June 16, 2017

mountain hiking and wine tasting, barcelona

Last month, I had my first taste of the summer heat on a three night trip to Barcelona. My flight took a mere one hour thirty minutes to take me from dull and rainy England to a sun bathed Spain. I've visited Barcelona once before, in early 2015 on a trip with University and had a wonderful time (blog posts here and here) so couldn't wait to head back for more exploring. This time round was a blogger trip, and the focus was on showing us all of the sights outside of the city itself. 

Bright and early in the morning we headed out for a two hour trek down the side of the mountains. There were so many beautiful photo opportunity spots to take full advantage of along the way, even if it meant half hanging off a rock face, and we didn't spot another tourist on the entire walk. Seeing parts of a destination completely away from the tourist track really is the key to getting the unspoilt feel of a place.  

Early evening we headed to the Pares Balta owned vineyards to hear all about their organic (and vegan!) wines. I seem to have spent the majority of my 20's convinced that Pinot Grigio is the only wine for me, and that wine isn't wine unless it's from Italy or France. Two Cavas, one Rosé, two whites and two reds later, and I felt more than ready to give up my crutch of Pinot Grigio. I fell so in love with a white named Cosmic the I pledged to spend my night reshuffling my suitcase just to get a bottle home. At just €10 a pop it would have been foolish not to. 

Mildly tipsy on good wine and slightly hazy from a sunshine filled day, we pulled up to Hotel Mastinell. I've stayed in my fair share of swishy hotels over the past few years, but this one really was something special. The food was incredible as was the wine that's made by the hotel itself. I have it firmly set in my mind to book a longer stay in a few summer's time. 

If you're planning a trip to Barcelona any time soon, you absolutely must consider leaving the city behind for a day or two and discovering the rest of the region. The trip completely opened my eyes to taking a hop, skip and jump away from city life and embracing the more rural, traditional parts of a destination. 

April 26, 2017

the angel hotel, bury st edmunds

If any of you have had a read of my blog post on the Salthouse Harbour Hotel around this time last year, you'll have spotted the same copper bath in both posts. Both hotels are by the same brand, and share similar design, menus and service. 

I studied at college in Bury St Edmunds years ago, so I'm more than familiar with the town itself. I always like to go back for a visit to the Christmas market and for a chill out in the Abbey Gardens around spring/summer time. 

Back to the hotel. We stayed in their top of the range fancy pants contemporary suite, which is blessed with the biggest bathroom I've ever wandered into, with an oversized bath and shower to match. The bed is fit for a giant, and has the squishiest pillows, duvet and mattress ever made. Perfect to jump back into after overindulging on afternoon tea. 

The breakfast is of top quality but lacking in the option of a vegetarian sausage or some form of meat substitute. I no longer eat dairy or eggs so after passing mine over to my other half felt rather underwhelmed with what I had left. The croissants also arrived cold, which in a luxury hotel isn't what I'd hope for. 

If you're looking for a new town in a different county to explore, I'd definitely recommend giving The Angel a thought. There's an underground cocktail bar that serves a long list of drinks and makes for a fun evening, be it midweek or weekend. They also offer a wonderful afternoon tea if you're a fan of cake and loose leaf tea, I'd highly recommend opting for the vanilla green tea which I'm still craving as I write this. 


February 26, 2017

finding my way back to healthy living

With winter finally on its way out and my deposit just paid for a holiday to Croatia this summer, I figured it was prime time to snap out of hibernation mode and get back on a health kick. I'm now over six weeks into giving up dairy, and I walk past the cheese aisle without a second thought and have gone from being the biggest pizza addict of all time to having no interest in it. I've quit the gym that took me thirty minutes to drive to and cost almost £50 a month and instead I've joined one ten minutes away that's less than half the price. Although I loved being a member of a fancy gym once I was there, the distance and cost involved made me lose motivation to go most of the time. As the new one is right next to my local supermarket, I'll have no excuse not to make it in three times a week. 

As much as I want to look banging in a bikini when the time comes for laying around by the pool in August, my main reason for wanting to tone up and lose a few inches is for general fitness and wellbeing. I'd absolutely never advocate any sort of temporary diet that claims to shift weight in a short amount of time, I'm all for ditching the scales and focusing on building muscle and using tape measurements instead. The longer you allow yourself to slowly make a lifestyle change rather than monitoring calories, the more you'll still be able to enjoy healthy fats and the odd biscuit or two.

I've completely given up sugary drinks in favour of lemon infused water straight out of the fridge and filtered using my Brita water jug. I'm addicted to the crisp, zesty taste and always down a glass as soon as I wake up. My top tip is to drink lemon infused water with meals and follow up with a cup of green tea once you're finished to ensure your body is kept on top form.

The jug fits 1.4 litres, which makes racking up the daily recommend amount of 8 cups a breeze. The cartridges last around two months before needing to be replaced and it's equipped with a digital display to let you know once it needs to be changed. It gets a big thumbs up from me, and that's not just because it's gold and glittery.

Milo is never happier than when I'm on a fitness plan as it means longer walks in the countryside for him. Pups are most definitely the best kind of outdoor gym buddy. 

This post was sponsored by Brita. 

January 24, 2017

barbican conservatory

If you read my last post on my newly introduced spending ban, you'll know by now that I'm on a tight budget and after searching around for free things to do in the London, I opted for the promise of rooms full of succulents at Barbican Conservatory. It was a truly wet and miserable afternoon, which suited the grungy grey tones of Barbican perfectly, and after a wander round the estate I now have my eye on a handful of apartments that have all become property goals. 


Barbican conservatory is open every Sunday, and once you've found your way through the jungle of plants, there's plenty still left to do in the centre itself. If you're under 25, there's the option of signing up to young barbican for discounted access into exhibitions and films.

January 20, 2017

try out deliveroo or uber eats this weekend

Whilst staying in London last weekend, I finally got round to trying out Deliveroo for the first time. As my usual home is in rural Norfolk, there's no such luxury of being able to pick from a mass of restaurants to be delivered in lightening speed. 

I'm a big fan of how the stigma of takeaways always being calorie laden and greasy has now been altered with thanks to both Deliveroo and Uber Eats having healthy and nutritious options, my current favourite place to order from is Leon as I just can't get enough of their halloumi wrap. A few of my Islington based faves are Homeburger (you must try their peanut butter and jam pie scraper), Wenlock and Essex (sourdough pizzas, score!) and Tortilla. 

Deliveroo cover most cities in the UK, whereas Uber Eats deliver to major cities across the world. Depending on where you're at, Uber Eats seem to have around double the choice of places to order from than Deliveroo, so I'd definitely recommend giving them a go too. I tend to switch between apps depending on what I fancy at the time. 

DELIVEROO: £5 off your first order (or just sign up with a new account for each order) using the code: jessicart 

UBER EATS: £5 off your first and second orders using the code: thebeautyseries

This isn't a sponsored post but I receive a referral payment for everyone who orders from Deliveroo and who signs up to Uber Eats using my codes, kaching!

January 09, 2017

the 100 day challenge: dairy and spending

There's just something in the air of January that instills a craving for change and progression. Although posts like this come hand in hand with the potential of sounding cliché (new year, new me, ..vom) I see no harm in self-improvement and do an internal fist pump whenever I spot someone making moves at enhancing their lifestyle. 

As per usual, I've been over-indulgent in all ways imaginable over Christmas (and in fact, for all of December itself). I've whisked out my debit card whenever I lusted after the dress or pair of shoes that I'd usually turn down, and I've pigged out on endless amounts of crisps and dare I say it, white bread. All year round I'm a wholemeal girl, until December turns up and suddenly I sod all common sense. The same goes for all choices in general, I say "but it's Christmas!" over and over in my mind to rationalise all the ways I spoil myself, and bam I've piled on 5lbs and find myself delving into my forbidden overdraft. 

So here I am, a rather doughy looking and penniless version of my former self. I reached out for some advice on twitter for how to control an impulsive spending habit and Sophia got back to me with the 100 days challenge. My mind always works best with strict rules and guidelines, rather than having any risk of blurred lines and vague goals. I decided to not only use it for stopping to spend but also as a way of kickstarting healthy eating. I plan to write update posts with how I'm getting on every couple of weeks or so, hopefully a few of you will stay tuned and I'm not just writing away to an empty audience. 


- No impulsive/unnecessary purchases: You know the situation, you pop into Boots for a new razor and end up coming out with a glittery nail polish, a coffee face scrub, a new shade of lipstick and a contour palette. So long as I don't need it, (deodorant, shampoo, shower gel etc), for 100 days I will no longer be buying it. I'm quite happy to be forced to use up all of my old products before buying any new ones. This goes for no more late night Asos orders too. 


- Ban on all bottled drinks: A year or so ago, I completely phased out soft drinks from my diet. Instead, I now drink around two bottles of sparkling water per day, but would much rather opt for lemon infused water as it's much healthier and cuts down on plastic waste. 

- Not allowed to buy cheese, milk and butter to use at home: I've already been a vegetarian all of my life and have done endless research into dairy to have finally made the decision to slowly but surely cut it out of my life. I don't want to be too strict on myself to start off with, so if I'm stuck with options when I'm out and about, I won't be worrying too much but for at home I'm going to be as strict as possible. 

- No chinese takeaways: Luckily this one also counters my spending problems and will both free up some cash and shrink my waistline. I tend to indulge on weekly takeaways and instead want to reduce this to buying just one thai takeaway (not laden with msg as the chinese) per fortnight. 

(I had no idea what image to use for this post.. so thought I'd leave you with one of Milo gazing into the distance looking like the dog version of a wise old man)