Call me a genius or call me cheeky but I recently had a brilliant idea! I could do with buying a few new work outfits and I really need an awesome new bag but I have no idea what to buy! I had a quick browse in the shops a week ago and was SO overwhelmed with the sales, especially in Zara where it seemed the entire store was on offer. Woah! But really we only have a few weeks left before AW16 takes over so there's no value in investing in trends of the moment, and we don't have long to wear summery things! I have my festival outfits just about sorted but I'd rather save my money now and wait to buy things I can wear for the next 6 months...
The September magazine issues usually give an overview of upcoming trends so you can scope out the first autumn drops right away, and fashion week in September is the perfect time to scout street style from editors and bloggers. I've browsed catwalk trends but by the time they hit the highstreet, they've been moulded and shaped into something much more wearable. I want to know now! So I had the brainwave of stalking the #AW16 hashtags on Instagram and thanks to the lovely people that managed to attended the press days and also the in-house designers behind the ranges, I've grabbed a few snaps of the upcoming collections! And let's start with River Island because they seem to channel trends in the most wearable yet desirable styles, and unlike Topshop, you don't see someone in the same outfit at every turn. The quality is top notch too.
Now I can't WAIT until autumn! There are so many things I love below, from the continuation of this season's retro patch trend into bright embroidery of florals and slogans. I'm definitely going to invest in more denim and upgrade to a pair of seriously statement ankle boots. I fancy taking my bomber jackets of this season and learning how to embroider a slogan onto the back or customise with the perfect patches, and I'm SO drawn to that pink puffa coat!
Credit: notjustanoutfit, its.reb, georginameehan, romydfonseca, itsdaniellehunter, elle_nl, emthomp7, rhiannonvwhyles, ashleyveraart sachabelle, deepalipatel, clemfieldsend, nadyia.stylist, bobbleheadmo, stellamagazine, fashcatherine, ajr1987
Hello lovers. I've been debating what to post from my long list of news but first on my memory card was a few new skincare updates since my last venture and ode to Caroline Hirons. After those new found favourites ran out, I dabbled in a few replacements that I already had in my stash and tried to stretch out the time until I had to spend another three figure sum on lotions and potions. This is what I've been using recently and some lived up to their former skincare stars, while others just weren't worth the purchase. Maybe you can help me use them more effectively though! I've been trying to keep on top of my routine but when I'm feeling lazy, I sure notice it in the morning.
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo+ - I and every other blogger has waxed lyrically about this moisturiser that actually unclogs your skin rather than lashing on layers. I use it whenever I have a breakout, which usually comes as a patch rather than one odd spot. This literally cools and clears overnight; I wish it was around while I was a teenager. It's always useful to have in your arsenal. I can't say I've noticed the '[+]' correct any marks, but my spots don't tend to leave marks.
Clinique All About Eyes - I think I had this with a free set or a Christmas gift but this really is a universally good eye cream. Lightly whipped and inoffensive, this settles calmly and restores moisture in the most delicate area of your face. If you're stuck of what to buy and don't want to go too heavy, you won't be disappointed.
MERUMAYA Everything Everywhere Beauty Oil - Despite rave reviews, this feels sticky and heavy on my face, and doesn't seem to absorb. I've tried patting it in and using a teeny amount of product but my skin refuses to 'drink' this! Is there another way I could try? If not I will add it to my hair and body routine!
Niod Photography Fluid - This was a complete impulse after noticing the insane reviews. It apparently anoints you with a beautiful glow under any foundation and gives a flawless selfie result that has lasting power, and some even ditched foundation. I felt it did help me get that glow on but a little goes a long way and it's easy to get a ghost face that looks like you've filmed the highlight challenge. After mixing a drop with MAC Pro-Longwear foundation, it is quite a shock to see the new sheen. The jury is out on this one - I need to experiment and test out different foundations. Also the packaging is absolute pants and the stuff gloops out the bottle when you pull out the pipette, which decants such a tiny drop that you need to keep plunging it back into the mess to get any more. Plus it's glass so this product is no travel companion.
Indeed Labs Hydraluron Moisture Boosting Facial Serum - I bought this ages ago and hated it, but Caroline Hiron's praise intrigued me again. I STILL don't get it. It's such a clinical, uninspiring tube and consistency that I take no pleasure in applying it and see no visible results. Possibly I need to persevere and look for long-term results?
Origins GinZing Energy Boosting Moisturiser - This is so popular and I feel like that's more about the decent price point as I saw no benefits to any other light cream moisturiser apart from the smell that made me feel slightly queasy every morning. I couldn't wait to finish it! It did not give any hydration benefits. Boo.
Eve Lom Morning Time Cleanser - This was an awesome freebie from Look Fantastic (among many others) and I was keen to try the Eve Lom hype. Much stiffer than Clinique TTDO, it took a while to warm up and while wouldn't get down to dissolving the day's makeup, as the morning cleanser it is enough to lift any over-night grease or grim for a quick refresh from your head being slapped to your pillow for 8 (or 6) hours. Lovely, but I wouldn't fork out for this.
I fancy trying Pixi Nourishing Cleansing Balm, Eye+ by SkinOwl and Kypris Moonlight Catalyst next - and NEED Clinique Moisture Surge back in my life! If I win the lottery, I'll go straight for the Sunday Riley and Zelens too.
Last Saturday I attended a day of pop up fashion at New Square! I took my vlogging camera to showcase the shows across the day, with models dancing and performing in latest collections from New Square stores including Outfit Fashion (aka Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge), JD, Next and more.
I haven't vlogged in a little while so I was set with my camera in hand to capture all of the day's activities, plus get some tips from the on-hand stylist Jill on what I should be stocking up on. She also had bagfuls of vouchers to hand out to the unsuspecting audience and it was like Christmas had come again!
My favourite outfits were the CUTE denim pinafore and tee from Dorothy Perkins and a bronze Topshop bomber that I've eyed up in store many a time. Take a peek below!
HI! Hey! I'm here! Eeek I'm back on my blog, weird feelings all round! I've been away for a few reason and I'll go into these in another post but after a rocky few months, the first thing that I definitely want to select from my HUGE 'to post' blog topic list is when I had my hair done by Nicky Lazou!
You might already follow this balayage queen for not only the fun content but also her thumb-stopping before/after shots of 'before' hair looking brassy, frizzy and yellow next to some seriously luscious 'after' locks. I was scrolling one day and saw a girl comment that Nicky lives in Birmingham. Say what? Now this was around November time when I was about to head off to Dubai and was probably feeling super flush. I'd been blonde-ish for a while but the upkeep of highlights was putting a strain on my time and the quality of my hair, which I use heat on every day also when curling it or drying it. For the first time in around five years, I was considering going back to my ginger roots too! A big step, but if anyone could get me there, I hoped Nicky would.
Now be warned: I've probably never wrote a post so passionately about hair but Nicky has relit my fire! And I'm a hair girl through and through. Growing up it was what stood out most about me, and while this might have prompted some tormenting mostly by random people in the street (nice), if you have ginger hair, a lot of people will say nice things too. I've strayed from my colour and to tried new looks, but last year I kept noticing people with such beautiful red hair and it planted the seed to go back to natural.
After a few texts I'd booked my Nicky appointment and had an idea of prices. Warning: this ain't cheap, but I'll go into that later. I'm very much a person who doesn't spend without thought, but if I decide I really want something, I will find a means to achieve that purchase! I'm not impulsive but I'm not afraid to spend either, and I really wanted my hair to go right.
I had a few reservations but off I went to the nearby countryside on a Saturday morning, pulling up to the beautiful setting of Nicky's space. Along with helping hands from her family, there are a few large, chic basement rooms in Nicky's home where she works here magic. I assumed I would be the only client but there are a few girls there at a time, each at different stages of dying, toning or perfecting. It's a really welcoming vibe, with girly conversation and Drake in the air. And after being there a few minutes, I realised other girls has travelled from further than London!
First up is your consultation with Nicky, where I showed in a bunch of photos and discussed what my aim was - to take my top half to my natural colour and cascade blonde balayage through the middle and ends. As mentioned to most of the girls that arrived while I was there, on Instagram everyone thinks you can go from dark to light in one sitting, when in fact going from brown to blonde can take time, especially if you naturally have darker hair. Even I needed two sessions to take my colour as light as I wanted, and that's just because Nicky will not damage your hair, even if you want to pay the price for platinum. Even if you beg to go lighter than light, it won't happen. That was an over riding vibe you get from Nicky - she will not go down the road of treating you as an anonymous customer and delivering something that is going to ruin your hair down the line. She won't slap the bleach on and take you there! This was fine by me as I didn't mind having a second session in a few months if this one went well. Soon I was under foils and the process had begun!
Even though it isn't a salon experience, it's actually really chilled at Nicky's and you leave feeling relaxed and fantastic. She literally preaches the hair gospel as she works by revealing tips, tricks and science behind hair, and you really start to appreciate the art that goes into this. Nicky also has thick, dry, darker hair and so she knows the advice to give. It's really inspiring to hear her hair secrets and as you are getting the 'Nicky' treatment, it feels even more special! She explained how the dyes used for my hair were especially expensive and unique too as I requested a warm, golden, honey colour, whereas most blonde stay clear of anything warm or 'brassy'. I thought she had her work cut out for her really as you can see from my 'before' picture below!
As I was having my treatment, I saw the girls around me emerge with such incredible hair, literally seeing the transformation before my eyes! Soon my blow dry was complete and the change was insane! I have no idea how she took my all-over streaky hair to smooth on top and blonde on the ends?! And I'm a red head - these dyes are hard to come by. We've all seen the 'natural' red head box dyes in Superdrug that are bright orange or dark with a flash of red in certain lights. I was so pleased to have something unique again, though the colour was a touch darker than my natural hue. Nicky promised that the blonde ends would also brighten after washes, rather than going yellow after washes. I can confirm this is true; after the first few washes my blonde layers turned even more true and bright.
Nicky didn't even know I had a blog before visiting (this is not a prompted review - I paid full price!) and I cannot tell you how just lovely and open she is naturally, and so complimentary and sweet. She treats each customer like their hair is a precious jewel in her hands and the goal is always to do something that she knows is a beautiful style, as after all, it's her name attached.
I also returned a few months later to take my roots to my lightest, most natural colour, and the ends even more sun-kissed for spring. Nicky and her sister remembered me which I was so surprised about as they see so many girls, but the repeat customers do speak for themselves, and many girls while I were there had been multiple times. Her sister adds so much to the team too - she's just fabulous.
Now I have the colour of dreams! I have not touched it for months and never need to because it will just grow out - there are no roots! This is the beauty of balayage.
Are you considering visiting Nicky? First I would manage expectations and consider how many sessions you would need to get your desired colour. Consult a few salons and think about if it's money you won't regret, as it will set you back a few hundred pounds.
Balayage is all about the subtly, and we're so used to seeing a major contrast of hair colours that ombre gives, Keep in mind that balayage tricks the eye - the top and bottom colour are totally different yet the result is so seamless that most people will not be fixated on the transition, and may not even notice! But hair looks thicker, glossier, lighter, and full of body and warmth, without the brass. Nicky does it her way and I admire her for that because true authenticity can take you far.
It's not like a 5* hotel experience or a VIP day out when you visit Nicky - she's set up at home because people are willing to come to her from far and wide. Leaving with a perfect blow dry isn't the goal (although for the record, it's really lovely), it's the colour that should be your deciding factor.
If you want a 1;1 salon experience, this isn't it, but does it need to be? Nicky is clear in what is offered and if super light hair is your goal, you would either go a few times or leave with damaged hair in one trip that could be brassy and orange. There will be other girls there during the experience but it's because the demand is SO high. And this is Nicky's style; she's not a salon, she's a talented hairdresser who gets the work done. I'd happily skip the head massage, etc, as long as my hair is looking the best it can.
And being part of the 'Nicky club' is so cool. I feel like I've bought a designer bag - I could survive without one, but it just feels like it has that extra sparkle, even 6 months on. It really gave a confidence boost, not only from the results I was so pleased with but from the experience in general. Will I be back? Yes!
Hey all! Last year I had a fabulous time at New Square Shopping Centre in West Bromwich, which you saw in my vlog below. It was awesome to hang out with style guru Emily-Jayne and rush around the shops in a fashion frenzy to choose an entire outfit under £150, and it was featured in the local paper; so many people at work randomly saw my face in there!
It was around that time that I really got my fashion mojo back and started to dive into trends again - something which I'd paired back as minimal, chic dressing had it's flash in the pan.
And now it's all change again! There are SO MANY trends up my street this season, especially chokers, off shoulder cuts, a-line skirts, applique denim - the list goes on! Put 11th June in your diary as New Square are hosting a Pop up Fashion Show with this season's trends being modelled and plenty of prizes to share out - oh yes! I'll be stopping by with my vlogging camera to see the stylists and check out the showcase myself too.
Luckily I have a prize right now of a massive £100 gift voucher to give away to a lucky gal or guy to spend at ANY store! That's Topshop, River Island, Primark... the list goes on. Simply enter below for a chance to win before 12:00AM 11/06/16 .
See you at the show!
It's the fifth and final part of my latest holiday series! It actually made me cool off holidays for a while and I know my next one will be relaxed to the max and anything but flashy. My Dubai dreams were dashed by food poisoning and I tried my best to perk up at the one week point as it was now or never! My last blog post left off with me holed up in our hotel room for a few days watching random movies and a lot of BBC World News. Our hotel didn't have free wifi in the rooms so I was determined to get out for at least a few hours. We took a taxi to Old Dubai and started the day at Dubai Museum, which only costs 3AED which is around just 50p. It was a great insight into the recent history that the city has sprung up from and a light look at the development of what Dubai is today. There are a fair few wax dummies involved in the exhibitions but it was an interesting hour!
A few minutes walk from Dubai Museum are the souks, and I had these in my mind as exotic thriving markets. They were a little less authentic than we'd hoped and most things had a 'made in China' label and came in a plastic packet! We had fun bartering with the shopkeepers though and exploring the winding precincts. I forgot to mention until now that it was recently UAE day so there were flags everywhere!
We jumped on an abra boat ride to take us across the river to the Gold Souk, which cost around 18p. The boat was so old and wooden that this was the most authentic thing we'd done all week! We clunked across to the other side and browsed the second souk but the most I picked up was a magnet for a lady at work.
We hopped back on an abra and caught a taxi home down the hot motorway and chilled in the hotel for a little while, before heading out towards JBR for dinner. I hadn't ate anything for the past few days apart from crackers, so I tested myself with a light dinner and more mint tea. I have not had mint tea since I returned, it has scarred me for life! JBR was a little like a mall on a beach - the strip is very plush and perfect with lovely restaurants on decking, but then the beach is a few steps away, making it seem rather surreal. It's not like a seaside or port but more man made and artificial.
My friend's cousin had got us a table at the club Crystal at Raffles, a highly expensive table but you get free drinks and entry along with this. Considering drinks were around £15-20 each anyway, it was more economical to get a table deal. We first had a drink booked at the top of the Burj al Arab, aka the surf board building. We had around an hour to get ready and unfortunately our hotel room had a shower that leaked everywhere and terrible lighting. Have you ever been in a hotel room where literally you cannot see yourself properly in any mirror? I put my makeup on by memory and assumed all of the colour matched and soon we were off out in yet another taxi. A few golf buggies later and we were rode up to the Burj al Arab, an extremely grand and extremely quiet space. There were a few other people there taking photos and two ladies who I'm just going to say were obviously looking for 'clients', and we took the lift together up to one of the top floors. Our planned drink was in more of a restaurant space so we all sat down at a huge table with one cocktail each. We didn't stay long and made sure we checked out how fancy the bathrooms were as there wasn't actually a view out of the windows. And the cocktails cost £30 each, oh my!
We had some photos near the entrance where the aquarium walls were, though I just wasn't really in a photo mood that holiday as I just wasn't feeling great. As we waited at the entrance of the building for taxis, the fanciest cars with impeccably dressed passengers were pulling up constantly - definitely not our taxis! Soon we were dropped off at a huge private hotel and were confused where the club was, as my friend's cousin had took a personal taxi to the club himself. We were told the club was around the corner but it felt like we were walking down into a carpark and various boys were lurking there trying to talk to us. Another group of girls were coming around the corner too though and we followed them to the entrance of the club, lined with super cars. It turns out the boys were probably trying to get into the club with girls! We had no problem getting in (unlike New York) and that's when I noticed a poster saying Thursday was Ladies Night, which means free entry and free drinks?! We'd just paid for a table with free drinks and after going up a few levels in the lift and walking into the dark circular space with various levels, we found our table was a two seater sofa with a coffee table anyway, haha!
Now this club was playing the best music, totally my perfect place, but we grabbed our drinks (mine soft) and did some people watching. The problem with having a table is that you might look elite and like a 'somebody', but it just means you naturally confine yourself to one area and feel separated from everyone else. I would have rather walked in unaccompanied and found a great place to be, surrounded by cool new people to meet. It will be the first and last time I'd ever willingly get a table. Also I thought we would have to really dress so carefully to get into clubs as it was so tricky in New York, but there were girls in the club wearing rara skirts (yes) and jeans, so it was a UK vibe really and nothing out of the ordinary. Unfortunately after about half an hour I started to get such bad tummy cramps and was feeling awful even sitting down at the mini sofa so my friends took me back out to the taxis and I made my best not to seem as though I was in fact drunk on the way home, as you can be driven straight to the police station if you are disorderly! The driver was definitely watching me very closely in the rear mirror when I said I wasn't feeling well. So after one £30 virgin cocktail and a £50 club entry, I was home! My friends followed after around an hour as the club shut at 3am and we had arrived at around 12.30am, and my room mate didn't feel great either. The next day we were going to go for food at JBR but we all spent the day watching edited romcoms and I ate more of the room service vegetable broth then I ever want to eat again!
And then it was Saturday, our last day. All of the other gals had left by then so it was just myself and my friend, and we decided to go to the Dubai Mall as an easy way to spend the last hours. I had such random clothes left, I didn't even care what I was wearing or looked like at this point as I just wanted to be comfortable. The mall was amazingly huge and luxe, with two massive waterfalls and acres to browse across each floor. The only shops that appealed were Bath and Body Works and Sephora, but I didn't make a purchase at either as we had been to New York some months ago. We ate at a restaurant by the water where I had a quinoa salad and veggies, and it was so nice to eat some actual food; then we watched the water fountain shows before heading off. Surrounded by English shops and people, it didn't feel like I was really that far from home!
That night we tried to go for drinks even though it was Saturday night, which is technically Sunday night in Dubai so few places are open. We dressed casually and I was so gutted that this was basically one of my only nights out when usually its all about getting ready and playing music, gossiping and laughing before heading out every night on holiday. It was such a waste on my part! We went to the Hilton rooftop for a drink, were pleasantly surprised when a guy spoke to us and then sent over drinks before he left with his family, got really freaked out that they were potentially poison, checked he wasn't hiding watching us, got over how ridiculous we were being, and then tried to locate somewhere else to head. Nowhere was open so we went back to the hotel and decided to duck into one of the hotel's clubs. Now the Marina Byblos hotel was good because it lived up to its claims of the decor and breakfast, but the clientèle was more of a night time kind if you get my drift here, and who we met in the lifts were either tourist couples, old balding men, and plastic surgery-loving ladies of the night (and in this case, the day). It wasn't uncommon to see ladies getting in and out of the lifts at different floors at all hours of the day, eek. The hotel website looked like it had the coolest bars and clubs and for some nights we had planned we could even just party in our hotel but on arrival, we saw they were seriously cheesy. After entering the one bar on this last night for a laugh, we were sat by the hostess with a free drink in the centre of crowded tables facing a live band pumping out the likes of 'I love rock 'n' roll' and 'You are so beautiful' in heavy accents. Upon peering casually around, the room was full of ladies wearing not a lot and groups of men looking and making eye contact with them. We left pretty sharpish once the gazes of the men were too much to avoid, as it was quite hilarious but not somewhere we were sticking around!
And then it was the final day, with only time to pack up and head to the airport. Our flight home was during a really windy patch and had us holding hands with the lady next to us during some crazy turbulence, who had just been on a 10 week Bikram yoga course and was feeling VERY emotional anyway! When all the TVs cut out and were reduced to fuzz, I did think we were going to die. Thankfully we got home safely and I had to take almost a week off work trying to get myself on the road to full recovery.
All in all, what a trip! I don't know if my expectations were too far from reality or if being ill just totally scuppered it all, but I won't be going back to Dubai very soon I don't think. I would recommend it to couples as the restaurants and attractions means there is loads to see and do, but it might not be the place for exploring in an impulsive way or feeling very far from home. Here s my vlog too - from reading my posts, was this how it seemed?
It is finally February and that means a host of key calendar events are on the horizon, the first being Valentine's Day! Romantic love, self-love, it's all about the love. And let's face it, after a lengthy January, we all need any excuse for gifts and pampering ASAP. Bullring invited me to take a peek at their retailer offers and pick out a few select gift ideas to suit different budgets, whether that's a treat for yourself or a heavy hint to drop to the person you have in mind.
One of my New Year's resolutions of 2015 was to be more adventurous with dating and to say yes to any offers (within reason...), and that resulted in a host of experiences, from the Tinder matches and the cash-flashing guys who plan a second date abroad a few sips into the first drink, to the local lads that actually live half way across the country and the First Dates experience. Yes I even auditioned for that show! These experiences were just for the fun of meeting new people, think more Sex and the City rather than Bridget Jones, not that I don't think our Bridge is awesome. Dating is so fun and while this year has began more promisingly, it's so rewarding to embrace chance encounters and shower someone with gifts and eventually... love!
Be sure to download the Bullring Plus app before you set out as speaking of sets, you can pick up a sweet gift with every Boux Avenue purchase. There is just something satisfying about browsing rows and rows matching sets and sliding open the white draws to pluck out your size. I jumped on that band wagon and read The Magic Art of Tidying last year, where Marie Kondo spoke lavishly about stacking your underwear drawer so delicately that my dream is now to have drawers of this style in my own future home. I picked out this beautiful set as a chic alternative to pink or red, and I'm determined to find a way to show off the gorgeous racer back feature of the bra as part of an outfit. A swipe of the app later and there's a sweet free gingham heart-shaped hand mirror and set of scented roses in with your gift wrapped purchase! Make a beeline for Boux, pronto.
It wouldn't be a Bullring day without visiting Selfridges of course; the home of quirky gifts from the most desirable brands. I stumbled across this adorable collection of pink presents, the most cost-savvy being fruity EOS lip balms in strawberry sorbet and summer fruit. At less than £7 a pop, these are a cute accompaniment to a statement card or as part of a selection of wrapped items. It's almost even more fun to open lots of little gifts than one big one!
But if you're looking for a grander gesture, Gucci Bamboo is my scent of the moment. I have at least one version of all of the Gucci fragrance releases and I've lost count of the times people have revealed they turned their head to follow the scent in a bar or confessed a few dates down the line that they can't get enough of this perfume. Bamboo is the latest addition and it's much more earthy and gritty than the rest. Trust me on this one, it's the fragrance that stands out in the best way.
As the gift for those who don't want any of the frills and faff of this Hallmark holiday, a more practical present is a BKR glass water bottle, the chemical-free way to appreciate each one of your eight glasses each day. This will look so pretty yet sophisticated perched on any office desk and would spark a few questions in meetings. I like the open screw-top rather than a stopper too as it encourages you to drink even more. Apparently the Kardashians drink 6 litres per day!
Here are my gifts suited to gents who are lucky enough to have our shopping skills at their advantage. Men rarely invest in a skincare regime and a few Clinique products will pep up their mornings - and you can have a little dabble yourself! This River Island bag will also solve those overnight and weekend stay issues where their things are slung into something resembling a bin bag. Music is always a winner and a browse of the Selfridges tech section showcased the Bose headphones that my brother spend a year saving up for and the Beats Pill he can only dream of owning. Serious brownie points for cool technology gifts are to be had! This Jo Malone fragrance would never be wasted on a trip to the pub - it's worth sniffing out your favourite so you can borrow it too and layer it with your favourite fragrances! And how chic will this Krups coffee maker look on your - I mean their - kitchen counter?
I was browsing for gifts with my BFF as it's so handy to get a second opinion, even if most gifts end up being for yourself! We were treated to lunch at Chi Kitchen in Debenhams and after stepping into the scenic blue and copper space tucked away in the beauty hall, we enjoyed a lavish three hour lunch - no joke! This will be my go-to when dining in Birmingham from now on as just look at these gorgeous dishes, all made fresh to order, including this heavenly sushi. The best sushi I've ever had! They are also offering three course Valentine's menus featuring a host of dishes inspired by the lengths of South East Asia - it should definitely be the contender for your special evening.
Following this heavenly selection of morsels, we shared a Chocolate Sphere dessert that melted in front of our eyes as warm caramel sauce was poured, revealing cold vanilla ice cream. Amazing!
And soon enough we had completed our tasks and were heading home with our bags. Thank you to Chi and Bullring for the challenge, I'm so ready for the big day!
I hope my previous post didn't send you into despair but here is my penultimate round up of my holiday! We were onto the Dubai stretch and it was bliss to have a shower without a queue of eight girls, though I still felt pretty horrible. One of our group had a cousin who works in Dubai and stays at the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah Resort. Let's just say it was fancy. And I mean fancy!
He said we could use the resort's beach that day and we all trooped off in taxis with me skipping breakfast. I was wearing my new River Island bikini with a gorgeous jewel toned maxi dress from Boohoo that I'd picked up for next to nothing, but was feeling quite quiet and took more of a back seat. Usually I'm the one sharing plans, gossiping and laughing at every moment so it really was rather rubbish to be feeling so under the weather!
After a few questionable moments on whether we were allowed in, we soon met the elusive cousin and were setting off in golf buggies towards the resort, as of course you do not take one step on foot when you stay in a place that costs £6,000 a WEEK! It was such a strange place - who is this rich?! It was hard to figure out if it was full of holiday makers having a dream vacation or just filthy rich people. Of course it was amazing to be there and just so surreal.
You can just see the golden horses lining the drive, which we whipped past and soon came to the most luxurious villas with incredibly plush interiors and personal butlers. Another buggy later and we were at Jumeirah beach. The paradise was complete with massage tents and various waiters bringing around fresh fruit, ice lollies and of course cocktails. Feeling like I was surely going to turn a corner at some point, I ordered some plain wedges and a drink with ginger beer, hoping to keep my stomach settled. I've always wanted to go to an idyllic beach like this but in reality it was missing any character. It's quite artificial and like a picture had come to life; there's nothing to take away because it's all aesthetic. It's quite hard to explain but maybe there just wasn't the atmosphere that a seaside or natural beach can have. That said, instead of feeling fabulous and glorious, I was feeling pants so maybe that is why! It was of course absolutely beautiful.
I took a dip in the sea and relaxed on the sun loungers, just chilling really as there wasn't a lot of potential for people watching. Sadly I started to get really bad tummy pain and literally found the nearest bathroom and just sat on the floor of it for about half an hour feeling so terrible and absolutely gutted that things were not getting better. I had to get back to the hotel as soon as possible and just lie the heck down, you literally couldn't have got me there fast enough! I dramatically said a very swift goodbye to the group and tried to find my way out of the maze of the resort with one of my friends, covering my tears with sunglasses. Oh it was miserable! What felt like an eternity later, I was finally in the hotel room. I was so sad to be missing out on the event of the holiday which is when we always make the time to have a really lovely meal, and my friends were heading out that night for the first night out in Dubai. I would have definitely been keen to even go out the night before if I'd felt better and I gossiped with my room mate as she got ready before she headed off out to Mahiki with everyone. They were of course all gutted too and I wished them an awesome night and watched BBC World News for the rest of the evening!
My friend rose bright and early the next day as we had been booked onto a visit to the top of the Burj Khalifa and a desert safari. When she told me that the night had been terrible, I told her not to make it seem worse just because I couldn't go too, but apparently Mahiki was like any old mainstreme UK club, full of Brits abroad and the free ladies night drink was watered down mohito. I still didn't feel up to coming out so I stayed behind until around 3pm when the girls arrived back with a mission. They plied me with more tablets, crackets, bicarbonate of soda, and even asked if I wanted to fly home, but somehow the fact that we were still there until Sunday and it was only Wednesday really made me stay for sure. Even if I just chilled in the hotel room, I was there.
They trekked off to the desert safari and again I stayed in watching movies. At first I kept thinking the films were full of errors but then I realised that any scene to do with love or kissing was cut out due to the country's religious laws, and seems as all of the movies on the odd film channels were romcoms, half the plots were missing! It was actually quite funny. Another thing about Dubai is that there feels like a huge rich/poor divide and when the hotel porters were kindly cleaning around the room while I sat in a chair and were asking if I was OK, I think I tipped them about £30. I wasn't using my Dirhams anyway as I wasn't going anywhere!
Unfortunately my room mate pal returned and said the desert was essentially crowds of people at the side of a motorway road and hardly the middle of the desert, and the camel ride was just cruel. It wasn't quite the Sex and the City 2 vibe that I had hoped for and I even felt bad for putting it in our original itinerary! The consensus of most of the group was the the top of the Burj Khalifa was also a slight waste of time. Three girls were heading home the next day and I think the general thoughts were that we'd had some surreal and amazing moments, but that we didn't have so many of the usual traditions we have when we go away together, such as spending hours getting ready while being super silly, having nights where we are the only English people in the bars or clubs and meeting the locals, and browsing around our destination at a more casual pace, rather than taking taxis everywhere and feeling like everything was making a huge effort to be flashy and luxe or in a rush. Have you ever been to Dubai? Well tomorrow I'll show how we explored Old Dubai and went to the top of the Burj Al Arab with lots of eventful happenings along the way... of course!
Oh no, the time as come to introduce the third day of my holiday and the beginning of the demise. We awoke on Sunday, the final day of the F1, with the big deciding race. I was excited for the best day yet, feeling as good as I could after a semi-decent number of hours' sleep. and vocally planned to actually start getting ready really, really early that day and spend ages on my hair and makeup in order to feel most fabulous later. Well I spoke too soon!
We all trooped out to the nearby shopping zone that had the Waitrose from yesterday and hit a restaurant for breakfast, pronto. I think I had maybe a juice and ordered eggs royale, which is smoked salmon, poached eggs and spinach usually. The restaurant was as lovely as they all are there and the food arrived on cool plates, mine being cold but nice. I suddenly felt really rough and I'll usually wait for my friends, but everything was telling me to get to the bathroom, pronto. I tapped through the echoing mall to the bathrooms that felt like 300 miles away and let's say that meal did not stay down. I'm never ill and I knew it wasn't from drinking the night before. I just felt seriously weird! We had planned to head to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque but I ducked out and went back to the apartment with one friend to chill as I was feeling a bit worried - what was going on?! It was already the afternoon and I laid on my foam mattress on the floor (at least I didn't have the popped airbed!) and felt disastrous. I started sipping lots of water but it just made me set up camp in the bathroom, not keeping anything down and afraid to drink any more. This was for a few hours and at one point I even made a bed of towels and just laid there, afraid to be too far away!
I'm so sorry if this is not the most fun read so I'll stop here! My friends kept dipping in and bringing tea and reassuring me that it would be a momentary thing, and I even started watching YouTube Vlogmas vlogs on my phone to try and keep calm, but they all involve food and it made me feel even worse! I surfaced a few hours later and by this time my friends were getting ready. I had a few choices really: I stayed in or headed out without eating or drinking anything. Well I chose the latter! I decided to start by getting ready to see how I felt and then whatever happened, I could always jump straight in a taxi and come home. It almost was OK that it was a foreign country as I had nothing to loose and it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the F1 race. The overhwleming feeling I had at that point was mostly nervousness at whether I was legit about to die or what would happen next. I got ready slowly, this time focusing on a statement berry lip above everything else so I didn't get tied into a difficult eye look. Lace applique dress with bralette and skirt underneath chosen, I ventured out and tried to just keep calm and feel normal.
As we were in a few separate taxis, we lost half the group once we'd arrived to Yas Island and so went into the nearest entrance. The cars were whizzing down the track and it wasn't as loud as I thought it would be, but it was awesome. We had no idea how long the race was and who was in each car so it was rather lost on us and soon enough we headed off to the bar! I was feeling incredibly tentative and sipped a lemonade for a bit of energy as the race finished and endless red fireworks were launched in all directions. We linked up with our other friends and headed towards the arena for the final concert - Blur! My body felt really sore and achy and I had absolutely no energy so headed to the boutique food stands where we had had the phenomenal falafel the day before. I'd based my illness on the food or water that morning as I had felt absolutely fine the day before, but as one friend and I queued up at the food stalls, some guys approached us with a box of Golden Circle wristbands, giving them out to select people in the area as they had lots left over and apparently needed to keep the front of the arena nice and full-looking. The stars were obviously shining on us and somehow my knack of getting us to VIP heights paid off again. If I was feeling better I definitely would have tried to work some Golden Circle magic anyway in order to get there again!
The guys with the wrist bands couldn't give us the 15 we needed so my friend ran to get the rest of the group and soon we were all on the way to the side entrance leading straight to the front of the stage. I had felt quite wary about getting food anyway so I just carried on without any, still sipping on lemonade. My friend somehow bumped into a colleague who booked us into a club that apparently cost £1k a ticket, and we tried our best to part a man with crazy eyes we had somehow adopted, but he just would not leave! In the end we had to say a very firm 'nice to meet you, GOOD BYE' after Blur's set, which was all kinds of awesome and of course even better right infront of the stage.
My friend who lives in Abu Dhabi had work the next day but she left us in the capable hands of her expat pals and we all got a shuttle bus to the club, which pulled up at a huge car park with a glowing white block far off in the distance, quietly pumping a beat that got louder and louder as we walked towards it. The fancy sports cars infront of the warehouse were insane and we collected our tickets (and yes, the other queuers paid upwards of £1k!?) and stepped onto the red carpet entrance.
The first warehouse room had the likes of cars and artwork up for sale... yes you can go clubbing while also buying a piece for your wall. Insane! Around the corner was the main club with a huge 15ft high catwalk and a bar around the base of it, plus side levels with tables looking over the dance floor. I was still on the lemonade and my tummy was all cramped up, and now I know what it's like to be a sober person around drinkers! I was happy but just less energised and not really in the party or holiday spirit as the day had been so draining. The expat friends came up trumps and actually started chatting to a very short and bald yet very rich and drunk man who had a table, which essentially means a table full of endless drinks at the ready. Sometimes it's cheaper to all put in money for a table if you get a good amount of free drinks in return, but this guy only had one friend and was damn crazy. Soon shot after shot were being passed around and he was flaunting himself all over the place, it was hilarious! It turned out he was a lawyer but he shouted 'there are no rules when we're rich!' before ordering more Grey Goose. I did tell him I wasn't drinking which was met with a funny look, and soon I was helping the group hide their shots in all manners of ways as this guy was insane! He had up most respect for my one friend who was taking every shot he gave her, but while taking a sip of her drink after she was subtly putting the vodka back in the glass through the straw, having never swallowed the shot! I was leaning at the table feeling more and more tired and sore, and soon a friend wanted to go back to the apartment and I volunteered to go with her. It is SO not like me to bow out of a night but it was SO time to go home.
I'll fast forward a few days until I have photos again as the next day we hit Yas Waterworld, which aside from a poor camel standing at the entrance all day, was pretty cool and free with our F1 tickets. It was around 24 hours since I had ate anything and I very tentatively went on a few slides until we worked out way onto the huge ones, which are probably not legal here as they were super crazy! Six people on a float literally entering a whirl pool and flying over huge bends. Insane! I was just thinking 'don't be sick' the whole time and I started to feel a bit rough after a while and really fed up that I was almost wasting the opportunity. It was miserable and I was in a rubbish mood and looked pretty awful too. My friend saw some lads she had met the day before (and told that we were at the water park that day) who had a go-pro. We all had a little snooze on the sun loungers (next to a pram with a baby in it - yes someone had left their sleeping baby completely alone and must have been off on the slides) and weirdly at one point a friend had woken up and saw one of the guys seemingly filming us from every angle as we were sleeping. He shrugged when she asked what he was doing, but later low and behold the guy send my friend around ten photos of us asleep for no apparent reason, 'just in case we wanted them'?! Weird!! They were definitely not contacted again.
That evening we headed to Dubai finally, which involved packing up and spending a few hours trying to flag a taxi that would take us. It was so tiring and I was exhausted. We ended up taking two taxi journeys, my friend lost a bag along the way, and I stopped at a pharmacy for a rather embarrassing yet hilarious conversation to get some medicine, walking away with about four different varieties. By the time we had got to our hotel we were just relieved to be there and didn't quite take a close look at the erm, clientèle. We headed to our room and wow, it was huge and lovely, with a gloriously plush bed. I've never stayed anywhere with nicer furnishings but we discovered a few things about the wifi, bars, water and lighting later as the week went on! After a few hours of BBC World News and the glorious feeling of being in a real room with a real bed and bathroom (I was sharing with just one friend instead of seven!), we went straight to sleep.
Onto the second day of my Abu Dhabi adventure and we all woke up in our various air bed situations and headed out for breakfast. We look taxis to a local café and refuelled with eggs and smoothies, and it's great to note the restaurants in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are such a high standard. There are no tourist trap joints with laminated menus that usually litter our holidays!
I'd bought a bunch of maxi dresses and kimonos from Boohoo for the trip but beach wear really isn't my vibe. I should have stuck to my usual style which I did in the most part, but none of my wardrobe suits anything remotely summery. I'm no beach babe! I'd also just had my hair done (more on that soon!) and it was back to my natural ginger shade with blonde ends, so I was getting used to a new look. That day I wore a bright blue kimono I believe that I'd managed to pull out of my unpacked case and again threw my hair up in a bun to save time, and to be fair it was difficult to get any mirror time! We headed to Waitrose near my friend's apartment, which was on the ground floor of the neighbouring sky scraper in a cool, sleek mall. Again there was no hustle and bustle, it's very sleek and calm in the air-conditioned buildings. The day before we had barely had time to even eat so we stocked up on snacks and a handy pizza for a late night return, and we had a peek in the designated separate room full of pork products in the supermarket, as the UAE is a Muslim country.
We planned to head off to the first day of our Formula One package at around 5pm, and took a quick dip in my friend's apartment swimming deck, racing each other around the doughnut shaped pool and laughing our heads off until it was nearing an hour of getting-ready time - uh oh! I had a bit of a brain fail and began warm, rust coloured eye makeup, but having just a hand mirror, I couldn't save it and ended up not liking it too much. I'd planned to wear a skater dress that I'd worn to a friend's wedding earlier in the year but since the previous day, we had realised you could basically wear anything to the F1! I felt a bit too 'safe' so I threw on around five outfits and almost all were new so needed a little pinning or sewing. I'd bought one from House of CB (formerly known as Celeb Boutique) that was so low cut and gaping open, it was hilarious! With eight girls to a one bedroom apartment, it was another hour of chaos, with a memorable moment of my friend thinking I was topless but then I turned round perfectly concealed with a stick on bra!
Vowing that the next day I would spend hours getting ready, I settled on a Boohoo maxi dress that felt way too dressy for day time but was the best solution. I even wore it with flip flops because I couldn't figure out which shoes I had and the taxis were already eight floors down and calling us. Flip flops?! You probably wouldn't know the chaos that had happened once eight glammed up girls hit the lobby, and soon we were whizzing across the motorways to Yas Island again. Arriving at the F1 site is quite tricky as the cars can only reach so far and they drop you off at different points, but I think we all managed to link up and we explored The Hill - our spot for the race. Imagine humongous outdoor stadiums with crowds of smartly dressed spectators and groups of 'dad' racing fanatics. The Hill was basically everywhere in the area that wasn't the seated stands, so we stood for a while watching the cars practice and I must say, it was rather lost on me! With no sporting or racing knowledge, we were soon exploring the activities in the hub of the area and hit the bar zone with picnic tables and screens.
Sizing up the crowd, there were groups of people our age but it was mostly hoards of adult men. A few drinks later costing around £15 each, we were off down the huge roads to walk to the outdoor stadium for the Saturday night concert - Florence + the Machine! We grabbed some delicious food from a falafel stand, which was more boutique than your usual festival affair. We met up with other expat pals of my friend and it wasn't long before Florence took to the stage in an amazing white flared suit and did her thing. Their music is just made to be heard live! Our group was hanging near the back of the massive arena space but myself and two girls decided to head further forward. We couldn't convince the others to join us but it was just as spacious as we headed even further towards the stage, hitting the 'Golden Circle' barrier as we go so far. Often at festivals they put up a gigantic semi circle of barriers for so many metres in front of the stage so only select ticket holders have a chance to be up close to the front, We stayed as close as we could until the faux break before an obvious encore, and I saw my mission so clearly. I needed to get us into the Golden Circle!
Telling my friends to wait right there I dashed off through the crowd to the side of the arena, where there was a small opening in the barriers with security. Some lash fluttering and story of how my friends were inside but I'd lost my golden wristband later and the guards were happy to let me through. The only problem was my friends next. A group of guys were walking out and said they'd give me their wristbands as they were leaving. I said I needed three and they offered three 'for a kiss' which was pretty gross and I took two before saying a very speedy thank you and literally darting off into the crowd never to be seen again! Sure it's fun to blagg your way into somewhere but for a kiss, I think not.
I reached my two friends, produced the wristbands to their shock and we all dashed to the side, them flashing their newly acquired wrist candy to the guards and me exclaiming how I'd found my lost friends before slipping in. We'd made it! The crowds behind the barriers were thick but inside the circle it's more spacious and we weaved right to the front just as Florence came back for her encore. Being right under the stage is amazing! A few songs later and it was all over, and we got chatting to a group of the most weird and wonderfully beautiful people, who turned out to be part of an Alice in Wonderland show. They invited us there but to be honest I forgot all about this encounter until now as we were moving on swiftly to find our friends again and attempt to find cabs or a shuttle bus to a club, which was an adventure in itself as the expats guided us and thousands of people left the arena. We ended up in an Irish bar of a hotel with a hilarious live band, and let's say it's definitely true that if you even stand arm to arm with a member of the opposite sex, the bouncers will be approaching and ready to exit you from the premises! There's something so different about dancing with your friends abroad to being in your home city, and even if the music is old or cheesy, it's even better! The night ended with chatting to the taxi driver whose family, like most, lived on the other side of the continent, and all of us girls staying up chatting with pizza until the even earlier hours.