July was an incredibly emotional month, and I was only at work for half of it!
Farewells I said goodbye to an awful lot of friends and co-workers at work due to various re-structures. It was tough. I’ve been to 6 leaving parties in the past two weeks, and invited to a bunch of others that I couldn’t attend. Morale is pretty low at the moment, but we don’t have time to wallow as we have a lot to be getting on with in August and September.
Bom Dia! I had my long awaited holiday to Portugal at the beginning of the month. We did nothing all week, which was perfect.
Moon and the London Contemporary Orchestra The last time we were at the Barbican for the AI exhibition, we saw a showing of the Duncan Jones film Moon on the calendar. 2019 is not only the 50th Anniversary of the moon landings but also the 10 year anniversary of the film’s release, so the Barbican were celebrating by screening the film with the score played live by the London Contemporary Orchestra. It was spectacular – the score by Clint Mansell is so atmospheric, and it was so phenomenal to see it performed live.
Netflix’s Dark I’m cheating a little with this, because we watched this last month and I overlooked it in last month’s Things, but I have remained obsessed with the German language show, Dark on Netflix. Season 1 aired a while ago, so it took me a while to remember who everyone was but I soon picked it up. This show continues to blow my mind (no spoilers) and I can’t stop reading articles, listening to podcasts, and scrolling through Reddit theories. Can’t wait until season 3.
Spa afternoon with my Mum For my Mum’s birthday (which was a couple of months ago, I bought her a trip to the spa. The first chance we both had to enjoy it was earlier this month, and we spend a blissful couple of hours at the Brooklands hotel spa. Expect a blog post soon!
If you don’t like photos of beaches and sunsets, this probably isn’t going to be the post for you.
Earlier in the year, I spent a good few weeks trawling through various websites to plan a perfect Portuguese trip. We wanted somewhere not too far from Lisbon, but very quiet with no distractions. I’d initially settled on Cascais or Sintra for a location, but few of the hotels met my criteria (and the ones that did were way out of our budget) plus it seems quite touristy, so I started looking further afield.
And that’s when I found the Marriott Praia D’el Rey. After making sure Husband really didn’t mind the hour drive from Lisbon airport, we booked ourselves into an oceanfront room. This was only a couple of weeks before the trip as we’d left it really late to book so many of the rooms were sold out, but we’d definitely choose oceanfront again.
We’d had a long morning before we checked into our hotel – picking up the car from the airport took two stressful hours which meant we arrived much later than we’d planned to.
But the second we walked into the airy lobby, we instantly relaxed. Paolo at the front desk was amazing, and continued to be amazing over the course of our week. I’ve stayed at a lot of hotels but no one has ever offered the level of service he consistently provided. After promising us one of the best rooms (it really was), he introduced us to his colleague Patricia who told us all about the features of the hotel, and introduced us to my new favourite treat – ginja de Óbidos, a sour cherry liquor served in a chocolate cup. Delicious.
The amazing welcome we received then continued with every member of staff who always greeted us with “Bom Dia” or “Olá”. We had turndown service every night from friendly staff who made sure we had everything we needed, wonderfully attentive service at breakfast – everyone was exceptional.
The main draw for us at Praia D’el Rey was the lack of distractions. We spent every day (bar one) just lying on a lounger on the beach. It was something both of us needed after a busy and stressful few months at work – the opportunity to do nothing but listen to podcasts, read, or just nap was too good to pass up. If you’re looking for an action packed vacation, this isn’t it. The Marriott is on a fairly big resort of houses and a big golf course which is the main reason why people visit, but there really is very little else. There’s one tiny shop about 2.5 miles away – you can get a shuttle, but we decided to walk and ended up not finding it. We instead chose to go the supermarket in Óbidos to stock up on water and snacks but that was a 20 minute drive away so having a car is a must.
The hotel has a few different pools, a gym, a spa, and the beautiful beach. I treated myself to a trip to the spa for an incredibly enjoyable Elemis facial, and they also have the full range of treatments available. I was keen to get back to the beach afterwards but it would have been lovely to spend more time up at the spa.
Within the hotel, there are a few different options for food – we ate at the more formal Emprata restaurant on our last night, and it was incredible. Paolo had requested the best table for us, and we watched the sunset over a beautiful three course meal. My favourite course – my dessert which was inspired by ginja de obidos.
They have a couple of more casual dining options, and of course room service which we had twice because we couldn’t drag ourselves away from our view. We did end up eating at the Contato lobby bar most evenings because we got quite addicted to their tempura vegetables and also just because it was a lovely place to hang out.
The rooms have recently been renovated and have a beautiful beachy feel about them. We had a huge comfy kingsize bed, big fluffy pillows (my favourite), and places to enjoy our room service inside and out. I really couldn’t have asked for anything more. On the Sunday evening, we watched a beautiful Gujarati wedding in the courtyard in front of our room – what an amazing venue to have for your wedding!
When we checked out, Paolo and Patricia came over to say goodbye and to check that we’d had a good trip. They gave us some hints on the best time to visit next time – we could tell it was getting busier as the week went by, and I’m sure it’s even busier now the schools have broken up but apparently October is a great time to visit. It’s so great to know that the Praia D’el Rey is just a short flight away for the next time that we need to get away from our day-to-day lives.
We can’t wait to return. Mostly to eat more Ginja.
So so late with this blog post as I’ve been on holiday for the past week, but before I write about that – a recap of my June.
The end of semester Guys, we’ve made it. We’ve managed to get all the way through the academic year in one piece. Goodness knows how. Whilst we don’t have the summer off (as most people expect from university staff), I do get rewarded with a fairly quiet campus for the next three months. It’s bliss.
Late Night If I could have booked my ticket for Late Night when Mindy Kaling announced it, I would have – I love everything she writes, and this film has the added bonus of Emma Thomson who is always brilliant. I dragged my BFF to the Picturehouse Central to giggle along to Emma’s acerbic put downs, and incredibly chic footwear. I can’t wait to see it again.
Six The Musical I wasn’t sure what to expect from Six – a musical where the six wives of Henry the 8th are competing to be the lead in a girl band. It had the potential to be really cheesy, but it’s genuinely brilliant – I downloaded the soundtrack as soon as I left the theatre and have listened to it on repeat since then.
The Park Spa at Warbrook House I feel like my search for the perfect local spa will continue for a while, but the Park Spa at Warbrook House very nearly ticks all the boxes. It has a wonderfully rural location, which means it has the number one item on my list – tranquility. The staff were really lovely, and the facial I had was incredibly relaxing. The only thing missing is the product – I’m not a fan of Espa products, but as everything else was overwhelmingly positive, I’m sure I’ll be back.
Sol de Janeiro – Sol Stick I can never tell if I like the smell of the Sol De Janerio range, but I definitely love the smell of the Sol Stick – it’s like vanilla and biscuits, and I just want to eat it. It’s SPF 50, so perfect for my ghostly white skin, and doesn’t feel like it’s blocking my pores when I slather it on my face. As it’s solid, I can throw it in my handbag for when I’m taken unawares by the weather. I’m already addicted to using it.
Over the past couple of weeks, Mr Jones Watches have been treating their Instagram followers with a couple of mini sample sales. Very helpfully, they post a countdown on their stories (which gives me enough time to clear my calendar) but you still have to be quick because there’s only a few available.
The first drop was Robotti Shi and there were four or five different versions of this fun watch. Designed by Onorio D’Epiro, Robotto Shi was originally a limited edition before a re-designed version joined the permanent range. The silver robot on the original design is very adorable – stomping his way around Tokyo – but honestly, my robot is so much cuter!
A smiley rose gold robot with a pink background – it’s like it’s made for me! The back of the watch has no engraving which is unusual and quirky (I do like a quirky MJW) and it’s my first watch with a black metal strap which I really like.
They’ve already had their second mini-sample sale which featured variations of The 100th, and I did entirely miss that one which was a both a blessing and a curse. I’m keeping my eyes open to see what they dig out next – it could be an expensive summer.
A couple of weeks ago, we took a quick trip to the Barbican to see the AI: More Than Human exhibition which promised an exploration of developments in AI. Husband was very intrigued, I was just happy for a wander around the Barbican, and a special cocktail.
The tickets had mostly sold out when we went to book online, so we only had 11am as an option. We got there about 20 minutes before this to pick up the tickets and have a quick wander in the shop (mentally bookmarking things for later…) and were let into the main display space.
I immediately hated everything about this exhibition space – they had either sold way too many tickets or had underestimated how long it would take people to get through as it was rammed full of people. I nudged my way through the crowd, taking in bits of information – there was a lot of golems, stuff about robot vacuum cleaners, Bletchley Park, random computer hardware. I couldn’t really see the link between all this and AI, but it’s not an area I know that much about so I shrugged and carried on.
I left Husband looking at the various things he was interested in, and he caught up with me talking to an online chatbot further in the exhibition – he’s far more of an expert on this stuff and told me he didn’t get it either. They had seemingly grouped together random things and there was no coherence, nothing interesting or exciting. I think this article sums it up – it was banal. I just wanted to get through to the end for my treat – a cocktail made by a robot.
I was kind of let down by having to speak to a person as I wanted an entirely robot experience, but it was a lovely cocktail. Husband had a Negroni and I had a mocktail called a Roy Rogers which was really tasty. The Makr Shakr robots are actually very cool, and definitely make for an interesting bar experience.
The exhibition is on until the 26th August 2019 – skip it, enjoy a robot cocktail, and just wander around the Barbican instead. Much more fulfilling.
Two bank holidays – always a pleasure. May was actually quite busy after a couple of quiet(er) months. I just need to get around updating this blog!
Celtic Manor – again! Bank Holiday one was spent at the Celtic Manor yet again, with afternoon tea and a couple of spa treatments. We did consider booking the same for Bank Holiday two, but it was more expensive and we were feeling lazier!
Mermaid Hair Over the past few months, I’ve been steadily getting rid of the orangey undertones in my hair. We finally managed to crack it, so the wonderful Jo at Gilded Hair gave me mermaid hair. Everyone at work was incredibly shocked, I can assure you of that.
Comedians Giving Lectures A couple of weeks ago, Sara Pascoe tweeted that there was tickets available for the taping of her new show, Comedians Giving Lectures. It combined two of my favourite things – funny, funny people, and Powerpoint presentations – and I managed to get tickets for the penultimate episode featuring Tom Allen (who I ADORE), Nish Kumar, and Natasia Demetriou. All three comedians were as brilliant as expected, and it was fun to see the taping, particularly after seeing how the Americans do it on a couple of occasions. Hopefully I won’t see myself in the audience when it airs in a couple of months.
Robot Cocktails More on this in a future posts, but we visited the Barbican for an exhibition on AI, and decided to partake in some robot-made cocktails. It was very unnecessary, but super fun.
There are three types of people who go to the annual Tatty Devine sample sale in East London:
The early-starters – the ones who get there at goodness knows what time in the morning (or even the night before) and seemingly never leave the hall…
The late-morning queuers – the ones who get there just before the doors open and lose all feeling in their legs as the morning goes on
The afternoon browsers – the (sane) ones who don’t want to spend the whole morning in a queue so get there in the afternoon when everyone else has collapsed, and somehow manage to pick up dream pieces regardless
If you’re in the top two groups of people, you need to show serious commitment. This not for the faint-hearted – there’s rain, sun, and everything in between. If you want the good stuff, you need to get there early and be prepared to queue.
I’m firmly in the second group. Whilst I admire those who get there before the sun rises, I could never spend hours camped out on the floor outside St Hilda’s East Community Centre – I love Tatty Devine, but just not enough for sleeping bags and camping chairs.
I got to St Hilda’s East at about 9.15am and there was already a healthy number of people in the queue. I put my headphones in (Editors – The Blanck Mass Sessions) and prepared myself for a long wait. Over the course of the three hour queue (yes, three hours), we shuffled and shivered along slowly. I survived the freezing cold wait by thinking about the Dum Dum doughnuts I’d reward myself with when I was done, and also by wondering if my knees would ever allow me to sit down again.
At 12.30, I was inside the hall and greeted with half a dozen tables stacked full of acrylic jewellery goodness. We’d heard that there had been bags for sale as well, but they had long gone. I then don’t know what happened to me – I think I must have fallen into some kind of fugue state as I didn’t emerge from the hall until 2pm.
I do remember saying to myself on a number of occasions that I had finished my selections, only to go around the room for one last lap and find more stuff. Both a curse and a blessing – there are frequent drops of new stuff from staff and customers who are putting back unwanted items. At one stage, I was literally in the queue to pay when I saw someone put a pink lobster down, so I went around the room again to see what else had been given up. You can understand why people don’t want to leave – there is a huge element of fomo and thinking that your dream piece might be just about to arrive in the room.
But when I did eventually leave/escape/come to my senses, I was very happy with my purchases – I spent way more than I had planned to, but I really couldn’t bring myself to put anything back. Really looking forward to my June payslip though.
London Marathon 2019 I am phenomenally proud of my little brother – he ran the freaking London Marathon! We made our way up to London a couple of Sundays ago to see if we could see him – I’d read a lot about the best places to spectate so we weighed up all the options and decided on the halfway point in Wapping just by Shadwell DLR station. It was very busy as soon as we got off the train, but we walked a little further up The Highway and managed to get a good spot on the barrier. And then we saw my brother! He looked fairly cheery, although I think he was in significant pain at that point but we sent him on his way again.
We had planned to get down to Canary Wharf to see him again, but we couldn’t get back on the DLR as it was rammed full of people, so instead we took my Mum for some coffee to warm her up, and then put her on the tube to see him at the end of the race.
I’m not a bit fan of crowds so I was a little nervous about going up there, but I highly recommend it. The atmosphere is great which the runners really appreciate, and there are plenty of places to get to the barrier if you pick the right area. We even got to see some celebrities.
Easter Vacation For some inexplicable reason, my University closes for a week over Easter. I took the opportunity to do very little – brunch with Mum, a bit of shopping, a few beauty treatments, and discount Easter eggs. It was definitely needed.
Shopping at Gunwharf Quays I have been on the search for a new bag, and had heard that a new Kate Spade outlet had opened at Gunwharf Quays so took myself down to Portsmouth to check it out. I was sadly disappointed – there were a lot of great bags in the store, but not what I was looking for. I tried the Lulu Guinness outlet as well but left empty handed. It was a remarkably quick visit
Fleabag I didn’t really get into Fleabag season 1 – I’m pretty sure I watched it all, but it didn’t draw me in. However, season 2 grabbed me and we watched it all in one night. Such incredibly unbelievable writing and it left me heartbroken!
New Phone Husband has been driven mad by the appalling performance of my 2 year old Nexus 5X (which is actually my third one – they keep breaking and Google keeps sending me a new one). The battery was awful, apps kept crashing, everything took 30 seconds to load, but I stayed with it because the alternatives were stupidly expensive. And then, out of nowhere, John Lewis dropped the price of the Pixel 3 and I snapped it up. The difference has been incredible, and I can’t wait to play with the camera properly.
I’ve only been a Mr Jones Watches collector since 2014, so I have missed out on a lot of their history. The release of The 100th has given me some indication on what I’ve missed out on, and it confirms that I have approximately 16% of their releases in my collection. Always good to have some solid data.
My sixteenth watch was the 100th – it was released on a Thursday which is fortunately the day I work from home and I was able to buy as soon as it went on sale. I pretty much had the pick of any number, and I chose my lucky number 4.
The 100th is composed of elements from some of their iconic pieces including The Accurate, Sun and Moon, The Last Laugh, the Decider, and King. I love the blues in watch, and the eyes are a beautifully reflective silver.
I’ve worn it pretty much every day since it arrived.
The watch also came with a two-sided poster listing all of their releases, which honestly feels a bit like they’re challenging me.
New Forest Trip Amidst the chaos, we managed a couple of days away in the wild New Forest. I very much needed it.
Brunch at the Oxo Tower I’ve been to the Oxo Tower for Afternoon Tea and lunch on a few occasions, but never brunch so we gave it a go in March. I was a little disappointed as I had picked out the Hong Kong toast from the menu only for it to not appear, but I instead choice a very delicious sweet potato and corn fritter. The brunch is in the bar, but is very relaxed and it reminded me how much I enjoy the meals there. Must book Not Afternoon Tea again soon.
Elisa Lodato I read both of Lodato’s books in March – she’s a phenomenally beautiful author and as soon as I put down The Necessary Marriage, I had to pick up An Unremarkable Body straight away. Her writing is very hypnotic but quite unassuming so when the big reveals were made in both books, I was almost winded! Really quite delicate – I can’t wait for her next offering.
BFF-led therapy After a very stressful couple of weeks, I met up with Tim to wander the South Bank and have a cathartic chat about the madness at work. We stopped by the new BFI restaurant, where we seemed to annoy the waiter by asking for a starter and desert, before delighting a pair of fellow diners for reasons unknown.
Miscellaneous I wasn’t sure how to categorise this last one, but whilst March started with me both European and employed, I wasn’t sure that I would be able say the same at the end of the month.
Fortunately (on both counts), I am still European and still employed. Let’s see how we fare at the end of April.