Two planes, two trains, all to see a bit of Spain ‚Äď Part 2

We took our 2nd long train journey late Saturday, arriving in Barcelona Saturday night with only the energy to check-in and get straight to bed.

We awoke Sunday morning feeling refreshed and ready to check out what Barcelona had to offer. I like to be pretty organised on holiday so had written up a detailed itiniery of everything we wanted to see. First up had to be the Sagrada Familia.

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The photographs do not really do it justice. The detail that has gone into the building is extraordinary, you can appreciate why it has yet to be completed.

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We then wandered along to Europe’s second oldest hospital, that’s still in use, Hospital de la Santa Creu I de Sant Peu.

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The weather was quite unbearable in Barcelona, reaching sometimes over 30¬į and muggy. I usually like to walk around the city, taking in every detail that’s not always on the maps but in Barcelona you just couldn’t. We made use of the subway to decrease the chance of melting before we reached anywhere.

Next up was La Pedrera. The subway took us to the top of Passeig de Gracia, the street in which you’ll find some of the top designer shops. We continued down to the Casa Mila, which unfortunately was covered up with scaffolding. We moved onto the next significant Gaudi building, Casa Batllo and it’s neighbour Casa Amatller.

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We finally reached the top of the Ramblas, making our way to the Columbus monument down near the port. Not before stopping for lunch at an Italian restaurant.

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We eventually made it down to the seafront where there’s a great buzzing atmosphere. Plenty of restaurants, a beautiful beach and some street entertainers. We only wished we’d brought our bathers with us that day.

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After a tiring first day we returned to our hotel to have a nap and refresh for the evenings festivities. We’d taken a bottle of champers from the drinks package at the villa, so as I was finally feeling better we decided to crack it open before heading out.

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Once we’d finished the champers we went in search of dinner. Unfortunately, we ended up at one of Spain’s chain restaurants, Tapas Tapas and experienced some overpriced and not very nice Tapas. It may have been the champagne talking but the Sangria went down well!

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We ended the evening with a spectacular sound and light show at the Magic Fountain. It runs at different times of the evening depending on the time of year so make sure to double-check before you make the visit.

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I took so many photographs I won’t bore you with any more. An amazing welcome to Barcelona!

Two planes, two trains, all to see a bit of Spain – Part 1

We kicked off our holiday in Southern Spain, with a group of friends in a town called Benalmadena. Our friend Dawn had picked out a lovely villa with a pool and amazing views of the surrounding mountains. It was the perfect place to relax and soak up some much needed Vitamin D.

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After four days of chilling and indulging in probably one too many scoops of ice cream, Alan and I said our goodbyes to our friends and got on a train up to Madrid.

Three¬†hours later we checked into our hotel and headed further into the centre of Madrid to begin our free walking tour. We had 30 minutes to kill before this, so treated ourselves to a pastry.¬†We weren’t limited on choice!

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I’d booked the¬†free walking tour with a company called Sandeman’s New Europe, providing you with a little history of the city and a look at some of the key places. It lasts for around two¬†and a half hours, with a break in the middle and you have the option to tip them at the end depending on how good an experience it was. We met the organisers at Plaza Mayor and went on to see the Royal Palace, the oldest restaurant in the world, learning about the origins of Tapas and Madrid’s Robin Hood.

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The walking tour mainly focuses on the old city of Madrid, so the following day Alan and I went to explore the newer parts.

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In the afternoon we went to visit the Real Madrid Football Stadium – the highlight of the holiday in Alan’s eyes. I was quite ill in Madrid, sporting a red nose and losing the ability to breath through my nostrils. I feel I deserve extra brownie points for accompanying my fianc√© to¬†a football stadium whilst ill. I have to admit the museum was quite impressive, they obviously have a lot of money with a number of fancy large touch screens. I just enjoyed playing with these, never mind the pitch…

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Our final day in Madrid we went in search of souvenirs and I did a spot of clothes shopping. As we are coming home to Autumn weather I decided to invest in a couple of scarves.

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I certainly did not need them in Madrid!

Coming up, Barcelona!

Bill’s Restaurant, Cheltenham

The plan for the first day back from our holiday was to relax. We’d done so much walking in Madrid and Barcelona our legs had almost seized up. However, once I remembered Bill’s Restaurant had launched in town I had to go check it out immediately.

With the fiance and sister in tow we shuffled along to Regent Street with grumbling bellies and pretty high expectations.

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It was surprisingly busy for a weekday so we were seated upstairs. The interior is a real mix with plush brown leather benches that my sister and I sunk straight into. There are a number of elegant chandeliers dotted around, with also low hanging rustic lampshades.

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There is an array of odd furniture pieces and decorative tableware. It’s a cosy, informal feel for a lunchtime but I imagine it could feel more intimate in the evening.

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There’s a broad menu which made it hard for us to make a decision, they also do breakfast until 12pm, which we were all keen to try out.

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Eventually we made up our minds and finally allowed the waiter to take our order. Whilst sipping our drinks, we¬†discussed the wedding suits Alan had just tried on and how we needed to get a move on with only 6 months to go. My mum and sister picked up my wedding dress whilst we were away so if all else fails at least I’ll be dressed appropriately.

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Soon enough our food arrived. Alan had gone for the burger, Nat had the fish finger sandwich and I went for the crab and prawn fishcakes. Mine was in fact a starter but asked for it as a main alongside some skinny fries. My twisted attempt at being healthy…

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None of us had any complaints about the food. My fishcakes were amazingly good – full of flavour and tasted really fresh.

Downstairs there are also little treats to take home with you. My sister spotted the pink chocolate buttons a mile off that I’m sure she’ll be purchasing in the not too distant future.

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If you fancy being a little healthier you could simply opt for a piece of fruit on your exit!

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You can find out more about Bill’s restaurant on their website here.

HomeSense Cheltenham: Now Open!

Congratulations to Tinkerbellloz on winning £50 to spend in HomeSense. Enjoy your guilt-free splurge!

In the 2nd of my series of blog posts for HomeSense, I went down to the new Cheltenham store to see what it had to offer.

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I loved the funky chair with the various pattern pieces. Would make a great statement piece in any home. My sister and I tested it out and it was surprisingly comfy.

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The different themes inside got my mind racing about how I would decorate my home. In my head my ideas all look great, but what if that’s not the case when I put paint to paintbrush. Look out for my next HomeSense blog post when one of the country’s most highly respected Interior Designers, Jo Hamilton answers some of my questions and offers tips on decorating your home.

If you missed the launch of the new store, check out the video to see what they got up to.

You can find all relevant information about the new store below or on their website here.

Gallagher Retail Park
Cheltenham
South West England
GL51 9RR

Tel: 01242 245081

Mon – Fri: 09:00 – 20:00
Sat: 09:00 – 19:00
Sun: 10:30-16:30

Recipe: Orange and Yogurt cake

This post was supposed to have been published about a week and half ago but due to camera issues and last minute packing for my holiday it did not happen. Having now returned from said holiday my computer has decided to recognise my camera so I can try again…

Baking had almost become a distant memory for me until the other week¬†when I made one of my mum’s specialities; Orange and Yogurt¬†cake. It’s a little bit different to most cakes, light but¬†very moist in the middle. The main similarity to other cakes is that it never lasts that long in our house.

The cake has some Spanish influences in it, mainly due to the type of oranges used – as I’ve been galivanting in Spain recently it seemed almost necessary to share.

You will need:

175g/6oz butter
175g/6oz golden caster sugar
2 eggs
175g/6oz plain greek yogurt
175g/6oz almonds, ground
zest of 2 seville oranges, juice of 1
175g/6oz self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
Icing sugar to top

Prep time: 15mins

1. Preheat oven to gas mark 4/180¬įC. Using a food mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and pale.

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2. Add the eggs one at a time, adding a little bit of flour to stop it curdling.

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3. Continue mixing for a couple more minutes, then add the yogurt, almonds and orange zest. Mix the whole lot up.

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4. Fold in the rest of the flour and baking powder, then pour into a grease-proofed tin.

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5. Bake in the oven for 40mins.

6. Once cooked, leave the cake to cool before sprinkling with a healthy dusting of icing sugar.

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7. And devour.

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Hornear, Constante, LISTO! Translates to: Ready, steady, BAKE!

Totes just stole that from last night’s Great British Bake Off.

New store in Cheltenham preview and competition

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Earlier in the year there had¬†been a large chunk of shops missing from Cheltenham’s Gallagher Retail Park and an intriguing amount of building work.¬†That building work has now been revealed and marks the opening of a new homeware store called¬†HomeSense, and¬†I have been lucky enough to be given a sneak peak. It’s all very exciting!

HomeSense launched in the UK in 2008 and prides itself on offering high quality, branded homeware for less than the recommended retail price. I love shopping for home trinkets and getting inspiration from what I see in-store, if it comes at a bargain price without compromising on the quality – I’m straight there! And that is what HomeSense is all about.

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HomeSense will be opening it’s doors to fellow Cheltonians on Thursday 28th August and to celebrate this I’m doing my first competition.

I have been given a £50 gift voucher to give away to one of my lovely readers to be spent at the new store. HomeSense buyers scour the globe for one-off pieces and I like to think of myself as quite well traveled, so to tie in with this, all you have to do to enter is tell me in no more than 50 words:

When buying items for the home, what countries do you take inspiration from?

For your chance to win, leave your answer in the comments section below. A winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday 29th August, just in time to go spend your winnings!

Good Luck!

Update: Well done¬†to tinkerbellloz, your giftcard will be on it’s way to you shortly.

Permanent Make-Up Gloucestershire

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Last weekend I was educated in permanent make-up, an increasingly popular procedure, run by my lovely friend Emma. I didn’t really know anything about it before so was quite intrigued.

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Emma has gone and got all the training and qualifications, setting up a relaxed space in her home to complete the procedures.

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There are lots of benefits to permanent make-up, from saving you a lot of time, to helping those with physical difficulties that struggle to put make-up on themselves. There are various treatments you can get done, including Eyebrows, Eyeliner and Eyelash enhancements and Lips.

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Treatments and price list:

Eyebrows

Powdered brow perfection £250
Simulated natural hair strokes £300
Natural hair strokes with powdered effect £350

Eyelash Enhancement & Permanent Eyeliner

Eyelash enhancement (Top) £150
Eyelash enhancement (Bottom) £150
Thin or medium eyeliner (Top) £200
Thicker eyeliner (Top) £250
Lower eyeliner £200

Lips

Fine lip contouring £250
Natural lip blush £300
Full lip colour £350

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I asked Emma if any of the treatments hurt and she said all of her clients had fallen asleep through their procedure!

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You can find out more about Gloucestershire Permanent Makeup here and see some amazing before and after photographs, really proving the benefits.

Emma is also giving away several £100 and £150 gift vouchers for the rest of the month to people that like her Facebook page. To be in with a chance, you can find her page here.