The Best Duty Free Beauty Purchases

There's nothing more exciting than the feeling of going on holiday and after clearing security I always like to go for a browse in Duty Free. From skincare to perfume there's always a beauty bargain or travel exclusive to pick up, and so today I thought I'd share a few of my favourite Duty Free finds:
The best duty free beauty purchases

Having recently cleared out my make up collection it was love at first site with this MAC eyeshadow palette. I rarely experiment with colour anymore, instead preferring to stick to neutral tones and with a selection of shimmery champagnes and matte taupes this is a great one for every day wear. It's just the right size to take traveling and as you'd expect from MAC all the colours are pigmented and with minimal fall out. 

Top Tip: You can now reserve and collect Duty Free purchases online to guarantee that you won't miss out on the day.

It took me a long time to get into primers but now I wouldn't be without for special occasions. Benefit Porefessional Pearl Primer has a light silicone texture which just glides onto the skin, minimises the appearance of pores and gives it a nice smooth base for foundation. It's got a subtle soft pink focus too which helps to add just a touch more radiance and glow compared to the original Porefessional.

Perfume is one of my favourite Duty Free purchases and I love the idea of associating a scent with a particular holiday. There are so many fragrances and brands to choose from but recently I've been gravitating towards Jo Malone. There's just something so beautiful yet classic about their colognes and you can always guarantee a good saving compared to the high street. 

The 2 shown above are actually my wedding perfumes (I'd totally recommend the Jo Malone Scent Your Wedding service by the way) but next time I travel I'm planning on picking up the matching body cremes and maybe a diffuser or summer perfume too.

Another daily staple that's worth stocking up on in Duty Free. From dry lips to cuticles and cracked skin, Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream is one of those multi purpose products that I like to have in my collection at all times. It comes in particularly handy when traveling long haul to help protect against the dry cabin air, and I've come to find it's familiar herbal scent really comforting and soothing. 

Have you tried any of the products featured above? What are your favourite Duty Free purchases?

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Twinpalms Phuket Resort Review - The Perfect Tropical Paradise

From the moment R showed me some photos online, I knew that Twinpalms Resort in Phuket would be perfect for our honeymoon. With it's gorgeous outdoor swimming pool, luxurious rooms and beach side lounge bars it was exactly what we were looking for. The hotel was soon booked and luckily it wasn't too long before we were stepping off the plane and able to enjoy the stylish resort in person:

The hotel
Stepping out of a taxi from the airport a glass of sparkling cold wine was soon brought over along with some cold towels and the most fragrant floral jasmine garland. Such a welcome treat after a hot and rather stressful experience at the airport and this pretty much set the tone for the duration of our stay. Every little detail was considered and nothing was too much trouble for the friendly and welcoming staff.

Soon we were shown to our room and it was pretty much love at first sight. The whole hotel had a luxurious but natural and eco-friendly vibe and I loved the simplicity of the dark wooden furnishings against the contrast of the  crisp white linen. Not to mention the fact that the room was absolutely huge and opened onto a terrace which led directly to the outdoor pool.

The bathroom was modern and beautiful too with a huge walk in shower, his and hers sinks and Twinpalms Phuket's own brand of toiletries. I really wished I'd asked if they were available to buy in a bigger size as the blend of tropical fragrances was so lovely and it'll always remind me of our amazing honeymoon in Phuket. The only thing to mention is that the bathroom isn't separated into it's own room, instead it's divided off by sliding wooden shutters (like the ones you'd find for windows) which we both found rather weird.

Knowing that we were on our honeymoon the staff had kindly arranged for a bouquet of red roses to be left in our room. There were other fresh flowers dotted around the room too and in true 5 star style you could even choose from a selection of different ones along with your choice of room fragrance and pillows.

The terrace may look rather unassuming but that little bed/couch was so comfortable and with a perfect view of the swimming pool it was great for relaxing and hiding away from the afternoon sun or to enjoy an after dinner drink, something which we definitely took advantage of.

The view from our Twinpalms room balcony - I seriously wish I could wake up to this view every morning and being a keen swimmer I loved how close it was to the huge 50m pool, especially for those midnight dips.

Without a doubt the stunning palm tree lined swimming pool was the main attraction of the resort. No matter what time of day it was always popular with the guests but luckily it never got too crowded to sunbathe or to swim in. Sitting with my toes in the water and sipping on a fruity cocktail on our last day is one of my favourite memories of the entire honeymoon. It genuinely felt like paradise and I never wanted to leave. The pool is open 24 hours too and having gone for a few midnight swims there's something truly magical about the whole experience.

Everyday at 3pm there's a tropical fruits experience in the wine room where guests are invited to dine on the freshest tropical fruits. A lovely touch from Twinpalms Phuket and the perfect snack after a few hours of exploring or swimming.

Twinpalms Phuket beach side lounge bars and clubs
Since the change in Thai legislation a few years ago Twinpalms Phuket doesn't have any facilities on Surin Beach (the closest one) but there are 3 lounge bars and restaurants on nearby beaches. We actually quite liked this as there's a regular shuttle bus service during the day and it forced us to explore other areas of Phuket, otherwise we could have easily spent all our time around Surin Beach.

HQ beach lounge and restaurant was the first one we visited. Located on Kamala Beach it's a short 15 minutes drive away from the main hotel. Kamala Beach itself is much bigger and busier than Surin Beach but with it's cool huts and relaxed dining area HQ beach lounge was the ideal location to hide away from the crowds whilst still enjoying the tropical sea view.

With temperatures of up to nearly 40 degrees during our stay evenings were one of my favourite times in Thailand. Without the strong glare of the sun it was much more bearable and we made sure to take advantage by going for golden hour strolls along the beach as well as romantic drinks at some of the other Twinpalms bars and clubs.

For casual evening drinks Palm Seaside was our bar of choice. I mean just look how picture perfect the venue looks. We didn't end up eating dinner there but can you imagine how amazing it would have been to dine on one of the central tables, surrounded by the stunning water feature and a gentle sea breeze. The bar is located right next to the rocks so you're about as close to the Andaman Sea as you can get and it was so lovely to watch the sun set over the waters with a glass of mojito in hand and some spicy prawn crackers to munch on.

Just a short distance away is Catch Beach Club. Compared to HQ Beach Lounge and Palm Seaside this has much more of a vibrant club atmosphere and is open till the early hours of the morning. We arrived here after late night dining on the beach and loved the delicious selection of cocktails, many of them with a unique Thai twist. The photo above makes it look empty but even on a weekday when we visited it was relatively busy and is a good choice if you're looking for a fun night out.

Overall as you can probably guess we both loved our stay at Twinpalms Resort in Phuket. Knowing that it was a member of the exclusive Small Luxury Hotels group we had high expectations which the hotel more than met. Not only was Twinpalms Phuket absolutely beautiful, contemporary and stylish, the staff there were great too. Nothing was too much trouble and everyone was so friendly and welcoming during our stay. In fact I'd go so far as to say that Twinpalms Phuket is my favourite hotel that I've stayed in to date. Highly recommended if you're looking for a luxurious break or romantic honeymoon destination.

Life lately - April highlights and what I'm looking forward to in May

How are we a third of the way through 2018 already? It feels like only yesterday that we were excitedly planning for our honeymoon and now here we are at the start of May! April was a bit of a mixed month for me - having just returned from our trip to Thailand and Singapore it started with the worst case of jet lag and post holiday blues but then ended on a lovely note with a trip to Somerset. Here are some of my other highlights:

The beautiful Blenheim Gardens in Minehead, Somerset

Blog branding workshop with Anna Hart and Currys/PC World
Like a lot of bloggers recently I've been feeling rather lost with Peonies and lilies so an invite to attend a workshop with influencer Anna Hart couldn't have come at a better time. Over prosecco and nibbles we learnt all about what it takes to be a pro blogger, from influencer marketing, the importance of personal branding, social media management and how to pitch for collaborations. Currys/PC World have written a post all about the event but let me know in the comments below if you'd like me to share the key lessons in a blog post.

Health and Fitness
Since my gym membership ran out I've been pushing myself to try new workouts, including Barry's Bootcamp and 1 Rebel, which I've really enjoyed. The Rebel reshape class in particular has been a real hit as it combines 2 of my favourites, namely cardio and weights. It's only 45 mins but the instructors really push you and I always leave feeling pumped and on a real post exercise high.

Discovering new restaurants and bars
Since coming back from our honeymoon we've been making more of an effort to discover hidden gems in London and the newly refurbished Battersea Power Station is full of trendy restaurants and bars. After dinner one night we popped into No 29 Power Station West and I loved the relaxed but trendy atmosphere and the yummy selection of cocktails. 

Also not a new discovery as such but we were introduced to a few new dishes at Tukdin. Located in Paddington the restaurant is small and intimate but has a real homely feel and all the dishes are so authentic. A must visit if you're ever in the area and on the lookout for good Malaysian food - I'd recommend the Beef Rendang, Ayam Masak Merah (chicken in spicy tomato sauce) and Daging Bakar Asam (grilled beef with spicy tamarind dip).

Sunshine and our first BBQ of the year 
Call me stereotypical but as soon as the sun comes out and the temperature rises I just want to be outdoors making the most of the weather. Luckily we were treated to a glorious few days of sunshine this April and it wasn't long before we were enjoying our first BBQ. There really is nothing better than dining al-fresco, especially if there's a stunning view too.

Visit to Somerset and The Bloggers Retreat
Ending the month on a real high I was able to spend a few days in Somerset for The Bloggers Retreat. It was so lovely to meet other inspiring bloggers and we all learnt so much from all the workshops. Plus we got to stay at the seriously dreamy Unique Home Stays Boheme property, ride on a traditional steam train and explore the beautiful town of Minehead. It was my first time in Somerset and it definitely won't be the last as I couldn't help but fall in love with the stunning coastal views, rolling hills and fresh countryside air. Look out for a full blog post and more photos soon!

What I'm looking forward to in May:
- Restarting my personal training sessions and getting back on track with my diet
- Hopefully warmer weather and more outdoor BBQs
- Planning for our next holiday to Los Angeles and Las Vegas
- Celebrating our 10 months wedding anniversary
- The Royal Wedding, anyone else excited to see the dress and wedding decor?
- A few exciting blogger events, friends birthdays and meetups

You can also follow me on Instagram for more highlights and behind the scenes photos.

Did you have a good April? What are you most looking forward to in May?

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Holiday skincare essentials - 5 products to pack for your next beach/city break

Having recently returned from our honeymoon to Thailand and Singapore I thought I'd share a few of the beauty essentials I used to look after my skin when on holiday. Knowing that we were going to be in a hot climate and that I'd be wanting to wear minimal make up I wanted to make sure my skin was well hydrated and looking it's absolute best with these 5 products:

Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm (£47 full size from M&S)
This has been my go to cleanser for the last few years and the balm texture makes it ideal for traveling. It's packed with essential oils and as it washes away with water I love how quick and easy it is to use at the end of the day. The fragrance is really calming and no matter how heavy the pollution or however much sunscreen I've used during the day this always leaves my skin feeling deep cleansed afterwards.

Since introducing this as a twice weekly treatment in my routine I've noticed a huge difference in the texture of my skin so made sure to pack a bottle of this for our honeymoon. The glycolic acid gently exfoliates, sweeping away any dead cells to reveal a more radiant, brighter complexion. Only thing to remember is that a high SPF is a must with this product, especially in a hot sunny climate like Thailand or Singapore.

Another daily essentials - if you're worried about anti-ageing or suffer from dry/dehydrated skin then this moisturiser is good one to pack. It's rich enough to hydrate but without being too heavy for the 35 degrees heat. It makes for a good base under make up too, although next time I think I'll go for the mini travel size rather than taking the full 100ml supersized pot.

After a day of sunshine and chlorine my skin would be in need of some serious pampering which is where the Alpha H oil comes in. Like most oils it can take a while to sink in so I wouldn't recommend using this during the day, but as an overnight treatment the luxurious oil was just what my skin needed. I tend to use about 5-6 drops and by the next morning my skin would always feel more nourished and plumped up, ready for another day in the sun.
Knowing how strong the sun can be in Thailand and Singapore sunscreen was an essential for our trip, and for as long as I can remember Piz Buin has been my go to brand. There's nothing worse than a thick sticky feeling on holiday which is why I always gravitate towards the Ultra Light range. I'd say it's about similar thickness to a light lotion and unless we were going swimming an once daily application of SPF 30 was enough to protect our skin from burning.

Have you tried any of the products above? What are your hot holiday skincare essentials?

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Our honeymoon - highlights from an incredible trip to Thailand and Singapore

Where do I even begin with this post? If you follow me on Instagram you might have seen that we've just returned from our amazing 3 week honeymoon in Thailand and Singapore. It was honestly an once in a lifetime trip filled with some incredible memories and experiences. It's been so hard to narrow it down but off the top of my head these are just some of the highlights from our trip:

Admiring the view from the infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

That first dose of sunshine and heat
Considering it was still snowing when we left London it was a bit of shock when we stepped outside to 35 degrees heat. It was so nice though and now that we're back I'm seriously missing the sunshine and warmth.

Street food in Bangkok
Would it be wrong to say this was one of the thing I was most excited about pre-holiday? Bangkok is known for it's street food and wherever you go there are stalls selling everything from BBQ skewers and steamed buns to soup noodles and sometimes even a full restaurant menu.

CRU champagne rooftop bar  
Located on the 59th floor this was the highest open air bar that we've been to to date. As darkness fell the views were absolutely stunning and sipping on our cocktails it was the perfect way to celebrate our last night in Bangkok.

Visiting the Grand Palace
Probably the most famous historic site in Bangkok. As a former residence of the King Siam and his royal government the complex was huge and each building beautifully intricate in detail and design. A must visit if you're ever in Bangkok.
The incredible swimming pool at Twin Palms
I mean just look at the photo, need I say more?! The pool literally took my breath away as we walked into the hotel complex. It was great for cooling down during the afternoon and as it was open 24 hours we were able to enjoy a few midnight swims too.

Sunset drinks at The Palm
This was one of the restaurant/bars that was part of our Twin Palms Hotel. It's a short shuttle bus ride away but the bar is located right next to the rocks so you're about as close to the water as you can get. As the sun set there's a gentle sea breeze and it felt truly magical to be enjoying a mojito right next to the Andaman Sea.

Swimming in the sea
Surin beach is probably one of the calmer more family friendly beaches in Phuket and we both loved climbing the rocks and going for a swim the water. Even now as I look through our photos I still can't believe how blue and crystal clear the water was!

Dining on the beach at midnight
After drinks at The Palm we were in need of some food and walking around we found several open air restaurants on the beach. It was honestly such an incredible experience and I'll never forget being able to eat the most delicious Thai food then just running a few meters down the beach for a post dinner dip.

Swimming in the infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands
Staying at Marina Bay Sands has been on my bucket list ever since that BBC amazing hotels program and I'm glad to say that it didn't disappoint. As soon as we were checked in we made our way up to the infinity pool - it felt surreal to be there in person looking out to the city and I could have stayed there taking in the view forever.

Exploring Sentosa Island
Because Phuket was so incredible I had a touch of the holiday blues in Singapore so it was lovely to be back in a beach environment again, even if it was all artificial and man made. Our day exploring the island was one of my favourites and seeing in the sunset from a beach bar was just the most romantic and perfect end to our day.

Have you ever been to Thailand or Singapore? What have been some of your recent highlights?

For more photos and daily updates make sure to follow me on Instagram here

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A romantic date night at The Balcon, St James's

I'm a big believer in making the most of every day and sometimes after a particularly long day at work there's nothing better than a romantic dinner or drinks with friends to look forward to. Which is how one cold Monday evening we found ourselves sharing a bottle of wine and enjoying a delicious 3 course meal at The Balcon:

Located within The Sofitel Hotel near Trafalgar Square, The Balcon specialises in French and British cuisine and upon walking in we both fell in love with the luxe elegant decor. There's a stunning spiral staircase leading up to a small balcony and the whole restaurant had a cosy romantic feel with dark wooden furniture, plush velvet chairs and striking gold accents.

As we perused the menu a glass of Viognier white wine was soon poured and a selection of breads brought to the table. Usually I'm more of a cocktail or prosecco drinker but despite this I really enjoyed the crisp refreshing taste. In fact it went with our meal perfectly and I made sure to make a note of the bottle so we could enjoy it again the next time we visit.

The menu at The Balcon is small but refined and with a selection of meats and vegetarian dishes on offer there's something for everyone. For starter I wanted something light so choose the steak tartare where as R went for a hearty lamb wellington with pea puree and girolle sauce.

Both came beautifully presented but I personally thought the steak tartare was the star of the show. You could tell there was a lot of knife skill as the beef pieces were perfectly even and the balance of flavours just right with the artichoke crisps adding a lovely crunch to the dish. I believe the tartare can also be ordered as a main and they'll even mix it up at the table so you can customise the dish exactly to your tastes.

Between starters and mains we were able to enjoy some more of the delicious white wine and catch up on our day together. By this time the sun had set and it was so lovely to look out into Central London from the warmth and comfort of our little corner.

Mains were soon brought over and with our impending honeymoon in mind I'd chosen the sea bream as a slightly healthier option. I was particularly impressed with the crispiness and cooking of the fish and enjoyed the samphire and salsify as an accompaniment, although I would have preferred slightly less of the beurre blanc.

R on the hand had gone for a confit duck leg. We were both impressed with the depth of flavour that was packed into the lentils and thought the sausage and bacon pieces were a nice addition.

If I had to pick just one course which really stood out then without a doubt it would have to be the desserts at The Balcon. The presentation was so pretty and both dishes tasted just as good too. If you ever visit then make sure you try the vanilla and passion fruit mousse with walnut cake and caramel. Fruity, soft and refreshing it was the perfect end to a delicious meal. The chocolate fondant was such a classic too, although with an interesting twist of the pear ice cream.

Overall we both really enjoyed our meal at The Balcon. There's a lovely relaxed but romantic atmosphere, staff couldn't have been more helpful and the delicious hearty food perfect for warming up after a long day. 
Have you ever been to The Balcon? What are your favourite date night restaurants?

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*We were guests of The Balcon

Cambridge city guide - 10 fun things to see and do in a weekend

Cambridge may be best known for it's university and colleges but there's so much more to the city and as we discovered it's a great location for a UK staycation too. If you're also thinking of visiting then here are my top 10 fun things to see and do in Cambridge: 

1. Climb up the tower at Great St Mary's Church
For the best views of the city I would start with a visit to St Mary's Church. Located in the center of Cambridge it offers a great panoramic view of the city. It's a working church so you can have a quick look around before climbing up the narrow staircase for an overview of the local colleges, markets and architecture. Tickets are £4 for entry to the tower with a small discount for concessions.

2. Visit a university college
Once you've climbed down from the tower have a wander around the city center then make your way to one of the local colleges. King's College is one of the most famous and the Chapel is just stunning but I'd also recommend making a short walk to Selwyn College for it's beautiful gardens, especially in the Spring or Summer. Whatever college you choose, soak in the atmosphere and if you're anything like me it'll no doubt take you back to your own university days.

3. Browse Market Square
For a quick snack our favourite was Market Square. A decent sized market with stalls selling everything from dim sum and burgers to artisan breads and cheeses. I'd recommend having a walk around, sample some of the delights on offer and if you can stock up on some local produce to take home too - the cheese stalls in particular have so much choice on offer.
4. Marvel at the Mathematical Bridge
Officially called the Wooden Bridge, this is the most famous bridge in Cambridge. Despite the arch shape it's actually built entirely out of straight timbers hence the nickname. Popular myth is that there are no nuts and bolts holding it together and although not true it's still worth a visit, especially as the surrounding area is so picturesque too. 

5.  Enjoy afternoon tea at Fitzbillies
Another Cambridge institution - Fitzbillies has been serving sweet treats to locals and visitors since 1921. There are now 2 branches serving afternoon tea and their famous Chelsea buns. In particular I loved the traditional feel of their Trumptington Street branch and they have some of the prettiest window displays around.

6. Go punting
If the weather allows then make sure you book in for a punt along the River Cam. If you're visiting in Winter like we did then make sure you have a hot tea/coffee or enjoy a glass of Pimms in the summer as you're taken on a scenic tour of the city. It's a great way to explore and discover more about Cambridge, taking in the stunning architecture, bridges and hidden views of the some of the most famous colleges.

7. See the Corpus Clock
Another quick site to go and see. Officially unveiled by Stephen Hawkings the clock is made up of an striking 24 carat gold plated disc with no hands or numerals. Instead it displays the time by opening individual slits within the three rings which are lit up with blue LEDs to tell the hour, minutes and seconds.

8. Warm up in a pub with a hearty meal and pint
When you're visiting a city as steeped in history as Cambridge you can't not enjoy a traditional English Pub. There are so many to choose from but we stopped off at The Granta which had a nice view and an outdoor balcony for the Summer. It seemed popular with the locals too as there were a good mix of university students and families. My top tip would be to avoid the burger and instead go for a hearty bangers and mash, all washed down with a pint or G&T.

9. Visit one of the many Cambridge museums
For a dose of culture and education why not visit one of the many museums that Cambridge has to offer. We stumbled upon Fitzwilliam Museum which is the most famous and offers a large collection of art and antiques. There's also the Whipple Museum which houses scientific model and instruments as well as The Centre for Computing History to name but a few.

10. Explore Cambridge University Botanic Garden
Sadly we ran out of time to do this but judging by the photos the Cambridge University Botanic Garden is well worth a visit. Think stunning floral displays, pretty rock gardens and exotic greenhouses all set with 40 acres of land - the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city

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