Monthly Archives

March 2016

PLACES

Easter in Madrid

Madrid

For some inexplicable reason, I had never been to Spain. Real Spain I mean, not the Majorca tourist version I visited as a child. So himself and myself sought to end all that, and booked ourselves a flight to Madrid on Good Friday. Despite my fears that lots of places would be closed for Easter, Madrid was certainly open for business! We stayed at La Posada del Dragón, a gorgeous boutique hotel in La Latina district. Our room was compact, but with great design features such as a waterfall sink and twin head shower. The modern bathroom and toilet were somewhat open-plan with glass doors and walls (partially clouded where necessary). Now I know such a thing normally instils panic in your average female, but fret not, with a bit a strategic planning, and a reliable set of headphones for your fellow traveller, any unwanted displays or sound effects can be kept private. Breakfast was served in the hotel’s restaurant, La Antonita, and offered an excellent selection of high-quality local and home-made products. And, big plus for moi, freshly squeezed orange juice made to order! Having read previous reviews, we made sure to get a room not facing out onto the street, which is advisable as the hotel is located on a busy street filled with lots of restaurants and bars, but that makes it all the more desirable.

Room at the Posada del Dragon

There are so many things to see and do in Madrid, it’s impossible to squeeze it all in on a short trip, especially with so much eating and post-eating recovery to be done. With any city, I always recommend doing a open-top bus tour first. It may be über-touristy, but it’s the best way to get a feel for the lay of the land, and identify spots to be re-visited later. I tend to do the complete route in one go – none of that hop-on, hop-off malarkey, thanks!

Prado Museum, Madrid

MUSEUMS
The museum for which Madrid is most famous, is undoubtedly the Prado. Considered to be one of the world’s greatest art museums, it houses around 7,600 paintings, 1,000 sculptures, 4,800 prints, and 8,200 drawings, so don’t expect to do a lap in 30 minutes! Admission is 14 yo-yos, but as with other attractions in Madrid, it is highly recommended to buy tickets online beforehand, as queues can be Amazonian in nature. Alternatively, go between 6 and 8pm, on Monday-Saturday and it’s free! If you want to go into arty overload, Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, are all within close walking distance and feature works from the art world’s headline acts.

If you fancy a bit of grandeur, and who doesn’t, make sure to visit the Palacio Real. Although rarely used by the royal family anymore, many of its rooms are open to wander around and gawk at its soaring ceilings, tapestries, frescoes, and countless gold chandeliers. We’re talking serious lighting fixtures here! In addition to the palace, the Royal Armoury situated in the palace courtyard hosts an impressive collection of ceremonial armour. I realise that description is unlikely to elicit a “must make a note of that” response, but trust me, it’s really worth a visit, and, unsurprisingly, himself absolutely loved it. Entrance to the palace is a very worthwhile 11 euros.

Parque del Retiro, Madrid

PARKS & RECREATION (ok, just parks)
I love a nice park, so I do. And Madrid has more than fulfilled the brief on this one. Little factoid for you: Madrid is the European city with the highest number of trees and green surface per inhabitant. Not bad, eh? The two main parks of interest are Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid, an 8 hectare botanical garden situated next to the Prado, and Madrid’s largest park, Parque del Retiro, practically down the road. This stunning park is an absolute must-see, filled with a myriad of sculptures, monuments, and a beautiful rowing lake. But best of all, is to soak up the atmosphere. This park is very much alive and bustling with locals and tourists alike, taking advantage of the beautiful and relaxed surroundings in the heart of the city.

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid
FOOD!!!!!!!
I won’t lie, one of our top priorities on this holiday, actually any holiday, is the consumption of vast quantities of fabulous food. And in Madrid, ’tis fair to say, the mission was accomplished! The list of eating possibilities in Madrid is endless. A particular highlight though, is the Mercado de San Miguel, a 100 year old iron-pillared indoor food market, restored and reopened 7 years ago. Situated beside the central Plaza Mayor, the Mercado is a veritable gourmet tapas market, with over 30 different vendors offering a mouthwatering selection of hams, seafood, olives, cheese, and cakes. Oh, and Sangria, lots of lovely Sangria! (As I write, I’m actually salivating as I recollect the creamy burrata from the Mozzarella stand, and the crispy fried octopus, and…). The market is open until midnight Sun-Wed, and until 2am Thurs-Sat, so time is not a constraint on the amount of face-stuffing to be enjoyed. Other worthy mentions for calorie consumption are the Mercado San Antón, El Tempranillo, and Casa Lucio. The latter being a well-known Madrid institution which has hosted the likes of Bill Clinton, Penelope Cruz, Kofi Annan, and of course, my humble self!

Ham Shop, Madrid

So if you have a long weekend to spare, book yourself a cheap flight, and explore this beautiful and wonderfully vibrant city. Your weighing scales might not thank you for it, but your bucket list certainly will!

FASHION

Frill Seeking

Frilling Fashion

What’s the first word that comes into your head when you hear the word frilly? Sorry, what was that, I didn’t quite catch that. Knickers, did you say? Yes, indeedy. Think frilly, think knickers! Well this season, frills are all over the place. Seen on the catwalks of the Gucci, Fendi, and Cavalli fashion shows, granny frills are making a comeback. Now, before you start getting all frill-seeking, beware! Going all-out frilly is a high-risk strategy. Keep it clean, don’t, I repeat don’t, go for the full frilling experience. Toilet roll cover is not the look we’re going for. Frills will create bulk, so wear it with plain trousers, or a straight skirt, and keep accessories simple. The frill may be back, but remember, you can have too much of a good thing!

ITEMS SHOWN:

White ruffle top, Topshop
White floral print frilly skirt, River Island
Navy frill dress by Rare, Topshop
Blue Frill Swimsuit, Penneys (in stores only)
Public Desire Tara Grey Ruffle Heeled Sandals, ASOS

FOOD NEWS PLACES

St. Patrick’s Festival Foodie Events

St. Patricks Day Foodie Festivals

St. Patrick’s Day has come on from the old days when it is was just a convoy of floats from various alarm companies and supermarkets with their chosen (and frozen) employees waving to the bewildered public. Now, it has upped the steroids to Tour-de-France levels,  stirring up every molecule of national pride into a frenzy, and bringing much-needed tourism yo-yos into the national coffers. It is quite simply epic! So celebrate what’s good about our fair land and take part in some of the foodie events happening this week in the capital:

DUBLIN BAY PRAWN FESTIVAL, HOWTH

Howth Dublin Bay Prawn Festival
Running six years now, this extremely popular festival in Howth has been moved forward to Friday, the 18th to Sunday the 20th, to coincide with the St. Patrick’s festival. Howth’s best restaurants and bars all serve up an array of delicious seafood in a variety of different ways to suit every palate. There will also be cooking demos, street entertainment, amusements, and fireworks. If you’re not a fan of seafood, you can always pick up some delicious nibbles at the farmer’s market on Saturday and Sunday, and just soak up the fabulous atmosphere. For more information, visit their website dublinbayprawnfestival.ie/


THE IRISH BREAKFAST: AFTERNOON TALKS

Irish Breakfast Talks
Learn about the past, present, and future of Irish breakfasts. Find out what goes into black pudding, and learn about the tradition of smoking fish. This afternoon of talks and tastings takes place from 12-3pm on Saturday, March 19th 63 Merrion Square, home to The Royal Society of Antiquaries. There will also be a mini market in one of the drawing rooms with products from Alchemy Juice, Broughgammon Farm, Arun Bakery, McNally Family Farm and Burren Smokehouse. Tickets cost €15 and are available from stpatricksfestival.ie

IRISH CRAFT BEER & WHISKEY VILLAGE

Irish Craft Beer & Whiskey Festival
This festival has actually been running for five years and is a true celebration of beer, cider, whiskey, artisan food and live music. Housed indoors in the RDS, you don’t have to worry about the weather  The festival runs from Wednesday, the 16th to Saturday, the 19th and is open until 11pm weekdays, and 11.30 on Friday and Saturday. Tickets cost €10 which includes, wait for it, a festival pint glass! Tickets are available at the door on online from irishbeerandwhiskeyfestival.com

GUINNESS STOREHOUSE

Guinness Storehouse
Or why not take a trip to the home of the black stuff? Trust me, this is well worth the trip and the entrance fee, and no better time to go than this week! The Storehouse festival runs from 09.30-18.00 between the 16th to the 20th. There’ll be marching bands, céili dancers, and live music from Na Fìanna. In addition to the usual samplings of Guinness brews, there will be complimentary tastings of Guinness infused food. The views over Dublin from the Gravity Bar are worth the trip alone. Tickets can be bought at the storehouse or online from guinness-storehouse.com

 

FASHION

Fashion Inspiration | The Wearing of the Green

St. Patrick's Day Fashion Ideas

So it’s that time of year again, when we get to show the world just how great we are. Such is our greatness, we even have our own colour! But just because it’s St. Patrick’s Day on Thursday, it doesn’t mean you have to deck yourself out in the Carroll’s Spring/Summer 16 collection! Whether you want to go all out, or add just a touch of green, get some inspiration for your Paddy’s Day look with some of these gorgeous sartorial picks in the many shades of green:

LASER CUT MINI-SKIRT BY JOVANNA, TOPSHOP €60.00
Topshop Laser Cut Skirt
AZUNI LONDON GREEN ONYX DROP EARRINGS €45.00Azuni Green Onyx Earrings from Aquaruby.comRIVER ISLAND CREW NECK SPLIT SLEEVE T-SHIRT €25.00River Island Split Sleeve TopTOPSHOP WRAP FRONT BODYCON DRESS €32.00

Topshop Bodycon Dress

RIVER ISLAND GREEN SATCHEL POMPOM BAG €33.00

River Island PomPom Bag

 

 

FOOD NEWS HEALTH

Mythbusting | Warm Water & Lemon

Warm water and lemon

So I’m sure all of you have, at some stage, heard of the wonders of drinking hot water and lemon in the morning. In the age of Facebook, the popularity of such fads increases exponentially, so that it soon becomes, or at least appears to be, sound scientific fact. Further endorsements by celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston and Claudia Schiffer, go a long way to giving it some extra clout.  So with that in mind, this little guinea pig decided to give this fad a go for the month of February and see if there was anything behind it all. So what benefits did I have to look forward to?

  1. Improved Digestion: This is based on the idea that the citric acid in lemon juice contributes to supporting an optimal acidic environment in the stomach. In addition, lemons are high in minerals and vitamins and help loosen toxins in the digestive tract.
  2. Clear Skin: The vitamin C contained within lemon helps decrease wrinkles and blemishes. Furthermore, because of its antiseptic qualities, it helps the skin purify itself from the inside out.
  3. Improved immune system. Due to the anti-bacterial and high vitamin C content of lemons, it helps build up your immune system and fight off colds and illness.
  4. Energising and mood enhancing. By not drinking caffeine-rich drinks such as tea or coffee in the morning which cause energy levels to crash mid-morning , warm water and lemon should help you feel energised and awake. This is facilitated further by the alleged mood-enhancing effects of lemon scent.
  5. Aids weight loss. Because of the pectin fibres contained in lemons, food cravings are said to be reduced.

So what was the result? Ehhhh, not quite sure. There were no tangible differences to the ‘aul digestion, perhaps a few extra toilet visits each day, which proponents would put down to the diuretic qualities of lemon. A bit tedious maybe, but just think of all those toxins flushing down the toilet! In terms of weight loss and clear skin – oh, how we laughed! The amount of vitamin C contained in your morning cuppa is by far too low to have any tangible impact. A lemon isn’t even the favourite child of the Vitamin C family – peaches, kiwis and blackcurrants all have more! And what about the mood enhancing? Well, nothing says “happy days” more than a mug of hot water compared to a frothy caffé latte, now does it. But hey, at least there was no mid-morning slump.

At this stage you’re probably thinking, well no more lemons for cynical Cindy here. And you’d be wrong. Apparently, it takes about 21 days to form a new habit, so this new habit has been formed and I’m in it for the long haul. Hey who knows, maybe I have the cleanest digestive tract in the northern hemisphere!

 

 

 

 

BEAUTY

The Budget Mascara You Shouldn’t be Without

Rimmel Day2Night Mascara

I think everyone can agree about the impact a great mascara can have in terms of the general “awakeness” of your face. Like most of you, I’ve tried tons at all stages of the budget spectrum. Some, such as YSL Faux Cils were amazing for the first week or so, but then somehow the law of diminishing returns kicks in, and they become rather average. Preparing for a night out, and unable to find my existing Benefit mascara, I booted up to the nearest chemist, and bought Rimmel’s Day2Night mascara having remembered hearing good things about it yonks ago. Day2Night has actually been around for about five years, but somehow managed to slip under my radar until now. But what can I say, I’m converted! The beauty of this mascara is that it gives you the option of extra volume or extra length with its schneaky little brush applicator, which is actually the same brush, although you will think it is two. As if by magic, it achieves both effects, and well! Needless to say if you want to up the ante, you can go for both – why hold back! Downsides? It is not available in a waterproof version. Having said that, it will easily last through the evening without the dreaded panda-eye effect. Also, if it’s only lengthening you’re after, you may be better served with mascaras aimed specifically at that purpose. However, for €9.99, I doubt very much, you’ll find a better mascara for the price!
Rimmel Day 2 Night Mascara