Rain, sea and sand!

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So after a few days of playing tourist we finally made it to Biscarosse (pronounced biss-ka-Ross) to see our friend… LINDSAY! She’s moved there for the summer but unfortunately when we visited it wasn’t very summer like weather, we appeared to have brought rain and cloud!  Nonetheless weather doesn’t matter when all you want to do is catch up on gossip so we immediately headed to the plage to catch up, and see first hand a few reasons why Lindsay chose to make this her home for the summer ;)

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The next morning with our little hire car, we stole Lindsay on her day off to go for a little road trip to Hossegor, one of France’s surf beaches.  Unfortunately we arrived in a middle of a rain cloud, so after a few beers (one glass of wine for me as I was designated driver) and observing the weather wasn’t really going to get much better before we would have to head home, we drove back early and decided to enjoy the late afternoon / early evening by the lake in Biscarosse instead.

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At the lake we enjoyed a french picnic of cheese, meats, bread and crisps and MORE WINE over music whilst sharing dance moves and attempting various random yoga poses!  It was a lovely random day catching up with our good friend, it was just a shame that once the sun set Lindsay had to go back to work and we had to say our goodbyes for another few months :(

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Debbie Does… Dune du Pilat

20140714-115327-42807931.jpgSo on our little road trip we had gone from the longest shopping street in Europe one day, to Europe’s largest underground church the next day… and as all good things come in threes it made sense to visit The Dune du Pilat next as it is Europe’s tallest sand dune.  The sand dune is located approximately 40 minutes drive south-west of Bordeaux.

20140714-115328-42808730.jpgI can’t really capture the size and gradient of the dune well, I find this same problem when using my camera in the mountains when I go skiing… but it’s height (110 meteres) is equivalent to approximately 10 double decker bus stacked one on top of each other.

Once you climb to the top the collosal scale of the dune can really be appreciated, its width is approximately 500 meteres and stretches almost 2.7 km along the coast, the entire volume taken up by the sand dune is approximately 60,000,000 m³

20140714-115329-42809160.jpg20140714-115327-42807647.jpg20140714-115328-42808333.jpg20140714-115328-42808542.jpgAfter spending a good time exploring the top of the dune we (by which I mean Claire) decided to venutre back off piste, so ignoring the savy tourists sticking to the ridge of the dune and then making their way down hill directly back to the car park we traversed across the sand, which was pretty hard work and sweat inducing, still the experience was totally worth it and I recommend you vist this sand dune if you ever find youself near to the area.

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Debbie Does… Saint Emilion

20140711-150915-54555226.jpgBordeaux was lovely but not quite what I imagined a wine producing region to look like in my dreams, but that was a city… to see the vineyards you need to leave the city and head into the country, so we did and we drove 45 minutes out of Bordeaux towards the East to a small wine producing village called Saint Emilion.

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20140711-150913-54553448.jpgThis trip was done on a budget and thanks to http://www.bookings.com we found a charming little B&B a short walk from the village on it’s very own vineyard called Chateau Franc Grace Dieu.  Being a working vineyard we were free to walk around the grounds and treated to a complimentary tasting of the wines they produce from the vineyard.

After getting a little tipsy at the wine tasting we thought it was sensible to leave the car and walk into town and check out what Saint Emilion had to offer, and it certainly did not disappoint…20140711-150914-54554356.jpg20140711-150916-54556191.jpg20140711-150917-54557189.jpg

20140711-150914-54554992.jpg20140711-150915-54555814.jpgAfter wandering around we decided to stop for some sustenance at a quaint little bar where we enjoyed a light lunch of cheese, charcuterie and more wine whilst soaking up the incredible view of the Saint Emilion clock tower.  My first impressions of Saint Emilion was how picturesque it was, I’d describe it as a postcard village of what you expect a dreamy french wine producing village to look like.  20140711-150914-54554561.jpg

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If you didn’t know already, the entire jurisdiction of Saint Emilion is actually classified as a world heritage site, which is no surprise once you visit and see the all the history and beauty in person, my photo’s really can’t do it justice I am afraid.

The tourist office in the centre of towns offer great tours around the historical sights and vineyards… we did the historical tour where we were shown around the Monuments, Catacombs and Monolithic Church (FYI the biggest underground church in Europe.)  I don’t usually enjoy tours as I have a very short attention span but this tour was fast moving, informative and interesting enough to keep my attention, I really recommend you go on one too if you ever make it to Saint Emilion.

20140711-150916-54556408.jpg20140711-150912-54552935.jpgAll the sight seeing built up a big appetite for Claire and me so we went for dinner at a restaurant called Le Bouchon in one of the main squares in the village, Claire really enjoyed our shared starter of snails but our mains of beef stew and smoked duck with foie gras shavings served on pasta was “interesting” ;)  Obviously the wine list was impressive, so we went for a tasting of local wines to accompany our meal… WINNING!

There didn’t really seem to be much of a night life in Saint Emilion so after dinner we wandered the pretty cobbled streets for a while before walking back to our hotel room for more card games and to sleep off all the wine we had drunk that day!

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Debbie Does… Bordeaux

20140711-111826-40706196.jpgThis past week I got back from a mini France and Spain adventure with one of my best buds, Claire… our last trip together was to Edinburgh over a year and a half ago so we were long overdue a lot of fun!  Our reason to go was to visit our friend Lindsay who is spending her summer season at a watersports resort near to Bordeaux, but both being wine lovers we couldn’t fly into Bordeaux without checking out what the city and surrounding area had to offer before we made our way to the surf coast!

We found a really cheap hotel deal on http://www.bookings.com staying at the Apart City Bordeaux, it was pretty budget and a little walk from the city centre but if you just want a bed for the night in a clean room with no perks it’s perfect!  One note I would make is the exterior glass has been lined with colour filters to make it more interesting from the outside; but this tints the natural light entering in the room, so having a blue window in our room our light was tinted a weird blue colour, it was quite surreal but given we were only using the room as a place to sleep it didn’t really bother us too much.

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Our hotel was little walk into the centre of Bordeaux, but similarly to London there is a bike rental scheme locals and tourists can use called La CUB, the website is in French only but there are english instructions on the bike station terminals, the cost was €1 for 24 hour access to the bikes, and then time is recorded between every time you undock and dock a bike; like in London the first 1/2 hour is free but time beyond that is charged at €2 per an hour.  I made the mistake of not checking my bike before I selected it and hired one with a flat tire, so learn from my lesson and give your bike a once over before selecting to hire it!

Once we sorted out our bike hire we cycled straight to the square outside the town hall to enjoy a bit of lunch and plan our day.  We chose to eat at a typical French cafe on the square surprisingly called Le Cafe Francais, we enjoyed a bottle of white wine with our french salads and made friends with out waiter who gave us a lot of advise on what to see and do in the city.

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It appeared we had chosen the best weekend to be in Bordeaux, our waiter had told us to head to the river and check out the wine festival, Fete Du Vin which was on just for that weekend… BINGO that was our evening entertainment sorted (well so we thought)… €20 for a free glass and tasting coupons to try lots of different wines!

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Back on our bikes we explored more of Bordeaux before “attempting” to check out the wine festival, did you know it is home to Europe’s longest shopping Street, Rue Sainte-Catherine, 1.2km of pedestrianized shop lined street!  My impressions of the city were it was a cross between Paris and Bath, Paris because of the very french architecture of the town hall, cathedrals, parks and tree-lined roads and Bath because most of it appears to be built out of limestone like Bath. 

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From being told about the wine festival at lunch time we held enough restraint to get some sightseeing done before we committed to the wine tasting whole heartedly, so early evening we made our way to the river bank where the festival was being held and bought tickets.  No wine festival would be complete with out a never-ending wall of wine barrels and a giant cork mural made out of tiny little wine corks!  Tickets in hand we eagerly walk towards the wine tents only to be told sorry the festival has closed early due to strong winds.20140711-111824-40704401.jpg

We had no plan B so aimlessly wandered whilst complaining to each other that the weather wasn’t that bad and what a ridiculous decision it was to close the wine fair early!  Fortunately we stumbled across this great little place called Bar a Vin, this is my top place to visit if you are in Bordeaux, this wine bar sells a huge varied selection of affordable bordeaux wines by the glass, the decor is very bright and light which I assume is deliberately designed  to enable you to see the wine you are drinking.  The bar is open Monday to Saturday from 11am to 10pm, so at 10 we decided to stop the wine drinking and find a bar to enjoy a nightcap.

20140711-111824-40704626.jpgTripadvisor suggested the area around La Victoire to go to find the night life, we wandered a found a few bars and enjoyed a couple of G&Ts but nothing seemed to entice to stay out longer so after a few card games we headed back to our hotel to sleep and wake up ready for our road trip to Saint Emilion the next day.

*PS the next morning we managed to sell our wine festival tickets on to a french couple to use that evening so we weren’t too out-of-pocket from the early closure of the wine festival when we were there.

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Blue Eyes

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I don’t wear much make up but for the little I do wear I like it to make an impact, and you can’t get more impactful than bright cobalt blue mascara…  From my years of testing/using blue mascara I feel qualified enough to share with you my Spree vs Steal mascara suggestions.

My bargain steal is The Body Shop’s Supper Volume Mascara in shade number 03 – £10 or cheaper if you have their discount card or buy in one of their promotions!

My pricey spree is Yves Saint Laurent’s Volume Effect Mascara in shade number 03 – £24.50

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There really isn’t much difference in the colours, but on a single application I do believe YSL to be the superior product, the below image shows each of my eyes being coated in a different mascara after one dip only in the tube, I definitely prefer the application of YSL on the left, but given the Body Shop mascara on the right is £14.50 cheaper it’s certainly better value for money!

I am quite loyal to YSL and have never found a masacara that comes close to the impact their mascara makes on my lashes but I have recently made room for The Body Shop’s alternative; as I now do my first application with YSL but when I am out and about and need to refresh I use the body shop mascara which has a place in my handbag!

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Columbia Road Flower Market

20140624-103323-38003932.jpgI have lived in and around London all my life but can you believe it’s taken me only until recently to discover Columbia Road Flower Market… and this wasn’t even my doing, my friend’s Rach & Bethan asked if I wanted to join them whilst they went to buy some flowers for their flat.  The market is located surprisingly enough on Columbia road and open every sunday from 8am – 3pm, nearest tubes are Old Street and Shoreditch High Street.

20140624-103322-38002856.jpg20140624-103323-38003615.jpgThe road is lined both sides with heckling flower traders; you can find all your seasonal flowers along with herbs, shrubs, tropical and dried flowers too! It’s such a lively atmosphere with market traders screaming for your attention with phrases like “3 bunches for a fiver”, “everything must go” and “prices are so cheap because I stole them” shouted at you as you walk the street.

Flowers aren’t the only draw, there are some charming shops selling clothes, art and general homewares… it really is a great area for a sunday stroll.  Being so close to Shoreditch it also means you can explore more of what Shoreditch has to offer like the Boxpark pop up mall and my favourite home shop, SCP Furniture (it’s where I got these place mats from) on Curtain Road, also on Curtain Road is Hache… ideal place to stop and recharge with a tasty burger after a sunday stroll!

20140624-103323-38003175.jpgAs soon as I got home I went straight on to my terrace to arrange my flower purchases, I bought a nice pink tropical flower for myself and some blue roses for McD… a very masculine choice, no?!   I didn’t go overboard with the flowers because I was just in shock with the sheer selection on offer plus there was the added restriction of the size of my vases… a large vase has now been added to my wish list so I can go back and experiment with some awe-inspiring floral combinations!

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Debbie Does… Wimbledon

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Yesterday I met up with my friends for what has become a tradition amongst us; our annual Wimbledon picnic.  After work we all hurried to our local supermarket to pick up picnic supplies & prosecco before we met at Southfields Tube Station (closest tube stop to Wimbledon tennis) for a very british evening of queuing and picnic-’ing’.

If you haven’t been to Wimbledon before… to watch live games on centre court, court one and two you need ticket, either luckily won in a ballot, corporate entertainment or you were just crazy enough to camp overnight to get in a line for one of the first come, first serve tickets offered each day.

There is a more accessible way though… and that is to go in the afternoon or early evening after work & just buy a ground pass (cash only & depending on the day you go price ranges from £14-£5), this lets you access the grounds and watch games on all of the other 14 or so outer courts.  Inside the grounds there is a ticket resale counter for charity that allows you to buy heavily discounted centre court, court one & court two tickets donated by the ticket holders once they have left for the day, always worth visiting just in case someone had to go home for the day early because they needed to feed the kids or walk the dog!

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Yesterday we were lucky as there was no real queue to get in, but some years I have queued for hours, my friends and I concluded the fact England had a world cup game and Murray wasn’t playing probably had an influence with this.  As soon as we were in we headed to the order of play located directly in front of the entrance to see who is still to play and where and then we just wandered around the grounds, soaking up the Wimbledon atmosphere and watching some of the games being played on the outside courts.

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Eventually we got hungry so we all headed to Henman Hill, where the giant TV screen is located and found a picnic free table and settled down to watch some of the show court tennis whilst enjoying our picnic.  The last match we watched was England’s number 5 wildcard entry, Tara Moore’s first game…. it finished just after 8pm due to bad light with her and her opponent wining one set each… fingers crossed she goes on to the next round! If you are a londoner and have a free afternoon or evening in the next few weeks i definitely recommend you get yourself down to wimbledon and watch some tennis!

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Debbie Does…Taste London

20140624-105737-39457770.jpgLast year McD and I had such a great time visiting Taste London we decided to go back this year, so on Saturday we headed up to Regents Park for Taste of London 2014 festival in our unplanned matching outfits of white shirt & Ray Bans… a couple that dresses together, stays together? ;)

If you have not been to the festival before it is basically a public exhibition showcasing the best of London’s restaurants and bars with a food & drink producers market thrown in for good measure.  The currency is crowns, which you buy once you enter the festival, 1 crown = £1 and you pay for most things inside the festival with these crowns, it can be argued this is a good way to budget your experience as you can change the amount you are willing to spend and then be done, but for me and McD it was infuriating as it just alerted us to how much we were spending, this festival is not good with people who suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) like me as you just want to buy everything!

20140624-105747-39467759.jpgLike last year there was just too much choice; a lot of the same restaurants were back again this year but there were some exciting new ones too.  As soon as we walked in I saw the Flesh & Buns sign…. I heard so much about their Pork Belly buns I dragged McD straight there so I could try it – I wasn’t disappointed and it was what we started and ended our taste festival experience eating, cementing its place on my ‘must visit soon’ – restaurant list!

Another gem we discovered was Le Gavroche, I’ve had the pleasure of eating at their restaurant several times before but McD never, so I dragged him there to try a couple of their dishes, of course he wasn’t dissapointed with their 2 michelin star chef prepared pork belly dish & chicken roulade… hopefully this means he’ll be booking us in for a date night there very soon :)

It wasn’t just savoury dishes we stuffed our faces with, we stumbled across the Custom Creams stall too, they prepare fresh ice cram made to order with the help of liquid nitrogen, I went for a safe chocolate brownie and vanilla combo; I loved the concept and I love ice cream so the possibility of instant customised ice cream is a heavenly concept to me, but with hindsight I went too safe with my flavour choice, will have to seek them again to try their sorbet and more adventurous flavour combinations!20140624-105813-39493001.jpg

20140624-105757-39477936.jpg20140624-105820-39500117.jpgIt’s not just food tempting you at the festival, there is a lot of beverage choices too… McD and I indulged in prosecco, mojitos, cocktails from the Sushisamba / Duck & Waffle bar and we even stopped off at the Pilsner Urquell tent to be taught how to pour the perfect pint from their unpasteurized tank beer… and then drink it of course!

20140624-105758-39478375.jpg20140624-105805-39485914.jpg20140624-105819-39499763.jpg20140624-105806-39486095.jpgIt was such a fun afternoon out, we were blessed with amazing weather too which meant no better option than to stop off at the Mahiki tent for one of their frozen mojito ice lollies to cool us down before we left…. be warned they have a punch!  Taste of London is finished this year, but make sure you mark it on your diary for next year – it’s a guaranteed fun day out!

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Happy Birthday Magnum

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Yesterday was a treat day…  the kind people at Magnum asked if I would like to try their new flavoured Marc De Champagne Magnum ice cream, I of course said yes (free ice cream is everyone’s dream yes!?)  and within a few hours a friendly courier turned up at my door with a cool bag containing a box of the new flavoured magnums for me and McD to try.

The new flavour was launched as part of the Magnum’s 25 year anniversary… yes 25 years, they’ve aged way better than me ;)  The usual chocolate casing has been covered with a luxurious iridescent silver coating and a decadent Marc de Champagne flavoured sauce has been woven through the vanilla ice cream, could an ice cream sound more inviting and  indulgent?

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My rule (which is often broken) is ice cream should be given as a treat for doing something good; so after a couple of games of netball I rewarded myself with trying the ice cream whilst McD and I settled down to catch up on the final episodes of Game of Thrones – season 4… can I just say, with no spoilers obviously - WTF & OMG…. hurry up and bring me season 5!!!!!!!!!

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I was really impressed with the champagne flavour in the ice cream, it was not a taste I expected to find in an ice cream but strangely it did work for me, McD loved it and claimed it to be his new favorite flavour, I am still loyal to the white chocolate magnum but would occasionally happily go back to the Marc De Champagne flavour for a change.

Thank you Magnum for the opportunity to try your new flavour and happy 25th birthday!Oh and one more thing… the woven sauce technique used to flavour the ice cream got me thinking… my absolute favourite combination is raspberry and White Chocolate; Magnum, why not weave a raspberry coulis sauce into a vanilla ice cream and cover it in white chocolate, that has to be a winner, suggestion for your 26th birthday flavour maybe?

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