Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Holiday Plans For 2018

2018 was meant to be the year of very few holidays. You may recall me declaring on Twitter that we were buckling down, I was working hard on uni and didn't have TIME to go travelling to Europe at the drop of the hat anymore. We cancelled two holidays, I passed my oral exam, worked hard and kept my head down. My fucking god have the past four months been boring. Slowly but surely holidays have crept into our plans for 2018 - my family were going on holiday, we could just pop along, we could go just after my exams for a few days. Slowly but surely, we have a collection of holidays that have crept up on us; and it's safe to say that 2018 is far from the year of no holidays. So, for anyone who lives vicariously through the incredible amount of holidays we take; here are the plans so far.

Next month we head to Lublin, in the South of Poland. It's a small City with lots of beautiful churches and botanical gardens, with nearly no presence on Atlas Obscura , my go to website; something that both excites and alarms me. For 50 zl, or about £10, for the both of us, we could also book a train to Warsaw - and so on the Monday of our trip, we're heading over to Warsaw for just a day. Poland will always hold such a place in my heart, and it's somewhere Katy and I have always felt incredibly at home - so I'm just so excited to be there, and to adventure around two new places. I've just to get those exams over first, so we can truly enjoy it without feeling guilty because I should be revising.

Depending on some bits and pieces in the pipeline we might have a trip in April, all of which will be revealed soon if we pull it off - otherwise, our next trip will be May. Before we get there though, I have an honorary mention for April because we're more than likely going to be booking Orlando around this time. We have to wait until 12 months before our trip (which seems very long away now I'm writing this) for Disney room rates to be released, but we probably would have held out for the Disney Dining Plan anyway so it works all round. Technically not a trip we're taking this year, but a huge trip that we're lucky enough to be booking this year. Then come May, the aforementioned next holiday will be to Stuttgart. There are a lot of car museums here and it's just a strangely fascinating place to me, so that will definitely be very exciting.

Next up in July we're going to be meeting my family in Andalucia, but first we'll be spending three days in Morocco, and two days in Valencia. I'm so excited about both of these places, I can't wait to adventure new streets and just be in the heat. We have a lot of recommendations for Morocco so I think it'll be a packed three days, then after our two days in Valencia we'll be getting the train through Spain to Andalucia where my dad will be picking us up to take me to my Spanish home. I'm pretty excited about this trip, and a lot less excited about having to admit to my mum there's a fair few tattoos on my body she doesn't know about. Wish me luck on that one.

After this we're winging it waiting for cheaper flights to release - but we're pretty sure we'll at least be doing a holiday in November/December and another in January/February 2019 before we jet off to Disney. 2018; the year of no travelling? We all should have known it wouldn't last.
If you've visited any of the places I'm visiting please leave any hints, tips or must sees below!

Sammy xo

Monday, 8 January 2018

Sale Shopping with B&M

I'm not opposed to a bit of sales shopping - for me it's always the cheaper the better and so when B&M gave me a little bit of spending money and sent me into their shop I was definitely in my element. Disappointingly our local B&M had very little in the way of reduced Christmas offerings, and I wasn't willing to travel into the cities around us for sheer fear of the crowds, however the good thing about B&M is how affordable they are - sales or otherwise. I wasn't let down in the slightest and we managed to treat ourselves, the dog and Katy's mum with change (I mean barely, but change is change) from a £20 note. There's no half priced Christmas decorations in sight either, I promise.

I'll be honest - this heavily comprises of candles. One of these we definitely knew we were going to buy though, and that was the Woodland Wick Layered Candle in White Flower, Blue Sky and Fresh Linen and this was a pretty damn affordable £4.99. We have a gorgeous candle from this brand that's vanilla scented and it really does throw it's smell all round the room (that sounded a bit gross didn't it? You know what I mean) so I was desperate to grab a different scent. We have so many beautiful candles (cough Diptyque) that we didn't use for so long because they were so expensive, only to find that when we actually did burn them the smells were practical undecipherable. Count me in for a candle that will give you change out of a fiver that also smells amazing. Truth be told, I only really photographed these today because I wanted to burn it.

If we would have only got the first candle I would have left the shop a happy girl - but Katy spotted the Yankee Candle Simply Home in Bermuda Beach so we also grabbed one of these. This is the identical scent to Pink Sands in the original Yankee Candle collection, and it also set us back £4.99 - though for a much smaller candle. I'm not mad about it being smaller, you do pay for a name, and it's definitely not a bad price for a Yankee - but I would have gotten a new Woodland Wick if I was given the choice between the two, though they say (future) marriage is all about negotiation. Whilst in the candle aisle, we also grabbed some small votives - a mixture of Yankee and otherwise. In the Yankee Home Inspiration range we got Spiced Orange and Clove and Clear Mountain Lake, and we also grabbed a Chupa Chups offering in Strawberry and Cream which were all 89p each. In other supermarkets by me these votives come in around £1.10 so you're saving only 20p a candle, but in the long run if you buy five candles, you've saved yourself enough for a medium fries or a cheeseburger so, that's worth considering.

Finally, moving on from the candles, we got something I genuinely thought was really cool - the Nuage Skin Tattoo Moisturiser. I like to Moisturise my tattoos even when they're all fully healed, but branded versions of this can cost a small fortune so when I saw this I was pretty pleased to pick it up for £1. This hasn't got any SPF in so bear that in mind, but if you like to Moisturise your tattoos and make the colour pop before a night out (just me?) This could be the perfect addition to your body care drawer, especially for a pound.

I have to say that I was really pleased with B&M - though I shop there all the time, I felt like there were some really good hidden gems when I was actually looking for things worth the money. In the eyes of being fully honest I do have to admit we also bought some Mike and Ike's, but I ate them. Additionally we also bought the dog a princess Leia rope chew toy but good luck fighting that out from her grumpy jaws. I'm on a bit of a bargain kick now, so if you've found any good offers or bargains, please do let me know! If you're looking to see what your store might have in the sale, you can find that part of the B&M website here.

Sammy xo.
Contains PR samples/items gifted to me by companies - however all opinions are my own. Please view my disclaimer for more information.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Cheap Or Free Things To Do In Porto

One of my favourite places that we travelled this year was Porto - it was an unexpected gem full of beautiful beaches, rivers, religious monuments and spaces and thriving cities (plus the cider was so cheap, and they let you drink it whilst you walk through the streets - it's a whole thing). It was, however, also one of our most expensive holidays; probably due to the sheer amount that we ate, drank and did escape rooms. If you're heading there, however, it's definitely worth noting that there's a lot that you can do that will cost your nothing or next to nothing, and here are my favourite ones, and the ones I can definitely vouch for.

1: Saint Maria Adelaide
If you're going in the height of Summer, I would certainly recommend ditching the holiday clothes to go here because it's a really religious place, when we went it was full of mourners wearing black full length dresses and praying and so definitely dressing a little more conservatively is certainly more recommended - however this is a tiny little crypt within the most beautiful graveyard that has an incorruptible body.

If you don't know much about incorruptible bodies, these are the corpses of saints or religious figures that haven't decomposed as expected (that is, not as rapidly, or sometimes not at all), that typically exude sweet smells. This isn't for the faint hearted, but there's something really beautiful about this place as a whole. You can go, light candles, say a prayer and see the offerings of wax limbs to the corpse. It's quiet, a lovely place to reflect and generally an amazing sight whether you're of the Christian faith or not; it's not a tourist spot, and it goes without saying a lot of respect is demanded if you're visiting, but it's an amazing sight. It's in Gaia rather than Porto and you'll definitely need to get a taxi, but it's more than worth the fare.

2: Capela De Senhor Da Pedra
I've never been to anywhere quite as pretty as this before, but essentially this is a huge church on a boulder overlooking a really, really beautiful sea (if you have me or Katy on Twitter, you'll likely have seen pictures form here). Not only is the beach amazing (and it is, though often busy) but this is apparently an 'intersection between Christianity and Witchcraft' and everything about the building is beautiful, unusual, and generally just a really nice little spot to look out over the sea.

Flips flops are not recommended within this very echoey little chapel, but also more generally they aren't recommend on this beach at all - it's pretty rocky and hurts your feet to walk both with and without flip flops; if trainers on the beach doesn't make you want to gag, it's definitely worth considering. Behind the chapel there's a popular tourist photo spot where people stand to look like they're towering over the sea, and you can walk right round the back to get views from all angles, so even if you don't want to take a trip to the church itself it's still worth nipping over to this beautiful seaside spot.

3: Livraria Lello
If literally anyone that you know has been to Porto, this is probably the thing that you will have heard about; because this is allegedly the bookstore that inspired Hogwarts when JK Rowling was living in Porto (another cool reason to visit if you're a Harry Potter fan). Now this one is sort of free and sort of not free depending on why you're visiting; because the tickets are €5 (and yes, you do need a ticket to get in) but this is then redeemable against any books you buy; so if you plan on buying a book anyway, this is free. Sort of.

If you don't want a book, €5 is pretty steep for a building that you can spend a maximum of 45 minutes inside, but it is beautiful with a big, old, majestic staircase inside - and the books are pretty cool and cater for most languages; plus, if you like to people watch and you can nab an armchair, there's definitely worse ways to spend 45 minutes. If nothing else; this book shop seems like a right of passage, and in the shop where you buy your tickets you can also get a platform 9 and 3 quarters picture of you running through the wall with your fake Hogwarts suitcases, if that's your jam.

There's a lot more free things to do in Porto, undoubtedly - you can spend hours walking down the river, there are even more beaches to be found, you can visit beautiful stations, buildings, churches and the most amazingly pretty McDonalds that I've ever been in; but these are definitely my personal favourites.

If you've been, let me know what you did in Porto without breaking the bank!

Sammy xo.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Hitting The Wall

It seems ironic that now I've sat down to write and found the time, I don't really know what to say. Posts after prolonged absences are always difficult, I don't want to feel as though I owe people a explanation and yet it always feel weird to spring right back in with five affordable things to do in whatever country we've travelled to most recently. You all know why I've been away though; I'm constantly complaining on Twitter about the sheer amount of work that I have to do; I take time consuming subjects, I work hard and actually do as many of those extra ten hours a week I'm supposed to do at home, and I also work a full time job - it's no joke.

Now I've found the time and I feel like I'm not really sure where to start. Blogging, at the moment, seems like that mate that you used to know in high school and sort of want to reach out to every now and again; but you don't really know how they'll react, or what you would even say, if you did. Whenever I've had a spare ten minutes I've spent it staring at an empty blogger screen and so I'm trying this 'pouring-out-all-my-weird-thoughts' posts, in the hope that I can put it out there, get over the fear of writing that first blog post and move the fuck on to something a little better than this mind dump.

I guess beyond not finding the time I just feel a little disillusioned with everything at the minute - I didn't expect to have to work quite this hard just to get by week to week; starting University with the purpose of actually hustling and getting that degree is a very different experience to starting University to put off life for a few years like I did last time. We're having to take time out of travelling, something that was a big part of both mine and Katy's lives prior to this, we've had to knuckle down - we work alternative shifts and sometimes don't see each other for more than an hour a day - I guess it's just not what we imagined.

This is a total mind dump but I hope it starts to explain why there'll be periods of time when I'm not around on here - and I'm not explaining it because I feel like I owe the posts, but more so that you all understand why on twitter I complain and cry and have roughly 2 meltdowns per academic day. Everything's a little hectic right now and I'm working on getting to a space where I'm one of those people who can juggle it all effectively without ever dropping a single ball; but until then? Blogging has to be the ball I leave on the floor in order to keep the other's up (has this juggling analogy gone on too far? I'll stop now)

Hopefully at least for a few days I'll be back here, but beyond that I'm not promising anything.

Sammy xo.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Making Winter Mornings More Bearable With Lumie

I think even those people with the best mental health can struggle with cold, dark Winter mornings - but I notice a marked difference when it comes to my depression and anxiety and the grizzly, pitch black winter mornings where I feel like I'm being cruelly dragged from slumber. Combined with the fact that I'm back in a state of sporadic sleep that comes often for me with stress and generally being busy and it's safe to say that me and these grim mornings really aren't getting on. With that in mind, when Lumie asked me if I'd like to try their Bodyclock ACTIVE 250, I was intrigued to see whether this might be the miracle cure for my grumpy, sleepy self.

If you've never heard of a Lumie Light, these are basically dimmable lights that can be set as alarms to mimic both sunrise and sunset (or, you can use them like a traditional lamp set at any setting between the two). The bulbs emit a yellow/orange light which mimics the suns colour that you would typically see at both the beginning and the end of the day and, in the case of the Bodyclock ACTIVE 250, it even has gaps cut into the back of the device so the light appears ray-like. I have been trying (and by extension so has Katy) this out for a few months now; but essentially the idea is that you set the light to start lighting up around 30 minutes before your alarm (you can change this time period but this is the suggested so I stuck with it) and it lights gradually, so that by the time the pre programmed alarm goes off, your body is used to the light, tricked into thinking it's daytime, and is ready to spring into action.

Now, I have to be honest, this isn't a miracle worker; but it is going to help you feel a little more human when it comes to that first alarm in the morning. Going to sleep with this dimming itself down is surprisingly calming and when I remember to set the light, I definitely feel a lot more awake when it comes to my alarm going off. The Bodyclock ACTIVE 250 isn't the top of the range Lumie clock and so this one lacks some of the new features, but this does have a radio alarm, a clock display and multiple light settings as well as a number of alarm sounds and, I suppose the benefit of this not being the top of the range options is that this definitely is more affordable at £95.00. Expensive, yes, but definitely not the most expensive option out there.

I have to say that this also does look really pretty - it's clean and pretty and it doesn't look out of place in my room like some sleep aids that I've had in the past. Best of all though; I think this works for me so well because to reap the benefits I don't have to do anything else that I wouldn't normally; I just set my alarm, as I always would - I don't need to download an app, I don't need to remember to set night mode on my fitness bracelet. I just set the alarm, and then go to sleep. Easy as pie. An added bonus? From the first day I used my Lumie light I noticed the difference; it may not be a miracle; but it's definitely a little powerhouse that'll help you to get through the winter mornings.

If you've tried a Lumie light I'd love to know how it worked for you!

Sammy xo.
Contains PR samples/items gifted to me by companies - however all opinions are my own. Please view my disclaimer for more information.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

My First Four Weeks Of Language Learning

When I started learning Spanish at degree level (from beginner level, I need to point out here) four weeks ago, they warned us that we had to get used to feeing uncomfortable; and four weeks down the line? No truer word has ever been spoken. My life now is a flurry of vocal words, anxiety at the idea I might be picked in my grammar class and wondering how the fuck I am ever going to be able to pass this exam come January. There's nothing more rewarding than learning a language and there's also nothing I've ever faced that's quite this soul-destroyingly hard.

(not actually learning through the open university but ANY degree level book is helping right now)

You know in University there are those lectures that you come out of and, no matter how good you are at your subject or how hard you've worked and prepared, you feel as though you probably know less than you did going in? That's exactly what all of my seminars have felt like so far. At this point in my life, I'm starting to feel as though I don't actually know anything about speaking, listening or reading comprehension in English, never mind Spanish. The girl next to me is on her way to speaking 5 languages fluently and I still struggle to tell the difference between ser and está (that's a joke for all you Spanish students out there; you need all the laughs that you can get). I'm struggling to conjugate some words in English, I'm just adding letters and hoping for the best in my second language.

But the weird thing is? I love it. I love being challenged every week, I love it when I get picked on in that aforementioned grammar class and I get the answer right (nearly always by fluke, rather than method), I love it when I know the work for something, when my Spanish pen pal can understand my crude sentences, when I don't have to google translate the words for any of my sentence. I love feeling as though I can measure how far I've come, I love watching Gilmore Girls with completely different voices to the same people, I love listening to Bomba Estereo and singing along (probably incorrectly).

The fact is - gone are the days of doing now work, turning up to seminars unprepared and guessing what happened in the plot of books; this time around I have to have learned my grammar rules in advance, I need to constantly keep on top of my vocabulary, I need to be able to ask general, every day questions fluently, and answer the in return. I have to work 24 hours a day at this, or at least I feel like it, until I'm not uncomfortable with it anymore, until Spanish speaking isn't just a wall of noise with the occasional recognisable words, until my messages to Spanish friends on tandem aren't 99% corrections by the time they've finished with them.

Right now it's a love hate relationship with language learning - but if you've learned a language at degree level I've love to hear your experience. If not, I'll keep you updated.

Sammy xo.

Friday, 20 October 2017

My Top Travel Picks For Prague

I can't believe we've been back from Prague an entire week by the time that this post goes live; it's gone so quickly and it seems like weeks ago that we were wandering the Charles Bridge and eating traditional gingerbread (okay, I brought some home so that definitely wasn't weeks ago). We crammed so much into four and a bit days in Prague and there are bits I've already forgotten off the top of my head; but it's such a fascinating city that I definitely came away from our adventure there with some firm favourite things out of everything that we did. If you're heading to Prague, buckle in and get a list ready, because you're definitely going to want to see most of these things.

1: Sex Machines Museum
This was a weird thing to do on holiday, mostly because if you've never sat in a room with seven strangers watching turn of the century porn, it's definitely an experience that you won't forget. Having said that - there's a lot to be said about what can be learned within the Sex Machines Museum. Far from just having a lot of sex toys to marvel at (though there really are a lot of them) there is a lot to be done here, from reading about women's hysteria and it's treatments, to watching tiny dolls houses that work via crank to show pornographic scenes. 

This is a strange little museum right next to a Starbucks that has everything sex related that you can even begin to think of; but it's definitely worth a visit. It's pretty expensive and 200czk (around £7 per person) for a museum that'll maybe take 2 hours depending on how long you stay in the erotic cinema, but it's definitely worth splashing out on to spend an hour. You do, of course, need to be over 18, but with valid ID students can get in for 150czk (£5, give or take. No pun intended).

2: Prague Nightmare Horror Bar
If you plan on heading to see Fred and Ginger (more commonly known as the dancing houses) then this is a stop that you should definitely take. In fact, even if you're not visiting the nearby attraction, this is worth a trip in itself. This is a tiny little bar with the doors and windows completely blacked out and when you step inside, it's a wonderland full of horror memorabilia that will have even the bigger horror enthusiast marvelling. Sit in between dummies of famous horror villains, grab a drink and enjoy the music - they even have horror scenes replaying on the TV screen by the bar.

With drinks that'll cost you around 140czk (just around £5, though some are cheaper) these aren't to be sniffed at; and we all know I love a gimmick so the fact you can order a drink that relates specifically to a film (The Re-Animator, The Leprachaun's Revenge...) and have it come in a glass that has a vinyl sticker of the films scenes on the side it just something I can definitely get on board with. Be aware when going into the toilet that the red lighting relies on motion sensors and so it looks for all the world like you're walking into the pitch black surrounded by life sized models of fictional murderers. It's definitely worth visiting for the photographs alone.

3: The Museum of Alchemists and Magicians of Old Prague
Make no mistake that this museum is kind of crap, but you can get a joint ticket for this and the Ghosts of Prague Museum (hilarious, also kind of crap) that I think works out about £8, and this is worth it for one reason alone. In an unassuming courtyard there's a room full of stories of alchemy and when you finish these stories, one of the staff will lead you up the steepest, scariest and most dangerous steps you've ever been up; and what lies at the top is the true magical experience that makes the ticket worth it's price based on this alone.

At the top of this stairs lies a loft with a fake dragon egg and multiple scenes set up to show you about the alchemists that cam before that once called this loft home and the stories that they had to tell. The one story I think makes this worth the money? This is supposedly where Shakespeare found his inspiration for A Midsummer Night's Dream - and you can definitely feel his presence there - mostly because there's a huge dummy version of him towering above you. This place also has a really cool bar, and if you do the toy, as they'll consistently tell you, you get 10% off the cocktails which they call 'elixirs' to fit with their theming.

4: Sedlec Ossuary 'Bone Church'
This is by far one of the most amazing things that I've ever seen. I've cheated a little here because this is actually outside of Prague, but you can get an express train to Kutne Hora, where this is based, for around £16 return and it takes just an hour (worth the time and money, trust me). Whereas Kutne Hore's city centre is tiny, idyllic and filled with nice cafes, restaurants and bars - there is a part of the town that's a little more interesting in my humble opinion and that's definitely the Ossuary. This is an absolutely beautiful church with a basement completely decorated with human bones; think skull chandeliers and radius tombs. 

You can take photos here, but it seems very inappropriate when you see people taking selfies with skulls and so that's definitely worth thinking about if you're that way inclined, but this is amazing and I've really never seen anything like it. You have to pay 90czk to get in here (around £3) but all money goes to the upkeep of the church, which still has a functioning chapel upstairs that you can also visit should you wish. There are some more cathedrals and cool things to see in Kutne Hora and you can get conjoined tickets that will save you a little bit, so if you want to see them all and plan on spending the day there

5: Grotta
This is one of the most beautiful places that we visited in Prague and we were so lucky that it was literally on our doorstep due to the Airbnb location we had picked. If you're staying in the centre of Prague, this is a little further out than most other tourist attractions as it's in Prague 10 - but a taxi here will cost you around £3 and there is plenty of public transport options to get you here too. This is basically a fairytale grotto in the centre of a park in the middle of a thriving district in Prague 10 and it's truly worth seeing.

From the outside, this essentially looks like an abandoned mansion with a fountain too, but head inside and up the stairs and you can find links of interconnected caves that look like a mix between an abandoned crumbling mansion's bedrooms and something out of Star Wars. This is something fun to explore, nice to do on a beautiful day and is great for photo opportunities. Whatever I say won't do it justice, but a single visit there definitely will; there's also gorgeous ponds and bits and pieces in the park to visit, so definitely take a picnic and soak in the surroundings.

So there are my top favourite things that we did in Prague, though there is so much to do that I really did struggle to cut it down to just 5. If you've been, I'd love to know what you'd recommend (I might just have to go again in order to make sure I see everything...)

Sammy xo.