ELLEfluence Blogger Event: Levoi Champagne Nail Bar, Newcastle

With ELLEfluence now in full swing after our March launch, we were highly anticipating our Levoi Champagne Nail Bar Press Event. Armed with our clique of 6 Sassy Beauty Influencers we headed to the luxe nail salon which is situated on St. Mary’s Place in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Lev-Wha? Lea-Voy? How do you pronounce it? In simple, say it any way you want.

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Levoi, an anagram of Olive, the name of Ann, the fabulous owner’s late Mum. Although sadly she is no longer with us, she proudly watches over Ann every day in the beautiful picture of them both having a great laugh on the wall. Surrounded by the words strength and integrity when you hear Ann’s story you’ll understand the poignancy of the placing of these. A fitting tribute and lasting memory. You can read Ann’s story about how Levoi came about here.

Heading from Haymarket Metro Station, at the top of Northumberland Street walking towards the Civic Centre on St. Mary’s Place, Levoi is tucked down a couple of steps below street level. This hidden gem on first impact is absolutely amazing and you’ll wish you had discovered it sooner. Greeted by a gorgeous courtyard with champagne bottle decorations as the focal point, outdoor seating for when the Summer arrives in the little sun trap the exterior is just a teaser of what’s to come.

As you enter the swanky champagne nail bar you’re instantly greeted with a warm friendly welcome and a glass of champagne. At this point, it’ll already have become your favourite beauty secret. Ann and the team have created an amazing atmosphere for those who enjoy a relaxing pamper and of course a girly gossip. It’s a forget all of your troubles at the door kind of place, where you’re there to enjoy your time as you’re pleasantly sucked into the charming and jovial atmosphere. From initially arriving it’s apparent that you enter as strangers and leave as friends. 

If you’ve had your nails, in particular gels put on anywhere, and trust us we have had them at multiple nail bars from department stores to independents, it becomes apparent the level of professionalism that the whole nail bar embodies is second to none. All products are Levoi’s own brand which is a fantastic touch and what’s even better is they’re available to buy online from their website too. The treatment menu and all the polish & gels all have a theme running through, with The Hangover Treatment, One for the Road and polishes such as Black Russian and Kir Royal it won’t take you long to spot this theme, although admittedly Ann convinces us that she isn’t alcohol obsessed.

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The decor, which is a gorgeous Olive colour is juxtaposed with black and creams for a modern luxury feel. Levoi’s signature polish, the Olive Martini also plays homage to Olive, Ann’s Mum. With high bars, champagne flutes perfectly positioned in racks overhead, a champagne cork side table in the seating area and though the back of the nail bar, Pinterest enviable black drawers and gorgeous lamps. Every aspect of the Champagne Nail Bar has been thought out. With Champagne quotes on the wall on modern lit glass panes, Levoi really does add a real luxury feel to their St. Mary’s home.

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Pulling up a gorgeous leather padded seat at the high bar, which comfortably sits three clients and three nail technicians one side and the same again on the other side of the salon, we began to chat. Laughing as we sipped champagne from Levoi branded champagne flutes, we all individually picked our colours. What’s really great and unique about Levoi is their colours are their own brand, so they are able to mix from their core colour range, and even add a little bit of sparkle in if requested to create the perfect colour you have in mind. This truly gives an individual experience to each and every client who walks through the door in terms of colour choice.

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Opting for Tequilla Sunrise with a rose gold glitter, of course! Kaitlin prepped, filed, buffed and squared my nails paying attention to every tiny detail to ensure that my nails were looking perfect ready for the colour and glitter. Having had glitter nails previously I knew what to expect, well I thought I did….with a high pigmented, densely glitter gel solution instead of loose glitter which I’ve had before, Kaitlin began with a coat of Tequilla Sunrise followed by two rose gold glitter coats and of course a top coat to seal the polish. Finishing off with their signature Olive oil & Lavender hand massage to complete the five-star treatment. I genuinely have to admit these are my most favourite nails ever and won’t entertain going elsewhere now. From start to finish the experience is like no other.

With prices starting at just £16 for express treatments and a set of gels price at £30, Levoi is exceptional value for the amazing service the girls provide, especially for a City Centre nail bar. For a relaxed and chilled atmosphere with an ambience like no other Levoi comes highly recommended with 5 solid stars. Levoi nails also come with at 7-day guarantee, if anything happens to your nails within a week of having them done the team will fix it for you free of charge. Where else offers that level of service?

It doesn’t just stop at nails Levoi are also experts in HD brows, LVL lashes, waxing and piercing. They even cater for men too! With a strict patch testing policy and the most prominent hygiene policy, you know that you’re in professional and safe hands when you choose Levoi.

With wedding season ramping up and in full swing soon Levoi is also the perfect place to head for a hen party in Newcastle. With the team offering the ultimate package it’s great for starting your day. Upon arrival at the nail bar, you’re greeted with Champagne and chocolate dipped strawberries followed by a relaxing session of nail therapy and nibbles (Olives are essential of course!) over a great laugh and memory making. Selfies are obligatory before you say your goodbyes and head out to experience the bars and nightlife in Newcastle. Book for 8 or more hens and the bride gets her nails done for free too!

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Not only highly recommended from Elle Blonde but also our gorgeous ELLEfluencers who attended our press event. You can view their full round ups over on our Facebook Page very soon.

Levoi offers an online booking service and a loyalty scheme too in terms of their ‘Bubbles Card’ which sees you rewarded after your fifth visit  - see everything has been thought about and planned meticulously and it’s this attention to detail which makes Levoi an experience like no other. Visit their site here (you can also shop their fabulous range) or alternatively give Ann and the girls a call, where you’ll instantly love them as much as we do. 


Are you a blogger or influencer and want to attend events like the Levoi Press Event? Join hundreds of other ELLEfluencers and sign up for all the direct opportunities and event invites right now at ELLEfluence.com



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Red Nose Day: The MUST HAVE Merchandise

Hoorah, today it’s Red Nose Day, but you already knew that right? As I write this I’m sat here sipping on a cup of Matcha green tea out of this year’s Red Nose Day Mug. It got me thinking if your workplace or school, college or university isn’t fundraising today then there are ways in which you can make a difference.

Ever since I can remember Red Nose Day has been a big deal up and down the country. I remember from my early primary school days the fight was always on as to who had the newest red nose first, and then in latter years of my school career, it was a case of who had the best ‘vintage’ nose from the previous years.

With the iconic Red Nose we have seen multiple iconic British designers lending their hand to the cause and in recent years the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Henry Holland have helped to create some essential must have Red Nose Day items to raise some serious cash for this amazing charity.

One of my personal favourites from 2011 is the Louis XVI with Red Noses on her breasts t-shirt that I proudly own. This year for 2017 sees Rankin, a renowned Fashion and Portrait photographer’s collection of animals in black and white emblazoned across t-shirts and aprons. With a French bulldog, affectionately known as Albert wearing a baseball cap to Jonny the goat with a curly afro these designs are fun and quirky with a serious fashion edge.

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The t-shirts are all produced and manufactured in Africa and 50% of the money from the merchandise goes back to Comic Relief to aid projects all around the world you know that you’re doing your bit for the greater good.

Whilst all the clothing has sold out online TKMaxx and Homesense are Comic Relief’s official stockists of the merchandise there may be a chance to snap up the final pieces today at one of their locations.

Sainsbury’s have a great selection of Comic Relief merchandise too, from the mug which I proudly drink from on a morning, to the iconic yet ever changing Red Noses.

This year the Red Nose theme is ‘Nose-it-all’, the all-knowing owl, the Viking Norse Nose, Snootankhamun from ancient Sneezegypt, Snuffles the dragon, DJ Boogie, Dr Nose, The Snorcerer, Sneezecake the chef, Sniffer the dog and the rarest and scariest Nose of all, Frankinose!

They come in a sealed wrapper so you don’t know which one you may get, priced at just £1 this is a great way for kids to get involved in the fun of Red Nose day, you’ve got a 1 in 900 chance of finding Frankinose and if you do you have to look out for the code on his feet to unlock special content on the Red Nose’s online Comic Adventure.

With the whole of Britain pulling together to be Great, showing their softer and more caring side and raising money for charity this Comic Relief we’d love to know how you’re doing your bit!



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Home Interior Bedroom Styling: eve Mattress Wishlist

If you remember at the start of the year, I had created a vision board and revealed my New Year’s Resolutions, safe to say I’m so focused on achieving all of these goals this year it’s ridiculous!

I'm excited to make the largest purchase of them all, so naturally, I've been trawling through Pinterest constantly looking for home inspiration. There’s literally so many dream houses and gorgeous interiors I don’t know where to start.

I feel like if you can get your living room and bedroom right then you’re really onto a winner. Over the last few months, I really have become that interior obsessed that the old faithful black damask wallpaper has been ripped down and has been replaced by a more muted taupe and gold almost snakeskin pattern (it doesn’t sound great) but believe me it’s gorgeous. Teamed with my new side table from La Maison De Furniture (post coming super soon about that) and some creative styling with a gorgeous lamp and tea light holder as well as book styling my room is starting to look extremely Pinterest worthy itself.

There’s one problem that I’ve come across when watching DIY programmes and looking on Pinterest, the mattresses are often overlooked. With the average Brit thinking they only need to replace their mattress once every 15 years when in reality it should be between seven and ten, this shocking statistic had me thinking, how can I accessorise my bed in a practical way, especially considering everything else is for the ascetics.

Every morning I wake up with a crick in my neck, at first I thought it must be the way I sleep, yes I am that person who sleeps on their front adopting the starfish position & yes even the dog hates sleeping in my bed because he’s constantly getting moved around the bed as I wriggle all night.

I’ve literally been through about 20 pillows in the last year (I do like to have 4 on my bed - for of course the ascetics, and yes scatter cushions are essential too!), each time I’ve found the higher quality the better the crick gets, it’s still not been completely eradicated.

So I’ve done some research.

Of course, I have, you know I am like a sponge, you know I love reading and I love information. 

I compiled a wish list. I must be the only person to compile a wish list for a bed. I know, I’m clearly insane? However, when I’ve researched I’ve found the ultimate in sleeping luxury. eve Mattress.

You’ll have probably seen their bright yellow branding and their striking adverts like, urm….everywhere and if you haven’t where have you been? Sleeping?

Here it is my bed, for my Pinterest worthy bedroom wish list

The Pillow - I’ve had memory foam pillows in the past, they’ve been the best kind for the crick in my neck and eve describe their pillows as brilliantly comfortable. Created with premium memory foam it is more supportive than feather or fibre pillows and with added benefits for circulation and muscle alignment. This sounds like they will be a perfect pillow for realigning my muscles to stop my neck crick. When I read about the benefits of The Pillow I also suddenly thought I wonder if my constant bad back would improve with these fantastic sounding pillows.

The Topper - You know how early I told you most Brits think you should replace your mattress every 15 years? eve has come up with a solution for those who aren’t quite ready to let go to old faithful, The Topper. This luxurious foam topper just sits perfectly onto of your existing mattress and with 5cm of breathable next generation foam, it gives you extra comfort and support to greatly improve your quality of sleep. My mattress is probably about 8 years old so is coming to the end of its life, it’s comfortable but with an added topper it’ll be just like sleeping on a cloud!

What I really love about the eve concept is they provide easy shopping. With free home delivery on all orders (I always think delivery charges are off-putting), usually, next day too if you order by 1 pm. They also offer a 30 day trial period for The Topper and a 100 day trial period for their mattresses you seriously can’t complain at the service they’re providing.

They don’t just limit themselves to mattresses, toppers and pillows. They also offer mattress protectors which I think are absolutely essential for any bed to keep your mattress clean, dust and dirt free. Think of how many hours you sleep on it a night and with a protector you can easily throw it in the machine to freshen it up. I’d like to see you try and fit a mattress in a washing machine!

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To complete the eve experience they also stock duvets which honestly look like clouds, proper clouds. There’s nothing worst than seeing a gorgeous bedroom and the duvet on the bed lacking serious lustre and looking like a flat balloon. Made from 90% duck down, 10% duck feather they come in three different duvets for all seasons. An all year round, a Spring/Summer and an Autumn/Winter choice.

Finally the last and most important product to complete the whole eve experience is their duvet sets, the set comes with a sheet, cover and two pillow cases in perfect brilliant white. It might just be me, but there’s nothing I love seeing more than a crisp white sheet. The three white things in my life that make me smile when I see them are white duvet sets, a brand new white Ralph Lauren dress shirt and a white Christmas morning.

Let’s hope my Christmases all come at once and my wish list is ticked off for that all important perfect sleep.

Have you got an eve mattress? Let me know your thoughts below. If you’re new to the eve concept why not check them out for yourself here

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Scent From Subscription Box: March Edition - Bangkok

It's here. One of my favourite deliveries of the whole entire month. Scent From.

Last month, of course, was Paris, and previous months have included The Alps and New York, Stockholm and Marrakech, so with a far away land as this month's theme I couldn't wait to see what was in store.

Bangkok.

Although boasting an impressive selection of stamps and stickers in my passport from my global travels, I've never actually visited Bangkok so to have a piece of the city brought to me is extremely exciting.

Opening the sturdy brown box, this month adorned with a cobalt blue sticker with the all important co-ordinates of where Bangkok sits according to longitude and latitude. 13.7367° N, 100.52331° E in case you were curious. This attention to detail really adds to the opulence of the Scent From monthly subscription box.

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As I lift the lid and remove the information card I am instantly transported to serenity, imagining an opalescent stream with pink blossom dancing as it falls from the trees. A heard of elephants marching on by, whilst the echoes of a tiger’s roar ripple through the mountains. The temple of Wat Pho towering up in the sky adorned with opulent gold statues of Buddha, that leads you to the street vendor who makes promises of the sweetest and spiciest food you’ll ever enjoy. With one burst of the fig scent as the box opens it has the ability to magically transport you to this beautiful city.

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I rummage around the box through the signature shredded packaging to discover this month’s treats. Opening the large white box to reveal the Buddha head oil burner. The ornate white oil burner has a gorgeous depiction of Buddha’s face embodies the pure, calm serenity of the Buddhist philosophy, the simple white will compliment perfectly any decor within your home. The rich fuchsia pink Flamingo wax melt in Thai Lime & Mango will sit perfectly in the burner, as this new scent begins to melt, discover the sweet hues which will fill your room transporting you to Thailand, to find relaxation and peace.

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A collection of 10 of the most stunning tea lights I’ve ever seen are next to be revealed out of the box, these unique scented candles come in a variety of shapes and colours, this individuality is symbolic of the Buddhist philosophy, and can brighten any room and whisk you away to Southeast Asia.

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Finally, my personal favourite of each and every Scent From box, the Natural Wax Tin Candle. Draped with the cobalt blue cityscape the same as the lid of the box the signature Scent From candle, this month in Oriental Fig. With a long lasting 40 hour burn time this purple candle is diffused with sweet aromas. Fig, known for it’s calming properties, lifting your mood and has you longing for Eastern travels. This is the ultimate bathroom candle and looks gorgeous juxtaposed with our white, simple and calming bathroom.

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Scent From recently featured in our Mother’s Day Gift Guide and will be a great addition to spoiling your Mum monthly. If you’ve already got her present sorted then why not treat yourself to this magical subscription box.

Priced at just £19.99 you can take advantage of our £5 off discount code, simply enter ELLE5 at the checkout and watch your basket price drop.



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Disclaimer: This item was provided complimentary, all views are my own. Read more about disclosure here.

What to see and do in Boston, USA

Taking a trip to the beautiful city of Boston this year? It’s a wonderfully compact city which is easy to get around so there is no excuse for you not to make the absolute most of your stay here and take in as many of the sights as you can. Here are a few of my favourites.

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Home to the American Revolution, the city is steeped in freedom history; walk the Freedom Trail, take in the sights at the Boston Tea Party museum and Paul Revere’s house, marvel at the magnificent 3 mast frigate USS Constitution. If you are a Brit expect some jovial booing and banter if you are taking in the sights with a tour bus full of patriotic Americans!

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There are lots of old style trolley buses around the city so you can get a hop on/off ticket or if you are feeling really adventurous take the duck tour which not only takes you around the sights of the city but plunges you into the Charles River so you can see Boston & Cambridge from the water. I always check out Groupon before I go to see if I can pick up a discount tour, sometimes there are some great bargains to be had especially if this is something you are planning to do anyway.

Boston is also home to some of America’s most famous educational establishments; so make sure you add Harvard, MIT and Berklee to the tick list. Bag yourself a Harvard sweater, but do shop around as the prices for the same sweater vary from one seller to the next.

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People watching in Boston Common is great whatever the weather, grab yourself a coffee and a park bench and watch the world go by.

Sports fans will love a trip to Fenway Park to see where the Red Sox play and pick up some sports memorabilia. I absolutely love my Red Sox socks.

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Visit Copley Place shopping mall with all of the stores you would expect; Tiffanys, Victoria Secrets, Journey, Sephora all interlinked with walkways which are great in the Winter as you want to avoid going outside when the temperature absolutely plummets. Try out the viewing platform at the Prudential Centre for a bird's-eye view of the city. Check out the fabulous 3 storey brown stone buildings of Newbury Street and surrounding areas, housing wonderful independent shops, bars & restaurants.

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If like me you are a fan of the shopping malls you can get a bus out from the bus station or pre-book a collection from your hotel to Wrentham Village Premium Outlets which is the out of town outlet mall where you will pick up some great buys from all of the designer stores like Under Armour, Kate Spade (you can read why kate spade new york is one of my favourite brands here), Coach, Tommy Hilfiger, Timberland, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Uggs and many more. Take an empty suitcase along to make carrying all of your shopping easier, I guarantee you will be so pleased you did. Make sure you head straight to the visitors centre at the outlet and show them your passport for some extra discount coupons. You can also sign up for discounts online before you go.

Faneuil Hall Marketplace is known as the ‘Cradle of Liberty’ is one of the most popular tourist sites and right next to it is my absolute favourite place to visit; Quincy Market. This is a fabulous bustling place and not one for the reserved queuing type of Brit, you just have to bite the bullet and go for it. Filled with the most cosmopolitan selection of street-food style vendors, when you open the doors you won’t believe how many people can be crammed into a single space buying and selling whatever kind of delicious food you can think of. I am in heaven grabbing the clam chowder and Boston Lobster sandwich combo and finding a bench or a floor space (it is always rammed) to eat one of the best takeaway lunches ever.

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Have you visited Boston? I'd love to hear your thoughts and where you went.

Are you interested in travel in the USA? You might want to read the 5 things you must see and do when in Las Vegas

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When you wish upon a star.

It was a few years ago, one Christmas I opened a tin box, looked at it. Looked at my Mum, looked at the box and looked back with a puzzled look at her. 

"What do you get the girl who has everything?" She asked?

Right there that minute I had just opened an acre of land on the moon, insane right? This year, I opened flying lessons

So with Mother's Day under a week away we (meaning the dog and I) were searching for something unique to get the Mother who has everything, who is the most difficult to buy for and who sets the bar with these crazy gifts.

We decided upon a star.

That's right.

A star.

For those of you who've never thought of the gift of a star, it's an amazing idea, extremely sentimental and it's something that your recipient will be able to cherish forever...I mean until the star burns out of course.

There's a selection of different packages to choose from and we were gifted the Extra Bright Star Package, which means it's one of the brighter more visible stars in the solar system.

Registering your star is extremely simple, you literally head over to the Star Registry site, choose your star name, a significant date and a constellation you want it to be in, it really is that easy.

So you're wondering about Mum's star, aren't you? You nosey folk want to know what it's called? Correct? Many people name their stars after loved ones that have passed. Thoughtful, but sombre. With our family decreasing in size over the last 10 or so years I couldn't bring myself to choose a relation to name the star after.

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I wanted the star to be a happy thought, and not a reflection of somebody who's no longer with us so of course there was only one name in which it could be.

Ziggy Rupert.

Named after the love of my life, my Mum's favourite child and our little star, the dog.

Right now readership is divided, if you're a dog owner you'll love that, you'll think it's so cute. Non-dog owners I get it, you think I'm mad!

As I was naming my Mum's star, I felt overwhelmed at choosing to immortalise our little puppy forever and tears rolled down my cheek. It really is such a personal and thoughtful gift that even those that are the hardest to buy would love!

Located in the Scorpius constellation after Ziggy's star sign the extra bright star meaning no matter where she is in the world, when my Mum looks up into the sky she'll smile and think of our little puppy at home.

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So for the person who has everything, give the gift of a star today! You can even add your own personal message to the registration.

GIVEAWAY

We're offering one of our lucky readers the chance to win their very own star, to enter simply complete the tasks below!

The winner will be drawn 2nd April. Good Luck. 



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Disclaimer: This item was provided complimentary, all views are my own. Read more about disclosure here.

Finding a perfect gift for Mother's Day.

With Mother's Day just a week away, if you are anything like me you will be searching for something unique, different and sentimental to make her day special. If you need some inspiration here are a few of my favourite gift ideas to make your Mum's Mother's Day perfect.

Eat

If you live in or around Newcastle, Aberdeen, Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham, Edinburgh or Liverpool then you must book a table for Sunday lunch with a real difference at one of the Chaophraya restaurants. Serving fabulously fresh and seriously delicious Thai food this is a fantastic restaurant for a special occasion and a lovely treat for your mum. Read my recent review of the newly launched and highly anticipated restaurant in Newcastle.

If you're from the North East, Stephanie Fox from her self titled publication has some excellent experiences to treat your Mum to, make sure you check her guide out!

Subscribe

Over the last few months, I have also been reviewing subscription boxes. Which are absolutely huge, and the ultimate gift for those people who have everything! Currently, I have 2 personal favourites and know that these would make fabulous gifts this Mother's Day.

Little Known Box is a wonderful monthly delivery of new and innovative breakthrough beauty brands. Beautifully wrapped in a black box adorned with gold lettering and the most sumptuous ribbon this subscription box arrives bursting with a selection of really usable beauty items from makeup to skin products. 

Monthly subscription cost £14.95 - shop here

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Scent From is a perfect gift for those who love their home and in particular scented candles. This perfectly packaged monthly subscription box features a different destination each month. With a signature tin candle being the main feature monthly it is accompanied by complimentary candles and homeware. This month we travel to the South East Asia to Bangkok, where we see a Buddha head tea light holder, fig scented candle, Thai lemon wax melt and handcrafted tea lights. Previous destinations have seen us travel to Marrakesh, Stockholm, The Alps, Paris and New York.

Monthly subscription costs £19.99 - you can save £5 off your order with the code ELLE5 - shop here

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Personalise

If you are looking for personalised gifts, then we highly recommend Etched Drinks for personalised bottles such as the gin featured in our Christmas present guide. With prices from £18 these unique gifts with a little added personalisation are not only a great gift to give this Mother’s Day but a long lasting present for every time you head to the drinks cabinet (or if your house is anything like ours then alcohol doesn’t last long).

If your Mum is a chocolate lover like mine you can’t go wrong with a chocolate card! Morse Toad offers chocolate cards for all occasions, with a personalised photo and messaging service, these chocolate box cards start at £9 and are shipped same day if ordered before 1 pm on weekdays. The chocolate is rich and delicious too!

My favourite gift at the moment and a particularly special and unique personalised gift is the gift of a Star. For the woman in your life who has everything the gift of a star is magical. You choose the name, significant date and the constellation you’d like your star in so it’s time to get sentimental and give this heartfelt gift. With prices starting from £14.99 from the Star Registry you can give your Mum the gift of astronomy this Mother’s Day.

Luxury

If you’re looking for something a little more luxurious then this Mother’s Day you should treat your Mum to a hamper from Fortnum & Mason, filled with gorgeous goodies and starting at just £60 arrive in their sought after wicker picnic hampers with the iconic F&M emblazoned onto the side. A perfect gift for the imminent warmer weather. You know Mums make the best picnics right?!

Hampers priced from £60 - shop here

Does your Mum like to receive limited edition and exclusive gifts? If the answer is yes then this Victoria Beckham x Estee Lauder makeup box has only had 400 sets produced. All individually numbered they are the perfect gift to give to the beauty lover who loves exclusivity.  In the collection you receive; 

  • Highlighter in Modern Mercury
  • Eye Metal in Charred Emerald
  • Eye Foil in Blonde Gold
  • Eye Foil in Black Anise
  • Lip Pencil in Victoria
  • Lipstick in Brazilian
  • Lipstick in Chilean
  • Removable mirror

Priced at a cool £850 for the full collection - shop here

Let your Mum have the day off, treat her to a new pair of Olivia Von Halle silk pyjamas whilst you create a breakfast feast for her. These gorgeous blush pink pyjamas with black piping are super cosy, and lightweight, she’ll not want to take them off and we don’t blame her they are simply stunning.

Sets priced at £350 - shop here

Mum’s Pick

Finally my last pick, crazy as it sounds; driving shoes! Originally designed for comfortable driving Hi drives are soft stretchy slip on pumps which are perfect for bobbing around town, taking on holiday, walking the dog or just wearing anytime because they are so comfortable. My Mum has a pair and she absolutely loves them. She wears them instead of her trainers. Me, I am sick of the sight of them she always has them on, perhaps it's time for a new pair!

Whatever you choose to get your Mum this Mother’s Day we hope she has the most amazing day, she deserves it for putting up with you!

Love you Mum xx

Guest Post: How to Generate Income Through Blogging:

Yesterday you may have read our post about the micro vs macro influencer debate, for those of you who realised blogging may be for them, or are looking to generate an income from blogging today we bring you a guest post with some handy tips


If you have got a passion for writing, then why not make some money off doing something you love? So many people are now turning to blogging as their career path, or a way to make a little bit of extra cash. Whether you’re a blogging newbie or have been blogging for a while, there are some basic and simple steps you should follow to generate income…

Create a blog:

This may seem like a really obvious first step, but if you want to be a blogger, then you must have your own website or blog. There are so many different domains that allow you to create a blog online, one of the most commonly used being Wordpress. If you want to maximise your earning potential, then you must first spend a little bit of money on your blog. There are options to create a free blog, but when you use a free service, you don’t have full control over your blog – the free service does. But don’t worry, premium blog services can start from as little as £5 a month, so this isn’t going to break the bank!

Create content:

When creating content, it’s always a great idea to draw from your experience or area of expertise, as your writing is more likely to be useful and informative. It’s important to make sure that your content is top notch so that people visit your blog and read your work. In order to make money, you must first have a steady stream of visitors, and in order to get this, you must first give people a reason to stay.

Build relationships around the web:

As well as creating high-quality content, it’s equally as important to build genuine relationships with people around the web and on social media. Great ways of creating an online presence are joining and participating in relevant Facebook groups, forums and interacting with other blogs. Also, reach out to relevant people on Twitter. If you’re a constant fountain of information, shoulder to cry on, blogging guru, then the word is going to spread quickly about you. People will grow to know, like and trust you, which means that your blog is going to be visited more.

Establish a strong platform:

Branding is so important if you want to build a following on your blog. You need to be considerate about what you are writing about, how useful your content is, and whether people will want to read it. Establishing a platform is all about proving that you are capable of generating a following, so you have to always consider what your readers want. Keep building up your knowledge on your niche subject, try and be the first to deliver news and information and wrap this all up in your distinctive and interesting writing style.

Choose your income streams:

Once you have done all of the above, you can begin to make some money! There are so many different routes to go down to generate income. One of the most obvious avenues to go down is to contact brands, to either promote their products or to guest blog for their websites. Once you have an established following, you can prove that your services will add value to their brand – if you make them money, then you will make money in the process. When starting out, it is much easier to target the smaller brands out there like BOY London for instance, rather than Nike, as it is easier to build a relationship and gain their trust and respect. Other avenues to explore are advertising, if you have a high blog following, then companies could benefit from advertising their products on your blog.

Generating income from blogging can initially be a slow process, you have to be patient and earn people’s trust and respect. But once you have gained their trust, then you will have the authority to choose your own way of generating income!

The Micro vs Macro Influencer Great Debate

If you know about influencers, blogging and this whole digital age you’ll understand the current debate going on between micro and macro influencers and which adds the most value.

Take the likes of Inthefrow, Zoella, Em Sheldon and Tanya Burr just to name a few, with a collective mass of over a billion followers these ladies are trailblazing a path in the way brands work with bloggers and influencers. This relatively new and extremely lucrative industry is creating a digital snowstorm and everybody wants in on the action.

For part of our newly launched ELLEfluence platform, we were looking into a definitive definition of what our bloggers and influencers classed as a micro-influencer for a campaign that’s upcoming to see if they classed themselves as a micro-influencer as there’s not one single definition.

We asked our lovely ladies in our Facebook Group what they defined a micro-influencer as, and amazingly they championed this newly coined term. Parent-blogger and UK Blog Award Finalist Nyomi from Nomipalony was the first to stand up proudly and claim her position as micro-influencer. The mum of two adorable little ones who regularly feature on her blog and social media channels stated that she would class herself as a micro-influencer. She told us “I have less than 10,000 followers across social media. I have over 1000 on Instagram but not by much, currently at 1483. My current engagement rate on Instagram is about 6%”.

Similarly Francesca from Super Mummy Secrets stated that she was unsure whether she was classed as a micro-influencer or whether she was even smaller than a micro...maybe a nano? Telling our ELLEfluencers “I probably am to be honest. It’s strange because probably on certain social media I am if that makes sense. I have close to 6,000 followers on my Facebook page and one thing I never seem to have a problem with is reach on Facebook especially engagement. Whilst I only have around 6,000 followers anything I post seems to have a brilliant reach with most weeks getting a reach of 10,000 - 20,000. Fighting Facebook to get my posts seen is not something I seem to have to do but yet I see lots of bigger bloggers struggling with it at times.” 

With these two super glam Mamas proudly classing themselves as micro-influencers the waves of eager participants added their extremely insightful value to the conversation. You see in a study with a detox tea company who sponsored each of the Kardashian sisters to promote their detox, weight loss tea each to their 10 million plus followers found that while they did generate an influx of sales it was the smaller influencers, such as those with a following under 10,000 but over a 10% engagement rate had more of an impact than the Kardashians.

Picture this, Kim Kardashian alone has 94 million followers. NINETY-FOUR MILLION. I can’t even?! Yet how many of those accounts are interested in the flat tummy tea she is promoting? Even at 1% interest and 1% sales for the amount, she charges this is not a valuable return on the brand’s investment. Take Geordie Shore reality stars for example. Knowing first hand that one of the male stars was paid £30,000 to promote supplements is mind blowing. These colossal followings are great but the question is do they equate to value to the brand? Whereas a pocket of 30-50 micro-influencers with less than 10,000 followers and dedicated fitness accounts with high engagement levels may result in greater marketing and targeting, with a greater conversion meaning it works out as a better return on the brand’s investment. Influencers really are becoming the smaller more targeted versions of celebrity endorsements.

One of the most important factors in this exchange with ELLEfluencers was the sense of belonging, community and getting to know their readership base on a more personal level. This is something that micro-influencers feel they receive from having a smaller more manageable following as opposed to macro-influencers who are unable to have the same bond with hundreds of thousands of followers. Francesca told us “I feel like I know some of my followers and they know me. They message me like we aren't just strangers on the internet who have never met”. This is similar to Diane from Studio Nailz and Beauty’s experiences and she also says that she always respond across her social media channels to all the comments she receives to build a trust and bond. Samantha from North East Family Fun agreed wth both Francesca and Diane by commenting that nothing is nicer than when a reader tweets or messages you to say thanks for recommending a restaurant or local day out. She doesn’t think readers would necessarily get this all-important trust and connection with a mega-influencer.

Gemma from Gemma’s Little World made a great point saying that micro-influencer are often more authentic and she personally likes to follow smaller bloggers and influencers because of the genuine aspect of their content. We quote from our Facebook Group her post “When I look for inspiration from other bloggers and set goals I'm really uninterested in the majority of bloggers that have hundreds and thousands of followers. It’s just not realistic for me and who I want to be. I want to be authentic and only blog about things that really FIT me and my personality and I find HUGE bloggers put anything and everything as long as it creates ££££££. I understand everyone's interests can change and so can the trends but when you start advertising things that are not authentic then, of course, you end up with followers who are also not very authentic or really interested in you as a person.”

Interestingly, without discussing the Kardashian scenario I recently read Mandy from her self-titled blog Mandy Charlton Photography Blog explained that she too thought she was a micro-influencer, however she also knew she was a valuable asset to brands telling us “I am without a doubt a micro influencer, I don't have tons of followers on anything, possibly around 8 or 9k on the biggest but I've sold stuff, big stuff, a friend of mine has been on 3 cruises since I wrote about one for Cruise International, I know from my affiliate marketing that I've sold expensive mattresses, holidays, shoes, all kinds of things without having a Kardashianesque following.”

It was while thinking about this ‘Kardashian marketing’, it lead us back to SEO, whilst social media is great to some extent for promotional purposes, it is the content that is created within blog posts which really give these brands authenticity with high-quality link building. Helen from Honestly Helen told us that there are a few articles she has written that have done well. “If you google Along Came Betty, my post about them is first hit on Google, higher than even Tesco's website, so sometimes the influence of small bloggers shouldn't be overlooked if they hit on something no one else has done. I also think a micro influencer has less to lose so are more likely to speak passionately and enthusiastically about something without worrying too much about the audience or being on brand.”

Further reading led us to an article in Revolution Digital stating that a micro-influencer had between 10,000 and 90,000 followers, from our collective conversation real life bloggers and influencers disagreed with this number, although this again was slightly confused with Ciara from Ciara with a C putting her figures at 20,000-40,000 followers, other bloggers placing their guess at around the 10,000 followers and below mark. We certainly all agreed that 90,000 is not what we’d class as micro!

What're your thoughts on micro vs macro influencers? What would you class yourself as? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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Chaophraya: Newcastle - Immerse yourself in Newcastle's latest Thai dining experience.

Since hearing about Chaophraya opening in the new Greys Quarter in Newcastle I have been looking forward to trying out this Thai restaurant and I was certainly not disappointed. It was a fabulous meal in stylish and sophisticated surroundings. Having visited Celebrity Chef Omar Allibhoy's Tapas Revolution the previous week I was excited to see what was in store for the Thai chapter of this multi-cultural dining destination.

With restaurants in Leeds, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham; Newcastle is the latest and luckiest city to be on the Chaophraya map. It is pronounced Chow-pry-a just in case you are wondering.

The restaurant is the cornerstone of the new Greys Quarter eateries holding prime anchor spot built in the dome and boasting incredible views of Greys monument and the surrounding streets. Top tip, tables 26 & 27 have the best views but if you're not fond of heights they may not be for you. The rooftop restaurant has a real wow factor and I can't wait to see the roof open when we get some of that Geordie sunshine. This no doubt will be a feature that will draw the crowds but opening roof or not,  the food will certainly be the biggest attraction, it is divine and I cannot recommend it highly enough. You really must try it for yourself.

We were treated to the amazing views from table 26 but whether you have an outside view or whether you are seated in the centre of the restaurant the decor is tasteful and sumptuous. As you would expect it is all Asian inspired with subtle lighting and Buddha weaved into the chair designs. Fabulous elephant objet d'art greet you at the entrance and there is a heavy black and gilt theme throughout. The central seating is semi-booth style and there is a private party room and private dining room available, although I must say that the main restaurant has a fabulous ambience that you wouldn't want to miss.

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The staff are all in Thai costume which sounds cheesy but they look absolutely wonderful and this adds to the whole pleasurable dining experience. And yes it is more than just a Thai meal it is a dining experience. The menu has an array of dishes from all parts of Thailand so you can have fun 'sanook' tasting all types of food from curries, noodle dishes and fabulous pad Thai. 

The restaurant is more suited to a leisurely lunch or evening meal, a celebration, special occasion or a treat. A place to relax and enjoy good food and not a place to grab a quick bite or rush your meal. There were several birthdays being celebrated when we were there and each one was made extra special by the attentive staff.

So on to the food. Munching on complimentary chilli prawn crackers and dip we perused the wine list and cocktail menu which showed evidence of a good relationship with 'The Botanist' and decided on two fabulously fresh cocktails. There is also a comprehensive wine list and soft drink selection along with mocktails and a selection of after dinner cocktails.

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We shared the Chaophraya platter with a great selection of individual tasters the platter contained chicken satay, Thai fish cakes, chicken spring rolls, prawn, squid and wing bean tempura with chilli and curry dips. A perfect sharing starter to sample the delicious food on offer. I like nice cutlery and at this restaurant, the knives are those that have a twist where the blade stands up rather than rests on the table cloth.  The attention to detail in some of the simpler touches make this for me a standout restaurant.

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On to the main event;  we chose the weeping tiger sirloin steak with its trio of sauces served on a sizzling platter, and the massaman lamb curry with carrot, potato and cashews. To accompany we selected jasmine rice and noodles. It was all exceptional, the food was fresh and extremely delicious, the spice combinations were perfect and the portions were more than sufficient that we couldn't actually finish it all. I wouldn't usually select lamb but it was delicious and the actual curry sauce was rich and satisfying. The staff are terrific, attentive and friendly and clearly enjoying their job to make your dining experience as pleasurable as possible.

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Although full we couldn't resist the desserts and selected the one everyone is talking about; the Chocolate Bombe, served as a large circular chocolate bombe the hot caramel sauce is poured over the bombe at the table melting the chocolate and revealing a Thai whisky ice cream and honey and popcorn centre. This is an absolutely heavenly pudding choice.

We also chose the white chocolate box which presented on the plate looks like a fabulous gift box with a single raspberry adorning a corner. The white chocolate mousse box contains a raspberry coulis centre and sits on a shortbread base. Again, this is both attractively presented and tastes divine. 

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A thoroughly enjoyable evening, the food is fresh and well presented and tastes great. The restaurant is stylish and the staff are warm and welcoming. The bill was £35 each not including drinks for the 3 courses that we had selected and I felt that this was a good price for very good food. There is a lunchtime menu Sunday to Friday between 12 and 4 pm with 2 courses for £13.50 or 3 courses for £18.50. For a truly luxurious evening, there is private dining with personal bar and waitress service and there is an option to have your party or event planned for you in these private facilities.

I am looking forward to my next evening at Chaophraya and have no doubt it will become a firm favourite in Newcastle and I can't wait to see the roof open on this truly stunning rooftop restaurant. I certainly had 'sanook' and I am positive you will too.

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Disclaimer: This meal was complimentary, all views are my own. Read more about disclosure here.

How to have killer hair like Kylie Jenner!

Ever wondered how Kylie Jenner can go from blonde to mermaid green to pink to brunette in the space of a few days without causing major damage to her hair? Admittedly at first I was confused too and thought she had an amazing glam squad (which she probably does) but then I realised that it was all the illusion of a great set of wigs.

With ombrés and dip dyes being firm favourites across Instagram I began to have a look into on-trend wigs for occasions and found an array of wigs that slay over at Divatress.

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With over 150 different styles in the Zury brand alone there's a bountiful selection of colours and lengths to choose from and you are sure to find something to suit your style. My favourite is undoubtedly Nova or Anka. These playful pink hues are to die for and really do create that instant glam look.

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What's great about wigs too is that they are perfectly styled so your hair looks amazing all day and night. With the ability to mix up your look too Divatress wigs are a perfect addition to your wardrobe and can see you reinvent yourself more times than David Bowie!

 

 Disclaimer: This post is sponsored, all views are my own. Read more about disclosure here.

What would you give up?

I’m not a quitter, I have never been and I never will quit anything, it’s just not in me. So when a recent conversation came up with a close friend about Lent, and what they were giving up, the question was then posed to me, what would I be giving up? It really got me thinking. I’ve never taken part in Lent.

I sat for a moment and wondered, I didn’t want to give up something materialistic, I didn’t want to give up a food or drink (I pretty much have spent my life giving up meat or gluten so it’s not a challenge), what I had decided to give up was negative thoughts.

Negative thoughts? It may sound like a ‘cop out’, a crazy thing to give up but I’ve spent the last say 6 months removing negative people and negativity from my life and it’s really seen my life improve in absolutely every aspect, negativity is the drainer of joy and happiness. So if I have already given up negativity then why for Lent am I giving up negative thoughts?

Now you see whilst almost 99.9% of the negativity around me has been eradicated there’s still a great deal of negativity upstairs, in my mind. I never think that I can’t do something, because you can do anything you put your mind to, Richard Branson, J.K Rowling, Dwayne Johnson are perfect examples of this, but there’s time of weakness, where I’m just like anybody else where I stop before throwing myself into things, think to myself that I’m not good enough, or qualified enough, I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m just winging it, I sometimes feel like I need to question every single aspect of my life and I tear it apart.

So for Lent, which is not something I usually partake in, I decided to challenge myself and give up these negative thoughts. I have to say, it’s going pretty well, it’ really working out and my productivity has shot through the roof, my motivation - well if you keep in contact on Facebook you’ll know that I’m that motivated I’m sleeping 3 hours a night because I’m just so in love with what I’m doing at the minute and I’m fuelled on just sheer positivity. 

Of course Lent is symbolic for those who are practicing Christian and although I was Christened, I don’t assign myself to a religion, but as I am so passionate about the Law of Attraction for the whole of Lent I’m not only giving up these negative thoughts I’m going to actively encourage generosity, encourage you to pledge to Christian Aid through Lent, so that you know that you’ve done your bit helping to create eliminate gender discrimination. Prevent families being torn apart because of HIV & Malaria. With your donation, no matter how big or small you can help to save lives in emergencies.

Imagine saying that you gave up being selfish for Lent, you saved a life this Lent

You can donate to Christian Aid here

Read more about Christian Aid for Lent here  

Soul Sundays: Revolution Newcastle

If you caught up with Tuesday’s post you’d know that last Thursday I headed to Tapas Revolution to enjoy a Spanish feast, on Sunday of the same week I headed to Revolution Newcastle for the launch of Soul Sundays.

The concept behind Soul Sundays is simple. Good traditional British roast dinners accompanied by the sweet soulful sounds of the house band playing a medley of classic tunes as you sip cocktails and enjoy their food offering in the gorgeous surroundings of what was one a bank on the heart of Mosely Street in Newcastle.

Arriving for the launch of Soul Saturdays we were shown to our table situated on the balcony. As the waitress took our drinks order I opted for an Elderflower Bellini, and also asked for some table water too. I am still yet to see my table water…

As we were sat perusing the lunch menu printed on the cutest rustic newspaper with quirky adverts to make you smile and jokes to make you laugh, the band began to play some absolute classic tunes. This well known national chain was bustling with diners, groups of girls sipping mimosas and families with small children feasting on the newly launched menu, the vibe was chilled and it felt super cosmopolitan. This is a great destination for a relaxing afternoon enjoying the sounds of a live band.

For my starter, I opted for the Breaded Halloumi with Hummus, Dukkah, House Flatbread & Pomegranate and my main the Roast Beef Sirloin with Yorkshire Pudding. Since starting to eat meat one of my favourite meals is a big roast on a Sunday, especially with great quality beef.

As we chatted and tapped our feet in time to the music, chatted to the handful of people we knew on surrounding tables our starters arrived. Beautifully presented were triangles of breaded Halloumi with flatbread dividers were positioned upon hummus. Halloumi is my all time favourite cheese, the starter was good, however, in my honest opinion, this probably works better with a more flavoursome cheese such as mozzarella instead of halloumi which is best served grilled for that squeak on your teeth as you take a bite. The hummus was absolutely delicious paired with the flatbread which was served warm. 

After finishing our first course I opted for a diet coke to accompany my dinner, wishing I had taken the metro to enjoy Rev’s amazing cocktails. I mean these guys nail cocktail making! As my coke was brought so too were the mains. We had both opted for the beef. The beef was served half well done, half rare - a strange concept I’ve never experienced before and a mean feat by the chef! The beef was extremely fatty, this might have just been the cut that we had, however, the gravy, Yorkshire pudding and veg were perfect especially the balsamic onion which was delicious. 

Suitably full from the food we toyed with the idea of dessert, deliberating, my inner gluttony began to show itself and I chose the chocolate brownie. My favourite of the three courses this rich, gooey, warm chocolate brownie with chocolate chips and a melting scoop of ice cream was to die for. It was absolutely delicious and I certainly would recommend saving yourself for the brownie!

The afternoon was lovely, it was relaxed and the Soul was fabulous. The food on this occasion was average and at £18 for a three course Sunday lunch I expected more from this, however, having eaten at Revolution previously many times over the years I can honestly say that this has been the first time that it’s been anything less than great! Their cheese fries are to die for and I know that it was just one of those days. This totally won’t put me off returning for food.

With the opening of the new Grey Quarter in intu’s Eldon Square which plays home to an array of different cuisines such as BBQ Steakhouses, Spanish Tapas, Burgers, Pizzas and even Thai (review on that later this week - doing some serious eating at the minute?!) the established Vodka bar positioned next to Central Station really needs to really put on a spectacle to be recognised as a place for great food and a great atmosphere and become the destination to grab Sunday Lunch. The band was fantastic and the atmosphere was so relaxing, just on this occasion the food wasn’t up to the standard it should have been, especially for a Press Launch. 

Soul Sundays Menu is priced £15 for two courses and £18 for threes courses and is available every Sunday from now on at Revolution Newcastle.



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Disclaimer: This meal was complimentary, all views are my own. Read more about disclosure here.

Tapas Revolution Newcastle: Estrella Galicia Pairing Evening

If you’ve been keeping up I’ve recently returned from Tenerife where I visited Aqualand & Siam Park with my cousins and even when the weather was rubbish we headed to see if we could complete the Canary Escape Game, so when I arrived at a very cold Manchester Airport the week before last you can imagine just how I felt after a week in the sunshine, that was until I checked my mailbox and saw an invite to the Estrella Galicia beer pairing evening at the newly opened Tapas Revolution in the Grey Quarter of Eldon Square.

Now if you’ve never heard of Tapas Revolution before it’s the brainchild of celebrity chef Omar Allibhoy, who’s been dubbed the ‘Antonio Banderas’ of the food world by none other than Gordon Ramsay. With previously having fed royalty and Hollywood celebrities he’s on a mission to revolutionise the Spanish food scene, and Newcastle is his next stop.

With 5 other restaurants under his belt, this skilled culinary chef is passionate about Tapas Revolution bringing something different to the table and not becoming another chain. Which upon entering the rustic, traditionally Spanish looking restaurant you can see is apparent.

Originally from Madrid, Omar has been treating the UK to his skills for the last 11 years and his vision of bringing a bustling tapas restaurant to Newcastle has paid off.

Arriving at Tapas Revolution with my gorgeous lady and the North East’s Fashion Queen, none other than Fashion Voyeur, Pixie we were greeted with an extremely warm welcome by the maître d' of the restaurant who showed us to the high table in the centre of the restaurant with 10 seats around it.

As we took a seat at the end of the table next to a host of other familiar faces from the North East influencer scene we began to peruse the drinks menu. Opting for a cocktail both Pixie and I chose the Ginger & Chili Cobbler. It arrived in a tall glass garnished with a slice of ginger, an excellent choice for wetting our appetites, this mix of tequila was fruity and fresh and prepared us for beer tasting.

With Spanish olives and tapenade, a plenty we chatted between ourselves before the first three of the Estrella Galicia beers were brought out. The first, a light 0.0% alcohol-free number which was perfect for pairing with bread, and light food such as the Tortilla which was served as part of the tapas starter. This light but delicious Spanish delicacy was the best tortilla I’ve ever tasted, served with a garlic aioli, I’m not just saying that either, after a couple of shared tortilla’s in Tenerife with my cousin I can now class myself as a little bit of a tortilla expert?

This beer also worked really well to compliment the Octopus with sliced potatoes and paprika. Octopus is one of those dishes that I really enjoy, but only seem to have a couple of times a year as you can never seem to find great quality fresh dishes, with Omar explaining that all ingredients are sourced and imported freshly from Spain to keep the authentic flavours there’s no wonder this was perhaps my favourite dish of all of the starters. I love watching people eating Octopus for the first time, especially when they’re grossed out with the tentacles, it’s great as a conversation starter between friends as they gather to share tapas and a great time.

The atmosphere at Tapas Revolution is extremely vibrant and is full of Spanish spirit, with a fantastic fiesta-style atmosphere it really is a great place for meeting with friends or somewhere to go on a date to share food. 

The second beer, a slightly darker mix and offering 6% volume was a little more full bodied and was great paired with the crusty, freshly baked bread with lashings of chilli butter and topped with Serrano ham which had been freshly sliced before serving. It was amazing to learn from the Estrella Galicia team that the richer the food the better it is paired with a darker more fuller bodied beer. The second beer of the three served with the food was a richer smoother beer and extremely quaffable. 

If you’re heading to Tapas Revolution you must order the croquettes, they are to die for. The smoothest creamiest mash is encased in the most delicious breadcrumbs, they were served piping hot and were absolutely delicious. They were perfect teamed with the second beer, the 4.7% best-selling Estrella Galicia Lager.

Once we had laughed over tapas starters we were served one of Omar’s speciality dishes and something I was really looking forward to, Paella. This chicken and rice dish was served between four and was absolutely huge. I’d normally opt for a seafood paella and usually would never give chicken paella a look in but this worked extremely well. The rice was perfectly cooked, the chicken and sauce were the perfect combinations and I seriously can’t recommend this dish enough. When I return I certainly will be opting for this dish. I paired this chicken paella with the third beer a 6.5% 1906 Reserva Especial which was a little more full bodied and really complimented the dish perfectly. 

Before heading to Tapas Revolution I had never thought about beer pairing, however having three different beers served over the course of the tapas and paella it really got me thinking about choosing the perfect beer to compliment your meal. Think of it like red wine for meat and white for fish, the lighter the beer the better it is paired with lighter dishes.

For the final course, Omar treats us to a Spanish twist on bread and butter pudding. This brioche bun, soaked in custard was devilishly sweet, paired with a stout looking Estrella, the 1906 Black Coupage which was actually a dark beer and not a stout, with a chocolate, sweet flavour this was a pudding made in heaven for somebody with a sweet tooth.

As we finished up our desserts and beers we chatted a little more to Omar who is so passionate about creating a bustling hub for great quality nationality food in Newcastle and headed home, as we left Pixie and I spotted their breakfast menu and instantly looked at each other as we both knew what the other was thinking…..see you for breakfast, Omar!

Omar’s book Spanish Made Simple is available now to purchase and honestly, if you can recreate his recipe half as great as his then you’re onto a winner!

Disclaimer: This meal was complimentary, all views are my own. Read more about disclosure here.

Road Testing Hidrives, the driving shoe of the future

When I was first asked to road test a pair of driving shoes I must admit I wondered what difference could they possibly make and what on earth would I ever find to write about them. Fast forward 2 months and I can honestly say that they are my absolute most favourite pair of comfortable shoes that I possess. 

I have ditched my trainers, my flip flops and my Birkenstocks in favour of a pair of practical and stylish Hidrives. 

If you haven't discovered them yet Hidrives are from IFIQAS and are lightweight shoes made from a breathable stretch fabric. The soles are substantial and durable enough to make these shoes extremely wearable and with cushioned heels they are absolutely heavenly. They are currently available in black with black, white and pink soles or pink with pink, orange and white soles. These fabulous ladies pumps are a really stylish addition to any daily wardrobe. 

They slip on and fit your feet neatly and perfectly giving the same comfort as if you were barefoot. I have found that I keep them by the front door ready to slip on if I'm bobbing around the corner to the shop, nipping out in the car or taking the dog for a walk, they are my go-to shoe of choice for everyday use. 

I am about to go on holiday and will be wearing my Hidrives for flying. The breathable stretch fabric will be perfect for keeping my feet cool and comfortable and reduce any in-flight swollen feet. While having my holiday haircut I was talking to my hairdresser the other day about them and she thought they would be ideal for her standing all day and the added grip of the soles would be of great benefit to her in the salon. 

I like that they slip on and off easily but hug your feet comfortably when you are wearing them. I also like how neat they make your feet look and they are just as great with jeans as they are with gym wear and shorts. The practical nature of these lovely little lightweight shoes means you can pop them in the car to change into or even in your handbag for when you get those tired shopping legs. 

I personally spend a lot of time down at the beach with the dog and the flexible durable nature of the soles give me sufficient grip when I am scrambling across the rocks after him. My dog has also taken me slipping my shoes on as a sign that he is about to head out of the door for a walk too! 

I currently have them in black but will be buying a pink pair for Summer. I couldn't recommend these shoes highly enough. 

And as for their intended purpose....driving; they are absolutely terrific but I've found a million and one other reasons to wear them I love them that much. 

 

Amazing Ideas for Cooking with Rice Cooker

You think that a rice cooker can only use for cooking rice, right? – That thought is wrong. It is sure that you will get perfect rice, but you will still get a myriad of delicious foods. Do you want to try a new recipe for your rice cooker? Here are a couple of amazing ideas you can apply for your rice cooker, instead of only cooking rice.

Ideas – One More for Cooking with Your Rice Cooker

You can think of this – using a rice cooker like a slow cooker. By using the moist heat during the cooking time, this is a way to trap the flavour. Even, some models of rice cookers come with the slow-cooking setting. It means that the rice cooker can replace the slow cooker.

Even though you have just owned a conventional rice cooker with the cook and warm settings, tricking it to cook one more is still okay. Let’s see!

1. Home Staples

  • Chicken Curry

There are 3 wonderful reasons why you should make this. One – the curry is delicious. Two – it is easy to make. The last one – its ingredients are common and no more obscure spices. You only need to add all the ingredients in your rice cooker a moment. Surely, the smell of curry will quickly revive in your kitchen. 

For the vegetarian, the chicken is likely skipped. Nonetheless, it will be very monotonous if it is just curry. So, you can add a little vegetable. Potatoes are also an ideal selection.

  • Kimchi

A large number of people spend a special love for kimchi. Instead of only purchase the version at the store, you may try to make at home. Yes, your rice cooker is a perfect machine to whip these spicy cabbages.

To make this dish, your rice cooker will be occupied a couple of days because kimchi must hang out for several days. Of course, the result is quite worth.

  • Quinoa

Whatever you get used to eating quinoa for meals in a day or you only enjoy it the first times, now making become simpler and easier. Don’t have to keep your open eyes! After rinsing the quinoa, you add them to your rice cooker – the end. 

If preferred, you probably make every week. To increase the flavour, it adds a little fresh herb, lemon juice, and almonds. All are the great addition. A dish is delicious and simple, right?

2. Soup & Chilli

  • Chicken & daikon soup

When the weather is cold, a Chinese-hearty soup will be wonderful. The combination of chicken with ginger brings the warm to the bone yours. Initially, it sets your rice cooker at the cook mode. Then, it changes to the warm setting when recognising the broth got a rich.

  • Taco soup

The Tex-Mex cravings often move towards. Yes, this soup will help you satisfy this. The main ingredients consist of chicken, vegetables, and brown rice. It puts in a bowl and serves with Greek yoghurt, cheese, avocado, for example, depending on your preference.

  • Chicken chili

This dish is easy to be made in your rice cooker. With the fundamental chicken chilli, you are able to utilise your preferred beans, the ground chicken to replace beef, along with a little red pepper crushed. Oh! The flavour is delicious and warm.

3. Meaty Dishes

  • Country-style ribs

Frequently, we are acquainted with ribs on an oven or a grill, but not now. You can make ribs in beer. Exactly, your normal rice cooker will be able to offer ribs cooked a perfect way. 

Aside from coming with a classic sauce, you likely cook in a hands-free style because the time to mop up the sauce is less. Even, you still have time to prepare the napkins while waiting for it chow down. So easy!

  • Sausage Jambalaya

This dish is to spend for those who are often busy don’t have time to prepare a dish. It requires to add the essential ingredients to your humble rice cooker and cook. Don’t try peeking! Let’s wait until the beans, rice, and sauce have gradually melded together and the attractive flavour.

  • Roasted pork

It uses a rice cooker to roast pork, instead, an oven. Both pork and garlic will be sautéed in a pan after beginning roasting. It makes sure that the taste will spread out your rice cooker. 

As a result, the roasted pork is also hearty and delicious as roasted in a slow cooker. It will be better when serving with sandwiches, tacos, and salads.

4. Breakfast & Sweet Treats

  • Chocolate cake

The majority of the people likes to eat cake in the morning, so baking is actually interesting. To make a chocolate cake, you just need to throw ten necessary ingredients with a little water into your lovely rice cooker. If you are a vegetarian, it is not necessary to add milk or eggs.

It comfortably adds anything you like on the top – peanuts, butter – a good idea. Like that, you have a delicious dessert for breakfast.

  • Rice pudding

That all you need is a rice cooker and four ingredients so as to make a favourite dessert. You are not a fan of rice pudding – no problem. You will probably change your thought when looking at the simple version. It only takes a little time, but you get a homemade dessert healthily.

  • Poached pomegranate spiced pears

A variety of ingredients includes cinnamon, pears, cardamom, and anise. All make an elegant dessert, especially, if you have the need for a party. Nothing is difficult when you can add all to your rice cooker. It is easy, right?

Yes, it believes that you will love these new recipes, because now you will be able to use your humble rice cooker for a wide range of purposes, instead of only cooking rice. Happy cooking enjoy!

Top 10 Ski Destinations for Beginners with Ski Goggle GIVEAWAY

You know that feeling where you should have been born a penguin or a polar bear? No? Alright, must just be us then! We absolutely adore the ice and snow and being a self-confessed ice-skating fanatic and skiing fan there’s nothing better than a week off piste and we don’t just mean the few glasses of champagne after a hard day on the slopes.

If you’ve never been skiing before and you’re wondering where’s best for beginners we’ve picked our top 10 ski resorts. Think Chalet Girl, our favourite film featuring the handsome Ed Westwick (swoon girls, it’s Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl), think stepping out looking your finest in co-ordinating salopettes and think the cutest ski instructor that you’re desperate not toe fall over in front of.

They say Skiing is like riding a bike and once you get the hang of it, your skills return, that’s unless you’re rubbish at riding a bike. Then we have issues. So here it is, our Top 10 Ski Resorts for Beginners.

Bankso, Bulgaria

Perhaps when you think of Skiing, Bulgaria isn’t the first place that springs to mind, but let us tell you it’s surprising good for Skiing and with sheltered lower runs amongst the trees it’s ideal for beginners of all ages and abilities. With an extremely well-respected Ski School, the resort is situated at the foot of the Pirin Mountain. With great snow at a fraction of the price of a trip to Val d’sere this 16 run resort boasts 30% of their runs suitable for first timers and beginners.

La Rosière, France

With 39 lifts and pistes of up to 160k these pleasant pistes and easy accessibility is an excellent choice for beginners. La Rosière is made up of two centres the first and oldest La Rosière and the newer centre Les Eucherts which is linked by a path through the trees. With beginner tuition packages on offer this glorious resort is not only aesthetically pleasing but a great location with fantastic facilities to learn how to Ski.

Pralognan-la-Vanoise, France

If you’re looking for traditional then the Alpine Village at Pralognan-la-Vanoise is perfect not only for the relaxed atmosphere but offers a small network of slopes offers simply the greatest introduction to gentle Skiing.

Telluride, Colorado

From the UK this is our furthest location on our guide but it’s worth the long-haul trip, effort and expense. This Ski resort is wedged deep in a breathtaking canyon. This old mining town is home to where Butch Cassidy robbed his first bank and as far as the Skiing goes, it’s spectacular. With multiple beginner slopes, which vary in length the Ski school has the most fantastic staff who are great instructors, the tuition is reasonably priced too and lift ticket and equipment hire is included. If you’re looking to kick off your Ski career in style, let it be in Telluride.

Soldeu, Andorra

For many years Skiing wasn’t accessible for the masses and often was seen as pretentious, and in some resorts, this stigma for the rich and famous remains, not in Soldeu. With large ski areas with mostly gentle slopes, the Ski School is run by Brit, Gordon Standeven, which is undoubtedly the jewel in Soldeu’s crown. Gordon is fantastic at guiding newbies through their first turns and comes highly recommended.

Saas Fee, Switzerland

This picturesque stunning backdrop set beneath 4000m peaks and a large glacier is the perfect setting and introduction to the Alps for you to find your legs and learn to head down the slopes like a pro (maybe a semi-pro?). The little town which is charming and unhurried is car-free and, with the beginner slopes set to one side of the main skiing area the fear of intimidation from those seasoned veterans is eliminated. Once you’ve got the hang of Skiing through group tuition in the beginner's area you can head on down the intermediate pistes.

Cervinia, Italy

Just like Saas Fee, in places Cervinia is also car-free and is extremely quiet at night, but don’t let this put you off as the easy slopes are fantastic for beginners and with a focus on personal tuition at an ultra cheap price this resort and your Ski tuition will cost a fraction of what it does in the A-list French Resorts. Of course, there are group tuition lessons and we’d probably recommend you attend group tuition and meet other people just as confused as you as how to even get their Skis on, but towards the end of the week, go it alone so you can put your newfound skills to practice

La Plagne, France

If you have small children and are looking to get them into Skiing from an early age we suggest you look at La Plagne in France. Beginner Ski Week packages are available for all of the family and there’s a focus on the smaller members here. With a ski-in/ski-out hotel situated next to nursery slopes and the Ski School, there’s classes and tuition for all ages. 

Baqueira Beret, Spain

The Spanish slopes of Baqueria Beret which are set in the Spanish Pyrenees are relatively unknown and super beginner-friendly. Their reasonable pricing is a welcome change from nearby Andorra. This perfect setting for novices includes inexpensive tuition on their nursery slopes which progress to green and blue slopes (they’re the easier routes). The ski school at Baqueria Beret is the only British-run school in the Pyrenees and with an Alps level of teaching standard you know you’re going to get the best tuition possible here in Spain without the price tag of Alps prices. 

Winklmoosalm, Austria

If you’re the kind of novice where a steep slope scares you then a trip to Austria is on the cards for you! These flat and wide slopes make your introduction to Skiing not only seamless but less intimidating. With multiple Ski lift options including tow rope, t-bar and chairlift the daunting pre-slope preparation is also taken care of for beginners!

Giveaway Time!

There you have our top ten places to learn to Ski for beginners. Now you’ve planned your trip you’ll need all of the gear. We’re offering you a chance as one of our readers to win a pair of Kamswan Ski Goggles worth £59.99. These are Adult sized, Anti-fog OTG UV400 Protection Detachable Double Lens for Winter Outdoor Sport.

To be in with a chance of winning entry is simple. Just head over to our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages and like and comment the images, if you wish to share, repost or retweet we’d love you more so but it’s not compulsory - you must be following our social media profiles to be certified a valid winner.

T&Cs. Entry is open to residents in Mainland UK and the competition closes 14th March 2017. No cash alternative. Winner must redeem your prize within 48 hours of being announced. 

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Spotlight on Tenerife: Aqualand and Siam Park, Waterparks

If you’re heading to Tenerife this year with your family the South of the Island is the perfect place to stay from Playa de la Americas, Los Cristianos to Adeje there’s a sprawling mass of hotels, apartments and villas.

My Grandparents had rented a two bedroom apartment in Adeje, a thirty-second walk from Aqualand, for 7 weeks. Arriving mid-January to avoid the dreary weather of The Lake District they went in search of sunshine. Their apartment was perfectly sized for both them and for when the three of us (myself and my two younger cousins) arrived. 

We visited Aqualand on the Monday of our week long stay. The older of the two water parks which are located within 5 minutes of each other, the other being Siam Park (we’ll talk about that further down the post), we had decided to go here first.

The sunshine was beating down and the ground was hot to touch, we made our entrance to the warmer of the pools that had jets and jacuzzi bubbles before heading on the Lava River, we know now why they haven’t called it the lazy river, as there’s no current to push you along and instead you have to push yourself around the trail. Fortunately, I shared a double float with my youngest cousin so he did all the work.

After our disappointment from the Lava River we headed to the wave pool where the waves were about to begin, they were high and strong and my cousins were like fish in the water catching the waves and swimming. 

There were multiple large slides which all were great to go down in pairs, they were extremely bumpy and had us flying around. These kind of slides are possibly my favourite as they allow you both to experience the slide together and laugh about it more so than as a single rider. There were loops and turns and big splashes. 

Heading to Aqualand with my Grandma who hates water she positioned herself in the sunshine on a sun bed, having to pay €2 per bed after entry to the park we all agreed that not necessarily the price was the issue but it was more principle that these beds should be free to lie on.

There were other slides for single riders and my youngest cousin absolutely loved the slide that he referred to as the ‘Plug-hole’ where you go down the slide, into a dish, spin around a couple of times and then drop through a hole like a plug-hole. He must have gone on this four or five times.

There were slides and water playgrounds for babies and toddlers and smaller slides for younger children (my 8-year-old cousin tested these out, though) which are great for those who aren’t tall enough to go on the larger slides.

The best part of the day was the dolphin show which my Grandma knew started at 15:30, as daily when sunbathing in their apartment’s garden she hears the tannoy announcing this. We all headed to the newly built dolphin arena with a 127m deep tank, three pools for the dolphins to swim in and a sophisticated disinfectant system to ensure optimum hygiene for the dolphins. The show began and the auditorium was full of excited families watching the dolphins flip, wave, talk and save their trainers. As far as animals kept in parks go these dolphins were immaculately kept, they looked extremely happy and you could see the mutual love for their trainers and the love the trainers had for these highly intelligent animals.

We thoroughly enjoyed Aqualand as a whole and although the ground is extremely rough (take cheap flip-flops for walking around) you can see with the addition of Siam Park they are continually trying to improve, there’s building work going on behind the dolphin arena to build new slides. Our only qualms about the park is that we didn’t agree that you had to pay extra for sun loungers and to enter the tanks below the dolphin arena (they call it the dolphin museum) - this is €2.50 per person and again not astronomically priced but when a family of 5 pays around €100 for a ticket then an additional €12.50 to go to the dolphin museum is a little steep.

We since found if you book directly on the Aqualand site you receive €2 off your ticket, alternatively, we found cheaper Aqualand tickets here

All in all, we had a good day and both my 14-year-old and 8-year-old cousin enjoyed their visit. 

On the Wednesday we planned to head to Siam Park, having already purchased our tickets after looking to find the best Siam Park Discount Tickets we could we were able to attend at any time within the next 10 days from the tickets being issued. The sky was very grey when we woke up on Wednesday and there was a brown/yellow weather warning (according to the locals). We were all ready to go when the heavens opened. What else would we be able to do on this wet and dreary day, after all, we would be soaked anyways going on the water slides? So clambering into our rental car we drove the two minutes along the road to Siam Park.

Of course, there were no queues and we managed to get in before two bus loads of people arrived. Heading through the gates we were treated by a family of Californian sea lions. These beautiful creatures swam around as a diver scrubbed the bottom of their tank and their trainer fed them and picked up fallen leaves and any further rubbish.

The Thai-themed water park was extremely Americanised and if you’ve ever been to the theme parks in Florida or California you’ll know what I’m talking about. Siam Park’s ownerMr Wolfgang Kiessling spent many years working in America and Canada and gained a bounty of knowledge as best practice in the parks and this really shows. The park is immaculately kept and whilst the rain was beating down the workers were ensuring that the paths were swept, the litter was picked up, the tables in the beach club were kept clean and rubbish was disposed of. There was staff absolutely everywhere manning the rides and ensuring that the park operations ran as smoothly as possible.

We headed straight to the man-made beach which is the home of the waves which reach heights of 40ft! The golden sands and shallow water’s edge lead to an extremely deep pool. My cousins swam about enjoying the pool as the rain bounced off the water before the waves began. Seeing the size of them and knowing I’m not a fan of strong currents I headed to sit with my Grandma and Granda who were making the most of the shelter underneath the complimentary parasol and sun loungers. They later headed to take cover underneath the shelter of the beach club which served an array of food from around the world including pizza, noodles, fajitas and more all at great holiday park prices. My Grandma & Granda each had a coffee and a muffin at the cost of €2.95 which was exceptional value for a park.

After the kids had swum in and under the waves, we headed to the first slides, with double floats everywhere we could tell that this park, the secondary addition to the island renowned Loro Parque, was all about the experience together. Grabbing our floats we headed up the stairs, where the ground surface had been well thought out, smooth and pebble free, unlike Aqualand. Myself and my youngest cousin headed down the slide first as he squealed in terror and enjoyment, shortly followed down by my other cousin.

This pool was home to four different slides which twisted and turned, went dark, then exposed you to the elements of outside before hitting the water. My older cousin of the two then braved the tables single rider slide of the park, this death drop named The Tower of Power which is 28m high and reaches speeds of 60km/h, this  is not suitable for anybody under the age of 14, so alongside my 8-year-old cousin we waited to watch her at the bottom as she went from the highest point of the park, through the shoot in the shark tank and out into the warm heated pool all within 6 seconds!

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This hair-raising slide was thoroughly enjoyed by the thrill seeker so we headed to the next ride on their list, The Dragon. This four person float headed down a slide and into a large dish shape where you were, as a group, flung about from side to side before heading back down a slide and out at the other end. It’s worth noting at this point that the water at Siam Park is heated and the use of chlorine is used, unlike Aqualand which is freezing cold with the use of salt-water for disinfectant.

Back up the steps, we went in the pouring rain to take on The Vulcano, a similar concept to the dragon and again a float for four this time a laser show and hot steam was our fate. Giggling and laughing, after screaming his head off on The Dragon my younger cousin absolutely loved this ride.

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We headed back for the waves at the beach which happen hourly at twenty to the hour and then grabbed a spot of lunch where my youngest cousin was treated to a Siam Park baseball cap priced at only €1! Although the more expensive park of the two water parks once inside the cost of your day is well thought through. If you’re visiting Tenerife and looking for things to do you can buy a multi-park ticket for Loro Parque and Siam Park together which saves you a little bit of money. Loro Parque has been voted the best park in Europe and the second best in the world.

Back to the rides, we headed to the other side of the park where we headed down white water rafts, again in a four, a rather wet and fierce log flume and another ride for four very similar to The Dragon and The Vulcano. These rides were exhilarating and great fun for the three of us, especially as my youngest cousin was able to enjoy them too, as well as us being able to enjoy them all together.

Whilst at this part of the park we noticed they were further building new rides and expanding which is only positive for the future. We went back on all of the slides in which we loved again as the rain got much heavier and the park started to clear, typically it was only the British walking around in the rain enjoying the park towards the end of the day.

We headed back and got dried before making the short trip home to get a warm shower. All in all, we all were glad to have visited Aqualand first and then Siam Park as the five of us agreed that Siam Park was our favourite park. It was great in the rain and the weather didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the day but could imagine the heat and a bit of sunshine making the end of the rides all that bit better when getting wet. Although the more expensive of the two parks we thought it was much better value for money and once inside the park the prices for food, drinks and merchandise wasn’t ridiculous.

We all agreed we would head back to Siam Park next year when our Grandparents return to Tenerife and we visit them for a week as we enjoyed it so much, knowing how fantastic this park was we also would look at getting tickets for Loro Parque too!

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Spotlight on Tenerife: What to do in Adeje when the weather isn’t great

So the weather wasn’t great for two of the days I was in Tenerife when I headed to see my Grandma & Granda with my two younger cousins who are 8 and 14, during half term. We didn’t want to just sit about so we scoured the internet and found indoor activities that we could do altogether despite the age range. Thinking of something a little different we stumbled upon the Canary Escape Game. Having a little knowledge of these escape rooms but no actual experience it was something that I really was keen to do.

Explaining the concept to my youngest cousin he was so excited to head from our apartment along past Aqualand and down along to Adeje's seafront, he was excited but not quite as excited as my Granda who absolutely loves problem-solving.

The five of us headed on down to the escape game, when we arrived the game was completely fully booked until 8 pm, which was too late for my little cousin, so we booked for the first slot at 10 am the following day which was also meant to be a little grey and overcast. Fortunately, the day brightened up and we caught some sunshine.

The following day we headed to the game where we were once again greeted by the owners, who were extremely friendly and extremely passionate about what they do. 

We all sat down in the Pirate themed front room where the game was explained to us, we were given a mission and this was read aloud by one of my cousins. After this, we were then led through to the ‘travel agent’s office’ where the game would begin. The story of the game was we were due to board a plane but the travel agent lost the tickets and we as a team had to try and find the treasure on an island we were stranded on.

In the travel agents office there were lots of locked boxes, and items lying around, the first clue was to guess the password for the computer which my cousin got almost instantly. The first room is designed to get your bearings as you all have to work together to solve the clues and find all the bits and pieces in the travel agent’s office to collect your ticket to move onto the next game. 

After hunting high and low everywhere and the five of us trying to find pieces of the puzzle to fit together we unlocked all of the boxes and found the code to unlock the door and move to the next room. I don’t know if I loved the excitement of the game or seeing how well we worked as a team or seeing my Granda’s eyes light up with enjoyment as he absolutely loves logic solving.

We entered the second room which was dark and required, even more, team work than the first room, as my Grandma and older cousin searched around to find the Pirate’s favourite drink, my Granda and younger cousin were looking for clues, I, on the other hand, was in my own world tipping things upside down, finding keys and batteries, walking around piecing bits together and then we all came back together with different pieces of the clues to solve the riddle of the room, open the lock and move to the next room.

This is super hard to write descriptively without giving any spoilers away - because the Canary Escape Game comes highly recommended if you’re holidaying to Tenerife this year!

When we began the game we were given a walkie-talkie to communicate with the owners in case we got super stuck, they watch you on the monitor but they aren’t able to hear you unless talking across the radios. They don’t give the game away at all just help you ever so slightly by pointing you in the right direction.

Once we had entered the third and final room we had to piece together bits we had found in the other to rooms, find keys and codes to uncover the hidden treasure. With puzzled looks on our faces from time to time and some surprises to be uncovered, we worked exceptionally well as a team and eventually found the treasure…a bottle of fizz, much to our delight.

The adventure was great and we completed the game in 1:00:45 which was an amazing time, especially since the record for the game is 39 minutes, held by a group of 6 who travel the world completing escape games. The Canary Escape Game comes extremely highly recommended and was fun for all the family. Our age range spanned from 8 to 72 and was great for us all!

We hope when we return the next and newest game is open which apparently is going to be the Da Vinci Code. Here’s to hoping!

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