Carpe Diem – Self reflection

Life gets hectic for all of us at some point or other.

More recently I feel as if I am constantly on the go, there just aren’t enough hours in the day, days in a week and weeks in a year. Days just rolls into one big blur and the weekends come around in a blink.

Finding time for self-reflection despite how hectic life gets is hugely important. We all deserve a bit of ‘me’ time once in a while.

One of my favourite phrases is ‘Carpe Diem’, which translates to Seize The Day. A motto which I strive to live by despite the challenges we come across in life.

These are just a selection of the ways in which I like to relax:

  • Taking a long bath – I love to use Lush bubble bars, my favourite is the comforter.
  • Listening to music – currently can’t get enough of 7 Years – Lukas Graham and Love’s On the Way – Sebastian Kole
  • Going for a walk – just nothing but my thoughts and fresh air
  • Gentle stretching concentrating on my breathing
  • Decluttering – sounds ever so OCD but I was brought up under the understanding that tidy environment = tidy mind

So however hectic life gets don’t forget to cherish the moments with your loved ones and be grateful for the memories and laughter that you share together.

Take time out to focus on yourself – mind, body and wellbeing – you deserve it.

Make every moment count.

Grace

-x-

Excellence Riviera Cancun Review

Hello!

This is my review on Excellence Riviera Maya.

This hotel is located in Riviera Maya, Mexico and is an all inclusive, adults only resort just 25 minutes by taxi from Cancun.

We requested a quieter room and were pleased to be located in block 2 facing the spa (all rooms are pool view) which is close enough to the restaurants but far enough to avoid the evening entertainment noise.

The restaurants leave you spoilt for choice from Italian to French to Indian to Tapas to Asian. Definitely wouldn’t go hungry here. Be prepared with a mix of smart casual and more formal clothes as several of the restaurants have a more formal dress code. Our favourites were Chez Isabelle and Spice. We opted for the hibachi option at spice which involved show cooking in front of you in a room with 6 others. This was a great opportunity to meet some other guests. There is also a great little cafe serving delicious cakes and drinks on the same floor as the reception desk.

20150908_194238
Delicious food at Spice

There are a great selection of bars dotted around. Be sure to check out coco loco time at 11am everyday on the beach behind sol bar where they make cocktails served in coconuts with the option of just having plain coconut oil. They also serve pizzas during the day from Sol Bar. Our favourite bar was the martini bar near the lobby but we equally enjoyed the swim up bar.

Our room was located on the spa side which was lovely and quiet. The room itself was lovely and spacious with a balcony and a bath separating the bedroom from the bathroom. The rooms were tidied twice a day.

Overall this was a great resort located right by the beach with a lazy river and swimming pools dotted around a spa. The food is absolutely delicious and the service is some of the best we have ever experienced they can’t do enough for you and always greet you with a smile. This hotel is a great relaxing getaway – it is predominantly couples though with many celebrating birthdays/honeymoons/anniversaries.

This getaway was my first all inclusive holiday and also my first time to Mexico and both have completely won me over.

Thanks for stopping by please feel free to leave any questions below.

Grace

-x-

 

 

Part 5 – Bangkok,Thailand

Part 5 of my mini series of a recent visit to Thailand.

After a long trip from Phi Phi we arrived back in Bangkok:

  • 1 hr 45min ferry from Phi Phi to Phuket
  • 50 min taxi from Phuket Ferry Pier to Phuket Airport
  • 1 hr 20 min flight from Phuket to Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok
  • 2 hours in the airport transfer bus between Don Mueang Airport and Suvarnabhumi Airport Bangkok. (complimentary if you have a flight ticket for that day/for the next day)
  • 15 minute hotel shuttle bus from Suvarnabhumi airport to the hotel

We booked the Summit Windmill Golf Residence due to its close proximity to the airport (with complimentary breakfast and shuttle transfer) as we had a lunchtime flight the next day.

The rooms are certainly generously sized having booked a one bedroom residence:

20160318_194328

I really liked the little touches such as the swan towel set up and the petals in the bath tub.

There was also a great view overlooking the golf course with an outdoor seating area.

20160319_102045

Having got to the hotel after 7pm and our stomachs rumbling we decided to check out the on site Fountain restaurant:

20160318_211418

The food choices were really good with variations from Thai, Asian and Western influences – something for everyone. We opted for the soft shelled crab and some duck noodles which were delicious. The restaurant is modern and comfortable with wi-fi as well. This is a great hotel where the staff are really friendly and accommodating with requests.

We also enjoyed the great variety for breakfast – from Thai to Western we had a great selection and I can’t think of anything negative in terms of the Fountain restaurant.

Although it was only a quick stop for us we would definitely consider coming back – hopefully fitting in some time to check out the golf and spa facilities too! There is also an onsite shop and a cafe to relax in as well as a shuttle to the nearby BTS stop. There is a swimming pool also, albeit quite small but lovely view of the golf course too and immaculately maintained.

20160319_092503

 

Also just wanted to share my very limited phrases of Thai that I picked up:

  • Sa-wùt dee kà – if you are female the phrase for hello
  • Phet nit noy – a little spicy
  • Mai phet – no spice
  • Kòrp-koon – Thank You

This post concludes my mini series of Thailand, which was a pleasure and a privilege to visit. Although I am also looking to review the backpack that I took as it worked wonders for me. I will certainly return in future – most likely back to Koh Samui and Koh Phi Phi as well as exploring some other areas. It is such a beautiful place to visit with such a wide variety of activities and I will certainly miss the night markets and the vibrant culture.

 

Thanks for stopping by!

Grace

-X-

Part 4 – Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Koh Phi Phi

A 1 hour 30 ferry ride from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi was actually in reality closer to 2 hours but they did show the film Avatar which kept us entertained.

Arriving in Koh Phi Phi it looked like a postcard. The sea is so blue here and although it is a small island it has a great atmosphere.

20160316_132658.jpg

Koh Phi Phi Viewpoint

Phi Phi viewpoint is a must visit, although the walk is not the easiest (starting at some steep steps) it is definitely worth it. We found the route by following the tsunami evacuation signs I would recommend taking water and going later in the evening. Also, comfortable walking shoes would also be recommended. Going up at 5.30pm left us in a great position to seek out a spot to wait for the sunset (a time I imagine when the viewpoint is at its busiest).

The viewpoint is at nearly 190km and takes about 20 to 40 minutes to walk up depending on fitness levels and temperature levels. It really shows off Phi Phi as such a beautiful island. There is also a little shop at the top that sells drinks and ice creams. At viewpoint 1 we paid 30 baht each (we’re still not sure what this goes towards).

img-20160318-wa0037.jpg

Night Life – Koh Phi Phi

A great fire show happens at Slinky bar right on the beach every evening – it had already started when we got there at 9pm but went on until after 10pm. A great atmosphere outside this bar that draws a large crowd for the incredible fire show.

Kongsiam Bar is also great for live acoustic music – right opposite the delicious ice cream roll stand.

Reggae Bar transforms after 8:30pm and becomes packed quite quickly with a crowd being drawn in for the muay thai fights. They ask the audience if anyone wants to participate with the winner winning a bucket cocktail. Makes for very good entertainment with also a chance to see more professional fighters.

img-20160318-wa0012.jpg

img-20160318-wa0007.jpg

Snorkelling

Having only booked a few days in advance through paying a deposit online we booked a Phi Phi Ley Tour with Adventure Club for 800 baht each. This featured a 4 hour tour (meeting at 7.30am for the morning option) and visiting Viking Cave, Pi Leh Lagoon, Loh Samah Bay and Maya Bay. We had to go to Adventure Club the previous day to pay the balance and try on fins and confirm details.

We were in a group of five on this trip on a long tail boat with a great instructor who could free drive to an incredible depth. Being the first time we had snorkelled the instructor put us at ease straight away. It was also great to go to Maya Bay in the morning before all of the speedboats and tours embarked onto it. The highlight was seeing a huge jellyfish and also a sea turtle. Although for most of the stops we stayed close by with the instructor at Maya bay we had 45 minutes to either snorkel or relax on the beach. They also had water and watermelon on board the boat. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen though as we failed to top up on the cream during the trip we suffered from sun burn.

20160318_065849.jpg

Phi Phi is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited even getting up at 6am on the deserted beach was so worth it. Will definitely be back again!

Next post will be another stop at Bangkok pre flight.

Thanks for reading!

Grace

-X-

Part 3 – Phuket, Thailand

Patong, Phuket

About a 1 hour flight from Koh Samui we landed at Phuket airport. Staying in Patong the taxi was about an hour charged at 800 baht.

Patong had a much more lively entertainment with bangla road being the go to place for drinks. In hindsight in future I would rather choose somewhere more relaxed. Aussie bar is a great bar in Bangla road though with a large upstairs with pool tables. Expect to pay about 300-500 baht for a bucket at a bar on this road.

Siam safari
Visiting a place that focuses on treating elephants well is hugely important to me. Having done a lot of research Siam Safari ticked the right boxes and is also highly rated on Trip Advisor! Having booked our 11.30 time slot in advance we were promptly picked up from our hotel and driven to the Siam safari location.

Firstly we were able to feed the elephants bananas, pineapples and sugar cane.
We were then treated to Thai coffee/tea and coconut pancakes (delicious).
We had a short ride on a buffalo cart before learning about different traditions such as making Thai curry and about rubber plants. We were also able to sample Thai curry.

The highlight for me had to be the elephant trek through a beautiful path where we could see out across phuket at a point we stopped on the way. We even saw an elephant pick up someone’s glasses they had dropped! This lasted about 45 minutes and was the end of the trip they do take a photo of you on the elephant to purchase at the end. Highly recommended and didn’t want to leave!

image

Malin Plaza food market
This was a great food market about 20 minute walk from Bangla road and open 2pm to 12am. Spoilt for choice with food and enjoyed the novel way of how they make ice cream rolls.
From pad Thai to offerings of crocodile on skewers to fresh fruit there is something for everyone here.  Made a visit here for a late night snack every night.

image

image

Pums cooking school
The Little shoes cooking course was booked in advance for before lunch.
Upon arriving at the restaurant we were warmly welcomed and not only did we learn dishes we chose ourselves from a book we also learnt about the spices. We also didn’t feel rushed at all when we sat down to enjoy what we cooked and we also got to keep a great little recipe book. Will have to try cooking pad Thai again sometime.

image

Sabai beach restaurant further down the right side of patong beach was also a great spot for dinner and watching sunset!

image

All in all Phuket was an interesting place to stop for 4 nights.

Next post will be Koh Phi Phi!

Thanks for reading!
Grace
-X-

Part 2 – Koh Samui, Thailand

Koh Samui, Thailand 

After about an hour flight from Bangkok we landed in Koh Samui to begin our 3 night visit, which has to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing airports that I have ever been to.

For this trip we had actually booked via Airbnb an apartment at Replay, which was just a short 10 minute drive from the airport. Walking through the small airport we purchased the ‘limousine’ ride to Replay at one of the transport counters. This was actually a minibus at 200 baht.

Dropping our bags off at the apartment we walked on a rather precariously busy road down to fisherman’s village way where we found a laundry shop. We ended up paying about 160 baht for 4kg of washing, washed, ironed and folded by the next day. 

Having found our first beach in Thailand the view was incredible, it was also nice and peaceful. The water was absolutely crystal clear.

20160309_125857

 

Bangpor 

We decided to venture towards the north west of the island to Bang Por. The beach again was very relaxing with hardly anyone around. Enjoying yet another pad thai looking out over the beach from one of the many restaurants dotted around was lovely.

20160309_152717

Awaiting the sunrise we found a bar towards the far left of the beach that played reggae music. Sunset (below) was beautiful and worth hanging around for.

20160309_181928.jpg

Thai Experience

We found out about the Thai Experience on trip advisor where it was rated so highly we just had to try it for ourselves. This is a unique dining experience where you learn about Thai Culture whilst enjoying thai cuisine. Having booked in advance we were picked up in a minibus where we met some of the others on the trip. We reached the location towards the South-East of the island and were treated to cocktails. We also enjoyed the ice breaker of making a cocktail for the person to the left of you. All night the cocktails were included and free flowing from a choice of three delicious variations.

We learnt so much on the experience including how to order your food on level of spiciness in Thai. Below is a selection of the delicious food served – would recommend working up an appetite as everything is delicious. They are also very adaptive depending on your spice levels – it’s really up to you if you want to crank up the spiciness or not. We also met so many interesting people from Brazil to the US to Finland to Germany. The room is designed with a long dining table making it easy to meet new people. There were 22 people on our experience and Richard running the experience took several photos of our group at the end and kindly posted to facebook. Cannot recommend the experience enough – the plentiful drinks and food and the priceless opportunity to meet a range of people made this so worth it.

 

Fishermans Village Walking Market

I would also recommend the walking street market at Fisherman’s Village that happens every Friday night. Things got quite busy after 7pm. There was so many stands selling food to cosmetics to souvenirs. I would recommend the ribs served outside Squires Loft they are delicious. It did get really busy after 9pm but we really enjoyed the atmosphere.

A great place for drinks near Bophut beach is the Wharf. The atmosphere is really relaxed with bean bags. Although not the cheapest for drinks the view and the atmosphere made it worth it. It was also a great place to watch the sunset.

20160311_183237.jpg

20160311_180823

Transport

Having come from Bangkok the taxi prices were extortionate, we found we were getting charged 100 baht for a 5 minute journey. 

After a few taxi journeys we ended up using  songthaews, which although were still pricier than transport in Bangkok were easier to get around in. These are basically like pick up trucks with two rows of benches in the back. They do barter with you more than taxi drivers but will also ram the songthaew as physically full and more than it will go.

There are no designated bus stops, it is very much just flagging one down when you see one and ringing a bell when you want it to stop. They also tend to toot their horn when passing travellers to get their attention.

song

Koh Samui was a beautiful island to visit and I would definitely stop by again in future. We also went to Chaweng for a few hours to the North East of the island but we didn’t enjoy the busier atmosphere where it had clearly been much more heavily developed to cater for tourists.

Next in my mini series of Thailand Blogs will be Phuket.

Thanks for reading!

Grace

-x-

MAC Lipstick Swatches

Hi all,

Just wanted to share my favourite MAC lipsticks.

MAC – lipsticks retail for £15.50 in the UK. They can be found on the mac website directly, Selfridges MAC counter, Debenhams and House Of Fraser also stock MAC in the UK.

Twig – from the satin range very wearable neutral shade for everyday. Pinky-brown shade that is quite pigmented. I would recommend exfoliating lips first or applying a touch of lip balm.

Trig

Craving – great for those venturing towards the more red toned mac lipsticks. Described my MAC as a burst of plum this is an amplified creme lipstick. It feels quite moisturising on the lips and again has strong pigmentation. One of my go to lip products for a dressed up evening event. Keen to try more amplified MAC lipsticks, which are more pigmented and won’t dry your lips.

Craving

Brave – from the satin range, described by MAC as pink-beige with white pearl. This is a great my lips but better shade. More of a semi-matte finish but does not feel too drying on my lips. Great for everyday where.

Brave

High Tea – this was one of my very first MAC lipsticks from the lustre range. This is in the beige-pink shade. This one gives my lips more of a frosty, shiny finish. This feels very lightweight on the lips and I do find if I do not moisturise my lips first it can apply to dry patches. This is a great nude lipstick that is very wearable.

High Tea

Velvet Teddy – a matte deep-tone beige. Another my lips but better shade for my yellow toned skin. Although this is matte it does not feel drying on my lips and it has great lasting power. This would be great for a wide range of skin tones.

Velvet Teddy

Below are the swatches – from L-R Twig, Craving, Brave, High Tea and Velvet Teddy.

20160410_171149   wp-1460305269670.jpg

Next on my MAC lipstick wishlist: Crosswires, Amourous and Ruby Woo.

MAC lipsticks remain my favourite lip products due to the wide range of shades (170 on the MAC website to choose from!) and formulations not to mention its staying power.

My favourite ways to exfoliate my lips are either: lightly brushing over them with a toothbrush or to mix a small amount of sugar and olive oil working into my lips. I would do these either once or twice a week.

So what’s your favourite mac lipstick shade?

Thanks for stopping by!

Grace

-x-

Part 1 – Bangkok, Thailand

Hi there,

Thailand is one of those places that for a long time I always thought would be incredible to visit. Having missed out on not doing a gap year backpacking it definitely appealed to me to visit. So of the first of a mini series of blogs this is my summary/highlights of a 3 night stay in Bangkok.

After a 11h 30min flight from London to Bangkok on Thai Airways (very pink and purple) I was finally in Bangkok. Arriving on a Sunday first things first drop off bags at the hotel (Courtyard by Marriott  Bangkok hotel – conveniently located between the Ratchadamri and Chit Lom  stops on the BTS Skytrain). The hotel also conveniently has a Tuk Tuk that they will take you to Chit Lom (5 minute journey roughly) and if you call them once at Chit Lom they will pick you up to go back to the hotel.

Transport/Food

I would recommend getting a rabbit card (100 baht (useable as credit) plus 50 baht refundable deposit. The Standard Rabbit Cards are valid for 5 years and can be filled with a minimum of 100 baht and up to 4,000 baht). We also travelled around via taxis, from Courtyard Marriott Hotel to Khao San Road in traffic we paid about 120 baht (30-45 minute journey). Just to add the food hall at Siam Paragon shopping centre (just next to the Siam BTS stop) leaves you feeling spoilt for choice. There are restaurants and also a big table seating area where you can grab some food from one of the many booths dotted around the edge. The choices range from Thai to French to Japanese to Korean and so much more. It’s easy to have a full sit down restaurant experience and also to grab something to go.

Chatuchak market

No time for jet lag straight to the market as it is a weekend market at Chatuchak covering 27 acres with over 15,000 booths selling anything and everything from food to clothes to arts and crafts. This is easily reached from Chit Lom by taking the BTS from Chit Lom to Mo Chit (exit 1) from there, there are likely to be fellow crowds heading towards the market. This market was really interesting but definitely need to brush up on my bartering skills!

Grand Palace

The Grand Palace was easily reached by taking the Chaophraya Express Boat (from Saphan Taksin BTS stop) to the Chang Pier (Tha Chang). The boat trip is a really lovely way to see Bangkok and quite relaxing, extremely cost effective too paying once you get on the boat 15 baht each.

Strict dress code as this has some of the most sacred elements in Thailand- no bare shoulders, legs covered up – there is a booth near the entrance where you can hire clothes for a deposit once returned. There is also a 500 baht entrance fee. The architecture and grounds are really quite stunning but it was incredibly busy with big tour groups. I cannot recommend enough to get there early! It opens at 8.30, we got there just before 9 and left a couple of hours later where there was already a large queue waiting to get in.

Untitled 2

 

Sirocco and Sky Bar

The Sirocco restaurant is on the 63rd floor (I believe this was about 200m high) of the Lebua State tower next to the Sky Bar (famous from featuring in the Hangover 2 movie). Although the restaurant doesn’t open to 6.30pm we got there at 6pm to start enjoying the views from the bar of the sunset. The view is incredible seeing so far out over Bangkok. Our motto we went with was pretty much ‘once in a lifetime’.

Having being seated at our table we were served with impeccable service enjoying a delicious dinner, I also had a delicious gin cocktail. This has to be the most incredible view I have had whilst dining – this redefined rooftop, alfresco dining for me. There was also a live jazz band from 7.30pm and enjoying the sky bar afterwards was a great experience. Although this was a rather more expensive experience in Thailand it was definitely worth it. Following on from the 63rd floor the ocean 52 bar was also visited a few floors down. All in all Lebua state tower did not disappoint.

20160307_181242.jpg

Khao San Road

Khao San Road is one of my highlights of Bangkok, well known as a hub for backpackers it had a great feel to it. From bars pumping out music to backpackers hauling their rucksacks through to food being sold on the street the atmosphere was what I anticipated Thailand backpacking to feel like. Pad thai with egg and chicken at 50baht sitting on the side of the road was actually quite delicious. Also had some classic mango sticky rice (so good!).

 

Amongst the highlights above I also visited Don Wai Market (more for local thais – the restaurant on the water was delicious but difficult to order if you didn’t speak/read thai), central world, the siam shopping centres and the patpong night market area. We also visited Maggie Choo Bar just down the road from Lebua State Tower at Novotel Fenix Silom. The bar reflects 1930s Shanghai underground cabaret, although it was very quiet when I was there (still early at 9pm) the cocktails and live jazz music were great.

Top Tips:

Barter but don’t be rude, drink plenty of water but don’t drink tap water, bring sunscreen (it went up to 36 degrees celsius in March), pick up a card at your hotel with the address on in case you need to overcome the language barriers getting back to the hotel.  Also, don’t go crazy on buying loads of liquids prior to heading to Bangkok, we found a boots just near Chit Lom station where we stocked up on sunscreen and insect repellents,there are also Watsons which is similar to Boots all over the place. Most of all Bangkok is a beautiful place so just have fun with it!

Hope you enjoyed reading, please feel free to ask any questions or to let me know your travel experiences of Bangkok.

Grace

-x-

Too Faced Born This Way

Hello!

After hearing all the hype over the Born This Way foundation by Too Faced I finally got my hands on it. Having heard rave reviews about its coverage and lasting power I was tempted to try it (i.e the standard YouTube made me buy it!). This is also my first Too Faced purchase.

The availability for this is limited in the UK. I found a Too Faced counter on the Oxford Street branch of Debenhams. It is just a rather small selection and at the time I went there was no one to help swatch shades for you. This retails for £29 in the UK for a 30ml bottle.

Just to add my skin is typically on the combination to the more dry side with yellow undertones.

So this foundation comes in a range of 18 shades, is oil free and has  coconut water infused which adds a touch of moisture and radiance. It also has hyaluronic acid which helps with smoothing and balancing skin. All these magical touches to create a flawless finish. So how did it live up to expectations?

Firstly the packaging is gorgeous very reminiscent of Giorgio  Armani lasting silk foundation with a pump! I also really liked the pink box packaging. I got this in light beige which is for light to medium complexions with neutral-to-golden undertones.

20160407_181808                                           20160407_181752

This to me is medium to full coverage, buildable without feeling too heavy. One pump goes a long way – initially I applied over my hourglass primer with a damp beauty blender. One extra layer covered pretty much everything and it does look like your skin but better. It definitely hid the redness on my face.

Having set with powder I gave it a whirl for a few days. For me after about 5-6 hours I found it did become slightly patchy around my nose and my t-zone but otherwise it stayed in place. All in all I was quite impressed with this product. Going forwards I would purchase a slightly darker shade to mix in with this one. Definitely keen to try more too faced products after using this though. 

Pros:

Pump Bottle, build able coverage, good range of shades, good lasting power.

Cons:

Not easily available in stores in the UK

Higher end price point

No spf

If you have tried this please let me know how you found it.

Thanks for stopping by.

Grace

-x-

Health binge

Hello!

I like to think I have a relatively healthy diet but I don’t hold myself back from treats. So I have those days where it starts with a chocolate bar which is followed by a packet of crisps and then heck I’ve started the spiral of being bad might as well have that takeaway fish and chips I was craving. We are all human after all and dark chocolate is supposedly good for you!

So April is all about pushing that diet towards the healthy side. Breakfast is all about fruit and fibre, porridge or greek yogurt topped with fruits.

Lunch is a variation of some form of meat and veg depending on what I have in the fridge.

Dinner is all about leaner meats and cutting back on the lasagne, sausage and mash. Instead opting for salmon and rice and edamame beans or sweet potato and Turkey steaks.

Of course this is all followed by a healthy amount of water consumed through the day (great for health and good skin!).

So here’s one of my easy lunch ideas which can also easily be a side dish for dinner as well.

20160405_220054

So all this required was the below:

Couscous – 200g was plenty for four  lunch portions

Vegetable stock

Lemons, spring onions, cucumber, tomatoes, mushrooms, sunflower seeds

Cooked chicken pieces

After leaving the Couscous to soak in the vegetable stock I just quickly cook up the mushrooms and spring onions and add to the Couscous. I then added the other vegetables and sunflower seeds. With a good squeeze of fresh lemons I then just give it a good mix up. Great for packed lunches or for work served with a wedge of lime or lemon. I like to have this with a portion of mixed fruits and a yogurt.

Healthy balanced diet helps keep a healthy mind 🙂

Thanks for stopping by!

Grace

-x-