Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Peace, Joy, Love

The words on the Christmas tree at the Coyaba Resort, Jamaica say it all. (It was real too and smelled divine) Peace, Joy, Love. 

I wish you all peace, joy, love and more for 2013
Thanks for reading my blog and giving me such positive feedback and a reason to keep writing. It is my intention to share my knowledge and travels and hopefully inspire you to do the same if you're not already!

Happy New Year!!!



Jamaica .. not all about the beach

I'm so glad I got the opportunity to go back to Jamaica again! After visiting 12 years ago and stating that I wouldn't care to go back and we'd done the all tourist things .. so what reason would you ever want to go back for? How naive of me! An invitation to a good friend's wedding was the catalyst  and it just proved to me that you should never set anything in stone. Nothing stays the same and neither should it. I'm not saying it's perfect but I wouldn't want it to be. Each place has it's own character and everybody's experience is their own.

Pool at the Cardiff
This time around we got a morning flight from Miami to Montego Bay, a mere 1 hour 15 minutes away, so we were at our hotel by early afternoon sitting by the pool enjoying our free welcome rum punch.  Our first accommodation was in the area of Runaway Bay - The Cardiff Hotel and Spa - set in the hills overlooking the bay.  We stayed for a week with other guests of the wedding party and it was a lovely quiet, home from home atmosphere where the staff were friendly and hospitable. A great place to relax and do the real vacation chill out! The private beach is about a 10 minute walk away but the hotel operates a shuttle service there and back. I would say that if you choose to stay here on your own, you would be wise to hire a car to get around as the taxi's are quite expensive and there really is nothing nearby.  Ocho Rios and the surrounding attractions like Dunn's River Falls and Mystic Mountain are within 20 minutes drive away and a day trip to Kingston is just that! There's a lot more to do besides .. it just depends what you want.

Overlooking the harbour
The wedding was held mid week at the Shaw Park Gardens nestled in the hills above Ocho Rios. It is a stunningly beautiful place - a rainforest with lush vegetation, waterfalls and birds and butterflies flying and fluttering freely adding to the romanticism of it all. This topped with a cocktail party complete with steel band overlooking the harbour and the light fading into dusk and you have a near perfect scenario. It was a truly magical afternoon followed by a full on party around the pool back at the Cardiff Hotel.

Coyaba beach
At the end of our stay there, we transferred back to Montego Bay to spend our last 24 hours or so at the Coyaba Resort. Not only is it a beautiful setting, a relatively small and intimate resort, but it is a mere 10 minutes away from the Robert Sangster International Airport. Don't let this put you off, there is very little in the way of aircraft noise. I found the people to be helpful and friendly, the food was great and I definitely want to go back to this resort and sample the riches of Montego Bay itself.

I'm so grateful to have had the second chance with Jamaica... thank you Norman and Yolanda.

See you later alligator

Whilst we were visiting Miami, we could not pass up the opportunity to visit Gator Park in the heart of the Everglades and take an airboat ride through the "river of grass".  

The Everglades was coined "The River of Grass" by Marjory Stoneman Douglas  because the water is not stagnant like that in swamps, but instead travels very slowly from north to south. The Everglades is one of the world's largest and slowest flowing rivers. 

Our guide was a quirky, barefooted guy with a raspy voice that conjured up images of rusty nails. He was a real character who obviously enjoyed his job and as he turned the engine over he would call out to the alligators by name (obviously all for show) and they would appear in the water alongside the boat. I think the vibrations in the water caused by the engine being switched on and off was the more likely lure!

C'mon out lil fella
The first part of the ride was slow so we were able to observe alligators, soft shell turtles and various species of birds and plant life at close quarters. Then he cranked up the engine and off we went at pace over the water that seemingly stretched as far as the eye can see. He threw in a few jack knife turns which caused the water to spray over everyone and the whole experience was exhilarating! It's hard to believe the water is only a few inches deep.

After the boat ride we went to an alligator show presented by another character with a craggy face and voice to match. All he needed was a parrot on his shoulder!  As well as demonstrating how the natives wrestled with the alligators in order to keep and eat them, the show featured the largest toad I have ever seen, a snake, a giant scorpion and a cockatoo. Normally I am not comfortable watching any kind of display involving animals but this one was relatively short and very informative giving a brief history of the native people who inhabited the area and their relationship with their environment. 

River of Grass
The Everglades: River of Grass is a non-fiction book written by Marjory Stoneman Douglas in 1947. Published the same year as the formal opening of Everglades National Park, the book was a call to attention about the degrading quality of life in the Everglades and continues to remain an influential book on nature conservation as well as a reference for information on South Florida.

For more info on the Everglades National Park go to http://www.nps.gov/ever/index.htm


Art Basel Miami Beach 2012


Installation at Scope
I'd heard about it and checked it out online but nothing prepares you for the actuality that is Art Basel Miami Beach. You would be hard pressed to see it all even if you were there from start to finish. Thousands of artists from all over the world exhibiting in more than 260 galleries. There are numerous installations, pop up exhibits, film screenings and parties to attend all over the city.  

John Matos http://www.crashone.com/
Judd Tully, a writer for the magazine Art + Auction and veteran of the fair, says: "Miami is a party city. You either have to be young or a glutton for punishment." I have to agree!


Not only are the gallery owners and/or representatives there, a lot of the artists are in attendance too and it's interesting just to walk around and meet the people responsible for all this creativity and talk to them about their inspiration, techniques and processes. And of course, everything is available to buy from affordable art to works costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

We spent two overwhelming days at Art Miami, Scope, Art Asia and Overture looking at art from every conceivable genre - some beautiful, some innovative, bazaar, weird, inspiring .. it's ultimately all in the eye of the beholder.

Art Basel Miami Beach 2013 December 5-8

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Welcome to Miami


This was my first trip to Miami. It's a place I've always wanted to visit particularly for it's large concentration of Art Deco buildings (which I love) and tropical climate. A perfect getaway from the cold and dark of the European winter and also a chance to relax and get some much needed sun.
 
We stayed at The Anglers Resort South Beach for the first three days - an area full of boutique hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. Having said that, this particular hotel was set back a little from the main drag and was relatively quiet and secluded but still close enough to walk to the beach, shops and nightlife. I would definitely recommend it and would go back there again. There's lots to see and do if you like architecture, performing arts, museums, eating, people watching, shopping etc etc ..the list is endless.

Miami lifeguard huts
One thing I noticed and appealed to me was the life guard huts situated all along the vast beach front. Each one is a different design and colour and originated from an artistic project in 1992 in which some major artists participated. I think I photographed the majority of them on my walks along the beach! On further investigation this is what I discovered.

The Beach Hut Miami Beach and South Beach huts are so iconic that their design is now studied in major architectural schools. There are 29 Beach Hut Miami Beach and South Beach huts in Miami and 16 of them are located in South Beach. They have various designs and colors from the look of a lighthouse to patriotically-painted red, white and blue to a hippy style with large flowers painted on it. Some even have extraterrestrial influences. These should be on your list of must-see attractions during your stay in Miami.

We moved to the Fountainebleau hotel for the next four days to meet with friends for the Art Basel Exhibition (more on this in the next post). It is one of the most historically and architecturally significant hotels on Miami Beach. Opened in 1954 and designed by Morris Lapidus it was arguably the most luxurious hotel on Miami Beach. It has featured in many movies and tv series and was frequented by the likes of Frank Sinatra. In complete contrast to the Anglers and the South Beach vibe, this is a 1500+ room resort with twelve restaurants and bars (including Hakkasan and Scarpetta) on a scale which reminded me of resorts in Las Vegas. The patrons are hip and trendy and there is a constant buzz - a party like atmosphere - great if you like that sort of thing. Although it was run in the manner you would expect of such an establishment, I much preferred the personal touch of the Anglers. A party I can find anytime, anywhere!!

Brazilian hair treatment verdict


frizz free at the beach
As a follow on to my last blog about fighting the frizz factor, I applied the keratin treatment two days before my departure to the heat of Miami. The application was simple - wash hair with the clarifying shampoo then apply the conditioning treatment, leave for 30 minutes then blow dry section by section.  I have to say having done this now, next time (if I decide to go to the trouble) I will get a hair savvy friend to help.  It was a bit of a chore and I had to shut the door of my bedroom so as not to set off the smoke alarm whilst I was using the hair dryer!! This process was then followed by using straightening irons in small sections to seal the hair and make it sleek. I got the desired effect but my hair felt a little heavy and somewhat greasy although it looked okay. I had to live with it like this for a minimum of 2 days without tying it up and it was a relief when I could finally wash it!

However, after the first wash I have to say that it was definitely smoother and subsequently easier to wash and blowdry. On a trip to the Everglades we were sprayed with water as the driver of our boat did a stunt manoeuvre and my hair stayed pretty much as it was! The wind was also quite strong though so this could have been a contributing factor!

The photo above shows my hair after a swim in the sea and allowing it to dry naturally. The curl was definitely reduced and without fluffiness so I can personally confirm that this product actually works! It is available from most drug stores/pharmacies at a fraction of the price of a salon treatment.

Organix Brazilian hair therapy http://www.organixhair.com/category-title/24

29/12/12   Noticing a month on that a little bit of frizz is returning so at least it served it's purpose and does what it says on the packet!

Friday, 30 November 2012

Beach waves or beach frizz?

You'll know by now that I am off to warmer climes tomorrow and contemplating ways to keep the frizz factor at bay.  I am about to try Organix brazilian keratin therapy ... it boasts that it will reduce up to 95% of curl and eliminates frizz by penetrating the cuticle with keratin proteins and lasts for 30 days. I don't mind the curl, it's the frizz I have the problem with!  I will report back .. the next two weeks will certainly test this claim as I will be getting my hair wet every day in both chlorinated and salt water!  

I always travel with a good hairdryer (I have yet to find a decent one in a hotel) and a set of heat stylers. Both are US voltage as taking UK electricals doesn't cut it. The power just isn't strong enough to tame these locks effectively! 


I'm taking my Moroccan oil as a back up plan!! It's been doing wonders for my hair so whatever the weather I'm going to be prepared!

A few years ago I was in Jamaica (also for a wedding) and the wind was blowing a gale of damp air from the sea and my hair although more of a bob, was a complete nightmare.  Short of having it braided (not going to happen!) it was eventually held in place by placing my sunglasses on my head a la Alice band style.  

This year I think I will go vintage .. and depending of whether this keratin stuff works, it will either be hippy freak or a glamorous 40's victory roll!

See you before Christmas!!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

French fancies ...

Last weekend I had the pleasure of jetting off to Basel to meet my best friend for a girly weekend of pampering and relaxation!  She picked me up on the French side (there's a Swiss exit also) and we drove about half an hour north. We had already made reservations at the Hotel Verte Vallee, located in Munster in the heart of the Alsace region. The hotel is situated within a beautiful park alongside the River Fecht. It was a beautiful time to go as the autumnal colours where in full show and the weather was crisp and cold with a light mist in the morning. 

relaxing by the pool
Our primary reason for going was for the spa treatments. The hotel has a wellness centre with a small gym, swimming and jacuzzi pools and a sauna.. and the products they use for their face and body treatments at the spa are Thalgo and La Sultane de Saba. I had a Thalgo hyaluronique facial treatment which lasted an hour. It was a very relaxing experience and my skin felt clean and hydrated afterwards. This was followed by a back massage, but I wish they had done this before the facial as I then had to put my freshly cleansed face onto a towel which I felt absorbed the creams from my skin. No matter, I left the treatment room feeling very relaxed with a cup of herbal tea. I floated down to the indoor pool and spent the afternoon reading on a lounger and dipping in the jacuzzi and pool. We also made time to walk into the town on the Saturday morning where they had a market in typical French style.  Stalls and custom built vans with counters full of fresh produce, cheeses, meats, pastries etc.
Colmar

On our last day we checked out of the hotel and drove to the town of Colmar to get more of a sense of the region. We had a lovely lunch of tarte flambe and wandered around the town.  All the shops are closed on a Sunday but it was nice to take in the air and the architecture of this pretty old town. 

Almost forgot to mention that the food was delicious, although very French = tasty but rich! .. and the wine from the region was also very good.  We sampled the Crémant d'Alsace (methode champenoise) and the Pino Noir also from the region which was highly recommended by the Sommelier at the hotel restaurant. Well he would say that wouldn't he .. but he was right. It was the perfect companion for the dishes we had.  All in all, a lovely relaxed weekend.

I flew with Swiss airlines from London City Airport to Basel which took only 1 hour and 15 minutes. The flights and hotel were very reasonably priced making it a very do-able long weekend treat! Bonne journée!
 

Saturday, 27 October 2012

More to come soon .....

I have to say that I've been a bit lax on the blogging front lately! Busy busy busy with work and life in general - still doing the little business jaunts around the UK .. but I've got a few trips abroad coming up in the very near future so more blogposts to come soon! 

My next outing is in a couple of weeks time to the Alsace region in France to the town of Munster which is located in a valley of the Vosges mountains about 15 kilometres west of Colmar. My friend and I will be sampling the delights of a spa hotel and enjoying a lovely chill out weekend.

Art Basel, Miami
Two weeks later I'll be off to Miami - my very first trip there - for some relaxation on the beach while winter kicks in at home. From December 6 through 9, Miami Beach, Florida, will host the 11th edition of Art Basel, the most prestigious art show in the Americas. Can't wait to see that!!  Shortly afterwards I'll be attending a wedding in Runaway Bay, Jamaica just a short flight away so getting very excited!


I'll have lots to report soon!!  Thanks as always for reading my blog.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Ouidad .. queen of curls

While I was in New York I paid a visit to Ouidad Salon situated on W57th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue.  I was very interested to learn more about their frizz control products for curly hair and to try them for myself. They were very accommodating and their stylist Jessica spent time talking me through the variety of products and how to use them, and I went away with a little bag full of samples for my presenter to try. I was so impressed with the effectiveness of the Climate Control Defrizzing Shampoo and Conditioner on her hair that I went out and bought the product to try for myself. 

                        Product description -
Ouidad's Climate Control Defrizzing Shampoo is a gentle, sulfate-free cleanser designed to provide long lasting protection from frizz and flyaways. Ouidad's exclusive Humidity Shield Complex combines a unique blend of moisturizers that encapsulate the hair shaft and act as a protective barrier against heat, humidity and other environmental factors. The breathable, weightless formula works to protect curls and maintain color without stressing the hair.

I know many products that claim to do this and to a certain extent they do, but from my own personal experience this particular product seems to have the edge and I found that just using the shampoo and conditioner was more than enough to keep the frizz under control. Both hers and my hair was left soft and manageable and once the hair was styled there was rarely any need to apply any other product, including hairspray!

I am keen to try their new product Mongongo Oil as I have been using the Moroccan Oil with some success as it hides my split ends, makes my hair smooth and shiny but not at all greasy.  I'm confident this product will live up to it's reputation and my expectations!  I'll let you know!

Ouidad Salon and Training Studio
37 W. 57th St          
4th Fl (Btwn 5th & 6th Ave)
New York, NY 10019
For an appointment call:
212-888-3288

 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

New York .. weather alerts, watches and warnings .. never a dull moment!

If you're a follower of my blog you will know that my trip to New York at this time last year was not without it's adverse weather. Well, this year was no different!


Good friends at The Good Fork
I decided to go out a day earlier than I needed to so that I could organize myself and ease into the time zone, but more importantly to catch up with friends as the grueling schedule that was to follow meant that I would have little time to do this. We spent the first evening watching the sunset at Red Hook in South Brooklyn and picnicking on pre-dinner cocktails and nibbles. Red Hook is the only part of New York City that has a full frontal view of the Statue of Liberty, so we had a great view as it slowly lit up in the distance. It was a beautiful evening, calm and warm and perfect for chilling out after a long flight followed by a lengthy wait of over an hour in the immigration line. When it got dark we went for dinner at a nearby restaurant The Good Fork.. delicious food from an eclectic menu selection.

Leisure time over way too quickly and it was back to work .. the start of over two weeks at the US Open Tennis at Flushing Meadows. The first day brought tropical rain and high humidity and once again we had issues with a hot studio and our talent melting under the unforgiving lights .. sweaty brows and frizzy hair is not the look we were aiming for but had to put up with regardless! However, once we got to grips with cooling an open air studio (not easy) and the weather got a little better it wasn't such a problem. As we went into week two, we had a bit of rain again and a delay in play was looking very likely. But with a bit of re-scheduling we were back on track and everyone was looking forward to going home on time.


Boris battles with the brolly
All that changed in the last couple of days. More rain was forecast and matches started to get bumped to the next day. By Saturday, we were getting weather updates that a storm was on its way. A torrential downpour ensued with such gusto that the drains could not cope and our green room come make up room started to rapidly fill with water until it was almost up to our ankles! Someone came running in and said we had to evacuate the studio pronto as there was a tornado warning and it was heading our way.  We grabbed our things (I had to leave my make up kit as it was) and waded through the flooded practice courts to the 'safe' area in the Arthur Ashe stadium. We were all soaked through but we had to laugh because we looked a state and above all else we were safe. (Luckily I had my trusty flip flops in my bag so I could change out of my wet trainers and socks!) Thankfully the tornado bypassed us and hit further down the coast without doing too much damage.

Within an hour the sun had returned, the water had drained away and the courts were being mopped up. You would not have known anything had happened! The play resumed and we went back on air in seemingly perfect conditions. But .. as with these adverse weather systems we were informed that there was a massive storm heading our way with another possible tornado .. and in just a couple of hours we were ordered to evacuate the grounds completely and head back to the cityIt was a little worrying and I started texting family and close friends to say we were all safe just in case! All in a days work! 


Andy pays us a visit
As a consequence, the matches fell behind and we then had the women's final on the Sunday and the men's on Monday. You should all know the rest .. Andy Murray did us proud by winning his first grand slam title and we had the privilege of having him in our studio at the end of it all.  We couldn't have hoped for a better result!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Life is still unwritten

Detail Duomo
Following on from my last brief blog post 'Explore, dream, discover' I saw something on the front of a travel book this weekend in Milan which caught my eye and my mind.  'Life is still unwritten' .. how true.  We just don't know what's around the corner no matter how we plan it.

Danny Boyle wrote in his show program for the Olympic Opening Ceremony "..the idea of Jerusalem - of a better world - the world of true freedom and true equality. A belief that we can build Jerusalem. And it would be for everyone"  Isn't that what we'd strive for if only we thought it possible? We saw a glimpse of it while the games were on .. people just happily getting along regardless of race or religion. It's a shame though that only people with the means to afford it could go .. it would be wonderful for everyone to have experienced that atmosphere.

One of my best friends and I have been going to Milan for a long weekend every August for more than a decade now. We've always invited other friends to go but in the end they would pull out thinking it was little beyond their means, specially when the word 'shopping' came into it .. the guilt factor in full force! Believe me it's so do-able. It's a short flight from London, there are always hotel deals to be had in August .. it's a city break! Our mission has always been to shop for the new season's wardrobe, eat fabulous food and enjoy just being girls together. This year however turned out to be just a little bit different.  

Stylish kid's fashion
Expectations out the window we have come to the realization that although it is great fun to acquire more things to stuff into our wardrobes, the truth is we actually don't need that much.  Maybe it's about getting older or just that we're coming to appreciate that we have more than enough. (Perhaps some of that Olympic spirit has rubbed off on us!) Our experience this year was much more positive, relaxed, more selective and surprisingly more enjoyable. We spent our time talking about life and the things we still want to see and do .. there is still so much out there. For us life is definitely unwritten!  We can create it ourselves and change our minds at any time if we want to!

Don't get me wrong though .. we still shopped and bought and drooled over expensive shoes and make up .. after all life has to go on!!  

http://www.timeout.com/milan/features/54/shopping-in-milan 

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Explore, dream, discover

”Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

More trips on the horizon in the next 3 months so will keep you posted as they come up.  Miami, Florida and Jamaica have just been added to the itinerary so there will be exciting things to share I hope!

Now going off to watch the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games!!  Catch you soon!


Sunday, 5 August 2012

Olympic Fever

It's been over a month now since I last blogged thanks to being very busy with work leading up to and during the Olympic Games. All that hype about London being gridlocked and overcrowded just hasn't eventuated and my journey to work at the studios just overlooking the Olympic park has been a very pleasant experience indeed! 

Being right there at Westfield Shopping Centre has been great too! I have visited my favourite budget make up store Kiko Milano a number of times already and always seem to come out with something! I used to buy it every time I visited Italy and now it is available in the UK and the prices are pretty much the same. I love the eye shadow and nail varnish colours! I can't tell you how many people I have turned on to this brand lately... including all the ladies visiting from the USA who work for a certain TV channel and share our make up room at our studios overlooking the Olympic Park!

I now have a couple of days R&R then I am back there again next week. It will be weird once it's all over. In between I'm still squeezing in work trips around the country on another show .. all good stuff though. Keeps me busy and in the traveling mode!

My next non-work related trip will be in a couple of weeks when I will be going back to Milan Italy for my annual girls shopping weekend and I'm so looking forward to the break! The weather is always hot and we go to check out the new winter collections (and of course buy a few things) sip cocktails and prosecco, eat wonderful Italian food in the evenings and catch up on all the goss!! 

The week after that it's back to work for a stint in New York for the US Open Tennis before resuming my normal schedule in London again. Hopefully the weather will be good for us and will be hurricane free this year. And of course, we hope that Andy Murray will finally win the title and give us a reason to go back next year!!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Make up on the go

With all the restrictions in force when traveling these days, hand luggage containing our toiletries and make up can be problematic. As a make up artist, my pro kit has to be checked into the hold - I carry way over the permitted carry on limit - and to avoid spillage and breakage I have to pack very carefully. So far I have been lucky!

As for my personal make up, as long as I have checked baggage I can shove it in the suitcase and take as much as I want (the only consideration being weight). That way I can also put tweezers, nail clippers and a perfume atomizer in there as well. Don't forget a pencil sharpener for lip and eye pencils and it's also a good idea to take a small travel mirror with a fold away stand because the lighting in some hotel bathrooms can be inadequate.  
Downsizing your kit is essential if you want to avoid inconvenience and delay at the security check. I take on board the things I usually need like lip balm/lipstick, hand cream, antibacterial gel (I'm never without it!), a small tube of moisturizer, an emery board and a travel size toothbrush and toothpaste. 

Many brands now do travel sizes of your favorite products and it's also useful to save those samples and gift with purchase items. 
Depending on where you are going as long as liquids and gels are under 100ml and you don't have too many it's usually okay. Don't forget you have to display them in clear plastic bags. My favorite is by Muji - they do a great clear plastic wallet with a zip in 3 sizes and they are a stylish way to carry the items you need to show.

For current flight liquid restrictions http://www.virgin-atlantic.com/gb/en/travel-information/baggage/restrictions/liquid.html

Friday, 29 June 2012

Location location location

Walton Hall
I haven't had a chance to blog lately so I thought I'd share a little snippet of life whilst working on outside broadcasts on location - which is something I am doing a lot of at the moment! (OB's as they're known, for those of you who don't know, are programs/shows recorded away from the base studio.) They can be anywhere from domestic to international destinations but at the moment for me they are not too far away .. it's not a holiday but some places have quite an appeal.

One such place we were lucky enough to stay recently was the Waterton Park Hotel, Wakefield, West Yorkshire. The hotel is on the mainland opposite Walton Hall, a Georgian Mansion on a small island on it's own lake. The setting is idyllic and the views are stunning.  It was grey and overcast on the day we arrived but beautiful none the less.  It was a pity we were only there overnight but one thing you do need when you're away from home is a comfortable bed, specially when you have to work till late at night!  I slept like a log in my garden room and would love to have an opportunity to go back there again sometime.


working with limited light
As for the OB's, they can be quite challenging at times. Make up rooms or even tables are often non existent and you have to be creative in setting up a little area to work. Ever the professional, I tend to carry everything and more than I need .. you never know what people are going to ask for and it's best to be prepared.


My next OB trip away is Tralee in Southern Ireland ... who knows what will happen when the Guinness starts to flow - Irish republican singing, dancing a jig - I am not a big Guinness drinker so I will leave that to the die-hards!!  

I'll just leave you with an Irish quote "There are three types of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happened." 

Sláinte! (to your health)

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

A busy summer ahead .. take care of you!

The week ahead
We've had all kinds of weather in the last few weeks .. a taste of real summer a couple of weeks ago (absolutely fabulous) after a seemingly relentless spell of rain and grey skies, the return of the rain again and now a changeable few days ahead again - although not as cold as it has been thankfully!  
The Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations are now over and what it showed was that the British people carry on regardless of the weather conditions and really know how to enjoy themselves.  Whatever your leanings - republican or royalist - you can't deny that it brought almost everyone together in the spirit of unity and happiness.
Work is going to be crazy busy for me again this summer with all the sporting events that are coming up including the Olympics, so I will try my best to keep the blog going and update you on some new make up and hair products over the next couple of months.
Remember to apply your sun protection even when it looks a bit dull out as those UV rays still manage to get through the clouds and burn you if you're exposed for too long.  As a reminder here is what the elements have done to my garden ornament .. you don't want this to be you!!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Ain't no city like New Orleans

"Ain't no city like New Orleans" so wrote the blues singer Earl King of his hometown. It is a place most of us know because of the devastating effects of hurricane Katrina in 2005.  It is also well known for it's music heritage, noteably the earliest style of jazz.  Louis Armstrong was a native of New Orleans and the international airport is named after him.
This brings me to the primary reason for visiting on this occasion ... (not to mention wanting to sample the delights of the French/Cajun/Creole cuisine) The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival!  "The Festival celebrates the indigenous music and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana, so the music encompasses every style associated with the city and the state: blues, R&B, gospel music, Cajun music, zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, folk music, Latin, rock, rap music, country music, bluegrass and everything in between. And of course there is lots of jazz, both contemporary and traditional."
With only three days to sample a small slice of the city along with the jazz fest, after a delicious lunch at August, the first afternoon was spent walking along Canal Street to the famous Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. The street is alive with restaurants, bars and strip clubs but relatively quiet during the day. Mardi Gras would be something to see - I think I will need to come back for that! We came across a bar with bras hanging from the ceiling! Apparently if you donate your bra you get a free beer!!  Prior to my trip I was warned by a number of people to be aware of pick pockets but I have to say I never once felt threatened or saw anything of the sort .. the vibe was friendly and inviting.


You cannot leave NO without sampling the beignets and coffee so it was breakfast the next morning from Cafe Du Monde. The Original Cafe Du Monde is a traditional coffee shop. Its menu consists of dark roasted Coffee and Chicory, Beignets, White and Chocolate Milk, and fresh squeezed Orange Juice. The coffee is served Black or Au Lait. Au Lait means that it is mixed half and half with hot milk. Beignets are square French-style doughnuts, lavishly covered with powdered sugar. In 1988 Iced Coffee was introduced to the cafe. Absolutely to die for but if I had those everyday I would be the size of a house!!  Don't expect anything else there .. no eggs and bacon at this cafe!!
Dinners were sampled at Dick and Jenny's .. a fairly casual setting serving Louisiana cuisine .. the corn bread was the best I've ever tasted!!  And Le Foret .. delicious French food in a beautifully renovated building.
The Jazzfest took up the bulk of the weekend and it was a fantastic atmosphere with great local food, culture and music.  Next time I'm coming for both weekends of music and using the days in between to explore NOLA and the surrounding areas more fully!



Sunday, 6 May 2012

Rainy spring in New York City

Central Park
Spring in New York is usually very beautiful - blue skies, fluffy clouds and spring blossoms in the park and beyond.  Well there was a little of that but mostly it was cold and wet on my recent trip to the city.  As you should know by now the weather never gets in the way of fun and entertainment and there wasn't much down time left over with all the places to go and things to see!  Here's a quick overview of all the places we had time to frequent in the 5 days leading up to the trip to New Orleans!  Click on the links for more info!
On the first night we went to see Graham Parker perform at the City Winery situated in Varick Street, Soho .. it's a place created for people who share a passion for wine, food and music.  The next night it was back to Don't Tell Mama in the theater district for the superb Hole-o-matic show with Michael Holland and Karen Mack.  I wrote about them when I visited NY last year .. so much fun and would love to get them over to London and spread their brand of entertainment here.  Next stop was the Music Box theater to see James Corden and the original West End cast in One Man, Two Guvnors.  I wondered how this would translate across the pond but it went down extremely well and was wonderfully funny and entertaining. If all this wasn't enough it was dinner at The Stanton Social on the lower east side the next night .. the sister restaurant of Beauty in Essex and situated just around the corner, it's a hip and trendy place to be and the food is fabulous!
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
The highlight of this whirlwind few days was attending Sleep No More an off Broadway production set in an abandoned warehouse in Chelsea .."a mash-up of Shakespeare's Macbeth and 1930s film noir that combines elements of theater, dance, and haunted fun house for a unique evening that engages all of the senses." (Entertainment Weekly)  You have to check your bag and coat as you will need your hands free to explore the rooms, drawers etc and you will be on your feet for most of the 2-3 hours unless you choose to stay seated in the bar area!  You are required to wear a white mask (provided) which distinguishes you and all the other spectators from the actors and are also requested not to speak.  Also be aware that you can easily be split up from your partner/party but that is part of the appeal.  You have your own unique experience of the show. "There are five floors and nearly 100 rooms, each one decorated better and more elaborately than the next.  Some resemble asylums, with rows of metal beds and cabinets full of medicine and sharp tools while others look like homes and still others taxidermy shops.  Take a turn and you end up in a graveyard, or a bed, or a dark bar in which strobe lights illuminate what turns into a naked rave.  We won’t tell you anything else other than 1) if an actor takes your hand, follow and 2) if you can’t figure out what’s going on start opening drawers, reading notes, and thinking in terms of Macbeth." (Elle.com culture) This truly is a different take on anything you thought theatre would be.

You'll be glad to know that I did have a much needed night off before heading off to New Orleans for the next stage of the trip!



Wednesday, 2 May 2012

New York and New Orleans .. coming soon!

Bourbon Street
April was a busy month for the Holiday Queen .. all work and not much time to write but give me a day or two and I will fill you on in another of my fabulous trips to New York plus an amazing visit to the City of New Orleans for the Jazz and Heritage Festival way down in the southern state of Louisiana.  It is definitely a contender to be one of my new favorite places to go!!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

South of the border, down Mexico way

I think you know by now I just love Mexico and want to continue to visit every year if I can.  The weather is all but guaranteed, the food is fabulous and the people are friendly .. what more could you want for a vacation from your working life?!!

Having been to Cabo San Lucas and Cabo San Jose, we had the opportunity to join friends further south on the West Coast in Nuevo Vallarta which is situated just north of Puerto Vallarta, a thriving tourist town due to it's climate, tropical beaches and mountains and rich cultural history.  It has a rainy season from July through September so I would not recommend you go at this time as it can be very hot and humid!

There is so much to do in this area - horse riding, whale watching, zip lining, sailing, scuba diving - the list is endless.  Or you can just relax on the beach or by the pool and watch the pelicans fly over looking for their fish dinner. 

Las Caletas
The American director John Huston filmed his 1963 film 'The Night of the Iguana' in Mismaloya, a small town just south of Puerto Vallarta.  Situated nearby is the cove of Las Caletas which is accessible only by boat.  Here you can swim, snorkel and kayak, and have a beachside buffet lunch.  At night the cove is transformed into Rhythms of the Night which features a Cirque de Soleil inspired contempory dance performance reflecting stories and folklore of civilizations past.  On our last night in Mexico we boarded a large catamaran at the Maritime terminal at Nuevo Vallarta taking a sunset sail of approximately one hour to the cove which glowed with torches and candles in the darkness as we approached.  On disembarking we could hear the sounds of drums and flutes summoning us through a jungle setting leading to an amphitheatre where the spectacular show took place.  Afterwards we made our way to the beachside candlelit dinner with the backdrop of waves lapping on the rocks and shore. Simply devine!  The food was a buffet style myriad selection of sumptuous dishes which did not disappoint and the service was second to none!  Then at around 11pm we were called back to the boat where the crew put on a show of their own keeping us entertained and plied with rum punches and margaritas!  A fantastic night and one that should not be missed if you venture to this part of Mexico.

There are no direct flights to PV from the UK so we went via Los Angeles stopping over for a couple of days either side to break up the journey.  Flight time from LA is 3 hours.  Other options could be via Mexico City, Chicago or New York and I would suggest a stopover if you can and have the time .. or your could brave it all the way which would take the best part of a day to get there.

Next stop New York and New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival .. watch this space!!!



Music and movies to brighten up a rainy day in LA

 
As the song goes, it never rains in California, but man it pours!!  And that's just what it did on my recent trip to Los Angeles, topping and tailing it around a glorious week in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico.  Almost every trip I've ever done to the city of angels at varying times of the year has always produced sunny days, even in the 'winter', so it was quite a change to see the rain lashing down at a 45 degree angle, flash flooding in the streets and literally torrents of water channeling down the gutters of the roads at a rate of knots.

A great place to visit on such a day is the GRAMMY Museum, located at 800 W. Olympic Blvd. in the LA LIVE district.  'It is an exciting and interactive celebration of the power of music occupying a vibrant new space in downtown Los Angeles. Four floors of cutting edge exhibits, interactive experiences and films provide a one-of-a-kind visitor experience — engaging, educational, celebratory and inspirational.'  Tickets are $12.95 for adults - other prices apply for students, seniors, military etc. and is open seven days a week till 7.30pm. It was a fascinating exhibition and a great way to spend a couple of hours or more if you interested in the music industry.  For more information visit the website http://www.grammymuseum.org/

Costumes from 'The Artist'
Not too far away is the FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) which has its own museum and galleries.  Admission is free and opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday 10am - 5pm.  The current exhibition and one which I highly recommend if you are interested in costume design for film, is the Twentieth anniversary Art of Motion Picture Costume Design exhibition.  It features over one hundred costumes from twenty films released in 2011 and includes a selection from all five Academy Award Nominees for Costume Design and runs till the end of April.  There are also costumes from past classics including those for Rudolph Valentino and Marlene Dietrich amongst others.  It was a special treat to see the costumes from 'The Artist' in full colour as you can only use your imagination as to what they might be in a black and white movie! 

The next exhibition which will run from July 24 through September 22 is 6th Annual Art of Television and Costume Design.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Nuts about Brazil

I always knew that Brazil was famed for its beautiful sun-kissed beaches, a colourful, lively party-time atmosphere and a rich swirl of samba dancing and bossa-nova music, but I don’t think any preconceived notions of what to expect in the land of carnivals and coffee beans could have prepared me for just how much I have fallen for this incredible country on my recent jaunt there. It was lush, rich, vast, impressive, sexy, heated, bright, beautiful and a thousand other descriptive words which could fill this blog and beyond.

Our journey started, after three flights and 35 hours of travel (not strictly necessary – but always check that your travel agent is booking a direct flight to Rio and not a ‘hidden direct’ which seems to give them free reign to transport you via Siberia should they wish!) at the glorious Iguacu Falls, one of the recently named New Seven Wonders Of Nature. Situated on the border of Brazil and Argentina the Falls make most famous waterfalls look like a leaky tap. Comprising of over 270 Falls including the awesome collection at The Devil’s Throat, it is a destination that I would recommend for anyone who just wants to open their eyes in wonderment, walk into the misty sprays of the Falls and marvel at the sheer magnitude and force of the waterflow. Walkways out into the spray and a bouncy boat trip bumping you into the Falls as near as Mother Nature will safely allow are a must for any visitor – just prepare to get soaked! We spent one day looking at the Falls from Brazil and one day from Argentina and loved every watery minute.

As my best friend now lives in Brazil, our next venture was a flight to Sao Paulo to meet up and then pack up the car to head off on our Brazilian road trip. First port of call was the idyllic coastal village of Paraty, located on the Costa Verde (Green Coast). Famed for its historic buildings, colourful streets and jaw-dropping mountainous surroundings, it’s a place I could happily live out my days. And the food on offer is a dream, especially if you love the tenderest sea bass that is ever likely to swim your way.

Next up we headed to the place that has to be the number one hot-spot for most party-goers heading to Brazil – the wonderful Rio De Janeiro. I squealed with glee as we caught our first microscopic glimpse of Christ The Redeemer (another of the New Seven Wonders Of The World) perched high above the city and I will relive and re-love the expedition to see the amazing statue close up until the day I pack away my Havaiana flip-flops for good. Whether you’re religious or not, the total thrill of seeing this huge statue perched protectively on a hill above Rio’s bay is just out of this world. The only thing that capped standing underneath it was a helicopter ride we took from Sugarloaf Mountain around the Redeemer itself. You literally look into the face of Jesus. I adored it.

Other must-do’s in Rio are watching the sunset as you knock back delicious caipirinhas (Brazil’s national cocktail) on Sugarloaf Mountain and a trip to Ipanema Beach where the beautiful people reside. I defy any UK tourist not to pull in their belly and puff out their chest as you watch a flotilla of perfectly curved ladies and and pec-powered guys sexily sauntering across Ipanema’s wondrous sands. We consoled our out-of-shape selves by ordering grilled cheese on a stick and more cocktails from a passing beach vendor.

Keen to avoid the madness of Rio in full carnival-swing we headed to the countryside for our celebrations to spend five days in the Minas Gerais region at the picturesque village of Tiradentes. By day it was time for relaxation around the pousada (your best choice for good accommodation) pool or marvelling at the multi-hued objects literally hanging out of every shop – it is a souvenir buyer’s dream – but by night…bring on the Carnival! Held to celebrate the end of Summer, the Carnival is five days when the whole of Brazil goes loco. Feasting on the fiesta away from the major tourist spots was a definite winner in my book. As the costumes are fitted, the wigs go on and the make-up gets applied, you can really get closer to the happy hysteria and watch the never-ending processions go by. For five days the whole population of Brazil seems to swap sleeping for dancing. It’s a great way to live…even if your eyebags and hangovers tell you otherwise.

Our final destination was back to Sao Paulo for a look at one of the largest cities in the world. Beautiful it may not be but capitivating and impressive it certainly is. The endless traffic is horrendous but buses and the underground system (soon to be mercifully expanded to cover more of the city) allow you to visit delights like Ibirapuera Park and the dynamically decadent Hotel Unique with its divine rooftop bar.

Brazil shocked me – in the most wonderful way. The people were smiley and happy, the scenery was some of the lushest and healthiest I’ve ever seen and everywhere was a riot of colour. Even the flash thunder storms were warm, wet and wondrous. Our heartfelt obrigados (thank yous) to the Brazilian ‘Crew’ – Mikey (for itinerary and merriment as always), Marcellino (for driving above and beyond the call of duty) and to the fabulous Myles and John for sharing their Dynasty-esque home with us. We loved it, we loved you, we loved Brazil…now we just need to book our next trip!

Thanks for letting me share this on my blog Nigel!! xx 

Nigel's blog http://www.nigelmay.net/blog