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August 15, 2017

Lazy Portugal  

It’s amazing the lengths we’ll go to try and switch off. I’ve travelled to the US, Dubai, Cuba and even hidden away in a writing retreat for a week. This summer, looking for respite once more, I wanted something simple and (reasonably) close to home, so I headed to Portugal.

Slightly edgier than Spain and less pretentious than France, I was looking for somewhere with good weather, beaches and a handful of things to do, so that I could spent more time concentrating on doing, well, nothing (apart from writing of course). Our modern AirBnB apartment was stunning and, most importantly, had a giant pool to wallow in and a balcony that allowed me to sit and dream on as I wrote stories and ate natas every day, the distant sound of cow bells from the opposite farm the only thing to break the silence.

(Never forget the giant swan, or flamingo in our case, because lying on one of these while letting your fingers dip into the water is actually bliss. Also, for those of you interested, he’s called Bryan) 

Making the most of a space like that, I lived the hermit dream and actually enjoyed cooking in the apartment a few times, which is saying a lot as I don’t even enjoy cooking back home. I’d love to tell you I haggled for fresh fish with the locals and whizzed up exotic dishes, but in reality, it was mostly bread and cheese at 5pm, followed by big bowls of pasta. Surely there’s nothing more quintessentially European than that anyway?

Apart from copious cheese boards and floating on giant swans in the pool, we did actually make it outside the walls of our heavenly apartment. The beach was just down the road and we couldn’t resist moonlit walks most nights for those #nofilter moments. We found an amazing restaurant BJs (yes, this is the British owner’s hilarious attempt at a joke) where we ended up an embarrassing amount of times. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? As a place to wile away summer holiday evenings, they definitely nailed it. The drinks were cheap, they played the songs you *really* wanted to hear (but wouldn’t admit) and everyone would sing along after the cocktails had warmed up the old vocal chords. Singing Sweet Caroline at the top of your lungs with strangers is truly a heartwarming experience and one that I’ll always advise. The live music was reliable and the singer was surprisingly good, the food was beautiful and at sunset you couldn’t find anywhere with a better atmosphere. After a few late night sessions they treated us like family, their welcoming smiles and hugs feeling so much like home, but better because you were on a beach with a multicolored sky.

(On the way to BJs, just before sunset)


(Lazy beach days)

(Perhaps the one and only time I dressed up, and that was to go to BJs)

Beyond BJs, we dragged ourselves out to soak up some culture once we had grown tired of sunbathing, although it admittedly took a lot to get to that point. The crowds in Vilamoura made us want to scurry back to our sun loungers, but Faro, the Algarve’s capital, was more of what we were looking for. The adorable little fishing town had an Instagram worthy marina, beautiful rundown buildings – including an amazing cathedral – and heaps of character. The streets were quiet and cobble filled, and as the bells tolled in the sunset, a peaceful quietness descends that leaves you feeling strangely tranquil.

(Beautiful streets in Faro)

I’m not sure what the formula is for total relaxation, but sometimes, I think it’s best not to over complicate things. A quick flight to a friendly European beach town, a sweet balcony, some great cheese and rainbow-like sunsets will leave your bones soft and your heart happy.

May 30, 2017

Muslims, take a seat

For the love of God, please do us all a favour and get off the streets, put down your placards and sit the hell down. While I can appreciate that we’re in the year of marches and movements, and believe me, it turns me on just as much as the next socialist, but the flurry of ‘Muslim marches’ that happen every time a bomb goes off around the world is irritating at best and downright insulting at worst.

Over the last few years a pattern has begun to emerge. A bomb explodes somewhere in the Western world, someone with some kind of agenda slaps the label ISIS onto it, the media, as per usual, orchestrates an anti-Muslim hysteria and Muslims living in England and America begin to organise ‘Muslims against ISIS’ marches. Or Muslims against terrorism. Or Muslims against violence. Or whatever slogan best fists with the headlines latest accusations. And while I appreciate the need for humans to show solidarity with one another, what I don’t appreciate is an entire group of people buying into an islamaphobic narrative that does more harm than good in the long run.

Look, I get it. You’re angry and hurt and you want to express those feelings. The latest Manchester attack has left the entire country feeling enraged and upset, an overwhelming human desire to do something to fight back. But my latest Facebook notification inviting me to ‘Muslims March for Manchester’ does not express my hurt or anger, it just pisses me off. The more marches Muslims orgnaise like this, the more we are telling the world that we are not like those other Muslims. It tells the world that we do not condone violence. It tells the world that we preach peace and we stand apart from terrorist orgnaisations such as ISIS. And while they are all great and true things to tell the world, it also gives credibility to extremist groups. Most importantly, Muslims are apologising and explaining themselves and in doing so they place themselves as second class citizens, into a sub category if you will.

When the bomb exploded in Oklahoma and the dust finally settled, you didn’t find thousands of Christians marching along your roads with placards that declared they did not stand with people like that. Nor did you find hundreds of Christians explaining that their religion is fundamentally one of peace. They didn’t have to because they accept their place in this world and never question that they have a right to be here.

So why are hundreds of Muslims across the country falling over themselves to let everyone know that they’re marching against ISIS. Fuck ISIS. We spend far too much time giving credibility to a group of clearly insane and deranged individuals. Of course they need to be taken seriously and the right security measures need to be implemented, and that’s up to our government to do so, (even though the rise of British and American interference in the Middle East is one of the main reasons we now have more terrorist attacks on our own soil than ever before, but let’s breeze over that because that’s another argument altogether and no one is quite ready to admit that the two things directly correlate to one another), but consistently marching, protesting and explaining ourselves to the very country that we belong to is consistently placing us beneath non-Muslim Westerns. We are dehumanizing ourselves. And in doing so it opens the floor to questions like ‘what do ISIS want?’, which incidentally I have been asked many a time by highly intelligent people. I don’t know what they want, huge shocker there, but since we’re constantly explaining ourselves, other people believe we can explain them too. We can’t, and nor do we have to.

These marches do not show sympathy for victims, instead they’re constantly defending our position and it’s fucking annoying. You don’t have to have a ‘Muslims march for…’, just march.

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April 24, 2017

Dubai

My birthday was looming on the horizon and I knew I wanted to go away just before it. After a year that has tested me more than any other year, I wanted to end it in a nice way, and welcome my next year in feeling refreshed and relaxed after a little bit of luxury, and nowhere does luxury better than Dubai. Plus, Dubai in April is the perfect weather as it’s just before it gets unbearably hot. You’ll be treated to days between 30-36 degrees which for some is too hot, but for me is perfection. I was born in a desert after all.

The accommodation:

The first shout out needs to go to my hotel, The H Dubai, because they were so helpful in retrieving my friends lost luggage, which is such a stressful situation and not what you need at the start of your holiday. They were incredible. Apart from that, the hotel was gorgeous and the room service for my 3am falafel cravings never let me down. Plus, their breakfast buffet every morning was one of the best I’ve ever had. The range of food and quality was something else. I still think about that breakfast bar every morning when I’m making my own porridge and wondering where I went wrong in life.

(There is nothing better than being brought tea in bed in the morning)

The food:Dubai does dining so so well, whether you want fine dining or just your standard restaurants. Their service is always impeccable and the food so fresh. Some of my favourites:

  • Zuma. All the sushi you could ever want and a beautiful restaurant.
  • Eggspectations. This name still cracks me up and because breakfast is one of my favourite meals, I will always head over here.
  • Bianca. This is a little Italian restaurant on JBR walk, and is relatively new. It’s so gorgeous outside with a lovely atmosphere and the food was delicious. Make sure you get the mini churros for desert. They’re amazing.
  • Mognolia Bakery. We don’t have this chain in the UK, so if I’m ever in America or Dubai, it’s one of the first places I hit up. Their banana pudding is all you’ll ever need in this life, trust me.

The places to go:

There is literally everything in Dubai. Whatever you had in mind, from skydiving to water sports to desert safaris, you can do it. I’ve been to Dubai a few times and this trip wanted to unwind after some non-stop months, so it was important to find the right places I could unwind.

Which is why the One & Only on the Palm became my favourite place in Dubai. Firstly, thank you so much to them for having me and essentially treating me like a queen every day I was there. Secondly, I cannot rave about this place enough, or recommend it more highly. It was a bit like being in paradise. Their service is impeccable and so friendly, their beach is beautiful, their spa possibly the most tranquil place I’ve been in with a foot massage to die for, and their pool is like lying next to heaven. I’m not even exaggerating.

(I could have spent my entire holiday by this pool – I LOVE . good hotel pool. I’ll never stay at a hotel with a bad pool)

(The ground of the One & Only are so peaceful) 

(The best beach on the palm) 

Aside from that take a trip up the Burj Khalifa, one of the tallest buildings ever. Book your tickets in advance as the queues can get pretty long. I went at night to see all the lights, but I hear it’s also spectacular in the day.

(A shameless back shot because my dress was great) 

You can’t go to Dubai without visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It is in Abu Dhabi, but you can hire a car to take you or get the bus. It’s about an hour and a half drive and so very worth it. The architecture of the place is beautiful and shouldn’t be missed.

(This place get’s so busy as the day goes on, so try and go early) 

(Take some time to chill by the water pools and enjoy it. Maybe take sunglasses too because the sunlight off all that white marble will have you squinting) 

If you like water parks then head straight over to Atlantis for a day of immense fun. I loved their water park and also, Atlantis is worth seeing. If you don’t want to get wet, you can always head over there for dinner or brunch on the weekend. Brunch in Dubai is a must – it’s a huge thing out there. But remember, the weekend starts on Friday though.

(Atlantis)

Or if you just want to shop, something Dubai is famous for, then Dubai Mall has everything you could ever want. Including lots of bakeries to get cupcakes. (Just saying).

People often complain about Dubai being a bubble and lacking in culture or history, and in relation to other countries, yes, it’s relatively new. However, I went looking for a bubble to jump into because sometimes, amidst the grind and struggle of daily life, these bubbles are what we need most.


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