18 August 2017

Central London Photo Walk with Mapin

As you might have gathered from my South Kensington and Regents Park Insta-walk series, one of my favourite things to do in London is go for photo walks.  I love that it forces me out of the house to go explore new places, learn something new and find beauty along the way.

But what about well traveled places?  As a Londoner (I’ve been living here a year and a half so I’ve not really earned that title but go with me) I am guilty of avoiding tourist hotspots.  They are overcrowded and full of slow walking people stopping to get selfies.  We can find ourselves thinking we are above all that, and then we miss some of the most gorgeous parts of our city!  There’s a reason tourists flock to these places after all, they are stunning and choc-full of history.  Truth be told I never get bored of seeing the places on top of tourists wish lists, even if it’s not the newest, most hipster spot in town.  On Saturday I met with blogger and photographer Kaye and set off on a photowalk to some of London’s most viewed spots to find a new way of looking at these landmarks.  It sure was a learning experience, here’s where we headed:
Covent Garden
After meeting at the Brigit's Bakery we headed for one of the most famous areas in London, Covent Garden.  As a child this was always the area we’d come to with my parents, without really knowing why, it just seems to draw people.  When we arrived at the square there was one show in full swing with a large audience.  We had no chance of getting close-up shots through the crowd, but Kaye informed us of how to use people to frame your shot to create atmosphere.

In the 20 minutes we had to explore I actually didn’t get very far into the market at all, choosing instead to play with the architecture near the entrance.  There was some really interesting angles and symmetry to play around with here, with just some imagination you can make a well photographed street look completely new!  Of course there’s plenty of street photography opportunities here which isn’t something I’ve tried much, but I do like this shot of street performers on a break which I captured.
Seven Dials
This is a place I run through a lot, but usually only when on my way to the theatre or one of the gorgeous shops nearby, so I don’t often take the chance to stop and look at what’s around me.  On this particular day Benefit had a pop up event and I loved how the colours of their booth matched the bunting brightening in the area.  I’m also a big fan of the contrast between the red floral pub and the harsh black building next to it.
Neil’s Yard
Heading towards our next stop we accidentally stumbled upon the insta-famous Neil’s Yard and just had to make a slight detour!  Such a world of colour, I can’t believe I’d never seen it before.  Colour instantly makes me happy so I loved snapping away here as I chased Milly around trying to get with her hair in frame, I think really adds to the photo don’t you?
Chinatown is just a great place to be, it has a lively atmosphere, great food and really stands out from anything else in the city and trying to capture that can be difficult.  Seeing the traditional market sellers mix in with the tourists made for some interesting street shots.  
Cecil Court
We headed back to our start point via Cecil Court, which is a place I’d visited on my Harry Potter Walking Tour as it’s said to be one of the inspirations for Diagon Alley.  I wasn't totally happy with how my photos for this area came out and it’s left me craving a new lens so I can get a better aperture and really play with focus.
Back at Brigit's Bakery, and the smell of Chinatown had left us all starving!  Thankfully we were invited in for a full afternoon tea, (including prosecco naturally!).  All was delicious but boy did the desserts really steal my heart, each one was delicious and so delicate!  I was so stuffed in the end I had to reluctantly take my mini scone home for Harry, I was just so full!

In total I took 196 photos that day and found narrowing it down so hard!  I must have almost 75'000 photos split between my laptop and hard drive, so trustworthy storage space is a must!  If you're in the market check out Maplin's storage solutions to save those precious memories, I know I sure need more!  

The walk would have taken 37 minutes exactly without stopping/ dodging tourists so Kaye informed us, so it’s a great central photowalk to do if you’ve got a spare hour or so.  Even better the likes of Piccadilly Square, Leicester Square and Big Ben are super close by so can easily be included if you want more to shoot.  This short session has made me more confident taking pictures of strangers, looking at things differently and not being dismayed when there’s people in my shots, it’s real life after all!

A big thank you to Maplin for inviting me on this walk & Kaye for being so talented and giving with her amazing photography skills.  What is your favourite thing in London to photograph?  

16 August 2017

Caring for Coloured Hair

I’ve been dying my hair crazy colours for a little while now, and by a little while I actually mean over 15 years.  One of the oldest posts on my blog chronicles the various stages of my hair colour journey.  I’ve had every, and I mean every colour going, and this was long before the days where brightly coloured hair was fashionable and the dyes available in high street shops.  I spent a fortune importing colours from the US that could only be bought online, I was (and still am) a hair colour addict!

It seems to surprise people when they find out my natural hair colour is a really dark almost black brown.  At least I think so, it has been a long time after all!  Getting it light enough to make it bright blue, purple or pink takes hard work and a lot of bleach, sometimes too much!  At first I was sensible, I would go to the hairdressers and let them change my hair and choose more subtle shades that only needed my hair to be lightened:
Then I started full head bleaching, only getting it done when I was home from uni and topping up the colour in between.  After uni I got a job which meant I couldn’t go home much, and my desire for brighter and more unusual colours just grew.  I grabbed an at home bleach kit and just set to it, and it worked!
It worked so well and got my colours were so bright that I was truly obsessed!  I was always ordering new colours online and I wasn’t just touching up my roots, oh no, I was bleaching my full head every month and throwing another colour on top, I loved it!  Then my hair became so porous from the dye it stopped taking the dye at all, it just rinsed out completely.  Then the inevitable happened…

...my hair fell out…

Now this is doing to sound dramatic but my hair honestly would come out at the slightest touch, washing my hair meant spending 15 minutes pulling the loose strands out.  I was living with two other long haired girls who dyed their locks too, so needless to say our shower was constantly blocked.  I had a patch of hair near my left parting that completely snapped off, leaving the remaining hair there to stick out like I’d been electrocuted.  In fact even now this section of hair only reaches my chin even after 6 years.  I was convinced my hair couldn’t grow longer than touching my shoulders as this was the length it was stuck at, despite years of trying to grow it. I somehow missed the fact that my hair had the texture of chewing gum and would snap with every brush.  It left a mark on my now-boyfriend Harry when before we were together he ran my pony tail through his hand lightly and was rewarded with a handful of hair!  Somewhere between him apologising profusely and me pleading ‘it’s fine,that’s just what my hair does” I started to realise I had maybe gone too far.  
I’d love to say that’s the reason I stopped bleaching my hair but the real reason is one I mentioned earlier, my hair just wouldn’t take colour anymore.  I knew my hair was in a bad way but when it can’t even soak in any of the dye there really was no point continuing.  I decided the only thing to do was leave my hair blonde and just touch up the roots as there was no way I was growing bleach blonde hair out to black/brown underneath till it was all grown out!
Bearing in mind I hadn’t chosen blonde as a hair colour, this was just the colour my hair was left with when my bright dyes had washed out, so it wasn’t a nicely toned blonde, it was a weird, yellow blonde, not my best look.  Although the worst parts had to be chopped off, I tried a lot of things to rescue what was left, and after years of trial and error I have found the best things to rescue dyed locks.  Now my hair is healthy and I know a lot more about how to keep my hair in top condition while still giving in to my need for colour, here's a few tips I’ve learnt over the years:
Go Natural
Switching to natural hair products made the biggest difference to stopping my hair deteriorating any further.  Parabens and sulfates are packed into most shampoos and conditioners because they make the hair feel smoother without actually helping your hair.  Think of it as a plastic coating, it feel smooth from the outside but it isn’t helping the hair itself at all on the inside. In fact it’s actually harming it.  When I first started the hunt for paraben and sulfate free hair products the only place on the high street you could find them was The Body Shop, but as more people are now aware of the harm of these products more brands are doing natural hair lines.  They do take some getting use to, the shampoo doesn't really lather up as you will be used to and the conditioners tend to have the consistency of a thick moisturiser but you get used to it.  Try a few brands and see what works for you.

Hair masks save the day!
Forget using one as an occasional treat, I used a hair mask every time I washed my hair and I would leave it on as long as possible.  Sleep with them in if you can.  Don’t think this means you can skip the conditioner either, you need to condition as usual after your mask, and just like the shampoos and conditioners it’s worth going for something that is paraben and sulfate free

Avoid washing your hair
Wash you hair as little as possible.  I know some people won’t believe me but it’s true that you need to wash you hair less and less the more time you give between washes, your scalp gets used to it and will produce less oil.  Add an extra few days onto your wash routine and your hair will adapt.  Plus it makes your colour last longer, bonus!  See how far you can push it, these days I tend to only wash my hair once every week to week and a half.  

Avoid all heat
I know it’s obvious and as a girl with thick hair that can take up to 6 hours to air dry I feel the pain, I really do, but avoiding using hair dryers, electric curlers and straighteners really does make a difference.  Invest in heat-free alternatives for curling hair, they take longer but your hair will thank you and it’s not 00’s anymore so it’s fine not to have flat ironed hair.

Protect, protect, protect
If you do use heat on your hair use a heat protector, in fact use two!  Use as much as you can to protect your hair, that heat is a killer!  

Never brush wet hair
If your hair has been over bleached this is when it will be at it’s most chewing-gum like and while it is oddly fascinating to see how far your hair will stretch, it is not a good thing for hair health.  Your hair will break much more and it’s petty painful trying to drag a brush through wet, gunky locks.  

Use Hair oils
Let me tell you, argan oil coming onto the market a few years ago was the saviour of my hair!  I use more then advised as my hair soaks it up scarily fast (my hair was seriously thirsty) but start of sparingly and see what your hair needs.  I tend to use it only on the ends and mid lengths of my hair as this is what will be the most damaged and I don’t like an oily scalp.  It will make your hair look better and be more healthy, it’s amazing!  Moroccan oil works similarly, I’ve tried both and had similar results but for some reason i’m more drawn towards argan oil.  Don’t be fooled by the products ‘infused’ with the oil and go straight for the real thing, you can usually find it in the black hair section of a store much cheaper than the general hair section.

Use vegan dyes
Some hair dyes are much gentler on your hair then others, so if like me you can’t stop your dye addiction, go in for these.  Henna is the ultimate gentle dye but it’s not for me, I like my hairs bright an artificial!  These days there are a lot of vegan dyes on the market, a favourite of mine is Manic Panic that do amazing dyes in every colour possible.

If you are going to lighten your hair, get it done professionally
Despite many, many temptations I have managed to avoid reaching for the home bleach kit and will always wait to visit my hairdresser, no matter how bad my roots get.  Find a hairdresser you trust, take their advice, don’t risk it.  

Truth be told the only reason my hair is currently orange is it’s one of the brightest colours my hairdresser can lighten my hair to without using bleach and that’s why I’ve stuck with it for so long.  Recently adding pink to the ends of course because old habits dye hard (get it!)

Here are just a few products I’ve come to swear by:
  • Lush R&B Hair Moisturiser 
  • Rockin Rollers 
  • Hair Xpertise Argan OIl
  • Treseme Heat Protection Spray
  • L'Oreal Paris Hair Expertise EverPure Intense Mask

Of course it’s not always possible to save your hair, if you are worried about hair loss, why not check out the FUE hair transplant cost to see if that’s a viable option is for you.  All is not lost.

What is your hair care must have?
*Post contains sponsored like

14 August 2017

Insta walks: Primrose Hill and Regents Park

Sundays are the perfect days for cracking open my a walking book, spending time with my other half learning some London history and getting some quality Instagram material.  The first of these walks we did was in South Kensington, this time we decided to head to North London to explore Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park.  I thought I’d take you along with me so you can recreate this walk and grab some insta-snaps of your own, I've included a map at the end of the post so you don't miss the best spots!  
Arrive at Chalk Farm tube station and start to make your way towards Primrose Hill, taking in some of the gorgeous colourful backdrops along the way!  The bridge between Bridge Approach and Regent’s Park Road (two very aptly named streets) is one of the first things you will come across and it makes the perfect backdrop for a quick fashion pic.  There are different designs on each side of the bridge but with it’s colourful, geometric design this one was my favorite.  

Moving towards Primrose Hill you will pass Gloucester Avenue with it’s pretty colourful houses that you will see at the top of this post.  I’m a total sucker for pastel homes. From here head up Regent’s Park Road passing a multitude of independent and quirky insta-worthy shops and cafes along the way.
Reaching Primrose Hill make sure you pick up an ice cream from one of the ice cream vans (I went for a bubblegum ice lolly because I’m a child at heart!) before heading up the hill to enjoy your treat!  Thankfully the hill isn’t too taxing and you will be thanked with one of the best views of London you can find throughout the city.  It’s always busy right at the top of the hill, especially if it’s sunny, but there’s plenty of space for everyone.  You can see such a great panorama of London from here, make sure you keep your eyes peeled for The BT Tower, The Shard, London Zoo, the London Eye and loads more.  There are information boards around the top of the hill if you want to get more information on the history of the area.  This was actually my first visit to Primrose Hill but I’ve actually been back a few times since and it’s a great place to bring visitors.
From here pass over canal to Regents Park, there are some gorgeous canal boats stationed here that are definitely photo worthy and a really interesting looking Chinese Restaurant floating on the water.  
Entering the park you’ll pass the zoo where if you are lucky you might see some of the bigger animals over the foliage, before heading deeper into the park.  The walk from here will take you all through this gorgeous park, where are various statues, monuments and an amazing lake that are well worth checking out and are chock-full of history.  Highlights include the boating lake, gorgeous mansions both inside and around the park and bandstand which has it’s own tragic history, being the site of an IRA bombing in the 80’s.  Regent’s Park is a huge undertaking with tons to see and do so I’ve shown you the route I took in the Google map below but if you want to learn more check out the Regent’s Park website.
Leaving the park and crossing into Chester Place you’ll walk onto the charming and quite stunning entrance to Chester Terrace.  This quiet and beautifully neat road is a private street that is almost breath-taking in it’s simplicity.  It’s not a big street but it is totally quaint and perfectly formed.  Here you’ll see some perfect doors for Instagram, we all know how much Instagram loves doors!  Personally I am obsessed with the sign above the street, just look at that blue!

From here you can end your work by heading towards Regent’s Park station or stopping at one of the many pubs and restaurants nearby for a drink.

I’ve made a map for you if you want to follow this walk and re-create it:


11 August 2017

Staying Safe in the Office

A couple of years ago I made a huge career change.  I switched from a very physical, straight talking, working all hours of the day career which I loved to enter a new 9-5 office based career in a sector I knew little about.  I went from being a self employed lighting technician working in theatres across the country, to working in book publishing.  I went from running up and down ladders at 3am, programming lighting desks and rigging electrical equipment, to working regular hours in an office as I started a new life in book publishing.  I adore books and this was the inspiration behind my new choice of career, but I really knew little about the actual publishing industry and even less about the realities of working in an office.

Working in an office environment was a real culture shock for me, I wasn’t aware of the complex social and professional etiquette working in an office entails, never mind the safety aspects.  Working in a manual job meant you were alway aware of safety and looked out for yourself and each other as potential dangers were never too far away.  I’ve witnessed some pretty bad accidents.  Working in an office it’s really easy to get complacent, and before you know if you could have an injury much worse than a papercut.  

Thankfully I soon picked up all the aspects of what my new job entailed, including adapting to office life.  However my first office lacked natural light, which caused problems for myself and many of my colleagues.  The rooms had no windows and strip lighting, a horrible combination leading to headaches and eyestrain, especially as I was often working in three computer screens at once.  My eyesight deteriorated quickly in that job and I am sure this is no coincidence, thankfully my current office has large central windows, helping not just physically but mentally too!  

If you work in an office make sure you are aware of what is around you and if there’s something you aren't happy with, inform your managers.  Most offices have departments set up to help with these issues and will find all kinds of equipment to make your time in the office as safe and comfortable as possible.  Recently I’ve been thinking about how I could encourage myself focus at home when working on blog posts and I think setting up a home office could be a big step towards helping me do this.  I will definitely make sure natural light it’s pretty high on my ‘must have’ list when I create it!  Want to learn more about safety in the office?  Check out this funky interactive graphic from Accident Advice Helpline.

How do you stay safe day to day?
*This post contains a sponsored link, all words and opinions are my own.

9 August 2017

Abandoned in Disney World? A Travel Story

Last year I headed to Disney World with a couple of friends, one of the main things I wanted to check out was the Mickey's Not so Scary Halloween Party, a Halloween party that runs across several dates during the Halloween period in The Magic Kingdom park. Read my guide if you want to learn more. Our original planned night of attending was cancelled because of a huge storm so when we rearranged it I ended up attending on different night to my friends.  Now I'm no stranger to solo travel so I didn't mind exploring on my own.  I had a great night at the park and headed out at the end happy with my evening.  
When I got to the queue for the bus to head back to our resort I had just missed a bus, but Disney Transport is notoriously reliable and I knew there'd be one in 15 minutes, I wasn't worried.  It was around half midnight so I pulled out my book (I was dressed as Belle after all) and relaxed.  Over half an hour later I started to wonder what was going on, busses are coming for other resorts but I'm the only one in the queue for Old Key West and it had now passed 1am.  A cast member comes along, sees me looking lost and tells me not to worry, that a bus should be around soon and leaves.  Another half hour passes at at 1.30am I start to feel really nervous, I know it's Disney but I was a woman on my own in a different country with no one around, I was tired and increasingly uncomfortable.  A cast member came by again, told me they recognised my panicked look and again, told me not to worry.  

Another half hour passes and there is defiantly no one in the bus depot but me, a cast member eventually comes by and tells me that there is nothing they can do, that the person who decides which busses are going to which resort is stationed out of reach.  By now I am almost in tears, even at the happiest place on earth I am tired, scared, and have no idea if I'll be able to get back to my room at all. The monorail and boats that took you to the parking lot finished long ago.  
In the end I was saved by a janitor, who'd seen me get more and more upset.  The next time a bus pulled in for another resort he called out 'come this way princess' and asked me to take his arm as he guided me over.  He explained the situation to the bus driver and asked her if she would make a special trip to drop me off after the the resort she was scheduled to go to.  Thankfully she agreed and after she'd done all her stops, dropped me off at the bus stop nearest my room, a move she certainly wasn't officially permitted to do as they are all strictly monitored and times so I greatly appreciated it. By now it was a while past 3am and all wanted was to safely get into bed.  I can't thank the janitor and bus driver enough for making sure I got home ok, I was very close to having sobbing having been stood there for hours!  I've travelled all over on my own and never thought Disney would end up being one of the places I felt unsafe.  

Do you have any bad experiences from the happiest place on earth?


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