Rome: Pantheon, Piazza Navona & The Vatican City

Saturday, 21 September 2019

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I've combined day 3 & 4 together in this because day 3 was very much us both wandering in the burning heat, pretty aimlessly and just stumbling into the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. 

We didn't actually go inside the Pantheon because the queue was ridiculous but we got the touristy photos and proceeded to go and buy a pizza by the Navona. I would say though, if you do go, don't do this. If you want pizza, visit a Pizzeria instead as they are soooo much better.

On the final day, we visited the Vatican. We pre-booked this online which you definitely need to do unless you want to wait hours in queues around the city. We opted for a 2 hour tour which was more than enough for me, in fact, our tour guide was slightly annoying and her English wasn't brilliant.

 The biggest 'attraction' is the Sistine Chapel but as you aren't allowed to take photos or talk in there, our guide gave us a 30 minute talk on the paintings prior to going in. It was a shame though because when we got in there, everyone was talking anyway and it was so crowded. The art work is obviously amazing but I think you need to be religious to fully appreciate the works.

The other 90 minutes of the tour was spent going through all of the galleries of paintings, tapestries and sculptures. Again, this was really incredible but I just felt our guide dragged it out and everyone was hot, bothered with aching legs.

We also got a nice view of St Peters Basilica when walking up to the Vatican City, because we had gone the wrong way.

Rome is definitely up there in my top European cities and I definitely recommend going if you haven't been already. There is so much to see, do and eat - all of the things I prefer in a getaway. We had an amazing few days.
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Rome: Colosseum & Ancient City

Monday, 16 September 2019

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Day two was the one we had already planned prior to arriving in Rome and if you go, I definitely recommend booking a trip to the Colosseum online or in advance because the queues can be hours long.

I was really looking forward to visiting because even though I'd say I am quite well travelled, this is the first 'wonder of the world' which I've been able to tick off. We had a guided tour of the Colosseum, ancient city and Palentine Hill which was roughly £30 each but worth it just to know about the history because otherwise you are just looking at architecture with no meaning. 

I used to read the horrible history comics when I was a kid and the Romans (and Tudors) were always   my favourite so it was pretty cool to see what they had created in real life. Not that I like complaining, it was pretty hot so standing in the heat for too long was a bit much.

We then went over to the ancient city, which apparently only 30% of tourists visit purely because they don't know about it. I know were told so much about who built what, which emperor requested what but it was so hot that shade is mostly what we were after. The city was so amazing to look at though and we walked all the way up to the top of Palentine hill to get a full view of it all.

We mostly just chilled out in the afternoon, after again walking 8 miles which was tough in the heat. We could have got the metro which is cheap enough but you get to see so much more of the City when you are on foot. Plus we must have saved a fair bit..

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Rome: Trevi Fountain & Spanish Steps

Saturday, 14 September 2019

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So yesterday, Sam and I flew home from Rome which was his 29th Birthday present from me, which was back in June. We spent Monday - Friday there, which was maybe a tiny little bit too long but we weren't complaining because the weather was beautiful and we just enjoyed relaxing in the city.

I haven't blogged in a while (broken record, I know) but I thought this might be a good way to make a little come back. I struggle sometimes because I feel like my life is a little boring and routine-y, but Sam and I have a big year next year and it might be cool to write about it.

Anyway, I've pulled together 3 posts from Rome, this one included. We arrived on Monday pretty early and headed to our Airbnb which was one of the best I've ever stayed in. It was a little studio apartment which was so funky, I loved it. We went for lunch (both ate pizzas the size of our heads) and then just wandered around the city, exploring some of the sights.

Pictured above is Fontana di Trevi (Trevi fountain), which is one of the most famous fountains in Rome. It was really beautiful but it was sooooo busy. We managed to get some good photos and a selfie whilst battling other tourists and people selling random items to us which I think is the most annoying thing on the planet.

We then headed to the Spanish Steps, again just to get a photo really because it was so busy with tourists.

After this, we just spent the late afternoon strolling. We sat in a park with a drink for a while, cooking in the 30 degree sun and people watching. It was actually so nice to feel the warmth and sit down as we ended up walking about 8 miles.

The architecture reminded me of Budapest, and Rome has so much history that has made me want to read more about it (in all my spare time lol). We did some guided tours, which I'll mention in the other posts, on the following days which was far more helpful as we didn't really know what things were when just randomly walking.

Having said that, I managed to stumble into sephora and spend 70 euros on Nars make up so wasn't all that bad...

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Competition: Free Chocolate

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

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I've been lucky enough to team up with Wow Free Stuff again, to share another competition they are running and this time it is for Dairy Milk Chocolate. This time they are giving readers a chance to win 1 of 100 chocolate bars each month.

I always get really carried away on WowFree Stuff, just looking and trying to win freebies. It's a win win situation really because nothing is lost... so you may as well have a go!

You can enter easily here

Good luck!
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Make Up Lust List

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

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This year, I've been massively getting back into makeup. I pretty much started my collection from scratch this year, getting rid of the cheap, nasty makeup you buy as a teenager and buying investment pieces. Safe to say I haven't managed to grow a huge collection yet because bits and pieces can be pricey but I am enjoying using higher end make up.

As you can probably tell, I'm loving golds and rose golds lately for eyes, highlight or any general shimmer really. They look sooo nice to create a summery, bronzed glow.

These pieces are the things I'll be looking to add to my collection over the next few months; let me know if there are any brands you love which do similar products!

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The Comfort Zone

Friday, 19 July 2019

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I've been on annual leave this week from work, and I've not really done a lot. I've not been away anywhere, I've mostly vegged out on the sofa with a book or film in the afternoon and it's been quite nice not to do anything. (I have been to the gym or for a walk everyday though so I don't feel too lazy).

And slowing down has left me with an overwhelming urge of wanting to write on here. I've wanted to  be creative and just catch up on here in case I ever do decide to look back.

I've found myself living for the weekends lately, longing for Friday at 5pm and becoming depressed on Sunday afternoons. It hasn't been a nice feeling but I've begin the realise I'm missing enjoyment a little bit, rather than the same thing week in, week out. Don't get me wrong, I'm in the best place I've ever been and I am very happy, but maybe I've been missing some spice.

I went to see Waitress the Musical last weekend with one of my oldest friends, and I loved it. I'd forgotten how much I love theatre, singing and being on stage myself. I also saw my old society perform and longed to be up there with them, experiencing the buzz and enthusiasm that comes with the music, lights and make up.

So on Wednesday I decided to try out a new society. I'd toyed with going back to what I already know, but sometimes change is good, meeting new people is good and being out of your comfort zone is good.

I think I've got into a habit of staying in my comfort zone, saying no to things to readily and hiding behind routine. I loved singing and dancing again this week, putting myself into a room where I knew nobody and I was reminded why I love theatre.

Whilst I don't really feel like going back to work on Monday, I am excited for the second half of 2019 and I'm going to try and say yes to more, to make life a little more interesting.
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Sunday, 26 May 2019

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I really am awful at blogging. I was so motivated and then life gets in the way and I just can't be bothered any more. Since the last post, I've actually been really busy; I've ready a lot of books, run the Birmingham 10k (today), suffered a bereavement in my boyfriends family and visited Malta for week.

This trip was booked a few months ago, a cheap escape with my best friend, Emily. We stayed in a three star apartment in Sliema which was perfect for us, and explored somewhere new everyday or sunbathed for the odd afternoon.

We visited a number of places, my favourite two being Valetta and Mdina. Valetta is the capital of Malta was just a short ferry trip over from Sliema. It wasn't too expensive and it was just nice to wander around the streets. We went into the Cathedral and Barrakka gardens which were beautiful however it was sooooo windy when we went that I was actually getting goosebumps.

Mdina is known as the 'silent city' and was my favourite place we visited. Mdina is part of Kingslanding from Game of Thrones, and as a huge fan, it was obviously amazing to be there. It was spookily quiet, not many shops, cafes or places to eat but it was really pretty and nice to walk around. It only cost us about 1.50 euro for a return as well on the bus which was a bargain BUT if you are going, there is only one bus from Mdina to Sliema every hour, and this bus was 30 minutes late each time. It also went past us on the way home after already waiting an hour, so we ended up getting a bus to Valetta and ferry back.

And then the final place I can't not mention is the Island of Comino, where the blue lagoon is. We both really wanted to see this place and were looking forward to it but mistakenly booked a cruise of the whole island which took over 3 hours. That would have been totally fine had the water not have been so rough that I had motion sickness and literally had to leg it to the edge of the boat, to be sick overboard. Attractive, I know. So for the whole time I was on the island, I was recovering and becoming anxious about the trip back to Sliema.

But apart from that.... it was stunning!

I absolutely loved Malta, and definitely recommend it for a cheap, last minute getaway. I wouldn't say I'd go back because I believe life is too short to visit the same place twice but it was a brilliant week.
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Vienna, Austria

Monday, 22 April 2019

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So 10 days ago, it was my birthday, which I know I've mentioned one billion times. And, I was lucky enough to spend the weekend in Vienna, Austria, which was so beautiful. Me and Sam actually booked the trip over a year ago because the flights were ridiculously cheap, and we managed to find a really nice airbnb too, so it was a long wait but worth it.

I've always wanted to visit Austria because the musical which made me fall in love with musicals, was the sound of music. I used to watch it back to back with Joseph every weekend when I was younger at my Nan's; I know all of the words and always wanted to pretend to be Maria.

Vienna is beautiful. There are so many pretty buildings and palaces, gardens and markets to look at and just take in. For me, it was way too cold to appreciate it all properly and I found myself wanting to be inside instead which is a shame, but it was still good.

One of my favourite places was the Naschmarkt, which is a market full of food, souvenirs and culture. We had our best meals here if I'm honest and I'd go back there again in a heartbeat for dinner. I laughed so hard here as well because Sam ordered his dinner and it was served within seconds, it was SO surreal. For anyone that knows us, we are both fast eaters anyway so prefer things to slow down because otherwise, we're in the restaurant for minutes.

I wouldn't say there is loads to do in Vienna either so on the Sunday, we went to Praterstein theme park to go on the ferris wheel, madame tussauds and the chocolate museum. However, afterwards I had a three hour nap and it was bliss. I didn't realise how tired I was until I got to Austria, so it was nice to recharge.

Austria was a nice break but now I'm back, I can't wait for my next trip. Malta in 2 weeks...
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Digbeth Dining Club & Friendship

Monday, 15 April 2019

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This post is about 2 weeks overdue but there’s something about this blog which drains me as well as being valuable.

Blogging a few years ago was nothing like it is now, it was all community based and about making friendships. I made friends with Nicole who unfortunately lives 5 hours away, but I have been lucky enough to meet her a few times now. And it’s great because it’s like no time has gone by at all, which is how you know it’s a great friendship.

Nicole has come to my city for work purposes, so obviously I then met her after work. I always think there is so much pressure to find somewhere good to eat but I’d wanted to try Digbeth Dining Club for ages anyway, which is a small street food/bar club in Birmingham. It’s only open Thursday to Sunday and has a few different traders each day, selling different cuisines. We opted for somewhere called Buddha Belly which caters for vegan's too, and it was amazing!

Whenever me and Nicole are together, we find good food. It's almost a must do experience, and despite blogging, we usually put our phones away pretty instantly. Nicole said something to me about instagam when we were together 

Why are we all so obsessed with capturing images for something that only exists in our hands?

And when you think about it, why are we obsessed? I love photography and documenting my life,  but we do it on something virtual. Something we can never touch but it's just there, floating around us, storing everything we upload to it. 

And what if it disappears tomorrow? I think a lot of us would have to admit to being upset. That we've created a perfectly curated set of images to please us and other people. Sad really; because if we lost it all tomorrow, would we regret not spending those moments with the ones we love instead of trying to capture it? 

Who knows? I'm just glad I put my phone down when I was with Nicole.

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Win an Easter Egg Hunt Pack*

Sunday, 7 April 2019

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I must admit, when I think of Easter now, I'm just happy for the long weekend as oppose to anything else. I'm not really religious and we don't tend to exchange that many eggs in our family but I know Easter does mean a lot of chocolate.

I'm doing this post in collaboration with WOW FreeStuff who are currently running an Easter Competition where you can win a free Cadbury easter egg hunt pack. 

The box includes 14 eggs, 3 bunnies and 3 bags and there are 1 out of 50 to be won. It's really easy  to enters so worth a try if you fancy your chances. You can find the competition here.

Terms and conditions apply:

-This competition ends on the 10th April 2019.

-By entering you agree to sign up to WOW FreeStuff Newsletter

-Must be over 18 and based in the UK

Post in collaboration with WOW Freestuff*
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April Goals

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

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April; my birthday month, lighter evenings, the beginning of spring, a trip to Vienna and bank holiday weekend. It's set to be a good month hopefully and I feel it's needed. March wore me out, physically and emotionally, and I want April to be the month which restores some balance. Balance is key for me, and I've been feeling a little off balance so I want to level out. So, this is what I'll be doing

1. On Friday, my amazing friend Nicole is coming from Edinburgh to Birmingham and I'm super excited to see her. I think we'll be going to Digbeth Dining Club; I've never been before and it looks amazing so I think i'll be good to show her. It will be such a nice way to end the week

2. Next week I've twenty five and I'm going to Vienna for a long weekend. It's supposed to be such a beautiful city so I can't wait to see it. Travelling and exploring new places is my number one favourite thing to do, so I'm looking forward to some time with Sam.

3. I am having a month without any peanut butter. I have been eating the stuff like no tomorrow (seriously, a 1kg tub per week) and I swear I am becoming the size of a house. I'm going to Malta next month, so whilst I'm not unhappy with my body, I know if something doesn't change, I will be unhappy on holiday so I'm going cold turkey for one month. Already struggling but needs must.

4. I have downloaded an app called 'one second per day' and I'm planning on filming one second everyday of this month. I saw my friend do it and thought it was such a nice way of looking back at the month. So far, so good!

And before we know it... it will be May.

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March Reflections

Saturday, 30 March 2019

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Work has been so busy this month. I don't really like talking about my job on here because it's a personal job and it's difficult to speak about without breaking someone's confidentiality. But, this month I feel like I've been going from one fire to the next, trying to put fires out before another one sparks alight. Ironically, putting out fires has left me feeling a little burnt and I know my body is tired, I've been overeating and have been living for the weekends.

I do love my job though, these things come in peaks and troughs, but I think it's important to acknowledge when things are harder and take a step back to see how it's impacting you.

I don't really know what I've done this month, it's been a whirlwind which was topped off nicely with some extremely bad news for my boyfriend. Life likes to throw numerous hurdles at once, doesn't it?

I was looking back at my goals for March, thinking I've probably not done any but I have done two out of three.

1) More running outside. Not done once, well done Samantha.

2) Spend less money. I have actually done this. I signed up for a Monzo bank account and it's really helpful for seeing how much you spend on a daily basis and where things go. I think because everything is instant, the money leaves you so much quicker which has made me not want to spend anything!

3. Listen to more podcasts. I have been doing this as well! I'm loving Oenone's podcast, adulting, which I've been trying to listen to at the gym.

So actually, two out of three isn't bad. I 10000% need to try and do more running outside in April because I'm doing a 10k run at the end of May, and would hate myself if I couldn't do it. I'm looking forward to a new month (turning 25), I'm going to Vienna and allllllll the bank holidays. Should be a more relaxed month hopefully.
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Sunday, 24 March 2019

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I feel really honoured to be working with Friction Free Shaving for the third time; I just love their products and couldn't turn down the opportunity.

I am someone who shaves regularly, summer or winter, I'm not a fan of hairy legs. That being said, I respect anyone who is the exact opposite. Friction Free Shaving (FFS) offer a subscription box where you choose from either a silver or rose gold, 6 headed blade, to be delivered to you initially. Thereafter, you are sent 4 refills in the post, the idea being a new blade for each week in the month.

For the rose gold handle and 4 refills, it's only £9. NINE POUND. How many of us pay £5-10 for one  razor blade. You can also  choose to add engraving or  pre-shave scrub, shave cream or post shave balm (below). 

I can honestly say, my legs have never been smoother.

At the moment, FFS are doing a gift box which is perfect for Mother's Day too which includes

  • Your choice of Shaviour, the world's first metal razor designed especially for women.
  • Free engraving of your choice (worth £6).
  • Our award winning Shave Cream, packed with moisturising Manuka honey, Shea butter and coconut oil.
  • Our Pre Shave Scrub, a gentle and all natural exfoliate made using the husk of walnuts.
  • Our Post Shave Balm, which provides deep hydration to soothe and condition your skin.
  • Four German-engineered razor refills, each with 6 diamond-coated steel blades and a styling bikini blade.
  • Shower hook, Blade cover, Clamshell Blade Protector and Travel pouch.
If you want to try any of their products, FFS are giving my readers 25% off the first set of blades and free engraving, with the code 'SAMANTHA25'

- post in collaboration with Friction Free Shaving; all views are my own

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Top Benefits of a Gap Year*

Monday, 18 March 2019

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So, you’re about to finish school and now you have a decision before you- university or gap year. The first thing you’ll need to do is think about what you want to achieve in the next few years. Taking a gap year can teach you more than any university course can (although you may need to convince your parents of that). If you’re weighing up your decision, here are five benefits of a gap year that could sway the scales.

Higher Levels of Maturity

Studies show that students who have taken a gap year often start their university courses with higher levels of maturity. A gap year isn’t just one long holiday; it teaches people to be independent and confident. You’ll need to learn how to take responsibility for yourself, budget your finances, cook, clean and much more. Developing these skills before starting university will put you way ahead of the crowd and you’ll be able to use your first year to get a head start with your studies.

Improved Academics

A gap year gives you the time to consider what you really want out of life. Sadly, many students end up on courses they don’t really enjoy in an effort to gain a degree. Thinking about what you really want out of life will lead you in the right direction when it comes to choosing what you want to study. Therefore, anyone who has used student tours is more likely to be passionate about what they want out of their studies. Gap year students are often more likely to be confident and ambitious, so they’re far more likely to put the work in.

Broadened Thinking

Before leaving for university, many students are fearful of coming out of their comfort zones. It’s not easy to be somewhere entirely new, with new people and new experiences. If you’ve already been on a gap year, this shouldn’t be a problem. You’ll already have lived in a different climate, a different culture and with people speaking a different language. University should be a breeze after that. Travelling on a gap year will broaden your horizons and you’ll be far more willing to take on new challenges while you’re at university.

Reassess Goals

Taking a gap year gives you some extra time to figure out your future. Suddenly, you’re no longer faced with the massive decision of what you want to be and do for the rest of your life. That can be liberating and give you the chance to take time over making that decision. Taking a gap year is a lot pressure and it gives you the chance to get to know yourself. You’ll be able to learn more about your likes and dislikes and perhaps discover new passions. By the time the year is over, you should have more of an idea of the avenue you want to take when you return home.

Taking a gap year certainly isn’t an escape route- it’s a preparation for everything that’s to come.
* a contributed post and may contain affiliate links

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The Popcorn Shed

Sunday, 17 March 2019

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This is a post for the fellow snackers out there because if you're like me, and you're constantly grazing,  then this popcorn might be for you.

I was contacted by  the Popcorn Shed who is the UK's first super-premium gourmet popcorn brand. The founders, Sam and Laura, use a caramel base combined with nuts, fruits and chocolate to create interesting textures and flavours for popcorn.

I was lucky enough to be sent the seven flavours,  each one being under 130 calories for a snack pack (or more if you want devour a bigger box, no judgement here..)

- Salted Caramel
The classic sea salt  mixed with caramel

- Pecan Pie
Caramel  flavour popcorn mixed with pecan nuts

- Say Cheese
A more savoury creamy cheese flavour popcorn

- Berry-licious
Caramel and raspberry popcorn mixed with  dark chocolate 

- Pop 'N' Choc
A double whammy of chocolate accompanied by a smooth cocoa-infused caramel base

- Butterly Nuts 
A rich creamy peanut butter caramel with nuttiness topped with real peanut halves for extra crunch

- Sweet Cheesus 
Tangy creamy mature cheddar cheese popcorn

My favourite has to be Butterly nuts, but that was always going to be the case as I'm addicted to peanut butter. There isn't a bad flavour in the range though; it's a nice variety!

If you do fancy buying some yourself, you can head over to Popcorn Shed. I think these are on par with Propercorn and Metcalfe's Skinny popcorn if you want a change!

- These were sent to me for review but all opinions are my own!

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