Health & Well-being

Our Y-Spa wonder day!

It’s been quite a few months since I properly caught up with my good friend Helen and so we’ve had to make do instead with text messages that at times resemble mini essays. (Lucky we both enjoy writing them!). I’ve also had some important moments of reflection of late that I need more grounding and stillness in my life, to make some important life decisions and give myself more opportunity to focus on “being” rather than “doing”. Therefore, what could be better than spending a whole day of relaxation with a really good friend, to debrief and catch up on the twists and turns of life, than at a super lovely spa?

A wonderful blogger friend of mine (see http://thewanderingquinn.com/)  had recently attended Y-spa, located in the tranquil countryside of Bedfordshire, and the pictures of her and her mothers day there looked glorious. I was already sold, so Helen and I decided to check it out as an early birthday present for her. We had an online offer (which appear to be advertised fairly frequently) and only paid £86.00 for the 2 of us, for the whole day! With this, we of course had access to the swimming pool, steam/sauna rooms, relaxation rooms, and a gorgeous 2 course lunch included in the package. Literally the only thing we had to worry about was bringing the swimming costumes!

From London it’s actually very straight forward to get to, with a rail time of just over an hour and regular services from London Bridge and Kings Cross. Also aware that these trains stop at other places such as Finsbury Park, as it really helped me on my return journey, not realising that I could have made my outward journey at a much closer station! St Neots is the closest rail station that you should book your ticket to, and the spa is really only about a 10 minute drive from the station. I had some problems on my return journey where the St Neots rail staff had to put us in a taxi to another nearby station, but it appears that the staff are well versed at managing current rail issues, so this shouldn’t disrupt you too badly, just something to be aware of and make sure you check ahead.

The staff at the spa were super lovely, and on a special relaxation day that’s precisely what you need! On arrival we were greeted at reception to the complex by the lovely Emily, who directed us again to the Spa’s main desk. We were provided with a welcome drink and tour by Erika and were fully orientated on where to go. The spa is fairly compact, but having someone point out areas and explain how to get the most of your day is really helpful. By this point we were both delighted and rather keen to get into the steam rooms.  We were given bands to open all doors and access our individual lockers which are roomy. The spa of course provided slippers and a robe, and towels in abundance should you require them. Water fountains are everywhere, and when we were lounging on the fun waterbeds in the afternoon we both enjoyed a lovely complimentary mocktail brought around by one of the smiling staff. The only bits of information you need for the day are to remember your locker number and your time for lunch- literally what could be easier!

My favourite bits and why I’m definitely recommending you should visit!

-It’s so easy to get to from London, but far enough that you feel you’ve had a proper break away. Look to book your train tickets with as much notice as possible to cut down on ticket costs.

-The lovely staff. Service with a smile is definitely what you’ll receive at the spa. Even when checking out and paying for the additional drinks we had had during the day, we were warmly thanked by the supervisor at the desk and asked to come again. I watched the staff and their interactions with one another and they definitely came across as a very friendly and happy team- it makes a difference to the customer service you receive.

-The room called “The Big Sleep”! Ok so Helen and I selfishly loved this as we had this room to ourselves for about 40 minutes! Picture a darkly lit room with 6 beds decorated with scented pillows, cushions, and warm fuzzy blankets. Imagine soft plush carpet under your feet, gorgeously scented Neom candles and diffusers and an atmospheric (unlit) fire as a centre piece flickering away. It was bliss!

-The pool which is always warm and provides super powerful jets should you want a bit of a shoulder and neck massage as we did!

-The gorgeous food and the good choice available! The food was fresh, colourful and included healthy and delicious options. I’m a big foodie and you won’t be disappointed. There are veggie options considered and a good range. Especially lovely were the desserts; plenty to choose from

-It isn’t overcrowded. Granted, we went on a Thursday and so I haven’t experienced the spa at weekends, but we never felt like we were on top of anyone, or anyone on us! We had space to talk and properly catch up, and that was so so valuable for us.

-The setting. So important. At Y-Spa feel like you’ve stepped away from it all, which is precisely what you need on a spa day. The premises was ++ clean and tidy, with very modern and shiny facilities. It was beautiful. The lunch room overlooks the lake and has picture-esque views. There were a few birthdays and romantic meals happening around us, and they’d clearly requested the window seats for lunch- clever people! I’d recommend you doing the same if going for a special occasion (or just because!)

I felt so sad on leaving, so I want you to go and tell me about it and then I can live vicariously through your experience- until my return! I’d really love to hear your thoughts if you visit, and/or please keep recommending other great spas to me! I love information swapping and hearing good reviews.  For more information on this wonderful spa which also has a hotel option to stay overnight, please see  https://www.spabreaks.com/venues/the-waterfront-hotel-spa-and-golf

Enjoy! x

 

Journal, Travel

Cadiz for Ricky’s birthday

So some ago Ric turned up with an exciting plan for his 40th, a group of us heading to Cadiz in Spain and having a wonderful party weekend! I mean- how wonderful! I love how much he planned it and how far in advance- because that’s what I’M like for events, let alone for one as big as this one!

So basically, an amazing opportunity to party with one of my best friends, in order to party with some of his best friends from Spain and London in the beautiful country and climate that is Spain.  Plus, I’ve never been to Cadiz (this was written out of the 3 week backpacking trip I did around Spain in 2016), so an extra big tick! 🙂

Ruben and I purchased our flights in January this year (return with Ryan air to Jerrez- not overly cheap, I guess because it was May) and our Stanstead Express train tickets in advance, and set our alarms for 3.40am! We travelled with our friends Rodolfo and Antonio and had a car ready to be collected on arrival…

Cadiz might not be the place you think of when you think of Spain. It wasn’t somewhere I’d necessarily heard of until 2016 and planning my backpacking trip. We drove about an hour from Jerrez airport to the coastal region of Canos de Meca, but stopped on route in Cadiz which is the oldest city in Western Europe, and explored a tiny, tiny part of the old town.

From there, we headed onwards to our costal region, where Ricky had rented 5 bungalows, each with living room, kitchen, double room and twin room with single beds. Each bungalow had its own grass area with a barbeque, and just down the lane was a swimming pool.

We had such a great time! Each night was a party, Ric’s friends DJ’d, we watched sunsets and made BBQ’s together and had our own private time too. lLittle sleep, as to be expected, but super, super chilled!! Going in May is a bonus as the temperature was already getting high, but it was low season so no where was busy as yet, and we had excellent food and service everywhere.

Here are some of my favourite snaps from the weekend!

 

Accommodation recommendation (car required to explore local area- we booked via Firefly who were quite straight forward): http://www.arenaymar.es/ If there is a group of you, like us, it’s just perfect. As we were there off season, we saw no-one else and had the entire pool to ourselves.

Restaurants recommended in the area of Canos De Meca:

El Pirata (we had some wonderful fresh fish here, including grilled calamari which was sublime)

Los Pinos: on arrival we stuffed ourselves with plenty of Tapas, a home made burger and home made desserts and it was truly lovely. Check them out via Trip Advisor; https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g580273-d2201373-Reviews-Restaurante_Hostal_Los_Pinos-Los_Canos_de_Meca_Barbate_Costa_de_la_Luz_Andalucia.html

Sightseeing recommendations in the area of Canos De Meca: 

-I didn’t see as much of it as I would have liked to, but visit the town of Conil de la Frontera. A gorgeous and relatively untouched little Spanish town, full of charming white houses and small hotels overlooking a beautiful beach, and about a 20 minute drive from Canos de Meca. My cousin was staying in Conil at the same time as we were in Canos de Meca, and she and her family took a 35 minute ferry to Tangier in Morroco! So, pretty cool!

-Visit the lighthouse at Cape Trafalger and watch the sunset with a bottle of wine

 

I’ll finish by saying- what a birthday! It was truly epic and I was soooo thrilled to be able to be there for such a special person and friend xx

 

Travel

Top tips for beautiful Paris!

Paris. I never thought I would enjoy it as much as I did! This is nothing more than due to, despite the fact I live in the UK’s capital city, the fact I would prefer to see other countries smaller cities than their capital. I was bowled over by Paris and how beautiful it was. We planned the trip sometime ago, and decided to go by Eurostar from London, as this year they seem to have made their prices cheaper than ever (£60 each return). We stayed 1 minute from the metro stop “Voltaire” in a very sweet little Air Bnb apartment. The owner was a wonderful guy called Yvon and thanks to similar words between English, Spanish and French, plus the added assistance of Google Translate (invaluable I’ll be honest!) we were able to more than get by. We adored the food, had perfect weather and found Parisians a wonderfully accommodating and friendly bunch! Maybe that’s because we’ve been in London a long time and are used to the hustle and bustle of cities, but honestly, the stereotype of Parisians being “rude” was so NOT our experience. We roughly spent about £250 in total, each for the accommodation, travel and expenses whilst there from a Friday-Monday. We fell in love with it!

Here are the highlights I’d totally recommend!

  1. Visit the Catacombes! (http://www.catacombes.paris.fr/en/homepage-catacombs-official-website). I heard about this via The Wandering Quinn’s blog post on Paris and was instantly, ghoulishly fascinated. Over 6 million bones were placed here in these underground tunnels, from the overflowing Parisian cemeteries of the 17th and early 18th century, and Ruben tells me the French resistance set up home here during WW2 (not directly at this site of the tunnels- where the bones are is just a small fraction of the size of the tunnels).

    Ruben, on first hearing about this, thought I was a complete weirdo. Turns out we both “enjoyed” it (if that can be the right word). It’s also really rather sad, but just something you’ll never see again. We had read heard horror stories about the queues and how bad it might be. Perhaps visiting in April was the help there, or going on a Sunday afternoon, but I think we waited only about 50 minutes-1 hour and paid the normal adult price of 13 Euro each. Definitely unusual, definitely fascinating. There are 130 steps to go down, and it can be a bit narrow and wet in places, so best to make sure you and your party are fit, well and healthy before considering it!

  2. Visit the district of Monmartre– watch the Parisian skyline at night, so beautiful! We actually visited Monmartre during the daytime AND the night, as it just connected with us and we were keen to return. It’s the home of Moulin Rouge, and has a sophisticated but down to earth village feel, many cafes and bars and people eating and drinking outside. The beautiful skyline from the church the Sacre Couer is well worth a visit. People always say food in Paris is expensive. Well, the mains might be what than what’d we’d pay for a main meal in London, but we found set menu options from 12 Euros in Monmartre! For us, it was buying a soft drink in a Parisian restaurant where we really noticed the price difference- a coke was 5 Euros in most places!

     

  3. Stroll around Luxembourg Gardens and find a tranquil spot with a good book on a deck chair
  4. Get off at Assemblie metro stop and walk along the River Seine until Notre Dam. People watching along the sidewalks here is just lovely, especially on a sunny Sunday afternoon when everyone’s out! We queued on a Sat morning for Notre Dam itself- no more than 20 minutes. We also foolishly paid for the Treasury inside the Cathedral- recommend you don’t waste 5 Euros on this exhibition- unless we missed something there didn’t appear to be anything too spectacular here!
  5. Absolutely visit the Louvre– but in the evening if you can! Swarms of people including many large groups is just. not. fun! It’s well worth it the price; 15 Euros per adult, but about 10 times the size of the Victoria and Albert museum in London, with access to Napolean III’s apartments which are just beautiful. These photos don’t reflect the large numbers of people who were present with us, but it also probably wasn’t the best idea to have left this visit until the very last day. Go mentally and physically prepared and you’ll love it!
  6. Buy a combined ticket for Saint Chappell and Conciergerie– 15 Euros combined ticket (or 9 Euro entry separately). The Conciergerie is all that remains of the royal Palais de la Cite, built as as early as the 6th Century, then becoming a judicial court and prison. It housed thousands of prisoners, including Marie-Antoinette, the very last Queen of France before the French Revolution and makes for a very nice and informative visit. Saint Chappel is small, and does not take more than 20 minutes to admire. It was built to “house the relics of Christ”, and was home to Kings of France until the 14th Century. No photo can reflect how beautiful the colours in the chapel were.
  7. Buy a pack of 10 tickets for the underground for just under 15 Euro! We used approximately 5 of these each a day, which therefore cost us around £7.00, which is what you would spend on a day pass in London for the underground. Be savvy and plan your day around similar areas- you’ll do soooo much walking, and don’t therefore use these tickets for “just one stop” as therefore it won’t be worth it.
  8. Visit Pere Lachaise Cemetery. It’s absolutely beautiful. Get off at the metro stop aptly named the same, and look over to your right- the cemetery is just there. We visited on a quiet and sunny Sunday morning and paid 2.5o Euro for a map (which you will need) to look for the graves of artists including Jim Morrison from the Doors, Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf (whom we couldn’t find, sadly)

9.The Eiffel Tower of course. It’s something I thought would just be a bit “pah” and a cliché up close. It wasn’t! There’s something definitely romantic and captivating about it, and we didn’t go up (we said next time we will!) but being close was good enough, and here’s to the next time!!

We spent our days in Paris walking, eating the best of food (I’ve always hated pan au chocolates in the UK, now I realise how they could be tasting!), enjoying the random drinks and cocktails you have to have on a break away, and simply being in the moment. Paris, je t’aime: we can’t wait to return!

What were your highlights of Paris, and anything you’d particularly recommend?

 

Health & Well-being

My week of attempted wellness!

“And how hard I found it”! Haha 🙂

Yep, It’s been a struggle to bring myself back into being well and present this week, there is so much going on with forthcoming move, end of rotation and trying to prep for a 10k run coming up (May 19th!!)  but I’ve definitely tried!

I’m writing today with a slight cold and feel that I chilled myself with the super cold office at work. And all these UK weather changes again!! So all I feel like doing now, is having (another) hot bath and early night! But there are bags to pack, which won’t pack themselves!

However! Here are some of the lovely ways I’ve been trying to bring health and wellness into my ever standard busy week, that I totally recommend to you, but like always, find what works for you and definitely go with that.

  1. I’ve been listening to even more podcasts and finding even more blogs, which is still a new world to me and therefore very much delightfully wonderful. I’ve been back listening to Lucy Lucraft’s “What She Said” series again, and from these have been introduced to Sas Petherwick and the kind, mindful and encouraging series “Courage and Spice” podcast, as well as the beautifully open and vulnerable writing from Kate and her blog “A Playful Day”  http://www.aplayfulday.com . There is something so soothing about listening to a good podcast on my way into work, it really calms my mind and sets me up positively for the day. Currently listening to Rachel Brathen’s “Mind, Body and Stories about pain” podcast, from the “From the Heart” series. I love Rachel. Her blunt honesty and authenticity just knocks me over.
  2. I’ve attended the gym twice over the last few days and even completed a mini workout at home. I’ve been running. Then, on Saturday I went to a “Fat Burn” class (haha at the name) and boy, did the trainer make us work! There is nothing quite like group camaraderie, when you are on the floor mentally cursing as you’re going through yet another round of crunches. I pay just over £20 monthly for The Gym group, which includes a fun variety of classes and most of these classes tend to be women focused, which I personally really like I have to say. No offence meant to men, but I find it easier to relax if I’m getting puffed and sweaty, with women beside me! Perhaps just me 🙂
  3. I attended a Mind and Body event at Kings College Hospital, offered to staff working in clinical health settings, and focusing obviously on wellness and mindfulness. It was really, really lovely! And I believe so important regardless of the job you do, for all of us as individuals. I got chatting at one of the stalls about the “wheel of wellbeing” (www.wheelofwellbeing.org) which basically advises to try and maintain a balance in the following areas: 1) your body and being active, 2) your mind and keeping learning 3) your spirit and learning how to give 4) the people around you and learning to connect 5) where you are and taking notice of it and what is going on around you and 6) your planet, and taking care of it. It was great to attend with my OT colleagues and focus on small changes that could make a big difference to our peace of minds, both in and out of work.thumbnail_74C60DF1-788D-4108-8792-758425C0F456
  4. In the spirit of “taking notice”, I stopped to take photos of houses and trees I was admiring throughout London as spring has opened up colours and petals everywhere. In fact, the stopping for the photo actually gave me extra time to be present in the moment and enjoy the beauty in front of me. There is so much of it we just rush past every day and especially in London, in curious little nooks and crannies, and down the back streets you don’t always get to wonder down. Here are 3 of my in the moment, mindfulness snaps:

5. I met a good friend at a lovely Italian, put my phone away and concentrated on her and our conversation! Sometimes I can be guilty of checking my phone a lot during an evening out, worrying or thinking ahead about my to-do list.

6.Setting time aside from Ruben and I, as life is pretty full on at the moment! I appreciate we have just got back from Paris, so before you get out the violins on my behalf, to explain that for weeks before that Ruben was solidly revising for hours a day, we are both busy most weekday evenings and I am away this weekend for a friends birthday, so last Friday evening I came home and for a big and significant change made sure that phone was away, I wasn’t blog writing or checking the price of a train ticket, and that I was focusing on the person in front of me. And that felt wonderful 🙂

7. I’m often picking up a diet coke, a coke or something sugary to keep me going and I recently picked up this gorgeous drink from Boots. It tasted quite lovely, it appears to be all natural ingredients, and the chia seeds tasted like little bubbles going down your throat!

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8. I’ve realised that May is looking all kinds of crazy socially, so for June I have mentally made a pact to myself to actually have no social life (bar one friend!) and spend time on the blog, on exercise and with Ruben in our then new home!! May is so wonderfully busy with friends and that is a blessing, but June is going to be all about me, dancing, Ruben, new rotation- and missing friends no doubt! And I’m really excited for that.

What do you do for your health and well-being, any products you love and any podcasts you’d like to recommend?! Please do feel free to comment! x

Daily Inspiration, London Living

Celebrating good friends

I feel like I should have a category on here called “Inspirational people” as there are so many in my life, and slotting these blog posts into “Daily inspiration” doesn’t quite seem right!

I met Shirley when we were studying Occupational Therapy at London South Bank University, just a few short years ago. I am pretty sure we would have spoken during group work during that time, but we were in different factions (I was full time and Shirley was studying part time, already employed by the NHS) and so, being as busy as we were our paths never really crossed. Roll on 2017 and being in the same department, in the same hospital and my meeting of one of the loveliest people you could ever meet. That’s quite a broad word, I appreciate and could sound just a bit gushy. I’ll qualify it- wait a mo! There are just so many fab qualities about Shirley and she has shown me so much unconditional friendship and love, which I just love her for. She has the patience of a saint, always tries to help if you need it and is super generous to share the amazing knowledge she has. As well as being very intelligent with a confidence I so admire, Shirley is very funny, but also very sensitive and therefore also a great sound board to discuss life or general ideas with. If life is short, as we know it is, it’s important not only to have, but to appreciate the good people around us, and I am so appreciative of the fact we connected in the way we have. Her new Trust are SUPER lucky she is with them, they have hit a real gem there.

And hence this event and the sharing of these photos! This was Shirley’s leaving day at the Trust and our going out to celebrate what a huge friend Shirley has been to me during the last few months and no doubt will continue to be.

What we did: We took in some happy hour cocktails at Bar Soho (£5 for a large variety of drinks- certainly got us merry!), walked to Thai Metro on Charlotte Street and had some amazing mussamon curries (I highly recommend this restaurant! Family run and I get a tofu mussamon every time I go!) and then watched the fabulous Dream Girls at the Savoy Theatre. We basically took in some of London’s best areas, with plenty of sunshine and laughter along the way. Soho is so vibrant and as the sun was shining brightly that day, all of London was in a tangibly happy mood, and Charlotte Street has a sophisticated cosmopolitan feel with lots of tables and chairs to eat set outside, a gentler pace than the hustle of Oxford Street just five minutes away. There is also nothing quite like a walk along the Strand just as the sun has set to make you feel alive, especially with a good friend, off to see a good show.

It was my first time at the Savoy theatre and I had spent some time stressing about the seats and trying to work out on theatre monkey which to avoid, but was getting more stressed trying to use it! In the end I have to say I was really pleased with the seats: I got the impression that the Savoy was small enough that wherever you sat, you would get a fairly good view point. We sat in N7-8 in the Dress Circle, seats which offered very good views for just £20. The show was awesome, and in itself quite appropriate in its themes of friendship and life, and the main line up could certainly belt out some tunes. It was glitzy, gorgeous and glam- all the things that also sum up Shirley!

We didn’t get a photo of us together! But there will be plenty more opportunities for that.

For now, here’s to the good friend or friends we have in our lives and how lucky we are to have them!

Daily Inspiration, London Living

Interview with Ellie Quinn of super travel blog, “The Wandering Quinn”

Which, if you haven’t checked out by the way, is excellent! I’ve introduced it as a travel blog, but actually it incorporates travel, well-being and general lifestyle topics. A sprinkling of everything, highly positive and enthusing and highly informative: check it out here http://thewanderingquinn.com

I met Ellie quite randomly/by fate when we were walking to the Wanderlust Mindfulness Triathlon event in Victoria Park last September. As I’ve said elsewhere, I can’t remember when she told me exactly what she did, but I do remember being fascinated by it. I’m not sure who I assumed was writing blogs: in fact, I’m pretty sure I’d never read one, or not properly. But I think I resonated a lot with Ellie and it sparked a curiosity in me, to write, document and attempt to publish THIS blog, this January 2018.

So- Ellie. Coming up to 28, currently working full time as well as blog writing, a traveller of a million countries. Calm and grounded, yet vivacious and bubbly. Spiritual and positive: a belief in herself and her future that I really wished I’d had in my 20’s! And which I well imagine draws people to her. Working super hard on an amazing blog started in 2014 which to date has 22,000 followers on Instagram. Ellie is also super helpful and generous with her sharing of the blog and how she has achieved what she has. We met on the rainy day which was my birthday last Sunday in the Highness Tea Rooms in Highbury (meeting again coming out of a tube station, just 7 months later!), had tea and cake (standard) and I had the good fortune of asking her these questions. This is quite a long post, but absolute gold dust, especially for us new bloggers! 🙂

What started you blogging, was it your travelling?

Yeah! I’d already lived in Australia for 2 years, and then I was going off to S.E Asia. I literally remember going for brunch with a friend and she was like, “you should start a blog”. I got hooked into reading peoples blogs about S.E Asia such as “my Battered Suitcase” (and I’ve become friends with Brenna who writes this blog which is very cool!), and thought, I should do this! So I did one post called “How the travel bug bit”, which is still on my blog actually! At this point it was very journal like and to share with family back home, but I would also write about what bus to get/where to stay and really useful content about these places that really wasn’t available at the time, as travel there then was so new.

What was your education background Ellie, was it in something that might be considered related to blogging?

Not especially. I went to college and did A ‘levels. I was going to go to uni to do business, which I thought was a good all rounder, but then decided it just wasn’t for me. I had a boyfriend at the time as well, and although he didn’t formally actually stop me, it definitely had an influence in my decision around not going. Which I am so glad for now!

So, I then got a full time job in reservations in a hotel for a year, which then led to events managements. After this I went to Camp America for a summer, which was the start of the travel bug. I then came back and worked for another company in events.

What’s really funny is that there is a definite connection between the promotional and communication aspect of that work, and the press trips I do now as part of my blogging role. Now I’m very confident doing press trips and I just feel like I’ve just slid into it with ease, and then it clicked and I realised why I’m so used to it! So the blog isn’t directly related to any education background, but the job experience certainly helped in a way I didn’t initially consider when I started! It all helps.

And so, you’ve had the blog for four years, when do you think you started taking it *more* seriously?

Definitely when I moved to London (2 years ago). I finished another travelling stint and at the time was following a lot of bloggers who lived in London. That also coincided with around the time that people were becoming quite big in blogging. So I think I moved with the intention of becoming more serious with my blog.

What is it about your personality that you think that has helped you becoming a successful blogger?

I’d like to think I’m quite an upbeat and friendly person, which then comes across on my blog and social media. I will just randomly talk to people and I’m quite open which definitely helps with the travel aspect.

I definitely like providing information! Which is where my whole motivation with blogging came from, my sharing of travel knowledge. Organisation: I’m very organised and good at scheduling which helps.

Its hilarious thinking back to school days; I was so shy, probably the shyest person in the class! I probably seemed like the most unlikely person to do the amount of travelling I do now!!

How did your following grow, what steps did you take?

Definitely different things. I do Pininterest at least half an hour every day. But I do it on my lunch break so that helps. Sometimes I also get up early in the morning, sit on my laptop in bed. It’s mindless, but it’s so productive!

A bit around the background to my growth; I remember I went to South America 2015 and I just hit 300 followers. I literally did 3 months, posting every day of what I considered good content, had a month in Europe and towards the end of that trip had just hit 1000 followers. So it took me about 5 months to get that number. Then I was home for a few months, then I went to Asia and I hit 10,000 in 2016. So basically from being in Asia I gained 9,000 followers! I was posting regularly, but generally when you travel that also attracts a lot of followers. I brought the numbers up another 10k within a year, and now those numbers are pretty stable.

Tell me about pitching! How does it work, how do you do it, and what should we focus on as new bloggers?

So! I have a media kit which I send out. it’s basically a PDF where I write about myself and my blog. I update it every month and include key stats such as traffic to my site, and how many unique users come. I have my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook numbers (it’s important to be a presence on all, but focus on one or two: my Instagram and Twitter accounts are definitely my priority). From Google analytics which plugs into WordPress blogs if you’re on WordPress, you can also find out really useful information such as the readers age, where they come from in the world. Mine are predominantly UK based readers, US and Australia and are mostly male. Lets say there’s a tourism board that wants to focus on a UK audience: this is really helpful information for them to know.

When did you feel ready to start pitching?

I probably started around the end of 2016, and I had around 3-4000 page views on my blog back then. I also had around 10,000 followers on Instagram at that point. But I would honestly say now that even if you had less, and your numbers are low, you can still put a media kit together and focus on how engaged your audience are. As if your numbers are low, your audience is more likely to be engaged anyway. I would really highlight and focus on your audience and their involvement with your blog instead of making the numbers a focus.

Do you get much paid work, or is it mostly press trips, discounts, samples?

I’m getting more paid work now, but this has probably only happened in the last 10 months, and I’ve had 3 press trips which have been paid, of which I didn’t make a formal request for being paid! Pitching to say you would like to be paid can seem quite awkward I think and I need more confidence to do that.

I’ve had a few sponsored posts come through which has been cool. I’ve also recently had a couple of trips where I wasn’t paid, but I was able to take someone with me, so I took some friends to Hamburg and Jersey, which was amazing.

What are you most proud of and what’s been a highlight to you?

The trip to Jersey with my friend was a particularly highlight- my friend and I just had the best time! A personal highlight for me has been the page views to my blog. This time last year I was getting around 4,000 page views and that was without me really trying. In March I hit 20,000 views which is just incredible! Once you hit 25,000 regularly, you can apply for an advertising platform, and from that you can get some income from the blog, which is what I want to do.

And finally, what’s ahead for The Wandering Quinn?!

I want to go longer term travelling again! I’m desperate to go to India and Africa to start, as they’ve always been on my travelling radar and I’ve been saving hard. From this I’m also planning to make a leap and leave my job to combine with the travel and become a full time blogger! This is what I’ve been working really hard for. In a way I’m hoping to be able to make some money whilst travelling and producing content for companies, but if I could get the press trips and samples that would also be really handy. I want to go travelling anyway, so it makes sense for me to combine the two!

I don’t know if you’ve heard of the “Twins that Travel”, but one of the catalysts for them to leave their jobs was basically wanting to go on a press trip and not having the annual leave which feels like the position I might get myself in.

Before I go on the longer haul trip, I’ve done some pitching to companies, but also want to enjoy London for at least a couple of weeks this summer.

 

A summary of Ellie’s top blogging recommendations!

* Use Pininterest to attract traffic to your blog. Ellie does 30 minutes every day, but little and often would help to begin with.

* Don’t get too tied down by the numbers when pitching. Focus on your audience’s engagement if your numbers are currently low

* Know your stats, as this feed into pitching. Consider the use of a tool such as Google Analytics that can help you break down who you audience are and where they are from- this is incredibly useful for companies to know.

* Be present on all social media where possible, but choose to focus on one in particular

Thanks so much Ellie for sharing your thoughts, feelings and inspirational blog development!! It has been so useful and wishing you every continued success- you deserve it!!

And before we finish- to highly recommend the Highness Tea Rooms, about a 10 minute walk from Highbury and Islington overground and tube station. Very friendly staff, lovely selection of cakes, quiches, paninis and hot and cold drinks 🙂

 

 

London Living

How to have a fantastic birthday in London!

I’ve had the best birthday, and turning 36 (2 days in!) has been beautifully painless! I laid on quite a few events for it and made it a “birthday weekend” (in typical me style if I’m honest- my birthday is one of my favourite things) and self indulged in good friends and a bit too much cake. Leading up to it, I was having a freak out about not being able to wear a special dress I had planned to wear on the Friday night at the Victorian Bath House. It all turned out fine and alternative dress did the job nicely! I had also thought long and hard about what to do and the planning for it was relatively painless. Thanks to blogs like these and Time Out, I’ve always got a few ideas up my sleeve and on my “to-go” list, which is ever growing.

So! Here is the agenda and my key recommendations for unique or alternative options to try for a birthday or special event in London.

On the Friday night I met my lovely therapist friend Georgia at the Victorian Bath House. Basically, turn right from Liverpool Street station, and turn right again when you hit what I think is the St Botolph Church. It’s just behind there-  5 minutes from the station if that. The Bath House was operational from 1895 and the décor inside is reminiscent of its first purpose. It’s lovely! It’s a tardis of course, you would never realise from the outside that it has the floor space it does. First impressions: it was either a bit chaotic or super relaxed and I’m still not sure which! The table was booked for 7.15pm and I arrived at 7pm. Myself and another guy from a different party stood at the entrance for a couple of minutes. Needing to get to the toilet I decided, and  after some time of no one coming to greet us, I decided to go into the open garden area and ask a bartender there what we should do. He was charming and gestured for us to go downstairs. Downstairs, I assumed someone would come to take my name and check my booking. I had received all these wonderful and funny emails from the venue in the lead up and therefore had high expectations about their communication and how I’d likely be met. But, nothing! So, I asked a waitress and was advised to sit anywhere. Georgia arrives and then we don’t stop chatting. We receive a welcome drink, but after that aren’t seen again (we are told it’s table service) for a good hour. Luckily we didn’t mind, we had so much to discuss!

The drinks were standard London prices at about £9.50 per cocktail, with optional service charge. The staff were super lovely, super obliging for the pictures we requested and when not satisfied with one of the cocktails really happy to assist with changing it. The cocktails were also potently strong, or the ones we chose were! The atmosphere is gorgeous, darkly lit with candles which show of the original tiling. Perfect for a birthday, a date or a function. The service was slow and it would have been nice to have had someone greet and show you to your seat- then it definitely would have been 5*.  In spite of slow, we had the loveliest time together, it felt very intimate and special, and this is certainly a unique venue! We were glad we got dressed up, but that’s optional 🙂 https://www.victorianbathhouse.co.uk/

 

On Saturday I chose the Candella Tea Rooms in High Street Kensington for an afternoon tea with a small group of friends. A lovely group of friends, most of whom didn’t know each other. It was relaxed, and special.  The staff had been really lovely to complete the booking with, and always so helpful if I called back to check on anything. Candella is just up the road from High Street Kensington Tube station (7 minutes at most!) on Church Street and quite peaceful, away from the hustle and bustle of the main high street. Some of us (ahem- me!) chose the afternoon tea which was £18.95 (and very good) and some friends opted for the cream tea which was £9.95 with a hot drink. Alternatively the tea rooms offer lots of sandwiches and lunch type options, as well as single slices of cakes if wanted, so therefore as cheap or expensive as you opted to make it. My friend bought me  a beautiful birthday cake, and my friends and the lovely staff sang to me! We were allowed to chill out and given about 2 hours for the booking, before being advised the table was needed. We were all very happy! I thoroughly recommend! https://www.candellatearoom.com/

 

On Saturday night, myself and 3 friends went to Cahoots based in Kingly Court, just off Carnaby Street, set in 1940’s underground style. I’ve been ages ago, for a swing dancing event, but not returned. I booked in advance for this (as with all the above), which was easy enough, and for the booking also was required to enter my debit card details in case we cancelled. We arrived and were greeted by a Cockney-rhyming doorman, and an equally amusing hostess met us downstairs. I loved the fact they gave me a card and cake and sang happy birthday to me, and despite it being a Saturday night we didn’t have to wait too long to order from our waitress. The main drinks are cocktails (but you can have absolutely anything else) and they have soooo many to choose from, all listed in the newspaper you see below which I thought was very cute. My only peeve was the pop music that came on half an hour or so before we were leaving; it didn’t quite suit the decade or “tally-ho” atmosphere! Definitely check it out though, my friends and I really enjoyed it and loved our cocktails, the innovative menu and lovely presentation. https://cahoots-london.com/

 

You’ve probably realised that if it’s cake, cocktail or vintage related, I’m in! These were some of the best birthday events ever, and if you go to any of these be sure to let me know how you found them!