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lifestyle

It would seem this year that visiting London has almost become a part of our lifestyle as bloggers. Which isn’t surprising as that’s were a lot of brands and PR contacts are based. Being in the city is always something that we enjoy as there’s always much to do so its no surprise that we found London calling one last time just before the year ran out.

We were there for two reasons; attend a networking Christmas drinks set up by a really lovely PR company we’ve been working with, and pick up my passport from the Nigerian embassy which took over four months to renew. We settled into the Green Rooms Hotel, a place we’re beginning to fall in love with because it gives us the feeling of being in our own apartment. Craig helped style my hair into a fringe to help beat the hair boredom which was nice for a change. The Christmas drinks was a success. We got to meet brand contacts and further build relationship which is of utmost importance in the blogging industry.

The following morning, I headed to the Nigerian embassy where I waited for three hours before finally picking up my passport. Although the wait time wan’t ideal, the mood at the embassy got me laughing every now and again with the characters I encountered. And now we can get back on track with our travel plans. First on our list being Eindhoven, then Paris, and perhaps Nigeria as I’m beginning to feel very homesick, lol. But who knows, we might find ourselves back in this wonderful city in no time. 

***If you want to edit like me, you can! Get my Lightroom preset or grab a copy of my eBook here.***

December 27, 2017
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This travel post is coming to you with love from London. Each time we visit London, we’re always in awe of how beautiful the city is. It makes for a nice city break away from Manchester which I can say is very similar to London without the hustle and bustle which can sometimes be draining especially if you live there. Funny enough, the latter is what most of my friends who live in London love about the city. We arrived in London this time to enjoy a short weekend break where Craig got to attend a concert at the Royal Albert Hall by one of his all time favourite composers. We stayed at the Green Rooms Hotel, an arts hotel that fit right with our aesthetics. Hence why we didn’t miss a chance to take a self portrait.

We did a lot of walking as that’s how we tend to discover hidden gems. We didn’t fail to go on the tube too every now and again as we always enjoy a ride on the underground. This time we found a CD on a chair left behind by an artist with the words “THIS IS MY ART. TAKE ME. GIVE ME. FIND ME. LEAVE ME…”. I of course opted to take it which turned out to be a good decision as I can’t stop listening to his song titled Last Page. His name is Sam Way.

I got a chance to spend some time with my friend, Simi. We talked out the blogger lifestyle and had some really positive brainstorming sessions. It’s always good to be in the company of folks who get what you do. As we didn’t get a chance to do our usual coffee diaries series, so we decided to stop for coffee just before catching our train back to Manchester. We ended up at TAP Coffee, which was 15 minutes walk from Euston Station. There we enjoyed a nice cuppa in what looked like an American cafe. Afterwards, we headed to the train station where our train was delayed for at least 3 hours. We had to find alternative routes back home. Still, we had the most amazing time and look forward to visiting again. To see what we got up to, be sure to catch up on our latest vlog.WITH LOVE FROM LONDONTAP Coffee London***If you want to edit like me, you can! Get my Lightroom preset or grab a copy of my eBook here.***

November 12, 2017
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I’m a strong believer in using your mind to create the things you want. Recently, I’ve been craving a beach holiday almost every passing day. Let’s just say scrolling through the feed of other travel bloggers ins’t helping as well, lol. I’ve had this swimsuit for a couple of months now and haven’t had to chance to wear it cause all I could think of was wearing it on the beach, at least not until yesterday. While doing one of my weekly tasks which happens to be watering my plants, I decided to turn it into a summer vacation. I’m currently working on transforming my bedroom into a jungle. I managed to keep most of the plants alive but ideally I need more to achieve the look I’m going for. Since my bedroom is where I spend most of my time working and getting creative, I thought it best to let nature in.

To create the mood, I ripped out pages from an old book titled “Make Life Beautiful” (which I thought fit with the message of creating beautiful memories) and spread them on the floor. I got some of my plants together to get the feeling of being outdoors. I pulled together some summer appropriate items. The first was a postcard of a beach and palm tree which I got over the weekend from Paperchase. Since my set up was by the window, the sunnies came out too and so did my straw hat. I always take my camera everywhere I go so it had to make an appearance too. Thanks to my recent campaign with Bacardi, I was able to spring up a homemade mojito to get this holiday going. It really felt like I was somewhere exotic and all it took was my mind. Sometimes we have to reach within for the things we want without. Life could be the dreams we have and that is something worth holding on to. Imagine if you could dream of a beautiful life and live that beautiful life. That’s why I choose to be a dreamer. Welcome to “Onyi Island” is what I say. Hopefully my next travel posts comes from a very sunny island just like I’ve dreamed it.

***If you want to edit like me, you can! Grab a copy of my eBook here.***

August 29, 2017
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Going meat free means I’ve been on the look out for places to eat that accommodate my new lifestyle. I solicited the help of my friend who’s been on this journey for some time now and she gave me some useful tips. She said you can never go wrong with Mexican and Indian food as there’s plenty to choose from. Barburrito happens to be a Mexican restaurant that specialises in making burritos. Last Friday, my friend and I made a quick stop at one of its restaurants located in the city for our occasional catch up. It had a lovely atmosphere with a choice of indoor and outdoor sitting. The open style kitchen plan allows you to see all the ingredients and make your preferred selection.

Not being one to love a wrap, I opted to have mine in a bowl without the wrap while my friend had the wrap Mexican style. The service was quick, almost like street food which I loved about it as I never like waiting for food especially when I’m hungry, lol. This is perfect for those having a quick lunch break from work. I had the Mexican rice with mushrooms, hot tomato sauce, beans and salad. My friend went for the classic burrito wrap with some guacamole and we were all set to go. The portions were very decent and filling. It was definitely a hit in my books as I enjoy spicy food. All the ingredients compliment each other well. Definitely a spot I will be revisiting soon. 

July 21, 2017
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Italian food happens to be one of my favourite food. I love pasta and pizza any day. Having recently transitioned to being vegetarian, I’ve been on the look out for spots to eat out that make a tasty veggie meal. Our last experience at Vapiano, inspired us to book a holiday to Venice where we had the most amazing time. We decided to pay it a visit again last Sunday to see what a vegetarian like me could enjoy from their latest menu.

Location

Vapiano is located right in the heart of Manchester city centre, in the Corn Exchange building.

Atmosphere

Spread across two floors with outdoor sitting good for a hot summer day, Vapiano is a spacious spot to relax in. With nostalgic black and white photographs hanging on the walls, it gives you the Italian experience. The open plan kitchen allows for some entertaining viewing as you watch your food being prepared by seasoned chefs.

Food

For the the starters, we had some green olives. We then moved on to a bowl of vegetable salad which came with cheese and black pepper. Garlic bread followed. You can’t go to Vapiano without indulging in some good old garlic bread. Next on the menu was Risotto ai Funghi. This was my favourite meal by miles. I love rice and the mushrooms gave it a really good taste. A meal I would highly recommend even for non vegetarians. For dessert, we had the New York Cheesecake, which melted like butter and tasted divine. We had a lot of water and pineapple juice that tasted quite refreshing. To see more of what Vapiano has to offer, you can view their menu here.

Service

Upon arriving at the restaurant, you’re given a card which will be scanned each time you place an order. The staff will talk you through how the process works if it’s your first time visiting. You are responsible for going to the kitchen to place your order where you get the chance to see your meal being prepared. The maximum amount of time we waited for a meal was 5 minutes. You have an option to take a timer back to your table which beeps when your meal is ready. At the end of your meal, your card gets scanned and your bill is produced, ready for payment. The staff are very friendly and professional.

We had an amazing time dinning here again and look forward to revisiting.This meal was complimentary of Vapiano. All opinions are my own.

July 15, 2017
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Last week I shared that I was taking a short trip to Hamburg, Germany. Suitcase packed, Craig and I were ready to hit the road (or should I say, catch our flight). We left Manchester around 6am on Saturday morning and arrived in Hamburg in less than 2 hours. Hamburg is a beautiful city with many canals and a youthful vibrance. It was very easy to see why it is fast becoming a popular tourist destination and knowing we only had 48 hours meant that we had to use our time wisely.

Where we stayed

We checked into our hotel, The Grand Elysee which is located in the heart of the city. Being a 5 star hotel we wanted to make sure we got a good deal so we booked it a few weeks prior to take advantage of the early booking offer through hotels.com. We paid for our stay upon arrival using my new Starling Bank card which allows me to spend abroad but doesn’t charge transaction fees. The hotel was dreamy, full of amazing paintings that make you stop and think and what seemed to be an indoor forest. The room was big and beautiful, stocked with apples and bottled water to welcome new guests, along with a view overlooking the city. We were also allowed to use of the hotel gym, sauna and swimming pool.

During our time at Hamburg airport, we discovered a cheaper accommodation option. If you find yourself wanting to travel on a very low budget, you can use the Sleeping Pods, which are currently free of charge as part of a special promotional campaign. The sleep capsules, as they are called, are installed at the airport and enable passengers to get some rest, away from the hustle and bustle of the terminals.

Travel

Hamburg has a great tram system and this is what we used the most when getting around. We also reached out to a Hamburg tourist company who provided us with 2-day travel tickets to get around the city. Hamburg is well known for their bike friendly streets, so of course we hired a couple of bikes ourselves which we  booked online at €9 each for 4 hours. There are other flexible hire options available, but If you plan on just looking around the city, walking is also a great option. We did a lot of walking while capturing photos, as walking allows you to pay more attention to your surroundings and discover new spots. We came across so many cute stickers stuck on traffic posts and bins which we may not have seen without walking.

Where we ate

I must say we got a bit lazy with our eating options, which was to be expected given that we had very little time in the city. One of the new features on the Starling Bank app Spending Insights, showing you exactly where you money goes by merchant and category – this showed our second largest spend while in Hamburg was at McDonald’s right after our accommodation. We ate quite a few burgers, fries and, of course, strawberry milkshakes.

We also discovered a hot chilli burger which was very fitting  for the cold weather we experienced while in Hamburg. As we were mostly out and about shooting, we got some ready- to-eat food supplies from a city supermarket to eat while exploring, which came in third in our expenditures in the Starling Bank app. We came across so many lovely outdoor restaurants which we hope to try out when next we visit.

Places we visited

We went to The Roncalli Circus which was less than a minute walk from our hotel. Tickets cost €13 per person but we saved 15% on entrance fees by using Groupon. We got to see some really amazing talent — I highly recommend the 8pm show as it just looks so beautiful at night.

We spent a lot of time walking through the city and came across many canals, our favourite one being a canal that had a building in the middle. In the evenings, we sat by the bridge among the other folk and watched the magical lights. We took a trip to the Parliament Square where we saw the beautiful parliament structure, adding history and charm to the city. We watched the pigeons potter and peck by the bridge, while the swans and ducks swam together, it was truly a lovely sight to behold.

Feeling pressed for time, our last stop was a beautiful botanical garden called Tropengewächshäuser Des Botanischen Bartens. There we got to see unique and exotic plants. The cacti was my most favourite and it’s made me want to turn our apartment into an indoor garden! We also encountered a white parrot who must have been a movie star as he was being shot by a film crew. What made the experience even better was that it is free to enter, which is just great if you’re looking to cut costs.

Expenses and Starling Bank

I said I was going to share my experience using my Starling Bank account abroad in previous blog post, and here it is.

Thanks to the Starling Bank app, we were able to track our spending and we managed to stay on budget with over €3 left to spare. Our budget, of course, was in Pounds Sterling and the Euro equivalent offered by Mastercard’s competitive exchange rate, met my expectation as our accommodation ended up costing £1 less than we reserved it for.  

Starling Bank offers a current account that you can use overseas with no fees – that means there are no transaction fees and no ATM withdrawal fees for spending abroad, hurray! And because it’s a current account, it means you are able to earn interest on your balance just like you normally would at home.

I found the app to be an effective tool to manage costs as it displays a percentage split of transactions based on categories e.g. Holidays, Eating Out and Groceries, and merchants e.g.  Grand Elysee Hotel, McDonald’s etc. The app is also cool as you receive instant notifications every time you spend money, allowing you to track your spending in real time, so if you happen to be charged the wrong amount this allows you another chance to double check!

When traveling it’s super important to be careful with where you spend your money —, Starling are big on security, so much so that there’s this really cool card locking feature in the app. If you misplace your card you can simply lock it in the app so it can’t be accessed by anyone else, but if you happen to find it again, you can  easily unlock it!

Although I didn’t really need to take any money out, Starling allows you to withdraw up to £300 (or equivalent in foreign currency) which is the same as in the UK unlike some restrictions you may have with some travel cards.

Because the card is a Mastercard, it was accepted for all our transactions. It is a card I plan to use more often even when not on holiday, mainly to get an overview of my expenses and identify ways in which I can cut costs. So If you’re interested in trying Starling Bank, they have kindly given me a Starling Pass for my readers to skip the queue. If you download the app, simply input this pass CNLALET1 to apply for a current account.

Overall, Hamburg is a very beautiful city which I believe is currently underrated in the tourist scenes. I’d say pay it a visit when you get a chance and enjoy all it has to offer. We hope to visit for a longer period sometime in the future.

This blog post has been sponsored by Starling Bank. All opinions are my own.

 

July 4, 2017
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My upcoming trip to Hamburg has come about in an attempt to find a new and cost saving way to travel. I was initially going to visit Paris, but after being faced time and time again with travel tickets that cost more than my budget, I decided to take a different approach.

Flexibility

One of the things I picked up as a travel blogger is that if you want to be cost effective when it comes to travelling, you have to be very flexible. This could either be with your travel dates or location. I opted for the latter in this instance seeing as I couldn’t budge on my travel dates. To go about finding a new and less expensive location on my set dates, I turned to Google Flights. All I had to do was put in my exact travel dates, select my departure airport and the continent I was most interested in visiting. It didn’t take long to get the results I needed. Hamburg was the obvious choice, not only in terms of cost but also what the city had to offer. A quick search on Google showed some of the things that make Hamburg a place worth visiting. From its maritime history to its art and museums to its architectural structures and youthful vibrance not to mention the outdoor lifestyle with parks across the city. It is also very accommodating of bike riders as many residents use bicycles as their main mode of transportation. I haven’t had a chance to ride my bike all year and this seems like the ideal place to go bike riding. When it comes to booking an accommodation, I usually try to take a collaborative approach with hotels. In this instance, as it was very short notice, I was on a mission to find discounted hotels. My search led me to Hotels.com where you get given additional discounted rates on some hotels if you register on their website. Another good thing is that after you’ve collected ten nights, you get one free which could come in handy when booking future holidays.

Packing and what to take

When packing for a short trip, I like to keep it very simple. My go to suitcase is a piece of hand luggage. Because flights across Europe tend to be fairly cheap, there are add ons which could easily double the costs. Most flights tend to have one item of hand luggage allowance with hold luggage for an additional charge. Travelling with hand luggage not only saves me money but also saves me time at the airport. Having no hold luggage to check in means I can go straight to board my flight plus I’m only responsible for looking after one item, which reduces my chances of losing it. Downloading the airline app to access my boarding pass is a must as it costs to have it printed at the airport.

As I’m going with one piece of luggage, taking only essential items is key. I tend to go with outfits planned for the number of days I intend to stay. A pair of jeans is always a must as I can wear them a few times with different tops. Only one pair of shoes as I’ll already be wearing a pair for the journey. I tend to pack shoes using a shoe bag so they stay protected and don’t ruin any other items. Makeup and skincare products not exceeding 100ml are put together in a see-through bag as per the requirements set-out by customs. I like to take my journal with me as it helps me document my thoughts and feelings on my trip. Then last but not least is my camera, which I need to capture lots of moments.

Budgeting

One of the initial things I tend to do is set a budget for my travel. A number of factors determine what the final budget will be. I budget for my flight ticket based on the average cost of three low cost airlines (Ryanair, Monarch and easyJet). For accommodation, I always want to stay in a three to five star hotel with good reviews based on customer experience. With this is mind, I tend to reserve the cheapest with the most value to offer which locks in the price. The next most important thing to account for is my daily allowance. I usually set this after researching the cost of eating out and visiting certain places in my itinerary. This cost can sometimes go up if not careful. In the past I’ve always had to take money out of  my account to change it to the local currency before I travel, in order not to incur additional charges when making purchases on my card abroad. It isn’t the most ideal option for me as I like to keep track of my spending. It means making use of safes in hotels so I’m not wandering about with cash, with the downside that  I limit spontaneous purchases by not having enough money on me. This time, ahead of my trip, I managed to set up a bank account with Starling Bank. A bank that doesn’t charge any fees when you’re spending using your card abroad or taking money out of  ATMs. The account opening process was easy thanks to their efficient app. To set up an account, I had to download the Starling Bank app and input my personal details. I went through a number of checks to verify my identity, which the app does by scanning your relevant documents. It took me less than fifteen minutes to get set up and my card, which arrived in the post within a few days, had no delivery cost attached. To activate it, I scanned it using the app and it was good to go. The thing I love about the card is that it is a MasterCard which is widely accepted in many retail outlets across Europe, as well as the Pulse feature and detailed transaction feed in the app that will keep me on top of my spending — it’ll also handily show me the transaction costs in GBP and local currency via notifications.

And because the account is a current account with an overdraft facility (subject to approval, and interest rates do apply), you have access to additional funds which allows for a bit of flexibility. Finally, there’s 24/7 in-app support if needed. I’m really looking forward to going to Hamburg with my new card and app where I hope to spend and save money while doing so. And of course, I’ll share my experience in my Hamburg travel post.This blog post has been sponsored by Starling Bank. All opinions are my own.

June 20, 2017
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