Sunday, 16 October 2016

Outfit post - House of Fraser Yumi Polka Dot Dress

this is a photo of a navy blue and white polka dot dress

Martyn and I both have a week off and a few days to just chill out before heading to Berlin on Wednesday so we decided to take a stroll around Tredegar House grounds and gardens. Tredegar House is one of the most significant late 17th century buildings in the UK. The earliest documented owner of a house at Tredegar is Llewelyn ap Morgan, who was alive in 1402. Charles I and his retinue visited the house in 1645, which goes to show how important the house is.  

Tredegar House was predominately built in the 17th Century between 1664-1672 when it was remodelled and large state rooms were added. The estate once comprised of 1,000 acres but around 90 acres remain today.   

The last Lord of Tredegar passed away in 1962 and the house was sold and turned into a school.  Taking over Tredegar House in 1974, Newport Borough Council began restoring and refurbishing the property when the took it over in 1974 and Tredegar House is now open for public and maintained by The National Trust. It has been used as a filming location for many TV shows including Doctor Who and Sherlock.

This Yumi dress is my new favourite dress. I've worn it to work, for interviews, whilst meeting up for some drinks with friends and for my stroll around the park. I think it would make a pretty good party dress too if you paired it with some heels and red lipstick. I've got about a dozen polka dot items of clothing but it's a classic print so you can never have too many polka dots, right? I love how these spots are a little randomly spaced and I the print reminds me of a night sky. The best thing about this dress is that you don't need to iron it, a real winner for someone who is iron-phobic like me. You can pick this dress up in the sale for £30 at the moment. 

this is a photo of a Yumi curve polka dot dress

Dress: Yumi c/o House of Fraser 
Shoes: Topshop
Bag: TK Maxx

This cute bag was an impulse buy in TK Maxx and it's main selling point was the pom pom. I had to have it.  It's is the perfect size for every day use and I can even fit my DSLR camera inside. They have a few in stock in the Cardiff store and you can get them online here.

I highly recommend a visit to Tredegar House, it's only 15-20 minutes away from Cardiff and easy to reach from Bristol too. 


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Thursday, 6 October 2016

5 places you should visit in the UK

Each city, town and village in the UK has its own unique and individual attractions, but there are a few places that you should definitely visit if you are in the UK for the first time or even if have lived here all your life. I adore places like Manchester, London and the Cotswolds but the choices below really stand out of me. Narrowing  it down to just 5 destination was very tricky...

1. York

My hometown grew during the industrial revolution and has its fair share of historic buildings but it really can't compare to York with is snickleways (alleys), overhanging timber-framed houses and medieval town walls. The traditional shopfronts of The Shambles makes it one of the UK’s most historic (and gorgeous) streets. You can’t visit York without paying a visit to York Minster, one of the largest cathedrals in Northern Europe and also one of the most beautiful Gothic churches in the world. York also has Viking heritage too. You can and experience the sights, sounds and smells of the viking period at the Jorvik Viking Centre. A personal highlight of my visit to York was learning about 300 years of railway history, climbing aboard giant locomotives and browsing some of the 1 million train-related artefacts at the truly amazing National Railway Museum. You can read more about my trip to York and get some tips about what so see and do here. 

2. South Wales

South Wales is my patch, I've lived here all my life. I might be a bit biased but it's got everything you could need with cities, the coast, castles and national parks all within a hour drive of the capitol, of Wales, Cardiff. One of my favourite places to spend the afternoon is Cardiff Bay. It played a major part in Cardiff's development by exporting coal from the South Wales Valleys to the rest of the world, helping to power the industrial age. Since then it has developed into something quite spectacular, and is now a great place to eat out or catch a show in the Millennium Centre. The new blends superbly with the old in Cardiff. I love the striking glass-roofed Victorian market, which holds some of the best butchers and fishmongers in the city. There are six Victorian Arcades in Cardiff (my favourite is Castle Arcade), which provide an alternative to the high street shopping experience. They are full of vintage clothes shops, deli's, cafes and independent retailers. 

You can get to both Penarth, with a pretty pier and the mighty Caerphilly castle in 15 minutes on the train from Cardiff. If you want to get an overview of Welsh history and our way of life in just one day I recommend visiting St Fagans which has over forty original buildings from various historical periods in Wales which have been re-erected in 100-acre parkland.

Head to this post to read more about my favourite spots in South Wales. 

3. Dorset

Dorset is a great place to visit at any time of the year. There's a dramatic coastline, unspolit countryside and beautiful gardens for a fix of fresh air and chance to enjoy a quiet and relaxing long weekend. I've been lucky enough to visit Dorset a few times now and there is enough to do to fill a whole week or even longer.  You can enjoy a traditional day out by the seaside in Weymouth or Lyme Regis, have a family day out at the Sea Life Centre or eat some fresh seafood with views of the impressive West Bay (photo above) which is the filming location for Broadchurch. The Jurassic coast has been designated a Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO due to its outstanding geological make-up. Some of my favourite sights during my visits to Dorset were the famous arch and a beautiful secluded cove; Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove.

4. Bath

Known all over the world for it’s Roman Baths (hence the name) Bath is one city everyone needs to visit in the UK at least once! The city has such an amazing history – along with some of the UK’s more exclusive postcodes outside of London. Visitors all over the world flock to Bath each year to get a real sense of what life was like in Regency UK and as a pilgrimage to the beloved author Jane Austen. I recommend a stay at the Francis Hotel for a modern take on Regency/Georgian style and a burger at  Schwartz Bros.

5. West Wales  

Last, but by no means least WEST WALES! I've been visiting West Wales all of my life, my first family holiday was a stay in my nan's caravan in Saundersfoot so I have fond memories of this area.  
West Wales has many excellent beaches that are suitable for surfing, sailing and relaxing. Tresaith beach is particularly lovely with its unusual waterfall cascading over the cliff into the sea. Tenby has pretty pastel buildings, restaurants with locally caught seafood and is the perfect base to explore the nearby Caldey Island which is home to Cistercian monks and interesting wildlife. 

There are also many historic attractions to visit, such as Cilgerran Castle and the grand St David's Cathedral. St Davids is the smallest city in Britain with a population of just over 1,600. The Pembrokeshire Coastline is so outstandingly beautiful and important it was established as a National Park in 1952. No blog post would be long enough for me to convey how magical and breathtaking West Wales it, you'll just have to visit yourself and make up your own mind. 

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Sunday, 2 October 2016

Outfit Post - Lorraine Kelly spot dress

About 90% of my wardrobe is navy blue or black and you'll normally find my legs covered in 100 denier tights or leggings so this is a pretty wild look for me. Coral and bare legs! I wore this dress to a friends wedding a couple of weeks ago and felt suitable dressy and ladylike (the skirt is perfect for dance floor swishing) but I think this would be equally as good as a work dress with smart jacket. On a side note, I think 'Operation Grow Hair for Wedding' is going pretty well.

Dress: c/o JD Williams
Shoes: Mel (similar here)
Bag: Vivienne Westwood

I paired the dress which is from the JD Williams Lorraine Kelly collection with my trusty Mel shoes which I've had for years. I don't let nearly being 30 stop me from wearing pink jelly shoes to a wedding. I think I'm going to wear this again for my Christmas night out with colleagues with these glittery shoes.  This dress comes in sizes 10-32 and I would say it is true to size, no need to size up at all. 

As always I brought out my fancy Vivienne Westwood event bag to finish my outfit, it's a shame that I don't really go anywhere exciting to make more use of it. This is my go-to bag for meals out with my family or posh events. It's so nice to carry a small bag with just a phone, lipstick and some cash instead of my normal work bag which must weight more than a 10kg kettle bell. 

I'm currently feeling a little sorry for myself on the sofa with the sniffles and not feeling remotely glamorous at all like I did in the dress above.  I've got all my guide books out and a cup of tea and I'm planning my trip to Berlin with Martyn in a couple of weeks time. If you have any Berlin tips please leave some in the comments section below.

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Friday, 9 September 2016

48 hours in Bristol - #LittleDiscoveries with CrossCountry trains

Even though Bristol is only about 45 minutes away from my hometown I've rarely taken the opportunity to explore it. I've popped over the Severn bridge to see a few gigs in Bristol but never really been able to get to know the city or get a feel for it and its long history. I was really looking forward to my trip because not only did it mean a rare weekend away with my shift working partner but it also meant I was able to find out more about my neighbouring city. 

Getting to Bristol was incredibly easy. It only took me about 40 minutes on a very comfortable CrossCounty train and I got a strong Starbucks coffee on board to get me ready for the long weekend ahead. *Fat Frocks Tip* If you travel on the weekend you can get a First Class upgrade from £5 which gives you loads of room, reclining seats, free WiFi and drinks and snacks. Perfect if you are making a long journey or just want to feel fancy. 

Our hotel was just a five minute walk from Bristol Temple Meads train station and very easy to find. We stayed at the comfortable Hilton Garden Inn which I can highly recommend because not only are the rooms perfect for a weekend break they also have a waffle iron at breakfast. A waffle iron! I probably didn't need to eat a huge waffle after a full cooked breakfast but it would have been rude not to... We dropped our bags off after arriving at the hotel and set out exploring the city straight away. 

I have to admit we didn't get very far because as soon as we reached the city centre it started to rain very heavily. We managed to walk around Stokes Croft, an area which has quickly gained a reputation as Bristol’s cultural and artistic hub and sought shelter from the rain in the main shopping centre, Cabot Circus. We decided to head back to the hotel to dry off and have some prosecco and nibbles before heading to a gig in the Fleece later that evening. The Fleece is a great small venue and has hosted some pretty amazing artists over the years like Radiohead, Jeff Buckley and Amy Winehouse. We had tickets to see Teenage Fanclub who were absolutely amazing. We headed back to the hotel after the gig to get an early night as the forecast for Sunday was much better and I wanted to make up for some lost time and get some sightseeing in before getting the train back home. 

This is a picture of Teenage Fanclub at Bristol Fleece venue

After a filling breakfast featuring the previously mentioned amazing waffles I wandered through the Temple Gardens with the ruined Temple Church (gutted due to bombing during the war) just behind the hotel into the city centre to explore. I didn't really have a plan or a map to follow so I just wandered around admiring the historic architecture and trying to spot some street art which Bristol is famous for.

A place I would recommend visiting is Bristol Cathedral located on College Green. It's Grade I listed and the nave, choir and aisles are all the same height, making the Cathedral a fantastic example of a hall church in Great Britain. The cathedral has also recently been used as one of the main filming locations for the BBC Wolf Hall series. The cathedral is free to visit and offers a calm space to explore in the middle of a bustling city.

If you're visiting College Green and the cathedral you would be silly to miss a pit stop at Swoon just on the other side of the road. The guys at Swoon make gelato in the traditional Italian way using locally sourced ingredients. I had a scoop of both the plum flavour and the honeycomb and they were divine. (photo here)

I also headed to Bristol's Harbourside which was once a busy dock where sailors and merchants would trade goods and set sail on voyages of discovery. Today, this redeveloped are is filled with restaurants, bars and museums. You can visit the SS Great Britain here which is a revolutionary ship designed by one of my heroes, the renowned engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Brunel also left his mark on the city with his iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge which I sadly didn't have time to visit.

There's a vibrant street art scene in Bristol, led by now world-famous street artist Banksy, you don't have to look too hard to spot some yourself. I've shared a few of my favourite sightings from the weekend below.

My weekend in Bristol finished at Bristol Temple Meads station. It opened in 1840 as the western terminus of the Great Western Railway from London Paddington. The railway including the station was the first one designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and I love the beautiful span of the timber and iron roof which was the largest of it's type when built. I caught the train back home to Newport with aching legs after a full weekend of exploring Bristol on foot and thinking about all the things I wanted to do, see and eat on my next visit to Bristol.

Would I recommend a trip to Bristol? Yes! More a collection of villages than a city, Bristol makes a perfect location for a fun weekend away. Visit Bristol for 48 hours like I did and you’ll find plenty of independent shops, world-famous street art and lots of green spaces.  It isn't too sprawling so you can get a good feel for the city in a couple of days and you can even walk most if of it but pack a comfy pair of shoes as there's plenty of cobbles and hills. 

What are you waiting for?! Get out there and make some of your own #LittleDiscoveries all over the UK. CrossCountry links up major cities across the UK making it easy to visit a new place including Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Sheffiled, Edinburgh and of course, Bristol. 

*Post was written in collaboration with CrossCountry and Hilton Garden Hill Hotel

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