5 Things To Know Before Your First Time At Taste Of London

Monday 26 June 2017

Taste of London happens twice a year and as a massive foodie, it's one of those things I have always wanted to go to. I've never had time in the past but now that I do, I couldn't turn down an invitation from Currys. It was the week of the London heatwave so we seriously had the perfect weather for artisan ice cream and drinking champagne on a deck chair. With two VIP tickets, Georgia and I spent the whole day stuffing our faces.
Smile girls friends gingham
As I had never been before, I didn't really know what to expect. I knew it was a food festival but I didn't understand buying a ticket to go in and then spending more money on food. Now however, I totally get it and would definitely go again. It's an awesome day out; and if you've never been before, I'm hoping that these little tips will make your first visit to taste of London the best it can be!

It's only open for 4 hours at a time
Sometimes my OCD comes in handy. I was adamant we were there for opening and lucky we were because by 4pm they were closing down for the day slot. They open again later on in the evening but there's a no re-entry policy so you have to pay £15 if you want to get back for that. Make the most of your time there because for Georgia and I, after factoring in half and hour champagne break and a 45 minute cooking class, it absolutely flew.
Champange in london
Taste cards don't buy products, just food
Our VIP tickets came with £20 Taste credit which is a great reason to get the more expensive ticket. 
These cards can be used to buy dishes which range roughly from £4 - £9, from any of the restaurant stands. Perfect for your time there but there were also lots of stands that were just selling food products to take home - Georgia wants to buy some Pots & Co. & I wanted some cookie dough but neither of the stands took Taste cards as payment so bring cash if you want to buy.
rustic wedding cake london
You don't need to spend any money
As I said, we went into to taste with £20 credit card each in our back pockets and.. we came our with the same. We decided to look at every stall before we decided which one the buy from but by the time we had been around the whole festival we were totally stuffed on free samples and couldn't even think about buying a full sized dish.
Make Friends With Stand Holders
Turns out, people are happy to give things away to people they like. Georgia was the perfect person for this because she just talks and talks and makes friends with anyone. Whilst it was pretty annoying when the lady from the cheese asked her 24 questions and she stood and gave an honest, thought out answer for each; Georgia redeemed herself when she made friends with both the Pots & Co (they gave use 4 pots when they weren't aloud to take our cards) and Hippea people who gave us loads of free products, that people next in the line were paying for. 
Go Hungry & Try Everything!
Seriously, don't eat before hand; there are so many new and exciting foods to try that you'll be angry with yourself if you even have breakfast. Make the most of the opportunity and try everything that you can! We got to try all sorts of new foods along the way and some were actually really delicious.  We did a cooking class at the end of the day and both of use were a bit too tired but we ended up making my favourite dish of the day and leaving with a new signed cook book that we won! 
Have you been to Taste Of London before?
*Huge thanks to Currys for providing me with tickets.

Check Your Pet For Parasites

Monday 19 June 2017

So I know this post isn't as relevant to my blog as it was last year (when I was much more lifestyle) but my babesiosis posts got so much traffic that I figured people must be finding them useful.

Molly turns 5 this year and I honestly can’t tell you how much she has changed our life. She cheers everyone up and brings us all together; and she’s always there at the door to greet me, whether I've just popped to the shops or I'm just arriving home from the airport in the middle of the night. She is a huge part of our life, and so a pet should be!

Although I love her like mad, with my anxiety I really worry about her. Did I shut the front door properly? She hasn't been to the toilet yet! Why has she been sleeping so much today?! All sorts of crazy things run through my head when it comes to her, I can imagine this is what having a child is like.
Check pet parasites
Check pet parasite
Whilst I sit and pick twigs and leaves out of her fur after a walk, one thing that I don't often think about is what parasites she could be picking up on her walks.

A survey of over 1000 dog owners nationwide carried out by  Pet Parasite Action  has found that while 85% of us happily hug our dogs (we don't leave her alone more like), most dog owners are unaware of which parasites present the greatest danger to their pet or their family.

So please just take this as a little reminder from me: Remember to get your pet checked over by a vet every once in a while and ask them about a simple way to help protect your pet against parasites inside and out.
*Sponsored Content

Flashpacking Vietnam: Two Week Itinerary

Monday 12 June 2017

When I booked my trip to Vietnam, I had a 9-5 job that would only allow me to take two consecutive weeks of leave at a time; but I wanted to see Vietnam and I wasn't going to let my small time frame ruin that. I spent months researching the parts that I wanted to see most managed to squeeze 4 stops into two weeks. For a holiday, that was the perfect amount of time but I fell in love with Vietnam when I got there; I could have stayed for months - especially Hanoi. Funnily enough, I got made redundant the day I returned home so maybe that wont be as far off as I thought. 
  I started my trip in the south and moved north although everyone we met along the way did the opposite. My reasoning was that I wanted to start with crazy and relax towards the end and that's exactly how it worked out (like I said, months of research) but this itinerary would work exactly the same doing it the other way around. With more time, I'd suggest trying to work in a few days in Hue and SaPa but for the two weeks I had, this run down was utterly perfect and left me wanting more - hopefully it will do the same for you!

Day 1: Fly
From London Heathrow to Ho Chi Mihn City, it took 12 hours. We got a direct flight with Vietnam Airlines (definitely recommend) to save on precious time.

Days 2, 3 & 4: South Vietnam, Ho Chi Mihn City
We arrived into the city at around 7am, grabbed a map and spent the rest of that day exploring by foot. We did the war museum, the walking street, the wet market and Ben Thanh market before stopping off for our first bowl of pho at a little place full of locals.
Over the next two days, we did some of HCMC’s most famous day trips; the Mekong Delta and the Cu Chi tunnels. I found both fascinating and with very comfortable transfers from outside our hostel, a tour guide, bottle of water, entrance and lunch with the Mekong tour, they were incredible value for money at $9 each. We booked them both at a travel agents called Hallo Travel on Le Lai street and they were the cheapest we came across – some places wanted as much as $70! The evenings were spent exploring the night markets, drinking at a rooftop bar and of course wandering around the backpacker district.

Starting in the south, we had jumped in at the deep end as it was the warmest of our stops and also the craziest, in my opinion. The roads here were definitely the busiest and we very quickly had to forget everything we had ever been taught about crossing a road and just walk straight out into the incoming traffic to get across. One thing I will say about Ho Chi Mihn City that it was also our cheapest stop, everything cost noticeable less there. We stayed at Townhouse 373 Hostel (full review to come)

Days 5, 6 & 7: Central Vietnam, Hoi An
We were on a tight schedule with only two weeks and you know, flashpacking and all that; so we decided to fly from destination to destination rather than get a night train. We got an early flight to Danang and drove 45 minutes to our next hostel, Vietnam Backpackers in Hoi An (also review to come). After dropping off our bags, the first thing we did was go to explore the old town. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, and rightly so; with colourful lanterns hanging from building to building, Hoi An is a magical place with an almost Disney like vibe. It is pedestrianised so there were no cars or motor bikes to dodge here and instead of horns, we were able to hear Vietnamese music playing quietly in the streets. Hoi An is known for its tailors that can whip up a dress from nothing but a photograph so your first day would be a good time to get your order in so it can be perfected before you leave.
Be sure to sample some of the dishes that can only be found in Hoi An. The White Rose is very popular although my favourite dish had to be a bowl of Cao Lau from the indoor food market. Named  after its chewy yellow noodles, it comes with slices of pork, huge dried noodle croutons and a sweet BBQ sauce.

Whilst Hoi An is beautiful in the daytime, it’s when night falls that it really comes into its own. The lanterns light up the streets and candles float along the river; its pretty magical. We ate in the restaurants but my favourite evening was spent eating street food on tiny stalls on the bank of the river; we couldn't resist a boat ride afterwards!
During our stay here in central Vietnam we took a day to explore the My Son temples - another UENSCO site of ancient Hindu temples similar to Angkor Wat so I was told. It was very busy and of course full of tourists but an incredible place worth visiting. We decided to do the morning tour although they do have sunrise tours as well. On our last day, we took an afternoon ride in a bamboo boat to an eco-village. After our fun on the river, we were taken to our guides home where we cooked a traditional Vietnamese feast with her mum. 

Days 8, 9, 10 & 11: North East Vietnam, Halong Bay
After another early morning flight, we spent one day and night in Hanoi before we left for Halong Bay; that meant that we were able to leave our luggage at the hostel and just take a smaller bag with us for the short trip to the bay. We booked our tour though the hostel a few months prior which I would recommend as they got booked up quite quickly and this incredible place is a must for any trip to Vietnam. Our two night, three day cruise on Cristina Diamond was our priciest expense at $250 (that’s more than we spent on food, accommodation and activity on the other 10 days put together) but a definite highlight of the trip (yes, there is a full post to come don't worry) and you can find it cheaper on a lower quality boat if you are keeping to a budget. Whilst most people only book on to the 1 night cruise, we got to spend our extra day sailing around the limestone islands on an almost a private tour with just one other couple and not another boat in sight, we could have been the only tourist in the whole of the bay for all we knew. Whilst the government had banned any kayaking and swimming in the bay that week, instead we explored caves, took a row boat out and went out with some local fishermen as well as having a BBQ lunch and an afternoon nap in the sunshine. It was just what we needed.

Days 12 & 13: North Vietnam, Hanoi
Hanoi is a wonderful place to get lost in so that's what we did during our first day back there. The things we saw include Hoan Kiem lake, the train street, the temple of literaure, the flag tower and the Ho Chi Mihn complex. After ticking off some of the tourist spots, we spent a lot of time wandering around the Old Quarter. Like I said, I fell totally in love with Hanoi.
By the evening we had mastered the streets went off to explore the amazing weekend night market before finding ourselves on Hanoi's famous beer street. The atmosphere was electric with locals and travelers lining the streets on tiny plastic stools. Another fun thing to try one evening is the water puppet show on the edge of the lake before wandering around that area, it's full of activity in the evenings.
For food, we went back to a new day restaurant again and again for meals that were less than $2. On my last night, we spent the last of our dong on dinner at the lantern lounge which was a much more relaxed and classy affair. Of course there was also lots of street food, pho for breakfast, Che, which I didn't like so much and of course fresh fruit of demand. I bought a freshly chopped pineapple from this lady for 30p.
We did take one day trip out of Hanoi to visit Tam Coc which translates to Three Caves. There we took an hour long row boat along the river and in and out of the three caves. Whilst this trip could have been amazing, it cost us alot more than the others and we had a little bit of an issue with our boat lady demanding money from us once we were away from any other boats so I'm not sure that's a trip that I would recommend.

Day 14: London
Another 12 hours later and I was departing Heathrow airport, bound straight for the office.

More Vietnam Posts:
Townhouse 373 Hostel Review 
Cruising Halong Bay 

Best travel clothes for long flights

Monday 5 June 2017

A few months ago, I returned home from my first big trip of the year - Vietnam. I had the most amazing time and have lots of posts to come telling you guys about the things that I got up to whilst I was there but first I wanted to talk about the flights. It was a 12 hour flight to Ho Chi Mihn City and as usual I was all about the comfort when it came to my outfit - I honestly cant understand people who wear uncomfortable clothes to the airport, it can be a stressful enough experience as it is without being uncomfortable through your own choice!

This time I went for a playsuit which I picked up in Primark and I was really happy with my choice. I usually go for a big slouchy dress because having my legs out makes it much easier to put on and remove my flight socks (my flying fashion must have) but I curl up in all sorts of weird positions and always end up with my underwear on show so a playsuit was a great alternative. It’s oversized (so I didnt actually have to take it off to go to the toilet, TMI?) and made of a stretchy t-shirt material so it was super comfortable to both sleep and more importantly, to dance in. Yep, I dance like crazy; (in the privacy of the toilets) I just feels like it gets the blood flowing better.
primark jumpsuit
I always wear trainers when I travel. For the flying part, it doesn't actually matter because as soon as I get on, my shoes come off (I flew home in premium so they were swiftly replaced with a pair of slippers) but it's the before and after that I am thinking about - as with all of these points, practicality is key. Also, for this trip, I was only taking a carry on case so I had to pick shoes carefully. I ended up taking three pairs, my air max (£55 from Zalando - gotta love Lovethesales* for a bargain) my old converse and a pair of cheap flip flops from Primark, so whilst either pair of trainers would have been fine for the flight – my converse were smaller so I’ve packed them. Turns out I didn't need two pair of trainers; they stayed there until I got home.
primark jumpsuit
Our flight left the UK at 7.10am and arrived in Vietnam at 5am the next morning so along with the air con in the flight, I had quite a few temperature to be prepared for. Of course the best way to prepare for that is to take easy to add or remove layers. I never usually feel cold on a flight plus there is always a blanket if needed so rather than wearing a jacket that I would have to take with me and not wear for the rest of my trip (37 degrees guys) I just pulled the warmest things that I was already planning to take with me (a kaftan and a pashmina) and stuffed them both into my backpack. Needless to say, neither of them got used.
I never fly in my contact lenses because I like to sleep on a long haul flight if I can. Also the air just dries my eyes out so I like to make it as easy as possible and just wear my glasses. My new Scout East glasses* came from Glasses Direct and although I wasn’t sure about the big lenses when I picked them, with the home trial offer, I was able to try them before I decided. Turns out I love how big the lenses are. If I know its going to be sunny when I arrive, I will usually pack a pair of contact lenses in my carry on and just put them in before we land.
So that was what I wore for my trip out there and I was very pleased with my choice. I definitely didn't look so polished for my trip back on the other hand; I had run out of clothes by then but I had to be comfortable because it was super important that I slept this time - being as dedicated to the cause as I am, I got off of the plane and went straight to the office to save on precious annual leave. I threw on a crop top and some elephant shorts for the flight - I was super comfortable although I woke up a couple of times with my bra on show where my top had moved.

What is your go to flight outfit? 
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