Ibiza sunset from San Antonio Bay

Ibiza sunset from San Antonio Bay

Top tips for holidaying in Ibiza on a budget

Thanks to Brexit and its delightful impact on the exchange rate, us Ibiza babes get way less bang for our hard-earned bucks this year.

If you’re a White Isle diehard you pretty much accept that it’s the most expensive holiday destination in Europe when it comes to drinks, dancing and dining.

Sure, you could neck half a bottle of vodka and hit the west end pubs every night for a cheap thrill. But you’d be missing out on what makes Ibiza different to every other holiday resort in Europe.

It’s amazing how the beautiful people of Pacha soon convince us that €80 to see a superstar DJ and €23 for a vodka Red Bull is actually quite good value for money. A bargain, even!

So how do you survive a glamorous week in Ibiza without being a millionaire or ending up with a hefty credit card bill afterwards?

Here’s my top tips for having a glam and (almost) guilt-free holiday with the beautiful people…

Adults only Beach Star Apartment Ibiza

Adults only Beach Star Apartment Ibiza

1. Budget accommodation in Ibiza

Ibiza is such a small island that you can stay practically anywhere and still reach the nightlife with relative ease. But it does make sense to think about where you’ll be spending most of your time to save on taxi fares.

If you’re bound to hit the superclubs at least three times during your stay, consider staying closer to Playa d’en Bossa and Ibiza Town. Although the initial outlay is likely to be more than the accommodation in San Antonio or San An Bay, you’ll balance it with what you save on taxi fees once you’re there.

Self catering apartments are almost always the least expensive option and, let’s face it, are you really gonna get value for money at an all inclusive hotel when you’re not home in time for breakfast and too hungover for lunch? Thought not.

Top Tip: Avoid hotels in San Antonio unless you enjoy hearing your questionable neighbours having sex through the paper thin hotel room wall and don’t mind stepping over used condoms beside the pool.

 

ibiza 2016 accommodation ideas

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2. Travel in style, in budget

Okay, so flying via Ryanair or Easyjet can in no way be described as travelling in style.

But once you’ve sorted your budget airline flights, it’s time to think about your transport choices once you’re on the island itself.

One of the things I love about landing at Ibiza airport is the convenience of stepping straight into a taxi and arriving at your accommodation in 25 minutes tops.

No need to bother with pesky transfer buses that are always late, overcrowded and take an age to get to your hotel due to the 25 drop offs before you.

I’ve never paid more than €30 from the airport to my destination and, when there’s a group of you travelling, that really is a bargain. 

Be realistic about how often you really will take the disco bus anywhere – it may only be €3 per person, but if you need to make your way to San Antonio bus station and you’re not staying close by, then a taxi straight to the club is almost always the best option.

There’s no shortage of taxis on the island during peak season so lookout for the green light and flag one down or get your accommodation reception to book you one if you’re staying a bit further out.

As a rough guide, the text fares are as follows:

Playa d’en Bossa – Ibiza Town €10

Playa d’en Bossa – San Antonio/Bay €30

San Antonio/Bay – Ibiza Town €25

Top Tip: If your bladder control can withstand a twenty minute journey in a taxi/bus, pour your drink of choice in a plastic bottle. It makes the journey way more fun and saves you buying more overpriced alcohol in the club when you get there.

Ibiza sunset from Bay Bar, San Antonio Bay

Ibiza sunset from Bay Bar, San Antonio Bay

3. See the sunset for free

You will no doubt have heard that the best place to watch the famous Ibiza sunset is Cafe Mambo. 

This is, to an extent, a true story. But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s the only way to witness the sun setting on the Island.

Yes, Cafe Mambo at sunset is something to be experienced, but venture here every night and you’ll blow your budget unnecessarily.

Walk past Mambo to the rocks by the sea and you’ll find plenty of other holidaymakers perched on the rocks with some homemade cocktails or bottles of prosecco at a fraction of the cost that Mambo charge. 

It’s still glamorous, just in a slightly different way!

If you’re set on watching the sunset from a bar then try one of the beachfront bars round in San Antonio Bay. You still get a great view of the sun setting, but cocktails and sangria will be a bit less expensive.

Top Tip: Visit Mambo after the sun sets for better seats and more attentive service. As the crowd starts to head off to get ready for the clubs, you’ll find the waiters will be more accommodating. You might even get a glass of fizz on the house if you look glamorous enough, as the staff will want to keep you on the terrace for as long as possible.

Ushuaia Ibiza Beach Hotel

Ushuaia Ibiza Beach Hotel

4. Go to the pre-parties

The aforementioned €80 ticket for Pacha was for the most expensive night in the calendar, David Guetta’s F*** Me I’m Famous at Pacha.

Yet not all club nights will cost this much and there are ways to see those superstar DJs for less, or even free.

Check out David Guetta’s BIG pre-party at Ushuaia on a Monday from 5pm, with special guest DJs like Robin Schulz and Klingande scheduled to warm-up for him on the night.

Tickets for this early evening party are around €55, so if you’re set on seeing Davie G while you’re on the white isle, this is a cheaper alternative to Thursday night at Pacha.

And if you don’t want to pay at all, try Cafe Mambo for some amazing pre-parties from 9pm, where you can see the superstar DJs up close on the decks for the price of a cocktail.

Try Bob Sinclar’s Paris by Night on a Saturday before his main show at Pacha or Martin Solveig on a Wednesday before he plays his MyHouse night, also at Pacha.

If retro is more your thang, then head to the Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza on a Sunday for Children of the ’80s, where nostalgia meets glamour with guest appearances from guilty pleasures such as Haddaway, Cappella and Bananarama.

Top Tip: A jug of cocktails, champagne or prosecco sangria at Cafe Mambo will keep you refreshed for the duration of the pre-party show, saving pennies and multiple drinks orders. 

5. Bring your own drinks

Quite possibly the most important piece of Ibiza on a budget advice, bringing your own drinks is essential to saving money. 

Getting the pre-drinks sorted for your apartment is essential, and you’ll want to top this up as the week goes on, but think about what you’ll need for your night out if you’re hitting the overpriced bars in the superclubs.

Whether it’s in a taxi, on a bus or in a club, your hip flask and miniatures from the flight will come in handy. You’ll thank me for it when you save yourself €100 on a Pacha bar tab.

Get creative with this one, as everyone else is. 

You can make one can of Red Bull go a long way when you have your own alcohol to top it up with.

Top Tip: I take no responsibility for you being denied entry to a nightclub, or indeed being asked to leave, if you get caught with your own supplies. But be clever about it and realise that drugs is a larger issue for the door staff, and you’ll be okay. 

I’m sure I haven’t covered everything so if you’ve got some Ibiza advice of your own, feel free to let me know for my next trip!

Scottish fashion blogger. Always having a blonde moment.

Chanel Cresswell in This is England 90

Chanel Cresswell in This is England 90. Credit: Channel 4

It’s a shame that Shane Meadows’ This Is England bids us farewell in 1990.

During the latest and last series of the hit Channel 4 show, there’s an acid-tinged shift in the sartorial tastes of the younger characters. Lol’s baby sister Kel and her peers shun the Fred Perry polos and drainpipes (favoured by the older members of the gang), adopting the new baggy, Madchester look instead. 

But how would Kel and co’s style evolve as they made their way through the rest of the decade?

The real indie fashion icons of the 1990s emerged during two of the most important music movements of the time, grunge and Britpop, the latter being the natural progression for Kel and her bucket hat. 

So let’s raise a bottle of Becks to some of indie’s unlikely fashion icons of the 90s and lament over the missed wardrobe opportunities…

Justine Frischmann 

Every girl wanted to snog Damon Albarn in the 90s. And so it was standard to dress like his one-time girlfriend and Elastica singer, Justine Frischmann. We don’t know if it was the dark floppy hair or Doc Martin boots that did it for him, but we’re betting her penchant for loosely-buttoned, tight-fitting black shirts certainly helped catch his eye. Could see Lol trading her peroxide and polo shirts in the mid-90s for this look.

Bjork

Her signature bantu hairknots are currently enjoying a revival thanks to some 90s-obsessed Instagrammers, but the Icelandic songstress had some out-there looks during her heyday that could be imitated by few. She sang about Human Behaviour yet dressed like an animal, albeit a very pretty one. Rainbow bright feathers, pastel furs and cobalt eyeshadow were only a prequel to the now-infamous swan dress she wore to the Academy Awards in 2001.

Shirley Manson

She was the feminine face of grunge, with her flame-red hair, red lipstick and heavy-lined eyes. If Smell added some shiny, coloured PVC and tartan mini skirts to her all-black wardrobe circa 1995, this is probably what she’d look like.

Louise Wener

The Sleeper singer was the ultimate fashion Inbetweener, treading the very narrow lad/ladette line with some typically androgynous 90s outfits. With her dark cropped hair featuring Geri-style blonde curtains, she was like a cool hybrid of Sporty and Ginger Spice, favouring Fila tracksuit tops and tight cropped vests. Girl power.

Gwen Stefani

Before she morphed into a scarlet-lipped blonde bombshell, No Doubt’s lead singer was experimenting with bold fashion looks like bindis, braids and, er, braces (the metal ones that help hold your teeth, not your trousers, in place). And she nailed the mermaid hair look, with aqua, lilac and candy pink locks, before most of today’s fashion bloggers were born.

Lauren Laverne

The TV and radio presenter would readily admit that her Britpop band Kenickie won’t be remembered for their music, but some of Lauren’s signature 90s looks are hard to forget. She may be my favourite Britpop fashion moment, with her platinum chopstick bun and satin Chinese dresses, topped with a healthy sprinkle of silver glitter eyeshadow.

Courtney Love

Whether you think she was a glorified Nirvana groupie or one of the most important frontwomen of the 90s, there’s no denying that Courtney’s grunge goddess style was influential. Imagine Marilyn Monroe went on a night out, but forgot to bleach her roots. She has one too many drinks. Wakes up to discover her lipstick is smudged on her face, she’s forgotten to take her silk dress off and her sheer stockings are laddered. That’s kinda how Courtney rolled in the 90s. 

Scottish fashion blogger. Always having a blonde moment.

After years of battling the British weather in wellies in order to catch a few bands in an open field, I’m opting out of the traditional UK festival trip this year.

Coachella in April opens festival season each year and leaves us dreaming of rocking floaty maxi dresses and studded sandals as we sip ice cold drinks under the sunset. 

The reality in the UK is less than idyllic.

T in the Park in particular has a habit of getting the temperatures mixed up – somehow we end up with warm cider as we hide from ice cold torrential rain in the height of summer. Pretty sure it should be the other way around…

So this year I’m evacuating and looking forward to sunbathing by day and partying by night at Spain’s Benicassim festival.

Need convincing? Here’s just a few reasons why festivals are better in the sun…

1. You can wear sunglasses (and not just to hide your hangover)

So it goes without saying that I carry sunglasses with me in all weathers, but even I would admit to feeling like a bit of a dick wearing mirrored wayfarers when it’s 5 degrees and raining buckets in the middle of a muddy field.

Everyone wears shades at a sunny festival, almost like it’s mandatory. 

And it kinda is when the skies are always blue and the sun is always shining.

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2. Swap your rucksack for a suitcase

One of the worst things about UK festivals is the backbreaking rucksack fiasco. 

Yeah sure, we all try and pack light but when you’re trying to fit in four days worth of clothes that are appropriate for hail, rain or shine, it gets slightly tricky.

I’m not sure what’s worse – the way to the campsite where you face a never ending uphill battle with ten tonnes of “lightweight layers” strapped to your back.

Or the long journey home where you’re weighed down by exhaustion/rain/the hangover and end up chucking half of your festival essentials to stop you from sinking in the mud bath fields.

An overpacked suitcase sounds like heaven in comparison.

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3. Take your best bag

You may as well take a plastic carrier bag to hold your lipstick, money and baby wipes when you attend a British festival.

When it comes to arm candy we’re talking more mudberry than Mulberry by the time you’ve battled your way through the overflowing pints. Anything less than waterproof and your banknotes will look like wet leaves, swimming in a pool of cider dregs and raindrops.

Festivals in the sun, however, accommodate your best bag buddies a bit better.

Swinging your Chanel from your shoulder is a good look, especially when you don’t have to sit it down next to a mud puddle at any point in the day.

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4. Boho doesn’t look bonkers

Admit it, how many times have you sat watching Glasto, pointing and laughing at the hippie-wannabes as they try and wade through ten inches of mud in embellished maxi dresses?

Sure, Kate Moss looks all boho babe as she floats about festivals in her fringed kimono and denim cutoffs, but she usually gets dropped off at the VIP tent. No 3 mile trek from the carpark to campsite in gladiator sandals for our Mossy.

Boho is a bit more achievable when it’s sunny and even better when it’s near a beach. Suddenly, it all makes sense and we can rock every Coachella cliche because we’re not weighed down by mud. Winning!

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5. You don’t have to camp

Festivals in Britain tend to be in the middle of nowhere, so camping really is the only option (unless you happen to live very close by and don’t mind travelling every day).

The first time is always a novelty, sleeping under the stars and drinking cider by the campfire with your mates… so romantic!

But when you’ve experienced an actual river running through your tent during a monsoon in July, that novelty soon wears off. Soggy sleeping bags, muddy socks and freezing midnight trips to the portaloos (always with no toilet roll and never clean) are something that can only be endured when you’re very drunk. 

Although you can camp at sunnier festivals, they’re often located next to beach resorts, meaning there’s an array of hotels, apartments and villas nearby.

Beds, showers, clean towels, clean clothes and possibly even a pool to sunbathe beside during the day? Absolute bliss!

 

Scottish fashion blogger. Always having a blonde moment.

It feels as though this series just started, but here it is, the Girls Season 4 finale.

With Hannah and the gang reluctantly accepting it’s time to grow up (slightly) and creator Lena Dunham admitting she only ever planned to film four short series of the show, is this the end of the road for our shambolic Brooklyn friends?

Unless a lot of loose ends get tied up in tonight’s episode, we’re going to be left hoping there’s a Season 5 on the way. Or forever be furious that we never got to see how it all worked out.

Here’s some things I’d like to see happen in the finale, just incase it’s the last time we get to see Girls on our screens…

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Marnie loses her voice

Seriously, enough already! Has there ever been a more cringey crooner than the wannabe songstress?

As annoyingly gorgeous as she is, Marnie’s self-proclaimed songwriting ‘talent’ is not something she should be hinging her future on.

More disturbing is the creepy loser she seems to have attracted in her attempt to forge some sort of modern day June and Johnny Cash setup.

Lose the voice, lose the loser. Because he ain’t hanging around if there’s no dollars to be made.

Problem solved.

 

2. Adam lets Hannah rescue him

Because we all know that’s what this is about. The only way Hannah can save herself from her own insecurities is to save someone else that’s even more fucked up than she is.

Adam was always meant to be the challenge she took on and won. And for a while it looked like she was winning – she had the boy, the relationship, the job, the cohabiting.

It was all working out and so she decided to test it by moving to Iowa. He failed the test – he gave up on her and moved on, way too quickly, when all she wanted him to do was say that he needed her to stay.  

So come on Adam, just let her save you from yourself. It’s the only way to settle this once and for all!

 

3. Shoshanna says it like it is

One of my favourite episodes of Girls was in Season 3 when Shoshanna went cray cray and told her so-called friends what she really thought of them.

Given that the friendships haven’t really improved during this season, it’s about time Shoshanna reminded the girls that their behaviour towards each other is anything but friendly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Jessa hooks up with Pete Doherty

Let’s face it, he’s her soulmate. Kate Moss couldn’t handle Pete’s hardcore lifestyle but I have every confidence that Jessa could.

The English wild child would bond with the Libertines frontman during another stint in rehab and become his latest muse.

Jessa’s always been my favourite Girls character so I’d like a happy ending for her and this would be it.

 

5. Hannah dresses like a sane person

I don’t completely hate Hannah’s wardrobe but I’d say her choices are usually questionable.

Apart from the few passable dresses she owns, Hannah’s wardrobe is a complete reflection of her life: a mess.

I get the whole trying to look like a hipster (who manage to all look the same while trying so hard to look ‘different’!) with clashing prints and thrift store buys.

But, after watching her lurch from crisis to crisis in a series of ill-fitting shirts, I think it’s about time she paid more attention to how she dresses.

I’m not saying she has to have some sort of Victoria Beckham makeover but not looking like a Texan trucker would be a great start.

And that lizard crop top has to go. WTF even is that.

 

6. Mimi Rose Howard gets punched in the face

Just because. We’ve all been there, when you get replaced with someone else it’s always the worst person possible.

They’re either way worse than you or way better. Either way, you’re the loser who’s on your own while your ex has moved on to better/worse things. 

Mimi Rose is better on paper than Hannah, which only serves to fuel her self-obsessiveness and insecurity. 

And to add insult to injury she was only ever using Adam anyway. That alone is reason enough to punch her in the face.

 

7. Hannah writes a self help book

Because Hannah being a teacher doesn’t work out for anyone.

If the phrase ‘those who can’t, teach’ was where Hannah got the idea to enter the world of education then she really does need to assess her life choices.

Given that her mental age is on par with her potential students, Hannah should really steer clear of trying to educate impressionable youngsters on life.

A self help book is a win-win for Hannah. She could inadvertently end up helping herself through writing about her life, finally identifying what her problem is and why she can’t get her shit together, ever.

Way cheaper then eternal therapy sessions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. The Girls finally realise what true friendship is (and value it)

One of the main reasons people don’t like Girls is that there’s not one character you can truly like.

Likeability is a big part of identifying with a character, unless you hate yourself and therefore that’s not an issue.

These girls are horrible to each other.

In moments of need they resort to avoidance, ridicule and even pleasure that one of their so-called friends is a bigger fuck up than they are.

Is that really what girls are like these days? Whatever happened to girl power (ahem, ’90s kid over here)?

There’s enough people in the world queuing up to smile smugly when you fail, your friends shouldn’t be on that list.

 

The UK series finale of Girls Season 4 airs on Sky Atlantic at 10pm, Monday 23rd February 2015

 

Scottish fashion blogger. Always having a blonde moment.

I never thought I’d be posting a recipe on the blog but there’s a first time for everything! Since I posted a photo of this attempt at being a domestic goddess, so many of my lovely friends and fellow bloggers have asked for the recipe. Which is great as I didn’t think the photo actually did the meal any justice!

I’m not that much of a cook but recently I’ve been taking inspiration from recipes I’ve found online in an attempt to eat new things rather than have the same meals every week. I don’t like anything that gives me too many dishes to clean up afterwards, but it’s great when you find recipes that aren’t that difficult to make and you can freeze extra portions for later.

When I come in from work most nights I’m too tired to cook and if there’s not something that I can throw in the oven for half an hour (hello Sainsbury’s Just Cook range) I end up either having a bowl of cereal (when my milk’s not out of date) or nothing. I just can’t be bothered cooking for one at 7pm, especially if it means missing Emmerdale! What I need, therefore, are tasty recipes, that are easy and quick to make in order to actually make use of the cooking utensils in my kitchen.

So many ready meals and jars of sauces are packed full of horrible ingredients and chemicals to make them last longer on shelves and it’s amazing how many of them seem to contain onions, which I absolutely hate! There cannot be a need for every jar of sauce to have onions surely?!

Anyway, rant over.

This recipe I found while looking for Chinese foodspiration. I love a takeaway but let’s face it you can’t have one every night and I refuse to buy Chinese ready meals in supermarkets as they don’t actually taste of anything but salt (and onions).

So when I came across this recipe I thought I’d make an attempt – I already had most of the ingredients in my food cupboard anyway so seemed like a plan. I’ve adapted it slightly where I didn’t have things and also added in some noodles to accompany the chicken, but it’s really easy to make and super tasty. If you try it I would love to know what you think!

Honey Chilli Chicken & Soy Noodles
Serves 2
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
314 calories
33 g
166 g
6 g
32 g
2 g
219 g
433 g
19 g
0 g
3 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
219g
Servings
2
Amount Per Serving
Calories 314
Calories from Fat 51
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 6g
9%
Saturated Fat 2g
8%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 166mg
55%
Sodium 433mg
18%
Total Carbohydrates 33g
11%
Dietary Fiber 1g
5%
Sugars 19g
Protein 32g
Vitamin A
9%
Vitamin C
92%
Calcium
4%
Iron
12%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. Sunflower oil
  2. 2 chicken breasts
  3. 1 egg
  4. Plain flour
  5. Salt and black pepper
  6. Light Soy Sauce
  7. 80ml water
  8. Lemon juice
  9. 2 tablespoons honey
  10. Ground ginger
  11. Crushed or fresh red and green chillies
  12. 2 nests of Sharwoods fine egg noodles
Instructions
  1. Cut the chicken breast into strips, quite thinly, add some rock salt, black pepper and the flour to a bowl.
  2. Dip the chicken strips in the egg and use as much flour as you need to cover the chicken completely.
  3. Heat the sunflower oil in a wok or frying pan on a high heat setting. Again use enough oil to make sure all of the chicken is coated with some oil so the flour is sealed on the chicken to make a crispy coating.
  4. Pour two tablespoons of lemon juice into a cup or bowl, add two tablespoons of the crushed chilli flakes, soy sauce, water and flour then stir together.
  5. Fry the chicken for a few minutes in the hot oil until golden brown and remove to drain on some kitchen roll. The kitchen roll soaks up the oil, ensuring your recipe is tasty without being greasy.
  6. Discard all but about a tablespoon of the oil from the wok and gently fry the ginger and a sprinkle of crushed chillies for a minute or so.
  7. Add the honey to the wok and stir whilst it is bubbling away for another minute.
  8. Next add the lemon juice, crushed chillies, soy sauce, water and flour that you mixed in the bowl earlier. Keep stirring and bring to the boil, the sauce will thicken.
  9. Add the chicken back in to the wok to heat through for a few minutes, coating it with the sauce.
  10. Leave the chicken in the wok on a low heat setting and add the noodles to a pan of boiling water.
  11. Simmer for three minutes then drain over the sink, add some of the light soy sauce and toss the noodles until they have a light brown coating.
  12. Serve the noodles on a plate and pour the chicken over them for a tasty homemade Chinese meal!
Notes
  1. This recipe serves two but if you're cooking for one, freeze the leftover chicken and reheat at a later date.
  2. Don't bother freezing the noodles - just boil a new nest to accompany the reheated chicken, as this part only takes three minutes.
  3. If you like a lot of soy sauce you can always add these to the wok after draining and fry for a couple of minutes in soy sauce.
Adapted from BBC Good Food
beta
calories
314
fat
6g
protein
32g
carbs
33g
more
Adapted from BBC Good Food
Bella Blondie http://bellablondie.com/
Scottish fashion blogger. Always having a blonde moment.

January’s a grim month so I decided to hide from the snow storms and hibernate in the luxurious K West Hotel & Spa for a night.

Situated in Shepherd’s Bush, West London, the 4 Star boutique hotel is only a few minutes walk from both the tube station and Westfield Shopping Centre, on a quiet residential street.

I had read previously that the modern, neon-lit building sits awkwardly across from a concrete council block and that the building’s surroundings were less than desirable but it’s central London and I’ve ventured into worse streets if I’m being honest.

Besides, if this hotel was anywhere in W1 it wouldn’t be half as affordable as it is currently.

Reception is located at ground level on the third floor – there are two floors underground for those who want to hide from the world and two floors above for those like me who prefer to know there’s a window that leads outside, even if the curtains are closed.

The bar at K West Hotel

The bar at K West Hotel

The building is a former BBC recording studio so the slick rock vibe lives on in the glamorous bar area, perfectly placed beside the entrance, and the quieter velvet chair filled reading room across from the lifts. I liked this space, featuring a nice pop art Amy Winehouse print and plenty of musical reads on the shelves to keep you amused during your stay.

Lounge area at K west Hotel

Lounge area at K west Hotel

After wheeling my suitcase along the seductively lit corridor that snaked round the building, I found my surprisingly spacious room just past the ice bucket in the wall (yes, really!).

K West Junior Double Room

K West Junior Double Room

K West Hotel junior double room bathroom

K West Hotel junior double room bathroom

The sleek, monochrome and metallic decor was right up my street and the bathroom was everything you hope from a hotel/spa, complete with white fluffy towels and miniature toiletries from The White Company. Two sets of K-West branded robes and slippers are provided, ideal for slipping on before heading down to the spa located in the ground floor of the building.

White Company miniature shampoo, conditioner and shower gel

White Company miniature shampoo, conditioner and shower gel

I had chosen the Snow Joke package for my overnight stay (25% off a junior double room with continental breakfast), but my plans changed on arrival and I decided to make the most of my time at K West by upgrading. I called reception with my request and they obliged immediately, updating my details so I had some added extras to my stay.

I went for the Love Sucks package (£119), ideal for one person who really does think that love sucks! I think the package is a total bargain for what you get and it was just what I needed. The package includes:

  • Overnight stay in a Junior Double Room
  • Continental breakfast
  • Complimentary movie with popcorn and soft drink
  • Complimentary bottled water
  • Room Service Dinner – One main course and a drink (Glass of Wine, Beer or Soft Drink)
  • Complimentary WIFI in room
  • Access to the K Spa

After upgrading I changed into my swimsuit, robe and slippers, then made my way down to the spa. I’d never been to a spa before so I wasn’t sure what to expect but I LOVED it! Talk about another world… this was the perfect way to escape the January blues.

K West spa

K West spa

Everything’s perfectly thought out, from the endless supply of pristine white towels, robes and flip flops to the hairdryers, GHD straighteners and cotton buds in the changing rooms.

Changing room vanity area at K West Spa

Changing room vanity area at K West Spa

The spa itself was smaller than what I expected but I think that was good – I had imagined a terrifying parade of perfect modelesque bodies in bikinis lining an endless swimming pool but that wasn’t the case at all. As I made my way to the hydrotherapy pool I noticed there was a mix of singletons, couples and groups of friends so I felt totally at ease doing my own thing. Most importantly for me, it’s a kid-free zone so no chance of boisterous brats ruining my chill time!

The hydrotherapy was like a large jacuzzi with metal bar beds and benches you could relax on. I got quite used to staring at the twinkling lights above me as the bubbles worked wonders on leaving my skin feeling soft.

K West spa ceiling lights

K West spa ceiling lights

After the pool I made my way to the solarium, a wood panelled room where you could lie back on a wooden bench to dry off. It felt just like sunbathing and I closed my eyes imagining I was poolside at a tropical resort.

I tried the sauna for five minutes but it’s just not for me – the extreme heat makes me feel like I can’t breathe! I’m sure it’s great if you can relax but I kept thinking I was going to faint. And therefore I couldn’t face the steam room for the same reasons!

The twin footbaths are a great idea, with bathsalts provided to soften the skin, but it’s not that much fun on your own so I moved on to the Snow Paradise. Yes, having flown down to London to escape the snow in Scotland, it wasn’t high on my agenda but I opened the door out of curiosity anyway… and couldn’t face stepping into it wearing a swimsuit and flip-flops. Again, I’m sure there’s some sort of pleasure in it, and I can vouch that it did look like real snow, but not for me.

Water jugs in the spa at K West Hotel

Water jugs in the spa at K West Hotel

I spent the rest of my Saturday night floating between the pool and the solarium, occasionally sitting on the chill out sofas with a glass of water from the lemon and lime filled jugs that the spa staff keep topped up. Quite a change from my usual Saturday night drink of choice!

After three hours in the spa, I got showered and changed into another fluffy robe in time to order my room service dinner. The food was amazing – I went for the lemon and herb chicken, served with corn on the cob, skin-on fries and BBQ sauce, plus a chilled glass of rose wine that was part of my Love Sucks meal for one (singletons need wine!).

K West Hotel room service dinner and movie package

K West Hotel room service dinner and movie package

As a treat I added on a dessert, the chocolate marquis with cherry sorbet and sauce, easily one of the best sweets I’ve tasted.

By sheer coincidence Bridget Jones’ Diary was the movie of choice on ITV1 that night, so I had a laugh to myself before swiftly swapping for the movie package film I’d chosen, The Wolf of Wall Street. Chick flicks ain’t my thing!

All that relaxation and the comfy bed meant I couldn’t keep my eyes open to watch the entire movie, but I did stay awake long enough to scoff half the salty popcorn and diet coke brought to me by the lovely room service waiter.

A continental breakfast was included in the Love Sucks package but after I saw the options for hot breakfasts in the welcome pack I decided to pay the extra £7 to get a full English in bed.

K West Hotel room service English and Continental breakfast

K West Hotel room service English and Continental breakfast

It arrived at 10am as requested and I managed to watch the rest of the film I’d ordered while munching on poached eggs, chestnut mushrooms, cumberland sausage, wholemeal toast, a selection of pastries and a hot chocolate. Had I not had to check out at 12pm, could easily have gone back to bed after that feast!

I checked out reluctantly as I could quite happily reside here forever but it was a great way to spend 24 hours nonetheless. The whole experience is made all the better by the hotel staff, who really do go out of their way to make you feel welcome and accommodate any (reasonable) request you might have. I think I’ll definitely be back, perhaps for longer next time!

K West Love Sucks package for one person is priced at £119, Friday, Saturday and Sunday

 

 

 

Scottish fashion blogger. Always having a blonde moment.

I was lucky enough to live and work in London a few years ago, and I loved the place so much that I’m still a regular visitor to the city for both work and pleasure. Even though I now live back in Scotland, I’m always asked for advice on what to do and where to go when friends and family are visiting London for the first time.

I forget how daunting it can be when you’re a first time visitor in London – everything is different and there are more people living in the UK’s capital city than currently reside in the whole of Scotland. 7 million and rising! And people wonder why the tubes are packed…

Anyway, having been asked the question again, I thought it was easier if I just created a blog post with all my tips and hints for making your first experience of London an enjoyable, hassle-free one. Some of the tips are specific to Scots/Glaswegians landing in London for the first time but there are some general rules that apply to tourists visiting London from anywhere in the world…

1. Choose Your Transport Wisely

This one’s a bit confusing if you are used to one main airport and train station. So you leave from Glasgow Airport or Central Station, but where do you head to?

The train is easy enough as Glasgow trains end up in Euston or King’s Cross station, both in north/central London and much of a muchness. Go for the cheapest service with the least amount of changes and you’re on to a winner, as some Virgin and East Coast services only take 4 hours and 30 minutes.

Don’t even think about the dreaded mega bus – you have seen Trainspotting right?! Having endured this once a few years ago when I missed a flight, I’d say the depiction is pretty accurate. But if you insist… don’t forget the cairds! You might be safer having a pastime that doesn’t involve making eye contact with the general public on this vomit-inducing journey.

Too many airports to choose from is a headache though so think about where you’re travelling to once you get to the airport, as that can be a deciding factor. Along with price of course – Heathrow, served only by BA from Glasgow, is generally more expensive to fly to due to faster links into London from the airport (15 minutes to Paddington on the Heathrow Express).

In order of my personal preference, here’s your airport options:

Heathrow

Easily the best option – you can fly BA and get be in central London 15 minutes after landing on the Heathrow Express to Paddington. Usually worth spending a bit extra for convenience, but especially so if you’re staying in west London. If time’s not an issue you can save some money by travelling on the less expensive Heathrow Connect service, 30 minutes to Paddington.

Stansted

If you have to go budget airline then Stansted is generally a better experience than the other airports. The Stansted express takes 45 minutes but drops you in Liverpool Street station, east London, ideal for connecting with most of the main underground lines. Another handy tip for anyone staying in north London is that the national express bus will get you to Golder’s Green and Finchley Road in under an hour for around a tenner. Although the bus travels on to Victoria station, I wouldn’t recommend staying on to sit in central London traffic jams.

Gatwick

Not my favourite airport in the world due to the confusing north/south terminal setup but you do sometimes get decent BA flights here. As it’s south of London it does feel like you’re on a longer flight and the Gatwick ‘Express’ (listed as taking 30 minutes into Victoria but I’ve yet to be on a service that’s actually got me there in that time!) is nowhere near as good, fast or reliable as the Heathrow or Stansted options.

London City

Better if you’re staying east but has the added bonus of some BA flights departing and arriving here. A short trip on the DLR will hook you up to the main tube lines so you can continue on your journey to wherever your hotel is. I’ve only ever flown into this airport so not sure what the duty free options are like, but it is a smaller airport (think Prestwick v Glasgow) so you take your chance on this one.

Luton

Just avoid. Seriously, you would be as well considering alternative dates if this is your only airport option.

2. Choose Your Hotel Even More Wisely

If you’re setting up base camp in a central London hotel room then you do need to do your research. London hotels are like nowhere else on the planet I’ve decided. Do a quick search and you’ll find reasonably-priced 4 star hotels in Covent Garden that look grand… until you discover they’re 4 star dormitories you’ll be sharing with 12 other people, sleeping in bunk beds and using a shared bathroom. Even Travelodges in this town don’t come in cheap so it’s worth doing the ground work before parting with your pennies.

Besides decent TripAdvisor reviews and comparison site promotions, it’s always key to check the hotel on a map and see how close it actually is to a tube station. You will rely on the tube to get around so if it’s more than a few streets away and you don’t know the area, it’s probably not worth the 10% off promo code you’re about to type in.

As a general rule the areas surrounding Hyde Park are popular with overseas tourists, so make sure your hotel isn’t likely to be overrun with backpackers and school trips. Avoid smaller B&Bs and independent guest houses in this area and stick to larger, established hotel chains for a better night’s sleep.

And unless you’re visiting London for a specific venue/event outside Zone 2 (e.g. Wembley or Wimbledon), it’s best to keep your search to this area for convenience and travel costs when moving around the city.

3. Download a Tube Map

Even a seasoned Londoner will check the tube map if they’re travelling a route they don’t take often, just to make sure they’re taking the quickest route and avoiding any station closures.

The best place to get on is the Transport for London website – I keep one bookmarked for when I visit. It pays off to plan your journey before you get inside the tube station so you avoid clogging up the area in front of the in-station maps (Londoners hate this and will knock you out of the way if you’re obstructing their commute).

4. Buy an Oyster Card

Quite possibly the greatest invention for public transport, the Oyster Card beats Scotfail’s overly-complex and overpriced Zone Card every time. Order a preloaded card in advance of your trip from the Oyster Card website or pay for one when you arrive at most tube stations – either way, it costs £3 to activate and you can top up the balance as and when you need it.

The great news is that in 2015 the capped rate for Zone 1-2 travel is £6.40, so you can travel as many times as you like on the bus, tube or DLR in these zones and never pay more than this fare in one day.

5. Mind The Gap

On the platform, on the escalators and even on the overcrowded things themselves… London tube-hopping is all about paying attention to the gaps.

Tube etiquette is something quite incomparable to how you travel on the good ol’ Glasgow subway, fondly known as the Clockwork Orange (because of its colour, not through any reference to the Stanley Kubrick film… although I’m sure there are times when it’s just as anarchic).

Here’s some hints for travelling on the tube:

Stand To The Right, Walk To The Left

As a rule this is the best way to avoid the wrath of frantic commuters during rush hour. If you’re travelling with a suitcase, bear in mind that most tube stations don’t have the luxury of a lift for passengers so if you do have to haul one up the escalators with you, it needs to go either in front or behind you. Not to the left of you – that’s for walking, remember?

Don’t Make Eye Contact

It’s classed as suspicious behaviour. Smiling is even worse. And if you’re thinking of starting a conversation, be aware that you’re likely to be met with a swift safety barrier, otherwise known as a newspaper, between you and your potential travel buddy.

Snap Up A Seat

Normal manners don’t really apply when it comes to nabbing a seat on a packed tube. In other words, don’t rely on gender, age or imminent childbirth to guarantee yourself a comfy spot when you travel so get in there first of you see one. Very rarely will someone offer you a seat, even if you’re struggling to balance as you stand in the aisle wearing 5 inch heels. More fool you, should’ve worn flats. Yes, there are some rare displays of manners and chivalry at times, which are to be welcomed. But don’t expect it.

Avoid Rush Hour

If you really want to travel with a gap of more than a centimetre between you and your fellow passengers then avoid the hours of 7.30am-9am and 4.30pm-6pm Monday-Friday. It will still be busy outwith these hours but slightly less uncomfortable. If for some reason you do need to travel during rush hour, the central and northern lines are probably the worst so look for an alternative route if nose-to-nose travelling makes you queasy.

6. Leave Your Winter Coat At Home

This one always amazes me, when Londoners complain about the weather. Hello, have you tried walking to work in the west of Scotland when it’s blowing a gale and the rain is lashing you horizontally? No, you haven’t.

Granted, it can be rainy in London so do pack and umbrella, but as for the eskimo-like coat and scarf combo you’ve packed? Not required, even if it’s snowing.

The reason for this is simple – you’ll be spending most of your time travelling about on the tube, which is underground and naturally warmer anyway. Add on top of that the body heat of at least twenty other people in the carriage beside you and you’ll end up overheating, which is never a good look.

Even if you do have to walk anywhere, it is only ever five minutes before you reach the safety of a warm tube station so where’s the need?

7. Speak Slowly

Glaswegians are always accused of talking at a hundred miles an hour anyway but the further south you go, the harder it seems to become for people to understand your accent. Never mind that we’re expected to know what they’re saying at all times (you’ve watched Eastenders right?), you may as well be speaking Martian if you talk at your usual pace.

The first time I visited London I headed for Oxford Street looking for Selfridges. I should’ve got off at Bond Street, but didn’t realise this, so asked a member of staff in Boots how far away the famous department store was. Her response? A screwed up face followed by a very confused ‘Sorry love we don’t sell fridges, you’d need to try John Lewis or some fink’. The conversation went on like this for another few minutes until I wrote it down for her on my receipt and she realised what I was saying! Sometimes you do have to spell things out.

And I’m not just digging at Londoners here. In my experience 9/10 staff working in the service industry in London are not of British descent, which is fine, but they really don’t understand your Glaswegian take on the English language.

If you don’t slow it down, be prepared to deal with blank looks, requests for sentence repeats and the dreaded ‘Could you say that again in English please?’. Not even joking.

8. Take Scottish Bank Notes At Your Own Risk

Yes I know it’s legal tender and believe me I have argued this point many times. To be fair, this one is sometimes not an issue, but if it is then be prepared to get very angry.

As I’ve just said, the majority of service industry staff are not British anyway, so you do have to give them some sort of leeway if they’ve never come across a Scottish note.

But I’ve been told all sorts of nonsense before, including a member of staff in a branch of Savers (national retailer) in Ealing telling me that the bank no longer accepted them! She was very British and very English, so probably no excuse here other than being extremely confused by banks no longer accepting Scottish pound notes rather than not accepting any sort of Scottish notes at all. No point explaining what Sterling is either, this is a lost cause.

9. Take Advantage of Happy Hours

 

London bars often do happy hours where drinks are 2 for 1

London bars often do happy hours where drinks are 2 for 1

 

The good old SNP and their increased ‘protecting us from alcohol’ laws have practically wiped out this sort of promotion in Scotland so do make the most of it when you’re in London. A lot of bars in central London, especially in tourist hotspots, do happy hours between 5pm-8pm, so you can get 2 for 1 drinks and the like.

Like most things in London, including taxi fares and rental properties, alcohol does tend to be more expensive no matter where you drink so it pays off to make the most of happy hour.

10. Visit A Market

Yes we’ve got the Barras and that’s a unique experience in itself! But London markets are well worth a visit, no matter what you’re looking for when you go shopping. I’m probably not listing all the markets in the city but these are the ones I’ve visited and would recommend.

Camden Market

My favourite part of London holds the capital’s most visited market. Although some of its charm has been lost in recent years, with an influx of cheap stalls selling mobile phone cases and tourist tat, you can still find some of the more Camdenesque goods here that made the market a destination for alternative shoppers.

The Stables Market still houses some proper vintage stores selling everything from Pucci scarves to vinyl records and even the odd bong or two. It tends to get busier on a Sunday, with Camden Town tube station exit only in the afternoon, so try and pop along on another day if crowds don’t appeal. Situated on Camden Lock, next to a varied collection of bars and shops, it’s ideal for soaking up the edgier side of north London.

Portobello Road

The famous row of pastel townhouses featured in Notting Hill really does exist and it’s just as pretty in real life. So movie stars don’t fall in love with bookshop owners every day in these parts, but the area is just as charming nonetheless. Perfect if you love looking at antiques and vintage bags, clothing and jewellery, with the odd cupcake and coffee stop.

Spitalfields Market

Welcome to east London, Victorian style. The large covered market is an eclectic mix of independent fashion, beauty, art and food stalls, with a history that’s hundreds of years old. Open seven days but busiest on a Sunday, there are different markets running depending on which day you visit. Get here via Liverpool Street or Aldgate East tube stations.

Brick Lane Market

Only visit this one if you’re a true retro lover or fashion obsessive. That’s not a dig at this place but if Shoreditch hipsters annoy you then steer well clear at the weekends, when the markets sprawl over the streets here, packed with designer moustached men and budding fashion bloggers on vintage bikes. Lots of arty stuff happens in The Old Truman Brewery but there’s as much junk flying around this place as there is proper unique finds, so make sure you know your bargains from your bric-a-brac.

Borough Market

One for the foodies, this market is bustling with traders selling every food produce you can think of. Situated in Southwark, it’s right next to London Bridge station so easy to find if you’re that way inclined. You might not think market stalls selling food and flowers would be exciting but trust me you’ll easily fritter a few hours away filling your shopping basket with things you’ll never find in your local Tesco superstore.

11. Go on An Open Top Bus Tour

I’ve done this six times, once at night, and it never, ever gets boring. By far the best way to see all of London’s iconic buildings up close, the London bus tours are great value for money as your ticket is hop on/hop off and usually valid for 24/48 hours.

With the exception of Buckingham Palace, where you’d be best to get off the tube at Green Park and walk up to the grounds to wave to The Queen, this is the way to do it. You’ll see the Houses of Parliament at Westminster, St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Marble Arch and the Tower of London with plenty of photo opportunities. Plus it also takes you down to Knightsbridge if you want to visit the iconic department store, Harrods.

12. Shop the Department Stores

Chanel SS15 at Harrods

Chanel SS15 at Harrods

Speaking of which… this is the best way to do some serious shopping in London. I’m not talking about going to Debenhams, John Lewis and House of Fraser – we’ve got great branches of these in Glasgow. But the original Selfridges store on Oxford Street is worth a visit for the window displays alone or head down Argyll Street, off Oxford Circus, to see the monochrome magnificence of Liberty. For a truly Ab Fab fashion trip head to Knightsbridge where you could easily spend an entire day getting lost travelling up and down Harrods’ Egyptian escalators or bankrupt yourself in Harvey Nichols.

13. Enjoy A Bit Of Parklife

The Serpentine at Hyde Park

The Serpentine at Hyde Park

Not in the Damon Albarn meets Phil Daniels sense, though for any Britpop fan that won’t necessarily be a bad thing. London has a reputation for being a cold, grey city, and sometimes it is, but there’s a surprising amount of greenery in some parts.

I’m a north London girl myself, having been lucky enough to live in St John’s Wood, which is close to two of London’s most famous and beautiful parks, Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill. The latter is perfect for enjoying views over the city and sunbathing on a hot day, with the odd celeb spot entirely possible.

Hampstead Heath is a bit further north if you’re only visiting for the weekend and staying more central, but I’d also say this is one of my favourite areas in London too so have to recommend it!

Hyde Park is also fab on a summer’s day with the picturesque Serpentine gallery area probably my favourite place to park and look out onto the swan-filled lake. And Kensington Gardens surrounding Kate and Wills’ home, Kensington Palace, is another quieter part of London, great for an evening walk away from the busier parts of the city.

14. Be a Culture Vulture

Museums aren’t going to take everyone’s fancy however if you do like a bit of art or fashion then take advantage of some of the exhibitions on display around London. The V&A in South Kensington always has some fashion-related display and art lovers will appreciate a trip to the Southbank for the Tate Modern. There are hundreds of museums to choose from and some are free to visit so have a look at what’s on before you arrive.

15. Stay Safe!

I say this as someone who has had their purse stolen twice in Camden and a credit card cloned once in a bar in east London. And yes I’ve heard all the stuff about Glasgow being the most violent city in Europe and tourists being terrified of the place yadda yadda, but London can be a scary place at times for different reasons. Crime is everywhere, from crackheads outside tube stations to pickpockets actively working inside tube stations. A thief loves nothing more than opportunity and a tourist is an opportunity.

– Always keep your bag zipped shut, and hold it in front of you as you’re going up and down escalators in tube stations

– Check for people watching over your shoulder as you enter your pin number at card machines in bars and cash machines on the high street

– If you’re heading out at night after the last tube time, make sure you know your night bus route home

– Taxis are a safe option but never hail a mini cab off the street, always use a registered black Hackney or store a legitimate taxi number in your phone to call and book when required

– There’s safety in numbers so if you do get lost for whatever reason don’t wander off the beaten track, stick to busy areas like Trafalgar Square where it’s busy at any time of day or night and plenty of night buses to get you home safely

Scottish fashion blogger. Always having a blonde moment.