Saturday, 12 May 2018

Seven years on ...

At the beach .. my happy place
My blog is now seven years old .. who'd have thought it?! Thanks to social media I started putting photos of my travels on to Facebook in little albums. The days of snapping away (carefully), getting the roll of film developed and waiting to see how or even whether the photos came out are long gone! It's just been so easy since advances in digital and phone cameras have become so sophisticated - everyone is a photographer .. of sorts.

From the Facebook albums came the idea that writing a blog would be fun - an online diary of travels, work and beauty tips on the go. A photographer friend suggested it and it sounded like my kind of thing .. but I didn't have a clue where or how to start. 

I like a challenge so I spent some time researching and eventually took the plunge. I published my first small piece on Saturday May 14th 2011. It truly has been a trip in itself - I could never have envisaged such a body of work.

It's been so fun .. adding more visuals to each post as I got used to the whole 'blogging' experience. I've always taken loads of photos - I love photography. It's a great aide-mémoire when I'm ready to write my posts. 

At work on location
My day job as a tv make up artist has taken me to some interesting places so that features intermittently as well as the products I use at work and at play. I've had a few guest bloggers too who have been on slightly more interesting jaunts than mine!

First HQ beach bag shoot

There must be something about the month of May - a year ago I created my Holiday Queen Beach bags and pouches, again born out of a need and the challenge associated with it. I started out with two colour-ways and gave a few away to friends initially so that they could be tried and tested on their beach holidays. I've had such positive feedback and having trialed the bag myself I can honestly say that it's the best beach/pool bag that I've ever had. Not only is it extremely practical, it's lightweight and user friendly.

Some of the new swimbag colours
HQ make up mats ready to go
This season I have been able to introduce more colour options and an additional Swim Bag to my HQ range. 

For my day job I created the HQ make up mat, as using paper bench roll seemed wasteful. My mats lay flat, don't slip and look slick and professional. They're easy to clean too. There are now quite a few out there with colleagues and the feedback has been better than I could have hoped for.

Who knows where it will go from here? Wherever it does, it's all part of life's rich tapestry and keeping my creative juices flowing. 

I'm so lucky to love all the things I do .. travel, photography, making people look beautiful and creating something with my hands. The icing on the cake has to be spending what's left of my time with my family, friends and my gorgeous dog Scout.

Bags, pouches and swim bags currently available from

Sublime Boutique
225 Victoria Park Road, London E9 7HD

128 St.Johns Street, Clerkenwell EC1V 4JS

or to order 

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Feels like summer in the City

Wow! A May day bank holiday weekend and the sun is shining and it feels like summer! How lucky are we?!

I've been busy making bags for the new collection and planning my summer vacation. I'm pleased to say I'm now booked up till mid August and hopefully there'll be more to come before the season is over. 

My first trip is in less than five weeks time going with my girlfriends to Minorca, an island in the Balearics and sister to Ibiza, Mallorca and Formentera. They are all beautiful islands and I'm counting on this one being in a similar vein. Lots of sunshine, beautiful beaches and good food. What more can you ask for?

I also have a week of work on location in Scotland during July and a few days after that head off to New York and The Hamptons for 10 days. I'm so excited .. although I have been to the big apple countless times, I never get bored of it and I am specially looking forward to finally getting out to The Hamptons and head right to the end of the island. Another one to tick off the bucket list.

Lots to look forward to ..



Friday, 6 April 2018

Five days in Palma ..

I have recently spent a lovely 5 days in Palma, Mallorca which was a welcome respite from the freezing temperatures and prolonged winter  we've been having in London. That was almost two weeks ago now and it's finally getting milder and brighter meaning I'm more inclined to sit myself down and finally write this blog post.

Flights for this time of year were coming in really cheap so my friend and I decided to book a return flight with easyJet which we got for under £50 per head! You can't get to Wales or Scotland for that.

Once our dates were fixed we then searched the Airbnb site and found a fabulous two bed self contained apartment right in the centre of Palma. A perfect location for everything that we had in mind to do.

We set off early in the morning for Gatwick, fortunately slightly ahead of the forecast snowfall. We checked in, had a fab breakfast at Jamie's Italian and boarded our plane. We then had a two hour delay because we had to wait for the aircraft to be de-iced and you can imagine the queue resulting from this procedure. That's the best thing about booking an early flight. We still managed to arrive with most of the day left at our leisure.

We have some friends who live in Palma so they kindly collected us from the airport and drove the 15 minute journey from the airport to our apartment where we dropped our gear and met our lovely host. After settling in we headed about 20 minutes north to the Port Andratx for afternoon drinks at the Club de Vela. It was a beautiful day .. the sun shining, the view stunning and a perfect start to our stay in Mallorca.

We spent our days meandering the streets of Palma, visiting a couple of museums, Museu Fundación Juan March and Museu de Mallorca, doing a little shopping and having coffee in outdoor cafes when the weather was nice. We did have a little rain on one of the days but we never let the weather stop us doing anything.

It's an easy city to walk around although also easy to get lost initially. Being relatively small though you're never far away from a street which will send you back in the direction you came from. Thank goodness for Google maps!

Once you get to grips with the bus system, there are endless places to go and at 1.5 Euros a trip a cheap alternative to cabs. If you fancy going even further afield, another way to get around the island is to hire a car. Manual cars are so affordable and much cheaper than an automatic and a tank of petrol will take you far.

We found some great restaurants for lunch (Aromata was a favourite) and had delicious tapas one evening in San Juan Gastronomic market. The food stalls offer fried fish, ham & charcuterie, Thai, Japanese, 'fideuas' (a sort of paella made with fine short noodles), oysters & shellfish, fresh pasta & pizza, Mallorcan food & rices, gourmet burgers, grilled meats, Basque pintxos, Spanish pickles & 'tortillas' and 'llonguets' (sandwiches made with traditional Palma bread).

On our penultimate day, we drove 35km north to the Liedtke Museum built into a cliff side near Port Andraxt. We had lunch overlooking the beautiful bay.. if it was warmer I'd want to swim in that sea. It's such a peaceful, quiet location and it is also possible to stay in the apartments in the complex. 

We spent our last day with our friends and took a walk over to Santa Catalina, a hip area where you will find a lovely mix of eclectic boutiques, cafes and restaurants. We opted for a late lunch  at Santina which I loved as they did gorgeous almond milk lattes and offered a good selection of healthy foods, with vegan and gluten free options. 

Afterwards we walked back past the harbour, the beautiful Cathedral, specialty shops and food markets. So much to see and do but sadly our trip was almost over and it was time to head to the airport in the early evening.

I have previously been to different parts of Mallorca a number of times but my last trip prior to this one was almost 10 years ago. I can't believe I've left it so long to come back.

Palma is perfect for a fab city break if you fancy a little cultural injection. I see myself returning more often as it's only a two hour flight away. I definitely won't leave it so long again.

There is some amazing architecture in Palma .. for more info click here Ultimate Tour of Palma de Mallorca's Landmarks

Friday, 2 March 2018

Five days in Dubai

I've recently returned from a lovely little 5 day trip to a warm Dubai to find myself in sub zero temperatures in London. What a shock to the system! I guess I could have delayed my return by a couple of days but I'm kinda glad I didn't as I would have had a nightmare journey home given that the freeze is still with us.

I picked a perfect time to go. It was great to get away from the cold to a lovely Dubai winter/spring. The day time temperatures ranged from 28-32C and the nights were cool, around 19-20C. As far as I'm concerned that's just perfect.

View of Abu Dhabi across the water
We only had one day of rain and it was noticeably cooler but turned out to be a great day to hop in the car and head just over an hour south to Abu Dhabi to visit the Louvre museum, something that I had planned to do anyway. I would love to revisit the museum again perhaps for a specific exhibit and of course when the weather is nicer, to experience all that is has to offer.

It is a stunningly beautiful piece of architecture designed by Jean Nouvel who has been responsible for designing many iconic buildings around the world. It is a tranquil place, with views of Abu Dhabi and the turquoise sea.

Here he describes the dome ..

... It is a project founded on a major symbol of Arab architecture: the dome. But here, with its evident shift from tradition, the dome is a modern proposal.

A double dome 180 meters in diameter, offering horizontal, perfectly radiating geometry, a randomly perforated woven material, providing shade punctuated by bursts of sun. The dome gleams in the Abu Dhabi sunshine. At night, this protected landscape is an oasis of light under a starry dome.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi becomes the final destination of an urban promenade, a garden on the coast, a cool haven, a shelter of light during the day and evening, its aesthetic consistent with its role as a sanctuary for the most precious works of art ...

How to get there -

Dubai changes all the time. This was my sixth visit in 4 years and there is always something new to see. Shopping areas, restaurants, highways and even beaches - the city is ever developing and expanding.

I managed to get to see La Perle - a fantastic show exclusive to Dubai created by artistic director Franco Dragone in a purpose built theatre. It was a truly amazing experience and I would highly recommend you go and see it. My photo does not do it justice - it has to be seen to be believed.

With its one-of-a-kind theatre built in the heart of Al Habtoor City, La Perle is the region’s first resident show, featuring a cast of 65 artists, each bringing their own unique set of skills to the performance, ranging from acting, acrobats, aquatic and aerial stunts. These often gravity-defying performers will mesmerise as they dive into an on-stage pool or fly through the air, creating a visually captivating experience both below and above stage level.

Other areas I visited included -  

La Mer Beach - a destination for eating, shopping and relaxing on the beach. It is a bustling area with numerous restaurants, shops and play areas including a trampoline park so it's perfect for a family day out. A water park and a cinema are opening imminently. I had lunch at the newly opened Salt - perfect for burger sliders.

Kite Beach - a great beach for kite and wind surfing, swimming and relaxing. There are a few restaurants but nothing on the scale of La Mer and much quieter which I preferred. I had lunch on the first floor terrace at LaOla with lovely views of the sea and a fresh cool breeze which was most welcome on a hot day. I had fresh watermelon juice with poached eggs and avocado on sourdough toast - one of my faves.

One of the newer restaurants I was recommended to try was Miss Tess in the Taj Hotel. Describing itself as Asian Street food, it's a combination of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese food. Everything I tried was delicious as were the cocktails which had names like 'Lost in Hanoi' 'Penang Blossom' and 'Shaolin Temple'. You get the idea. The menus were shaped like fans which I guess could be useful on a really hot night!

It has an indoor dining area and an outdoor terrace which has been arranged to look a bit like a street. Every so often you will see acrobatic performers appear briefly to add to the atmosphere, or they will just cycle by as if it was a real thoroughfare. 

If you like Asian food you will love it there.

In a flash my visit was all over and I'm now looking forward to my next little trip in a couple of weeks.

I'm off to Palma, Majorca for a few days of hopefully some warm sunshine and a little Spanish culture. Adios amigos.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Enjoying winter in London ..

January so far has been a whirl as I've had various friends in town. It's been a time to get out and about and enjoy some of the things London has to offer (interspersed of course, with the day job as well)!
There have been dinners, museum visits, shopping and just yesterday a trip to the wonderful Winter Lights at Canary Wharf again. If you're reading this before January 27th you still have time to go. I may go again if I get the time .. I highly recommend it.

My friends and I went last year and enjoyed it immensely. I wanted to go again in the anticipation of seeing some new works, which I did and also happy to see some have returned from last year. It's always such a beautiful sight to see these spectacular installations and interactive art on display in the winter darkness.

"Located around the Estate, both indoors and out, free to visit and easy to access. Winter Lights offers everything from small intimate displays to impressive interactive artworks you can enter and explore. Mostly made up of new works and a few returning favourites from previous years, you can also see the pieces we loved so much that we made them part of the permanent art collection here at Canary Wharf."

 Although some of the works are indoors, the majority are outside so it's a good idea to don your hat, scarf and gloves with your warmest coat. The tall buildings in the Canary Wharf estate can create wind tunnels that seem to accentuate the temperature - so be prepared! 

Canary Wharf is easy to get to via the underground, various buses or the Thames Clippers. You can also drive or cycle as there is parking available for both. Check the website for more details.

For travel information ..



Friday, 8 December 2017

What's coming up for next year?

The Ritz Hotel, London
With Christmas fast approaching it will soon be 2018 and that means that plans will be made and holidays booked.

My holidays have been a bit thin on the ground since July this year due to a family member falling ill for a while, but happy to say that person is back up to full health and it means HQ can plan to her heart's content again!

Ideas for next year include Paris in January, Dubai, Mallorca, Mexico and hopefully some long weekend trips later on to Berlin and Iceland. Can I possibly find time to fit them all in? Barbados has got to figure in there somewhere too. Lets see. I'll throw them all out to the universe and see what comes back!

I have a few custom bags to make too so it will be nice to see the HQ collection on show around the world. There are now 4 in Australia!

I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays with good health, love and laughter for a Happy New Year.

* * * * * * *

Monday, 4 December 2017

ATP Finals in London and working away from home

Annabel Croft holding
the trophy
I have worked as a make up artist for Sky Sports at the Nitto ATP tennis finals at the O2 Arena in Greenwich, London since 2009. The Arena is situated on the Greenwich Peninsula on the south side of the River Thames and is also home to a cinema and bars and restaurants. It has hosted a multitude of different concerts and sporting events and is perfect for a tennis final. Getting there is easy .. by river boat with Thames Clippers, by bus or by tube on the Jubilee line to North Greenwich station, right next door to the Arena entrance. Emirates Air Line also operates a cable car crossing over the river to the Royal Victoria Dock offering spectacular views of the Dome, Canary Wharf and the Thames Barrier.
Crossing the bridge
across the dock

In the past we have stayed close by in the centre of Greenwich with a short commute each day via a 5 minute boat journey in the morning and organised transport back at night. This year we stayed at Canary Wharf .. closer as the crow flies across the river on the Isle of Dogs. The quickest route to the O2 was by tube - a mere one stop away - journey time 2 minutes! Not counting of course the walk to the station from the hotel. Given that we were spending the majority of our working day indoors in relative darkness and artificial light, it was a pleasurable 5 minutes walking in the fresh air and daylight across the docks on the footbridge every morning.

Canary Wharf
Most days were sunny and dry and quite cold with only the odd bit of fog in the morning. Whatever the weather, we didn't care, we just appreciated being able to be out in it!

Every day without exception was long with a minimum of 12 hours covering 2 sessions - an afternoon and an evening. I would make up the team in the morning and maintain their appearance throughout the day and also make up the occasional guest in the studio. The atmosphere was always great as this tournament hosts the top singles and doubles players in the world. 

Dining bus view
Every morning we would grab a quick breakfast at the hotel, have soup and sandwiches for lunch and a lovely hot dinner in the evening in our crew catering dining bus with a fabulous view of Canary Wharf. If we got there early enough, we would be lucky to see the sun set. Even in the darkness the views were stunning.

The O2 and Canary Wharf
On the final day, we prerecorded the opening sequence to the show with our main presenter Marcus on the Emirates Air Line Cable Car. It's something I've always wanted to do and was thrilled to get the chance, particularly as it was such a beautiful day. I doubled up as lighting camera assistant holding a reflector on our host's dark side as the sun was so bright. Luckily I was still able to snap a few photos on our 10 minute each way crossing, something I would have hated to miss.

The final day seemed to go so quickly as there was only one session and it wasn't long before it was all over and we were derigging, packing to go home and saying our goodbyes. The final itself was fantastic, one of the best - a real battle between Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin - the victor being Grigor Dimitrov - his first title win at this event.

The team - Marcus, Annabel, Greg and Jamie
speaking with Grigor after his win
* * * * *

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

48 hours in the Cotswolds with the Holiday Hound

Mingling in the local pub
When my gorgeous dog Scout came into my life, I vowed I would start to take some holidays where he could come along as well. He's a lively boy and at just over two and half years old he is now suitably well trained enough to be able to take him away and trust him to behave in other people's homes.

Whilst he has already been on doggie holidays to stay with his adopted family in Essex when I have been on vacation, this was his first trip as Holiday Hound!

I found the perfect cottage via the Rural Retreats website as I was looking for somewhere quiet within the Cotswolds region that was dog friendly. Hope Cottage in the village of Naunton came up trumps for the two days I wanted.

I have visited the Cotswolds a number of times and really love it .. it is only a couple of hours drive from London and this was a real find.

"Hope Cottage is a traditional semi-detached Cotswold stone property in the picturesque village of Naunton. The village is situated alongside the River Windrush in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The village boasts a 15th century church and medieval dovecote. The Black Horse, a traditional country pub (known locally for it's good food) is less than 100 yards from the cottage.
The cottage has been refurbished to modern standards, but retains character features including exposed wooden beams, a wood burning stove, an Inglenook fireplace and window seats. Scenic walks along the Warden’s Way can be joined a few metres from the front door."

I would love to return to this cottage as it really felt like a home from home for me. Everything was provided to make our stay comfortable. A hamper full of essential items like bread, jam, scones, snacks and a fridge stocked with milk, butter, cheese and wine. So very welcome after the journey from London and no need to have to then go shopping for supplies. The front room had a log burning stove but it wasn't quite cold enough to have to light it although it would have been lovely! The upstairs bedroom was a quiet, calm place to relax with a large bathroom stocked with White Company toiletries.

The local pub just around the corner, The Black Horse Inn was very welcoming and dog friendly, and the food was delicious .. lovely to have so close by.

There are many places to visit in the surrounding area and given that we only had one full day to explore properly, I walked Scout through the village, venturing down the little lanes and allowing him to run free in a field nearby. We found the Dove Cote, a Grade II listed building which is currently under renovation at the moment, covered in scaffolding. You get a real sense of a time gone by and seeing a bottle of milk perched on a wall in the village indicates that the traditional milk round is still alive and active.

We hopped in the car and drove about 20 minutes away to the Inn at Fossebridge near Cirencester. This is another gorgeous place to explore with Stowell Park nearby and the Inn's own lake and grounds to walk around. The pub itself is dog friendly with a good menu for lunch and dinner. The Inn also has a number of rooms at reasonable rates, each named after a local Cotswold village or town.

After a light lunch, we were back in the car heading towards the village of Bibury - "the most beautiful village in England" William Morris - where the medieval weavers cottages of Arlington Row are a big tourist draw as they date back to the 14th century. You can also visit the working trout farm right next door to the Swan Hotel. I visited this gorgeous village a few years ago and love going back and being reminded of how charming it is.

Onward from Bibury to Burford where I stayed previously at The Highway Inn in 2014 around the same time of year. Whilst I was there I discovered Huffkins bakery and brought home some of their produce. I just had to stop by again and purchase some more of their delicious shortbread as well as a small Christmas cake and pudding. It's never too early to stock up!

Even though this was only a two day break, it felt longer. It's the actual getting away from your normal life that makes it so enjoyable. No chores, no distractions and the chance to just relax and get some fresh country air in a beautiful part of the world.

Click on the links below for more info on dog friendly walks and holidays ..

National Trust

Rural Retreats - Dog Friendly Holiday Cottages


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Travel drought is almost over .. where shall I go to next?

I didn't manage to do a blog post in September!! It's a first. How remiss of me! Sadly I didn't go anywhere interesting .. just worked at my day job  in various local locations and made a few HQ bags in my spare time!

My major travel has been on hold due to some personal matters but hopefully I will soon be up, up and away again .. I'm itching to feel some sun on my skin and sand between my toes.

In the meantime, I plan on taking Scout the Holiday Hound away for a few days somewhere in the English countryside during the autumn - I know he would love that!

The HQ bags have been selling well and seen in many different countries this summer from Mallorca to Malaga, Madeira, Portugal, Tenerife, the Greek islands of Santorini, Crete and Mykonos, Hvar in Croatia, Dubai and recently two have gone all the way to Australia for summer downunder. Next summer they will make their debut in the Hamptons!  

Not only are they useful for the beach but also for the gym and picnics .. the versatility of this neoprene bag and pouches is endless.

I tested a bag myself on vacation this summer and have to say that I loved it! Not only does it look good but even loaded up seems to weigh nothing on your shoulder. The softness of the straps doesn't dig in or rub your skin and the neoprene fabric doesn't damage fine fabrics either. You can put it down on wet sand and it won't soak through - and the sand does not stick either. Gone are the days of taking half the beach home with you.

During the winter months I am making them to order with custom colour combinations so do get in touch via my facebook page if you would like one. More colour ways are coming for next summer.

Thanks to Kirsty and Susie for the beautifully modelled pics on their holidays!