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Laters 2016, It's Been Weird

Pan Pacific glass roof elevator

I'm not the first to say that 2016 has been an odd one. Globally of course it has been a total clusterfuck, but personally it's been a totally mixed bag. I've experienced the most change since I graduated and moved to London almost seven years ago, but actually it's all ended up incredibly positive - even if it didn't necessarily feel like it at the time.

Three Delicious Places to Eat on the Isle of Wight

View from ferry port on isle of wight

We are lucky to have some beautiful food heritage here in the UK, from Cheddar cheese to Yorkshire puddings, you can find fresh produce and tried and tested recipes that are staples of the nation in every county. I knew very little about the Isle of Wight before my recent trip; my previous visits being in my childhood or a few weekends at Bestival.

Added Extras #50

Lifestyle blog round-up

Well! I've finally hit the 50th edition of Added Extras and what a day to do so because today I fly to South Africa! Ever since I came back from The Big Trip in June, I've been saving and waiting for my next adventure and I am so excited to go to Africa for the first time.

Hogwarts in the Snow at Warner Bros. Studio Tour, London

Hogwarts in the Snow at Warner Brothers Studio Tour, London

This year has been an incredible treasure trove of opportunities for me as a Harry Potter fan. I've seen Cursed Child TWICE, met stars of the films, and been invited to become an ambassador for JK Rowling's charity, Lumos. To top it all off, I was then invited to the launch of this year's Hogwarts in the Snow at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour. I've visited the tour twice before but never over Christmas and I was unbelievably excited to see the sets looking festive.

Added Extras #49

UK lifestyle blogger montage

Tomorrow is my last day in the office until 16th January and I am ready for Christmas please and thank you. I don't know if the dark mornings, my empty bank account or the fact I haven't really eaten a vegetable in weeks, but December is taking it's toll and come Wednesday I'll be on my mum's sofa, with my baby sister (who's actually 21 this week HOW IS THAT A THING?), watching Scrooged and finally feeling festive.

Collecting Air Miles: Mythbusting and Top Tips

Airplane view over snowy New Zealand

A few days ago I tweeted that I have enough air miles to get me a one way ticket to Japan (which is my big long haul trip for 2017). A few people replied asking me how I collect them and actually I have a few little sneaky tips and tricks that make sure building my air miles is actually part of my everyday life.

Surreal and Unnerving: Visiting the Border of North Korea

DMZ South Korea side

When visiting Seoul, I wasn't overly prepared with an itinerary. It was on my first day there, sat in a hotel room with my best friend who had come over from Hong Kong that I actually started looking through a guide book to get my bearings. To my surprise, one of the top recommended things to do was a tour up to the border between South and North Korea. A few frantic emails later and we had booked ourselves onto an early morning departure the next day.

How to Spend a Long Weekend in Seoul

View into Seoul from N Seoul Tower funicular tower

I'm more accustomed to spend long weekends in a quaint British village, or maybe hopping over to somewhere in Europe like Barcelona. But when I was flying from China to Hong Kong, it seemed a good opportunity to add another country to my itinerary by dropping into South Korea for a four day stint with my best friend.

Three Super Easy Whisky Cocktails

Johnnie Walker Gold Label

In the ten years I've been of legal drinking age, I have received many undesirable bottles of booze as sub-par unthoughtful gifts. Take, for example, the relative who gave me a bottle of Malibu two years in a row, despite me being allergic to coconut. Or the bottle of Cava that was two years out of date and actually had dust on it in the gift bag it came in.

Added Extras #48


It's been another couple of weeks of mayhem, with everything being stupid busy at work, my festive social life ramping up, and as a result, I've got my annual December cold. It's been here for a week now and frankly, I'm fed up of it. I spent most Friday and all of Saturday in bed trying to shift it, but it's persisting and I've got too much to do so I'm just cracking on. I've got just over a week of work left until I head home for Christmas and then I'm not back in the office until 16th January. Woohoo!

Six Reasons to Visit Bankside, London

The Shard, London

Lying on the south side of the river is many a tourist trap. The Southbank draws in the crowds for the London Eye, but it's the hidden second-hand book stalls and graffiti covered skate parks that keep locals coming back. Similarly, London Bridge has the Shard and Borough Market, but walk 10 minutes down towards Southwark and there's a new area undergoing renovation. Here's the things you should check out down at Bankside now, before the crowds sniff it out!

Cycling the City Walls of Xi'an, China

Hire bicycles on Xi'an city walls

I knew precisely zero about Xi'an, the city closest to the Terracotta Warriors, before arriving there. With some basic research, I realised there were two things I needed to experience: the Muslim Quarter for dinner, and the surrounding city walls.

Added Extras #47

UK lifestyle blogger

It's only Tuesday and this week is already proving to be a giant pain in the arse. Every year when things start getting festive, I promise myself I won't book in too much but somehow it happens without me even realising. Add to that a hectic time at work, Christmas presents to be bought, the wedding of two of my favourite people and an upcoming holiday to South Africa, I don't really have time to do anything.

A Denim Coat for Winter

Fashion blogger wears long denim coat with faux fur collar
I'm wearing:
Denim coat - Zara
Jumper - New Look
Jeans - ASOS
Socks - Topshop
Shoes - Primark
Ring (seen later) - Weekday

Dinner in Xi'an Muslim Quarter, China

Muslim Quarter market, Xi'an

Xi'an was an unplanned part of my Chinese itinerary, but as I'd been to Beijing before it seemed to make more sense to head there for a few days before leaving for Seoul and visit the Terracotta Warriors. I wasn't sure what else the city had to offer aside from being the gateway to the famous world heritage site, but a bit of guide book snooping made it clear that eating at the Muslim Quarter was top of the list.

Added Extras #46

UK lifestyle travel blog

Hiiiiiiiii! A few Tuesdays have passed and I've fallen behind on these weekly instalments again. The main reason being that I'm trying hard to not force myself into doing things I don't want to do and just enjoy some down time. I love writing this blog, but when I'm tired from work and still maintaining an active social life, typing posts and editing photos has had to take a back seat.

How to Spend a Day in Victoria, London

Townhouse in Victoria, London

There's a whole heap of guides out there on the hidden gems of London, and I love to explore my city to find the weird and wonderful. Recently though, rather than one shop or cafe that I happened to stumble upon, I found the quirky charms of an entire area and one which I've visited numerous times in the years I've lived here.

Visiting the Incredible Terracotta Army, China

Terracotta Warriors, China

Let's get this out of the way up front: Terracotta Army, bucket list, once in a lifetime blah blah. You'll have heard all those cliches before when it comes to one of the world's most famous manmade wonders. I was skeptical about visiting but I was damn curious, and although it wasn't on my original itinerary, I decided to make a detour to Xi'an and drop in on those infamous soldiers.

A Day in Margate

Kiss Me Quick sign at Dreamland Margate

I know I'm not alone in having an Instagram feed full of photos of Margate. The seaside town in Kent has suddenly become the place to head to for a weekend getaway, being only an hour or so on the train from London. It's undergone renovation and gentrification to such an extent that it's breeding hipster inhabitants at a rate of knots, but I was still skeptical that it would have much to offer.

Added Extras #45

UK lifestyle blog

Oh dear. I'm very behind. It's just that October was a bit of a weird one; it started off horribly, had a very interesting middle and ended a bit....meh.

Life Drawing Class with Nude Life (NSFW)

Life drawing class sketches

Planning a hen party is a stressful business. You suddenly question everything you know about one of your best mates because the fear of arranging something she will absolutely hate is so very real. And I've already got my bridesmaid dress sorted, so I had no intention of being kicked out of the wedding just yet.

Added Extras #44

Best lifestyle bloggers UK round-up

In the immortal words of the poet that is Ronan Keating, 'Life is a rollercoaster.' Except, the one I'm on is making me so damn exhausted. There's been a lot of changes going on and they're definitely all for the best, but please can I just skip forward to 27th December when I'm on a plane to South Africa, hurtling towards sunshine and AWAY from real life for a bit.

Four Great Places to Have Brunch in Dublin

On my recent trip to Dublin, I had three things in mind: quality time with my favourite cousin, a trip to the Guinness Storehouse and a lot of brunch. In four short days, I clocked up four amazing brunches, spread out around the city. Each one offered something completely different from your standard eggs benedict and prosecco situations (not that those two things are bad in any way whatsoever). First up:

San Lorenzo's Brunch of Champions


Review of San Lorenzo's Brunch of Champions, Dublin

What I Wore to the Bloggers Blog Awards

Cropped jumpsuit, milk carton bag, vivienne westwood melissa shoes
I'm wearing:
Jumpsuit - Louche by Joy*
Heels - Vivienne Westwood for Melissa
Bag - H! by Henry Holland at Debenhams

I don't have all that many opportunities to dress up particularly fancy, but being nominated for Best Travel Blog at the Bloggers Blog Awards seemed like just the time to crack out some heels and make a bit of an effort.

Pub Grub at The Happenstance, London

Chorizo scotch egg with paprika mayonnaise and rocket

When it comes to pub food there's a gap in the market between reheated frozen lasagne and Michelin starred cuisine. You take a risk eating somewhere who, up front, deals predominantly in pints, but it paid off at The Happenstance.

You Don't Always Have to Go Off the Beaten Track

Travel blogger at The Bund, Shanghai

It's very strange but there seems to be a lot of stigma around visiting a country's most well-known sights when abroad. For some reason it's perceived that flocking to where everyone else goes and being a 'tourist' isn't how you should spend your money, but I totally disagree. I'm as guilty as the next travel obsessive for seeking out local haunts and secret gems as they do often show a side of a country that isn't as frequently seen, but there are so many reasons why I love to go to the 'main show'.

Added Extras #43

Weekly round-up from London lifestyle blogger

This last week I've been living the quintessential London yuppie lifestyle. Sushi and brunch and shopping and theatre - I'm basically a Kardashian. Except, all that frivolity means I'm now poor and tired but it was all worth it. I was dreading my birthday this year but my fabulous friends made sure that being away from my family wasn't as bad as I had anticipated. I'm a lucky gal.

Lumos Charity Gala at Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Lumos Charity Ambassadors with Evanna Lynch

Sometimes, something amazing will drop into my inbox. Over and above the 15% ASOS discount for my birthday (although let's not lie, I totally used that) and the general newsletter nonsense that I forget I've subscribed to, there is an email to stop me in my tracks, throw down my phone and do a happy dance in my chair. And that's how I began my journey with Lumos.

A Day in the French Concession, Shanghai

French Concession, Shanghai

The French Concession area of Shanghai is a bizarre contrast of traditional Chinese life within a setting that looks distinctly European. Aside from Macau, which used to be Portuguese, I haven't been anywhere in China that actually resembles anything western, so this totally threw me. Interspersed within the characteristic browns and greys I was becoming accustomed to, there were sudden pops of colour, and a whole day of exploring the area revealed so many hidden gems.

Added Extras #42

Weekly round-up by London lifestyle blogger

I have no idea how it's the 20th September AGAIN. The day just seems to roll around quicker every year and insists that I get older with it. Today I turn 28. I don't really have much to say on the subject because as much as I'm still getting my shit together as a fully fledged adult, 27 was a bloody hard year and I'm not all that sorry to say goodbye to it. Plus I have an excuse to eat cake, I get presents just for being alive, and I have a monster bottomless brunch planned in for the weekend. I'm already smashing this shiny new age of mine!

How to Wear a Denim Pinafore Dress

Fashion blogger wearing a denim pinafore dress
I'm wearing:
Pinafore dress - Dorothy Perkins
Tee - H&M
Sandals - Kinki Gerlinki, Melbourne
Bag - Mong Kok Ladies Market, Hong Kong

There's going to be a million things online this week reporting back on the hottest new trends from London Fashion Week. As much as I love reading through all these and pinning every look I love, I don't base my purchases on what is 'in season' and as a result I often end up embracing a trend far too late. Enter: the denim pinafore dress.

An Organic Sunday Roast at The Duke of Cambridge, Islington

Sunday roast dinner at Duke of Cambridge, Islington

I live up to my British heritage when I say unwaveringly that I LOVE a roast dinner. One of those spilling-over-the-plate, all-the-trimmings affairs, with a healthy mix of bad-for-you beige and wonderfully colourful veggies.

The Duke of Cambridge is tucked away in quintessentially quaint Islington; a stone's throw from Camden Passage eateries but with an entirely different vibe.

Added Extras #41

UK London lifestyle blog

I skipped this little instalment last week because the lurgy meant I basically cancelled my life and stayed in, feeling sorry for myself. I thought I was better but I went to the gym yesterday and had to leave my spin class 3/4 way through so I could cough up a lung. Aside from that, there's been some good bits in the last week or so.

Top 10 Tips for Staying in Hostels

Passport, padlock, travel guide

Hostels get a bad rap and sometimes it's completely justified. They are cheap and often for a reason but I have experienced places at both ends of the scale. From gorgeous, clean and polite to grotty, smelly and damn right rude, reviews online often mean nothing so you just have to hope for the best.

Why I Loved My Family's Caravan Camping Holidays

Static caravan

I've never been to Disneyland and it's something that my mum still laments to this day. It's the epitome of a kid's dream holiday (although let's not pretend that I wouldn't pass out from happiness if I went as a 27 year old), but we couldn't go and it was never an issue for me. My childhood certainly wasn't short of holidays, it's just that they weren't all-inclusive beach resorts abroad - instead we headed to UK seasisde towns, where we stayed in static caravans and had the best time.

Steak and Whiskey at The 1515 West Chophouse, Shanghai

Review of The 1515 West Chophouse and Bar in the Shangri-La hotel, Shanghai

I rarely cook steak at home, but then I often feel it's a wasted order in a restaurant too. Very few places do steak perfectly and I certainly didn't expect to find somewhere that would nail such a challenge in Shanghai.

Added Extras #40

Best UK lifestyle travel blogs

I am sat in Dublin airport, waiting to fly back to London. I have a horrific cold and every time I cough, the woman next to me looks at me as though I am a carrier of the Black Death. It's so bloody typical that I go away for a fun-filled Bank Holiday weekend and I end up being sick. Why can't I be ill when I have nothing fun planned?!

A Day on Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas Cruise Ship

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas cruise ship

I am well versed with planes. I know the protocol; I know where the life jacket is stored and to handle turbulence. I'm good with planes.
Boats?
Um. Not exactly.

Added Extras #39

Weekly uk lifestyle blogger round-up

I've been saying for the last few months that I'd be feeling more myself once I got back to London and I was not wrong. This week I've been able to live life like normal: my belongings are all in one place, I'm not reliant on anybody to get me from A to B and I can socialise without having to rush off to get a train. And my commute is now 25 minutes instead of 90 and it is as close to bliss as rush hour on the northern line will allow.

Autumn/Winter Coats Wish List (because summer is over already)

Autumn Coats AW16

The Kindness of Strangers

Bay of Fires, Tasmania

There is nothing that restores my faith in humanity like the kindness of strangers. Those people who go out of their way to give, share and provide for somebody they have never met, and may never see again. We go about our day-to-day lives tutting at tourists who get in our way, or swear like a sailor at that tosser who just cut you up on the M1. But when push comes to shove (sometimes literally during rush hour!) the majority of us actively want to help each other and it gives me the warm fuzzies.

I'm Shortlisted in the Bloggers Blog Awards!

Floral dress at Royal Ascot

So this is a bit of a surreal post to write. A few weeks ago in a group Whatsapp chat, a couple of my lovely blogger friends said that they were going to nominate me for Best Travel Blog at the Bloggers Blog Awards. I was surprised, but totally ran with it, genuinely thinking nothing would come of it and I'd watch the celebrations from afar again.

Added Extras #38

best uk lifestyle blogs

OK, I've moved. I'm in. I am 100% back in London and things are just about getting back to normal after that whole 'quit my job, travel the world' situation that just kind of happened. I can't even believe that that was this year, it feels like decades ago already!

Six Tips for Finding the Best Cheap Eats Abroad

Food blogger with a pavlova at Salamanca Market, Tasmania

I travel to eat. I mean, I travel to experience new cultures and environments, but I don't think there is any better way to do that then to try local food. I would love to eat at Michelin star restaurants when I'm abroad, but more often than not that's out of my budget, and to be honest, there is so often amazing food to be found for a lot less money.

Added Extras #37

UK lifestyle blogger

I AM BACK IN LONDON. I am writing this, sat in my new bed, with new sheets, in my new flat. It's been five months since I went away, two since I came back and now I'm looking forward to getting back to some sort of normality again. I'm living out of a suitcase for the next few days, then shifting everything over in a van at the weekend, but it's done. I'm here. Hallelujah!

A Day at the Chengdu Panda Sanctuary, China

Baby panda at Chengdu Panda Sanctuary, China

I've never had a bucket list (partly because I find the whole thing a bit morose), but also because I basically want to do and see everything. However there has been one place that I've wanted to visit for so long, and finally, after years of watching an inordinate amount of YouTube videos of the place, I made it to the famous Chengdu Panda Sanctuary.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Midnight Launch at Waterstones

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child book and tickets

*SPOILER FREE*

For as long as I can remember, I've loved to read. I've been fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful people who have encouraged this passion, from my parents reading to me every night as a child, to friends recommending me something new.

At 10 years old, my teacher Ms McCarthy gave me a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to read. I, like millions of other children, fell in love with The Boy Who Lived.

Added Extras #36

UK lifestyle blog

I'll be honest, I'm not feeling this week at all. Everything seems a bit topsy-turvy and I'd quite like some normality to be restored soon. I'm placing a lot of hope on my move back to London which might be a bit silly but is something to look forward to regardless. There have been lots of positives in the last week though, so I'll just focus on those for now. Here's this week's Added Extras:

The Palm Print Maxi Dress

Fashion blogger wearing palm print maxi dress
I'm wearing:
Maxi dress - H&M
Sandals - ASOS
Sunglasses - Topshop

It's summer! Or is it? It is, technically, but oh my, we're being kept on our toes aren't we? I've complained so much about not having any sunshine but when it appeared, I had no idea what to wear.

Added Extras #35

UK lifestyle blog

What's up, Tuesday? Haven't you come around fast again? Can you believe that this time next week it'll be August already? That means it's getting closer to September, the magical birthday month where I constantly use my getting older as an excuse to buy myself shiny new things and eat everything I can find.
As of 20th November 2014, any products marked with an asterisk (*) have been provided as a sample for unbiased review