This post will be slightly later than usual, apologies for that. It’s also slightly different from the normal “off I go by myself to somewhere random” posts I appear to churn out on the regular, but nonetheless I hope it’ll be interesting/useful?
Also, due to my poor memory and crap phone camera, I’m going to have to rely mostly on Google images for certain aspects of the trip, but all credit will be given where due.
Mr Roams’ lovely parents recently celebrated their wedding anniversary and very kindly invited us all to Disneyland Paris to celebrate. I was *ecstatic* as I’ve never been to any of the Disney parks, but it’s been a long held dream of mine ever since I saw this promo on a VHS in the early 90s:
(Michael Jackson… wow, that promo has not aged well)
For personal reasons I’m not going to document this trip, but it was as amazing as you’d expect 🙂
Coincidentally, two weeks later, Mr Roams and I headed to Orlando…
Now, before we start, I’m fully aware there are literal professional Disney bloggers out there (The Disney Blog, Disney Tourist Blog, Planning the Magic, Polka Dots and Pixie Dust to name a few….), so I’m not about to jump headfirst into Disney blogging. I genuinely wouldn’t know where to start. But what I *can* do is tell you what we ended up doing, as well as touching on what we did afterwards, so if you fancy reading about that, carry on!
We flew out to Orlando on the 30th March via the Virgin Clubhouse at Gatwick (reviewed extensively in the Cuba post, and yes, I did drink as much champagne as last time). Premium economy once again was a dream, and has spoiled me for any future flights I may take, so that’s fun, but we got to Orlando at around 5pm local time, and immediately headed to the hotel. We chose to stay at a non-resort hotel (Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, next to Disney Springs) which was a great little hotel and a good location for exploring the parks. It was a five minute walk from Disney Springs, really lovely decor, and was fairly reasonably priced, which was a bonus considering I’m currently bankrupt from that trip.
From there, we managed to explore the vast majority of the Disney World parks – my review of each below…
The classic Disney park, complete with the Cinderella castle, Main Street (a replication of an American town at the turn of the 20th century), Fantasyland (fairy tales), Liberty Square (quintessential historical American square) , Frontierland (Wild West themed!), Adventureland (Pirates of the Caribbean/Tiki Rooms – a focus on adventure and travel), and Tomorrowland (focus on the future/Walt’s idea of what the future may look like). As you can imagine, this place was completely rammed – possibly too many people at some points – but the Fast Passes saved our asses and enabled us to split our time in the park between all of the different ‘lands’.
My favourite part of the MK was definitely Tomorrowland (although Frontierland was also super fun – Splash Mountain may as well have been renamed Soakin’ Mountain). I have a mild fascination with anything future-related (which may be why I ended up in tech), and it was awesome to see how Walt thought the world would be in ‘the future’. The 60s influences were big – I’m not sure the PeopleMover is ever going to take off, sorry Walt…
Other highlights of the MK were Splash Mountain (as mentioned earlier), Pirates of the Caribbean (classic). It’s A Small World (also classic), Carousel of Progress, and all of the frankly adorable shops and small cafes on Main Street. Loved MK.
Rosi Roams Disney rating: 8/10
Epcot stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, and is based on an unfinished concept by Walt Disney around the future of urban living in America. I’ve gotta say, although it felt slightly random in parts, Epcot was by far my favourite of the Disney parks. Half of Epcot focuses on a ‘World Showcase’, and y’all know how much I enjoy travelling, and the other half just has a lot of really cool content, mostly around the future and technology. In the heart of it all is a massive golf ball. I mean, what’s not to love?
The World Showcase is a selection of replications of countries – namely America (duh), Japan, Morocco, France, the UK, Canada, Mexico, Norway, China, Germany and Italy. The most impressive replications in my eyes were Japan, France, and China – I also really enjoyed Mexico. The UK was predictably disappointing (a number of countries had awesome rides and wonderful panoramic films… the UK had a Beatles tribute band. Shit.), and I also thought they probably could have done more with Italy, but on the whole I loved the World Showcase. The food and drink was great, and I loved how each country had employees from that specific country working there. A really nice touch. There was also the Epcot passport which I was very excited by, possibly too excited for my own good (and yes, I got all the stamps, yaaaaas).
The Future World part of the park focused on the future of the world (duh?). There were sections of the park focused on the sea, land, space, innovations and technology… and my favourite ride ever, Soarin’. My god, did I love Soarin’. I dragged Mr Roams on it quite a few times, because it is the best ride at Epcot (bar maybe the Avatar ride at Animal Kingdom, which will be touched on below). You’re suspended over a platform and are subjected to a beautiful film exploring all four corners of the world – complete with gentle rocking and some scents and special effects in parts. It’s just amazing – I’m really not selling it.
There were some other bits and bobs in the park which were quite cool – Mr Roams particularly enjoyed the Chevrolet-sponsored Test Track, where you get to build a virtual car then ‘test’ it – and all-in-all I really enjoyed Epcot. Top park fo’ sho’.
Rosi Roams Disney rating: 9/10
Animal Kingdom is by far the largest park in the Disney suite – in terms of acres, content, and animals! As the name would suggest, this is the ‘nature’ part of Disney World, with an emphasis on animals, nature, ecology and the environment, but there’s also a divergence to the continents of Africa and Asia which fitted in nicely with the theme of the rest of the park. We visited a couple of times, most notably at night as part of the ‘Disney After Hours’ event, which was *amazing*.
The park is centred around the Tree of Life on Discovery Island (above) which is a beautifully carved sculpture of a baobab tree. From there, you can go to the following areas:
- Pandora – the World of Avatar (an area around, you guessed it, Avatar)
- Dinoland USA (dinosaurs a-go-go)
- Africa (as mentioned above)
- Rafiki’s Planet Watch (centred around conservation – mostly for children)
- Asia (as above)
The rides include Flight of Passage (an Avatar themed ride similar to Soarin’ which was incredible), DINOSAUR (absolutely terrifying), It’s Tough To Be A Bug (a 4D show which I absolutely hated, but little kids around me seemed to love, go figure), Kilimanjaro Safaris (amazing genuine safari around the animals in the Animal Kingdom. Lions, tigers and flamingos, oh my!), Kali River Rapids (take a poncho or just plan on getting wet), and Expedition Everest (a Nepalese mountain trek themed rollercoaster).
I really enjoyed Animal Kingdom but I felt the other parks may have had more to offer in terms of rides, so if you want to go on a load of rollercoasters, you may be better off going to Magic Kingdom. Just my two cents.
Rosi Roams Disney rating: 8/10
Last but not least, Disney Hollywood Studios, which is basically Disney’s homage to Hollywood and the film industry – indeed, there used to be actual animators working there. There is a LOT to see and do here, some of which I don’t feel really belonged there (Rock and Rollercoaster isn’t film themed, for example), but it was still a great park with a lot of different attractions.
The park is split into a few different areas, as are most of the Disney World parks:
- Echo Lake (centred around films, here is where the Indiana Jones stunt show, Frozen singalong show, and Star Tours live)
- Grand Avenue (Muppets 3D show and a load of restaurants, it’s a bit of a nondescript area)
- Toy Story Land (as it says on the tin, this is Toy Story themed – Mr Roams particularly enjoyed the Slinky Dog Dash, but you can also go on Toy Story Mania! and Alien Saucer Swirl, both of which were awesome. We loved the theming here!).
- Animation Courtyard (a bit of a mish mash, in my eyes deserves a ton more attention and recognition, but here’s where you can see a lot of history of Disney and the animations)
- Sunset Boulevard (the blockbuster area – with Tower of Terror, Beauty and the Beast on stage, and Rock and Rollercoaster ft Aerosmith).
My favourite ride here was 100% Rock and Rollercoaster, and 100% not Tower of Terror, which I had a panic attack on as I hate drop rides with a passion (I’ve watched far too many plane crash documentaries for it to be an enjoyable experience). However, it was Mr Roams’ favourite ride, and I have to say the theming was exceptional. We both loved Rock and Rollercoaster though, and I’m gutted the Paris one will be replaced and rethemed with the Avengers soon. You can’t beat Steven Tyler, and to be honest you shouldn’t even try.
Rosi Roams Disney rating: 8/10
Overall, I bloody loved Disney. I felt like a child again in the best possible way (no Benjamin Button here), and I could relax for a little while without worrying about the outside world too much. The only issues for me were the crowds/queues, and the price of everything – but as Mr Roams and I always say, you work to enjoy yourself at the end of the day, and nobody wants to be the richest skeleton in the graveyard.
After Orlando, we drove down to Miami to attend a work event for me, and we then parted ways briefly – Mr Roams in New York for work, and me back to DC to visit the family I nannied for a few years ago and spend time with them and other family friends (see my DC post from 2016 here). We couldn’t have asked for a better two weeks really, and I know I’ll be remembering my first Disney trips for a long time. I’m still not turning into a Disney blogger though.
Alright la? Another month has passed and I have a bag of crap to go through for your delight. This month was slightly low on the ground compared to previous months, mostly because a) I’ve been travelling around and haven’t used my regular products much, and b) because I’ve used up so much since the start of the year, I’m back to starting from scratch with my newer products. Still, I hope you enjoy seeing what I’ve been using to make me look like a human being over the past month?
Total number of products used up: 14
Estimated retail value of products used up: £159.92
Total value of products used up this year already: £642.45
(L-R: LA Fresh Makeup Remover Wipe, GlamGlow Gravity Mud Face Mask)
LA Fresh Makeup Remover Wipe – 7/10 – As I said, I’ve done a *lot* of travelling this month (4 states, multiple flights, all that good stuff), and I bought a set of these wipes from one of the hotels when I realised I’d run out of micellar water (reviewed in March, it snuck in the last day). These were cheap and honestly, pretty damn good. I wear a significant amount of makeup and it put up a pretty good fight against my daily mask. They mostly sell these to hotels in the US, hence knocking off a few points for availability, but you can buy them online if you’re US-based and fancy giving them a whirl.
GlamGlow Gravity Mud Face Mask – 7/10 – I’d seen this stuff floating around the beauty blogs for a long time and thought they looked kinda fun, but the price was… less than ideal (£40 for a FACE MASK, come on). Mr Roams kindly gave me a Space NK voucher for Christmas a few years ago and it was running dangerously close to expiration, so I chose to give GlamGlow a whirl finally. Now, let’s be honest, even £16 for a small size of face mask is insane – hence points knocked off – but this stuff made my skin look amazing. Looked initially silly – as one of my best friends commented, it looked as though a balloon had blown up in my face – but fun to apply and then peel off. And duh, my skin looked incredible afterwards. UGH. WHY IS IT SO EXPENSIVE
Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Beach Mate Deep Treatment – 6/10 – I’ve gotta be honest here, I think Aussie may have lost its charm. This was fine – it was an average conditioner, didn’t work wonders (what is Beach Mate, anyway?), smelt ok… but I didn’t get the “Jesus look at these SILKY LOCKS” effect that I seem to remember getting a few years ago. Maybe it’s just me?
(L-R Canmake Pressed Powder, Rimmel Fix & Perfect Primer, Rimmel Provocalyps Liquid Lipstick)
Canmake Pressed Powder – 3/10 – I picked this up in Tokyo in 2017 (link to that trip here!), which just goes to show a) my hoarding abilities and b) my tendency to buy things when I’m abroad and not wanting to use them up. But use it up I did, and I’ve got to say, I wasn’t that impressed. Maybe it’s because this is designed for the Japanese beauty market which is very different from the Western market. Maybe my skin type just isn’t compatible with this product. Or maybe it just isn’t very good. Who knows? All I know is that it caked on my skin big time and left me with a beige mask if applied with the little powder pad that came with it. I tried to style it out with a fluffy powder brush which worked somewhat, but still, I was glad to see the back of this one.
Rimmel Fix & Perfect Primer – 10/10 – long time readers will know I love this primer, so no more needs to be said. Already got another one lined up, lolz.
Rimmel Provocalips Liquid Lipstick – 9/10 – man, Rimmel knocked it out of the park this month! I’ve been using this for a long time, and I finally got round to using it up, and it’s hands down the most resilient liquid lipstick I’ve ever tried. So much so that I’ve often had to scrub it off in the evening with micellar water because it just hasn’t budged all day. I don’t typically bother with the clear ‘top coat’ on the other end, the colour works fine for me by itself, but I guess you could if you fancy locking and loading it on, or just like a shiny gloss effect. Whatever, just try this. I promise you won’t regret it.
(L-R – Bodycology Scarlet Kiss Body Cream, Millie Mackintosh Bath Gelee, Solait Exfoliating Body Scrub)
Bodycology Body Cream – 6/10 – Oh man, this packaging. Listen, I bought this on one of my trips to the States when I was running out of body lotion, and this was the one with the least offensive smell. The packaging and name makes me cringe as much as it does you, I promise. That aside, this was a pretty bogstandard cream (not lotion). It was heavy to apply, didn’t seem to rub in easily, and made me feel greasy… but it was cheap and smelt ok. Glad to see the back of that packaging though, Christ.
Millie Mackintosh Bath Gelee – 6/10 – for those of you who know me in real life, you’ll know that I moved house fairly recently, and my new place has an insanely luxurious bathroom featuring a super deep tub 🛀. This bath gelee came in a set I picked up in Boots last Christmas – gotta be honest, I’ve never seen Made in Chelsea so have no idea who Millie Mackintosh is – Google tells me she used to be married to Professor Green #oldladyface? Whoever she is, she’s produced a fairly average bath gelee, so well done to her. This had an amazing scent so pretty much all of the points have gone to that, but it didn’t soap up the way I’d have liked. Listen – when I have a bubble bath, I like the bubbles foamy and huge – and I’m sorry Millie but this didn’t quite cut the mustard. Nice try calling it a gelee to make it sound all fancy and French – it’s a bath soak and you know it.
Solait Exfoliating Body Scrub – 7/10 – I liked this so much I cut it open, evidently. This was suitably scrubby, cheap and smelt great. Slashing off points because I’m not sure it’s still available, soz guys.
(L-R – ‘See’ by Chloe, ‘Daisy’ by Marc Jacobs)
See by Chloe – 7/10 – This was a big month for perfumes, clearly, with two entire bottles finally being used up (!). These were chunky bottles too – the Chloe was 75ml and the Daisy was 50ml, and I’ve had them for yeeeeeears. First, the review of See by Chloe. I was given this bottle by a ex boyfriend for my 25th birthday 6 years ago which just shows how much of a hoarder I am, but it’s finally finished (thanks again Murray!). It was a lovely scent initially but did become slightly migrainey over time which is why it’s had a few points knocked off. Long term readers will know that I’m truly shit at describing perfumes, so if you want to know the top notes and all that jazz, go and Google it 😉
Daisy by Marc Jacobs – 10/10 – oh man, I was truly gutted when this was finished up. Daisy by Marc Jacobs is a true 00s girl staple – I remember when one of my school friends got a small bottle and I thought she was fancy as shit (she still is), and it became a dream of mine to own a bottle too. My mother kindly bought me this bottle when I was in my early twenties and as a skint student/trainee teacher I rationed this to the best of my abilities. It truly was saved ‘for best’, and I was so sad when I finally used it up this month. I’m 30 now and it’s stayed in remarkably good condition. As soon as this year is up and I’ve used up more of my collection, I will be buying another bottle of this. Love it.
(L-R – Nivea Double Effect deodorant, Strictly Professional Luxury Creme Wax)
Nivea Double Effect Deodorant – 9/10 – you guys really want me to review deodorant?
Strictly Professional Luxury Creme Wax – 8/10 – the brand name makes me laugh because nothing could be further from the truth when I use it (think me with a wax heater I bought off Amazon, in my bedroom, holding my legs up and hovering hot wax over them in an attempt to save money). That being said, this stuff was actually pretty good and effective, not too gloopy, and, y’know, helped me maintain my Gillette Venus advert gams. Probably would repurchase.
I’ve got a few blog posts coming up (I’m actually writing this in terminal 1 at Abu Dhabi airport, go figure), but I want to hear from you too. Do you want more travel posts? More beauty? Happy with the mix so far? Curious about my stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Want to hear my thoughts on the hyperinflation of the Venezuelan bolivar soberano? Let me know – Lord knows I’ll write about pretty much anything, but I want you guys to enjoy this too, rather than it just being a place where I record my trips to aid my decaying memory. Pop in the comments below!
Whoops! A few weeks late for this one, forgive me, but I have been bu-sy. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been to two countries, four states, and have taken countless planes, trains and automobiles. I am knackered (more to come on those trips shortly). But! I now have a modicum of spare time to get down to it and review these empties from last month. Bit of a weird mix this time – put it this way, you can tell the sun’s starting to shine…
Total number of products used up: 25
Estimated retail value of products used up: £173.28
Total value of products used up this year already: £482.53
What did I think of them? Weelll…
(L-R: Primark H2OHH Micellar Wipes, Soap & Glory Face Soap & Clarity Facial Wash, Garnier Micellar Water, Up&Up Apricot Scrub)
Primark H20hh Micellar Wipes – 6/10 – As my last review of these (because they were bought in a pack of two, duh), these were fine and did the job, but I’m still not sure why it shouts about the micellar factor, it’s a bit of a buzzword and doesn’t really mean too much. All killa no filla?
Soap & Glory Soap & Clarity Facial Wash – 5/10 – Ehhh. This was fine. It was incredibly soapy (lol duh the name), and foamed up ridiculously. It also contained little beads that burst for no apparent reason (y tho). Made my face clean but not tight, so at least that was something I guess? Probably wouldn’t repurchase, namely because I have another bottle of the stuff in my extensive stash I need to get through (damn my hoarding sensitivities!).
Garnier Micellar Water – 10/10 – I’ve sung the praises of this bad boy before, this was a mini bottle I picked up in Barcelona on a work trip last year (still haven’t used up the big bottle I bought after my last review in January). Love love love. The only thing I can guarantee will get rid of my daily raccoon makeup, and at a budget price.
Up&Up Apricot Scrub – 8/10 – I bought this in Target last year on a trip to New York – my skin loves a good scrub (don’t @ me dermatologists), and this one was great. Densely packed, smelled great, and made my skin soft as a baby’s bum. A contender for St Ives, for sure.
(L-R: Pantene Foam Conditioner, Mane ‘n’ Tail Shampoo, Mane ‘n’ Tail Conditioner, Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Conditioner, Dove BB Cream sample)
Pantene Foam Conditioner – 2/10 – You guys. I have very long, very thick, wavy hair. I do not need something marketed as weightless – to the contrary, I need something that will weigh my hair down so I don’t look like Crystal Tipps:
Add to the mix the fact Pantene shoehorned our least favourite buzzword ‘micellar’ in the name, and this was a no from me. I genuinely can’t think of anyone who would benefit from this.
Mane ‘n’ Tail Shampoo and Conditioner – 5/10 – I’m honestly getting sick of writing about this brand, so it’s a good thing these two are the last of my M&T stash. Bog standard shampoo and conditioner that did not make me look like a prized filly, but rather a thirty year old with slightly less dull hair. Give me this horse’s shine, goddammit:
Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Conditioner – 8/10 – I love the Aussie brand. Yes, the fragrance is a little overpowering at times, but listen, the stuff works. My hair felt fantastic after using this, but I am knocking some points off for the weird smell.
Dove BB Cream – 2/10 – siiiiigh. Listen. BB cream, as defined by Wikipedia, is a ‘marketing term’ (Wikipedia hitting the beauty industry with the piping hot tea), and is generally designed to serve as a foundation, moisturizer, and sunscreen all at once. I ask you – what do the above have to do with haircare? Get rid of the wishy washy terms, and call this product what it is – a greasy thick cream that makes your hair look like you’ve dipped it in a fish fryer.
(L-R: B Tan Tanned AF… Mousse, Cocoa Brown 1 Hour Tan Mousse x 3, Velvotan Tanning Mitt)
B Tan Tanned AF… Mousse – 8/10 – Terrible name aside, this was a really nice tan. Went on VERY dark, to the extent where I was terrified I’d look potentially very problematic in the morning, but developed evenly and washed off to reveal a natural golden tan that lasted nicely. Great stuff, and from memory not too expensive. Give it a go, just forget about the name.
Cocoa Brown 1 Hour Tan Mousse – 2/10 – Such a pain that one of the tans I’d bulk bought over the past few years didn’t actually look good on. Gave off a really weird smell when I put it on, and washed it off in the morning to reveal… well, nothing really. I’m sorry to say that I actually tipped 2.5 of these bottles down the sink because I couldn’t bear to use them. Meh.
Velvotan Tanning Mitt – 8/10 – I’m classing this as an empty because the interior of the mitt has sadly deteriorated over many months of regular tanning usage, but man, was it a nice mitt. Soft, gave a really nice finish (makes me sound like a carpenter, whatevs), thick, and didn’t do that gross thing where the tan seeps through onto your hand. Yeah, happy with this purchase. Give it a whirl.
(L-R: BH Cosmetics Endora liquid lipstick, Essence Lash Mania mascara, Maybelline Fit Me pressed powder, Rimmel Fix & Perfect primer)
BH Cosmetics Endora liquid lipstick – 8/10 – Man, this is the perfect shade for me. Smooth. Matte. And lasts really nicely. Why does it have to be made by an American company though? *sobs at thought of high shipping costs*.
Essence Lash Mania mascara – 8/10 – I’ve already banged on about this in a previous post, but what I didn’t say was that I only had two tubes of this mascara left… and the one used up in March was my last tube. *sobs again*. I’m currently using a much pricier mascara and honestly, in comparison to Essence, it’s absolutely terrible (watch out for that review next month!). Save your money and go for a cheap mascara – I promise you nobody will be able to tell the difference, aside from your bank manager.
Maybelline Fit Me pressed powder – 9/10 – Pretty nice translucent powder, this one, and came with a nice little sponge and mirror, so that if you’re a particularly organised person you’ll be able to touch up your T-Zone on the go. Unfortunately I am not that organised, but I still very much enjoyed this powder. It set my makeup nicely and didn’t cost the earth. Nice one.
Rimmel Fix & Perfect primer – 9/10 – Look, I’ve reviewed this twice already this year. It’s lovely and my go-to primer – nothing more to say. BUY IT, IT ONLY COSTS A FIVER. And expect to see it next month in the empties round up!
(L-R: Benefit’s Maybe Baby, Calvin Klein’s Endless Euphoria)
Benefit Maybe Baby – 5/10 – Jesus Christ is this perfume strong. Almost migrainey. Very vintage/retro themed, but unfortunately with that came a nostril onslaught with undertones of talcum powder. If you fancy yourself as a 50’s bombshell, buy this, but maybe spray once on the neck in the middle of a field somewhere, and then leave it for the day – trust me, you’ll be fine.
Calvin Klein Endless Euphoria – 2/10 – Oh dear, Calvin. You’ve fallen from your tight-fitting boxer shorts and have landed into overpowering perfumes (what a decline). As with the Maybe Baby perfume above, this really got into the nostrils and not in a good way. I originally bought this because some idiot on Fragrantica said it was a great dupe of Marc Jacobs’ Daisy, which is one of my favourites. I didn’t get Daisy from this at all, and instead ended up with an aggressive floral bouquet on my neck and wrists. Couldn’t wait for this to be used up. Its only positive was that it didn’t last too long.
(L-R: Le Petit Marseillais Body Lotion, Soap & Glory The Scrub Of Your Life, Bath & Body Works Marshmallow Flurries Hand Soap, Perfect Moments Body Wash, Kiehls Creme de Corps body butter)
Le Petit Marseillais Body Lotion – 7/10 – I picked this up in Barcelona last year after realising I was part-woman part-lizard, and y’know what, for a relatively inexpensive body lotion, it really was not bad at all. Smelt lovely, and did the job. The only issue was a slight greasiness after applying, but I can forego that for the price and the divine smell. Yummerz.
Soap & Glory The Scrub Of Your Life – 6/10 – Ah, this was fine. It did the job. Not as scrubby as I’d have liked, and a VERY intense smell (that old classic Soap & Glory fragrance, you know the one), but as for scrub action, yeah, not too shabby. Probably wouldn’t buy it again (using a really good one at the moment that I will be reviewing later, watch out y’all!).
Bath & Body Works Marshmallow Flurries Hand Soap – 7/10 – Oh B&BW, when are you opening a branch in the UK? Love these foaming hand soaps (reviewed one pretty much every month now, no?) – this one was lovely but had a weird smokey edge to the fragrance, which knocked some points off.
Perfect Moments Body Wash – 6/10 – In the bottle this looked lovely and shimmery, but on the skin? No ma’am, the shimmer must have gone straight down the sink. Rubbish. It smelt nice and kept me clean, so props for that, I guess?
Kiehl’s Creme de Corps body butter – 1/10 – I think I’m a generous and fair point allocator, I really do. I also like a lot of Kiehl’s products. But this? This was awful. Greasy, it stunk, and just sat on my skin doing nothing even after rubbing it in. I had to wash it off after half an hour. Gross.
Promise I’ll be more prompt with the next empties post… and don’t forget to look out for the trip posts too, coming up this week (hopefully…)
Another month, another bag o’trash. This month has been pretty heavy on body products, I’ve been really into baths and my empties are reflecting that. Ready to do a deep dive? Leggo.
Total number of products used up: 27
Estimated retail value of products used up: £139.39
Total value of products used up this year already: £309.25
Mini reviews below!
(L-R: Oh K! Ginseng & Eucalyptus Under Eye Mask, L’Oreal Pure Clay Purity Mask, French Connection Self-Heating Face Mask, Primark H2Ohh Micellar Wipes, Superdrug Goji Berry & Grapefruit Gel Moisturiser, Kiehl’s Ginger Leaf & Hibiscus Firming Mask)
Oh K! Ginseng & Eucalyptus Under Eye Mask – 8/10 – This was a little present from one of my best friends at Christmas, and I really enjoyed it. It felt luxurious, relaxing, and smelt good, plus it made my designer eye bags vanish without a trace. God bless South Korea’s skincare industry.
L’Oreal Pure Clay Purity Mask – 10/10 – Love love love this mask. It only costs a fiver or so, but I’ve found it performs as well, if not better, than some of the high end brands. It has a gorgeous scent, hardens quickly, and gives your skin a gorgeous clear glow after use. Will repurchase until they stop selling it… although not this year, of course *wink to camera*
French Connection Self-Heating Face Mask – 2/10 – From the great to the, uh, not so great. I’ve never seen a mask separate before, but apparently that’s a thing that can happen? Oily top layer and a sludgey black mud on the bottom which consequently ruined one of my face cloths. The only reason it’s a 2/10 is because it did self heat, which is skincare witchcraft in my eyes, but did it do anything for my skin? Absolutely not.
Primark H20hh Micellar Wipes – 6/10 – Primark has introduced loads of fancy skincare products in the past few months, including a popular line with ex-Glamour beauty director Alessandra Steinherr, but this was bought on a whim last year for a quid. Did the job, not sure why it included that old beauty chestnut ‘Micellar’ (code for ‘look, we know stuff about beauty trends’?).
Superdrug Goji Berry & Grapefruit Gel Moisturiser – 2/10 – I actually moved house this month, and this (and various other products featured here) was left behind by my old housemate. It gave me an allergic reaction, which served me right for nicking it. 2/10 because it smelt nice, right before it made my face feel like it was on fire.
Kiehl’s Ginger Leaf & Hibiscus Firming Mask – 1/10 – This was a sample thrown in with a Space NK purchase, and, in summary, it was gross. I may as well have been rubbing expensive Vaseline on my face. Do not purchase.
(L-R: Batiste Brunette Dry Shampoo, Tresemme Keratin Smooth Conditioner, Tigi Bed Head Shampoo, Boots Expert Anti-Dandruff Shampoo)
Batiste Brunette Dry Shampoo – 9/10 – I have very dark hair (which a lot of people think is black, IT’S NOT), and traditional dry shampoo always made me look like Cruella De Vil. This dry shampoo works wonders and enables me to give my hair a little zsuzsh when it’s looking a little flat, without worrying about some sexy white roots. Great stuff, and dirt cheap.
Tresemme Keratin Smooth Conditioner – 8/10 – Another product left by my previous housemate after she moved out. I enjoy Tresemme products, I appreciate their ample sizes and their budget prices, and they usually smell pretty dope too. Made my hair feel nice. What else to say about conditioner?
Tigi Bed Head Shampoo – 8/10 – Literally see above but just substitute Tresemme with Tigi. Right down to the previous housemate bit. What can I say, I’m lazy.
Boots Expert Anti-Dandruff Shampoo – 7/10 – Guess who’s back, back again? Scalp psoriasis is back, tell a friend! I was recommended this shampoo after another scalp flare-up, but it didn’t really do much for my psoriasis. Made my hair clean though, so I guess it did some of its job???
(L-R: CND Shellac in ‘Wildfire’, Revlon Colorstay Combination/Oily Foundation in ‘Sand Beige’, Rimmel Fix & Perfect Primer)
CND Shellac in ‘Wildfire’ – 8/10 – A gorgeous colour, proper Disney Villain red. As I’m going to Disney TWICE in March (!), I’ll have to find a good replacement for this colour in my stash.
Revlon Colorstay Foundation – 8/10 – I’ve repurchased this foundation a lot over the years, and for good reason. It only costs about £12 or so, and man, does this stuff stay on a face. I’d definitely compare it with Estee Lauder’s Double Wear, and at literally half the price, you can’t really go wrong. Just be a bit careful with the colours/shades as it does tend to go a little ashy.
Rimmel Fix & Perfect Primer – 9/10 – Used up a tube of this last month, used up a tube of this this month too. Great stuff. Have obviously repurchased.
(L-R: Sooo Chic Pink Fizz & Grapefruit Bath Salts, Perfect Moments Body Scrub, L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Exfotonic Body Polishing Gel, Green Tea Bath Salts, Molton Brown Miniature Bath & Shower Gels x 4, Body Shop Spiced Apple Shower Gel, Imperial Leather Sleep Bath Soak)
Sooo Chic Pink Fizz & Grapefruit Bath Salts – 8/10 – I think I was given this a few Christmasses ago by my stepbrother and his wife, and now I’m in my fancy new flat I’m having a lot more luxurious baths so finally managed to use this up. It smelt delicious, so much so that I was actually a little sad when I finished it. I can’t seem to find it online either, so if anyone can help a sista out, let me know!
Perfect Moments Body Scrub – 2/10 – When it comes to scrubs, I like a thiccc scrub. One that makes your skin feel like it’s going to fall off. In this vein, I did not enjoy this scrub, which was 90% body lotion, 5% perfume, and 5% scrubby bits. Rubbish. It literally did nothing.
L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Exfotonic Body Polishing Gel – 7/10 – Now this is the kind of scrub I’m talking about. Smells fresh, is packed to the rim with scrubby bits™, and lasted ages.
Green Tea Bath Salts – 8/10 – I was given this by my current housemate as my bathroom in the new flat has a bath. It was lovely, smelt very healthy (does that make sense? It was green tea, come on), and made my skin pretty soft. Unsure where she got it from, but if you want to know I’ll ask her…
Molton Brown Bath & Shower Gels x 4 – 9/10 – I was given this at Christmas by Mr Roams’ lovely parents, and I was ecstatic. I LOVE Molton Brown products, they always feel so fancy and manage to turn any bathroom into a spa paradise. These mini gels were no exception – the fragrances (Tobacco Absolute, Re-Charge Black Pepper, Fiery Pink Pepper, and Rosa Absolute) were all utterly gorgeous and decadent, and had bonus points for looking great on the side of my bathtub. Lovely!
Body Shop Spiced Apple Shower Gel – 8/10 – This was from a Body Shop Christmas collection a few years ago, which goes to show how extensive my stash actually is (or was!). Foamed up nicely, lasted a long time, made me smell like a Braeburn.
Imperial Leather Sleep Bath Soak – 8/10 – Cheap as chips bath stuff that the majority of Brits would have used at some point. A classic for a reason.
(L:R – Oral B 3D White Perfection Toothpaste, Nivea Pearl & Beauty Deodorant, Nivea Protect & Care Deodorant, Bath & Body Works Winter Citrus Wreath Gentle Foaming Soap)
Oral B 3D White Perfection Toothpaste – 8/10 – Shakira has joined us again this month, folks! It was toothpaste. It cleaned my teeth. Next!
Nivea Pearl & Beauty Deodorant – 8/10 – Smelt nice and did the trick.
Nivea Protect & Care Deodorant – 8/10 – Smelt nice and did the trick.
Bath & Body Works Winter Citrus Wreath Gentle Foaming Soap – 9/10 – As per last month, these soaps are my favourites. They’re luxurious and softening and come in some gorgeous scents. Shame they’re so pricey and, y’know, aren’t sold in the UK, but it’s worth it. Currently using: Marshmallow Flurries Foaming Soap, so expect to see that one in next month’s line up! #sneakpreview
There you go lads, February’s empties blog post done. See you next month, which will probably feature Shakira yet again.
Alright guys, here it is – the first of this year’s No Buy series and the products I managed to use up this month. Lots of these were half empty so don’t expect this kind of treasure trove (if it can be called that) every month… but my stash is looking much better already!
Total number of products used up: 32
Estimated retail value of products used up: a whopping £169.86! (Jesus)
I’ve broken them down into further categories below, and have written a little review about everything in case you’re that bored.
(L-R: Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water, Simple Micellar Cleansing Water, St Ives Microdermabrasion Scrub, Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser)
Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water – 10/10 – Love a micellar water to remove makeup, and the Garnier bog-standard pink one is the best out there in my opinion. Leaves no trace, makeup pretty much vanishes with one swipe, and it’s cheap as chips at £5 or so a bottle. Love love love. Will repurchase until I die.
Simple Micellar Cleansing Water – 4/10 – Ehhh. It did the job, but was it as effective as Garnier? No. Was it slightly greasy? Yes. Did I love it? Not really.
St Ives Microdermabrasion Scrub – 6/10 – I’m a dermatologist’s worst nightmare. I do very little to my skin, very often sleep in my makeup, hardly ever moisturise it, and scrub it constantly. In theory I should have way worse skin but I’m riding on those good genes (thanks Mum!) and will carry on using my scrubs until I no longer have a face to use them on. This was alright – PACKED full of rough…scrub…stuff, which I like (look, if you’re a scrub, don’t fob me off by adding a load of lotion, k?), but the tiny scrub particles were a pain to clean off my sink. Probably wouldn’t repurchase because I’m lazy and don’t like cleaning.
Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser – 3/10 – Look, I don’t want to get jumped on by the beauty community here. I’m no guru, but I also don’t buy into the hype of stuff without trying it out myself. And I’m here to say: I’m not a huge fan of the Liz Earle Hot Cloth Cleanser. It left my skin greasy, with a weird residue, and I wasn’t a fan of the smell. It’s also ridiculously expensive for what it is – I’m pretty sure you can get equally good, if not better, hot cloth cleansers for way less dinero. Sorry not sorry.
(L-R: Herbal Essences Argan Oil Shampoo, Pantene Pro-V Micellar Shampoo, Mane ‘n’ Tail Deep Moisturizing Conditioner, Mane ‘n’ Tail Conditioner x 2, Schwartzkopf got2b Hairspray, Nizoral Shampoo x 2)
Herbal Essences Argan Oil Shampoo – 7/10 – Nice smell, left my hair clean. Not really much else to say about shampoo, is there?
Pantene Pro-V Micellar Shampoo – 6/10 – Again, nice smell, left my hair clean. Knocked a point off because I’m not really sure what the Micellar part was meant to do, and methinks the team at Pantene were jumping on the Micellar bandwagon with no idea of what it really means for hair. Nice try, suckers. Mama didn’t raise no fool.
Mane ‘n’ Tail Deep Moisturizing Conditioner/Regular Conditioner – 5/10 – The horse part aside, this was your bog-standard conditioner. Smelt slightly medicinal compared to the fruit ‘n’ flowers combo I usually put on my head, did the trick, but don’t really understand the horse link. If this is what they put on horses to make their manes shiny, give them the option of fruit ‘n’ flowers too.
Schwartzkopf Hairspray – 8/10 – Probably what structural engineers should be using on buildings in earthquake hot spots.
Nizoral Shampoo – 9/10 – I get psoriasis on my scalp when I’m very stressed, and have had a significant amount of stress and upset over the past few months. This was my saviour, cleared up my scalp nicely and gave me one less thing to stress about during a very turbulent time. My only gripe is that the bottles are tiny for the price (£5 or so each), and if you have hair as long and thick as mine, that’s about two uses per bottle. Ouch.
(L-R: Mac Studio Fix Fluid in NC25, Rimmel Fix & Perfect Primer, Rimmel Exaggerate Liquid Eyeliner, Essence Lash Mania Mascara, Rimmel Stay Matte Powder)
Mac Studio Fix Fluid – 7/10 – Great if you have oily yellow skin like me. Blended like a dream, full coverage, didn’t budge all day. Slight downside is the price, it’s one of the more expensive brand foundations for quite a small bottle. Upside is the amount of shades and formulations they have – there’s bound to be a perfect match for you whatever your skin type and shade.
Rimmel Fix & Perfect Primer – 9/10 – Cheap as chips again (£5 a tube), smoothes on nicely, and helps foundation to stay all day. I’ve repurchased about twenty times and doubt I’ll try another primer for a while.
Rimmel Exaggerate Liquid Eyeliner – 7/10 – El cheapo eyeliner which gives precision and is easy to use. Only drawback is that it can smudge towards the end of the day – at least on me.
Essence Lash Mania Mascara – 8/10 – Once again, a cheap makeup product at £3 a tube! Look, I don’t care how much you spend on a mascara – I will argue until the end of time that people literally can’t tell the difference if your mascara is £2 or £20 once it’s on your face. And this mascara, cheap as it is, is one of the best mascaras I’ve ever used. Sadly now discontinued, I’ve swapped over to the – possibly even better – Essence Lash Princess mascara, at a similar price. I like cheap mascara and I cannot lie.
Rimmel Stay Matte Powder – 10/10 – Bit of a Rimmel love fest this month! My favourite ever face powder. Does what it says on the tin and doesn’t require me to take out a loan. Love it.
(L-R: Superdrug Tan Remover, Korres Basil-Lemon Shower Gel, Champneys Good As New Bubble Bath, St Tropez Tan Enhancing Polish, Garnier Ultimate Blends Body Balm, Bvlgari Body Lotion)
Superdrug Tan Remover – 8/10 – Really liked this. It’s winter, so I’m not exactly sporting a summer glow at the moment, but used this as a regular scrub instead and it was lovely. Left my skin very soft and smooth with minimal bumps. Can’t attest to its tan removing powers but it’s discontinued now so doesn’t matter anyway!
Korres Basil-Lemon Shower Gel – 8/10 – Lovely shower gel, made me feel like I was sunning myself on the island of Rhodes instead of in a malfunctioning shower in Reading.
Champneys Good As New Bubble Bath – 7/10 – Gorgeous smell and gave very satisfactory bubbles. Had a slight shimmer to it which wasn’t noticeable in the bath or on my skin, so have knocked a point off for that. Give me glowing skin, Goddammit.
St Tropez Tan Enhancing Polish – 3/10 – A boring-ass scrub with no discernible effects afterwards. Didn’t even smell nice. Bored me to use it and couldn’t wait to use it up.
Garnier Ultimate Blends Body Balm – 5/10 – If you have super dry skin, this is probably great for you. As it stands, I have pretty oily skin – this made me feel gross and also made me smell like a newborn baby (something about that oat smell), which is not the image of a confident, put-together, self-actualized 30 year old woman that I want to present to the world.
Bvlgari Body Lotion – 7/10 – Lightweight, lovely smell, and made me feel fancy using it because Bvlgari.
(L-R: Salon Services Fruit Smoothie Creme Wax, Bath & Body Works Eucalyptus Mint Foaming Hand Soap, Crabtree & Evelyn Geranium & Orange Hand Wash, This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Mist, Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb, Oral B 3D White Luxe Toothpaste, Nivea Double Effect Antiperspirant, CND Shellac in Decadence, Walgreens Nail Polish Remover)
Salon Services Fruit Smoothie Creme Wax – 8/10 – I wax my own legs, arms, eyebrows and underarms, and this wax was great. Heated up nicely, multipurpose wax (can be used anywhere), and a good consistency. Only reason I knocked points off is that I couldn’t smell any Fruit Smoothie scent and it was the only reason I chose it.
Bath & Body Works Eucalyptus Mint Foaming Hand Soap – 9/10 – Love these foaming hand soaps. They feel incredibly luxurious and smell amazing. Knocked a point off because they’re kinda expensive for soap, and you also can’t get them easily in the UK (come on B&BW, sort yourselves out).
Crabtree & Evelyn Geranium & Orange Hand Wash – 9/10 – Bougie hand soap alert! Lovely hand soap, very moisturising and smelt gorgeous. Only drawback is that I can’t afford to replace it.
This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Mist – 9/10 – Gave me a solid night’s sleep, and for that I am incredibly thankful #insomnia
Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb – 4/10 – Eh, a little too cloying for me. Look, I know I said I enjoy fruit ‘n’ flower scents, but this was like being thrown into the Secret Garden and being forced to snort Lily-Of-The-Valley. Too much. ‘Flowerbomb’ is right.
Oral B 3D White Toothpaste – 6/10 – Nice toothpaste, but it didn’t make me look like Shakira, so I’m calling false advertising.
Nivea Double Effect Antiperspirant – 10/10 – Did the job. Not really much more I can say here, I pity deodorant marketing departments.
CND Shellac in Decadence – 8/10 – As well as doing my own waxing, I also do my own Shellac nails, and this was the first bottle I’ve managed to use up. A lovely red that stays on nicely and comes off very easily. I love CND. Wish they’d release more shades, but that’s because I’m a fussy bitch and pretty much only wear darks, reds, and nudes.
Walgreens Nail Polish Remover – 7/10 – Again, did the job, but left my nails feeling a little weak afterwards. Meh.
So there you have it folks, my first round-up of empties of 2019, and my first no-buy month. Hope you enjoyed!
To top off my triple threat of Scandinavian capital cities (see Stockholm here and Oslo here!), I took advantage of a cheap flight deal and flew to Helsinki a few weekends ago. Yes, I went to Finland in the middle of January. Wanna hear about it? Course you do!
I flew out to Helsinki from London Heathrow on Friday 11th January (fortunately, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I work about 15 mins from Heathrow, making it nice and easy to hop across to the airport after finishing work!) – a nice evening flight to Helsinki, lasting about 2.5 hours with Finnair. Unfortunately, because I’m a moron who doesn’t understand the concept of time zones, this meant the flight landed at 12.30am Helsinki time – cue a mad dash across Helsinki airport once the plane had landed to catch the last train to the city centre.
After a swift 25 minute train, costing €5 (seriously, London has to be the worst city for pricey transfers), I got to Helsinki city centre, and was immediately confronted with a) drunk people, b) expensive prices, and c) lots and lots of snow. I’d luckily chosen a hotel right next to the train station (well done past me), so after a 2 minute walk I was checking into the hotel and getting ready for bed.
The next morning, I ventured out after loading up on the layers, and made it about 10 steps before skidding on the ice covering every surface of Helsinki. Top tip – bring grippy boots. My New Look Chelsea boots just didn’t cut it (I know, surprising, right?). To save face, I skidded over to Oodi, the Helsinki Central Library, which was conveniently opposite my hotel.
Library Oodi, as it’s known, is a brand new building (it had been open for a month when I visited!), and is already seen as a central hub for Helsinki residents. I’ve never seen a library like it, with plenty of people reading, listening to music, browsing, and yes, just chatting with each other. One of the coolest bits about the library was the second floor, which was marketed as an “urban workshop” with 3D printers, laser cutters, sticker printers, sewing machines and heat presses for use. It was a truly lovely space, and the architecture was also quite stunning…
After an hour or so browsing, drinking coffee and perusing 3D printers, I made my way downtown to the Finnish National Gallery (can you tell I was feeling particularly cultured?), which cost €17 entry. The National Gallery is a huge white building opposite the central train station, and I was excited to go and see some Finnish artwork – it’s not exactly a speciality of mine 😉
(Don’t kill me for the large images, thumbnails just weren’t going to cut it. It’s art!)
After spending a considerable amount of time walking through the beautiful gallery and getting emosh at the artwork, I went and had a very late lunch/early dinner at a cute little sushi place in a mall (look, there’s only so much culture I can deal with in one day, leave me alone) and did a bit of window shopping (see also: Project No-Buy 2019 which is going SPLENDIDLY thank you for asking. More on THAT later!). Drinking coffee and overlooking one of the squares in which ice skating was taking place was like the winter we never really had in the UK this year:
It was then time to go and experience a classic Finnish tradition to round off the day.
Sauna, for those of you who aren’t aware, is a Finnish staple – there are even saunas in the Finnish Parliament! It basically consists of a gently warmed wooden room, with benches to sit on and an area of hot stones, which water can be poured on to release moisture and steam (commonly called löyly). Participants are more often than not naked, and it’s a huge bonding experience for families, friends, acquaintances and even colleagues (apparently a fair amount of business deals are done in saunas!). It’s an integral part of Finnish life, and something I was so excited to partake in – and fortunately my hotel had a sauna right across from my room!
The process is very straightforward – you basically strip off in a communal area (usually divided by gender), have a shower, and then go and sit in the sauna. Rinse and repeat as required. There were a fair few ladies in the sauna when I went in, so I followed the process and went and sat with them. Didn’t understand a word of what they were saying, and it was slightly odd to be sat in a small wooden room naked with a load of strangers, but you just have to embrace it! My skin did feel fantastic afterwards, so at least there’s that.
The next day, after my sauna experience (slept like a BABY afterwards, maybe those Finns are onto something), I decided to trek out to Helsinki Cathedral before having some lunch and hopping on my flight home.
Helsinki Cathedral is one of the major landmarks in the city, and is an absolutely beautiful neoclassical building with a gorgeous interior. It was also featured in the opening sequence of the video for ‘Sandstorm’ by Darude, so naturally you can imagine my excitement at visiting it.
The interior was drop dead gorgeous, and I sat myself down in a pew and took full advantage of it.
After a brief lunch, it was time to go back to the airport. Once again I took the €5 train from central (seriously, up your game London!), and relaxed in the airport before popping on the flight and landing in Heathrow 2.5 hours later.
I really enjoyed Helsinki – it was bloody expensive, and very cold, but the people were friendly (if not slightly eccentric!), and it was a beautiful city with a fair amount to do and see. Just bring your pocket money, you’ll need it (€18 for a Caesar salad, ouch!).
A bit of a different post from me today – although we’ll get back to the travel shortly, I promise!
We have too much stuff.
I think that’s pretty evident, but it bears repeating.
We have too much stuff.
We have never had as much stuff as we do now.
We are at peak stuff levels.
Everywhere you go, everything you do, you are bombarded by adverts trying to sell you more stuff.
I Google ear infection symptoms, I am presented with an advert for a cough medicine.
I go on Instagram to see what my friends and various drag queens are up to, and have to scroll past an advert for some £20 slutty-looking patent boots.
I search for a fucking spaghetti bolognaise recipe, I am presented with EIGHT – count ’em – EIGHT adverts for anything from a ballgown to a funeral company (I wish I was joking, check it out below):
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of it.
I’m sick of feeling guilty for not buying something, and then somehow also feeling guilty for buying it.
I’m sick of the constant barrage of utter shite that gets thrown at us as ‘desirable’ or a ‘must-have’ item.
But most of all, I’m sick of the way society’s heading. We’re starting to value things rather than each other or the world around us.
And I think that’s fundamentally wrong.
Starting 1st January 2019 (although God knows I’m practicing this already), I am committing to a no-buy year.
I will not buy any of the following:
- Body products
- ‘Unnecessary’ products
If something necessary breaks (for example, my only coat), I will either repair or replace it, but I will not be deliberately buying new things for the sake of owning them. I have a CONSIDERABLE amount of the first two – an embarrassing amount which is tied to some long-term psychological stuff, and if you’re anything like me, you may want to check out r/MakeupRehab or r/PanPorn on Reddit for some inspiration on working through this – and I ABSOLUTELY do not need any more. Sayonara, ASOS mailing list!
I will, however, continue to spend money on the following:
- Food (because duh)
- Fuel (again, duh)
- Experiences – be that travel, a gig ticket, my Spotify subscription, or a meal at a fancy restaurant.
- Necessary evils (insurance, rent, taxes, and a gym membership).
I’ll try and track my progress here every month – including products I’ve used up, and an overview of how I’ve found the month. I hope you’ll consider joining me – and I encourage you to do similar next year, even if it’s something small.
Here’s to relationships with people rather than relationships with the latest releases from Urban Decay.
And don’t worry, I’ll still be travelling 😉
So, you’re thinking of visiting Cuba, huh?
The thought of sun-soaked beaches, salsa music on every street corner, and dirt-cheap mojitos appeals?
I don’t blame you at all. I bloody loved the place.
It is not your typical tourist destination, and therefore requires a little more planning or thought process before heading out. Things like internet are not readily available, money is a locked currency, and any political discussion is largely verboten.
But never fear! I’ve put together a handy guide to the country, how to navigate certain topics, and more practical information, to ensure you have a fabulous time out there. Let’s go!
Let’s start with the most obviously different thing to the UK. Barely any internet access, and the access you do have is strictly monitored (and usually very expensive). In order to get on the internet in Cuba, you have to buy an ETECSA internet card, which is usually a piece of paper with a username and password to access the internet for up to an hour (although you can log off and save any unused minutes for another time).
These are usually available at any Western-style hotels (Hotel Nacional, where we stayed in Havana, gave us a card for our entire stay, but you can buy them there for 5 CUC per hour). Alternatively, you can queue up at the state-owned ETECSA (Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba) agency and buy a card with the Cubans. For the record, it costs your average Cuban half a day’s wage to access the internet for one hour, which shows you just how precious a commodity it is, as well as how restricted the Cuban people are on a daily basis.
To be honest, you shouldn’t need to access the internet too much – come on, you’re in Cuba for Christ’s sake – but if you do need to do a bit of work or keep in touch with family and friends, it’s not the easiest thing to access. Be warned!
Cuba is unlike the vast majority of holiday destinations in a lot of ways, but one of the biggest differences is the currency. As in, Cuba has two.
Because it’s essentially still a communist country, Cubans get paid in the national currency Cuban Pesos (CUP). The average daily wage, 100 CUP, is about £3.
This is very different from the tourist currency – Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) – 100 of which equates to about £75.
You can see the vast difference here between the two currencies – it’s a way for the country to make more money out of tourists while still retaining their communist ideals. As a tourist, you will almost exclusively work in CUC – so be warned and keep your eyes out for any cheeky locals trying to give you change in low-value CUP! CUC notes have pictures of monuments and buildings on, whereas CUP notes have pictures of people.
Another note here – Cuba operates a closed currency, so you won’t be able to buy CUCs ahead of time. Most Western-style hotels will have a bank/bureau de change to exchange your money, or you can do it at Jose Marti airport.
Lastly, Cuba is very much a currency-run country. You will not be able to use your bank card in 99% of the country! Come prepared with plenty of Euros (not USD) to change into CUC, stay alert, and have fun!
Ah, the ol’ political situation. For those of you who don’t know, Cuba is a communist country. After the 1959 success of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro became the de facto Cuban president, and successfully turned the island into a communist state, taking control of means of production and media outlets within the island. This resulted in an economic impoverishment, significant human-rights abuses, poverty, and an exodus of Cubans over a 60 year period.
What does this mean for tourists?
The media is still heavily censored within Cuba, including the Internet, with Cuban access to the Internet being considered one of the tightest restrictions in the world. Don’t expect to see any neutral/impartial newspapers or magazines – most will be heavy of their praise of the government – and whatever you do, do NOT try to engage any Cubans in political discussion, as it’ll likely be either shot down or result in embarrassment for them. Things are definitely better than they were with Fidel’s brother Raul in power, but it’s still considerably restricted and quite difficult for your everyday Cuban.
Related to this – the United States imposed an embargo against Cuba in 1958 – initially on guns, but has since been extended to, well, pretty much everything. As the US is the closest country to Cuba, the embargo has had a severe impact on the availability of most items in the island – you will not find Coca-Cola readily available, for example (Mr Roams and I grew quite fond of the Cuban-owned “Ciego Montero” brand as a replacement!).
All this to say – you may experience cases where Cuban restaurants, hotels and cafes just do not have certain products in. When Mr Roams and I had a birthday breakfast at the aforementioned California Cafe, they didn’t have any yoghurt or milk, and there were various other examples where (mostly small) cafes didn’t have any of a certain product in, so you just have to make do. Don’t expect plenty of options on menus either, especially if you don’t eat meat – I lost count of how many cheese toasties I ate!
Overall, Cuba is a fantastic country, but don’t treat it as any other tourist hotspot. Enjoy it for what it is, its unique properties and quirks, before it inevitably becomes just another Sandals resort.
Calgary’s Winter Olympics happened in February, and the Summer Olympics were held in Seoul the same year.
The UK’s pound note ceased production, and Prozac started production.
Roger Rabbit, Die Hard, and Beetlejuice all came out.
These, um, items, were considered fashionable:
And yours truly was born.
Making me 30 this year.
And what did I do for it?
Why, spent it in a nuclear bunker from the Cuban Missile Crisis, of course!
Mr Roams and I decided to go on holiday to Cuba a few months ago – in our eyes, it was the perfect time, considering the inevitable Americanisation after the embargo lift, and we both wanted to go somewhere we’d never been before. Add to that sandy beaches, cheap rum, and plenty of sunshine for me to get an outrageous Dickinson tan, and Cuba was the natural choice! This blog post will be slightly different from the norm, in that I want to address Cuba’s political situation too, as well as reviewing its holiday potential. If you’re put off by the thought of a 30 year old chatting shit about communism, you may want to skip this one 😉
We flew off on Thursday 6th September to Havana, on Virgin Atlantic from Gatwick. Mr Roams has fancy-pants gold status on Virgin due to his job, so we enjoyed some pre-flight champagne and breakfast in the Virgin Clubhouse before departure. Pics below, don’t get too jealous!
It was my first time flying anything other than economy – premium, can I get a woo woo? – and suffice it to say that I LOVED the experience. Lots of legroom (I have 36″ legs, this is very important), lovely food and drinks, massive leather seats, and plenty of champagne. Mr Roams was highly embarrassed at my squeals and unashamed fangirling over what he deemed standard (“LOOK AT THE LEGROOM MIKE, LOOK AT IT”), but I didn’t care – LOOK AT THE SODDING MENU GUYS!
We touched down in Havana’s Jose Marti airport about 9 hours later (that’s 9 hours of Mr Roams putting up with my overexcitedness, pray for him), and were greeted by a very 70s airport (Miles to Memories has a great post on the airport here), a few touts, and our smiling and welcoming rep Denis. Oh, and 35 degree heat. An hour on the transfer bus later, and we were at our hotel, the Hotel Nacional de Cuba.
The Hotel Nacional de Cuba is not the flashiest in Havana, but in terms of history, authenticity, and time-travelness, it’s definitely the coolest. You can read more about the hotel here (thanks Wikipedia), but generally speaking, it’s one of the most historic buildings in Havana. The Battle of the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, the Havana Conference, and several famous historical figures (Winston Churchill, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, John Wayne, Marlon Brando, and Ernest Hemingway, to name a few!) have stayed there. Plus the whole Cuban Missile Crisis thing which I’ll talk about a few paragraphs down. The location is also great to explore Vedado and the Malecon which is conveniently opposite the hotel, with a 10 minute drive to Old Havana on the other side of the city.
Mr Roams and I were delighted to find that their Pina Coladas/Daiquiris were pretty reasonably priced (for UK prices – you can get WAY cheaper drinks around Havana), so decided to spend the evening drinking lots of cheap rum overlooking the sea, eating rice, fish and beans at the restaurant next to the hotel, and listening to plenty of live music around the hotel. The perfect antidote to jet lag.
The next day was spent exploring the area of Vedado, which was where the hotel was based. Vedado is considered the business district of Cuba – there were lots of offices and factories around the place, and as a result it’s seen as quite affluent compared to other areas of the city, and has plenty of aggressive hawkers selling tickets to festivals that don’t exist as a result (avoid at all costs). Mr Roams is tall, white, and blonde, so naturally got hit up a lot by these hawkers – in contrast, they barely bothered me when I walked around by myself (and I don’t think it had anything to do with my resting bitch face). We had a list of places to hit up in Vedado, including Coppelia (the famed ice cream parlour with only 2 flavours, although we lucked out and got three… though I’m not sure vanilla with chocolate sauce on top counts?)
The ice cream was served with crushed biscuit on top and sauce. It was… not great.
After plenty of stops for drinking cocktails, and occasional walks back to the hotel room for naps (#jetlag), we decided on a walking tour of Old Havana at night. Which was awesome. (click on pics to see larger version)
I would completely recommend going on a walking tour of Old Havana – our guide was engaging and knowledgeable about the area, and to say we fell in love with the old town was an understatement. My blurry pictures simply do not do it justice. We also managed to sneak in a trip to Castillo de San Carlos de la Cabana, an 18th century castle on the outskirts of Havana, where they perform nightly cañonazo ceremonies. Block your ears, because those cannons are louder than me on a few pina coladas.
The next day was the inevitable – my 30th. Gulp. I had to change the heading of this website and everything. Mr Roams demanded I exit the room early for a birthday surprise, so I made my way down to the California Cafe, a fantastic little cafe on Calle 19 in Vedado, right near our hotel. I started the day early with some banana daiquiris natch, had some lovely continental-style breakfast, and then Mr Roams surprised me by decorating our room in balloons. Bless him!
After balloonfest 2k18, we decided to go on a tour of our hotel… which included the bunkers used in the Cuban Missile Crisis. We were shown around by a little old lady who told us she was actually there in the bunker in 1962, which was absolutely amazing – she was such a huge wealth of information and I genuinely felt so honoured to be shown around by her. Pics of both the hotel and the bunkers below – I’d highly recommend this tour, it’s free for hotel residents and 5 CUC for tourists (I believe).
Bunker pics below!
After fully freaking ourselves out #claustrophobia101, we did what any good tourist to Cuba does – went on a tour of Havana in a bright pink classic car. Our tour guide, Alex, was very knowledgeable and took us to various Cuban hotspots, including Cuban Jesus, Fusterlandia, and Havana Forest (where it absolutely pissed it down), as well as Beyonce’s favourite restaurant in Havana (apparently).
The firster stop was Fusterlandia (sorry not sorry). Fusterlandia is an idyllic, Picasso-like neighbourhood covered in art. Story goes that a local Cuban artist, Jose Fuster, wanted to replicate Park Guell in Havana, so decided to buy a small house and cover it, as well as the neighbouring buildings, in mosaic and broken glass. The result was childlike and idyllic – it was a hugely relaxing and truly unique place to visit, and I very much doubt I’ll ever go anywhere like it again.
Some more pics from our car ride below, including the MENTAL rain in Havana Forest, and Cuban Jesus (Alex pointed out that his hands were positioned to hold a mojito and cigar ;)):
Evening was spent drinking pina coladas, mojitos, daiquiris, and smoking cigars whilst watching Buena Vista Social Club live in the hotel. Absolute bloody perfection, and a pretty amazing birthday all round ❤
The next day was our last day in Havana, heading to an all-inclusive resort up the road in Varadero for a few nights, and we chose to spend it in the place that had captured our hearts the most in Havana – the old town. I mean, we had to go and get more daiquiris in the style of Hemingway, right? (pro tip – go to the Hotel Ambos Mundos on Obispo, the hotel Hemingway lived at for many years in Havana, for drinks. I think the daiquiris were about 5 CUC each – approx. £3.80 – and icy cool with a tad too much alcohol, if that’s even a thing).
The last thing we did in Havana which bears mentioning was eating at Cafe del Oriente, one of the most expensive restaurants in Havana. Throughout the trip, I enjoyed finding out what the everyday Cuban ate and drank in this previously secretive country, but Mr Roams and I were also intrigued by what the hoi polloi chowed down on. Turns out, it’s pretty damn good. I ordered a Caesar salad which was made fresh – dressing and everything! – at the table. Seriously one of the best – and most garlicky – salads I’ve ever had, and all for the low price of 12 CUC (£9).
I’ll write a more practical post about Cuba, including the political situation and history, the currency situation, and some tips on how to get around, but for now, I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse into one of the most vibrant, friendly, and colourful cities I’ve ever been to!
Question: What do you do when you’re home alone and bored on a Saturday night?
A) Set up a Netflix binge-a-thon?
B) Do a heck-load of washing?
C) Decide to go to Luxembourg for the day?
If you’re anything like me, C) seems like the most logical option. So there you have it – I went to Luxembourg yesterday for the day. As you do.
Those who are regular readers of my blog/know me well in real life will know that this kind of behaviour is nothing new (see also: a day trip to Poland, and a long weekend in Tokyo) – I see cheap flights and I’ll go somewhere, regardless of the length of time. Mr Roams likes to pretend that they’re not “real” trips if you don’t stay overnight, but I’m of the opinion that a day can be sufficient to soak up the essence of a destination, especially if that destination is one of the smallest countries in Europe.
£70 return and £10 parking later, I was on a plane to Luxembourg at 8.30am on Sunday morning.
Luxembourg has been on my list for a while – not only is it one of the smallest countries in Europe, but despite its size it seems to be a real hub for commerce, banking and politics. With a 50 minute flight time, excellent transport links (getting the bus to the city centre cost €2 one way and took around 30 minutes), and a compact city size, I hopped off the bus, and… immediately went in search of coffee.
I’ve got to admit, I wasn’t the smartest choosing to visit on a Sunday, as a lot of shops were closed (they don’t follow our gaudy Western European capitalist ways) and restaurants were few and far between. However, I stumbled onto a sushi restaurant (Sushi Lovers, 35 Avenue de la Liberte, Luxembourg City) which was bustling (always a good sign), and, after some miscommunication because of my terrible French, I was given a bowl of rice with some sashimi fanned out on top.
I then did a bit of a wonder, forgot to take any pictures, and stopped for a coffee (I never said it was a busy trip)…
The best bit about any European trip, for me at least, is sitting in the inevitable market square, watching the world go by, and sipping an ice-cool Coca-Cola Light whilst choking on second-hand smoke. So that’s what I did next, armed with my Kindle and free Luxembourgish wi-fi:
I didn’t venture too far around the city, but managed to see some very pretty parks, and impressive buildings too.
All-in-all, I can’t say I’d recommend Luxembourg as a place to visit, especially not on a Sunday when there is very little to actually do, but for a day trip, I’d say it was worth it. It was somewhere new, I lucked out and got beautiful weather, and the city itself was relatively cheap and very easy to get to. Plus I got brownie points with the madeleines I brought back for my colleagues 😉
Next trip coming up… which weird one-day destination will I choose next?!
I hate the New York subway. There, I said it. It’s dirty, it’s confusing, and I don’t like the way the trains occasionally change lines for absolutely no reason (seriously, changing the F train randomly to the M train when I’m trying to get to JFK is not conducive for my stress levels!). That being said, once you get the hang of it it’s…dare I say… easy to navigate? It’s getting to the hang of it that’s the issue, but never fear, I’ve put a (hopefully) easy-to-use guide together to help you get up to speed! Read on…
OK, so, first thing you need to know about the NYC subway is that Manhattan is laid out like a grid. From north to south, you have avenues – and from east to west you have streets. Example below!
On top of this, the subway connects downtown (Brooklyn) through to midtown (Manhattan), up to uptown (Queens/Jamaica). See below for a *great* example of this, courtesy of my shoddy Microsoft Paint skills.
Once you know these basics, you can read the below map perfectly, right?!
OK, maybe not quite.
The NYC subway has 471 stations in total, across 4 of the 5 boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx), and 10 train lines – for ease of explanation, we’re going to focus on the subway line Sixth Avenue, which is one of the main lines in Brooklyn/Manhattan/Queens, and the line in orange on the map above. The same rule applies for all lines though – you need to focus on whether you’re going up- or downtown in order to get to where you want to go!
The F line was the line I used most during my trip a few weeks ago – we stayed about a 5 minute walk from the subway station 2nd Ave. If you take a look at the below map, you can see the route from downtown to uptown taking the F line (green is Queens, purple is Manhattan, and blue is Brooklyn):
Much like the Tube, you can transfer at different stations – and unlike the Tube, some stations service more than one route (F and M usually share the same routes, so you need to check which letter is on the train before getting on it!). There are slight differences between the routes, so it’s best to check to know where you want to go, but they all follow the same premise of “downtown to uptown”. The routes on the Sixth Avenue line are B, D, F, and M – I have no idea why those letters specifically (why not A, B, C, D? Or W, X, Y, Z? So random) – all with slightly different routes although they share the same stations occasionally as I mentioned.
To access any of these crazy trains, you need to buy a Metrocard. You can buy Metrocards at pretty much every subway station from a machine – and once you have a Metrocard, you can refill it using the same machine. Subway rides are $2.75 per ride using this method, regardless of where you go (as long as you don’t exit the stations). Technically, this means you can get to Brooklyn all the way up to Queens for only $2.75, which is a bloody bargain. Apparently they’re joining the 21st century at some point and introducing contactless at stations, although I don’t think this’ll be for a few years yet.
I hope that helped clarify slightly what the NYC subway is all about, and how you can navigate it successfully to get to where you want to go. Any questions, holla at your girl, and happy travels!
I love New York. I love New York so much that I would easily move there. Easily. So when the opportunity arises to visit, I naturally have to take it – and such an opportunity came about for a mid-April trip!
I jetted out on Saturday 21st April from Heathrow with Virgin (side note – ever since the introduction of Economy Delight/Classic/Light, I’ve always plumped for Classic… but chose Delight on the way back for more legroom and a smug expression which was well worth it for an extra £50). As per usual, the Virgin experience was fantastic, bar a lady inevitably slamming her seat into my kneecaps without warning (seriously, nothing angers me more!). The food was great, with a vegetarian option always offered, and the entertainment was brilliant (I watched ‘I, Tonya’, ‘The Shape of Water’, and spent a lot of time annoying Mr Roams on the in-flight messaging system). Above all else, however, were the fantastic staff – I’ve yet to meet a friendlier crew than the crews at VA, who always go above and beyond to help you out and make it a pleasant experience. Gold stars all round.
We stayed at the Ludlow Hotel on the lower east side, right opposite the landmark that is Katz Deli, down the street from il laboratorio di gelato (cajeta gelato, what what!), and just a few blocks from Russ & Daughters. In other words, I was in Jewish food heaven. The hotel itself was very chic and hip, with lots of gloomy hipster interiors and friendly staff. There was also a great little restaurant, Dirty French, attached to the hotel, who did almost criminally good food (seriously, I’ve never had a fluffier pancake). By the way, this is going to be a post full of food reviews. I’m back on Slimming World now and writing about all of this amazing food is the only thing stopping me from committing harakiri with a shard of Muller Light pot.
I’ve never stayed in the lower east side before, but I genuinely think it’s one of my favourite parts of Manhattan. There was such an awesome vibe around the place – it felt up-and-coming but still retained some of its old-fashioned charm and tradition (being shouted at in Katz Deli is almost a rite of passage). And the position of the 2nd Ave subway station was super convenient for exploring the rest of the city.
On Sunday, after trying and failing to battle jetlag, Mr Roams and I opted to have some brunch a few blocks from our hotel, to kickstart our day of exploration. Cafe Medi was delightful – a beautiful unexpectedly airy space with a beautiful mural (see below!), where we munched on omelettes, toast, and whatever Mr Roams ate (so observant).
We did a bit of a wander around Soho, including me dragging Mr Roams into various Sephoras (they had 10% off, I was being financially savvy!), and munching various things along the way. This trip had a similar pattern of eating and shopping, so I won’t spend too long discussing the actual days as they’re mostly the same, bar from me taking a little one-night trip down to DC to see my Virginia friends (you can see my DC review here!). Instead, I’ll focus on the amazing food I ate, as well as the various sights and sounds I saw in the city. My subway explanation will come in the next post, for those of you who’d like a runthrough of an initially ridiculously complex system!
First up on the ‘amazing eats’ post has to go to Katz Deli. This old-school deli is probably most famous to Brits as being the setting for that scene in ‘When Harry Met Sally’…
There was even a sign to commemorate the scene!
Other than that, it’s famous for its amazing authentic NYC pastrami sandwiches, as well as its slightly frantic, loud, New Yorker employees (I had some top bantz with the guy with the black cap). I don’t eat meat, but Mr Roams ordered one, and it came with roughly half a cow inside…
I had the egg salad, and a slice of cheesecake for pudding (what? I was in New York, come on!), both of which were slightly pricey but exquisite. The pastrami sandwich, from memory, was extremely expensive at $22, but did come with an insane amount of meat. It’s a classic, we had to!
It’s been a dream of mine to visit one of David Chang’s Momofukus for a good few years now (seriously, the man is a genius!), and Mr Roams and I managed to get to the Noodle Bar one evening, which was around a 15 minute walk from the hotel. We timed it well, arriving at about half 6 – as only around 10 minutes later there were queues around the block. And rightfully so, because dear God this food was insane. We started off with the shrimp bao with spicy mayo, pickled red onion, iceberg ($13 for two), and for mains I had the ginger scallion noodles with pickled shiitakes, cucumber, and nori ($15). It was ridiculously flavourful, with a complex range of textures and temperatures to boot – every mouthful was exciting!
I forced Mr Roams to get the famous Momofuku ramen for $18, which included pork belly, pork shoulder and a dainty poached egg on top. He’s not even a ramen fan and he enjoyed it – the pork belly appearing so tender that it almost disintegrated between the chopsticks.
We couldn’t have come all the way to the East Village for Momofuku to not go to the Momofuku Milk Bar – the brainchild of Christina Tosi. Naturally I went for a slice of crack pie, birthday cake truffles, and a compost cookie – all fan favourites on the menu. Perhaps controversially, I didn’t really rate the compost cookie which was a little stale IMO (also potato chips in a cookie? Sorry, but no), but the birthday cake truffles were great, and the crack pie was insanely delicious. Possibly one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth.
The next foodie destination we hit up was Russ & Daughters – an authentic century-old Jewish deli specialising in ‘appetizing‘ – as well as gorgeously decadent lox and schmear with a New York bagel to boot. Which was exactly what I chose, and exactly the reason I’m back on Slimming World now (sob)…
I can’t really explain how amazing this bagel was. Soft, chewy, still slightly warm, and fluffy – perfectly complimented by the salty/creamy lox and schmear. It was wonderful, and R&D deserve all the praise and accolades they’ve received over the years! It was eye-wateringly expensive to boot, but let’s just look over that, shall we?
The rest of the trip was spent bopping around the city on the subway, seeing the sights, trying desperately to book $10 Hamilton tickets (and failing), sneering at Trump Tower, window-shopping at Bloomies, and buying too much makeup (and a new shiny Macbook!). I’ve been to New York a good few times before this trip, and have done pretty much all the classic touristy things, so let me know if you’d like a more in-depth New York 101 post, happy to oblige!
Next post will be about the NYC subway – how to navigate it, what to do at each stop, and info about the Metrocard system. Possibly one of my more boring posts, although hopefully it’ll be useful too!