Saturday, August 20

Summer Food Fest | West Quay, Southampton

Many of you know my love for West Quay. It's a shopping centre about 45 minute drive from Bournemouth, but it's got a bit more on offer. I particularly love the Victoria Secret Store, and I often pop just outside for the big Primark too. 

On Tuesday, I was kindly invited for dinner as part of West Quay's Summer Food Fest, along with four other fellow bloggers. I was lucky enough to do this last year too, to celebrate all that's good to eat, with tons of discounts and offers valid throughout the school summer holidays until the beginning of September. To give us a good taster of what's on offer, we had starter in Nandos, mains in Handmade Burger Co and dessert at Snog. The top floor of West Quay is filled with great restaurants, including some of my favourites, Wagamams and YO Sushi too.



I've never had starter at Nandos, so it was good opportunity to try this part of the menu. First up we had their Wing Roulette, 10 chicken wings of all the flavours they have in the restaurant, but without the flags, so you don't know if it's really mild or really hot! We also had garlic bread, halloumi, houmous, olives and nuts. Delicious.


We had our mains at Handmade Burger Co and this time, I knew not to over order, because it's super filling! I went for the Hawaiian burger, with chicken, bacon and pineapple. We ordered sweet potato and normal fries to share too, which are really nice. I also had a naughty treat of an Oreo milkshake, so so good. Plus, how pretty are these lights and the view of the city? Love it.


Finally, as if we weren't full enough, we stopped at Snog. I had no idea it had opened in West Quay! As it's brand new for this year. I opted for Chocolate frozen yoghurt, with white chocolate shavings and strawberries. I love how you can truly customise exactly what you like and would definitely recommend stopping by Snog! (It's near Millie's Cookies & New Look downstairs).




If you download the West Quay Plus App, it has tons of offers, news, competitions and events. You can also pick individual stores and restaurants, and see what time they're open until. V handy. At the moment, you can take your time and relax, as you can shop until 8pm and dine until 9pm on weeknights. I like being about to eat later with an extra hour for food. Plus, if you park after 5pm, it's only £1. Woo!

Massive thanks to West Quay for treating myself, Alice, Rosie, Sam and Ellisha to dinner. I'll be back very soon!




*This post is not sponsored. I was kindly invited to experience this and was not asked to write a review. I just love WQ. 

Thursday, August 18

Finding My First Flat

After a year in the making, several lists of my expenses, hours on Rightmove and around 15 viewings later, I found my very first flat and have settled in rather nicely.

My parents divorced when I was 15. My mum got her first mortgage and together with my brother, we moved out of our family home. For the next five years, my mums house was the perfect home for growing into adulthood. I used to walk back and forth from school, had a boyfriend or two who were always welcome to stay (one even lived with us at one point!), and I learnt to drive around all the quiet roads. I really didn't appreciate life at my mums and after several arguments with her and my brother, I thought it might be the right time to have a change and live with my dad.

Over the last year, life at Dads was a whole new living experience. Boyfriends weren't welcome, showers late at night weren't allowed, rent was more, dinner wasn't always cooked and no one was doing my washing. REALITY CHECK. I didn't go to Uni but I was working three jobs and keeping myself to myself. The year at my dads taught me a hell of a lot, I started cooking a few meals (basic but it was a start), nailed my washing (colour catchers FOR THE WIN) and gained patience in respecting other people's space. But it made me really want my own. I was ready to move out but I didn't have the money to do so.

I focused on paying off a big trip to America and once I returned, saved enough in 7 months to afford the deposit, rent and some moving in fees for a flat. The year at my dad's was up and I was outstaying my welcome. I returned to my mum's who offered to help me find a flat and support me with setting it up. She reassured me there wasn't a rush and that I could take my time with my search.

So the flat hunt began again. I had two options. Either a 1 bed place for myself, or a larger (but cheaper) place with a friend or two. I looked at places with friends but in the end, decided I'd rather be on my own. 


I viewed so many places before I found it but knew it was 'the one' the minute I walked in. It was a requirement of mine to stay close to my mums, the beach and town, feel safe, have car parking, and enough space for a double bed. Bonus things included having a bath too. 

It's been three months and so far, I've been loving everything about it. Even managing my bills (which is always going to be a challenge) has been weirdly enjoyable for me. Here's a rundown of my first few months:

- I'm not very good at cooking. I really need to up my game and try harder. Any recipes welcome.
- I've had one washing disaster with my new machine, ruined my favourite jumper and cried about it. 
- I became addicted to DVDs and TV shows like Love Island, because living alone means this is my new priority when I'm not working.
- The top floor flat had a leak and it dripped for about an hour on my fourth night in.
- My washer/dryer broke and I begged my landlord to replace it for me. He did. THANK GOD. I'm very lucky to have a nice landlord.

- My neighbour bought me a bottle of wine and chatted about the other neighbours for almost an hour on my day off.  Not sure if this is normal but, at least he's friendly!
- I got a call in the middle of the night from the flat above claiming they had a leak again...turns out they just wanted me to join their party. All boys. All single. All very embarrassing. (Still waiting for an apology...)

I took these pictures (mainly for me for memories) of before and after I did the place up in 48 hours! It's not super girly or new like I imagine my first house will be (one day), but it's perfect for me for now.

Bedroom 




Bathroom




Lounge




Kitchen

My flat means so much more to me than I can put into words. It's my HOME. My little escape. My peace and quiet. My little haven. MINE. No one to tell me where I can and can't leave my shoes. It's a feeling I can't quite explain unless you've moved out too.

A lot of people have asked if I've felt lonely. Honesty, no! Not even once! I LOVE living alone. When I'm not at the flat, I know there's no one else messing it up. I can hang my washing everywhere and leave it hanging until I want to put it away. I do the dishes when I want. I can even walk around in my underwear if I want. You get the idea.

I also made a flat tour so have a watch if you haven't already:


Thursday, July 21

MedSailors: A Trip Of A Lifetime | Greece Sailing 2016


Having your expectations exceeded with anything in life will always leave you feeling pretty positive. But going away on a trip which doubled, tripled and even quadrupled my expectations, certainly left me feeling very uplifted and fulfilled. I was not ready to go home. I cried when we left. CRIED. I'm going to go as far as calling this the best trip I've done so far.

THE BEGINNING 
Back in November, Jess and I were approached by MedSailors asking if we'd like to join them on a holiday in Greece on a yacht. They
 offer premium sailing holidays for 20-35 year olds in Croatia, Turkey and Greece. We're keen travellers and have done a few trips together in the past, so as I'm sure you can imagine, we threw ourselves at the opportunity. We booked our flights, a hotel for the night before, and spent the next nine months deciding which excursions we wanted to do, how many bikinis were too many, and if we'd be likely to make new friends.

I'm a water baby. I've grown up by the sea. My family have always been fortunate enough to own a boat, and my brother currently works on superyacht. However, I've never spent a week on a yacht. We arrived far too early on a Saturday at the marina, embarrassed by the size of our suitcases (note: PACK LIGHT. TRUST ME.) We met the Manager Helen, who walked us across a plank onto our boat called Philoctetes, to meet our Skipper Alvaro. He was Argentinian, with a huge smile and positive attitude. 



THE BOAT
With MedSailors, you have the option between a Premier or Premier Plus boat. The difference isn't huge but certainly noticeable. Our Premier Plus was slightly larger and newer. Jess and I had a room under the bow, with memory foam mattresses and our own bathroom. There's a shared shower and kitchen area, much more roomy than you think! There were 4 double beds and 1 bunk in total. Al the skipper slept in the 'sofa' area next to the kitchen but to be honest, we all ended up mixing up and sleeping above deck too. I even stayed in the hammock on the final evening. Nothing quite beats waking up to the sunrise beaming on your face. Ahh.

Each boat has up to 9 guests on board. We noticed most people were from Australia and New Zealand however, our boat was a mix of 3 Aussies, 2 Kiwis, 2 Canadians and us English. 


Photo credit: Samantha Goudie / MedSailors
THE CREW
Speaking of the people, it goes without saying I felt extremely lucky and privileged to be in the company of so many amazing guys and girls. I've travelled in the past and had experiences of bitchiness and feeling isolated, but not ONCE did Jess or I have any problems with any of our fellow guests. Everyone was great. They were always up to a laugh, considerate of each others space, happy to share things (including alcohol, always a bonus) and never isolating anyone, especially as we had one girl who was a solo traveller too. We were all up between 7-9am, and went to bed whenever suited us too.



THE SKIPPERS
The great people didn't stop there. Obviously our Skipper Al was amazing. He's training to be a doctor; took a year out to do MedSailors, loved it so much, he's back for his second season and absolutely nailing it. He didn't moan once (especially with NINE girls) and I always saw him with a smile on his face. Hats off to all the Skippers though, because their job isn't easy. They're fully qualified 
(RYA Offshore Yacht Master Certificate plus, two weeks MedSailors training) and equally experienced, managing a boat full of guests, cooking, tidying, organising, navigating, socialising and being an all-round awesome team-player. I never felt unsafe with Al either so rest assured, you're in good hands with people who know what they're doing. The friendship between the other Skippers didn't go unnoticed either, we all mingled in the evenings which made it extra fun.

Photo credit: Samantha Goudie / MedSailors

THE FOOD
The food was brilliant. Al made breakfast and lunch on board everyday. We enjoyed lots of garlic, roasted vegetables and pesto pasta to name a few. In the evenings, we all ate together. Each table was your 'boat', but the other boats sat on tables next to us at the same restaurants. We had a one or two 'free' evenings where we got to choose where we ate, but otherwise, we all stayed together. We found the best option was ordering a buffet style selection in the evenings, which worked out around 15 euros each. My favourite food included traditional Greek dishes such as tzatziki, fresh calamari, feta cheese, honey and baklava and of course, greek salad.



THE FUN STUFF
There was never a dull day on our MedSailors trip but the best part is, nothing feels rushed either. The most you're sailing for is between 2-4 hours, but this absolutely flies by. During this time, we socialised, read a book, sunbathed and enjoyed the view. I even took the wheel and did a bit of sailing. We'd often stop for swim (normally before breakfast and again before lunch), which was the perfect opportunity for swimming, paddle boarding, snorkelling, jumping in (over and over again), raft racing and everything in between. Another Skipper Brad even made us fresh mojitos and delivered them on a paddleboard one day for lunch. Epic.

Once on land, the fun didn't stop. We got the opportunity to go quad biking in Spetses which was much more fun than I imagined. We drove around the whole island! In and out of the town, past the marina, over the hills...the views were unreal. In Poros, we went banana boating and tubing. Lots of screaming and giggles. They even had free beer whilst we waited our turn. WIN!



We were definitely a party boat though, and enjoyed pre-drinks and dancing every night. It really surprised me actually, the nightclubs and bars MedSailors took us too were really good, we even played beer pong one night! The evenings were a great chance to socialise with the other boats too. On day two, myself and a few of the girls sat on the back of the boat until 4am whilst we people watched and had other boats come and chat and introduce themselves. Nights like that will remain solid memories for me.

THE PRICE
It goes without saying all trips have a price tag, but luckily MedSailors is pretty affordable. A week trip varies between £400-£600, which includes your Skipper, accommodation on board and breakfast and lunch every day. You pay for your flight, evening meals, excursions and everything in between. Jess and I budgeted around £35 a day which worked perfectly for us. We spent money on things like alcohol, ice, water bottles, gifts, more alcohol and gelato/ice creams. You could budget better than us though, we just enjoyed the moments most of the time.



GREECE, THE ISLANDS & WEATHER
I absolutely adored Greece. It was exactly how I imaged. Pretty, quaint, friendly. MedSailors have years of history with the locals, so took us to some great restaurants and bars and we always felt very welcome. Some of the owners even had Skipper shirts on and MedSailors flags flying outside.

Overall, we visited six islands in six days including Perdika, Spetses, Ermioni, Aegina, Agistri and Poros. We were meant to stop at Hydra one day but the strong winds meant we sailed to Aegina instead. I was pretty impressed with how quick the Skippers responded to a change in the route actually, everything was super smooth.


Sailing was pretty calm too. The seas are fairly tame in the Med at this time of year, so we mostly cruised along 90% of the time. 
Surprisingly, not one of us got sea sick. There were moments a few of the girls felt it, but no one was actually poorly. Plus, we were all pretty hungover most days but the sea air and morning swim pretty much killed it off, hence why it was super easy to do it all over again the next day.

The weather was pretty perfect for us too. Sunshine mid 30's all day. Sunset around 9pm. The only thing that did surprise me was how warm the evenings were. Pack light clothes (no bra outfits ladies, trust me!). I didn't find it uncomfortable to sleep, but some guests slept on the deck, in the dingy, on the hammock because it was so warm. I'd recommend investing in a mini fan.




THANK YOU
I can't end this post without saying a super massive thank you to a few people. Firstly, MedSailors themselves for having us and providing an absolutely awesome trip. To Helen and Nick for checking we were okay and accommodating us!

Second thank you to our fellow guests (Alex, Bryanna, Kiki, Hannah, Liz, Nikki & Georgia), you girls are the BOMB. Biggest of love to you for being great sports around Jess & I filming ourselves like crazy girls. Plus...ATT FOREVA. AND WE WON THAT CUP, YES KIIK! I will miss you all more than you know.

Thank youuu big time to Al and the other Skippers, you guys don't give yourselves enough credit and truly changed our trip for us. You almost made me jealous of your jobs and I hope our paths cross again one day.

...and last but certainly not least, thank you to my Jessyyy. You cutie pie. My travel partner in crime. My best internet chummy. Thank you for the best trip. It wouldn't have been the same without you. All those days spent gossiping, laughing, happy tears crying, singing and swimming! You really are a superstar and I love you v much. Here's to the next trip?


WATCH IT ALL!


Finally, I vlogged the whole thing. Here's the trailer featuring snippets of all the highlights, best bits and sneak peeks but don't miss the full 1 HOUR long vlog too to see absolutely everything we got up to.

Until Croatia baby.


*This post is not sponsored. MedSailors kindly hosted us on board a Premier Plus yacht for a week in return for coverage on my blog and channel. The majority of this trip was supported by myself. I loved it so much.