New Year, New Job, New Start in the Big Smoke @capitalliving #placestorent #london #wheretolive #propertysearch

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Happy New Year to all of you wonderful readers, we hope you’ve had a great night celebrating and are optimistic and excited about all that 2014 has to bring. If, after you’ve recovered from your hangovers, you’re starting a brand new job (and life) in London, then hopefully this post will be very helpful to you.

 

Like many before you, the prospect of starting a new job and life in our Capital may be a little daunting, with its busy lifestyle, super savvy Londoners and endless string of bars, nightclubs, cultural sites and so on. So, when we met up with Capital Living owner Adam Goff, we finally found something that might just make the adjustment to city living that little bit easier.

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What is Capital Living?

Well, in short it’s the answer to all your London living needs. If you’re a professional coming to London to live, there is always the risk of paying a fortune for living somewhere not so nice, and with Capital living, they run a professional house share which provides everything that is needed for you to enjoy minimum fuss and maximum lifestyle in London.

Sounds good, tell me more…

Ok, so to keep it simple you pay one monthly bill which basically includes everything except your laundry and food. Which is great because you get the highlights of things like Sky TV +HD Flatscreen TV thrown in, your Council Tax paid for, a weekly housekeeper and there are no hidden charges. Capital Living also position its properties a short walk from the nearest tube stations, so your commuting time is efficient for wherever you have to get to! It really does almost sound too good to be true, and that’s what we thought until we actually visited Adam in one of the properties, which was incredibly impressive! Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 15.48.33

But who do I live with?

Well, this is the clever part, sometimes you just have to uproot and head to the Big Smoke all on your own, and that often means you’ll know little or no one which can again be a hugely daunting prospect! We’ve all been there and in fact Adam has been there himself too, which is why as well as the property renting side of things, he knew that it was important that he built communities. This is a really nice personal touch, as you are placed in properties which fit to not only your financial capabilities and location specifics, but also your compatibility with other ‘members.’

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Capital Living doesn’t like to refer to its tenants as ‘tenants’, to help build this community and make you as the consumer feel that you’re getting the service you’re paying for, everyone is treated like part of a members club, which may sound a bit odd from the outset, but actually fits the abode you are renting. There are also social mixers which take place on a regular basis which allow you to instantly meet new people, which can often be quite difficult in London, and all members have access to an active and engaging online forum on Facebook where you can share stories, photos from some of the mixers and generally stay in touch with the rest of the community.

Where did the idea come from?

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 15.48.03Well, its founder Adam Goff has always been a savvy entrepreneur ever since he left university. From a humble online student ticketing service through to mobile phone assistance and eventually property, he’s gained knowledge and know how along all of his entrepreneurial journeys, making each business a little bigger and better than the last. The real turning point to kick start Capital Living however, came from his own experience of moving to London from the Midlands, the idea of huge rent and bills in the most sort after locations came hand in hand with small dingy flats with dodgy landlords. Thinking about what he would want out of living in London, Adam carved out his ideal renting plan and got to work. Soon after, Capital Living was born, and with his team, like his other projects its just seems to be getting bigger and better.

The Big Snoochie Summary

So, you live in these lovely properties with like minded people, who following careful research from Capital Living, seem to have similar interests and lifestyles to you, there are no hidden charges so you can manage your money wisely, so what’s the catch?Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 15.55.33

Well, we struggled to find a catch really, its like being placed in an up market house share, which if you’ve dreamed of living in London gives you the setting and lifestyle that you can only imagine comes with a big city rather than the over priced nightmare flatshare dives which happen far too often.

The only real catch is that to maintain this standard of living, you initially have to meet Capital Living’s criteria for application, which first and foremost starts by being a professional in London.

So if you think that Capital Living might be right up your street, we would definitely encourage you to try a new way of flat hunting in London, its unique, luxurious and comes with an affordable price tag too, so give it a whirl and get in contact with Adam and the team here.

Need to find the UK’s best bites? Then @europcar has just the map for you #travel #map #food #drink #foodanddrink

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Ever wanted to take a trip around our great British Isles and find out where the best food from each region comes from? Then forget your conventional map because Europe’s leading car hire service Europcar has the solution – its a map called Britain’s Best Bites.

Whether you’re packing a picnic or shopping for the best ingredients for the Christmas table, you won’t go hungry with Europcar’s map of nibbles. so not only can you rent a cool car to see more of Great Britain, you can now enjoy the food along the way too!

So what is this map really like? 

Europcar’s Britain’s Best Bites is a scrolling parallax map which allows customers to take a journey down the country, from John O’Groats to Land’s End. Charmingly illustrated, with famous landmarks and images of the food in each region, the map features a green Europcar car, which can travel from place to place, unveiling gastronomic delights on its trip.

The route is 874 miles in total and covers key areas, including Edinburgh, the Highlands, Carlisle, Manchester, Stroud, Bath, Exeter and Cornwall.

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Caithness Smokehouse

At the tip of UK mainland, you’ll find the award-winning Caithness Smokehouse. Sample the mouth-watering smokey flavours of its locally sourced North Sea fish.

Tebay Services

In rural Cumbria, even the motorway services have farm shops. Stop at Tebay to fill up on hand-reared meat, homemade pies and relishes.

Lancashire Cheese

A trip to Lancashire isn’t complete without tasting the creamy, mild, crumbly cheese. Travellers looking for something to showcase on their cheeseboards should head to

Dewlay cheese-makers of Gartang, who have been making award winning Lancashire cheese for almost 60 years.

Stop for a coffee

Exeter’s Exploding Bakery is an original, no-nonsense bakery.  Order one of their ‘full-on-flavour’ tray bakes made with local Devon butter and free range eggs served with a relaxing cup of coffee.

With over 250 locations across the UK, there’s a Europcar branch along the whole of the Britain’s Best Bites route, meaning travellers can book a vehicle, wherever they are. It’s flexible and affordable car hire saves wear and tear on the family car, as well as added comfort for longer journeys. With additional items, such as baby seats, additional drivers and GPS, Europcar caters to every traveller’s needs, with the widest choice of vehicles, all on average less than six months’ old.

To find out more visit http://www.europcar.co.uk

Happy Travels! Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 22.55.50

 

@katscapades tells us to forget the Yo-Yo diet and embrace the #monacodiet #beauty #health

Once again, our health, fitness (and travel) guru Katrina Santos-Baron (www.katscapades.net) shows us how to live healthier…and maybe lose a few pounds in the process! So have a good old read, take the points on board, give it a whirl and let us know what you think!! 

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One fitness quote said, ‘it takes 4 weeks for you to notice, 8 weeks for your friends and 12 weeks for the rest of the world’.  I started a Weight Loss Challenge last March but had a major relapse when I had friends come to stay for two weeks! (oops!) I almost gained what I just lost, so I discovered the importance of juicing and decided to do an Alpha-reset (5-day juicing detox) to get back into shape. Juicing has been a habit since then. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot of things, and discovered my passion for running. So taaaaaaaaadaaaaaaaaaa, I’ve lost over 5.6 kilos and just above 10cm (3.9 inches) around my waist. Yaaaaaaaaaahooooooooooooooo!

I’m so loving a healthy lifestyle. For me, it’s not just a fad or an excuse to sometimes splurge in the organic section of the supermarket. It’s way beyond counting calorie intakes or trying to join the ‘green’ club. It’s giving utmost value to ourselves, like valuing something that you’d been meaning to have and finally got it (just like when I received my first Chanel bag – it was treated like a V.I.P.!). Taking care of our body is a must, it’s the only one we have!

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I was never really a fan of crash diets. I was too skinny before anyways. In fact, I used to eat a lot! Like 3 cups of rice and meat plus a lot of sweets on one sitting three to four times a day! However, as they say, our bodies start to change as we reach the age of 25. Though I believed I had a healthier lifestyle since I moved to London (except for the cake moments with my best friend – which occurred on most days of my London life, ooops), I kinda felt this body-changing-after-25 particularly when I got married two years later. The joys of cooking and discovering amazing eating places, plus the ‘dining bond’ with my hubby (with no exercise) during the first 8 months of our marriage resulted to unpleasant muffin tops! And there I was, tempted to try different crash diets but I thought best not to. Motivated to lose weight eventually paved the way for me to really get hooked into maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

I recently had some dietary advice from a Monaco-based nutritionist  that really helped me on my fitness journey. I admit that I’m not 100% following it (I’m still human by the way), but it’s good to have it at the back of my head which acts like a little voice whenever I’m about to cook, do my grocery shopping and as I put my trainers on. I shared it with some of my friends and they’re happy with the results. This may not be new to you – I’ve known some of the items he shared before I met him but it didn’t just remind me, it also made me more aware about the importance of what we eat and do to how it affects our body

  • THE GOLDEN RULES OF NUTRITION
  • Do not ever starve yourself. When you starve, your metabolism slows down. You might be losing weight but gaining more afterwards, also known as the yo-yo effect. Like what C. Helgoe said, ‘if weight loss is your only motivation, and you jump into the latest fast being used by Hollywood stars getting ready for Oscar gowns, your program is likely to backfire’. Remember, your diet should be eating more of the right foods at the right time.
  • Eliminate flour, gluten and junk in your meals. I know this is super hard, eh?!
  • NO to dairy products – milk and cheese, huhuhuhu…. Goat’s cheese is ok (it’s not from the cow :p)
  • Here’re the good news – carbs are ok! YES! But only until 2pm.
  • Eat fruits only in the morning as most fruits have high sugar content.
  • Salt = Cellulites. Yikes!
  • NO to GMO too – choose organic.
  • Drink protein shakes for breakfast (could be mixed with fruits) and drink another one in the evening (without the fruits)
  • Fats will only be burned after 40 mins of cardio since the first 40 mins are only for sugar-burning
  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep for cells to regenerate properly (natural anti-aging)
  • [Goes without saying] Drink loads of water
  • Don’t forget the veggies!

LET THE MONACO DIET BEGIN:

So here’s how my daily diet and activity looks like:

  • Between 6:30 to 7:00am: It’s cooking time! So meanwhile, I’m drinking Juice PLUS+® Complete Vanilla or Chocolate Shake. I like it how it is so I only add water. Maybe one day I’ll try making smoothies with it.
  • About 7ish: My hubby and I normally have eggs for breakfast. Eggs are packed with protein and healthy fats – good for muscle growth and burning body fats partnered with superfood – avocado and spinach served with green juice on the side.

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Once in every 2 weeks, I make tapsilog (a Filipino dish composed of beef, eggs and fried rice but I cook it a non-stick frying pan – so no oil or sometimes a tiny bit of organic olive oil). Oh, try frying tomatoes with olive oil and basil – they go well with the eggs too!

  • Between 8am to 11am: I have some fruits on my working desk.
  • Around 12ish: I’m happy with a salad especially during the heatwave in the Riviera. Have you seen my crispy lettuce with strawberry salad dressing? If not, please click here. Sometimes I eat rice or whole wheat pasta with protein and fiber (so that’s meat and veggies). I also try adding some twists to the traditional dishes such as including spinach to spag bol sauce for instance served over gluten-free pasta or zoodles (zucchini-made-like-noodles). Who says healthy food is boring and tasteless?! I disagree! 🙂

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  • When my hubby gets home at 5pm: We have an early supper mostly composed of protein and fiber (I also cook with carbs for his packed lunch the next day but I try not to eat carbs during this time, til 2pm, remember?!). Sometimes I make another glass of fresh juice.
  • Between 7pm to 8pm: Trainers on, off we go running. Since it’s been too hot lately to run by the beach, I’ve been running lately at the treadmill (3 – 4 times a week). If we get hungry after the run, we just boil 2-3 eggs each eating only the white. Bye, bye yolk!
  • 9pm: Juice PLUS+® Complete Vanilla or Chocolate Shake
  • 10ish to 11ish: Bed time!

Cheat day once a week is OK but if you sweat your ass off the gym and become aware of what’s good for the body and not, you’ll still resort to eating more of the right food and feel [a bit] guilty if not, therefore limiting unhealthy intake (if I used to eat up to 6 cupcakes at one sitting, now, 1 cupcake is enough during my cheat day).

When trying to lose weight, it is also important to think of these:

  • Why are you doing it. It’s an awesome feeling being able to fit into the clothes you want to wear, waking up with a flatter tummy, notice your skin looks younger and glowing everyday without putting on cosmetics, being able to run faster and be more mentally alert during working hours. As for me, I DON’T WANT TO BE SKINNY, I WANT TO BE FIT. I’d like to prepare my body as healthy as possible – who knows, we’ll have a baby soon? 🙂
  • Keep a diary of your progress. I did 🙂 It didn’t happen overnight, didn’t happen over a period of 10 days as well. It took me months and learned a lot along the way (and still learning!). Aside from my messy notebook, I also documented my progress @katscapades in Instagram and thru my previous blogs:
  • Do the alternatives. Take the stairs instead of the lift, walk to the grocery instead of taking the car or bus, go for a fresh morning walk instead of snooze-snooze-go-away bed mood. Just be active. Move a lot. Y’know what I mean 🙂
  • Read the labels. Geesh, I really do spend time reading labels (in French) at the supermarket!
  • Be fun and creative! Sooner or later, you’ll discover that healthy chef within you.
  • Nobody’s perfect. You may feel you’re behind your regime but don’t panic – slow progress is better than no progress at all.
  • Connect with like-minded people. Share and start inspiring others too – it’ll make you feel like a million-euro-monaco-baby!
  • Take the holistic route. Have a balanced diet, regular exercise, fill your life with laughter and love. La vie est belle!

Cheers to a healthier us! xoxo

P.S. I just called it the ‘Monaco diet’ since the nutritionist is based there. Results on individuals may vary, consult your doctor first. But overall, I recommend a healthy lifestyle 🙂

Planning a trip to Italy, you wouldn’t want to miss this relaxing spa weekend in Lake Garda! #travel #health #spa #beauty

Once again our European travel and beauty writer Kat Baron is on the road giving us the low-down on the best places to stay, indulge and relax in Europe, this time its the turn of a spa retreat in Lake Garda. To read more of Kat’s adventures, check out her own blog Katscapades.

So in the last few weeks my husband and I had the special birthday treat of visiting one of the world’s fashion capitals, Milan! An amazing city and I had a fantastic time, but after the hustle and bustle of bumping into fashionistas and models everywhere I turned, I needed a break!! So I found a mini-spa break just 60mins from Milan, my destination: Lake Garda!

Living in Nice, Lake Garda is nearly a 5-hour drive from our home. We are already used to long drives this time last year, we drove from Nice to Barcelona (about 7-8hours) but its incomparable to our 12-hour snowy journey from Geneva last winter. We’d been to a lot of places around Italy and France in our used and abused blue car! Too bad I can’t drive, but I know, deep down, I’m meant to be driven, lol).

My holiday checklist

Anyway, as I was sat in the passenger seat for the journey, I was able to collect my thoughts of the do’s and don’ts of a long drive to a fun destination:

  • Good night sleep prior – check.
  • All essentials stuff packed – check. (It’s very irritating knowing that you left something at home)
  • Filling breakfast – check. (We had freshly made orange, apple, carrot juice at home followed by egg-cheese-muffin sandwich and pain au chocolat pour moi! I know it’s buttery but one won’t hurt!)
  • Cash, cards, and coins – check.
  • Water – check.
  • Comfy clothes – check.

I was set and ready to go! See:

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I had no make-up on, just my usual moisturizer with SPF 24 and I just pinned my long grown fringe with hair on one side.

Are we nearly there yet?! 

After driving on the autoroute (fr) /autostrada (it) for hours, we knew we were getting near our destination as we drove through the gorgeous grape vineyards. We left Nice at 9ish and arrived in Cola’ Di Lazise, a small province of Verona southeast side of the lake at around 2ish. We booked 2 nights at the lovely Villa Dei Cedria Veneto villa designed by Luigi Canonica of Milan (the architect whose works include Foro Bonaparte, the Milan Arena and the Carcano Theatre) and built at the turn of the nineteenth century (the villa is more or less 200 years old). When the villa was restored, rooms of various sizes were created on the upper floors. As a result, it can host even the most demanding customers in an exquisite and elegant setting. In 1943 Field Marshal Erwin Rommel took it over as his residence and used it as the German headquarters for all of northern Italy.  The halls on the ground floor of the villa welcome guests in an aristocratic yet relaxing setting.

Upon entering the gates, we parked our car infront the main door and we were welcomed by their friendly staff. The reception has a huge table and what caught my attention was the elegant lobby (as seen on the left photo) with a well-preserved chandelier (other parts of the villa like the grand dining area as seen on the right has chandeliers), high ceilings and antique but chic furniture. image_3

The villa even preserved some of the original furniture dating 150-200 years old!

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This chessboard was amazing! The statues on the lower left side are 400 years old!

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The staff took care of our luggage and we were taken to the admin office just few steps from the reception (y’know, the usual check-in process). After that, one of the staff took us to our room as the others took care of our luggage. When we entered the room, I got even more excited!

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Our room was just lovely, with satin brown and black bed covers and curtains with a hydromasssage pool in our room – YES, IN OUR ROOM. I knew it before but I wasn’t expecting it could be this nice. Amaze balls.

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As explained by the staff, the pool has 3 different types of massages and it has speakers for CD, radio, tv and there’s even an iPhone (4) dock! Annoyingly we weren’t able to use this as we both have an iPhone 5, but anyway, it was just fab. The purple lights hanging from the high ceilings as you can see on the upper left photo change colours to give a more romantic, relaxed ambiance.

I also love the bathroom. It has a starry-effect ceiling, his and hers basin over a wooden drawer with white bathroom accessories, towels and toiletries.

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Oh, look at the shower – it also changes colour!

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The Villa dei Cedri is situated in an enormous park and its windows overlook the grounds.

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The park will charm plant lovers because it has rare species of trees that are easy to identify, as there are detailed signs under the most important ones (posts are available in Italian and German only).  There are also several sun beds which you can rent for €4 (you can ask the hotel reception for the wrist bands or pay cash at the park). Look at this fitting room, isn’t that cute?!

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Before heading back to the room, we dropped by at the Centro Benessere to book our treatment and massage for the following day. There are few golf cars in the park, not sure if hotel residents can rent it to tour the grounds but I borrowed it anyways.

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It was drizzling and a bit cold (about 14C degrees) so we headed back to the room. But who cares about the cold rain when we had a hot tub in our bedroom?!

We chilled out for a bit having drinks (btw everything in the minibar is free), watching movies on Sky and really just relaxing and enjoying our time.

For dinner, we tried going back to the Trattoria but it’s fully booked – so make sure you book ahead! So we decided to try the restaurant inside the park just next to the villa called Ristorante Villa Moscardo. According to the staff, it dated back 400 years!

We made a good choice. The food was just so delicious! We skipped the hors d’oeuvres and started with the first course. I had Paccheri “Villa Moscardo” basil-tomatoes-parmesan cheese-pecorino cheese and Mark had Tortiglioni alla carbonara with zucchini flowers, zucchini julienne and crispy leek. For the Main Course, I had Beef fillet grilled and Mark had Slices of beef on a bed of Rucola and parmesan cheese.

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The food was really good and we were so stuffed that we just shared Crema Catalana for dessert.

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All of these with half a bottle of house wine and water came to €67.

Oh, before I forget, look at this garden view from our bedroom window:

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Day 2!

Surprisingly, I woke up early the next day (5am but I tried to sleep and got up just before 7). This was not normal! We headed to the breakfast room at 7:30 but went back to the room since breakfast is not served until 8am. We’re early birds I know!

Breakfast’s served in one of the villa’s beautiful rooms. There was a variety of cereals, cooked breakfast, bread, cold and hot drinks and Italian cakes!

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There were also tables and chairs outside, perfect on a sunny morning. It was a bit chilly at 11C degrees so we were sitting near the fireplace.

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After breakfast, we plunged into the hydromassage in our room for about 30 minutes…why wouldn’t you!

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Then we got ready and walked towards the lake. The villa is located at Parco Termale Garda and this park has two small lakes.

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It was 14c degrees outside but the lake’s temperature is about 34-36c degrees and the hydromassage pool on the lake was 39c degrees. Imagine floating on the thermal lake and seeing the beautiful skies and trees as you open your eyes. That’s what I did. I was floating and swimming almost all over! I just love it! There wasn’t many people as well so it kind of felt like we’ve got the whole place to ourselves!  It was a refreshing feeling and I didn’t feel cold at all. The lakes are open from 9am and also open for night swimming on certain days.

We stayed at the lake for about 2 hours and went back to the room to get ready for the next treat in the spa. We didn’t really feel hungry for lunch after the big breakfast – which is surprising for me!

The Spa!

Our spa experience started with a body treatment for 60 minutes. I wanted to try the Grape Treatment (regenerating massage rich in antioxidants) but I had Spice Treatment, a tonifying and relaxing massage with essential oils of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and myrrh as recommended by the staff. My husband had a Fango Treatment described as, “The Dead Sea salt scrub is a skin exfoliant made of salt crystals from the Dead Sea, a body of water renowed for its healing, mineral infused waters. This treatment stimulates the skin, muscles and nerves, cleanses the pores and improves blood circulation and the texture of dull, bumpy and tired skin“. After the treatment, we both had a Tibet Massage for 60 minutes- holistic massage during and after which you will experience a pleasant feeling of warmth, lightness and deep relaxation. Himalayan stones and bundles filled with Dead Sea salts combined with almond oil give you a feeling of well-being and regeneration. This massage has naturally exfoliating, toning, draining, oxygenating, anti-cellulite functions. It was just sooooooooo relaxing….

After the 120-min treatment and massage, we wanted to maximise the spa’s facilities after having a cup of tea in the relaxation room overlooking the indoor pool, we tried the sauna.

The spa also has other services from mani / pedi, facial treatments, waxing and tanning.

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Hair/Skincare tips when spa-ing

After this amazing day of pampering, my skin felt so soft and my hair a little bit oily. But seeing that we spent a lot of time on water prior to our spa treatment, it is important to keep our hair and skin healthy and hydrated not just during holidays when too much time on water’s involved but also on our day-to-day life. I’d like to share some hair/skincare tips:

  • Apply sunblock (well it wasn’t sunny when we were at the lake so I didn’t) and moisturizer or body oil after dipping
  • Wax unwanted hairs the day
  • In case you’re over excited in the hydromassage like moi, do not exceed over 20 minutes dipping into 39c degrees; use aroma therapy oils for indoor hydromassage (the villa provided a tropical scent one which we both love)
  • I usually tie my hair up when swimming so it doesn’t go all over the place. I also make sure I use hair conditioner especially after dipping into water.
  • I had no make-up (no edit, no filter) on most photos I took and posted on this  blog. I give credit to having a healthy lifestyle (eating clean, juicing and exercising) for bringing great results to my hair, skin and even nails.

That evening, we drove to Verona city-centre, 30-min from Villa Dei Cedri) passing thru the green vineyards and few outlets. We wanted to see the famous Romeo and Juliet’s balcony but we got there a bit late (it closes at 6:30 pm). It was a lovely way to finish off our trip to Lake Garda!

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We walked around the lovely town and sat in one of the restaurants for dinner.

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We had the typical Italian dish – pizza, pasta and risotto with drinks for about €50 🙂 Eccellente!

The next day, we had a quick walk around the park after breakfast, packed our stuff and we hit the road to Milan… Say Ciao Milano!

Thanks for reading. If you are looking for a relaxing, romantic, thermal-water-experience and close-to-the-nature break with your loved one, family, kids or friends, I highly recommend this place.

Villa Dei Cedri S.p.a. Piazza di Sopra, 4 – 37017 Cola di Lazise (VR) Italy | http://www.villadeicedri.com

Standard Rooms (Bed and Breakfast) starts from €180 per night at The Villa. There are also residences inside and nearby the park. For more photos, please click here.

Need a guide to Bee-auty? Then @beeconomics_org can help you! #beauty #bees #crowdfunding

As you may have seen from their first post, Heather and Dom Ridout have upped sticks and swapped their London lives for a brand new venture in Brazil with a few bees called Beeconomics! Firstly they told us why they’re going, and now they’ve kindly written a fantastic piece on the benefits of bees and beauty! 

They’ve started up Beeconomics, and if you like what you read from their very first post for us, then good news! There’ll be more updates in the coming weeks! Also, if you feel inclined to support the cause, you can find out all you can follow them on Facebook andTwitter

Most importantly, they’ve just launched a crowd funding campaign called Show me the Honey! to help their cause, so if you want to support it, then click here!

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Back to the Beauty bit!  

Honey has incredible skin and hair care properties. It has been revered throughout history for this purpose – the Egyptians used it in mummification (the ultimate anti-ager!), Cleopatra bathed in it, the Romans used it on battle wounds, whilst the wife of the Roman Emperor Nero, Poppea, formulated a honey based moisturiser. Queen Anne of England used it to condition her hair and Madame du Barry (famous for her beauty and for being Louis XV’s final mistress) may have been the first to make a homemade honey face-mask, a practice continued by modern starlets such as Scarlett Johansson who attributes her healthy glow to a manuka mask (just honey, nothing added).

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This remarkable substance is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It soothes and moisturises and is a humectant meaning that it draws moisture towards it and seals it onto the skin, prolonging its moisturising effect. It contains phytochemicals which make it antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory. It is also self preserving (due to its anti-microbial constituents, low PH, moisture content and water activity) as famously illustrated by archeologists who found 2,000 year-old jars of honey in Egyptian tombs!

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Honey can be applied neat to the skin or combined with other complementary ingredients. We’re sure you will be keen to get some on your skin – so here are some ideas for a homemade face mask using honey and things you might find in the fridge:

* Make a simple Cleopatra-esque mask using plain yogurt/cream (we find milk doesn’t stay on so well!) and honey to moisturise and soothe (recommended for sensitive skin)

* Mix honey, oats (best if ground first to avoid clumpiness) and a little lemon/lime (rich in AHAs and vitamin C) to moisturise and exfoliate

* Blend some enzyme-rich papaya (also contains vitamin A) and honey together to brighten and banish dead skin cells without scrubbing

 TAHDAAAHHH!!!! You’ll be looking like a goddess in no time!

Happy Bee-autifying!!

New York on a shoe string – Affordable dining at the Mandarin Oriental’s Asiate restaurant @MO_HOTELS #food #newyork #finedining

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You literally can live the high life in New York for under $50 if you know the right spots to visit; and thanks to a very kind recommendation, we managed to find a hidden gem in a well known luxury.

New York oozes style, money and culture, and for some the dream of visiting the big apple can often remain just that. However, we’ve found a few little gems which will get your mouths watering and keep your bank manager still smiling.

The Mandarin Oriental is the height of luxury, it stands on the corner of Central Park opposite Donald Trumps hotel and soars high into the sky. However, you may just chose to stay in more affordable accommodation elsewhere, which is perfectly fine, but make sure you book in lunch here!

Soaring well above the skyline on the 35th floor is the Asiate restaurant. A pan Asian experience which for us superscrimpers luckily has a Prix Fixe menu (3 courses) for just $35! If you’ve never experienced fine dining before, this is certainly a great place to start. It has excellent service, delicious food and views over central park to die for!

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The attire is smart casual, and that means that after a morning of walking around this amazing city, you can still look glam in your slinky sandals and smart flip flops. You’ll be surrounded by lots of corporate business people who have used this as a location to secure a deal or two, but really you, the tourist are getting the deal breaker. You’ll feel straight like a character out of Sex and the City, and really experiencing what it means to be a high-flying Manhattan native!

IMG_3073For us, the first course consisted of a Ceviche pallet cleanser with a little hint of wasabi and some cuts of oranges and sea food – it was delicious and really set the scene for the culinary delights to come. Following that, you get a choice of pea soup or tuna nicoise salad, which was elegant and not too filling.

The main course has a selection of three dishes, Scallops, which are so rich in flavor that it almost becomes difficult to finish, Black Seabass, which was totally moreish but delivered in the perfect amount, and for those who didn’t want to stray too far from British shores, a lamb cutlet with mashed potato.

Finally you had the choice of two deserts, either a dark devils delight chocolate fondant (which of course we chose!) or an Almond and Rhubarb fondant. The chocolate choice exuded decadence and luxury and was a melt in your mouth experience!IMG_3072

So in terms of a bargain, surprisingly the Mandarin Oriental provided something above and beyond our expectations. This was an experience perfect for a treat, a birthday or just something different to do whilst you’re touring the city. Our one word of caution is to watch out for the additional prices on drinks – a glass of wine, a bottle of water and a cup of tea or coffee to finish your meal, will start to rack up the price point, so if you are watching your wallet be careful of that!

Finally, to ensure that you get one of the breathtaking window seats, make sure you plan ahead – these tables can go months in advance, and sometimes can be given as priority seating to those who are staying at the hotel. So our recommendation is that you specifically request this when making your booking.

For more information on this unique dining experience, click here

Happy Dining!!

 

The perfect sunny mini-break Majestic Gorges de Verdon #travel #holiday #france #placestovisit

Thinking of that perfect mini break away? Well, our travel writer Katrina Santos Baron shares her tips for a fantastic trip to the sunny and picturesque Majestic Gorges de Verdon.

You can find out more about Katrina and read oodles of her fantastic writing on her own blog Katscapades.

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Gorges de Verdon is a river canyon that is often considered to be one of Europe’s most beautiful. It is located in the midst of the region of the French Riviera and Provence, about 2 hours drive from Nice or from Marseille. I’ve just ticked another item in my bucket list as we spent our whole Saturday at this majestic place. Five of us left Nice early in the morning, packed our food and mats for picnic and had our wishful thinking that the water’s gonna be warm enough to swim as it is not yet summer. We were lucky with the spring weather, sunny at 20ish degrees but the water was still ice cold.

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Crossed on foot by hikers all over the world, the Verdon has become a natural site protected since 19901. Although it’s much smaller than Arizona’s Grand Canyon, the Gorges du Verdon is deep, compact, wild and beautiful. From Castellane to the village of Rougons, the Verdon river flows clear and swift, and the road follows along the banks. At Rougons, by the Point Sublime, the river plunges into the narrow rock walls, and there’s no escape until it comes out the western end before flowing into Lac de Ste Croix2.

The place offers various activities for all ages to enjoy whether you’re with family, friends and/or partner. You may explore the area by hiking or cycling, look at the specular view from above through paragliding, climb the world-famous rocks, or camp amongst one of its sites. Water sports lovers can go canoeing, rafting, stand up water surfing, water bike paddle boating (like what we did) and others. Of course, swimming is a must if the water’s warm enough. We’d love to go back in few weeks’ time and try paragliding!

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If you would simply like to relax and enjoy nature’s picturesque view whilst having a picnic, Lac de Ste Croix is a perfect spot.

I’ve also put together some outdoor skincare tips plus quick-fix hairstyling for women:

I used Avène’s sunblock (from the goodiebag I got during my last visit at the Hydrocentre) and I must say it is the best sunblock cream I’ve ever tried. It Screen Shot 2013-05-10 at 13.25.00is non-greasy and has a pleasant smell unlike other creams I used in the past. I love the composition, spreads easily without leaving white marks on my skin and it is very light considering its high SPF protection and water resistance. Of course my skin got oiler in the afternoon as I had a good-paddle-workout through the river so I sprayed Avène Thermal Spring Water and wiped my face with a clean tissue. I’m not a fan of make-up when actively doing outdoor stuff. For quick-fix outdoor hairstyling, I just braided my hair in the morning (it works better if you sleep with your braid overnight), loosened it in the afternoon and tied it back with a simple ponytail as it got warmer. Viola, no need for electric curlers! 🙂

For more information on how to visit the Gorges de Verdon, see below:

Information

Here are the principal places for information about the Verdon Canyon. The Office de Tourisme or Mairie in other villages of the region also have information on the Gorges de Verdon.

Aiguines (83630)
Tel: 0494 70 21 64; Fax: 0494 70 20 41
Email: verdon.accueil@wanadoo.fr
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
Parc Naturel Régional du Verdon
Tel: 0492 74 63 95; Fax: 0492 74 63 94
Castellane
Tel: 0492 83 61 14; Fax: 0492 83 76 89
Email: office@castellane.org
Web: http://www.castellane.org


Transportation Verdon Gorges

Bus

Marseille – Gréoux – Riez – Castellane Bus FH-27

LER line 27 (part A): 3 buses/day, between Marseille and Riez, trip time 2 hrs. Stops: Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, Venelles, Meyrargues, Peyrolles, Pont Mirabeau, St Paul-lez-Durance, Vinon, Gréoux-les-Bains, St Martin-de-Bromes, Allemagne-en-Provence, Riez.

LER line 27 (part B): 1 bus a day between Riez and Castellane (via the Gorges-de-Verdon), trip time 1h30. Stops: Riez, Roumoules, Moustiers-Ste-Marie, Lapalud, Rougon, Pont de Soleil, Castellane.

• On the LER website (http://www.info-ler.fr/fr/lignes-horaires/carte-et-fiches-horaires-n287. , select Ligne 27: Marseille / Greoux / Castellane to display the bus schedule PDF.

 

#competition Celebrate Grosvenor House Apartments 1st Birthday & win a wish a week! @GHA_JumeirahLiv

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Ever wondered what it would be like to live the high life? Would your ultimate indulgence be a swanky dinner at a top restaurant? A shopping spree at a shop on Bond Street or maybe one of the ultimate spa treatments – the key to relaxation… Everyone’s perception of luxury is different, so its time to get your thinking caps on and think up your wish list as you may be in with a chance of winning one of these stunning prizes.

Its time to wish our friends at Grosvenor House Apartments on Park Lane a very Happy 1st Birthday. And to celebrate they want to share some of the excitement with you!

As part of the celebrations this month, Grosvenor House Apartments is going to bring the amazing knowledge of its expert concierge team to the lovely people of London! This team will be granting ‘one wish’ a week for members of the public where the lucky weekly winner will have a chance to win one of these ultimate luxury prizes!

–          Dinner at…(the restaurant of your choice)

–          Shopping spree at… (the shop of your choice)

–          A relaxing Spa Illuminata treatment

–          Your suggestion

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So how do you win…its totally simple! All you have to do is tweet @GHA_JumeirahLiv , post your wish on their Facebook wall or visit the lobby to fill out a ‘wish card’, and fingers crossed you might be the Londoner that wins the wish you’ve always been after! 

So who are these lovely people giving away this amazing prize? 

Grosvenor House Apartments by Jumeirah Living is centrally located in one of the most exclusive areas of London on Park Lane in the heart of Grosvenor House Apartments by Jumeirah Living - Penthouse Study1Mayfair, opposite Hyde Park and close to Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel and Knightsbridge.

The property’s 131 apartments range from studios through to a five-bedroom penthouse (over 450 square metres), providing the largest serviced luxury accommodation in London in a prime and exclusive area. Apartments may be reserved for either short or long stays and are priced accordingly.

Grosvenor House Apartments by Jumeirah Living - Penthouse study

If you decide to stay at one of these AMAZING apartments this month, you’ll have an extra chance to win a fabulous prize! Each arriving guest will have the chance to unwrap one layer of a giant ‘pass the parcel’. With the opportunity to win luxurious spa treatments, bottles of champagne, exclusive dinners or a fabulous holiday, this is one party game not to miss out on!

So there you have it – its so easy to enter, its just not worth missing out on, so make sure you get your wish over to them today!

Happy hoteling everyone!

@lonelyplanet says thank you with free book giveaway! #travel #travelguide

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Going on holiday? Then you don’t want to venture ANYWHERE without your Lonely Planet guidebook! We’ve been all around the world and it really is THE guide to take with you – its got all the top places to visit, stay, eat and beyond, all in a really easy to read format – oh and the pictures keep you occupied during those 24 hour bus journeys! (Yep we’ve all been there).

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So if you’re planning your next big trip you’ll be pleased to know that Lonely Planet is celebrating passing the whopping 1 Million mark on Facebook and Twitter, and as a big old thank you, it’s giving away a free book!!!

You can sign up for your freebie here 

So why not give it a whirl, and if your Lonely Planet has helped you get out of a sticky travel situation in the past, then let us know, we’d love to share your travel stories…oh and send us a pic too!

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Happy Travelling!