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I’ve always been a fan of Ray-Ban. Who isn’t? The brand has become a classic household name thanks to its iconic frames introduced into fashion in the 60s and the revolutionary ‘pop’ culture. Just until two years ago, I was the proud owner of at least four Ray-Ban sunglasses. Making sure I had different colours and designs that matched with a number of outfits was essential. As with anyone who  is  close with their siblings, you’ll find that they sometimes borrow items from you permanently, lol. This was how I came to lose my Ray-Ban collection. Since then, I’ve been on the look out for the perfect pair that would work with pretty much any outfit. It was a given that it had to be stylish and compliment the shape of my face. Thank goodness to the power of hashtags on social media, I was able to perform a search for Ray-Ban to see what shape of frames best suited folks with an oval shaped face. The RayBan 3447 Round Metal Sunglasses was a definite hit.

The best place to score these bad boys are from Sunglasses Shop who offer them at £33 lower than the recommended retail price at a whopping £92. Once it arrived in the post I couldn’t wait to wear it, hence why you’ve seen it flooding my Instagram timeline. I love how it has a retro vibe to it, giving it this rock ‘n’ roll feel with a touch of mainstream. It does a great job of protecting you from the sun (UV400 lenses) while looking effortlessly cool at the same time. The RayBan 3447 Round Metal Sunglasses is a must have accessory this season and any season as a matter of fact because I plan to rock them even in winter. Talk about making the most out of a statement piece!***If you want to edit like me, you can! Grab a copy of my eBook here.***

July 20, 2017
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When the sun comes out to play in Manchester, you have to be ready to soak it all in. The past couple of days have been good. Full of sunshine and extra pleasant folks. That’s what happens on a nice warm day. I was definitely ready to enjoy every but of it. Out came this lovely two piece set from Shein. Stripes are definitely in season, hence my choice of pattern. Also, the rope gives it the sea look which is something I love. I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about my dream white beach house, lol. The frills make for some character which is something I’m building on, hence my new look. Shein is a brand I recently heard of thanks to fellow blogger Patricia Bright. All the reviews I came across regarding the brand were quite positive. Having a browse on their website got me really excited. They’re a one stop shop for all the latest trend and their prices are reasonable. It’s always hard to tell the quality of a piece online. But when my order arrived in the post, I was super pleased with it. The quality was top notch. So much so that I ordered 3 more outfits which all happened to be stripes too, lol. Be sure to check out my Instagram as I plan to share more of my newly acquired outfits there. How are you loving my Striped Lace Up Smocked Cami And Ruffle Shorts Co-Ord from Shein?

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

SheIn -Your Online Fashion Pullovers

July 18, 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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This blog post is not my usual style of writing but a topic I think needs to be touched on as it forms part of my experience as a blogger. An African blogger to be precise. Everything I will be sharing is mostly based on my personal encounter which should give you some perspective into my life as a content creator. It’s very easy to look in from the outside and think all is well and rosy when the reality is somewhat otherwise. And I don’t blame you for having that perspective. You mostly get to see the glamorous side of being an influencer being flaunted all over the internet (don’t get me wrong, I too I’m guilty of this) but very little is shared about the struggles that come with it especially for someone like me. Before moving to England, I always had this notion that if I could “make it” a very western world, then I can make it anywhere. I guess somehow I was aware of the trying journey of succeeding in a foreign land however familiar it may seem from a distance.

I suppose this is where I do a full disclaimer stating that this post isn’t an attack on a particular group of people but merely highlighting some of my encounter.You have to work twice as hard 

If you’re very familiar with the TV show, Scandal, you should be aware of the famous scene where Olivia Pope‘s dad tells her quote on quote “You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have”. At first I didn’t get it and thought that was just dialogue appropriate at the time to have the effect he wanted on his daughter. Still, that scene stuck with me. For those of you who haven’t watched the show, a bit of context seems appropriate. Pope is a Washington, D.C.-based crisis manager who runs her own firm, Pope & Associates, that specializes in political situations. Fast forward two years later, I would begin to understand what Eli Pope meant. That was around the period I started taking my blog seriously but saw little or no growth with my engagement on all platforms. I remember telling myself “focus on improving and perfecting your skills and the rest will come”. Perhaps it wasn’t so much of a shocker as my subconscious mind almost expected this to be the case. I found myself having sleepless nights learning and practicing photography, and still do.

Putting out mediocre content will put you at the bottom of the pile and great content might get you in the acceptable league even though your work speaks for itself. The struggle is definitely real. If I had a penny for the amount of times people have said to me they think I deserve more followers because of the quality of my content, I’d probably be eating out every week.  No wonder there are so many avenues dedicated to promoting the work of black folks and people of colour alike. At first I didn’t want to engage with these platforms because I thought I would be limiting my audience which was a whole load of nonsense to think in the first place. I soon began to realise that these platforms are a safe space for people like me to grow and share knowledge. The benefits of being part of such communities is very rewarding and inspiring to say the very least. Very few friends 

I remember very well when I first started out blogging, I would tag everyone on Facebook I thought was my friend in my posts and would get little or no support from them. Sometimes they’ll remove themselves from the tags  or unfriend me altogether. I was quick to notice this and decided it was unfair to put that amount of pressure on the people I considered friends at the time. I got to realise that people closest to us sometimes don’t believe in our dreams as much as we do and this reflects in their reactions. The truth is I’ve managed to convince so many strangers while on this journey that my work is worth looking at and I couldn’t be much grateful. You’ll find that the people who doubted you the most want to get close to you when they think you’ve become a success. Only then will they openly admit to knowing you. It’s become apparent that in order to succeed in whatever you do, you have to surround yourself with the right energy and this includes people that push you towards your goals. I’ve slowly learnt to keep very few friends and that’s fine with me. I’ve heard quite a few people say the older you get, the less friends you tend to have. This is true for me and some of my friends alike. When you factor in the amount of hours needed for creating content, you’ll find that you can barely keep up with social engagements which results in a somewhat natural decline in the number of friends you have.

The entitled folks

I get the odd request from folks who don’t show any form of support towards my work send me private messages asking me to share my photography secrets which I imagine they’ll implement and shine even brighter than they already do. Very recently, I had a blogger in London with nearly 300k Instagram followers who followed exactly 0 people, message me to ask about my editing techniques which is no secret as I’ve found a way to share that knowledge in my eBook. I guess he wasn’t interested in purchasing it and might have thought I would be smitten by his online presence enough to give him this information because he asked. I did the sensible thing by ignoring his message. The interracial couple stigma

“She’s only successful because she’s with a white man”. Really? This is usually my reaction when I see this fallacy being hurled around the internet. The so called “interracial relationship” craze comes into play which puts less focus on my work as a content creator. I have received at least 50 emails and private messages criticising me for riding off the back of my “white husband”. The double standard really amazes me. Anyone who needs photography for their blog knows they have to rely on the support of family and friends to help get the shots every now and again. For a lot of bloggers I know this tends to be their partners or their spouse. So why does it matter in my case? What many folks don’t realise is that I and my husband work as a team. He takes most of my pictures when he’s available and when he’s not I shoot self portraits. I do all of the post production work. So how come when a fellow blogger like myself dates/marries from a similar background, who gets equal amount of support from her partner doesn’t get judged on that? I fear I will never really know the answer to this. The way I deal with it is to completely ignore these messages. After a while you can’t help but feel sorry for these folks.

Inclusion for the wrong reason 

You might also find that you get included in certain projects not by merit but because of your origin so they can demonstrate diversity. In those instances, taking advantage of the “disguised opportunity” as I like to call it, is a good way to show unsuspecting spectators the stuff you’ve been practicing behind closed doors. It’s a chance to gain respect for your work if you play to your strengths. I have been included in a couple of projects like these, without being very specific, I can say I did my best to go above and beyond. And the next time they consider me, I can almost certainly say it’s as a result of my work due to the offers they present my way.Love or hate

I’ve found that my biggest supporters are other Africans in diaspora. Maybe it’s because they have a sense of what it feels like to survive in a foreign country and perhaps relate to my journey. The amount of support and love I get from these folks is indescribable. I can tell by their names when I look at my eBook sales. However, this can be a love hate relationship. Some of these folks for some reason unbeknown to me do not like to see others succeed. They pick at everything you do. First they criticise your accent, then your mannerisms, and then they tell you why you’re not good enough as you do not represent their ideas of someone from their community Some even go as far as disowning you which I find very bizarre. I mean, how sad must your life be to want to make someone feel guilty for personal choices they’ve made in their lives that remotely has nothing to do with you? Maybe you folks can help me out with this one. My usual approach would be to ignore these folks. But sometimes I can’t help but think they need educating on certain matters.

 Awkward blogger events 

Being an introvert doesn’t quite help me here. I sometimes think that not growing up here and engaging in the social scenes makes me hold back at blogger events. It’s easier for me to connect with other foreigners because I fee like like we get each other just by sharing this one experience of living abroad. Sometimes I don’t attend altogether if no one I know is going. This can potentially hinder my growth and is something I have to overcome. I do not want to change who I am in the process. I just want to find a way to exist as my true self in a space where I can grow.

This has been my experience so far. I’d love to hear some of the things you folks also have to deal with behind the scenes as content creators and how you’ve overcome them.

July 3, 2017
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I bring you the 21st episode of my week in black and white with so much joy in my heart. Joy that has come about by the immense support I’ve received from strangers around the world in the last couple of days. One of these beautiful souls shared my eBook to one of her Facebook groups which saw my sales hit record high. I couldn’t be more grateful. I received a lot of emails and direct messages from people who have felt inspired after seeing my work. It is beautiful to see how doing the things you love can make someone else go after the things they so desire. The truth is I love what I do when it comes to photography. My passion for it is what keeps me going. I’ve learnt that if I carry on doing the things I love, I am bound to succeed. My passion for creating something extraordinary has led me to want to take Instagram Stories to a whole new level. If you aren’t following me on Instagram, you should. There you’ll find me creating and sharing short stories which I must say do come across as very comforting. There I get to express myself through my choice of music and image framing hence why Carla Bruni’s French pop classic “quelqu’un m’a dit” has been stuck in my head.

Giving back what we receive is only natural. After all, that is what life is all about. We give and we take, only to give again. Keeping in that spirit, I am looking for ways I can give back the joy I’ve experienced these past few days. I came across a fellow Nigerian blogger, Grace, who shared her story on Instagram about her struggle with depression and how she managed to overcome it in the past months. I thought it bold and inspiring to say the least. I know a lot of folks can relate to her, myself included. So when she shared how she’s been trying to raise funds to further pursue her studies to enable her become a professor, I thought it to be the perfect opportunity for us to show her some love. If you’d like to find out more about Grace and contribute towards her post graduate degree please click here.

Well, it’s nearly 1 am and way past my bedtime considering I have to be up in two hours to catch my flight to Hamburg. On that note, I’ll call it a day, or should I say night? Either way, see you folks on the other side.

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

June 24, 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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After our trip to Mykonos, we found ourselves in beautiful Venice. Last year, I talked about how travelling to New York brought about a spiritual awakening for me. Well, it would seem that Venice had the same impact on me. This time, the message was to deliberately find an underlying cause for happiness. The answer turned out to be gratitude which is summed up in my Venice vlog. Venice took me to a happy place in my life. Much of which was around the time when I was in boarding school back home in Nigeria and being mischievous was my modus operandi. A time where we read almost every book Shakespeare had written with Romeo and Juliet being my all time favourite.

Travel

Venice is a very huge city with surrounding islands. The main mode of transportation within the city is walking. I never came across a car in the city. I seldom came across bikes and I suspect this might be due to some of the streets being quite narrow.  The second mode of transportation seems to be by private boats and gondolas. You can only travel to the surrounding islands by boat. We stayed in Venice Lido which happens to be very close to Venice and we had to take the public boat to and fro Venice. Daily ticket per person cost €20. We opted for a three day pass which saved us €20 each as it cost €40. And if you’re less than 30 years of age, the price goes down to €28 for a three day pass. Before you book a stay in a neighbouring island, be sure to factor in the cost of travel as this can become a lot depending on your schedule.

Where to Stay

When booking our accommodation, we opted to stay in Venice Lido as we wanted a quiet surrounding when we returned to rest for the evening. The hotels in Venice tend to be quite pricey. We found that the cost of staying in a low budget hotel would get you a lovely stay in Venice Lido even with the cost of our travel included. We stayed at beautiful hotel called Villa Tiziana. It was painted yellow in classic Venetian style and surrounded by beautiful rose gardens which I pretty much ran across almost everyday. Our breakfast was included in the price too.  In Venice Lido there were cars and bikes and beautiful restaurants to eat in too.

Places to visit

Venice is full of very colourful buildings and canals spread across almost every 200 metres. You’ll see a lot of folks sitting by the canal steps or stopping to take pictures and you can’t blame them as it is quite the sight especially when a gondola is passing by with the classic tune “That’s Amore” emanating from the lungs of the gondola man. You’ll come across really old bookshops that tell beautiful stories hidden in streets so be sure to keep an out for them. San Marco is definitely the district to be with St Marks Square located right at the heart of it where a lot of tourist gather to feed the pigeons and admire the wonderful architecture. Walking along the waters just past San Marcoyou’ll come across a number of contemporary museums which are all unique in their own way. You’ll also come across a lot of mask shops in Venice. The masks are extravagant in nature and almost make you feel tempted to attend a ball in one of them. There’s an island which is a cemetery that tourists tend to visit. It is covered in beautiful flowers and the architecture is that of an ancient nature.

Where to eat

There are so many places to eat in Venice. I found it to be very cheap compared to Mykonos not just when it comes to a meal but also with regards to shopping in general which was a plus. You’ll find a lot of pizza shops where you can purchase a slice of margarita for €2 and pepperoni for €2.50 which comes in very handy when walking all day. Eating in restaurants tend to range from €7 to €12 for a full pizza or a bowl of pasta dish which is good.

Our stay was quite short and sweet. Nonetheless, we tried to make good use of our time there and I look forward to visiting again sometime in the future.

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

June 13, 2017
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