Well this is an overdue blog post if I ever did write one! A couple months ago myself and my lovely mother took a trip down to Solihull as I was invited to review* the new (well, not so new now) afternoon tea at the Village Hotel. Spending an hour or so chatting over a good cuppa and munching on miniature cakes is one of my favourite past times, this however was an afternoon tea with a twist...



The afternoon tea is actually inspired by Great British Bake off winner Candice Brown. Now I'll come clean, I've never watched bake off, nope not even once, so fans of the show might find that more interesting than me - I'm just here for the tea and cakes let's be honest.

So what's on the menu? As with all great afternoon teas you should expect lot's of tea (or coffee) and cakes. As I said however, this is no regular afternoon tea so you'll also be treated to bite sized quiches, teeny tiny egg mayo rolls, and some kind of prawn cocktail creation on a cracker, instead of the usual finger sandwiches. Now I'm not a fan of seafood so I didn't touch the prawn creation or the salmon quiche but I was told that alternatives are available for fussy eaters like myself. My mother and loyal afternoon tea taster did enjoy the little fishy foods however and reported back to me that they were in fact quite tasty. I'll take your word on that one mom.



Along with the little savoury snacks we were also presented with rocky road style cakes, miniature rhubarb & custard profiteroles, and posh cornflake cakes of all things. The cornflake cakes actually took me a bit by surprise as they are something you usually make with 5 year old and not something you would ideally serve up to paying customers, however it was more than your bog standard cornflake cake. The cake had a soft base, similar to that of a cherry bakewell and was filled with a sweet lemon filling, the cornflakes themselves were then topped with coconut which might seem like a ctrange combo but funnily enough it all worked really quite well together.

So what's after the cakes? Scones of course (or scoooones if you're posh). To mother and I the scones really are the make and break of an afternoon tea. Give us a good jam & cream scone and you're onto a winner. Give us a bad one, or one with, god forbid, butter and you're straight into our bad books. So did this this afternoon make our naughty or nice list? Well I'm still slightly undecided. The scones included in the Village Hotels afternoon tea were actually chocolate orange flavoured so they were pretty much written off straight away by my mom. If it's not broke why fix it right? Well I would be inclined to agree with her but I did actually quite enjoy these funny little citrus scones and although they aren't necessarily what I would chose, they were still pretty decent.


So what was my opinion of the whole thing? Well it was a different afternoon tea experience I'll give it that, but it wasn't too different, and actually it was nice to spice it up a little bit. The platter comes in at £17.50 per person which isn't too pricey for a 4 star hotel restaurant, but it probably is a little more than I would usually spend on an afternoon tea if I'm honest. All in all it was pretty damn decent and I enjoyed trying out an afternoon tea with a little bit of twist.



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* Our afternoon tea was complimentary however all opinions are my own!


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THE SOLIHULL AFTERNOON TEA WITH A TWIST*

It's no secret that spend a good chunk of my time travelling the world. Every chance I get I jet off somewhere new and exciting. I travel so much that I seem to get asked the same questions over and over again, so why not just do a Q&A I thought? I asked you guys to ask me anything about travelling and you delivered.

Disneyland Paris, France

So here are your questions answered...


What was your best holiday ever? - This is an impossible question. I've seen so many beautiful places and met so many incredible people that I can't possibly narrow it down to just one trip. I think the most memorable was when I went travelling for 3 weeks around Europe though. All I've ever wanted to do since I was young was see the world and that's as close to proper travelling as I've ever been before! In just under 3 weeks I visited 6 countries and 7 cities. It's a trip I will never forget.

Where will you be travelling next? - So I actually have a trip planned to Dublin in a few days! It's somewhere I've been a couple of times before but I don't think I could ever get bored of it. My plans for this break are; Jameson's Whiskey Distillery, Dublin Castle, and of course I'll be sinking a few pints around Temple Bar too! If anyone has some less touristy recommendations for the capital of the Emerald Isle, I'm all ears! 

Famous Grouse Experience, Glenturret, Scotland

Where is the best place for a female solo holiday? - Okay so I'm biased because it was my first solo holiday but Belfast is perfect for girls travelling from the UK. Its cheap, its close, and they speak English which is a bonus. If you're a bit nervous about your first solo trip I would definitely recommend travelling somewhere you can speak the local language. I've written a whole post on tips for solo female travellers which you guys might find helpful.

Where is good to go for a cheap city break? - As a general rule eastern Europe is always a good shout when it comes to affordable city breaks. Poland in particular is extremely reasonable for British tourists. If I had to pick one place though I would recommend Gdansk. Situated in the north of Poland its a beautiful little city, with lots to do, and can be visited at any time of year. Here are 10 things I would recommend doing in Gdansk.

Falls of Dochart, Killin, Scotland

Is Birmingham good for a holiday? - Ha I couldn't tell if this was a joke or not but I'm going to say yes. In case you didn't know Birmingham is my bustling home town which is only getting better with age. Shopping, drinking, sport, art, we have it all here. I reckon tourists could easily have a packed out weekend of fun in the second city.

What camera do you take travelling? - My photographs are generally a mix between my IPhone camera and my Canon G5X, more often than not they will be taken with this pocket sized point and shoot though.

Which is your favourite UK city? - This is really tricky because we have so many great cities across the UK but I would have to say Bristol. It's a city I'm still yet to really explore but I've been a good few times now and I always find something new to do. Bristol is a quirky little place with a great atmosphere and lots of history, I'd take a day trip here in a heartbeat!

Shrewsbury, England

Are you scared of flying? - Not at all. I've been a nervous flyer in the past but I'm honestly just more excited than anything when I board a plane. I could spend hours looking out of a plane window and I would probably even fight my own nan for the window seat.

Where is your number 1 recommended destination? - Another impossible question, so I'll split it into 3 parts. For a short city break I would recommend Amsterdam. Amsterdam has a great mix of history, nightlife, and culture, all whilst being around an hour away from most UK cities. For a beach holiday I would recommend Bodrum in Turkey. Again it's got the culture and nightlife as well as some cracking beaches and boat trips close by! For a first time girls/ lads holiday I would recommend Salou in Spain. Its where I had my first girls break and it was SO much fun. The bars were great, the beaches were gorgeous, and you have a lot of touristy things nearby. It's also pretty close to Barcelona so you can take a day trip in.

London Eye, London, England

Any tips for first time flyers? - Honestly? Just enjoy the experience, flying is the safest form of transport afterall. If you are really struggling with the thought of getting on a plan a little alcoholic beverage wont hurt but be warned, it's very easy to get drunk on a plane due to the high altitude. The last thing you want to do is be sick in the cabin, so take it easy. Talk to your doctor before you fly if needed as they might be able to recommend other medication that will ease your nerves. It's also a good idea to have a book or magazine to keep you occupied especially if you are going to be in the sky for a while. I also make myself a banging holiday playlist before each trip I take so I have some great tunes to listen to on the flight over! I actually have a whole blog post on keeping busy on long journeys which you can find here.

Where was the first place you went on a plane? - The first place I went on a plane was actually Lanzarote in the Canary Islands but I was 4 and I don't remember it at all. After that I didn't get on a plane again until I was 15 when I went to Crete for 2 weeks with my Aunt and Uncle. I will remember that trip forever and actually believe it's partially where my love for travel comes from! You can read more about that here!

Thank you to everyone who submitted questions over on Twitter and Instagram! I absolutely love answering questions about my travels and I'll be happy to give anyone recommendations about any of the places I've visited.

So now that I've answered all of my travel questions I have one for you. If you could recommend one destination, anywhere in the world, where would you choose?

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ASK ME ANYTHING - TRAVEL Q&A

Solo travel, scary right? Well it doesn't have to be. It's understandable that travellers, female travellers in particular, might be a bit wary jetting off alone, after all doing anything on your own can be a little nerve wracking.


With this handy guide hopefully you can reduce the risk of coming across any problems on your trips and put your mind at ease. So here are my top tips for female solo travellers...



Be aware of your surroundings - A pretty obvious one really but one that's easily forgotten when the holiday mood takes over. Always be aware of where you are, who you are with, and who might me lurking. Along the same sort of lines, you should never let on that you are lost or unsure of where you are, don't make yourself look vulnerable. I've always been told to walk with purpose and confidence when alone and it's served me well so far.

Share your location - Always keep your friends and family in the loop about your plans. When I travel alone I always ring or text my mom in the morning to let her know what I'll be up to. Having a chat keeps the loneliness at bay and also gives her an idea of my location. I also share my exact location with my friends using my phone, a feature I think most modern mobiles now have. I would highly recommend leaving this switched on continuously if you're in a country where you can use your data, and if not, switch it on whenever you connect to wifi. Now I know what you're thinking 'but that with zap the life out of my battery!' which brings me on to my next point.

Take a battery pack - I know they can be bulky, and heavy, and just a little annoying when travelling but believe me nothing is worse than being alone, needing your phone, and realising its dead. Chances are you won't need it for an emergency but it's nice to have even if you're feeling a little lonely at the dinner table.


Take a small tripod - Not a safety tip! Well unless you use it as a weapon to protect yourself from potential attackers but that's not something I would recommend. I would recommend however, using it to take cute photos of yourself when you don't feel like asking people/ there's no-one around. I've taken my little gorrillapod on all of my solo trips so far and it's come in very bloody handy!

Don't drink excessively - I know I know, everyone likes a little bev on their holidays and there is nothing wrong with having a couple of drinks, but when you're travelling alone you don't want to make yourself vulnerable and excessive drinking will do just that. Thinking along the same sort of lines, never leave your drink or accept a drink from someone if you didn't see it being made. 

Dress appropriately - I'm not one for telling women to cover up ever, but in certain countries, showing excess skin or wearing inappropriate clothing could get you in big trouble. You would think that by now women shouldn't have to second guess their clothing choices but unfortunately in some places that's still the reality. 


Join free walking tours - More of a general travel tip than one targeted specifically and solo female travellers but one I live by. Joining a free walking tour at the star of your trip is a great way to see the sights on a budget, get to grips with your surroundings, and make friends! I'll often go on to have food or drinks with people I've met on these tours and we will probably be lifelong facebook friends too ha!

Do your research - Have a rough itinerary planned before you go. It would be unreasonable to plan every minute of your trip but it's a good idea to have a list of things planned so you don't get bored. It's also worth getting an idea of the routes you might have to take to on your solo trip. 

Trust your gut - It sounds cliche but if something doesn't feel right pay attention. If you're in a dodgy area, or someone's looking at you a little off, leave. You're instinct is usually right. 

Split your money - I know most people are moving on to using travel cards now but if you're like me and take cold hard cash on your travels it's always worth splitting. Leave half in your safe at the hotel and take the other out with you. If the worst was to happen and your purse was lost or stolen at least you would have something to survive on. 


Stick to crowded areas especially at night - They say there is safety in numbers and my biggest tip for solo travellers, female or not, would be to stay with the crowds, especially at night. If you've read my solo travel nightmare you'll know that I ended up in a rather uncomfortable situation on an empty street late at night and although nothing happened, it's an experience I'll never forget.

Chat to locals - Now I don't want all my tips to be doom and gloom because that's not what travel is about! Make the most of your trip and meet new people. Talk to the locals, pick their brains about where to eat and what to see. I'd like to think I'm pretty good at this by now and I can safely say that I've got friends and acquaintances all over Europe!

Get your Bumble on - Not quite confident enough to strike up a convo with a stranger in the pub? Well there's always Bumble. Bumble started as a dating app but also has a bbf section (for making friends) and a business section (for networking). Whilst I'm quite happy to chat to away to people I've only just met I have used Bumble a couple of times on my solo trips to go for drinks with locals. As you should when meeting people in your own city, always tell a friend where you're going, and don't be afraid to leave if you feel uncomfortable at any point.

Learn key phrases - Going somewhere english isn't the official language? Don't panic. Learning a few phrases will really benefit you when solo travelling, and there is no excuse when you can literally google everything on your phone now days. Knowing the basics like, please, thank you, good morning etc. will help your trip go so much smoother and the locals usually appreciate the effort too.

So those were my top tips for female solo travellers, now get out there, have an amazing time, and most importantly stay safe!



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TOP TIPS FOR FEMALE SOLO TRAVELERS


I have got the summertime sadness bad. I'm home, it's raining, and my summer holiday is well and truly in the past. How gutting is that? I would honestly give my left arm to be back exploring in the spanish sun but instead I'm sat on my sofa binge watching love island and editing blog photos. Welcome back to reality.

So let's have a little chat about these snappy snaps shall we?
Spain was HOT, like really hot. I mean obviously because it's Spain, but I was super toasty all week which meant one thing, I dressed for comfort. I'm a big fan of comfort dressing as it is to be totally honest, but when you're walking around in 30 degree heat and your whole body is sweating the last thing you want is to be wearing clingy clothes. Enter the midi skirt.


Now I've always loved the look of midi skirts on others but they're not usually something I would reach for when out shopping. There's two reasons for that. The first is that I didn't really think they would suit me. As a bigger girl I guess I always thought that I should wear flattering clothes, I should wear clothes that slim me down or reveal a good chunk of leg. I think I just thought midi skirts would make me look larger than I was and they aren't sexy either really are they? As a chunky girl you are told by the media that you don't matter unless you're a sexy fat, unless you're a desirable fat, but you know what? Fuck that. I love this skirt and I look cute in it. 

The other reason I've avoided midi skirts is the chub rub. Come on girls you know what I'm talking about. The pain and embarrassment you feel when the top of your thighs rub each other red raw. I've been there many a time. Now in the UK it's usually mild enough to wack on a pair of nude tight and that mostly does the trick. But in the mediterranean wearing tights in that heat is just asking for trouble, so I usually consign myself to playsuits. That was until I discovered anti-chafe shorts.



I guess these have been around for a little while now, but I've clearly been living under a rock because I've only just managed to get my hands on a couple of pairs. The anti-chafe shorts that I'm wearing were kindly gifted from the Big Bloomers Company who do several different style of shorts. I received the Aztec Slip Shorts which retail at £15.95 and come in 6 different colours. 

The shorts are short enough that you can still wear high skirts and dresses, but low enough that they cover a good area of chafable (??? is that a word?) skin. They're also high waisted which is perfect for me as I find them more comfortable. I did find that I had to readjust the shorts every now and then as they did ride up slightly but I imagine any other similar products would do exactly the same unless they were held in place somehow. I did also find that the aztec pattern could ladder slightly if you aren't careful when pulling them up. This isn't a massive problem though, it just means you have to be a little more cautious when wearing the shorts. 


The shorts are designed so that you care wear them as underwear if you wish but honestly I just wore them over my pants as I only wanted to take one pair on holiday with me. They're also really easy to wash and dry as the material is fairy thin and lightweight which means they dried in no time. I ended up wearing them a fair bit on my week away and they even inspired me to purchase a second midi skirt while I was on holiday as I was enjoying just how comfortable the shorts/ skirt combo was in the heat. 

It's safe to say that one of my biggest summer concerns has been well and truly solved by a pair of stretchy shorts. Now if we could just solve the small issue of the fucking horrendous British weather that would be fab!

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* The aztec anti-chafe shorts were kindly gifted to me in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own and I would never promote anything I didn't 100% believe in.

OUTFIT | STOPPING THE 'CHUB RUB' THIS SUMMER*

Over the years I have fallen into the usual trap of visiting London, Amsterdam, Paris ect. They are all great cities in their own rights but my god are they big! They are big and busy and full of annoying tourists. 

Whilst larger cities definitely have their benefits, lately I have made more of an effort to visit some of the smaller underrated cities of Europe, and I've not looked back. I've been thoroughly enjoying exploring lesser known places over recently and I think you should give it a go too.


No hustle and bustle


How many times have you queued hours to see a major tourist attraction just for it to be brimming with others doing the same? I waited almost 2 hours to get into the Louvre one summer just to be squeezed into packed room to see the Mona Lisa for 5 minutes. Although I was thrilled to be metres from one of the most famous paintings of all time, I could have done so much more with my time. Smaller cities usually won't be rammed with tourists, which means not only will you have a more relaxed break, you'll probably have more time to do fun things by avoiding the queues.


Smaller city smaller prices


I'm sure it's not the case with all little towns but from my experience, you can make your holiday so much cheaper by visiting a less popular city. Not only can the flight prices be a lot lower, but the hotels will be too. I've also noticed that restaurants cater more to the locals so you won't find as many high priced tourist traps.

Be the hipster tourist


Everyone likes visiting unique places that none of their friends have seen before and by taking a small city break you are more likely to find the hidden gems that others won't. Instead of taking home a thousand photos of the Eiffel Tower or Barcelona's Magic Fountain, you'll have seen the more unusual sights that little towns have to offer.

Culture and History


Sometimes a countries true culture can be lost in a bigger city. The things that make somewhere so unique can often be overshadowed by touristy things you 'have to do'. Smaller places usually have less attractions and sometimes their historical buildings are still intact too. Lille for example has some beautiful Parisian style roads whilst also still having a labyrinth of winding medieval streets you could spend hours wandering around. Although Paris is undeniably beautiful, so much of its history has been knocked down and replaced by identical buildings.


Walking


You must know by now that I love a good free walking tour. They are a fab, budget friendly way to see a new city, but they don't tend to exist in the big cities. There are two reasons for this, one is that the tour companies that operate in major cities don't like it and other is that they are simply too big to walk around. Which brings me onto another point, no public transport. I dislike public transport at the best of times and when I'm in a new place it can all just get a bit confusing. However in small cities you can usually get away with just walking from place to place which means not only are you saving more money but you will get to see parts of the city that you would miss being stuck on a bus.


The people are great


I don't know about you but I find the people in smaller towns and cities to be a lot more friendly. I'm not sure why but I find the people in major cities just don't have the time of day for you, and some can even be quite rude. I'm not sure I've ever felt this way in a little town, maybe they are just happy to have your custom? I don't know, but the people I've met in smaller places are some of the friendliest I've come across. Sometimes there can be slight language barriers in less touristy areas but that just means you have to try harder to learn their language which I don't think is a bad thing at all!

So those are the reasons I think you should book a small city break soon! There are some great little places out there, you just need to find them.

Do you have a favourite city? Big or small I'm always looking for recommendations!

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WHY YOU NEED TO TAKE A SMALL CITY BREAK

I arrived to my appointment early. I guess I wanted a bit of time to calm my nerves. I wasn't really worried about my smear test, after all there's not much of my body a doctor hasn't seen before, but it was new to me so I was understandably apprehensive.


I'd heard horror stories of cervixes being scratched so severely they bled profusely and of speculums (the instrument inserted into the vagina to allow the nurse to see the cervix) being forced in with a great amount of pain. I'll admit I did think about worst case scenarios as I sat in the waiting room but I rationalised with myself that they must be incredibly rare. After what seemed an age, my name was called and off I walked towards the nurse who was about to give my bits a good poke. The thought made me laugh actually.

As I took a seat in the consultation room the nurse asked if this was my first smear test, I told her it was. I'm not sure if she could tell I was nervous but she began to explain exactly what a cervical screening was, what it would involve, and what she would be looking for. She asked me a few various questions and then proceed to whip around the room picking up every piece of equipment she would soon be using.

Some of the bits I'd seen before and others I hadn't, but that didn't matter because she explained exactly what every item was and how it would be used. She didn't rush through anything and made me feel incredibly calm the whole time. Once I was all clued up the nurse allowed me to ask any questions I had before moving on to the main event.

I was then given time to undress my bottom half and cover myself with a large piece of paper towel. She didn't rush me during this time and waited patiently outside of the curtained off area around the bed I would soon be lying on. 

Once I told her I was ready she quickly showed me how best to position myself so that I would be comfortable and she could easily view my certix. She chatted away throughout the procedure and made me feel very at ease which I think helped the whole thing go a lot smoother. 

Inserting the speculum didn't hurt, having my cervix swabbed also didn't hurt (though it was a very strange feeling) and I didn't feel at all embarrassed about having my legs spread wide open either as my nurse was so calming and profesional. 

The whole procedure was over within about 3 minutes and I found myself on my way to work just 15 minutes after I initially stepped into the consultation room. 15 minutes was all it took to have a potentially life saving procedure, it's amazing really. 

Throughout the rest of the day I had some very light spotting, I would hardly even call it that but I've been told this was completely normal and nothing to worry about, after all I did just have my cervix scratched. Some doctors recommend keeping a panty liner handy however I didn't need one as the amount of blood was just so insignificant.

I'm still yet to have my results. I was told they can take anywhere from 2 - 6 weeks to come back but the time frame varies from area to area to its worth asking your nurse how long the wait is expected to be for you.

My first experience couldn't have been easier and I'm so glad I didn't put it off.


So what are my tips for your first smear?


  • Wear a dress or skirt, this means you can just pop off your knickers and lay on the bed with a bit of dignity. 


  • Relax as much as possible. I know it might be hard with a stranger looking at your fanny but the more relaxed you are the easier it will be for the nurse to insert the speculum meaning less chance of the procedure being painful.


  • Book an appointment for the middle of your cycle as this means a good sample of cervical cells can be taken. It's not recommended to have a smear test during your period.


  • Tell them its your first time. For me letting the nurse know this was my first smear test meant that she explained the whole procedure to me in depth which made me feel more comfortable with what was about to happen.


You can find more information about what happens during a cervical screening here.


Getting a smear test isn't the most fun thing you'll ever do but it is important.


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TIPS FOR YOUR FIRST SMEAR TEST & MY EXPERIENCE

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