Kings Cross Roman Festival

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This weekend I’ve been working at the Kings Cross Roman Festival in London as a facepainter. Located a short walk from Kings Cross station,Granary Square has been transformed into a Roman empire for one weekend.

The event includes immersive performances and activities from making your own mosaic to going on a horse carriage ride (and obviously not forgetting having your face painted by me!).

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This isn’t the first time King’s Cross have put on an immersive historical journey, last year gave members of the public an opportunity to explore victorian times.

I’m still not 100% sure why King’s Cross were funding this (what I would imagine to be expensive) festival, my guess is that it’s to raise the profile of the area – which seemed to work as the area was heaving throughout the entire live hours!

With the weather holding out and lots of activities for adults and children, this really turned out to be a great event. I can’t help but wonder if the fact it was named as the number one thing to do in London this weekend by Time Out magazine, or purely down to marketing or word of mouth – but they seem to be doing it right…

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Mosaic making class.

 

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Shield making class.

 

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Face painting.

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Wool weaving class.

 

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Clay shaping class.

 

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Hair braiding.

 

Not only were there plenty of great activities going on, but down the steps of Granery Square leading to the canal, a big movie screen has been set up and is showing some classic Roman inspired films on Friday and Saturday evenings, during the day on Saturday and Sunday. So even if you’re not a fan of fun activities, you can sit back on the fake grass with a beer and watch some classics.

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photo 5I’ll take their word for it… they did look pretty damn amazing.

photo 6A very quick way to get on my good side – a decent priced glass of Prosecco…

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Not too bad for a free day out! (Besides the drink and food of corse – we’d be crazy to be handing out free beer and pastrami sandwiches)

So if you’re around Kings Cross tomorrow, come by and check out the event, and come see me on the face painting stand. If you’re lucky I’ll even make you into a roman gladiator 🙂

x H

KiKi the Kitten – Welcome home!

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Laurence and I have wanted to get a kitten for as long as I can remember and today we finally got our little beauty.

We’ve always wondered if we should get a kitten, as L has two cats that live with his parents from a previous relationship. So there’s always been the argument of if we should take them back or even if his parents would want us to have them back as they now see them as their cats. Enough with the wondering we thought – and we just asked L’s parents. After all that? they said we could get our own little fluff ball.

So less than 5 days later, we had found a litter in Milton Keynes and were on our way to give one a new home.

I’ve always loved the name KiKi for if I had a little girl, and as that won’t be happening anytime soon… we decided to use the name on our gorgeous silver tabby. It’s going to take some getting used to, I’m already wondering what we’re going to do tomorrow when we’re both at work all day! But I couldn’t think of anything cuter to be apart of our family.

So welcome to the family KiKi!

x H

 

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1000 days of Laurence

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501 days ago, Laurence surprised me with a romantic weekend away to Istanbul to celebrate our 500 day anniversary – he called it 500 days of Hope (like the film 500 days of Summer, if you didn’t get that). Extremely sickly romantic of him – it was a lovely trip. So we decided to continue this different anniversary and start celebrating every 500 day milestone and yesterday was our 1000 day anniversary.

We take it in turns celebrating our anniversary and planning what we will do, however this one kind of creeped up on us and we didn’t really have anything planned. Laurence’s sister, Samantha, had brought me a Red Letter Day to have a 6 course tasting menu at Jamie Oliver’s fifteen restaurant near to Shoreditch in London, so what better time to use that?!

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One of Laurence’s work colleagues had just brought a hotel in Leicester Square called Number One Leicester Street (and Laurence was hopefully on track to designing the hotel – which would be amazing!) so using our connections, we were able to get a room in the hotel that night (it’s also very handy that it was a 2 minute walk from my work so a lie in the next morning was on the cards!).


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Number One Leicester Street is a lovely little hotel with 18 rooms and its own restaurant and although the rooms are quite nice right now, the place does lack a little personality. I’m all for greys and Scandinavian inspiration, however you need to mix it with touches that will make it more homely. So it was really good to stay there for the night so Laurence could get a better idea of what the place was like and know what things he could change once he (hopefully) gets to re-design it. It has some great potential and I have no doubt he will make it 100 times better.

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I love nice little touches in hotels and one of the first things I like to check out in the room is the toiletries and tea section. I’m not actually a big tea drinker, I used to be but decided to give it up as I found myself drinking way to much sugar – I now drink hot water instead. However, I like to check out the tea area in a hotel room as sometimes, if you’re luckily (and if you write something in the comments section when you book) you may get something special put in your room. We’re previously been gifted with bottles of wine and even cake! Anyway, the toiletries were super cute and smelled amazing and the tea section had a great brand of herbal tea called “Skinnymini Tea” – being a woman I instantly drank this, thinking it would melt away the unwanted weight. It’s the small things that keep me happy, and I will defiantly be looking for both these brands when next out shopping, so a great marketing ploy too!

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Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen is pretty damn trendy… bare brick walls, exposed light bulbs and chunky wooden tables. I’ve always admired Jamie Oliver as a chef, his ideas for programs such as 15 minute meals and money saving meals are genius, his marketing and design team are so talented and on top of all of that he seems like a genuinely lovely person, full of enthusiasm and charm. So when I read that the concept for Fifteen was “to establish a reputable London-based restaurant that offered young, unemployed people the experience of learning to work in the restaurant business” I couldn’t help but admire him even more. I mean, really? can you get any nicer?!

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I’m not sure how many of the staff were under this scheme, but the service was brilliant. Our waiter was extremely helpful, helping us pick out wines to go with our meal and the manager talked to us about food festivals they have around the area. Plus these two lovely chefs were more then happy to pose for me and I love that 🙂

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Any restaurant we go to (especially the swanky ones) it’s a must to check out the toilets. I really don’t like going to a place where they put so much money and effort into the decor of the restaurant and then put no effort into the toilets, may it be because they ran out of money or simply that they don’t care – I think it’s a real let down. The toilets in this place were pretty cute though, nothing too OTT, but still slick and stylish enough to pass the toilet test.

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Anyway, enough about the decor, onto the food, which is obviously the main event. We were having the 6 course tasting menu that looked like a delight – well it always will be I guess as they’re normally done based on the most popular dishes in the restaurant.

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We were greeted with a glass of prosecco – my favourite drink so I was very happy with this – homemade bread and butter and Puglian green olives. All very delicious.

 

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Here’s the Chegworth Vally Cucumber, New Season Cobnuts with Sherry Vinaigrette – extremely fresh and a really good palate cleanser. The cucumber was very slightly pickled which worked really well with the fact we were having olives.

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Our first course was Cured mackerel, Dorset crab, Creme fresh, Radishes and dill. Only go for this course if you’re a keen fish eater, it was lovely and there was so many great flavours to the dish, however it was very fishy so if you’re not that keen on fish I wouldn’t order this.

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Braised shoulder of lamb, yoghurt and chard. WOW, just WOW. This was unbelievable, even if you’re not a massive fan of lamb you NEED to try this. It tasted more like pork then lamb to be honest, it was such a lean cut of meat, none of that fatty lamb you get with a bad roast. It had obviously been cooked for hours, it fell apart and just melted in your mouth. ORDER THIS.

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House smoked salmon, cucumber, cos lettuce and dill mayonnaise. A nice light summery fish dish. The salmon was beautiful, smoked to perfection and it was cooked very lightly so it was still lightly raw giving it that texture of sashimi. Couple of things about this dish that I would change though, the amount of lettuce there was (there was way too much for the amount of salmon) and also the thin sauce it was in. The sauce added another texture to the meal and made it seem more fresh, however there was slightly too much and it mixed with the mayonnaise which became watery, it may have worked better if the sauce came in a separate jug and you could choose how much went on…

photo 8Chargrilled short rib, baby beers, mustard leaves and horseradish. Stunning, that short rib was so good, this had also been slow cooked for ages as it just fell apart but was still extremely juicy. Another tick from me.

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It does definitely pay off to make a small comment if you’re celebrating when out for dinner, we got this lovely message in chocolate with our desert the “Texture of chocolate” which was really nice of them.

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Selection of british cheeses and homemade crackers. Always a strong way to end the courses. We had goats cheese, cheddar, blue cheese with currant jelly and parmesan crackers. Yummy.

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And to finish off, some cocktails – which were deadly but delicious.

A lovely night, with amazing food to celebrate 1000 days with L – I would definitely recommend coming here.

H x

 

 

 

Bank Holiday Zoo Visit

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We love a good zoo – well Laurence especially does – and we hadn’t a chance to go to any this summer, so as the bank holiday weekend approached us leaving us with next to no plans, we decided to take a trip to Whipsnade zoo in Dunstable with Laurence’s best friend, his wife and their baby Florence.

I’m not sure if Florence really understood what was going on, but she seemed to take notice of a few animals, she even pointed to a few of the penguins – clever girl.

I love that fact that when going to the zoo it’s always a great opportunity for a good picnic. I was planning on making some scotch eggs and some tear and share bread, however the sofa was too damn comfy last night and with the tear and share bread taking around 3 hours to make it just made so much more sense to stay comfy 🙂 Despite the lack of scotch eggs and tear and share bread, we still had some great sandwiches, crisps, cocktail sausages and sausage rolls.

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This was supposed to be a funny photo of Laurence wearing Florence’s strawberry hat… but it’s so small on his head you can’t see how stupid it looks 😦 – you’ll have to just take my word for it.

 

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H x

What’s on your ‘Lyst’?

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Last week I had the great opportunity to go to fashion site Lyst’s bloggers event in their London head office. Lyst is a personalized fashion marketplace that allows users to create a customized shopping feed of products. You can create your own unique shopping experience to discover the fashion you love. Shop the latest designer clothing, shoes and accessories for women and men.

A pretty cool concept really, I would say its like a fashion only Pinterest…

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The event was for bloggers to gain a bigger understanding of the event and, well, blog about it!

A number of lovely things were at this event, from a photo booth to a nail bar, icecream bar, delicious food and a bespoke cocktail bar. The idea for the bar was pretty cool, you first selected your glass (there were quite a few to chose from), the base alcohol for your drink (you had a choice out of vodka, rum, gin or elderflower cordial) and there was then an area where you could customise your glass with different ribbon and chalk pens. You then moved over to select your mixer for your drink (soda water, tonic, elderflower presse, ginger beer or apple juice), add any syrups and finish off with your choice of garnish (strawberries, mint, lime, lemon or lavender). A great way to making cocktails that bit more interesting!

I loved it – well done Lyst!

 

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Mexican Feast

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Friday evening, just finished work and on the train back home for the bank holiday weekend and all I want right now is Mexican food – having such a craving the past couple of days!

I’m pretty lucky that L is not only an amazing cook, but pretty much every night I come home to a delicious home cooked meal – he’s pretty special and I like it 🙂

Guacamole, salsa and tortilla wraps all made from scratch along with some spicey chicken – I was in heaven, the boy did good. All washed down with a refreshing gin and tonic with elderflower cordial. All in all a great start to the bank holiday weekend. It’s the simple things that make me happy but I would take staying in with this feast a few G&Ts and watching Orange Is The New Black with L over going out partying anytime.

 

x H

 

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Visiting Canada

Whistler & Vancouver – Canada

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It seems like me and Laurence only ever do trips that involve us going to multiple locations in one holiday! I need to remember this when booking our next trip. Moving around to different places is such a great way to explore lots of places in a short amount of time, but it can get tiring. I think our next trip will be a beach holiday to just one place! Anyway, not that I’m complaining at all! I can’t believe the number of places we’ve seen this year already.

We decided to do a trip to Canada for two reasons. My dad was already taking us to Vegas as a 21st birthday present for me (I managed to rope him into this when I was about 14, making him promise to take me as soon as I got to the legal drinking age – not bad work I think…) and a good friend of Laurence and I had just moved out to Vancouver. So while we were in the (sort’ve) area, we decided to make a big trip of it and visit Whistler, Vancouver, Seattle and Vegas.

Although I had been to Canada a number of times before, I had never been to Whistler or Vancouver and the whole Canada experience was brand new to Laurence. I love Canada, it’s a massive generalisation but the people are always so welcoming, happy and friendly. I’ve always seen Canada as a more relaxed, less try hard version of the US.

We arrived in Whistler and the first night was a straight away right off. Plans to go and explore the town and get some dinner soon demolished as the jet lag got the better of us and we ended up going straight to sleep. One of the most annoying things about traveling around the world, I hate to think the things I’ve missed out on from being too tired with jet lag.

Our first morning and we were determined to start off the holiday with a classic Canadian breakfast, and we succeeded! We were staying in a lovely hotel called The Summit Lodge, that was around a 10 minute walk from the ski lifts (okay, maybe 15 when you’re waddling down in your ski boots). Although our hotel room had a kitchenette, we decided to venture out for some Canadian bacon and maple syrup.

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We didn’t have to go far, attached to our hotel was a restaurant called Elements Urban Tapas, I know what you’re thinking – not that traditional huh? We weren’t sure on first glances either, however after reading the menu – we were convinced.

If you want some of the best eggs benidict, you NEED to come here! The combinations of how you can have your eggs was insane, from tomato and avocado to crab meat and citrus hollandaise. Yeah, the menu was pretty special, and there was one dish that was top of the list for me, honey ham and brie stuffed french toast – thick sliced french bread (and they’re not kidding when they say thick – IT WAS HALF A LOAF) with honey ham and double cream brie with Canadian syrup. AMAZBALLS. Talk about setting you up for a day on the slopes!

Next on our to do list, ski equipment. I’m a keen skier and would love to spend every year on the slopes, but it just costs so much money, so there’s no need to have my own skis – renting each time does me fine. I think the slopes in Whistler were some of the best I’ve skied on. There were so many different runs to take and everyone had great skiing courtesy, I don’t think I was cut up one time.

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It still amazes me how some people go on week long skiing trips! After two days of skiing I was ready to sleep for a week, the fresh mountain air, using muscles in your body you haven’t in months – it’s pretty incense.

We caught a Greyhound bus that went straight from Whistler to Vancouver (at a bargain price of $30 each) it was such an easy trip and took around 4 hours.

Vancouver

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We arrived in Vancouver and Joe took us straight out to explore the city. Our first stop, Granville Island Public Market, an amazing place that pretty much has the most amazing selection of food stands. The variety, quality and amount of fresh fish at this market too – as Joes a chef I could understand the appeal in living here. I think you have to try pretty hard to get a bad hotdog when anywhere near to Canada or America, and this market was no exception, here’s a pretty impressive snap of one we demolished in minutes.

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I can remember a couple of places we went to that were pretty amazing. We had dinner at a great little Korean restaurant, it’s a tiny place that probably only sits about 20 people, however it was filled with Koreans and in my books if you go somewhere and it’s filled with people of that nationality then it will be great food. And it was! Extremely authentic and delicious – I could eat this food every day. The rest of the night was pretty much a haze… we ended up going to another bar then onto the main clubbing area, all I can tell you was that it was a great night.

With our heads banging and desperately needing something to refuel our bodies, Joe took us to a little place down the road from his apartment. A really cool place that did great brunch, I didn’t get a chance to check out the dinner menu but if the brunch was anything to go for then I would say check it out. Fried chicken and waffles – yes please. The first thing I read on the menu and the last, I didn’t need to see any more. It was banging, combined with a bloody Mary and we were pretty much sorted.

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Another thing that amazed me about this place (and quite a few others in Canada) was the fact that they do your bill based on your seat not your table. So if you’re going out for dinner with friends, they give you your individual bill at the end of the night – HOORAH! No more awkward people saying “I didn’t have any garlic bread so I shouldn’t pay my 50p cut” – it’s genius and more places should do it! No wonder Canada and America tip more – the waiters actually work for it and it’s things like that which make me want to tip more.

Our last night was spent having a good old English roast (with a ridiculous cut of beef), some good wine and a game of Monopoly. Doesn’t sound too rock ’n’ roll but it was brilliant and a lovely way to finish of our Canadian Venture.

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One last stop before we left Canada and headed to our next destination, to get some poutine! We should really have had this while we were on the slopes as it’s great for keeping you energy up, but I think the excitement of everything combined with the jet lag made it slip our mind. It was Laurence’s first time having poutine and it definitely made an impression, if you’ve never had it before you NEED to try it. It’s chips with curd cheese and gravy (any northerner would LOVE it). So we went to a little place called Mean Poutine, we actually tried going there for a drunken snack the night before, however the line was down the street – it has the name for being one of the best places for Poutine so that was definitely a good sign. It was amazing, I don’t think you can ever go wrong with a chips, cheese and gravy combination.

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We had such a lovely time in Vancouver. It’s a beautiful city full of amazing bars and restaurants with a pretty cool vibe. I was pretty happy that our next stop was Seattle, because if it wasn’t somewhere as cool as Vancouver I don’t think I would have wanted to leave!

H x

Visiting India

Varanasi & New Delhi – India

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I’m still not sure what my feelings are for India. It was an extremely interesting place, full of culture, amazing food and beautiful architecture. However I struggled quite a bit while in India.

We started off in Varanasi and stayed in a lovely little hotel that was right on the edge of the Ganges, it was a really cute hotel that had amazing paintings around the doorways and the food in their restaurant/cafe was to die for. I’d never had a cheese curry before, in India they’re pretty common as most people are vegetarians, but I fell in love with them in this hotel.

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Although the food was great and the doorways were beautiful, the hotel room itself wasn’t the best I’ve stayed in. The room itself was decent enough, good size, however the bedding didn’t come across as the cleanest and the water for the shower was directly from the Ganges – so you ended up smelling worse then you did when you went into the shower.

I think you don’t always have to be precious with things like that, however it was extremely hot and humid and a fresh shower after a long day of sight seeing would have been amazing.

We hired a car to take us to the Taj Mahal, which was around a 4 hour drive from Varanasi and as expected this really was the highlight of the trip. We had a lovely man show us around, take our photos and tell us all about the build of the amazing Taj Mahal. If you get a chance to go, I would definitely recommend hiring someone to show you around – just make sure they don’t scam you out of your money!

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We had our driver for the whole day which was amazing as he took us around to some great markets and gardens. We were totally amazed by the interesting colours the country had to give, tuk tuks and cars were always painted with impressive patterns – it really gave that something extra when walking down the street.

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One of the reasons I’m not sure on my feelings on India is down to the fact that I personally found it quite difficult there. I’m not sure if it was because I’m blonde, that we had ‘namaste’ tattooed on us, or because I had my shoulders exposed, but everyone stared at me a lot which I found really hard.

I wasn’t sure if I was offending people, which maybe I was because my shoulders weren’t covered or if it was purely down to the fact that not many western people visited India much. I also found the pollution and noise quite hard to deal with. I had a constant head ache and ended up finding it all very stressful, and when I get stressed I get terrible mouth ulcers. So true to form when stress levels started to rise, I developed some pretty nasty mouth ulcers, to the point where I couldn’t close my mouth properly from my mouth being swollen and it was extremely painful to even smile. I would love to return to India now I know what to expect and give it another shot. I think Varanasi was slightly more difficult then when we moved onto Delhi as Delhi seemed slightly more westernised.

We stayed in an amazing hotel called The Imperial in Delhi – it was just what the doctor ordered, almost literally!

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This hotel was AMAZING. It was arriving here that made me remember why I was never cut out for going traveling and staying in hostels. I have always wanted to be the kind of person who doesn’t mind where they stay however this trip made me realised thats just not me, I just love a Ritz!

Turn down service, a bathroom the size of the bedroom, a spa and free yoga classes – B.L.I.S.S – I could feel the stress being washed away, along with the dirt I had accumulated from the Gange shower water (you wouldn’t want to have seen what the colour of that bath water was). The calm oasis of the hotel was an amazing contrast to the manic streets of Delhi, you get what you pay for here!

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x H

Visiting Nepal

Kathmandu – Nepal

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Where to start with Kathmandu?

After spending a week in Thai Land and Singapore we were pretty used to a more westernised way of traveling, Nepal was in no way westernised. It was an amazing change of scenery and culture and something I had never experienced before. You defiantly won’t be finding any Starbucks near by!

We arrived in Kathmandu and straight away the loud sounds, smells and surroundings were pretty overwhelming, I wasn’t sure what to first make of it. However we were extremely lucky that we were there to meet a lovely group of people working for the Helambu Education & Livelihood Project (or HELP for short). A charity supporting community based government schools to improve quality of education in direct partnership with local communities in rural Nepal.

Our first night in Kathmandu consisted of meeting some of the lovely team, along with another volunteer for a traditional Nepalese meal and to discus plans for the next few days with HELP.

The next day we started an 8 hour jeep journey to go to the mountains of Nepal to visit some of the schools they support in the program. The whole experience was unbelievable and something money couldn’t buy. We were given an impressive welcome by the school children on arrival, being handed flowers they had picked from the mountains and they then preformed a welcome ceremony in our honour.

 As the journey was an 8 hour joruney back to Kathmandu, we stayed in the montains after spending the afternoon playing football, table tennis and chess with the children at the school. David, one of the lovely people from HELP, went to this school when he was younger and his childhood home was a 30 minute hike from the school, he and his mother were kind enough to put us up in his home for the night. David’s mothers home was one main living area with a stove in for cooking and shelves for cooking ingredients with one other room with 3 spare beds in. It was incredibly simple and it amazed me how easy the standard of living was there, there was no TV, no wifi, no electricity, nothing distracting whatsoever, it was really beautiful.

After a peaceful and relaxing night 8,000 feet up in the mountains, it was an odd experience to go back into the manic streets of Kathmandu. I would pick going back up to the peaceful mountains over the hustle and bustle of the city any time.

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However once back in the city we decided to let Nepal make its mark on us – quite literally. David showed us to the best tattooist in Nepal and we decided to get a token tattoo for the trip – ‘Namaste’ on our arms (sorry, not sorry dad!).

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H x

Visiting Singapore

Singapore

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We visited Singapore during a 3 week trip around Thai Land and India and ended up in this amazing city all by accident! Our original plans were to go to Darjeeling, however due to there being a strike throughout the whole country, we had to quickly change our plans. It just so happened that Singapore was the only country in the area we were visiting where you didn’t require a visa… So after a chat with our airline, we changed route to Singapore – not a bad place to find ourselves!
We stayed in a lovely hotel called The Sultan which we chose as we wanted to find a hotel that was near to Arab street Old Singapore area but still had some luxury to it – this was the perfect answer! 
Be warned… this place was not cheap, however nothing in Singapore is!
The front of house staff could not have been more helpful, showing us maps to the areas we wanted to visit and organising our tickets to the night safari – which may I add was brilliant! A chance to see wildlife in action at night time was pretty cool – I would totally recommend it to anyone.
We were lucky enough to be located right by little India which was AMAZING. The food, smells, hustle and bustle in the area made you feel as though you were really in India. We were also lucky enough to get into contact with some family friends while we were in Singapore who whisked us off to a brilliant little Chinese restaurant on the outskirts of the city that we would not have known about if it wasn’t for them. Unfortuantely I can’t remember the name of the place (which is a shame as it was full of Chinese people – and I’m a big believer in if a Chinese restaurant is filled with Chinese people then it isn’t going to be your usual sweet and sour balls – which I love!).
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Of course we could not have left Singapore without going to Raffles for a famous Singapore Sling! A really cool place that although is extremely famous, it didn’t feel at all touresty. Very cool interia, a great live jazz band and the relaxed feeling you get when you chuck your peanut shells on the floor.
A couple of words of warning when visiting Singapore… it is humid, VERY humid. The only downside to our hotel was the lack of pool and in that heat – you need a pool! 
Also ladies, when visiting little India make sure you cover up. It sounds so old fashioned but the men will stare a lot of you have our shoulders and legs out. Maxi skirts and a coverup all the way!
H x