London is calling

London is Calling – An infographic by the team at Marriott London Hotels

After having lived in various countries such as Spain and Costa Rica, I can now say that I am proud to call London ‘home’. So many Londoners are actually ‘adopted’ from elsewhere and I’m one of them. Which is why it makes me sad to hear that one of London’s most iconic symbols, the red telephone booth, is in decline. There are currently less than 11,000 left in England, due to the onset of smart phones and the lack of need for phone boxes. I don’t think I have ever used a telephone booth, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like to see them in my neighbourhood. And I think that that’s how a lot of people feel. So when I heard about the ‘Adopt a Kiosk’ programme to help save them, I couldn’t help but share it. It’s not cheap though, so the programme works best as a community project as opposed to an individual one. But I really think that that’s the beauty of it.

Find out more here.

This Infographic was powered by Marriott.

Halloween Housewarming with Fireworks!

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Last night was a lot of fun. We finally got around to having a housewarming party, even though we moved in a couple of months ago. So we combined it with Halloween and Bonfire Night. A few friends came over and we enjoyed a few drinks and fireworks.

pumpkin face carvings

We woke up on Saturday morning, carved our pumpkin, popped to the Farmer’s Market in West Hampstead to buy cheese and bread and bought some fireworks (Sainsbury’s have the perfect ones for small gardens by the way – and they’re buy one, get one free!). I’ve always looked forward to hosting little parties with fun themes. I really enjoyed dressing up the table with autumnal touches like mini pumpkins and squashes. I can’t wait til Christmas now! Bring on the party season!

small fireworks in garden

Weekend at Home

Cute westie puppy

Last week I went home to visit my family. It’s always fun to get out of London and enjoy the countryside and get a taste of the North. Incidentally, this meant fish, chips and curry sauce on the Friday night! My boyfriend came with me too, so on the Saturday morning we went for a run and I showed him where I went to school, where my best friend used to live, where I use to waitress and babysit and all of the other things that formed part of my growing up. It was fun. I then took him to a good country pub for some Lincolnshire beer and lunch, before heading to Blyton Ice Cream, where we sampled the delicacies for dessert and played a little outdoor ping pong. It was a cute day date, before heading home for an evening in with my mum, brother and dogs.

Watching Downton Abbey with homemade soup

On Sunday morning, we headed for brunch with my Dad before getting the train back to London where he headed off to work and I went home to make noodle soup, catch up on Downton Abbey and snuggle on the sofa. Perfect weekend!

Mercat de la Boqueria de Sant Josep, Barcelona

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I love a good market. And Sant Josep is one of the best. I have been to Barcelona many times, but never really for a long period of time where I could spend a whole afternoon in the market, wandering around enjoying the sights, sounds and smells (not to mention that I often go to Barcelona with my mum who runs in the opposite direction to any fish stalls!).

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This summer, my boyfriend and I headed to Mercat de la Boqueria de Sant Josep, just off the La Rambla in Barcelona and did a full swoop of the area before deciding what to dip into. I really enjoyed the fresh calamares. He loved the pizza stall – with the crazy dude below! The fruit smoothies were also really yummy and we also tried some amazing empanadas somewhere in the middle of the stalls. We’ll definitely be returning!

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Girl in the park: who am I?

This isn’t a post that I usually publish. It’s a bit airy-fairy, I guess. But I wrote it a few months ago and I feel it still relevant, so I’m hitting ‘Publish’. Enjoy!

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I’m sitting in the park and there is a girl sitting opposite me reading a book. She is pretty frumpy with a long black floral skirt, a black t-shirt and boring mousey hair. She’s also eating an apple as she reads.

On the opposite side of the park are two girls. They look great in denim shorts, wedges, cute tops, all accessorised with jewellery and aviators. Earlier today, I was feeling frumpy – I came to the park with no makeup on, a simple cotton dress and my notebook. When I walked in, I felt pale and insecure, that my dress was unflattering, that my hair was still wet from my shower earlier. I wished that I were more stylish, that I had the perfect body to be able to wear denim shorts to the park and look cool and casual.

After a couple of hours, the two girls stand up and walk past me. They are younger than I thought. Teenagers, dressed up for every occasion. I look up again as they pass me and also notice the girl reading the book again. She is fully ensconced in her novel. And then I realise. She is probably happier than them. She is probably very content with her afternoon in the park reading a classic. She probably has a healthy balanced lifestyle and fewer insecurities than what a teenager would have. I am looking up to the wrong people. I want to be like her – a grown woman enjoying time alone with a book in the sunshine. And then it hits me as I look down at my flip flops and notebook. I am her.

Sometimes you have to step back and realise who and where you are.

Cefalù, Sicily

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The minute we arrived in Cefalù, I knew that it was somewhere that I wanted to spend a lot of time. I remember thinking that I wished we were staying there instead of in Palermo.

The town is full of pretty little backstreets, lined with small trattorias, cafes and boutiques selling souvenirs and local wares. It is such a happy holiday place to be. In the centre of the old town is a piazza surrounded by gelaterias and pizzerias and is also where the cathedral stands. We unfortunately didn’t get to go in the beautiful building, as there was a wedding taking place but that was quite fun to watch anyway, as all of the guest came out in their fine wear, smiling and throwing confetti.

There are plenty of things to keep you occupied in Cefalù. The beach is fantastic with absolutely stunning views. Although, it had been so long since I’d actually been on a beach – other than San Vito lo Capo the previous day – that i would have loved it regardless. All of the little backstreets and shops we actually discovered by accident on our way down from hiking La Rocca (another fantastic thing to do – I wrote about it here.). We drive into the tiny town whilst looking for a suitable parking space before lunch and drove into the tiny town, ending up herding up chattering old ladies like cattle and ushering them out of the way, much to our own frustration/amusement!

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When we did finally find a parking spot, next to a random rodeo that was happening, we wandered down to the beachfront to find a simple restaurant where we shared a salad and a pizza before hitting the sand to sleep it off.

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Before we left Cefalù, we meandered back through the little streets – on foot this time – tasting some pistachio gelato and nosing in the shops and we found a lovely bar in a little bay at the end of the beach to grab a coffee in before the drive back to Palermo.

I really didn’t want to leave. Cefalù is such a lovely little town to spend the day in that I wished that I could extend the trip for a whole weekend. I’ll definitely go back one day.

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Booking a Villa Holiday in Corsica

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In recent years villa holidays have soared in popularity and many holidaymakers are flocking to Corsica. Often referred to as ‘self-catering’, the practice of ‘villa holiday’ involves homeowners in the respective destination hiring out their home during the busy tourism season. On the one hand, holidaymakers benefit from luxurious accommodation in areas that often feature few ‘commercial’ accommodations, while on the other hand, local landlords benefit from extra revenue.

Whether your destination of choice is Corsica or any other place, there are clear advantages of residing in private accommodation vs. more commercial accommodation from extra privacy to an ability to cater for your own needs. The fact that the property often serves as someone’s home during the off season means that it is fully capable to cater for your party’s needs in comfort and style.

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Why Corsica? 

Corsica is situated off the French south coast and benefits from an average of 157 sunny days a year. Its mild weather for long parts of the year allows Britons to escape the beginning of winter even in September and October times. It is in fact an island with close to 700 miles of coastline meaning that luxury villas in Corsica often feature seaside views and in many cases easy access to the sea. Popular activities include swimming, sunbathing, water sports and hiking. In the evenings, the streets of the old towns and villages come to life with music and entertainment.

Finding a Villa Holiday 

Holidaymakers have two ways to find a local property to rent. One option is to use a travel agent type of service that acts as the middleman between yourself and the landlord. Such companies often have a wide choice of luxury villas in Corsica so you can easily and quickly compare options, prices and spec. Another popular option is to source a suitable villa directly from the owner. You can ask friends or family members who might be willing to recommend a suitable option or use many of the internet forms and web boards in which landlords frequently advertise their property. Note that the language spoken in Corsica is mostly French so by taking the private route, mastering the French language is needed.

What To Look For

Regardless of your preferred route, there are a few issues to pay attention to. These will make your holiday more enjoyable.

Contents Insurance – You should carefully evaluate whether the villa comes with contents insurance. Often such holiday homes are high spec properties and accidental damage will have to be repaired at someone’s expense.  Ensure that you have valid travel insurance and that the policy includes ‘contents’ level. MoneySavingExpert is a good source to find a cheap policy for the duration of your trip.

Villas vs. Cottages – There are very slight differences between the two. Villas are often newer properties that may feature two or three floors, while cottages are more traditionally shaped houses, featuring one floor.  You should evaluate both options, as often after years of entertaining guests, both will feature equal spec.

Speaking About Spec – Don’t assume that every holiday villa includes the same spec. Do your homework and compare your options. Naturally, the basics will be included from a fully working kitchen to beds complete with linen and bedclothes. However, a private pool, WiFi, air conditioning, a jacuzzi, a sauna and a long list of more luxurious features will vary from villa to villa so some research is required on your end to ensure complete satisfaction.

Enjoy your holiday!

Information by Affair Travel for the Stefanie Grace.

Sneak Peek: New Flat!

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Today I move house!

It’s all very exciting and as soon as we’re in and settled, you’ll get to see a lot more, but I had to show you guys the garden, which was what really made me want to sign on the dotted line! Luckily, the good weather in London is continuing this week so I’m hoping to get some fun outdoor time in before winter hits.

What do you think?

Dreams without Goals

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They say that dreams without goals are just wishes. In the same vein, I think that non-concrete goals are essentially just pipe dreams. Which is why I have decided to write a simple list of goals at the beginning of each month that will help me to focus on the bigger picture.

Here are my goals for September:

1. Lose 7lbs. Why? Because I’ve been yo-yoing all summer around the same 5lbs and I want to break the cycle this month.

2. Drink 2l of water a day. Why? I find myself forgetting to drink when I’m busy and then get headaches on the way home from the office. Plus, water is good for you.

3. Work out at least 3 times a week. This can be as simple as going for a run, doing a yoga DVD or just a simple home workout or long walk but I want to get my routine in place before winter draws back in.

4. Try a new recipe every week. I’m
in a bit of a cooking rut. I tend to just make soups and stir fries and simple things and I want to branch out. My plan is to try something new each week, possibly on a Sunday afternoon in my new, much bigger kitchen.

5. Write at least 2 freelance pieces a week and submit. This should be easy enough. I don’t need to pitch to editors I don’t know. I just need to get back on track now that the summer’s gone.

Want to do this too? It’s very simple.

So you want to lose weight? Write down that goal: ‘Lose Weight.’ Great! So does that mean that you’ll be happy if you only lose 1lb? Maybe not. Therefore, you need to be more specific with yourself. ‘Lose 5lbs’ is a more concrete goal. Or ‘Lose at least 1lb’ shows that you would be happy with a 1lb loss and if you do lose 2 or 3, then you’ll have surpassed your goal! Always question yourself when writing your goals, like What do I mean by ‘lose weight’?

It works in the same way for ‘Eat more vegetables’ or ‘Drink more water’. You can’t quantify what you are aiming for with these goals. Be more specific and you’ll find it a lot easier to know what you want. So they instead need to be ‘Make sure I eat my 5-a-day’ or ‘Drink at least 1l of water a day’ / ‘Replace one coffee run with a bottle of water’. Try writing some now and let me know how you get on!

What are your goals for September?
Let me know in the comments below!