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Along the Thames

Get a Tube to Waterloo, have a mooch around the South Bank, and then stroll down the River Thames, past St Paul's Cathedral, all the way to the Tower of London. Why? Well, you'll take in some pretty impressive sights along the way.

Looking towards the City of London - clock the OXO Tower and beach(!) to the right.

The posts of the original Blackfriars Bridge.

The City of London. Oh, look! Isn't that where Geli works?

 St Paul's Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge.

Tower Bridge.

Doesn't London look lovely on the River Thames? x

Shakespeare's Globe exhibition and tour

There's the expectation that you're supposed to revere William Shakespeare, *especially* if you happen to be British and a writer, which I am. Here's the thing though, I don't. He may be considered the greatest writer in the English language but, largely, I'm not a fan. There are some sonnets of his that I enjoy, and I have a fondness of Romeo and Juliet, but the Bard is not my cup of tea. I'm certain I can't be the only one who isn't a devotee!

Despite this though, I do recognise and appreciate the importance of William Shakespeare. I know that there are many phrases I use of his on a day-to-day basis, and also in my writing. We have Shakespeare to thank for: budge an inch, green-eyed jealousy, slept not one wink, hoodwinked, eyesore, laughing stock, good riddance, seen better days, blinking idiot, the game is up, and many more words and phrases.

Earlier this month, I paid a visit to Bankside, to visit Shakespeare's Globe and take the exhibition and tour. Tours last around 30 minutes, and they focus more on the Globe than the man himself.

Still, it was interesting to learn about Sam Wanamaker - yes, father of Zoë - who made Shakespeare's Globe happen, plus learn the history of the previous theatres that were near this spot. (One burnt down when its thatched roof caught on fire because of an ambitious stage prop, a working cannon fired during a performance of Henry VII; the replacement theatre was demolished under Puritan rule.)

This Globe opened in 1997, sadly four years after Sam's death, and it's not just tours that take place there. You can also buy tickets to watch theatre performances at the Globe, as well as performances at the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Now tell me, truthfully, are you a fan of the Bard?

Shakespeare's Globe, Bankside, SE1 9DT
Tickets for the exhibition and tour cost £13.50 for adults, and tours run every 30 minutes. We bought tickets using the National Rail 2for1 offer.

Beauty: Glossybox UK November 2014 review

Uh-oh! After been utterly thrilled with my first Glossybox last month, I was disappointed with the box when I first opened it... this was until I started using the products, and now I'm actually pretty pleased with what I got. (Don't judge a book by its cover!)

This month I received two full-size products, three samples, and a voucher card. I really wish one of the full-size products had been the H20+ Face Oasis hydration treatment, instead of the 8ml sample I received. It's a really great moisturiser to use after cleansing, though they don't call it a moisturiser, and this is a product I will strongly consider using in the future.

I've never heard of OGX before, so I wasn't sure what to expect of their renewing Moroccan argan oil shampoo and decided to have a scout on Boots. Turns out that they have lots of different "flavours" of shampoos and conditioners, and most of their reviews/ratings are positive. I found the shampoo to be a shampoo, if I'm honest: I didn't notice anything above and beyond a typical shampoo when I washed my hair. It cleaned my hair, and and whilst it didn't smell unpleasant, it didn't smell amazing either! It's a great size sample though, ideal for long weekends away.

The Monu refining Capri facial oil sample is for oily or spot-prone skin, which my skin isn't, but I still gave it a go. My first thought was that it needs a better delivery method as it flows out quickly. Applying the oil made my face extremely shiny and oily, but it did absorb quite fast. After a few hours though, my skin felt really dry and tight so I needed to apply my normal moisturiser. This is definitely not for me!

I've probably mentioned before that I'm not a fan of lip products, preferring to stick to simple lip balms like Carmex, but I really liked the full-size Burt's Bees lip shine. I was sent "Pucker", which gives a subtle red colour, and I can see myself using this lip shine. It left my lips feeling super smooth, plus there's the reassurance that it's a 100% natural product. 

The Lollipops Make Up eye pencil is great because it's a retractable one, so there's no need to worry about sharpening it (though if you expose too much of the crayon, you do have to worry about snapping it!), but it would have been nice in a colour other than black - most people probably have a black eye liner already, and will be less likely to buy another colour to experiment with. It's likely that I'll end up giving this one away as I received another black eye pencil in this month's My Little Box and it will just sit gathering dust!

I also received a £20 voucher to spend at BestSecret. This is valid for a year - perfect since Christmas is coming - and I have to spend £60 to get the £20 off. I've already spotted some awesome Diesel jeans in the sale for £70.90, so I don't think this will be too difficult to find something I like when it comes to me using the voucher!

OK, so whilst I said that I wasn't initially impressed when I opened this month's Glossybox, it turns out I'm (mostly) a fan of the products I received. For £12.75 a box, with P&P, Glossybox is proving to be excellent value, and I'm looking forward to receiving December's box.

What do you think to this month's Glossybox? Sign up to Glossybox here if you want to try a box for yourself. x 

Sheffield Park and Garden

A few weeks ago, we visited Sheffield Park and Garden. I thought I better hurry up and share the photos we took before winter truly sets in... I say that because the autumn colours were spectacular, and I think they say all that needs to be said about Sheffield Park and Garden!

Stunning, huh? x

Sheffield Park and Garden, Uckfield, East Sussex, TN22 3QX
National Trust members get free entry. If you're not a member, tickets cost £9 for adults, without Gift Aid, and £4.50 for children.

Beauty: My Little Box November 2014

Another month, another My Little Box! November's box is called My Little Cosy Box, which sounded a promising name for this cold, autumnal month.

Included in the box this month is the My Little World magazine, which whilst it was definitely not an advertorial magazine like last month's Dianne Von Furstenberg edition, it didn't actually have much substance. Still, if I wanted to buy a magazine, I'd buy one, and it's more about the other treats.

I had a sneak peak whilst I waiting for my My Little Box to arrive, and I was so excited as I thought I was getting a mug... When I opened the box and clocked the size of it, I realised it was an espresso cup, rather than a teacup or mug. I don't drink coffee, and I drink way more tea than I could ever fit in this cup, so I won't be using this.

Whilst it is cute, I face the problem I had with the first box: there are things inside the box that I can't actually use. Ditto for the My Little Bouillotte, which is a cushion you heat up in the microwave... Definitely cosy but, you've guessed it, we don't actually have a microwave in our kitchen. I will have to do a blog giveaway so these can go to a good home!

Once I had tried this month's beauty products, I was pretty pleased with the My Little Cosy Box. The Yves Rocher intense colour single eyeshadow in brun café mat might have been a darker shade than I would have picked for myself, but the colour is really nice on me and its wear is long-lasting. I'll definitely be buying others shades from this range; I'm a convert to Yves Rocher after discovering the brand through beauty boxes.

I liked the Starliner waterproof eyeliner pencil by Arancil, in black; this, along with the My Little Beauty volumizing mascara I also got, will make a great back-up if I'm running low on my Chanel favourites. The mascara isn't waterproof, at least I don't think it is, but it didn't smudge as soon as I applied it, which is half the battle!

All-in-all, I'm pleased with this month's My Little Box. I hope that the magazine will improve, as it's definitely a weak inclusion, and hopefully next month I'll receive non-beauty items I can actually use. (It's your gain if I don't though!)

A subscription to My Little Box costs £14.95 a month, which includes P&P, and you can cancel at any time. I'll be sure to share my thoughts when I receive December's box - I bet it's a My Little Christmas Box! x

Life of Late: November 2014

My Dad was in town recently, which meant us playing tourist, something I always enjoy doing! Look out for my posts on some of the touristy things we did next week, but today I wanted to tell you about The Paddington Trail, the musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, plus the poppies at the Tower of London.

First up, The Paddington Trail. To celebrate the movie, fifty Paddington Bears have been dotted around London, and we spotted a few when we were out and about. This sort of thing is nothing new in London - they did it for the Olympics with Wenlock and Mandeville, and there was a Fabergé Egg Hunt, to name a few - but the Paddington Bears are fun, and made me smile. I've got until the end of the year to spot some more!

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels made me smile and laugh. On at the Savoy Theatre, Robert Lindsay and Alex Gaumond were perfect as scoundrels Lawrence Jameson and Freddy Benson, and it was a marvellous musical. It's based on the movie of the same name, which starred Steve Martin and Michael Caine as the scoundrels. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was highly entertaining, funny, and Robert Lindsay was, especially, brilliant in it. (Actually, so was Alex Gaumond who we we saw earlier in the year in Matilda, and Bonnie Langford was awesome, too!) I've never seen the movie, so can't compare, but it was a delight on the West End - I still have some of the songs in my head a week on!

Finally, on Armistice Day, the last of the 888,246 ceramic poppies were planted at the Tower of London, before they were swiftly picked to send off to the people that had bought them to raise money for six service charities.

"Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red" represents the 888,246 British and Commonwealth military deaths that happened in World War I. The poppies were planted in the moat at the Tower of London.

Whilst we were there a few days after Armistice Day when a lot had already been picked, it was still a sobering sight to see the poppies that are still remaining. (They will be all removed by November 28th, though some will go on tour over the next few years.)

You can't buy any of these poppies as they are all sold out, but you can still make a (charitable) dedication to show your support. 

Other than that, I've been busy writing and flat hunting. Because of  a few issues that have cropped up, it's time to find a new home after living in Brixton for the past eighteen months. What scares me is that this blog post I wrote in 2010 still applies! OK, I'm living with Olly (and Comps) so I don't have the worry of flatmates and party houses, but you'd be amazed at how many adverts don't include any photos or, if they do, they can be really random ones like a picture of the bus stop outside of the house but none of the actual house itself. Bizarre!

How's it going for everyone else? What's been happening in your life of late, and did you get chance to see the poppies at the Tower of London? x

Beauty: Avon's Anew Vitale 14 Day System

I've heard good things about Avon's facial creams, so I decided to give their Anew Vitale 14 day system starter kit a go to see whether it was worth the hype. (The kit is currently on sale for £10, down from £22.) The kit contains Vitale day cream (15ml), Vitale night gel cream (15ml), Vitale eye cream (15ml) and Vitale gel cleanser (50ml).

The gel cleanser did what it was supposed to, and I have nothing bad to say about this product. Ditto for the eye cream. Both products did what they were supposed to, although they didn't leave a strong "must use" impression with me.

However, I binned both the day cream and night gel cream after using them both for a week. I don't have sensitive skin, but both creams made my skin sting, and I noticed that dry patches developed on my face where the creams hadn't moisturised my face deeply enough. I definitely didn't get the "even-toned, radiant, vibrant-looking skin in just one week" with these creams, far from it, and I didn't even get a properly moisturised face. With the weather turning colder, this facial cream factor is more important than ever, and these creams simply did not deliver.

The kit is a good idea to buy if you want to try out this range from Avon, and it's cost effective - the eye cream, for example, sells for £16 on its own - but, based on my experiences, I won't be using this range again.

Which facial creams and products do you use? x

LEGOLAND, Windsor

The other week, when it was half-term, we headed to LEGOLAND, Windsor, to spend the day with my nephews, niece, brother and sister-in-law. I've actually been to LEGOLAND before, about fifteen years ago; from what I recall, not much has changed... though there's still the awesome view of Windsor Castle.

LEGOLAND is very much aimed at those with young children, and whilst the LEGO scenery is cool... the rides that you will find here aren't great, and neither is the food.

Queues for the rides were horrific. Take the Atlantis submarine voyage, for example. We queued for 80 minutes, only to be met with a ride that lasted less than two minutes and broke down at the end. Great stuff!

This seemed to be the same for all the rides we went on - a long queue time for a short ride once you got to the front of the queue.

LEGOLAND cheekily have a solution to this though, the Q-bot, and it costs between £15 per person to a whacking £70 per person(!) depending on how easily you want to skip the queues. With tickets into the park already costing £47 for adults and £41 for children, this seems a bit outrageous.

Whilst us adults didn't rate the park, the children seemed to enjoyed it... when they weren't stuck in a queue.

It wasn't all doom and gloom though, and that's down to Miniland, something definitely worth seeing if you decide to visit the park.

Landmarks from around the world are given the LEGO treatment and are reproduced perfectly. They are quite something, aren't they?

Parts are even motorised: Boats sail down the rivers, cars drive around, and LEGO soldiers march around Horse Guards Parade. 

But, there's only so much of Miniland to see... I appreciate that it was half term and an unseasonally warm day (it was much quieter the next day when it was raining and they returned without us), which is why it was so busy, but based on our experience I couldn't recommend for you to visit LEGOLAND. If you do want to visit, go out of season when all the children are at school!

Have you been to LEGOLAND? x

LEGOLAND, Windsor, SL4 4AY
Tickets in 2014 cost £46.80 for an adult and £41.40 for a child. We used a 2 for 1 National Rail voucher making it £46.80 for two people, then took the shuttle bus to the park (£5 each for a return ticket). A return train ticket from London Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Riverside cost us £11.50 each.

White Hart Lane stadium tour

The other week I took Olly to White Hart Lane for an early birthday treat, a stadium tour of White Hart Lane, football ground of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and the team he supports, funnily enough! Now, whilst I have seen Spurs play in Milan at the San Siro, I've never been "down the Lane" as they say, so this was a first for me.

I'm not a football fan, but the tour for me was an eye-opener to what goes behind-the-scenes at a football ground. We had two lovely tour guides who were evidently passionate Spurs fans, and this made it interesting for me, someone who isn't a die-hard fan as 99% of the people on the tour with us seemed to be!

The tour starts at the Spurs Megastore, which contains some interesting merchandise... A THFC garter belt for your wedding night, perhaps? How about a branded cat food bowl? Maybe not... You're led from there, down Bill Nicholson Way - he's a very important man to Tottenham, and his ashes are buried under the pitch, along with his wife's - and through to the press room where interviews are conducted after matches. That room is smaller than you think it would be!

Doesn't Olly look like he's made to be the next manager of the club? After that we headed to the Directors' Box, before making our way to the Bill Nicholson suite where hospitality takes place on match days, and where there are trophies that the club has won. There's obviously a great view of the pitch from the Directors' Box.

You can see it's very dark to the right-hand side of the above photo, and that's because that area of the stadium never gets any natural sunlight. We visited another bar area with memorabilia after that, before heading to where the mascots hang out before a game. Here you can have a photo with (and touch) the FA Cup and League trophy that Spurs won in 1961, which made them the first club in the 20th Century to achieve this double.

The two tour guides were brilliant at allowing everyone the time to get the photos they wanted, plus took photos for you if you wanted a picture of all the people you are on the tour with. The dressing rooms were next; they are very sparse for the away team, but a lot nicer for the home squad (of course).

Finally, it's through the tunnel you go to see what it's like pitch-side where the manager, coaches and subs watch the game from. On your way out you can see the original bronze fighting cockerel that was made by an ex-player, William James Scott, and then it's off you pop down Bill Nicholson Way and away you go!

We had a great few hours at White Hart Lane seeing the bits you don't usually get to see, and most of that was down to our two wonderful tour guides. If someone in your life is a Tottenham fan, I can't recommend a stadium tour enough - it's a fabulous present that they will love, trust me.

White Hart Lane, N17 0AP
Standard tour tickets cost £20 each for adults, and the tour lasts 90-120 minutes, though there are other tour types which you can find on their website.

The Hand and Flowers, Marlow

Back in January, we tried to book a table at Tom Kerridge's two-Michelin Star pub, The Hand and Flowers, for our anniversary in June. The soonest we could book a table for was August(!), so we decided instead to book a table in November for Olly's birthday.

November has arrived, so earlier this week we headed to Marlow for dinner at The Hand and Flowers. Hurrah! A train to Marlow from Paddington usually takes about 50-60 minutes, so we hopped on the train over there and booked a car to bring us home. However, the trains were borked (epic signal failure) and it took us nearly three hours to get there. We only just made it on time!

That aside, once we finally got there that freezing evening, we had a marvellous time. The Hand and Flowers is the only two-Michelin Star pub there is, and is the second two-Michelin star restaurant Olly and I have eaten at (Le Gavroche is the other).

A birthday card was waiting for Olly on the table - a nice touch - and we enjoyed a drink at our table whilst we pawed through the menu. I had a G&T whilst Olly had the nicest beer he'd ever had. I can't find the bar menu online and the bill just reads "Red", so we may never know exactly what that beer was! (An excuse to go back?)

Once we had ordered, some complimentary bread and whitebait with Marie Rose sauce was brought to us. I found the bread to be lovely, but I wasn't a fan of the whitebait (it's the texture of it; Olly liked it though). We chose a 2010 bottle of Chapel Down's Pinot Blanc to have with our meal, which is wine made in Kent. Chapel Down really do make lovely English wine - we had one of their wines on my birthday last year so knew we were in for a treat!

To start with I had the crispy pig’s head with spiced date puree, apple, plum and pancetta. I know reading "crispy pig's head" probably brings up a certain image in your mind - it did in mine - but it's presented in a sort of croquette and is delicious. Olly had the pork and mushroom terrine with dill, pickles and toasted sourdough. The only slight gripe he had was that there wasn't enough sourdough for the quantity of terrine, but his starter was delicious.

My main was the slow cooked duck breast with savoy cabbage, duck fat chips and gravy, which is what Tom won the Great British Menu 2010 with; Olly had the tenderloin of Wiltshire pork with pickled mustard leaf, malt glazed cheek, garlic sausage and potato dauphine with a side of Hand and Flowers chips. That duck was the best duck I've ever had: it was so soft with not a trace of fat. Olly kept unearthing new delicious elements with every mouthful of his main - I tried his potato dauphine and malt glazed cheek and was very jealous! His side of Hand and Flowers chips also win the accolade of best chips ever!

For dessert, I had the Hand & Flowers chocolate and ale Cake with salted caramel and muscovado ice cream, whilst Olly had the blueberry soufflé with Parma Violet ice cream and lemon verbena syrup. (Pictured left - it's the only photo we took of the food.) I was a big fan of mine; ditto for Olly! I had a taste of the Parma Violet ice cream and, whilst Olly liked it, I thought it was a bit odd (but I hate those sweets). With my dessert you have a mouthful of cake, followed by a sip from a mini ale tankard. I am in no way an ale drinker but it was an amazing dessert.

After dessert we settled back with a builder's tea and coffee to rest after our scrumptious meal. I was getting quite full halfway through my main course so I was stuffed, in a good way, after dessert!

We had an incredible meal at The Hand and Flowers and I'm so glad we ate there. (We didn't see Tom Kerridge though!) The service was great, and it's a nice setting inside. As far as Michelin Star restaurants go, it's quite cheap, but I know in comparison to a normal pub or restaurant it's not. If you can, book a table and start saving your pennies - you'll actually have many months to save up with current waiting times. x

The Hand and Flowers, 126 West Street, Marlow, SL7 2PB.
Dinner cost just under £180 for two people, comprising of a beer, a G&T, two starters, two mains, one side, two desserts, a mid-priced bottle of wine, a bottle of sparkling water, tea, coffee and service.

Brockwell Park Fireworks 2014

Last year we flew back from Ireland on Bonfire Night, which meant we watched the 2013 Brockwell Park fireworks from our back garden as we didn't want to head out. This year we headed round to Brockwell Park to see the 2014 Brockwell Park fireworks up close and personal. Tickets cost £7 (we missed out on the £6 Lambeth residence tickets), and this was the first year that Lambeth have charged for the display, which caused a bit of an outcry.

So, how was it? Well, getting into the firework zone was a shambles, and it definitely could have been controlled better. A lot better. There were only a handful of food and drinks stalls once inside, which meant the queues for these were immense. We had planned on eating there, but didn't bother because of this. The lighting of the area was insufficient, plus some signs inside and a decent tannoy system would have worked wonders.

The Lords of Lightning were amazing, but the Human Catherine Wheel was delayed for thirty minutes and then seemed to break... Two wheels were set up, and the one nearest to us seemed to immediately explode in a way that suggested it wasn't part of the act(!); the other wheel, I can only imagine, gave an good show... it was impossible to see if it did with the crowds. Meh. Oh, and we didn't actually get to see the bonfire!

Still, we'd gone along to see the fireworks, and what amazing fireworks they were when they finally started. We weren't really told why they were delayed but, reading between the lines, it was because of the aforementioned (lack of) crowd control.

I was very snap happy trying to capture the beautiful explosions and colours once the fireworks began. Done by Titanium Fireworks - they do the London NYE fireworks - the twenty minute display was enthralling and I loved every minute of it.

We were probably a bit too close to the front to get the full effect (I had a sore neck from looking directly up), if I'm honest, but those fireworks redeemed the queueing issues and lateness of the display starting.

Aren't they stunning? The one above makes me think of a colourful universe, and the fireworks obviously got better and better as the display reached its end.

I hope the 2015 Brockwell Park fireworks will be just as impressive (albeit a bit better organised)! Did you go to a firework display/bonfire this year? x

TBT: Secret Cinema's Back to the Future

With going on our Italian Adventure a few days after Secret Cinema's Back to the Future, I never got the chance to share my thoughts on the evening.

Originally, we had tickets booked for Saturday 26th July, the third night of Back to the Future... because of the delays in opening the show, we ended up going to the penultimate show on Saturday 30th August. The date change soured things for me and I went from being super excited to feeling meh about the whole thing.

Whilst I was impressed with the set-up of Hill Valley and how the real life elements interacted seamlessly with the film on the big screen, other parts of the experience could have been a lot better. Cameras and phones were banned, but there was the promise of disposable cameras and professional photographers to take your photo... Except the disposable cameras were sold out, and we didn't see one professional photographer, so had to make do with a sneaky snap on Olly's phone.

I spent quite a bit of money on my outfit and getting my hair done (fallen out completely in the photo above - I wasn't impressed with Hersheons either), and it would have been nice to have a proper photo memento. Like I said above, there were parts of the experience that were super impressive and fun, but there was something not quite right overall that would make me think twice about going to another Secret Cinema production, especially at a cost of £55.65 per person! For that price, I expect something a bit more slick and professional on the operations side, even if everything else delivers.

Did you go to Secret Cinema's Back to the Future? x

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