Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The Importance of Feeling Lovely

We're only 4, nearly 5 months into 2016 and already I feel it's shaping up to be a fairly good one. My family and I have had a rocky start with general life stresses, but my mentality towards myself and my life has changed dramatically in the past few months, and now I feel so much more positive.

I've struggled with my self-esteem and my attitudes towards myself for years. I've always been in the mindset to look after others before myself, and I'd rather have to go through something rubbish than actively make someone else go through it. However, over the past year in particular, it's been made clear that some people just do not think the same and like to take advantage. This has been like a trigger to a whole lifestyle re-shuffle!

I've stayed away from toxic people, and this has only made my life much happier and healthier, and I feel like it's ok to put myself first again. I've not done this properly without worrying what others think for a very, very long time, and it actually feels very good! It's definitely important to surround yourself with the right people, and these people will present themselves in the right situations; they'll always try, and they'll always be there when you need them. If not, they weren't meant to be there, but you can learn something from the experience.

I have experience of mental illness, in particular, depression (which I won't go into in detail here) but it's made me have this negative view of myself, like I didn't deserve to look after myself, or that I wasn't worth bothering with. In the few months that I've been unemployed I've had A LOT of time to think about things, to re-evaluate some decisions, and to make some changes, and finally work out what it is that makes me happy, and it's like my entire outlook on life has changed. I've had to deal with some very 'down days' as I like to call them, and keep afloat, so I've found a lot of things that make me happier.
I go to Pinterest to find some motivation whenever I feel rubbish about something - whether it's the fact I have no job, or if someone has upset me, or if I just generally feel crappy. It may sound cheesy but I actually find after reading through a bunch of quotes or looking at lots of positive images on there, it does actually make me feel better! I'm also challenging myself to adopt a healthier lifestyle by exercising more and eating better in 16 weeks (you can read these posts here) and while this is slowly but surely happening, I still do have days where all I want to do is order a pizza, and have a Friends marathon, and just not move all day long. I am certainly more than happy to do this, just not as often as I'd like - balance is key! To keep myself motivated, I created a motivation book for myself, just filled with lots of positive and inspirational quotes and pictures that I can turn to when I need persuading to keep going; it sounds simple, but it works for me. I also find it cheers me up to look through my 'Likes' on Twitter - I tend to 'like' tweets that promote a strong or positive message, or even if they just make me laugh. A lot of them have links to articles or images that inspire me; whether it's about self-improvement, travel, name it, whatever I'm interested in! You can check my likes out by going to my Twitter page - - and clicking on my 'Likes' tab. I've got a couple thousand things on there at least!

I also like treating myself to little things when I've got the money, so occasionally I'll buy myself a cheap, small bunch of flowers to put in my bedroom, or a pair of earrings, or a book that I've wanted to read for a long time. I love to buy Lush products too; they're inexpensive, and I love to take a bath and relax using them - it always makes me feel more pampered and looked after properly.

Lastly, like the rest of my family, I get a lot of happiness from music. I have playlists on my iTunes for different reasons: whether they're seasonal playlists that remind of that time of year, or from a trip I took, or just a particular mood. I've piled together some songs that always make me feel positive below:

The Positive Playlist:
- the middle - jimmy eat world
- soar - christina aguilera
- generation - states
- flawless - beyonce
- elevation - U2
- shake it off - taylor swift
- don't stop me now - queen
- shut up and dance - walk the moon
- dancing queen - abba
- greatest day - take that
- what you waiting for? - gwen stefani
- let's go ft. ne-yo - calvin harris
- spice up your life - spice girls
- after the storm - mumford & sons
- begin again - colbie caillat
- happy - pharrell williams
- really don't care ft. cher lloyd - demi lovato
- born for this - paramore
- man! i feel like a woman - shania twain
- survivor - destiny's child
- we r who we r - kesha
- ho hey - the lumineers
- belong - joshua radin
- the long way around - dixie chicks
- hella good - no doubt
- so what - pink
- knee deep ft. jimmy buffet - zac brown band
Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Week 2 | The 16-week challenge

2 down, 14 to go!

The past week hasn't been one of my best in terms of exercise, as it's been quite a busy one! I'm still working out how best to fit going for runs in with uni work and other life stresses but I'm getting there!

I've been a bit lax with my runs as I've been literally so exhausted I couldn't move, but I've done sooooo much walking. Last weekend, I was up at uni for a weekend workshop (the perks of learning online) and walked near 10 miles over the course of the whole weekend - still not sure how I managed it! I'm quite achey as well for some reason so I've been trying to recover and get back to normal before I start running again as I don't fancy an injury!

In terms of diet, I feel I've been pretty good. My mum and I are actually trying to do the 5:2 diet - where you eat fewer calories on 2 days a week and eat as normal the rest of the week - but I'm not too worried about it; in general I'm just snacking less and reducing portion sizes, incorporating more fruit and veg into my meals and drinking pretty much only water. I also made up my own smoothie which was DELICIOUS and I've posted the recipe below:

Strawberry and Apple Smoothie

- a handful of strawberries, chopped into slices
- 1 apple, peeled and diced
- 4 spoonfuls (I used a dessert spoon, so around this size but up to you) of greek yoghurt
- 2 spoonfuls (again the size is up to you) almond butter

Add all the ingredients into a blender. This made about a cup full but it was very thick and took me a while to finish it!

I've been eating sooooo much avocado recently too (maybe I'm a hipster now?) but I looooove it. My mum has also been making some delicious homemade soups using whatever vegetables we have in the fridge, and these have been keeping me full and less likely to snack.

I've been a bit down last week mood-wise too which hasn't helped my motivation, but I find once I have done some exercise I do feel better. Being in London and keeping busy always helps, but being unemployed can be very demotivating sometimes! However, I have an interview tomorrow so fingers crossed it goes ok!
Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Week 1 | The 16-week challenge

1 down, 15 to go!

My first week has been mainly ups rather than downs, thankfully! I've been going for runs 3 days a week - so this week was on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. My first run nearly caused me to collapse afterwards (this is how unfit I am) but I've already found that going running since has actually made me get better already! I'm still unfit, but I'm managing to complete the same setup each time in shorter amounts of time, and I'm not dying as much afterwards. Thank God for that!!!

I've decided to start small(ish); I don't actually know what I'm really doing as I'm not a personal trainer or experienced in really any sort of fitness, but I'm going for a short walk, then 5 laps - alternating between running and then walking - and then a brisk walk around the houses back home, so it ends in about a loop. At the moment, this is adding up to about a mile/a mile and a half which may sound small to the experienced among us, but for a beginner I'm finding this ok. My plan is to increase the amount of laps, the duration I run for, and to vary up the route.

At the moment I'm completing my route in about 20-30 minutes, which is about the average exercise you should do a day (from what I've heard - I am no expert here!). It's getting shorter each time I've found, so once I feel able to build on what I've started, I'll increase the amount of laps and make it a longer workout.

The route has been a little tricky to sort out. Where I live, there is a big field but it's off the main road - I'm not quite confident to run around that yet as I'm a bit self-conscious; I've always been this way about exercise as I've always been rubbish at it, but as I get better I will progress to there instead! (It's another aim of mine!) At the weekend, my boyfriend and I actually ran along the main road and round back into a loop, which took a lot of persuading me, but it wasn't too bad! Running with someone else does definitely push you into doing more!

Diet wise, I've been snacking less and eating more fruit and veg, and have become THAT girl: I now like avocado on toast. It's actually very nice, and I never used to like avocado at all! What can I say, I'm a changed woman. 

I feel it's too early to tell if I've actually lost any weight, but I'm feeling more positive and happy and full of energy - and I'm actually sleeping better! There's an app I've downloaded called 'How's Your Day' which monitors your moods every day, so you can see over a period of time when you feel most happy and why (you can download it here). I suffer from depression so this has been really useful to track my mood and see what difference exercise is making! :) 

Overall, week 1 hasn't been too bad - I'm finding it a little hard to get motivated first thing in the morning when I'm still in bed, but once I've done exercise and feel good, I'm much more focused and enthusiastic about keeping going, and it's making me so much happier and ready to keep going :)

So far, so good!

(I'm also updating my Pinterest board for my 16-week challenge every week - go follow it below!)

Monday, 18 April 2016

11 Beautiful Days in Cape Verde

Waaayyy back in 2014, my boyfriend and I decided to celebrate the end of our university lives by going on holiday. It took us far too long to decide on a destination, but we eventually opted for Cape Verde, a country made up of lots of small islands off the west coast of Africa.

We went through Thomson and booked an all-inclusive, 11-day trip which was incredible. Lots of companies like them also do all-inclusive trips out there, and we stayed on the island of Sal, which alongside Boa Vista, is one of the main tourist-y and more accessible islands of the country.

To say it was like a kind of paradise was an understatement. Our hotel was the Riu Garopa, which essentially looks like one massive palace off the beach. We had a lovely room with a balcony, and let's just say the element of the all-inclusive definitely agreed with us; food and drink available throughout the day, whenever we was THE BEST. The staff were so friendly and enthusiastic, and they make a mean strawberry daiquiri (and one helluva strong Caipirinha!)

Our hotel was joined onto another sister hotel, meaning we had free range of about 4 or so gorgeous pools, and a couple of swim-up bars. We loved them so much that every time we think about an all-inclusive trip again, we always look to make sure the pool has a swim-up left a very good impression!

The beach was about a 5 minute walk from the hotel which was perfect. Beautiful white sand and blue water - and we happened to get there at the same time the resort was hosting a beach party haha. It was so peaceful knowing you were basically plonked bang in the middle of the Atlantic with nowhere else to go (it was a bit weird knowing the nearest UK embassy was in Senegal, I have to say) and just what we needed after a very stressful last term full of dissertations, coursework and exams!

The good thing about going with Thomson - especially to such a secluded destination - is that they have loads of excursions on offer that you can do. We took advantage of their free tour around the nearest town, Santa Maria, which was gorgeous! Walking up towards the town was so surreal; it was so deserted except for the occasional hotel sign where a new Hilton or whatever was being built (it's probably all finished now haha!) and the town itself wasn't much busier. We visited a couple of beachside bars, a local school, and the marketplace where my boyfriend successfully managed to haggle me out of buying souvenirs for an extortionate price - this is very necessary here as everyone really wanted to sell us something!

Another trip we did was a jeep tour around the island. Sal is tiny, and if you were to drive around the whole place without stopping, it would probably only take you nearly half an hour. That being said, we stopped off at loads of places; Buracona lagoon, where you can see what looks like a blue eye over the water (it's actually very cool), Terra Boa, where the sand kind of merges into a mirage-like effect, Espargos - the capital of Sal - where we watched the local fisherman carry some huge looking fish off a tiny boat, and we picked up souvenirs, and lastly, Pedra de Lume. This was the coolest of all: it's where you can bathe in the salt lakes and actually float - you can't sink at all because of the amount of salt in the water - like the Dead Sea! It was really fun and felt very weird to barely be able to put my feet down on the lake floor, but I definitely recommend.

We also visited a little restaurant on the seafront in Santa Maria called Odjo D'Agua, where we celebrated getting our university results. It was such a memorable night and very romantic, and one of my favourite memories of the trip.

All in all though, if you're looking for a tropical getaway that isn't a hugely long flight away from the UK but still has the beautiful beaches and resorts, then Cape Verde is the place to go. I'm sure it's changed even more since I was there because it very much is an up-and-coming destination, particularly for Brits! I'll make sure to come back.

Friday, 15 April 2016

A Beginner's Guide To Interrailing

Paris Berlin ↠ Prague Krakow ↠ Vienna Budapest ↠ Venice

In 2013, two of my best friends and I travelled around Europe for 3 weeks. We decided the easiest and quickest way to get everything done was by interrailing (or Eurail if you're outside of Europe). Our journey took us in a loop from Paris to Venice through Eastern Europe and it was one of the best experiences I've ever had.

We chose the '10 days in a month' global pass - which means out of the time we were there, we could only allow 10 days for travelling in between destinations. There are lots of passes available depending on how long you want to go and where you want to go (i.e. throughout Europe - global pass - or just in one country - one-country pass), which you can find here! We only had a set amount of time free over that summer that all 3 of us could travel for, but if we'd had more time, I'm sure we would've gone for longer!

Planning your route does take time, and I recommend you know where you're going and how long for before you book your pass - or at least have a rough idea of it! The longest we spent in one place was 4 nights, and I think the shortest was about 2 nights; we decided that the further the destination was from home, the longer we'd spend there, as living in the UK, flights out to continental Europe are pretty easy to find!

Using the pass sounds a bit complicated and confusing but it's actually really easy. The only thing to remember is to fill in the right days with the route and time (there might be more sections on there which I can't remember but they're easy to follow) on the pass, and then show both the pass and your passport when the ticket inspector comes around on the train. If you don't fill it in and/or don't have your passport on you, they will likely kick you off the train - as we saw when two men were kicked off our train from Berlin to Prague just past the border to the Czech Republic!

Once you book your pass, Interrail/Eurail send you a kit with everything included - a map with train companies and information, your pass, and a FAQ. Though looking on the website now, it looks like they've updated it since I went so now you get a wristband and travel wallet too! I really recommend downloading the Rail Planner App - it was so helpful when we wanted to sort out trains last minute and when booking seats; some rail companies in Europe charge for reservations on their trains and won't let you on without one, and the app will tell you all about this, especially when language barriers are an issue!

Accommodation wise, we stayed in hostels in all but one location. I'd never stayed in a hostel before this time so was a bit wary, but honestly, they're nothing to worry about - everyone is so friendly and looking to meet other travellers too :) we stayed in dorm rooms to keep costs down, and most, if not all, had lockable storage space in the rooms to keep your valuables safe. I really like staying in dorms now because they're really sociable, and I've met some lovely people through them, but if you prefer your space and privacy, most hostels will offer private rooms too; though these are usually a bit more expensive! The website we used to book was and it was so good that I used it again for my solo trip around the USA and Canada!

Most hostels will also have loads of free city maps - these are a godsend, so take advantage whenever you can! It saved us so much money later on when we realised we didn't need to have bought maps in advance so they're not always necessary!

It might seem like a lot to organise, but it's really a lot of fun! I really enjoyed getting to see so many places I'd never have even thought of going to before, but now I'm so glad I did; and so many people I know are now only just visiting the same places! I went with some of the loveliest, genuine people I know which made a big difference, and made it such a lovely time! Definitely a trip worth doing!

M x

Thursday, 14 April 2016

The Undeniable Irish of Maeve

Maeve is not a common name unless you live in Ireland. I do not, so my life has been full of people calling me Meave, Mauve, Mave, Maive....the list goes on! It's pronounced like 'Mayv' if that helps anyone..? I used to absolutely hate it when I was younger because it made me stand out so much, and I was very much the type of kid who never spoke up in class, who never did public speaking, and who kept very much to her friends and that was it.

Since I've gotten older however, I realise the benefits. Not only does it reflect my heritage, I like that it's different and that usually I'm the first Maeve people who I come across meet. It's so rare over here in the UK that people are often surprised by it - and the clever few who've spotted it's Irish before I tell them, well done you! Unfortunately it does make things hard when I'm ordering something (i.e. Starbucks) and I have to spell it out - I'm going to start using a fake name, it's easier (especially when travelling!). Graduation caused a bit of anxiety too but THANKFULLY we got through it and things worked out ok. You know you have a weird name when you have to spell out how to pronounce it on a graduation form...

Like I said, it's an Irish name, and unfortunately it means 'drunk'. I wish I was kidding but it's true. It's also hilarious for anyone who knew me at university, but thankfully that is no more! My spelling of the name is actually the Anglicised spelling, as traditional Irish Gaelic spellings are more like Meadhbh, Medbh, Maebh uncle tried to convince me to change it, but people have a hard enough time getting it as it is! The fact that it's Irish also means that there's only one country in the world where I can go to get anything with my name on it that's not personalised. Case in point:

A photo posted by Maeve Waite (@maevewaite) on

You have no idea how happy I was to find this. I still have a little keyring from Ireland with my name on it that I got about 10 or so years ago, and I will keep it forever because it is so hard to find!

At the end of the day, I love it because it makes me feel even more Irish than I already do (my Grandad was from Ireland and my Gran is half-Irish) and I won't lie, the temptation to one day name my kids with an Irish name - if by some miracle I have any - is getting stronger....if I don't live in Ireland it'll teach them lots of life lessons anyway! :)

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The 16-week challenge

So, anyone who knows me knows I'm not exactly the skinniest girl in the world. I've always been pretty much ok with that. I think all sizes are beautiful and should be appreciated, since everyone is different.

I've always been the biggest out of my friends but never really bothered about it enough to do anything about it; I've felt fairly comfortable in my own skin about that. I've not naive to say that no one has ever commented on my weight behind my back, but I suppose I took the route which avoided hearing what they said and I focused on my own perceptions.

However, in the last few months I've become much happier in myself as a whole and finally feel like now is the time to really take care of my body. I want to lose a bit of weight because I generally want more energy and to stop feeling so tired, and mainly because I know doing more exercise will help my mental health too - which I'm making a big effort to keep as positive and happy as possible, as this has previously been quite a struggle. I've used food in the past to keep me going through rough and stressful times, so I want to break this habit!

I've seen so many people I know try out fad diets and diet pills and fasting etc - and I've seen them not work. If I'm going to do this, I want to do it right, and so I'm saying here and now that I'm making a conscious effort to eat better and exercise more. Anyone who knows me might be laughing right now, but it's true! (And now I've blogged about it, I have to stick to it!)

I am useless when it comes to motivating myself to keep going though. I've tried so many things that keep me going for about a week or two - my longest period was just under a month - but I want to keep going all the way. Hence why I've decided to document my personal challenge on here too, so I can look back at my progress and notice a difference! I've started up an inspiration board on my Pinterest (click here) full of motivational quotes and pictures. They won't all be just about working out to lose weight, but also about being positive and adopting healthy habits as that's how I want to focus myself! I'll be keeping my weight private, but I will say that the aim is about losing 2 stone in 4 months, so I've got to shed about 1-2 pounds a week - this makes it feel much more doable!

I'll try and post every week with an update - not on how much I weigh, but how I feel in myself, because I don't really feel looking at numbers helps me to be honest! It just makes me obsess too much, and I want to keep as focused and balanced as possible.

God knows if I'll manage it but trying is better than doing nothing!
Tuesday, 12 April 2016

March Favourites | 2016

My first 'favourites' post! I love reading these posts on other blogs because I feel like you get a little peek into an insight into someone's life and you get to know them better. Sooooo, here are a few bits and bobs I've been obsessed with recently...

I'm so incredibly late to the game on this one, but I. Am. Hooked. My boyfriend and I have just started watching this, and have just finished series 1, and I would definitely recommend it! There are some scenes that for lack of a better word I'd call 'intense', but it's very gripping and addictive, and you will keep watching just to find out what happens next. I also just wanna say how brilliantly twisted yet hilarious Ruth Wilson is as Alice - if you've seen it, you'll know what I mean! SO excited to watch series 2!

Fleetwood Mac
Bit of a random one, but I've recently gotten back into Fleetwood Mac. I'm currently re-discovering 'Rumours' (one of the best albums ever) - if you've never listened to it then go YouTube it asap! 'The Chain' is the song I'm listening to most at the mo, and the data levels on my phone have taken a recent hit given how much I've streamed it on YouTube. I'm just one of those people who, once I find a song I love, have to keep playing it over and over and over until I get bored of it, and this usually takes a while. Still loving this now!

Denim shirts
I've really been loving the whole 'bringing back the denim' thing going on recently. Denim is perfect all year round for jeans, but I feel like once stores start talking about denim jackets, shorts, shirts etc, it's time for summer and no more heavy coats! I've been living in my denim shirt over the past few weeks which I bought from Primark years ago and not only does it feel so comfortable, it's actually quite slimming and defines my shape without being too clingy! It's such a versatile look that you can wear on both casual days with jeans/leggings etc and nights out tucked into dark jeans accompanied by a pair of heels. I need to buy more...

If you're thinking of going to the cinema, make sure you see this film while you're still out! I went to see it a few weeks ago and absolutely loved it. The graphics and colours are gorgeous, the dialogue is witty, and the storyline has some brilliant bits that made me laugh out loud - I'm talking about the DMV sloths and the Godfather-like rat here! It's a great movie that everyone of all ages will like and another good move by Disney!

All The Bright Places
I finished this book about a week ago. The last third or so of the book made me cry buckets, but that's because it's such a beautifully written book. The book is written by Jennifer Niven, and follows the story of Violet, who has just lost her sister, and Finch, who is struggling with mental illness. As a sufferer of mental illness myself, it's very relatable and explains it well to those who don't know much about it. Don't get me wrong though - it's not depressing at all; it takes a light-hearted approach but still keeps things realistic. Definitely going to be in my top 10 books now!

(image taken from
Stud earrings
I am so awful at remembering to wear earrings, but a couple of weeks ago, I was watching a bunch of different YouTube videos and lots of people wearing such beautiful studs that I convinced myself to get my bum into gear and sort it out. I bought a 20-pair earring pack of rose gold studs in Accessorize for about £12, alongside these gorgeous turquoise ear jacket earrings for £6. I much prefer wearing studs because I think they suit me better and I have long hair which easily gets tangled! The ear jackets are a nice compromise with longer earrings however, which I like for a bit of variety!

Sea Salt Hair Spray
As a fine and thin-haired girl, getting my hair to look any kind of acceptable is a nightmare. It never ever goes how I want it and basically looks like it's permanently stuck to my head the whole way down. However, using a sea salt hair spray has literally changed this so much for me that FINALLY I have a solution to my voluminising (is that a word? Oh well) problems. I tend to go for either the Lee Stafford Beach Babe Sea Salt Spray (try saying that 5 times fast) or Aussie Hair Miracle Beach Waves - either work great and you can get them at Boots or Superdrug easily!

New Music
Again, I'm late on this one but I am obsessed with Zara Larsson's 'Lush Life' at the moment. I went out at the weekend and this came on and I was basically the only one who didn't know the words (embarrassing but usually true) so I YouTubed it the next day and have been playing it ever since. So catchy and it makes me feel so ready for summer! Also, I'm loving Sia's new tune 'Cheap Thrills' - again another corker from her (she knows how to make a great song) and the video has Maddie Ziegler featured again, who is honestly one of the better dancers I've seen. She's about 8 years younger than me which is depressing but she's absolutely amazing!

Monday, 11 April 2016

Clapham & Westfield Stratford | London

I was once again in London this previous weekend and it was such a good'un! Friday night was just another chilled, relaxing (I say that ironically, we watched Luther and it was INTENSE) night in with the boyfriend. Saturday, however, was quite a busy day.

We got up and headed over to Westfield in Stratford. Coming from someone who lives in Oxford, where the shopping is not so great (yet), there is looooooads in Westfield and I looooove it. It was a quick wander to pick up some bits before heading back as I needed to get ready.

I went out with some friends on Saturday night in Clapham - we went to the infamous Infernos which was actually pretty good and we had such a fun night! I did however learn 2 things: a) I need to sort myself out as I did not feel too comfortable in what I was wearing - more on that in an upcoming post; and b) getting the night bus home from Clapham to East London is NOT FUN. We left the club around 2, had a wonderful McDonald's (as you do) and hopped on the bus(es) back home, getting in at just after 4am. It. Was. Freezing. Lesson learnt.

Anyways, the next day I was promised a brunch, which is really what I'm here to talk about. It's food, need I say more? We went back to Westfield and back to our spot, Balans. It's now, however, been refurbished to Balans Soho Society, and it's pretty good! The decor inside is gorgeous and modern, the food is still delicious, and the prices aren't bad either!

The only thing I was a little disappointed about was the fact that they had no more of the 'High Society Eggs Benedict' left, but I suppose that's what you get when you rock up at 2pm haha! I went for the Full English in the end and my boyfriend had poached eggs on toast with a side of potatoes - all of which were very good.

The staff were really lovely also, so if you're looking for a delicious weekend brunch that's a bit different and won't break the bank, give 'em a try. They've got other restaurants in Westfield in Shepherd's Bush, Soho, Kensington, and at this one in Stratford. Check them outtt!
Friday, 8 April 2016

Films to Cheer You Up

We all have our blue days, and one of the ways I deal with them is by grabbing a cup of tea or hot chocolate, snuggle up in bed and put on a film. The film I choose sometimes depends on what mood I'm in, but there are some that I always go back to. Here are my favourite films that always cheer me up:

1. Perks of Being A Wallflower

Perks is one of my all-time favourite books, and when I heard they were making a film of it, I was so excited. It's an uplifting story of Charlie, a wallflower, who begins his first year at high school. If you've not read the book or watched this film I recommend it! It always makes me feel better because I can relate to elements of it, and it reminds me how we all go through crappy times in our life - it's cathartic!

2. When Harry Met Sally

This is a rom-com classic starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, and written by the late great Nora Ephron (who also wrote Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail - other favourite films of mine). The main characters, Harry and Sally, begin with their long drive from Chicago to New York after college, and the story shows you that if two people are meant to be together, somehow they'll wind up back together again. I love it because it always makes me laugh, it's light-hearted and it's a generally happy film!

3. About Time

Written and directed by the wonderfully talented Richard Curtis, About Time is about a man who discovers he can travel back in time to change life for the better. It's got the typical British humour with hilarious characters, and it's just such a charming story! It always cheers me up because it's a comfort film for me and I love the message of living each day to the full.

4. The Holiday

I'll be honest, one of the reasons I love this film is because I love Christmas, and I love Christmas so much that I'll watch Christmas films any time of the year. The Holiday is a cosy, romantic comedy that always makes me happy to watch and I always try to work out which holiday I'd want to be in (have to say, I'd rather be Cameron Diaz and go to Surrey for Christmas than LA, but hey ho). Again, another charming and heart-warming film!

5. Frozen

A Disney film had to be in here somewhere. Sorry not sorry because I love Frozen, and it always cheers me up, and it's beautifully made, and the songs are great, and again, it's another happy film. If you've seen it, chances are you'll be able to see why it's on this list!

6. Forrest Gump

Perhaps one of the best films ever, starring everyone's favourite actor, Forrest Gump is always the one that makes me laugh the most. It's got so many good lines, it's cleverly written, the characters are so endearing and it's so slyly funny that it couldn't not be on this list. You just want to give Tom Hanks a hug when you see him in this! It always makes me feel better and it will always be one of my favourites.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Welcome to Oxford: My Favourite Places

One of the tourist hotspots of the UK, Oxford is the place I grew up and as I get older, I realise how lucky I am. Nicknamed 'the city of dreaming spires', the city is home to the oldest university in the English-speaking world, and the inspiration for many famous writers, academics, entertainers, and for little ol' me at the age of 22.

Most guides to Oxford will tell you the same thing; visit the university buildings, maybe go punting, visit Blenheim Palace, and make sure you see the Botanical Gardens. I won't disagree with any of these, as yes, they should be done if you can, but here are my favourite places as a local!

G&D's Cafe - a individual ice cream cafe unique to Oxford and every local's favourite, G&D's has branches on St Aldate's, Little Clarendon Street, and the Cowley Road. Make sure you try the Daim Bar ice cream as it is heavenly; however some of the flavours change quite regularly!

Jericho - just a short walk from the city centre, Jericho is a little suburb full of one-off restaurants and boutiques. It's famous amongst students and locals to have some of the best bars in Oxford, such as Raoul's and FREUD. Port Meadow is nearby too, if you fancy a bit of green space near the river for a wander.

South Park - one of the largest and most peaceful areas of the city, South Park lies at the foot of Headington Hill, and is the site of big events such as the annual fireworks display, and for the first time this year, Common People Festival. It's about a 30 minute walk down the high street, close to St Clement's and the Cowley Road, which have lots of great restaurants of all cuisines that you must try! Ideal for a summer picnic, and the top of the park gives a great view of the city.

The Covered Market - this may also be on a lot of guides to Oxford, but is deservedly so, as the market is home to various shops and eateries, as well as Moo Moos, who (in my opinion) make one of the best milkshakes ever. It's the perfect place to pick up any gifts or souvenirs that you won't find anywhere else.

Queens Lane Coffee House - the oldest coffee house in Europe, this is probably my favourite cafe in Oxford. The prices aren't bad, the food is delicious (I recommend the brie, bacon and avocado panini, yuuuuum), and it's so cosy and authentic. It's an independent cafe only in Oxford so if you want to avoid the big chains like Costa or Starbucks then I'd come here. It's located halfway down the high street opposite the examination schools, though there is also a mini version at the top of the high street too if you don't fancy the longer walk.

Christchurch Meadow - just off the famous Christchurch College (where the Great Hall in Harry Potter is set), the meadow is another relaxing place to come for a walk or to sunbathe in (infrequent but nonetheless lovely) un-English sunny weather. As you go down the main path, you may spot various animals in the field, before arriving down by the Thames river, where more likely than not you'll spot different college rowing teams practising - I was even lucky even to gatecrash (accidentally, of course) the annual Summer Eights inter-college rowing competition...

Millets Farm - you'll need a car for this one, but about 40 or so minutes south of Oxford, near Frilford, is Millets, which is somewhat of a tradition for most Oxfordshire folk. The garden centre at Christmas is enough of a reason to come here alone, but they hold various events on and off throughout the year, e,g. ice skating, the annual Millets Maize Maze, pumpkin picking etc. There are places to eat on site as well as opportunities to pick your own fruit and veg, and also plenty of animals to go visit. It's a good day out especially for family, but honestly, I've been going here all my life and I still love it!

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Top 10 Places You Must Visit in the USA

Last summer, I went travelling for just under 2 months around North America and had the best time ever. I managed to visit most (if not all) the places I'd ever wanted to see, and since have added more to my bucket list!

I planned it so that I travelled up and down the west coast, then cross-country to the east coast, and up into New England and Canada, but if you've got a limited time-frame or budget, these are the places I'd recommend to add to your list - getting it down to 10 was hard...

1. New York City

Starting with the obvious, which is on most, if not all, USA bucket lists: NYC. This city was the one place I'd wanted to go most in the world for a very long time, thanks to the influence of films like You've Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally, and TV shows like Friends and Gossip Girl. I was there for about 5 days in total, which was just about enough to do all the main tourist hotspots, but to see more of the locals' favourites, you definitely need longer as there's so much to do. Personal highlights were The High Line in the Meatpacking District and Central Park - beautiful green areas to relax in the bustling city.

2. Seattle

I was lucky enough to stay with some lovely family friends in one of the neighbourhoods just outside of Seattle, and I was there for just 3 days. However, I instantly fell in love with the city; it's got the high-rise feel of New York or London, but without the busy, stressful feel to it. Everybody thrives on coffee and you can see why, given it's home to the original Starbucks cafe. Pike Place Market is definitely worth seeing, and a great place to get some souvenirs. I'd also recommend taking a boat trip to one of the nearby islands, if not for just the wonderful view of the skyline behind you! Everyone is lovely, and if you're lucky, on a clear day, you might just see some incredible views of Mt Rainier in the distance.

3. Monument Valley

I visited Monument Valley when I was on a G Adventures tour (this one, to be specific) and it honestly was one of the best experiences of my life. Completely cut off in the middle of the desert, Navajo Nation is an area of Native American land that covers parts of New Mexico, Utah and Arizona, and we stayed there overnight. We were welcomed with amazing food and a really interesting tour around the area, before watching ritual dances and hilariously being driven in the dark through bumpy land back to our camp site. We all camped out under the stars and saw many shooting ones, before getting up early to watch the sunrise. An absolutely unforgettable night, which should be high on your list for the States!

4. Chicago

I didn't really know much about Chicago beforehand, except that it had great pizza. This was indeed proven to be true (in fact the best pizza I've EVER had - make sure you go to Giordano's, off the Magnificent Mile), but I found I loved it even more than I'd anticipated. Even now, looking back, I'm still loving it more and more! The weather in summer is boiling, but Chicago has beaches on the shores of Lake Michigan, so plenty of space to sunbathe! The architecture here rivals New York, and there are plenty of boat tours to take you round the city to make sure you see them all. If you're there in summer, I recommend taking a boat trip out onto the lake for the fireworks show - they have them every Saturday throughout the summer period - or you can go to Navy Pier for a free (and still great) viewing.

5. Yosemite National Park

This was also a stop on my tour with G Adventures, and I actually found that by having a tour guide, it made it easier to know the best trails to hike on, where the best views are, and how easy it is to get from place to place. Yosemite is something I've never known anything close to here in the UK, but it was absolutely beautiful. I'm more of a city girl really, but even I couldn't deny how incredible the entire park was. Make sure you bring actual hiking boots here though to avoid many a blister - I learned that the hard way...!

6. New Orleans

Again, I'd been told New Orleans was something to look forward to by lots of people who I knew had already been, and they weren't wrong! The whole feel of the city is completely different to other US cities I visited - it's very chilled out, with a strong musical influence running through the streets. You can barely turn the corner without seeing some other reference to jazz music or clubs, and visiting them in the French Quarter has to be done - I particularly enjoyed The Blue Nile on Frenchmen Street. Of course Bourbon Street is a given here too, and if you're fancying a night out, it's very cheap! By recommendation, I tried a 'Hand Grenade' (famous to New Orleans) which you can get in most places! If the nightlife isn't really for you, there is plenty of beautiful art everywhere, plus amazing food (you need to try a Beignet at Cafe du Monde!) and lots of chances to have tarot cards or your palms read. Tours out to the swamps to see the alligators are worth a trip too!

7. White Mountains National Park

The White Mountains in New Hampshire were actually just a stop-off visit whilst my boyfriend and I were on a road trip from Boston to Toronto, but it ended up being one of the loveliest places we visited that's a bit off the beaten track! New England is famous for its foliage, and although we were there in early September, we were slightly too early to see the famous Fall leaves, so go later if this is what you're after! However, it's still very picturesque just driving through the mountains and we made the choice to do a slightly longer route along the Kancamagus Highway, which is definitely the best option if you've got time on your hands! We were unfortunately only there for the night and stayed in a gorgeous B&B in North Conway, NH, but there are plenty of outdoor activities such as hiking, canoeing, biking, and even skiing in the right places! Definitely a place to come back to in the future.

8. San Diego

San Diego was my second stop on my travels, and I stayed in a wonderful hostel called the Adventure Hostel just off the main highway into the city. In typical Californian fashion, the weather was beautiful, and the water was clear, meaning I wasn't really missing cold grey England at this point! I unfortunately didn't get to see the world famous zoo, but I hiked up to Balboa Park for the morning which I'm so glad I did, as you get a great view of the skyline from the hills! The park itself is full of museums and gardens, so plenty to do, especially if you're travelling as a family! The nightlife is pretty good too, as I went on a night out organised by the hostel, where all drinks were only a $1 each - very good for the solo traveller budget! Old Town State Park is really good too if you want to know more about the city's history and relationship with Mexico. One thing that really attracted me to San Diego, and in particular to the hostel I was in, was that it's really close to the Mexican border. We were able to go to Tijuana for the night which was really fun, and again really cheap! The border process was very easy - you basically just walk through to Mexico, but have to go through checks back to the US - and it's a only a short tram ride away from the main city to the border. I wish I'd had more time here!

9. Grand Canyon National Park

Another staple on the USA bucket list has to be the Grand Canyon. This was another stop on my G Adventures tour, and we camped near to the South Rim. As with Yosemite, it was really useful to know where and when to hike to on the trails, and our tour guides organised a really fun experience to introduce us to the canyon - if you've been here with G, you'll know what I mean! Through the tour I was also able to book a helicopter ride over the canyon; normally I'm not the best with heights but it was one of my best decisions ever and something I'll never forget - you have to do this! I loved the Grand Canyon so much that it's my display picture...

10. Boston

Last but not least, Boston is on the list. I instantly felt at home here, which is one of the reasons why I loved it so much. Again, everyone was so friendly, and there's so much to do: Harvard, Faneuil Hall market, Fenway Park, the Freedom Trail, the list goes on. We also managed to squeeze in a short trip down to Cape Cod, which is about an hour's drive south out of the city, but definitely worth going to - it's exactly how you'd imagine, and so relaxing! We weren't here for too long, but I definitely want to go back!

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Camden & Primrose Hill | London

I don't personally live in London, but my boyfriend and many of my friends do, so I'm often about in the city at weekends. This past weekend, my boyfriend and I did some exploring around North London - specifically Camden and Primrose Hill. I'd been to Camden once before, but never to Primrose Hill (I won't lie, reading 'Christmas on Primrose Hill' by Karen Swan has made me more interested - go read it) and it was worth the wait.

After finally getting my brand new iPhone 6S, we hopped on the Overground to Camden Road, and walked up to Camden Lock. The reason we ventured this way was purely for Mac 'N' Cheese. I'd read a Buzzfeed article about the best places to get it in London (read it here) and my boyfriend, who is a big Mac 'N' Cheese fan, suggested we go all the way to Camden for it.

As you can see, it was worth it.

The Mac Factory ( make just the best Mac 'N' Cheese, rivalled only to one in Boston that we found last summer - can't remember the name of it though! This portion was a good size, for a good price, and whilst Camden Lock is always crazy busy, we didn't have to wait too long either. All in all, a very good find.

We walked up towards Primrose Hill after that, which I was so excited for. The pictures don't do it justice, and unfortunately the weather didn't hold off, but seeing the London skyline from this point was amazing. A good idea for a cheap (but cold) New Year's Eve!

We headed back after that, but had the weather been better, we would've stayed around the area for longer as it's so gorgeous! So many boutique cafes and restaurants, which is a big thumbs up for me. Definitely a must-do in London!