Tuesday, 27 February 2018

City Breaks

Whether it be home or abroad, there is nothing like an extended weekend to take you away from the stresses of working life.

Living in Nottingham provides a fairly good location to commute to most U.K locations whether by car or train, also having an airport within a 20 minute drive is handy for European exertions.

Despite not working in a manual or labour intensive career, managing a large recruitment agency branch takes its toll, especially when dealing with the demands of my clients and the constant changing environment presented by temporary workers. It is more a taxing of the mind, which when not fully charged or rested can make the weeks seem that bit longer.

Last year we made a vow to not waste time, and enrich our lives where possible. We don't make life easy on ourselves, having bought a new house last year, we are spending money on that where possible, with decorating, furniture and accessories throughout. Attempting also to put money aside for a wedding that we hope to plan for 2019, not helped by the aforementioned house, our weakness for shopping, nice holidays and occasional city breaks.

This year it looks like we are on course for a minimum of three mini breaks, although if Beth gets her way, it will be more.

They are great ways to experience new places for longer than a day at time, a lot of us have the distress of long commutes and constant battles with traffic, so where possible I find it essential to try and at least get one night away in a hotel when visiting a U.K city, otherwise it could be a very early start to make the most of your time away from home.

In the world we live in too, there are so many avenues to discover and gain opinion on not only the best places to visit, but also where to frequent when you are there too, where to stay, to tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, idyllic walks and maybe a bit of shopping, just maybe of course. Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Bloggers, Trip advisor, tabloid paper travel sections - the only problem you can have is too much to research and compare against.

Happily from experience some of the finest places we have visited that you may want to research further are.


A must on on most peoples list I am sure anyway, but this city is just incredible, always something to draw your attention and to keep you entertained no matter the reason for visiting. A place that needs visiting on more than one occasion because there is literally so much to do and see.

Where to stay in London?  - The Hoxton Holborn - A stunning boutique hotel, with unique styling throughout, with a fantastic bar and restaurant to suit all sort of reasons for your visit.

Favourite restaurant in London - Gaucho  - Amazing Argentinian Steak, such a wide choice and great service in a very cool setting, have visited both Chancery & Charlotte Street Restaurants.

Favourite attractions to visit in London -

The Lion King Theatre show - An emotional and mesmerising experience - a must whether a fan of the film or not.

Madamme Tussauds - The world famous wax works of celebrities past and present - I've just seen that they have added Tom Hardy to the collection which surely means another visit soon. - highly recommend getting your tickets in advance here as the queues are substantial to say the least.


One of the friendliest places I have had the pleasure to visit on a number of occasions, this city has so much to offer during the day and night.

Where to stay in Liverpool

Hope Street Hotel  - Chic hotel with interior styling made up of solid wood and exposed brick work.

Favourite places to go in Liverpool

Albert Dock - A waterside hub of bars, restaurants, galleries, museums and shops, a must visit while here.

The Beatles Story - A brilliant museum and archive of the story and music of the global phenomenon that was the greatest band to come out of this city.

The Cavern Club - This is a true bucket list for me, although I have visited this iconic venue, it wasn't for a gig, I can only imagine how good a venue this is to see a band playing. Even without that, you can still feel the history and what an iconic place this is.

Cheshire Oaks  - A McAthur Glen outlet, its huge, and a great place to visit on the way to or from Liverpool, a great place to pick up some bargains from last season or discounted items from the likes of Ralph Lauren, All Saints, Ted Baker, Jack Wills among many more.


This city is one that I would happily return to time and time again, the vibe, the culture, the people, the food, the architecture is outstanding. A snippet of places to go to below, but you can read a much more in depth guide to Barcelona that I put together last year and can be found at Barcelona City Guide. 

Where to stay in Barcelona

The Andante Hotel - A stones throw from the Las Ramblas, this ethical focused hotel is a  comfortable and quality base for Barcelona.

The best restaurants in Barcelona

Flax & Kale - For Breakfast you can't go wrong here, an all vegan & gluten free menu leaves you spoilt for choice, but totally satisfied and feeling great after.

Bar Lobo - A vibrant and cool setting, allows you to feel at ease as you watch the night pass by, indulging in a vast and tasty tapas menu.

Places to visit in Barcelona

Parc Guell - Essentially an outdoor art gallery made from the incredible mind of Gaudi, a great day out also offering incredible views over the city.

Sagrada Familia - The building that never seems to be close to completion, an imposing structure from the mind of Gaudi, inside and out you will be openmouthed. The detail and magnitude of this place is truly amazing.

Camp Nou - Football fan or not, I would urge you to visit this unique stadium and immerse yourself in the Catalan club, a tour will take up a couple of hours but it really is worth it.


We've made this historic city a stop off on the way to the North Yorkshire Lodge we stay in, but in just 3 years we have visited York on 4 occasions. Its a wonderful city with so much to offer.

Best Hotel in York

Hotel Indigo - I love this brand of hotels, they are unique in their styling in each and every city, often taking influence from the culture or history of the area. This particular one is designed in a way that very much appeals to our taste and has actually provided influence to elements of our house, in particular with the amazing tiles they have thoughout.

Best places to eat in York

Bettys - The iconic tea rooms, keep me in constant supply of quality tea and I'm a happy boy, and this is the place to come for the best brew around, a little afternoon tea is a delightful way to top off the visit.

What to do in York

The Shambles - The famous cobbled street of buildings leaning everywhich way in beautiful tudor styling, made up of cracking individual shops, like a real life Diagon Alley.

York Minster - I am a sucker for stunning buildings and historic architecture in particular, I am wowed by the skill and techniques used to create building likes this, especially considering they are from an age without high tech machinery that we are used to now. York Minster is beautiful inside and out and right within the city,  if you are feeling fit you can climb the steps to see a stunning view of the city.

York Dungeon - Not one for the faint of heart, hence why Beth won't let us go, however as a youngster I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of York's dark history, now it has become a more interactive experience.

So you've decided to look at a city staycation or European hotspot, here are my top tips to make the most of the experience.

* Book direct where possible - I will often use booking.com to locate the best hotels that a city can offer, you can read reviews, get a range of pictures and a very competitive price guide. However on most occasions I have found that contacting the hotel direct will get you the best price. Even if you are determined to use a site such as booking.com, don't assume you are always provided the lowest price, I have often found, revisiting the site either later in the day or another day will result in a lower price being offered.

* Don't waste money on parking - This has mainly been a factor for London, but try to find a hotel that either has its own parking for free, or as we found with the Hoxton Holborn, we got a heavily discounted price at a car park only a few minutes walk way because we had said we were stopping there.

*Booking flights, again as when finding accommodation, be sure to do your research, can you be flexible with the dates of the trip? if so, ensure you look at dates close to your intended one and see if there are cheaper flights available. It might sound cheap, but from my point of view, money saved on the travel and stay can contribute to a great meal or attraction admission fee.

*Plan - It may sound boring, but creating an itinerary is vital to a city break, especially when wanting to make the most of a short break. Look at the location of your hotel, where you want to visit and map out where else is close by to ensure you aren't wasting time and energy. A great App to download is Sygic, which allows you to store hotel and destinations you want to visit. It also enables you to use it offline too, so you don't get stung on data usage.

*Substance over style - It wont be often you hear a term like this from me, but particularly after Barcelona, we learned the hard way about footwear to wear for a city break, we walked a total of 19 hours across 3 days, make sure that the footwear you have is suitable for plenty of walking, you don't want a trip ruined by blisters or painful limbs, despite that this may be an excuse for a massage to relieve the pain.

* Take plenty of pictures - Fair enough, not everyone in this world is a blogger or big on taking selfies etc, however its great to be able to look back on visual memories, but also to be able to put pictures to the words when you are recommending on where to go.

*Enjoy it.

I would love to hear from my readers the places that they have visited and what they enjoyed about them.

Our next trip is to Krakow in April, I cant wait to bring my post to you about that trip.


Sunday, 18 February 2018

Products of the month - February

Open letter to 2018, you seem to be clinging on to Winter a little too long. I can't recall so many weeks so full of rain, cold winds and snow and its taking its toll. My body seems to be crying out for warmth and protection from the elements,  elements that seem to have no regard for my skin, it was time for action.

As is the way come January, we all seem to make new starts in one way or another, taking part in dry January, hitting the gym, new job etc. It is just as important to look after the outside of our bodies as much as it is the inside.

Unlike snakes & spiders, we don't shed our skin exposing a nice new shiny outer layer, we need help to get rid of that layer, then giving it lots of hydration and protection against the weather, I hasten to add, this is also a routine that you would be well served using ahead of the summer months, in order to ensure you get the skin prepped for sun exposure, whilst always been mindful of the damage the sun can do, you can at least take the right steps to limit the damage while prolonging the length of your tan.

So this month I have put together a group of products, that contain a combination of ingredients that strip back & nourish the skin and hair.

You will see here some very reasonably priced products all of which that can be found within your high street retailers.

My self imposed role as a style blogger will of course expose me to a wide variety of products and brands, however I am not someone with an excessive budget and I seek out products that do exactly what I need them to do, from this starting point it will be easy to compare to more premium products to see whether you can really tell the difference in what they offer.

Grounded Coffee Body Scrub

Not only does my first highlighted product have the perfect sounding combination of coffee & coconut, its packaged in a brown paper bag with a simple font and imagery of whats contained inside.

Applying the the Grounded product to the wet skin, you can gently move the grains over your skin with your hands, you feel a light scratching but isn't something I would describe as being too uncomfortable, and in all honesty the amazing coffee fragrance will divert your senses to take in the wonderful smell, letting it do its work for around 10 minutes will be enough to reinvigorate the skin, and once you wash it off, you will immediately feel the benefits and wonder how you were living without this product. I have found in the last couple of years it is brilliant to use this in the lead up to a holiday, to prep for the sun rays to get a longer lasting tan.

L'Oreal Black Charcoal Face Wash 

Although you can use the Grounded scrub on the face as well as the body, I wanted to experiment with the benefits of charcoal, L'oreal for Men have provided a fantastic product made up of black charcoal & menthol, and wow can you feel that menthol. The product draws out the impurities and is a great protector against black heads, spots and oily skin. I have to admit my method of putting it on does begin with making two lines of the black product under my eyes, making me look like an American Footballer.

Dove Body Lotion 

Once phase one of the regime is complete, to the hydration - for the body I have genuinely found that Dove offer everything in this bottle that one could need, it smells great with the coconut scent, and offers instant repair to damaged and dry skin. It doesn't require over liberal application and is quick and easily absorbed in to the skin.

Skin Drink by Lush

It is important to remember that most body moisturisers aren't really suited to the demand of a mens face, of course each person is different, the rigours of wet shaving every other day while maintaining a level of stubble mean the face has a lot to cope with. Skin drink from Lush offers the perfect antidote, well fragranced with orange & rose, the nourishing ingredients of oils, butters, aloe vera & avocado make up a great smelling and effective facial moisturising cream.

American Cream by Lush

No matter your hair cleansing routine, I highly recommend American Cream once again from Lush, I have to confess that my introduction to this came from my partner, she came and sat next to me after using it and I could not stop myself from smelling her hair!!!! This literally is like drenching your hair in thick strawberry milkshake, crammed full of strawberries, honey vanilla & oils, ensure you grab a big dollop and smother every strand in this absolute beauty of a product and you'll be smelling it all day.

Hope you've enjoyed some of these for yourself & see you soon for next months product choices, lets hope the weather has improved by then.


Saturday, 10 February 2018

Returning to the Gym - Beach body ambitions

Booking a holiday. It all sounds so idyllic. The sunnier climes, the salvation of the swimming pool following hours in 30+ degree heat, a chance to go on a summer clothing spending spree, the relaxation of sitting pool side reading books, and our guilty pleasure of playing as much crazy golf as possible.

What perhaps isn't contemplated with great detail is the preparation required to get ready for that holiday. It has already been a month since booking our 2018 summer holiday, and I can honestly say that I haven't done a single thing to get myself some of those bulging triceps, a set of calves that don't belong on a poorly fed chicken or a six pack that doesn't belong in the fridge. If only it was easy as picking these items off the shelf in the local supermarket.

Even as this is being written, I have postponed intentions to visit the gym this evening and taken to writing this post instead, whilst my Fiancé is in the kitchen doing a home workout to kick start her fitness regime.

The truth of it is, I envy the men and women who frequent the gym multiple times a week in their quest to have the bodies that belong on the cover of fitness magazines. I have in the past had a consistent level of sport and gym in my life that provided me with a body and feeling that I was happy with, albeit not one that anyone would of been particularly envious of.

I find it all too easy to come up with the excuses. I leave the house by 7am, not often home until 18.30 / 19.00 then cooking upon my return home. The weekends tend to fill up with visiting places, writing content and taking pictures for my blog, considering the dark nights make it difficult to take any good photos in the week. Since making the move to Nottingham, I am now an hour away from where I used to play football so that has become difficult to fit in too, especially as sometimes the opposition wouldn't turn up and driving all that way for nothing became too much of a pain.

What is even more laughable is that the gym that I pay a monthly amount to and haven't visit in 6 months is precisely 1.5 miles away.

So I am going to make a conscious change. In my day to day work, once a meeting has been booked in my diary it has to stay there and I commit to it -  this is the mentality I need to apply to my gym visits.

In truth I love sport. I am extremely competitive and that gets me going. Lifting weights and being stationary doesn't - so over the coming months I am determined to try new things such as yoga, find a local 6 a side football team (maybe a veterans team now I have turned 30)

Cutting out the bad foods and being more nutritionally conscious, I can cook really well and love healthy food, turning down chocolate (though will be a whole other challenge I am not quite willing to take on yet.) So my Nutri Bullet will be dusted off, after purchasing some of the great ranges from Aldi, such as the smoothie mixes, protein powders & ingredients to create my own snack bars to stave off those naughty cravings.

So over the coming months, I will document my efforts with the hope that by July / August I will have created and kept to a routine that I can enjoy a fully reap the rewards of. Watch this space.


Sunday, 4 February 2018

Smeg - Coffee Machine

Bleary eyed and under duress, the snooze button being hit several times, cramming in an extra two minutes shut eye, i've never changed, I love my sleep and my bed.

However the day has to start at some point, like many I am sure it doesn't feel like the day can start properly without my morning coffee.

For a long time however, I was making a huge mistake with my home coffee making. Despite thoroughly enjoying the fresh blends and especially a flat white coffee from Starbucks, at home I settled for a couple of spoonfuls of instant coffee, having never invested in a coffee machine, I was getting maybe a tenth of the pleasure and taste of a freshly brewed coffee from ground beans. 

Upon us purchasing our house in early 2017, I was determined that I was finally going to add a coffee machine to our kitchen applicances. 

This came after the perhaps the easiest 3 months of my adult life, living at my in-laws while waiting for our house to be completed. I was seriously well looked after, and it was here that I had the use of the coffee machine they had. My senses were awakened and thought to myself, what on earth have I being doing with these jars of instant coffee, that just pale in to insignificance when compared to the fresh ground bean.

I was presented with a problem though, Beth was adamant that we weren't going to have a large silver machine out on the counter or kitchen island, so I had to find one that met the needs of being able to make a variety of coffees, but not wanting one that required capsules, all the while being stylish enough that it didn't have to be put away everyday after being used.

We had already purchased a cream SMEG kettle, so I thought I would see if they had one in their range of appliances, and it just so happened that they had released a coffee machine very close to that time, something that I hadn't actually seen in any retailers by that point.

Due to it being styled with that retro 50's look, synonymous with the SMEG brand, it was the perfect accompaniment to the kettle and the look of our kitchen.

It may not have the vast array of gadgets compared to its more expensive and cumbersome rivals, but it more than makes up for that in its ability to create coffee options including, single/double espresso, latte, cappuccino, steamed & frothy milk - which also comes in handy for hot chocolate too.

All of these capabilities are housed within an extremely great looking machine, a narrow unit dressed in  a curved cream shell, with the functional elements such as the buttons and lever in chrome & stainless steel. Helpful too are the functions that allow you to heat your mugs by placing them on the metal plate on top of the machine, a drip tray that has an indicator to let you know when it is full and an easy to view clear water chamber at the rear to keep an eye on the levels.

All thats left then is to experiment with the huge number of coffee options out there, perhaps one for the weekday kick-starters, another for after dinner and one for the lazy weekend where you can get a bit more creative with your milk and dustings of chocolate / cinnamon etc.

I have personally found the variety on offer from Taylors of Harrogate offers so many options, tasty flavours all at great value.

So if you are in the market for a stylish coffee machine, backed up with quality and substance then look no further than the SMEG Coffee Machine - Your morning routine deserves it.

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