs but it is a brilliant Valentine’s Day bath bomb so I bought another one to treat myself! Plus I wanted to use the regular sized bath bomb to compare it to the GIANT rose bombshell bath bomb Lush have produced as part of their Valentine’s Day range!

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It has a very potent flower smell – a sweet rose fragrance coupled with geranium and a slight lemony citrus aroma. I didn’t particularly enjoy this bath bomb the first time round, but this scent seems to be much more delicate, and no where near as overpowering – I wonder if Lush have adjusted the recipe for it, or whether I just had a really strong scented one the first time round? Either way, I enjoyed the rose bombshell far more this time around!

It is a fast fizzer (gone in only a few seconds!) and before you know it you have a lovely pink coloured rose scented bath water to relax in.

When the bomb is almost dissolved the centre opens up and spills out a handful of yellow rose petals, which is really lovely. As well as rose absolute, rose bombshell contains rose oil, sicilian lemon oil and geranium oil, which make it a very moisturising bath experience.

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I’m really pleased I gave this bath bomb another try and am especially looking forward to trying the giant version now!

Unicorn Horn

I bought a whole batch of unicorn horns the last time they were available from the Lush kitchen but they have had a makeover for the Valentine’s Collection!

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I used half of the Unicorn Horn in one go so this bubble bar will easily get you two baths worth. It looks amazing when you are chopping it up and when it is sprinkled under running bath water it creates beautiful bath art and mounds of lovely soft and fluffy bubbles!

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The water is really soft and silky and incredibly moisturising due to the lovely oils Unicorn Horn contains – lavender, Ylang Ylang and Neroli. The smell of the bubble bar is predominately lavender but it is by no means overpowering and is incredibly relaxing. I don’t know whether Lush have changed the recipe but I’m sure I don’t remember my other Unicorn Horns smelling so much of lavender? I will have to dig out my bubble bar pots from the spare room and double check!

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Anyway, I much prefer the look of the latest version and will always stock up on Unicorn Horns when they are released for a limited time so I’ll definitely be stocking up on a few on these to tie me over for a while!

Tisty Totsy Bath Bomb

I think Tisty Totsy was part of the regular Lush range but was discontinued. The original version was white, and now Lush have reinvented it and released it for a limited time as part of the Valentine’s Day range.

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Tisty Totsy contains seven rosebuds as part of its decoration, and once the bath bomb has dissolved, the little rose buds float along the top of the water.

Tisty Totsy is similar in ingredients to the rose bombshell bath bomb in that it also contains rose absolute, geranium oil and lemon oil but with an added extra ingredient of jasmine absolute.

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Tisty Totsy is a fast fizzer and soon the bath water is a lovely pink colour which smells of roses! I’m not a huge fan of rose scented products but this was really lovely and perfect for a Valentine’s Day evening bath! If you want to prepare the bathroom for your loved one to come home to on Valentine’s Day, then this is the bath bomb for that occasion!

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The Kiss Lip Scrub

For all this time I thought that the Sugar Plum Fairy lip scrub scent was my favourite but oh my god, this is now my absolute favourite! These tubs of lip scrub last for ages but I am still going to go and buy two more when I next pop into my local Lush store, this lip scrub smells incredible and tastes even better when you are scrubbing your lips with it!

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It is almost a fizzy sensation and contains both sugar and salt, a combination I really like but one which hasn’t been so well received by other Lushies! Thrown in with the fine sea salt and caster sugar is safflower oil, fair-trade organic cocoa butter, sicilian mandarin oil and almond essential oil to leave your lips soft and smooth and beautifully moisturised. As an added extra there are tiny little red edible hearts in the scrub as well! They look really cute but can be quite annoying when you are sat at work with random little red hearts scattered all across your chops! I thought people were looking at me strange!

I’ve done a couple of Valentine’s gift bags for my friends this year so I put a pot of The Kiss lip scrub in there for them! I hope they love it as much as I do!

Kiss Me Quick Wash Card

I wasn’t too sure what to make of these Wash Cards that Lush produce? I’ve seen some others for the range but have never really felt compelled to try them. As I was buying at least one of all the other products from the range I thought I would give it a go!

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I wasn’t too sure what to make of these Wash Cards that Lush produce? I’ve seen some others for the range but have never really felt compelled to try them. As I was buying at least one of all the other products from the range I thought I would give it a go!

I like the smell of Kiss Me Quick – it contains fresh apple pulp, clove bud absolute, mimosa absolute and tonka absolute. Basically when you are in the shower or bath you rub the card over your skin until it produces a lovely smelling lather. Although I liked the scent, I wasn’t overly keen on the sensation of using the Kiss Me Quick wash card, it felt like I was rubbing an old piece of thin leather across my skin!

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I used it sparingly as I got the impression the design of the product meant it wasn’t designed to last for several uses and, as expected, after only using it briefly, it started to fall apart and turn to mush! In the end I squashed the left over mush into my sponge and lathered it up with water but still, even for a one time use product, I don’t think I got much out of it!

It’s a good novel idea, and something which can be snuck into a Valentine’s Day card which is a nice touch but would I buy Kiss Me Quick or another style of wash card again? Probably not I’m afraid…..

Love Boat Bath Bomb

This was the one item I was really excited to try! What a brilliant idea! As I already love the Rocket Science and Yellow submarine bath bombs, I knew that Love Boat was not going to disappoint!

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The top of Love Boat is pink and blue with a lovely pink heart on the front and the underneath is bright yellow with lots of tiny little red hearts which are released when the bath bomb dissolves and float around in the bath water.

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Love Boat produces lovely thick colourful foam and this results in some of the most amazing bath art I’ve ever seen from a bath bomb!

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My little boat took a bit of a nose dive but luckily this meant the little heart on the front detached from the boat and floated around the top of the water which looked lovely!

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Love Boat has an amazing scent and contains sicilian lemon oil, organic sweet orange oil, and rose oil which is a lovely combination. The scent isn’t incredibly strong but is very relaxing and leaves your skin feeling lovely and soft – this is a definite favourite of mine! I’ve since bought three more but would really like Lush to make this part of their permanent range!

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I’ve also popped a couple of these in my friends Valentine’s goody bags as I am sure they will love them!

Whole Lotta Love Bubbleroon

I love the design of this bubble bar but it is rather small…. I can’t see that you would get any more than two baths out of it, so I cut it in half and chopped it up and then sprinkled it under hot running water.

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The bubbleroon makes a huge amount of bubbles and the water is really softening, the middle is very glittery but the glitter is really subtle when it is in the bath water. the water soon turns a lovely light pink colour and you are surrounded by lovely fluffy bubbles!!

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Whole Lotta Love contains bergamot oil, jasmine absolute, lemongrass oil, rose absolute, ylang ylang absolute and gardenia extract. Due to the amount of other products from the range which contain rose scents, I was worried this one would be overpowering but the rose scent is very delicate, and compliments the bergamot and jasmine really well. It is a flowery scent but is also very refreshing and uplifting.

It leaves your skin feeling really soft and moisturised because it contains fair-trade organic cocoa butter, murumuru butter and organic shea butter! Lovely.

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Not an absolute favourite but would definitely buy again and I think it would make a lovely Valentine’s Day present for those people who aren’t too fussed on chocolates and a bunch of flowers!

Heart of Enlightened Expectation Bubble Bar Melt

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I messed up using this product for the first time because I completely misunderstood what type of a product it was! I looked at the word “melt” and basically sat it in the bath water and watched it floating about doing absolutely nothing! It was then I realised it is a hybrid product and is a bubble bar melt! So I fished him out of the water and crumbled it under the running water. I didn’t get too many bubbles out of it because the bath was already full when I realised and started crumbling it and swishing it about! You can’t win them all as they say!

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Anyway, once I had crumbled it all into the bath, the water turned a lovely bright orange colour. Looking at the colour I was really surprised that it didn’t have an orange scent! It is in fact a delicate flower scent due to it containing geranium oil, bergamot oil, jasmine absolute, and rose absolute! I was really surprised when I read the ingredients because I am not a flowery scent fan, but I really loved this scent, probably because it was so delicate and subtle. This was one of the scents where I don’t want to get out of the bath because it feels like such a waste washing it all down the plughole never to be seen again, so I end up leaving the water in the bath long after I get out so the bathroom smells nice for hours afterwards!

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This was also a moisturising bubble bar melt (but not so much so that you can’t wash your hair in the bath water for fear of making your hair really greasy) due to the fair trade organic cocoa butter and the ylang ylang oil it contains.

I wasn’t too bothered about the look or scent of this product but it is definitely one I would buy again, but I’ll try and use it for the purpose it was intended next time!

Melt My Heart Massage Bar

I’m still not completely sold on massage bars, not because of the type of product that they are but basically because I hate moisturising full stop! Whether it’s moisturising creams, gels, sprays, butters or these types of solid bars, moisturising really is just my least favourite thing!

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The Melt my Heart massage bar is a good sized bar and every time I look at it I think to myself how much it looks like a bar of white chocolate!

I was a bit undecided about the scent of the massage bar but it is definitely a scent which has grown on me and smells far better once it is rubbed into your skin. Melt my Heart is made up of fair-trade organic cocoa butter, fair trade shea butter, safflower oil, dried rose petals, orris root powder, cypress oil, orange flower absolute and violet leaf absolute, so has quite an unusual combination of ingredients! I thought the overall scent was quite creamy (from the cocoa butter) as opposed to all the floral scents it contained, and to be honest I even kept forgetting the little red pieces in the bar were rose petals!

I used it quite a lot the first time so I could figure out what i really thought of the smell – it did grow on me when I started using it and the scent lasted a long time however I did find that after just one use I had worked my way through quite a bit of the product. I will carry on using it, but can’t see that it is going to last that long with regular use!

Cherryish Body Scrub

I’ve come across a lot of Lushies on Instagram who have said they aren’t keen on the smell of Cherryish, but I think it’s amazing! I used this body scrub once and I decided then and there that I was going to buy a couple more the next time I popped into Lush! So that is exactly what I did!

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Cherryish is made up of some amazing ingredients – for exfoliation it contains fine sea salt, ground cherry stones and dried cherries (hence the name) and for moisturising it contains fair trade organic cocoa butter, murumuru butter, organic illipe butter, fair trade shea butter, almond essential oil and extra virgin coconut oil!

It also contains vegan white chocolate, cocoa absolute and fresh apple pulp! Wow!

This scrub is amazing, it is quite abrasive so really does the trick but is also incredibly nourishing on the skin due to all the wonderful oils it contains. I loved using this product so I think I will end up using it really quickly, it’s definitely my favourite body scrub so far!

Tunnel of Love Soap

I love, love, love the smell of this soap! I bought four more and put one in my Sister’s and friends Valentine’s gift bags, I hope they love the scent as much as I do!

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Tunnel of Love is made with rose water, sweet wild orange oil and lime oil. I have to say I can barely detect the scent of rose water, but can definitely detect the lovely zesty smell of orange and lime. The soap produces lovely thick creamy bubbles which make your skin feel nice and soft and moisturised, the only down side with this soap is because I love the scent so much I used and used and re-used it loads of times throughout one shower, so I’d imagine I am going to get through each soap really, really quickly!

To keep your skin soft, Tunnel of Love also contains fair trade organic cocoa butter and extra virgin coconut oil – I seriously urge you to go and smell this in your local Lush store before they stop selling them – I wish they made this scent part of the permanent range. It is definitely one of my favourite scents so far and makes a perfect Valentine’s Day scent – delicate but refreshing and uplifting.

Tender is the Night Naked Shower Cream

I am still not completely sold by these Naked products. Don’t get me wrong I think they are a great idea to reduce on packaging and help reduce damage to the environment but I’m just not convinced they are all they are cracked up to be. I’ve written a separate blog on all the Naked products I’ve used so far which will be published in the next couple of weeks so I’ll leave it until then to go into any further detail….

Anyway, regardless of whether or not this product was a Naked product, I just can’t get used to it’s unusual smell! I don’t hate it, but there’s an ingredient in this scent which I’m just not keen on and I can’t quite figure out which one it is! It is really hard to explain but  it is almost like a musky smell…..

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Although relatively small in size, Naked shower gels are double the concentrate of the liquid shower gels they should theoretically last for twice as long. A bit disappointing as I’m not a fan of this scent but still, they look ever so pretty in the bathroom!

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Tender is the Night does lather up really well – I use a sponge to produce lots of fluffy soft bubbles – and does leave your skin feeling really soft. I didn’t feel like this scent was as concentrated as some of the other Naked products and didn’t find the smell to become much stronger when I was using it which I thought was pretty unusual.

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Tender is the Night contains Jasmine flower infusion, ylang ylang flower infusion, murumuru butter, fair trade shea butter, jasmine absolute, ylang ylang oil, vanilla absolute – all ingredients which I love the scent of individually, so this is why I am just not sure why I don’t like the combination of them!

The butters in the shower gel leave your skin feeling lovely and soft and moisturised, but this isn’t a scent I would buy again, in any other kind of product. I’d be interested to know what any of you guys thought if you have smelled this scent or tried this product…..

Giant Rose Bombshell Bath Bomb

I couldn’t wait to try this!! A MASSIVE version of the rose bomb shell bath bomb! In the past I have bought the giant Golden Wonder and the giant Dragons egg bath bomb called Mother of Dragons and I am really loving the giant versions of these great products! Yes they are expensive (£14.95 for the giant rose bombshell bath bomb), but they create the most luxurious bath you will ever have!

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Exactly the same as the smaller versions but on a much larger scale, this huge bath bomb fizzes away quite violently and spews out mounds of lovely yellow rose petals. Soon your bath water is a beautiful pink colour filled with petals floating around the surface. This is the perfect Valentine’s Day bath product! It doesn’t get much better than this!

The water is so soft and silky and the rose, lemon and germanium oil leave your skin feeling incredibly moisturised. I bought another one after using this one, I think I will save it until my Birthday next month! I wish the giant bath bombs were part of the permanent Lush range!

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So there you have it! The Lush cosmetics Valentine’s Day range! I hope you’ve all had a lovely romantic and special Valentine’s Day with your loved ones!

Valentine’s Day treats!

I never used to make an effort for Valentine’s Day, hubby and I always used to get each other a nice card, but I was never really sold on all of the red fluffy toys, fake red roses and red underwear! I love eating out but Valentine’s Day means all of the restaurants are absolutely jam-packed and are usually offering some sort of set menu, and I find that I don’t like the majority of food they have on offer!

So, to be honest, we usually stay at home and have a nice dinner together. My usual go to place is Marks and Spencers for their dine in for two Valentine’s Day offer for £20, which always has a nice selection of things we both like.

Last year I made a bit more of an effort and bought some lovely red roses for the dinner table, bought us a lovely three course meal and made us up a gift bag each with treats and presents in. We had a real nice time last year so I wanted to do something similar this year again.

Anyway, here are some of the lovely treats and presents which have caught my eye for this years Valentine’s Day:

Marks and Spencers chocolate heart filled with chocolate ganache and decorated with gold leaf – £3.00.

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Marks and Spencer’s chocolate hearts (4 pack) – £1.50. I thought these were lovely and really reasonably priced so I bought a few packs for my friends to put in their Valentine’s Day gifts bags!

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Marks and Spencers Pink Himalayan Salted Caramels – £6.00. I gave in and bought these for myself! I had a peek inside the box and they look really pretty! Can’t wait to try these! Let’s hope I can resist eating them all before Valentine’s Day!

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Marks and Spencers red Love You Heart – I love these little chocolate hearts – and they are only 50p each!

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Morrison’s Heart Marshmallow Biscuit lollipop – £1.00. This didn’t last long after I bought it! I loved the fluffy mallow inside!

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Dr Oetker Heart Marshmallows – £1.00. I found these in Morrison’s but I’m sure other supermarkets will sell these too – perfect for a Valentine’s hot chocolate!

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Morrison’s Valentine’s jammy heart biscuit – £1.00. Hubby scoffed this one before I had the chance to hide it!

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Morrisons gingerbread hearts – £2.00 for this bag of one big gingerbread heart and three small gingerbread hearts.

Hotel Chocolat Salted caramel hearts – £3.50 – delicious!

Hotel Chocolat Raspberry daiquiri hearts – £3.50 – I bought a few of these for friends  and family and put them in their Valentine’s gift bag.

Hotel Chocolat dark chocolate heart melts – £5.50 – got these for Mum as she only likes dark chocolate! I hope she likes them!

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Waitrose gingerbread hearts – £2.00 – these little bags of pink iced gingerbread hearts are lovely.

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And to put all these lovely sweet treats in I bought these lovely gift bags from Clinton cards for £2.50 each

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If food and sweet things aren’t really your thing – how about some nice Valentine’s themed jewellery? These are just some of the lovely items I’ve come across in the last few weeks –

Rose detail chain bracelets from ASOS – £8.00 – great for a Beauty and the Beast fan! They’ve also got matching hoop earrings and a set of five rings!

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I love these Ted Baker Crystal Heart earrings – £29.00 from ASOS!

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Or, this handy “LOVE” ring holder from Next for £6.00?

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Who knew they did Valentine’s themed handbags?? These are my favourites so far:

This heart coin purse from ASOS is only £8.00 – bargain!

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How cute is this SkinnyDip heart crossover body bag – again from ASOS and only £30.00 – I love the faux fur detail!

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If you are willing to spend a bit more on a Valentine’s themed bag then I love this red Dune heart bag for £65.00.

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And, believe it or not, Valentine’s Day SHOES!!!! I love these Mistress barely there sandals from Dune for £85.00.

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Plus I’ve spotted these gorgeous babies on Instagram and I am desperate to get my hands on a pair! They are by ALDO but for some reason they don’t stock them on their UK website????? My quest continues! They do them in red too…

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If you are having a cosy night in then what about some Valentine’s pyjamas?? There are hundreds to choose from on sites like ASOS, Very, Next, Boohoo…. the list goes on!

My absolute favourites are these Mr and Mrs Pyjama sets from Next – £22.00 for women’s and £24.00 for men’s. I’m so disappointed as I went to order these for hubby and I but they are completely sold out in the men’s sizes! Gutted! I knew I should have ordered them when I first saw them!

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And if all of this doesn’t float your boat this Valentine’s Day, I’ve reviewed the entire Lush Cosmetics Valentine’s Day range and I can assure you there is bound to be something from their collection which you will love! My blog on their Valentine’s range goes live tomorrow to mark the big day, so watch this space!

A short trip to Venice

As I am writing this Venice blog and uploading my photos from a while back (Venice was one of the first places I ever travelled to!) I am thinking I will need to go back as soon as possible as I went when I had a really rubbish cheap camera which explains the really poor quality photos!! Sorry!!

I only spent a very short while in Venice, it was really just a whistle stop tour as part of our grand tour of Italy. One thing I will say about Venice and that is it must be seen to be believed! It really is unlike anywhere else in the World!

Whilst I was there, as well as consuming ridiculous amounts of amazingly tasty gelato, I also managed to have a snoop at the following:

St Marks Square

Otherwise known as Piazza San Marco, St Marks Square is the main public square of Venice. At the eastern end of the square is the great St Mark’s Basilica.

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St Mark’s Basilica

From the 11th century onwards the building has been known by the nickname Chiesa d’Oro (Church of gold) due to its grand design and gold mosaics.

The interior is based on a Greek cross, with each arm divided into three naves with a dome of its own as well as the main dome. The marble floor is entirely designed in geometric patterns and animal designs. The lower part of the walls and pillars is covered with marble slabs. In typical Italian style it is very ornate!

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St Mark’s Campanile 

St Mark’s Campanile is the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica and it is one of the most recognisable symbols of the city.

The tower is 98 metres tall, and stands alone in a corner of St Mark’s Square, near the front of the basilica. It is 12 metres wide on each side and 50 metres tall, above which is an open room surrounding the belfry, which houses five bells. The tower is capped by a spire, where on top sits a golden weathervane in the form of the archangel Gabriel.

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The Clock Tower 

The Clock Tower was completed in 1499, above a high archway where the street known as the Merceria leads through shopping streets to the Rialto, (the commercial and financial centre). 

The Clock Tower is an early Renaissance building and although both the tower and the clock date from the very end of the 15th century, the mechanism of the clock has been much altered since then. The lower two floors of the tower make a monumental archway into the main street of the city.

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Doge’s Palace

The Doge’s Palace is a palace built in Venetian Gothic style, and is one of the main landmarks of Venice. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice. Today, it is one of the 11 museums run by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia.

Doge’s Palace has a LOT of history! Too much to detail in a blog – you can read more about it here.

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Bridge of Sighs

The Bridge of Sighs is made of white limestone, has windows with stone bars, and passes over the Rio di Palazzo. It connects the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace.

The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. The bridge’s name comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells.

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Rialto Bridge

The Rialto Bridge is one of four bridges which span the Grand Canal. It is the oldest bridge across the canal, and was the dividing line for the districts of San Marco and San Polo.

The present stone bridge was finally completed in 1591 and is similar to the wooden bridge there before it.  The bridge has defied critics to become one of the architectural icons of Venice.

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Gondolas

You can’t visit Venice without going on a Gondola ride! It’s the best way to admire the city and get an up close look at some of the beautiful architecture! Plus it is fascinating to watch the guys steering the gondolas along the winding streets and under some VERY low bridges! It’s truly an art!

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Venice is a lovely place with very interesting history – you can get some fantastically cheap deals to Venice these days and a long weekend is the perfect amount of time to spend here.

If that isn’t enough to persuade you to book up and go then just remember, Venice may not be around forever as it is slowly sinking year on year due to rising sea levels from climate change! Although the levels are only said to be rising around 1mm a year, don’t forget Venice is already prone to flooding during high tides….it’s quite daunting to hear the sirens going off to warn you of an incoming flood tide!!!

New Orleans, A journey to the Deep South

We visited New Orleans mainly for the Mardi Gras celebrations (see my Mardi Gras blog!) but during our few days here we managed to fit in so much more besides! New Orleans is a truly beautiful place, I really I hope I get the opportunity to go back again someday.

Here’s some of the other amazing things we managed to see and do during our trip to the Big Easy:

Jackson Square

Jackson Square is an historic park in the French Quarter of New Orleans. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960, for its central role in the city’s history, and as the site where in 1803 Louisiana was made United States territory pursuant to the Louisiana Purchase. In 2012 the American Planning Association designated Jackson Square as one of America’s Great Public Spaces.

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St Louis Cathedral

The Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France (also called St. Louis Cathedral) is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans and is the oldest cathedral in the United States. The first church on the site was built in 1718; the third, built in 1789, was raised to cathedral rank in 1793. The cathedral was expanded and largely rebuilt in 1850, with little of the 1789 structure remaining.

The cathedral is said to be haunted by Fr. Antonio de Sedella, more commonly known as Père Antoine. He was a priest at the cathedral and his body is buried within the church. He is said to walk the alley named after him next to the cathedral in the early mornings. Accounts of his apparitions by parishioners and tourists claim that he appears during Christmas Midnight Mass near the left side of the altar, holding a candle.

Another haunting is said to take place in the cathedral by Père Dagobert, a monk who resided in the church. It is said that his voice can be heard chanting the Kyrie on rainy days….

Luckily we didn’t encounter Père Antoine or Père Dagobert during our visit!

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The Cabildo

The Cabildo was the seat of Spanish colonial government, and is now a museum. It is adjacent to St. Louis Cathedral.

The original Cabildo was destroyed in the Great New Orleans Fire (1788). The Cabildo was rebuilt between 1795–99 as the home of the Spanish municipal government in New Orleans, and the third floor with mansard roof was later added, in French style. The building took its name from the governing body who met there — the “Illustrious Cabildo,” or city council. The Cabildo was the site of the Louisiana Purchase transfer ceremonies late in 1803, and continued to be used by the New Orleans city council until the mid-1850s.

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Pontalba Building

The Pontalba Buildings form two sides of Jackson Square, they are matching red-brick, one-block-long, four‑story buildings built in the late 1840s by the Baroness Micaela Almonester Pontalba. The ground floors house shops and restaurants; and the upper floors are apartments which, reputedly, are the oldest continuously-rented such apartments in the United States.

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The French Quarter

The French Quarter, also known as the Vieux Carré, is the oldest neighbourhood in the city of New Orleans.

The district as a whole has been designated as a National Historic Landmark, with numerous contributing buildings that are deemed significant.  Due to its distance from areas where the levee was breached during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as well as the strength and height of the nearest Mississippi River Levees in contrast to others along the canals and lakefront, it suffered only relatively light damage from floodwater compared to other areas of the city.

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Saint Louis Cemetery

Saint Louis Cemetery is the name of three Roman Catholic cemeteries in New Orleans. Most of the graves are above-ground vaults constructed in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The above-ground tombs in New Orleans cemeteries are often referred to as “cities of the dead.” Enter the cemetery gates, and you will find decorative ironwork, sun-bleached tombs and stunning crosses and statues. It seems weird visiting such a place as a tourist, but I’m pleased we paid our respects to such a beautiful peaceful place.

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Early settlers struggled with different methods to bury their dead. If you dig only a few feet down in New Orleans, the grave becomes soggy and begins filling with water which results in the coffin literally floating. Even worse, after a rainstorm, the rising water would pop the airtight coffins out of the ground. To this day in New Orleans, unpredictable flooding still lifts the occasional coffin out of the ground in areas generally considered to be safe from flooding.

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Eventually, New Orleans’ graves were kept above the ground, following the Spanish custom of using vaults. The walls of some cemeteries here are made of vaults stacked on top of one another, while wealthier families could afford the larger, ornate tombs with crypts. Many family tombs look like miniature houses, complete with iron fences. The rows of tombs resemble streets–and this is why New Orleans burial plots quickly became known as cities of the dead.

We visited St. Louis cemetery number 3 which is located about two miles from the French Quarter. The cemetery opened in 1854 and the crypts on average are more elaborate than the other St. Louis cemeteries, including a number of fine 19th century marble tombs.

St. Louis No. 3 also includes a Greek Orthodox section. The cemetery was heavily flooded during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but its tombs escaped relatively unscathed other than some plaster damage from debris.

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The Mississippi River

The picture I took of the river looks really cold and wet…. because it was! I couldn’t stand there in the cold for much longer to take a photograph so I’m afraid this was the best one I have!

The Mississippi River is the chief river of the second largest drainage system on the North American continent, second only to the Hudson Bay drainage system. Flowing entirely in the United States (although its drainage basin reaches into Canada), it rises in northern Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for 2,320 miles to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. The river either borders or passes through the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

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New Orleans Street Cars

Streetcars in New Orleans have been an integral part of the city’s public transportation network since the first half of the 19th century. The longest of New Orleans’ streetcar lines, the St. Charles Avenue line, is the oldest continuously operating street railway system in the world.

There are currently five operating streetcar lines in New Orleans: The St. Charles Avenue Line, the Riverfront Line, the Canal Street Line (which has two branches), and the Loyola Avenue Line and Rampart/St. Claude Line (which are operated as one through-routed line). The St. Charles Avenue Line is the only line that has operated continuously throughout the wide destruction by Hurricane Katrina and subsequent floods from the levee breaches in August 2005.

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Oak Alley Plantation

Oak Alley Plantation is an historic plantation located on the west bank of the Mississippi River, in the community of Vacherie, St. James Parish, Louisiana.

Oak Alley is named for its distinguishing visual feature, an alley created by a double row of southern live oak trees about 800 feet long,  which were planted in the early 18th century — long before the present house was built. 

The mansion has a square floor plan, arranged around a central hall that runs from the front to the rear on both floors. The rooms feature high ceilings and large windows and the exterior features a free-standing colonnade of 28 Doric columns on all four sides that correspond to the 28 oak trees in the alley.

The grounds include a formal garden that separates the mansion from the old garage. The old car garage is the temporary site for the sugarcane Theater, where the history of sugarcane cultivation is explained through a video and exhibits. A blacksmith shop and the Stewart graveyard are also on the grounds.

The film “Interview with a Vampire” was filmed here!

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Carriage Rides

I’d highly recommend taking a carriage ride while you’re in New Orleans – the tours are expensive but the drivers are so knowledgeable – you can learn a great deal during your 90 minute journey.  The carriages take you past the many landmarks of New Orleans, including Bourbon Street, the Mississippi, and Jackson Square.

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Food-wise there are so many amazing places to eat in New Orleans, but I would highly recommend a visit to Cafe Du Monde!

When you are there, order a Cafe Au Lait (coffee with hot milk) and Beignets (a square piece of dough, fried and covered with powdered sugar served in orders of three). They are absolutely delicious! Be warned – Cafe Du Monde gets VERY busy – be prepared to queue!

 

On our travels around the city we also tried jambalaya – a dish consisting of meat and vegetables mixed with rice. The meat usually includes smoked sausage such as andouille, along with some other meat or seafood, frequently pork, chicken, crawfish, or shrimp.

We also tried gumbo – a stew that consists of a strong stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and what Louisianians call the “Holy Trinity” of vegetables, namely celery, bell peppers, and onions. I highly recommend trying both – very delicious!

Drinks wise, as I say in my Mardi Gras blog – definitely give the Hurricane cocktail a try – a famous cocktail created by New Orleans tavern owner Pat O’Brien consisting of dark rum, white rum, over-proofed rum, passionfruit syrup and lemon juice. In the 1940s, Pat O’Brien needed to create a new drink to help him get rid of all of the less-popular rum that local distributors forced him to buy before he could get a few cases of more popular liquors such as scotch and other whiskeys. He poured the concoction into hurricane lamp–shaped glasses and gave it away to sailors, hence the name.

A definite place to add to your bucket list to visit – New Orleans is one of my favourite destinations out of all of the amazing places I’ve visited so far!

Addicted to Lush Take Five

Hopefully you have been reading my previous blogs containing reviews of products from the regular Lush collection. These have been slightly interrupted over the last few months to make way for the Halloween and Christmas editions but we are back to the regular collection for now!

Having said that, keep your eyes peeled in February for my blog on the Lush Valentines collection!

Butterball Bath Bomb

The Butterball scent is one of Lush’s most popular scents – the cocoa butter content make it really popular, especially in the winter months when your skin could do with as much moisturising as possible.

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The Butterball is a very small and plain looking bath bomb, and is designed to moisturise and hydrate the skin. It has sweet vanilla scent around it, and the ylang ylang provides a slightly fruity floral scent.

The Butterball is a loud little fizzer which releases foam containing small bubbles of cocoa butter which look like small blobs of oil and float on the surface. The oil coats your skin and makes it feel incredibly soft and moisturised. I didn’t need to use my normal moisturiser but if you suffer from greasy hair (like I do!), don’t wash your hair in this or it may be like an oil slick for the next few days!

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Not an exciting looking bath bomb but definitely one I will be stocking up on for using in the cold wet winter months! Perfect for a lovely warm bath after a cold day out in the wind and rain!

If you have read my Christmas blogs you may have seen the Christmas edition of Butterball, known as Butterbear! I learned after using both Butterball and Butterbear that they are small and mighty because they are designed to be used alongside a regular bath bomb to provide that extra kick of moisture! I will definitely give this a go next time I use a Butterball!

Ickle Baby Bot Bath Bomb 

This tiny little bath bomb is actually designed for babies and toddlers, basically to help them get off to sleep, but seeing as I often suffer from terrible insomnia, I thought it would be worthwhile giving it a try!

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The scent of Ickle Baby Bot is a gentle lavender scent and the bath bomb contains sandalwood oil and chamomile oil.

It is a really fast fizzer, and due to its size, it was gone ever so quickly. The scent is incredibly mild and, although the bath water went a nice shade of blue, it didn’t stretch very far. I assume this is because it is designed to be used in a small baby bath, rather than a very full, deep adult sized bath! If you want to give this bath bomb a go, perhaps buy a couple of them for a stronger scent and a more effective bath. It is priced at £1.90, so even buying a couple of them would be cheaper than most of the bath bombs from the range.

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Overall I am afraid this really didn’t do much for me and it isn’t a product I would probably buy again, but a great product for children and babies!

Brightside Bubble Bar

This is a good sized bubble bar and will easily last you for at least three or four baths – unless of course you are feeling particularly indulgent!

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Brightside contains tangerine oil and mandarin oil which I absolutely love – it is so refreshing and uplifting and zesty! This bubble bar is designed to reduce stress and combat restlessness. It also contains bergamot oil, which is designed to improve circulation and relieve muscle tension.

Simply cut as much as you want to use off your bubble bar and then crumble it under running water, or cut it up and store in an airtight container to use as and when you need it.

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The smell is lovely whilst you are in the bath and stays on your skin for a long time afterwards!

The bath water goes a lovely orange colour and the bubble bar makes mounds and mounds of lovely fluffy bubbles! I really didn’t want to get out of the bath!! A definite favourite scent and very moisturising, I’ll definitely be buying more of these!

Whoosh Shower Jelly

Shower jellies are a very strange product, and to be honest, probably one of my least favourite products. I just find them very strange to work with, and more often than not, a lot of effort for little return!

The reason I buy them is because they come in such amazing scents, and Whoosh is no exception to this!

 

There are several ways that you can use the shower jelly – firstly, you can rub the whole block, or a broken-off piece, directly onto your skin (although this is not my preference as it is very difficult to keep hold of the slippery sucker!)

Secondly, you can break off a piece around the size of a ten pence piece and then rub it into your sponge to lather up before rubbing it into your skin. Some Lushies get the block out of its pot and cut it into bite sized chunks and then store it back in the pot so it is ready to go when they next need it, so I gave this a try.

The other thing about shower jellies is that you can keep them in the fridge or freezer, ideal for using in the showers on those hot sticky summer days!

It lathers up really well once you get the hang of using them and the jelly version of Lush’s shower gels do seem to go a lot further than their liquid counterparts.

A small chunk of the jelly will easily be enough to clean you from head to toe! The downside to shower jellies? They are so difficult to keep hold of (slippery suckers!) which unfortunately can result in a lot of the product breaking off, falling apart and then being washed down the plughole! Not good!

Yellow Submarine Bath Bomb

I love the look of this relatively new bath bomb and I’ve been really looking forward to using it! It’s main ingredients are orange, coriander and lemon grass! Very refreshing!

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As soon as this bath bomb hit the water it made a lot of lovely creamy thick yellow and pink coloured foam. It’s a slow release bath bomb and is really quiet!

Once the bomb has dissolved you are left with lovely orange bath water! I really loved the scent of Yellow Submarine but it wasn’t quite strong enough for me and the smell did seem to fade quite quickly, which was bit disappointing!

Although the smell isn’t strong enough for me I do love the scent and would definitely buy it again, my skin was lovely and soft afterwards and I found this bath bomb to be really relaxing…A really cute design with a lovely scent, just make the scent stronger please Lush!

Intergalactic Bath Bomb

Oh my god I love this bath bomb! Intergalactic along with Fizzbanger (now discontinued – annoying!) and Dragon’s Egg are my favourite bath bombs! If I had to choose my favourite out of the three I think it would be this one!

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Intergalactic contains popping candy (need I say more?!) and really is one of the most stunning bath bombs on the market. If you want to start adding #bathart to your Instagram account then this is definitely the bath bomb for you!

It’s a lovely looking bath bomb – a vivid blue colour with streaks of pink and yellow throughout. The key ingredients are peppermint, cedarwood and vetivert oil, which make this bath bomb a very minty, fresh and uplifting bath bomb.

This is a fast fizzing bath bomb which creates trails of thick blue foam before the pink, white and yellow elements begin appearing, creating an almost “galaxy” like appearance across the surface of the water. The bath water is also filled with a lovely golden lustre, adding to the beautiful display and crackling noises of the popping candy. The bath water ends up as a beautiful shade of blue – it’s hard to explain, but again it is very deep-space galaxy like!