The cutest pink apartment and why we chose it over a hotel

Monday 27 February 2017

When I spot a hotel that I like the look of, it goes on the list and we save it for a celebration. For us, staying in London is more about the accommodation because London is home and we are not there to explore, we are there to relax and spend some time together. Going back to our old favourites is still something both of us enjoy but whether its a posh serviced apartment in Kensington or a quirky new place in Shoreditch, nothing beats the feeling of falling in love with somewhere new.

As you know, my eyes have been opened the the world of alternative accommodation recently and with that in mind, I set about finding something different for Valentine's day just gone. I did scout out some hostels but we still wanted our weekend to be relaxing and have an element of luxury to it. I came across alot of quirky hotels (more for the list) but I also came across a few different serviced apartments.
I'd never stayed at a serviced apartment so I didn't really know what I was looking for although I fell in love with the design at Leman Locke in Aldgate; so that we initially picked this one. We really enjoyed our time there so I thought I'd share a few reasons why we will consider them again in the future:

As two people who both live at home with their parents, this was something we both really loved about having an apartment. Hotel rooms can be very small, especially if you aren't prepared to fork out for one of the more expensive rooms but we picked the smallest apartment and it was a similar size to some of the suites you would get at a hotel. We had a bedroom, a particularly large bathroom (we requested one with a bath) and a kitchen and living area meaning there was lots of space to move around and a few different rooms to go in. 

They are serviced apartments so they still get cleaned, just less often. Rather than every single day, its once ever three days which is probably better if you are looking to stay for a few weeks for example. We were only there for two nights so we didn't see a cleaner but I liked knowing that everything was going to be exactly where I left it.
Unlike when you rent a normal apartment, they are ready to live in and have all all the normal stuff you would expect to find in a hotel room like bath towels, bedding and mini toiletries. Each apartment is fully furnished and the kitchen was stocked up with all the equipment you'll need. Along with the oven, microwave and hob (and a washing machine and dishwasher), there were pots and pans, cutlery and even a recipe book. They left us a bottle of water, some tea bags and some milk but we popped to the shop for the essentials. Friday night fajitas it was!

In the living area, each apartment has a signature Leman Locke pink sofa and an apple TV. With the screen mirroring and the fast wifi, I was able to catch up on a whole weeks worth of Eastenders.
The building also has its own gym but we didn't have time to visit. 
As I mentioned, we popped across the road to the shops. There was a sainsburys and a tesco within a five minute walk as well as a cinema. Leman Locke is just down the road from Aldgate East station so it was the perfect base for a weekend in Shoreditch - more on that in another post!
Obviously this is a very important factor when picking somewhere to stay and in the past we have paid extortionate amounts for a night at a hotel in London. We stayed here for two nights, on the weekend before Valentines day and paid £245. We have paid over that for one night at some other place places so we thought it was a really good deal.
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The Junior Suite At M By Montcalm, Shoreditch

Monday 20 February 2017

It seemed like our anniversary passed us by last year; we were on a plane back from Hong Kong for most of it and spent the rest of the week too exhausted to do anything but Andrew being Andrew, he decided to book us a little romantic staycation a couple of weeks later. 
The M by Montcalm hotel is that strange building that has popped up on City Road, just down the road from Old Street Station. We were in London early so we though we'd chance it and see if we could check in and luckily for us, the room was ready so we were able to go straight away. We had booked the Feel Better deal in the Junior suite and it came to around £300 (in October 2016.) Alone with the room, we were given a couple of vouchers to spend in the club lounge on the 16th floor. We didn't get time to spend them but I love all the surprise perks you get when you book a suite, drinks were around £8 so that actually would have got you quite a bit.

Whilst this hotel is the sister hotel to The Montcalm Marble Arch which we stayed at earlier last year but it's completely different. Being less than a year old and surrounded by the trendy, start-up culture in Shoreditch, the hotel is an edgy, modern space and full of young, creative people and that is what we are all about at the moment. The room had white sheets, simple furniture, straight lines and lots of light but Andrew actually picked this hotel because of how it integrated technology into the rooms. Everything is controlled by tablets from the curtains to the heating. He loves all that kind of stuff but it's not something that I'm a huge fan of  because it can be a little bit of a pain when you need to go to the toilet in the middle of the night.

 Apart from that, the room was a lovely size with lots of living space in the middle. The bed was majorly comfortable (and sprinkled with rose petals for our anniversary) and there was lots of light coming in from the windows. 

We spent some time downstairs in the gym before coming back up to the room to get ready for dinner! I love to take ages getting ready when we have a nice hotel bathroom and I took a particularly long time here. The bathroom was stocked up with Hermés goodies and staying in a suite meant that we had complimentary use of The Bath Butler. Okay it's not as weird as it sounds, basically its a small list of bath time treats, I went for one called Bubble Bliss and right on time (4.30 to be precise) a woman turned up with a bottle of champagne and a plate of chocolate and strawberries before disappearing into our bathroom to set up. Twenty minutes later she said good bye and left us to enjoy the bath.
The hotel is in a really great location, less than five minutes walk from Old Street station so after we had finished our champagne, we got ready for dinner and walked to The Red Dog Saloon in Hoxton Sqaure. We have a habit of accidentally picking almost identical outfits and it happened again here..
Overall we had a pretty lovely stay and yes, we would visit again. There are just two small things that I want to point out to you guys as they will be something that we actively avoid next time. We had booked the Feel Better deal which included an overnight stay, breakfast and a 20 minute head or foot massage each and whilst we loved the room, the other two parts of this deal were not up to scratch. When we came to book in our treatments (two weeks prior to our stay) they didn't have any slots left which is really bad practice if I’m honest, it should have been mentioned at the time of booking! Initially they were very unhelpful about this but after putting up a bit of a fuss, we were refunded £30 off of the price. As for breakfast, there wasn't necessarily anything wrong with it, it was just a bit of a cattle market. I was expecting an a la carte menu but what I got was a small buffet that never got refilled.

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Being a girl on a lads holiday

Monday 13 February 2017

I don’t really remember much of my social life growing up; probably because it was so terrible. I joined a secondary school where everyone seemed to already know each other and I guess I just didn't fit. I left that place with two friends; Georgia (who I mention on here quite a bit) & Paul. It wasn’t all bad, one day, the strange guy who I sat next to in form (soz Paul, I was going to say your not strange anymore but then again, I did catch you eating a whole cucumber like it was a bar of chocolate last week) had a house party and invited the whole year; and that’s where I met Andrew and his friends who I've kinda stuck with ever since.

We’ve all been on holiday together before, although last time there were a few other girls who came with. The boys go on a lad’s trip most years but this time it was for Andrews’s birthday and he wanted me to come with too. So that's how I ended up being the only girl on a lad’s holiday, but let's be honest I am the only girl out with them most of the time so I'm pretty used to the beer, the burping and the banter already; they were just going to be doing it in another country.

Carry on luggage. It's always the way with the boys, flying cheap means they'd rather spent their money on beer then pay extra to take a big case & since it was freezing there, it meant wearing my huge coat to fly in. Always fun. Luckily Easy Jet dont have a weight limit for cabin luggage so I stuffed it as full as I could with everything else!
I don’t usually drink at the airport so I decided that I'd just stick to something non -alcoholic although they weren't having that and I ended up with a glass of prosecco in my hand before long. These seasoned drinkers started with three pints before we got on the plane and carried on until we touched down in Germany.

At the hostel, the boys picked a 6 bed dorm which was lucky because there was six of them, but it was pretty small and they had to pick their bunk beds according to who was most likely to throw up after a night out. There were clothes and empty bottles everywhere plus they came in drunk at all different times and were more than happy to wee in the shower when the toilet was busy. Andrew and I paid three times as much (whats an extra 50 for two nights) to stay in a private room with en suite so luckily I didn't have to deal with that. 
Also, since there were six of them and only two of us, it meant I could take as much time as I wanted to get ready. Whilst I put on layers and layers, Andrew went out on the first night, in -5 degrees wearing just a t-shirt. Boys eh?

I don’t think I've ever eaten so much crap in my whole life as I did that weekend. When I go visit a new country, I like to try out the local cuisine and look for authentic places to eat or try something fun like taking a cooking class and learning to cook like a local but the boys couldn't care less about what they ate, as long as they weren't hungry afterwards.

We started this weekend with a fry up before we left (the greasy spoon didn't have any avo) and it just went downhill from there. The weekend consisted of eating an array of junk food at all sorts of strange times. Pizza hut at 5am, KFC for breakfast the next morning and ice cream for lunch at the airport. Saying that, we did have one authentic meal in Hamburg and thanks to the boys it was such a fun experience that I didn’t feel like I missed out on my fill of German-ness.

After dinner it was back to their room for predrinks before we hit the Reeperbahn. Over the years I have learnt that I can’t drink anywhere as much as most of them so I don't even try. I am now pretty good at getting drunk and then just stopping drinking, something that they obviously aren't so good at, hence the bunk bed situation. 

 They spend a lot more time standing at the bar than I ever have done. I'm not sure if that’s because it takes them longer to get served or because I love to dance when I'm in a club. Either way, it worked for me because it meant any time I did want another drink, there was already someone at the front of the bar to put my order in. I did have to swap my prosecco for something more accessible though; usually vodka. My favourite was the caramel shots from the 99¢ bar. There were a lot of shots at that bar. 

There was a refreshing lack of arguments which is something that I love about spending my time with the boys. Instead they spent a lot of time bantering each other and having a good time. Both nights were loads of fun, as we're the days, even though we didn't exactly do that much.

So there's just a little insight into my weekend away with the boys. Would I do it again? If they wanted me? Sure - why not!

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Five Things To Do In Ronda

Monday 6 February 2017

Never heard of Ronda? Neither had I before the Spanish tourism board took me to visit on part of our #InCostadelSol trip. It's in the western part of Malaga and we were only there for the back end of one day but I instantly fell in love with it - Ronda is one of the most picturesque and romantic places I have visited. The mountainous surroundings mean that every direction you look in, there are beautiful sweeping views down below; and with 2,700 years of history, it's also one of the oldest towns in Spain. So why visit? It's history along with the cobbled streets and breathtaking views make it the perfect place for a romantic break! Here's what to do when you get there:

Wine Tasting at Joaquin Fernandez Bodega 
Malaga gets 300 days of sun per year so who not spend one of them outside at a vinyard? Joaquin Fernandez Bodega is an organic winery placed at an altitude of 700 metres meaning the whole vineyard is drenched in beautiful sunlight; with the mountains in the background, the views are breath-taking.

Moises is the owner’s son and he was our guide - he speaks clear English and didn’t waffle on so even for someone who doesn’t drink wine (yep, you heard), it was very interesting. We explored the vineyard and learned about the whole process from separating the grapes to sealing the bottles at the end - they use beeswax to keep it organic. 
After the tour we settled down on their terrace overlooking the vines for a few hours of wine tasting and delicious freshly cooked lunch.
See the Puente Nuevo Bridge
Puente Nuevo Bridge (aka the new bridge but not actually that new because it was built in the 18th century) is a very famous landmark and a sight worth seeing whilst you are in Ronda. It bridges the El Toja gorge joining the old town with the new and whilst spring is supposedly the best time to see it; sprinkled with flowers the sunset on a October evening was fine for me! The view from the other side isn't bad either!

Visit Plaza de Toros
Plaza de toros translates to Bullring and the one in Ronda is Spain’s oldest and largest one, making Ronda the birthplace of modern bullfighting. This humongous stadium seats over 5000 people, and whilst I am 100% not a fan of bullfighting, could you image the atmosphere of this place in its full glory roaring with people?
Go For a Sunset Walk
Ronda is such a romantic place and I think they best time to see it in all its glory is sunset. Find your perfect spot on one of the many balconies and watch the sun was set from over the mountains as the skies turn from blue to bright orange. After the big event, there are the cobbled streets of the old town to explore!

Eat a traditional Spanish meal at Pedro Romano  
Named after the matador that introduced modern bullfighting as we know it, Pedro Romano is just outside of the bullring and is dedicated to the man himself. The place was like a museum, full of relics and bullfighting memorabilia. We sat down at the end of a long day and indulged in a couple or Spanish classics all washed down with a glass of cava. After starting with some pâté, I got my first take of oxtail stew; it fell of the bone and was packed with flavour. Seriously delicious.
* I was a guest of the Spanish tourism board.
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