Thursday, 1 June 2017

Introducing HQ beach bags!!

Detail blue/orange
I recently said there was something new and exciting for Holiday Queen and I'm pleased to announce that I now have a small collection of neoprene beach bags and pouches for sale.

I think I'm pretty qualified to know what to take to the beach and finding a bag that works for me has been an ongoing search. I have had some lovely bags in the past .. baskets, canvas even leather and they have been fine up to a point. Baskets look great but are hard to pack, leather can be heavy and cotton canvas, well it's been alright but not quite sturdy enough and fiddly when you're rummaging around looking for your lotion, phone, camera etc.

In Sublime's window
I needed a new bag for my next beach holiday and started by trawling the internet. I couldn't quite find the right thing and in a bolt from the blue I decided I was going to make my own. I didn't have a clue where to start. A few baby steps later and there I was sitting at my friend's sewing machine knocking up my first bag. It kind of steam rollered from there and here I am introducing my product to you. 

Neoprene is lightweight, waterproof, sand resistant and wont rub and damage your skin or clothing. If you place the bag on wet sand, your things will stay dry inside, and the pouches keep everything organised the way you want it.

If you like what you see, you can buy the bags and pouches from my Holiday Queen facebook page. I shall be introducing new products as I go along so keep in touch for further updates.

If you live in East London, they are also available from Sublime shop in Victoria Park and Clerkenwell.

Thanks so much to the lovely Kirsty Gallacher for modelling both sizes of bags - orange/blue large and yellow/black medium

Monday, 22 May 2017

Almost time to hit the beach again!

HQ has had a busy month since the trip to Dubai ... it's now only just over a month till the next holiday with the girls to Mykonos island in the Mediterranean Sea.

As a child I travelled to many places with my family but I had no appreciation for it - it was just another place to play as far as I was concerned. It must have made a subliminal impression on me though. As a young adult I yearned to travel and I created a bucket list in my mind of all the places I wanted to go (without the family) and the Greek Islands were high on my list. I have since visited many of them but never Mykonos so I am really excited to finally be going.

The day job has taken up a big chunk of my time and it has flown by. In between it and my few days off, I have been quietly working on a new project specially for the Holiday Queen brand and all will be revealed very soon! I am so thrilled and can't wait to share it with you.

Please check back soon for details and follow my Instagram account @holidayqueenuk or Facebook page Holiday Queen

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Arabian days and nights in April

A few years ago I had no interest in visiting Dubai. Everything I had heard about it sounded a bit too ostentatious and fake .. a Las Vegas style oasis in the desert (without the gambling of course) with access to every conceivable thing on the planet. It's amazing how wrong one can be and goes to prove that you have to see for yourself! Yes, granted you can do almost anything there including snow skiing (indoors of course). It may not be everyone's cup of tea but it is so much more than that for me. I've heard that some people assume because it's a relatively new city that it's an unreal lifestyle, but life here is like any other city in the world and it seems to work quite nicely.

Every time I visit I learn more about it and like it even more. It is a vibrant city with good roads, a metro and a new tram system making everything easily accessible. Cabs are relatively cheap too. 

As a woman, you can safely travel to Dubai alone. If you have any doubts, read this link from Lonely Planet .. it should put your mind at ease. It's also a popular destination for families with children because it's safe and there's plenty to do as many hotels have kids clubs - just be aware that high summer will be too hot! There are a multitude of places to eat so there's something for everyone.

I spent 5 full days here this time and stayed at an apartment in the Marina with stunning views from the 33rd floor. There is a mosque nearby and 5 times a day you can hear the call to prayer. It's a surprisingly beautiful sound filling the air above the din of traffic and the hum of the city. It's a reminder of where you are.

A few minutes walk away from the Marina is JBR - Jumeirah Beach Residence. It's a busy area with shops and restaurants with many overlooking the beach. There's so much on offer so check the link for an up to date itinerary.
Food market in City Walk

I've been to Dubai a few times so did not feel the need to visit the big shopping malls again, but instead went to the new Dubai City Walk. It's a new development with shops, restaurants, a cinema, kids activities and entertainment and near to the also new Box Park. It's a little different in appearance to the Box Park that we know in London. This one is spread out in separate units along the main road and includes a cinema (shown left) - it reminded me a little of Los Angeles.

The temperature can be quite high at this time of year. Most days were over 35C and one day at 39C so my friends and I decided to do a little boat trip around the Marina. The boats were air conditioned and it was a lovely way to pass an hour or so outdoors with great views of the surrounding buildings and moorings. There are so many different options though and I'll leave you with Trip Advisor's recommendations so you can get an idea of what's on offer.

For views of the city day or night, the most popular place is the Burj Khalifa which I had the pleasure of going to on my first visit to Dubai. There are also a few roof top bars to see the cityscape. One such place I went to this time was 40 Kong on the 40th floor of the H Hotel. They serve delicious food and cocktails in a stylish outdoor setting with cool sounds from a resident DJ.

Another great restaurant find was Tom & Serg where we went for a late breakfast on Saturday. There is often a queue but we were lucky to get a table straight away. The place has an industrial feel with the bustle indicative of a successful business. The food was amazing and the coffee outstanding. I had Turkish eggs - poached free range eggs, almond dukkha butter, smoked chilli flakes, confit peppers, cherry tomatoes, sumac yoghurt and toasted sour dough bread. Simply yummy!! If I lived here I know it would become a favourite haunt. 

Artwork by Ben Eine

Something else I noticed on my trip this time - the addition of street art appearing by notable artists. If you love art as I do it's great to see these murals popping up in various locations around Dubai.

I'm already looking forward to my next trip. There's so much more to discover and experience. If you're travelling to the far east or Australia it's well worth a stopover for a couple of days to break up your journey and grab a little taste of the Middle East.

Other foodie places we liked -

Catch 22 - Seafood and burgers - The Beach Mall, JBR

Eggspectation - Breakfast, lunch and dinner - The Beach, JBR

Al Hamidieh - Middle Eastern - Dubai Marina

QD's - bbq, pizza, shisha - Dubai Creek (views of downtown including Burj Khalifa)

Serendipity - Dubai City Walk (a favourite in New York City)

All photos of my travels, work and play are on Instagram @holidayqueenuk 

HQ flew with British Airways

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 ... 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. 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!