Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Romantic travel moments: guest post

In celebration of Valentine's Day I decided it was about time I shared the work of some of the fabulous travel bloggers out there. It is the the month of love after all so why not spread the love a little?  I asked these wonderful bloggers to collaborate on this guest post where they have shared some of their most romantic travel moments.

From eucalyptus forests in Australia to a candle-lit cruise in Budapest, reading these stories is guaranteed to get you feeling giddy with wanderlust and fuzzy with romance all at the same time. Without further ado, here are the most romantic travel moments, as told by fellow bloggers...

Romantic Travel Moment: Jamie from Jamie Chance Travels

I’m Jamie from; a little slice of the internet where I can just write about my
travels and get my photography out there. I’ve recently returned to England after a ten month career break in Australia and South East Asia with my now-fiancee. I think it’s fair to say that, generally, I’m not that romantic. However, in March 2018, I thought I’d pull out all the stops and ask Emma to marry me after eight years together.

To give some background, I had been planning this for a while and found the perfect ring whilst in Melbourne. For the next four months, I hid the ring in my camera bag whilst living out of a tiny campervan. After finishing up some farm work picking plums, we made our way back to Sydney through the Blue Mountains; think golden sandstone cliffs and a mysterious blue haze rising from the eucalyptus forests. This is one of the most picturesque places we saw in Australia.

On the day in question, we drove for our around four hours before we pulled in to Katoomba. I sprung a plan on Emma as soon as we arrived; let’s try to find this amazing photo spot for sunset. Well it turns out it was pretty hard to find a pre-determined location without GPS! Eventually, I found the right place and I began fumbling. Emma was so unsure what was going on and why I was dropping everything I touched in the campervan.

We climbed over the roadside crash barrier and walked to the cliff edge where I’d arranged for a sunset picnic complete with rugs, candles, wine and some delectable food. Not only that, a little chalkboard sign written with the words “Will you marry me?” helped Emma realise exactly what was going on...

I’m so happy to say that Emma said “yes” and we sat surrounded by the Australian bush, on a cliff edge, laughing, drinking, eating and watching the sun set over the Blue Mountains. I’m not quite sure I’ll ever top this.

Romantic Travel Moment: Christine from The Uncorked Librarian

Nestled between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil, the cozy town of Paraty greets the adventurous traveler. My now husband, Tom, with his Indiana Jones fantasies, wanted nothing more than to see Iguazu Falls. I couldn’t resist this charming cobblestoned town with rainbow shutters on the way to those massive falls.

Horseback riding in Central and South America is a must. Ensconced in jungles, riders hunt for monkeys and less frequented waterfalls. As one of our traditions, Tom and I booked a private horseback riding tour through Paraty, filled with rolling hills and the flattest but most secluded waterfall I’ve ever seen.

Our morning started off shaky with a hairdryer fire and converter gone terribly wrong. Hence the explanation for Tom’s clearly fried nerves that day. Right!? Right?! As we approached the waterfall now by foot, Tom jokingly said it made him have to, you know, pee. Worried about offending our guides, he walked over to ask them where to go. Mind you, our Spanish is less than adequate and our guides spoke no English. Awkwardly, Tom suddenly returned, sliding and tripping down the waterfall rocks to…update me on his bladder status?!

Nervously dropping to one knee, Tom quickly whispered, “I love you. Will you marry me.” Out came a sparkling ring. As I realized my romantic fate, I saw the guides fumbling with his camera. Hence the shaky picture and a surprise proposal captured. That night, we said cheers over Portuguese music in a small tavern and walked along the Paraty canals, hand in hand.

Christine is a travel and book blogger for The Uncorked Librarian (TUL). The Uncorked Librarian is where travel, books, and booze come together. You can follow along with her literary and boozy travels and wanderlust-inspiring books on Instagram.

Romantic Travel Moment: Elizabeth from Anchored Adventure Blog

Unlike so many sentimental moments, ours began with the piercing blare of a 6 a.m. alarm. My boyfriend and I scurried out of our airbnb apartment near Prague's city center, popped into a local bakery for takeaway coffees and posted up on the famously historic Charles Bridge. There was no makeup, no champagne, no fancy dinner — just the two of us leaning against each other on the 500-year-old-bridge, gazing at the natural beauty in the world.

As we listened to chirping birds and church bells from the Old Town Square, we caught the first glimpse of the sunrise. The sun sparkled over the teal-colored domes and terracotta rooftops. Its rays danced off the spires of the enchanting hillside Prague Castle, which reflected off the Vltava River, where other early risers paddle-boarded downstream. It lit up the stones and statues along the Gothic bridge.

After two months of trekking across Europe with a friend and experiencing ample could-be romantic opportunities, like a picnic by the Eiffel Tower or the thermal waters in Bath, you can imagine my excitement when my now-husband, Jeff, booked that trip across the Atlantic. Nicknamed the "City of a Hundred Spires," Prague provided that perfect sentimental moment for us. The intimacy of the moment was authentic. It's one I cherish, and it's one I hope you, too, will experience in the Czech Republic capital that just oozes charm and romance. As you leave the bridge, find the St. John of Nepomuk statue, and give it a rub. Legend has it you'll return to Prague if you do, and who wouldn't want that?!

Ready to plan your adventure to Prague or Europe? I'm Elizabeth, the gal behind Anchored Adventure Blog, a travel blog that began after my backpacking trip through Western and Central Europe. My travel resources include short city guides, itineraries, budgeting strategies and general travel planning advice.

Romantic Travel Moment: Ran from Ran Travels

Hi! I’m a novice travel blogger over at Ran Travels who loves booking flights in advance but always ends up booking accommodations at the last minute. I started my blog in 2013 but never really had the time to consistently update it, at least back then. I still haven’t fixed it up to be totally honest, but that’s about to change soon!

I often travel together with my partner K and it’s been quite amazing so far. We both enjoy exploring new places and discovering new experiences. The picture below is one of the most romantic photos I have of us, not because of the content, but because of the reason why it exists. This was a side destination during one of our spontaneous trips, an 8-hour-drive up north to Ilocos Norte Region, Philippines. It’s a rock cliff facing the ocean called ‘Little Batanes’ due to its uncanny similarity to another tourist destination in the Philippines.

Upon arrival, my breath was immediately taken away by the phenomenal views. I wanted to capture a memory of us with the cliff and the ocean merging together under the setting sun, but I was scared of heights and so was he. And yet, this photo exists because he took the risk to do what I couldn’t do. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is!

I used to be a solo traveler, and whenever I travelled alone, I always sought out places and experiences that I’ve never encountered before. But when I travel with him, I realize that it’s not just the places that I’m interested in exploring—it’s also him. I am constantly discovering and rediscovering him with each and every time we travel together. And for me, nothing can make travelling more beautiful, more meaningful, and more romantic than that.

Romantic Travel Moment: Beth from Polished Couture

Hi everyone! I’m Beth from Polished Couture. Since me and my boyfriend got together in 2018, my blog has consisted of a lot more travel and lifestyle. A place where we enjoy sharing the places we visit and things you can do as a couple. One of our favourite and most romantic moments so far together would certainly have to be while we were in Budapest.

To be honest, there’s a few ‘pinch me’ moments where we were like ‘this city is just so beautiful’. But my favourite was when we were on a candle lit cruise. It had just got dark and all the lights of the city turned on. The Houses of Parliament and the bridges at night are just breath taking. My boyfriend took this opportunity to chuck a coin into the river with ‘this coin symbolises our love. And a promise that we will always be happy together’. It was honestly like something out of a film.

We both promised each other that Budapest (with it being our first holiday together), is somewhere we’d have to visit again, in years to come. And probably do the coin tradition again. The city has so much to do for couples with sky bars, spa experiences and exploring the cities treasures. It’s definitely a place I’d recommend for couples who want a romantic getaway and love sight-seeing, drinking and relaxing.

Romantic Travel Moment: Laura from It's Not Me, It's You!

It’s Not Me, It’s You! is a relationship blog so I’m always on the lookout for romantic things to do and holidays are no exception. One of my favourite trips with my boyfriend last year was to Rhodes in Greece, we hadn’t really spent a lot of time together which was why it was so lovely to go away.

Wandering the historic streets of the old town, eating loads of food and just genuinely enjoying each other’s company was what made it so special. We didn’t have to go to work (although Clint did spend some time working), so we just laughed, and shopped and sometimes drank a little too much.

I think sometimes there is such pressure on romance, like if you’re not having dinner at the top of the Eiffel Towel with a dozen roses and a stringed quartet then it’s not special. For me, a romantic trip away is just about spending quality time with the person you love. It doesn’t matter if you’re laying on a beach doing nothing or dancing the night away from bar to bar, it’s about enjoying each other’s company. And, that’s what true love is all about.

Wow, I definitely feel inspired to book a romantic holiday now.  I hope you've enjoyed these romantic stories and found some new bloggers to follow!

For more couple-themed reading, check out these top 10 tips for travelling as a couple. If you enjoyed this, please share your most romantic travel moment in the comments below as I would love to read them. Melis x

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Thoughtful and romantic Valentine's gift ideas

Various romantic and thoughtful gifts

Some products in this guide were provided as press samples to me, they are marked with an asterix.

It's that time of year people love - or love to hate. The one and only Valentine's Day! According to my 100% legitimate source (Wiki), around half the UK population buy gifts for their Valentine and £1.3bn is spent annually on gifts. I have always liked this time of year. To me it's an excuse to spoil someone you love, spoil yourself, or both. (I have definitely done a bit of both this year!)

With just under a week to go you might be struggling for ideas, especially for that person who has everything. Read on for my range of gift ideas from the slightly more pricey to the very affordable. What these gifts all have in common is that they are very thoughtful and romantic, none of your standard roses or boxes of chocolates here.

If you want to think out of the box a little and need some inspiration then you are in the right place. The very last gift is what I have actually bought (well, made) for my loved one this year, except he doesn't know it yet, so let's hope he doesn't read this post...

Thoughtful and romantic Valentine's jewellery gifts

By Biehl Love Letter Necklace*

Yes I know, I can hear you saying jewellery is such a Valentine's cliche! It really doesn't have to be though. Just putting some thought into your selection and buying a personalised item, such as this By Biehl personalised Love Letter necklace is bound to make your loved one smile. 

Coming in at just £29 it is a very affordable gift, but what makes it extra thoughtful is the touch of personalisation as you can select your partner's initial.

Romantic Valentines gift idea - necklace

Nude Rings Necklace*

If you have a little more to spend I cannot recommend this stunning Vanilla Links silver pendant from Nude enough. This necklace is £110, with free delivery on orders over £100. 

I was speechless when this arrived, it is such good quality and I think it makes a beautiful Valentine's gift as it reminds me of a couple spooning! It is so lovely and I know I will wear it all the time. I really like abstract pieces which have a thoughtful message but in a subtle way. This delicate and stunning piece really ticks that box.

When I was browsing the Nude website, I was so excited to see that they also create unique, handmade engagement rings . They are definitely worth a browse if you are looking for that very special ring but haven't quite found the right style on the high street!

Thoughtful and romantic Valentine's necklace gift

Thoughtful and romantic Valentine's gifts for technology lovers

CaseApp phone cases*

I was very excited to work with CaseApp for this post as my old iPhone case had seriously seen better days. I really needed something of better quality (but affordable of course) and I wanted to reflect my personality as well since it's probably the object which I am seen with the most.

I selected three cases to share with you all, but I can't stress just how many options there are on CaseApp's website. I decided to select two cases that were quite different: the lemon design is more for summer and I thought the flowery design would be good all year round. They are even more beautiful in real life than I expected!

Phone cases - thoughtful, romantic Valentine's gift

I also made my own personalised phone case and added extra strength protection. This was £22 which for me is an absolute bargain when you see the quality.

A personalised phone case with your favourite shots of the two of you is such a romantic gift idea for Valentine's day. You have total freedom to design your case however you like but there are templates on the site to help out, and you can add text if you like. I really enjoyed selecting my favourite travel photos from all the places we visited in 2018, and I love the final result.

The kind folks at CaseApp have given me a 20% off code for you all which is valid until February 14th, 2019: just enter 20MELIS at the checkout to get your discount.

Personalised phone case - Valentine's gift

Thoughtful gifts for the gamer in your life*

Maybe it is a push calling this one romantic... but for me, anything which blocks out the gun noises from Red Dead Dedemption on the X Box is guaranteed to make for a more romantic atmosphere any day! I was over the moon to receive this item. 

It is one of those 'here is a gift for you darling, but it is really for me' kinda presents. They are really good at noise cancellation and so affordable at £19.99 - I am impressed.

The TX-40 in white/red is available at Argos for £24.99, and the TX-30 in red (pictured below) is available at Argos for £19.99.

Thoughtful Valentine's gift - gaming headphones

Personalised, thoughtful and very romantic Valentine's gift ideas

Train ticket key ring from Not on the High Street

This was a gift for me at Christmas from my other half and I thought it was so sweet I had to share it here as a gorgeous idea for Valentine's day. I know most of my readers are avid travellers, and what better gift for those who travel than a personalised train ticket keyring

The key ring is really good quality and came in a nice little box as well. It costs £14 with free delivery, which I think is quite good for such a thoughtful, romantic, personalised gift. I will forever love Not on the High Street for listing gorgeous products like this one.

Train ticket thoughtful and romantic gift idea for Valentine's

A thoughtful and (I think) romantic Valentine's gift idea for those on a very tight budget

My other half has a bit of a thing for a A Star is Born.. and I am SO excited with the surprise Valentine's evening I have planned. We are going to a drive-in cinema to see the film, he has no idea, and I am just smiling to myself every day as he plays 'Shallow' yet again for the billionth time. 

I wanted to get him a small themed present to mark the occasion. I had a look online but now that I am a bit of a dab hand with Canva, I thought why not make something myself? This was SO easy. I just used a template on the Canva website and typed in my lyrics. I bought some nice cream paper from WH Smith for about £2 for 5 sheets. The frame was also from WH Smith and came in at £2.74 in the half-price sale.

You could literally make a print anything you wanted in Canva for free, whether it's favourite song lyrics, place names which mean something to you, anything really. Just have a look online for inspiration to see prints for sale and have a play to recreate something yourself.

Thoughtful, romantic Valentine's Gift - lyrics print

I hope this guide has given you some inspiration for your very own thoughtful and romantic Valentine's gift ideas. I have tried to cover a range of budgets and hopefully there is something in here which would suit your loved one this Valentine's Day!

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Best affordable beauty products - Amazon advent calendar 2018

Loreal X Balmain lipstick

This post contains affiliate links, so I earn a tiny commission if you use one. Read more here
I was not gifted the advent calendar by Amazon and I am just sharing my favourites with you as I can't keep these affordable gems a secret!

I was very lucky to receive the 2018 Amazon Beauty advent calendar from my boyfriend to enjoy during December 2018 and I was so excited. I hadn't seen it talked about anywhere so had no idea what was inside each box. I did know the products were going to be very much 'affordable luxury' so right up my street!

I know people have different reasons for investing in a beauty advent calendar. Some might want a treat with products they can't usually justify, but I was really hoping to find some new affordable favourites to switch up my usual routine. I've been stuck in a rut for a while not knowing what beauty products to try so this came at exactly the right time.

The contents were really diverse, ranging from hand cream, to sheet masks, to lipsticks and even a gold love heart tattoo pen (sadly a little too young for me!) Thanks to the gorgeous Amazon beauty advent calendar 2018 I have discovered some new affordable beauty products to add to my regular list, so I was very excited to share them with you here.

This is my first post about makeup, and I am definitely no makeup artist or pro! I do however LOVE a good makeup / beauty bargain, and with us all feeling the pinch a little in January I thought I'd share some faves in case the long-awaited payday has you craving a little treat.


Loreal x Balmain Lipstick

I was seriously chuffed when I found this L'Oreal Paris Color Riche Lipstick Balmain Limited Edition in the calendar! It is shade 355 'Domination'. The colour is a perfect 'suits-all' classic red and the packaging is so aesthetically pleasing. I was shocked at first and thought this was high-end but it's actually only £4.50 on Amazon (compared to £12.99 in Boots - what a barg)! This would make a cracking Valentine's gift to yourself, I might have to pop into Boots and try some other shades...

Sleek Lipstick

This has to be probably my favourite product of them all. I would never have tried this Sleek lipstick in 'Birthday Suit' without getting it in the beauty advent calendar but the colour is lovely, the right shade of 'neutral with a bit of colour' that I am always looking for and the consistency is spot on. It manages to be matte and creamy at the same time without being drying which is hard to achieve, especially for the bargain price of £4.74. I will be buying this again the second it runs out. It lasts all day as well, literally my everyday go-to at the minute!

Real Techniques Brush

I finally found the most perfect affordable brush to take on my travels! I love this little gem, it is perfect for applying foundation, and is super cute as well. This will definitely be coming on my next trip to Copenhagen - I'd have never found this without my Amazon advent calendar so really grateful for this find. I am definitely going to buy the others in the collection and can't believe this is only £3 online at the moment!

Real techniques brush and Sleek lipstick

Hair Care

Love Beauty and Planet Shampoo

The products pictured are full-size, as I had to rush an order in for this as soon as I received it in my Amazon beauty advent calendar. I have linked the Love Beauty and Planet Shampoo which is what I got a miniature version of in the calendar, but I am LOVING the matching conditioner as well. The smell is so lovely and fresh, with a coconut scent which just takes me back to the beach in Thailand. My hair feels silky smooth after this and it's a real affordable treat at just £3.99 for the shampoo. I love the packaging as well, again, thank you to Amazon for introducing me to this beauty!

Love Beauty hair products

Other Affordable Beauty Products

Sugared Violet Hand Cream

I have never heard of this next product, a sugared violet hand cream, but it is a firm favourite from now on! I have already ordered a few as gifts for family as I just can't get enough of the palma violet scent. They are one of my favourite sweets and in a hand cream it just totally works. 
Recommended if you are stuck for a little Mother's day gift (yes I plan that far ahead)!

Sugared violet hand cream

James Read Gradual Tan for Face

Stop the press, stop the press! I have finally found a sleep mask tan for your face that doesn't smell of biscuits, doesn't stain the pillow, and doesn't break you out in spots. This is a hero product and I have been reaching for it every time I just want a little boost in confidence. 

I'd say you only need a tiny bit on your face every 3 days to really keep up that 'week in Spain' glow. It has an almost gel-like consistency and actually contains hyaluronic acid so is a tan which is good for your skin as well. What a bonus! Will definitely buy myself a full-size version once I am done but it is actually lasting well as I only use a small amount at a time.

I have linked the full size as the mini seems to be a limited edition for the calendar. It isn't cheap at £24.99 but I am amazed at the quality and absolutely saving up for my own full-size one.

James Read sleep mask

I hope this quick post has given you a taster of the products I have been loving in January and maybe inspired you to order a little pay-day treat. Please do let me know if you have questions about any of the products. I genuinely love and use them all and would highly recommend the advent calendar to you for next year, I will certainly be investing in one again!