Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Caribbean Queen

I've only been back from Barbados for 10 days and my fresh new tan is already fading. I was practically straight in to winter clothes and the day job with barely enough time to reminisce about my recent trip.

Stormy clouds moving away
I took so many photos of the sunsets, beaches, rocks etc. even a moon setting in the early morning over the Caribbean Sea. It was so mesmerising and tranquil and a first for me. 
Sunset Beach View

Full moon setting over the sea

I woke up early on the first morning and was enjoying my morning coffee on the balcony when I noticed a shimmering light on the sea. My view was slightly restricted by another building and a large tree but it was enough to entice me down to the beach with my trusty camera where I caught site of the full moon setting in the west in the beautiful morning light with the sound of the waves lightly breaking on the rocks.

Enjoying a cold beer at Zaccios
I have visited Barbados a number of times as you will know if you follow my travels .. there's always a familiarity about it which is the point of going back there I suppose. You know exactly what you're getting .. where to eat, shop etc. but there's always something new to discover if you look for it. This trip I discovered new beaches and places to eat and hang out.

The island is being developed along the west coast with new villas currently under construction just north of Sandy Lane so the area will be busier as time goes by. The great thing about Barbados is that the beaches are all public so you are free to go where you like. 

Bar snacks at Lime Bar
It's essentially a chill out holiday for me - to do nothing but walk, swim in the crystal clear sea, read, take photos, enjoy great food and most of all just relax in the guaranteed consistently warm climate. At this time of year you can expect temperatures between 24 - 28 degrees Celsius. Perfection in my mind.

Green monkey
I had heard of the Barbados Green monkey before but had never seen one on any of my previous visits. They arrived on the island some 350 years ago on the slave ships and have managed to thrive and adapt to their foreign tropical island habitat. This includes visiting the resorts and taking what they can - rich pickings no doubt. It's important that people do not feed these monkeys but as ever, they're viewed as 'cute' and this rule is often ignored. This means they have become more bold and unafraid to go where they please. I  spied my first monkey casually sitting in a tree above the swimming pool not at all concerned by the many people below taking photos. I then saw another a little later on roaming through the hotel grounds and sauntering towards a ground floor apartment where the door was open!

Chattel village
I love the area around Holetown on the west coast. There are so many great places to eat nearby and others within easy reach via a short bus or cab ride. There is a shopping mall, a supermarket (which is currently being renovated and upgraded) and a Chattel village selling beach gear, fashion, jewellery, souvenirs and art from singular wooden buildings all painted in different colours and adorned with fairy lights at night.

There's plenty to do during the day - water sports such as  windsurfing, sailing, jet skiing, paddle boarding, scuba diving, kayaking, snorkelling as well as fishing trips, turtle watching and trips around the island by catamaran or minibus. You'll never be bored.

The other thing (besides the food) I like about the restaurants on the west side is the ability to watch the sun go down over the horizon while you sip on cocktails or eat an early dinner. Every sunset is different which is why I and many others are so enamoured by the changing light and drama of them.

As always I recommend that if you want specific days/dates at most restaurants it's a good idea to book in advance of your trip to ensure you get a reservation. You could take a chance but you may not get the time or day you want.  This is not true of all of them but if you know where you want to go it's worth the effort, and certainly for big parties an absolute must.

Sunset The Club, Barbados

Afternoon light

The beach front at Club Barbados
Locals playing checkers
Recommended places to eat on the west coast -

Cin Cin by the Sea - for a fabulous location, cocktails, great food eaten al fresco right by the sea

The Lone Star - another great location for lunch or dinner, fab food, great wine list and laid back atmosphere

The Fish Pot - Out of the way towards the north of the Island, on the water's edge for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Relaxed atmosphere and great food.

The Tides - good food, on the waterfront behind a boardwalk, great atmosphere

The Beach House - relaxed atmosphere for lunch or dinner by the sea, also drop in for coffee or drinks

Zaccios - fab for lunch right on the beach front - best to book for dinner - known for it's pizzas. I recommend the tuna fish tacos and mac pie!

Lime Bar - open for lunch or dinner - bar till the early hours. Small menu but oh so tasty! I recommend the coconut shrimp and fishcakes!

Just Grillin' Casual no frills restaurant - great value grilled food, beer and cocktails - no need to book. Also do take away.

For more of my daily photos follow me on Instagram - @holidayqueenuk

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Adding a healthy glow to winter skin and testing primers

Since I have no travel plans for the month of February, I decided to test out a few high-end primers and try a self tanning body milk. February can be a cold, grey month although the days are getting lighter little by little and spring is not far away. It's time to get the body fit and looking healthy in preparation for that day when you get to peel off the layers and expose your sun starved skin to the elements.

Here's the results ...

http://biotherm.com/index.aspxBiotherm Autobronzant Tonique Self Tanning Bi-Phase £28/$38 200ml

I discovered this little beauty at the airport last year when I was flying out to Ibiza. It is dry oil based product that you tip unside down and shake lightly to blend the two liquids together before spraying on. It feels very lightweight and the oil melts into the skin and does not streak or feel greasy at all. You're left soft and smooth and looking beautifully sunkissed. Perfect for that pre-holiday prep but remember that it does not protect you from the sun. You will still need to apply a good SPF.

http://www.decleor.com/Decleor Gradual Glow Hydrating Body Milk - £25/$48 for 250ml

This is my newest find and because my skin hasn't felt the sun's rays for a while, it's a great way to introduce some healthy colour before spring arrives.

I am off to warmer climes in less than a month and I don't want to hit that beach with winter pale skin! After showering and exfoliating, slather this on - it's moisturising, smells great and gives a hint of tan which can be built up over time. Non streaking and paraben free it's the best self tan lotion I've used in a while.

Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer - £96/$75 for 60ml

This is a beautifully soft, water resistant primer which smooths fine lines, diminishes pores and extends the wear of your foundation. It is expensive but a little goes a long way. I bought the travel size to try and it has lasted a long time so go for that first if you're reluctant to spend the big bucks. It contains no parabens, sulphates, oil or gluten and is fragrance free. A winner in my opinion.

YSL Touche Éclat Blur Primer £29.50/$52 for 30ml

This is a transparent gel formula with tiny gold flecks that once applied completely disappear into the skin. I love the feel of this and have been using it everyday under my normal foundation. It can be applied with a brush or fingertips - the latter being my preference. Wait a few seconds before applying your foundation or not if you prefer - it can be worn alone. The result is a super smooth, soft look which can then be set with a dusting of loose powder if needed. Buy a travel size first if you're unsure.

Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water - £20/$32 for 116ml

This is a multi-tasking primer which can be used in 3 ways .. as a primer for a sheer canvas to apply your foundation .. a setting spray, or a refresher later in the day. It's silicone, alcohol and oil free and hydrating. It does contain some fragrance so if your skin is at all sensitive there could be a risk of irritation .. maybe test it first before buying. Personally I'm not a fan of spraying my face but some people like the refreshing sensation.

Becca Ever-Matte Poreless Priming Perfector £28/$36 for 40ml

This is supposedly the perfect primer for oily skins. The instructions for application of the product is very specific - Primer can be worn alone or under foundation. To apply, warm a pea-sized amount in hands and pat onto specific areas of concern like the T-zone. Allow product to dry before following with makeup application. For touch-ups throughout the day, warm primer in hands and pat over makeup to target oily areas. If you rub it in it will not be as effective - you have been warned! With no silicone, oil or fragrance it is sweat and humidity resistant making it a good choice for make ups in hot climates and on location. I will test this properly when I am next in that environment.

Hourglass Ambient Light Corrective Primer £36/$44 for 30ml

This primer comes in 3 shades - Dim, Luminous and Mood. It has a smooth weightless feel and is easy to blend. Once again worn alone or under foundation the skin appears smoother and gives a soft matte glow. I have used this on a few clients and it really does give the skin a beautiful creamy finish with very little need for touch ups.

No 7 Instant Illusions Airbrush Away Primer £16.50 for 30 ml

This is a good primer at the lower priced end of the market. It creates a good base for foundation application, is easy to apply and non greasy. If you've never used a primer before this may be a good one to start with as your outlay will be small in comparison to the brands I have presented above.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

New Year more travel ..

Colours of Greece
Happy New Year 2017!! .. is it still okay to say that eleven days in? Ten days ago I had nothing booked for this year but spurring myself into action I've managed to get the girls organised for our annual holiday in June. This will be our fifth year of island holidays! It's alarming how fast time flies by. We are going to Elia on the Greek island of Mykonos as we talked about whilst in Ibiza last year, and I'm very excited about it as I've always longed to go there. Flights, accommodation and airport car parking already done!

West Coast Barbados
I've also just booked another two trips away .. I need that warm sunshine on my skin .. Barbados again in March (can't keep me away) and Dubai in April! 

I think that's enough to be going on with for now! I always have my eyes on other destinations but time is limited when it comes to the day job. Then of course there's always long weekends - when I can get the time off!

Scout, the Holiday Hound
Getting these trips booked early is a way of calming my roving spirit. For me it's important to have a focus and to have something to look forward to.
As usual I will keep you updated with anything else that pops up in the interim. 

Keep in touch daily through my Instagram account @holidayqueenuk for past and present photos of travels, work and of course the holiday hound Scout!

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Another year ends .. goodbye 2016

Wow! 2017 is almost upon us .. this has to have been the fastest ever year I have experienced and the one where we lost many loved and talented people - too many to name here. Some would say good riddance to 2016 and bring on the new year.

As ever it has been a busy one for both work and play ..

My travels have taken me to Barbados, Dubai, Ibiza, Zurich, Como, Milan, Manchester, Glasgow, Minneapolis and New York. I'm not sure how I fitted it all in. Plans are now underway for another trip to the Caribbean early next year to get away from the cold weather.

Highlights from this past year below .. it's all about the light ..

Sunset, Paynes Bay, Barbados
Sunset, Bab al Shams, Dubai

Sunset - Portinatx, Ibiza

Sunset - Ibiza

Lake Zurich - Switzerland

Sunrise - Lake Como, Italy

Bellagio, Lake Como

Columbus Circle, New York

Sunset, Manhattan New York

I hope you have enjoyed my posts and photos from this year .. I would love for you to join me for more in 2017. Follow my Holiday Queen Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram for updates.

All that remains for me to do is wish you health and happiness and the freedom to broaden your mind and respectfully roam the planet as you so desire. 

Happy New Year!


Saturday, 26 November 2016

Work, play and Autumn's spectacular show

Every year in November since 2009 I have worked at the ATP World Tour Finals - the top 8 men pro tennis players in the world in singles and doubles battle it out in the season finale at the O2 Arena in London. 

It's a full on 8 long days for us and we have always stayed nearby in Greenwich so that our journey to work each day would be traffic free and quick. 

Most days I accompanied the Presenters who I had to make up each day and we would take the Thames Clipper river boat from North Greenwich Pier to the O2 as it was super fast - only 5 minutes journey time to be exact! 

It was a perfect way to start the day - and the only daylight and fresh air we would see until the following day! Luckily for us most days were beautifully sunny and unseasonably mild which we made the most of in those precious few minutes between the walk from the hotel to the pier, the journey and the few minutes walk to the entrance of the O2 the other side.

Every day would be pretty much the same apart from the last day - the final day - when our day started at midday.

The length of the working day is mostly dependent on how long the matches are and fortunately for us, Andy Murray beat Novak Djokovic in two sets and got us off air at a reasonable time. 

A fantastic finale ending an amazing season of tennis. 

After that long stint of work, it's always good to be home again and to be able to enjoy the continued good weather. This year the autumn colours have been particularly stunning and have lasted for a good few weeks. 

I have only had one day of the day job this week at the Westminster Studio and during my break in the early evening watched the changing light over the River Thames as the sun went down. I always find it very uplifting and cannot help but photograph anything that catches my eye. (As you can imagine I have taken a lot of snaps too numerous to post on here.)

The rest of my week off has been taken up with walking my dog in the local park and enjoying the last of the autumn colour before all the branches are bare and winter sets in.

 I think it's time for HQ to start planning another holiday .. perhaps a little Caribbean jaunt again next spring? How predictable! Anywhere warm and sunny by the ocean to wash away the winter blues.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Another week in New York ...

I never get tired of New York. I have been countless times and there's always new things to see and do. Buildings get demolished and new ones go up in their place - restaurants come and go, shops change - the whole vibe of the city has altered over the years as it becomes more gentrified but for me it still has loads of energy and is one of my favourite cities to visit.

During the past five years I have been fortunate enough to work there for two weeks in late summer and tag on a few days to play afterwards. This year the work was elsewhere (see previous post) so I had a whole week to enjoy New York City uninterrupted with my New York 'family' and friends.

Since Brexit the value of the Pound has plummeted making everything just that bit more expensive in the US. Luckily for me I didn't really need to buy anything so it was a matter of a little browsing and the odd purchase of items not available in the UK or local products which were cheaper anyway. It meant more time to do other things. I had also just acquired a brand new camera and I was intent on learning more about it and taking pictures at every opportunity. 

The week started with a 'Debate' party - we had home cooked chilli, cocktails and yummy desserts while we watched Trump and Hillary battle it out in their last debate before the US election. It was great to catch up with friends and meet new ones and the sight of the waning moon over Queens was quite spectacular.

I was hoping to get the time to go out to the very end of Long Island to visit Montauk but to get the best from it I will probably make more of a destination out of it next time, so the decision was made to visit Coney Island in Brooklyn instead which is much closer and easily accessible by the subway system. I can't believe I had never been before. It took about an hour to get there from the centre of Manhattan and was relatively quiet given the time of year so a very pleasant experience walking the boardwalk (it's in countless movies) and taking in the fresh sea air. 

We ate lunch at Ruby's Bar and Grill (although Nathan's is most famous for hot dogs) and grabbed a coffee before our return journey at Whalburgers also famous for being owned by Mark Wahlburg and his family.

I could more than fill this page with things we had to see and do but instead will give you a list of places we enjoyed this trip. Click on the highlighted links for more info.

View from Robert Restaurant
The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) next to the Time Warner Center - my favourite exhibition was Crochet Coral Reef - TOXIC SEAS which is on until January 22nd 2017. On the 9th floor is Robert Restaurant open for lunch and dinner which has great views of Broadway meeting Central Park at Columbus Circle - recommended! Reserve in advance for a table by the floor to ceiling window.

The Lambs Club - located in the theater district and where we had dinner and cocktails (Moscow Mule in a copper cup - left) before seeing Les Liaisons Dangerueses with Liev Schrieber and Janet McTeer at the Booth Theater.

Black Barn - located in the Gramercy area on East 26th Street - we had a 'girls birthday lunch' celebration - great fun and scrumptious food and wine.

City Winery, Soho area - for intimate music and good food and wine. We saw J D Souther, an American singer-songwriter and his Norwegian girlfriend, Ida Jenshus who performed a couple of numbers with him.

Roberto's Restaurant, Bronx - an authentic Italian restaurant in the real Little Italy. Great atmosphere and good food.

Boulton and Watt - East Village .. where we had French toast and berries for brunch (yum) and spent a few hours in the district checking out the boutiques and stores. The area is home to the NYU campus so has a young and vibrant vibe. It still has a gritty edginess of the old New York which I like and hope never disappears. Apartment buildings with exterior wrought iron fire escapes are still there along with one-off shops, street and wall art in constant renewal.

Maison Kayser - French cafe restaurant with several locations in the New York City area. Authentic French cuisine with a patisserie next door for goodies to take home. We went to the Upper East Side for lunch - I had tartine saumon fume with French bread on the side - magnifique! We bought baguettes and pistachio madeleines to take away for later.

Dick Hyman and Bill Charlap play jazz
We were also fortunate enough to be invited to a jazz concert at the Rockland Community College Cultural Arts Center near Nyack NY. We saw Dick Hyman and Bill Charlap play the most amazing jazz piano together. At almost 90 years old Dick's fingers are as dexterous as anyone half his age - and Bill is almost half his age! What an inspiration and a talent!

Sunset behind the Time Warner Center
The weather was amazing for the time of year - starting with 2 days of 28C (82F) then cooling down with a little rain on one day but mostly beautiful mild early fall weather. I saw a different sunrise and sunset every day and was in awe of how beautiful they were. I never quite understand why people say any particular place has the best sunsets - they are all splendidly beautiful and unique.

New York is never really a vacation in the true sense of the word but it has the best energy and many happy memories for me and I find it very uplifting. It was a week packed full of things to see and do - I'm missing it already. Next time I'll try to make time to squeeze in that trip to Montauk and the Hamptons! 

Oh .. and how could I almost forget to mention the mandatory shopping for make-up at Sephora for all things bright and beautiful! It's a sickness you know .. can't get enough of those those pretty colours and gorgeous palettes ....

#newyork #manhattan #sunsets #restaurants #music #streetart #brooklyn #bronx #makeup

HQ flew Virgin Atlantic from London Heathrow to JFK