Against Captain’s Orders, National Maritime Museum

Get ready to experience history like never before as you and your family join the crew of HMS Adventure. Meet our fearless curators, don a lifejacket, and step into the heart of the action. Anyone brave enough to get on board will scarcely believe what will happen next. With so much history secured in one museum, so many doorways to other times and other worlds, Against Captain’s Orders promises to be exciting, enlightening, and perhaps a tiny bit dangerous…

As someone who fell in love with Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man last year I am always keeping an ear out for any mention of their work. So when Against Captains Orders was announced I was pretty excited. My excitement was sadly short-lived when it was also announced that as the show was aimed at children, one would have to be accompanied by a child between the ages of six and twelve in order to attend. Curses and fiddlesticks. Punchdrunk must have realised that there was a huge amount of demand from adults who wanted to see the show too as they then announced special adult only evenings for their keyholders. Sadly for me I am not currently a keyholder and I could not justify forking out £30 to become one on top of the £25 per ticket price tag. Luckily for me though, someone in the Punchdrunk group I’m a member of on Facebook happened to have a spare ticket. Hooray! So that is how I found myself hot footing it to Greenwich after work on Thursday to meet a complete stranger with whom to see the show. Isn’t the internet wonderful?

While Against Captain’s Orders is technically a children’s adventure that doesn’t mean that the adults will be bored. Oh no. You’ll become part of the crew just like everyone else and if you get into the spirit of things it’ll be a ruddy good adventure. From the moment you don your lifejacket and meet the rest of your shipmates you’re transported to this other world where anything can happen. As always with Punchdrunk the care and attention that has gone into the sets of ACO is incredibly detailed and I found myself longing for more time to explore my surroundings. The use of space is also very clever with corridors twisting and turning to give a sense of it being much bigger than it is. The storyline is enjoyable enough but I’m sure ten times more exciting through the eyes of a ten-year old. There’s not really a whole lot more I can say without spoiling the adventure but it’s an adventure that you should definitely consider embarking on should you be allowed. I for one am hoping that my niece can visit before the show closes at the end of August simply so that I can see it one more time.

BitBS Rating – ££

#LandGGamesNight

Last week I went to one of the best blogger events I’ve been too. It was hosted by Joes Bloggers in conjunction with Legal & General to promote their vast range of investment products. This probably sounds really boring and you’re wondering what on earth could be so exciting about that.

Well first of all the event was held in the rather amazing Joes Bloggers offices at Kings Cross complete with ping-pong table, jukebox and rather cool red diner style booths which would make any meeting extra awesome.

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Secondly there was prosecco on arrival and plenty of pizza to munch on later on in the evening too.

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And thirdly we got to play Monopoly for the entire night!

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Yes you read that correctly, Monopoly. Most people’s first encounter with the concept of investments. Genius or what?

Now I have a slight confession to make and I get rather competitive when playing board games, it was all about the strategy and the fellow bloggers at my table; Sorcha from Bright Field Notes, Milly from Mini Adventures, Emma from Emma Inks, Olivia from Beauty from the Fjord and modelling the wonderful top hat Charlie from Captain Ch-ARGH-ley’s Fashion blog weren’t being let off lightly. Sorry ladies!

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We had two hours to buy as many properties and make as much money as possible. The fab thing about this was that we could just chat away as we were playing which is something that I feel gets forgotten about at a lot of blogger events. You’re too busy taking pictures of food or listening to someone talk about a product to get to know each other and enjoy yourself but this was different.

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It took a while for the game to get going but finally some sets were completed and houses being built. I was lucky enough to be able to build hotels on the light blues which seemed to become a magnet for the other ladies and kept landing me £650 a pop each time. Mwuhuhuhu… at the end of the game the scores were totted up and the top three winners from all of the tables combined were announced…

The suspense was a killer…

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But yay I was declared the winner! Thanks again to Joes Bloggers for such a fab night.

*Disclaimer: I attended this event for free in exchange for blogging about the event.
The above opinions are still my own and not influenced by this in any way.

The Weekend #33

Last weekend I had the utmost pleasure of seeing one of my oldest friends get married to a wonderful man who makes her more incredibly happy than I have ever seen her in the time I’ve known her. (We calculated that our friendship was now an adult at the ripe old age of 18!)

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Bright and early I hopped on the train from Aberdeen where I’d been seeing friends and family for a couple of days – the weather was truly horrendous and I was slightly worried as to what it would be like later but I needn’t have been. By the time I arrived the sun was shining giving me that glorious first peek at the castle as I emerged from the station.

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I took a brief meander through Princes Street Gardens before catching a bus to my friends flat where I would be spending the night – no five-star hotel reviews for you this week I’m afraid! The groom was in full action mode and it was quite interesting to see exactly what happens pre-wedding from the male perspective!

Having changed into my glad rags, myself and couple of the other guests caught another bus to the zoo. One thing I can say for Edinburgh is that the public transport is excellent. The busses are a flat fare of £1.50 or £3.50 for a day ticket and seem to be clean, punctual and take you everywhere – no need to fork out for expensive cab fares here.

The zoo is a brilliant place to visit and one of my favourite places in the city.

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Given the special significance of the zoo to the couple it was simply perfect for them.

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The weather held out and there was beautiful sunshine for the pictures, one of the pandas even graced us with its presence during our allocated slot.

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The wedding was book themed and we were each given a personally selected book as wedding favours.

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It was such a lovely day and of course nice to catch up with friends I don’t see often enough (some of whom I haven’t seen since leaving school ten years ago!) especially Sharon and Andi who are planning their own wedding and throwing some shapes on the dance floor with my old dancing bud Linzi!

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I honestly don’t think it could have been more perfect for them if it tried. Thankfully I wasn’t too hungover on the Sunday and I was up and out bright and early to see what the delights of Edinburgh could offer me. After a quick brunch I took a brief detour into the Scottish National Gallery which was is free.

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If you’re into art it’s definitely worth a peek at. However for me, no trip to Edinburgh is complete without a visit to the Elephant House.

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Famed for being where J.K. Rowling penned parts of the Harry Potter novels I love to while away an hour or so in their with a hot chocolate and a notebook. I wrote a thousand words of my novel which isn’t a lot but it’s still progress! The toilets took me quite by surprise and I do wonder how JK feels about it…

Back off on my travels I said hello to Greyfriars Bobby.

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Then popped in to the Museum of Scotland. I’d never been here before and I really loved it. There was so much to see and do and there was even a science festival happening where I got to see the Mars rover. How cool is that? Definitely somewhere you should check out if you’re in the area. It’s free too!

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All too soon it was time to hop on the bus to the airport and catch my flight to London. Hopefully I’ll be back again soon and won’t leave it two years between visits this time!

How was your weekend? Any exciting plans for this one?

Burlesque Baby – Level One

Throughout March I attended the first level of burlesque dance academy with Burlesque Baby so I thought I’d tell you a little bit about it. BB hold classes for various levels, naturally you start at level one and work your way up to level five and graduation where you take part in a burlesque show. I’d previously taken burlesque classes back home in Aberdeen which I loved especially as I knew the instructor so well from years of attending her hip hop classes (oh dancing how I miss thee). Given her background though, the burlesque there was more about the routine than the true meaning of burlesque; it’s all about the tease.

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Our instructor for the month was the mad-as-a-box-of-frogs Peggy de Lune who had us all shedding our inhibitions and making us hurt so much from laughter right from the very first lesson. She made us solemnly swear to have fun, enjoy it and make a complete tit of ourselves over the course of the four weeks. As this was the beginners level it started out with us learning a few of the basic moves and variations. I personally really enjoyed the drag queen strut! Later on we did some work with gloves and feather boas as well as learning a short routine. One things for sure burlesque is anything but sexy ha! It sure is a lot of fun though and I’m really looking forward to level two which I’m hoping I can squeeze in over May as April just ended up far too busy. Level two teaches the art of peeling (that’s taking your clothes off for the uninitiated) and introduces us to nipple tassels! Wish me luck lol.

I booked two levels via a Groupon deal for a really good price (which I can’t remember right at this moment) but the regular price is £60 per level or £270 for the whole 5 courses. They’ve actually got a special offer on at the moment where you can get all five for just £200 so be sure to check it out if you’re interested!

In Defence of Being Single

OK so I’m actually really annoyed at myself for writing this but it’s really been annoying me for the past couple of days and I want to get something off my chest.

There is nothing wrong with being single.

You do not need to be in a relationship to be happy.

It is better to be on your own than in the wrong relationship.

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With that out of the way, here’s what prompted this minor outburst. I was at a friend’s wedding at the weekend and a fabulous wedding it was. I was there on my own, as I more often am than not at these kind of things, and having a wonderful time. It was a chance to catch up with friends from home that I haven’t seen in a long time as well as people I haven’t seen in the ten years since we left school and the bride’s mum who happened to be an old teacher.

Anyway it was towards the end of the night and fuelled with prosecco I’d been laughing and dancing away on the dance floor quite contentedly until I needed to take a breather and sat myself down for a bit. I was approached by a man that I’d been introduced to only that day who was at the wedding with his girlfriend, the apparent love of his life, who decided to lecture me on being single on how I needed to “put myself out there” and how I couldn’t possibly be happy with life on my own. Despite my protestations to the contrary he was not interested in my opinion and was intent on making it known that he was not impressed that I was single.

I was initially puzzled by his comments and how they had come out of the blue but having had time to ponder upon them I’m even more confused. For starters how did he know that I was single? Many people go to weddings on their own without their other half. Why was he so concerned about my happiness? This was a stranger who I had only just met, who knows nothing about me or my life or my situation. Was he in fact hitting on me? Was he lamenting the single life and wished that he was free to ask me out on a date?! In the end I just figured that he’d had too much to drink which was made all the more plausible by his suggestion we hail a taxi (we were all staying at the bride and grooms flat for the night) in the middle of a pitch black car park rather than call one from the very nearby, well lit hotel!

This isn’t the first time something like this has been said to me. One of the first things my mother likes to ask me whenever we talk is how my love life is. Why does it matter how my love life is? Surely what matters is how my life is, how my health is, how my job is – these things are all important to my happiness, my health needs to be good so that I can work so that I can earn money and do the things I enjoy doing. My love life is neither here nor there and quite frankly none of anyone’s business. (Except my lovely readers with whom I will share things when I am good and ready and keep other things to myself.) If it’s going to happen it will happen, there is no point in rushing it.

Anyway, that’s all I really have to say on the matter. If you’re single and happy – good for you. You do not need someone to “complete” you. If you’ve found the love of your life and are happy then good for you. Please do not try to make single people feel bad because of something you think is an important part of life when they might not feel the same way. Same thing goes for people who don’t want to get married or don’t want to have children. We’re all different, that’s what makes the world such a fascinating place.

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen – The King and Co, Clapham

So as I mentioned last week I’ve been quite luck in the last few weeks and one of the other prizes that I won was two spots at Yelp London’s event at Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen. Interestingly enough I’d actually received a press release about the kitchens opening and was keen on going but as it was in Clapham I decided against it. Fate it seems had another idea and so last Tuesday I found myself in Clapham Common for the first time waiting for my friend Michael to arrive.

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Having never tried Ghanian food I was a both a little nervous and excited but mostly looking forward to trying things that I wouldn’t normally have ordered – that’s the beauty of a tasting menu. There were a few more people than expected so we ended up a little squished but that just meant we got to know each other a little bit faster. I was pleased to see that one of the other competition winners was also at the table and didn’t have a clue what a Yelp Elite was either!

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After getting some drinks it was time for the food. To start we were served the Okra Tempura with shito hot pepper sauce (I was a little confused as for some reason I had a dairy free menu which wasn’t quite the same but I got there in the end!) these tasty little bites were packed full of flavour and left a bit of afterburn which was just delicious. They were so moreish I’m sure I had more than my fair share.

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Next up were the Kelewele chunky plantain chips which were a bit firm for my taste but went really well with the spicy sauce that was served with it. They also went well with the red red beans, a traditional Ghanian dish which while better than regular baked beans just weren’t my cup of tea.

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Then it was time for the mains. The Jollof Chicken Skewers were succulent but not overly flavourful, I guess this was to make room for the kick from the sauce which was a bit too hot for me personally. Although it went magnificently with leftover sauce from the peanut butter stew!

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The peanut butter mutton stew is Zoe’s signature dish and what started her career as a chef back in 2011 when she decided to cook it as part of the Hackney Wicked Arts Festival and it continually sold out each day! This was my first time ever trying mutton and I have to say I could take it or leave it. I didn’t find it particularly flavoursome but it didn’t taste bad either.

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The Hearty Beef, Spinach and Ginger Stew however was the absolute winning dish of the evening for me, which coming from a chicken and fish lover, is saying something. The meat literally just melts in your mouth and every bite is packed full of wonderful flavours. Just thinking about it is making my mouth water!

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Finally we were treated to the “Love Chin Chin” banoffee pie which I’m still dreaming about a week later! Love Chin Chin is a West West African sweet snack that crunches like a biscuit but tastes like a cake and formed the base of the pie. It tasted nice on its own but when combined with the banana and the cream? Oh my god. I could have eaten two slices of this by myself no problem. So, so good. Promise you’ll try it if you go?

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen is being hosted at The King and Co until the end of May and is well worth the trek south of the river. If the regular menu offerings don’t tickle your tastebuds she’s also putting her own spin on brunch at the weekends and a roast on Sundays!

Review: The Cumberland, Marble Arch

It’s been a while since I’ve had a staycation in a London hotel, with the exception of the Yotel at Heathrow, the last one was the K West when my family visited in October so when LastMinute.com were having a ridiculous flash sale of four and five-star hotel rooms for just £29.99 I treated myself to a couple of nights at different ones! People might think it a waste of money to stay in a hotel in the same city you live but I love staying in hotels and when rooms like these usually cost a minimum of £150/night why not spoil myself?

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The Cumberland is part of the Guoman hotel chain which I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in before this visit. It is literally 12 steps from the Marble Arch Underground exit. No seriously, I counted. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a good shot of the outside of the hotel because this area of town is insane with traffic but needless to say it’s nothing spectacular from the outside. Inside however, is a different matter entirely. The lobby is bright and edgy with some of the weirdest art I’ve ever seen in a hotel reception!

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Reception was pretty busy with lots of people being checked in and as you can tell from the background noise on the video there was a lot of hustle and bustle. I’ll be honest it felt more like an airport waiting area than a cosy hotel lobby. It didn’t take long to sort everything out and I was given my key and directions to my room fairly rapidly. One thing I did like was that a credit card was not required at check in and instead all bills such as room service or the bar were to be settled as you enjoyed them. I much prefer this as if you’re sharing with someone (I wasn’t on this particular occasion) it’s easier to keep tabs on who pays for what.

The room was fairly spacious although there was a lack of wardrobe space. This was made up for by an inset in the wall where I guess large suitcases can be stored. I loved the use of space with the iron and ironing board being hidden in behind the mirror but I was disappointed that my TV was not a SMART one – it seems there are standard rooms and SMART rooms. Most importantly the bed was super comfortable and I spent most of my time lounging in it. I was also impressed with how quiet the rooms were despite being so close to the main roads.

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One of the first things I did upon arrival was have a shower. It was deliciously hot but sadly you can’t control the power which was a bit disappointing. I did love that the towel rails were heated and the towels themselves big, fluffy and snuggly though so we’ll let them off! Plus I got a whole new range of miniatures to add to my ever-growing collection lol.IMG_0590IMG_0579

I hadn’t intended on it but I actually ended up eating at the hotel restaurant The Brasserie. Some of the menu was the same as what was listed for room service but some wasn’t and there were things on the room service menu that weren’t available in the restaurant which I found quite confusing but it’s a nice varied menu and the prices aren’t extortionate like in many hotels – although the drink prices were on the high side.

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I went for the pan-fried salmon and leek risotto and it was actually divine. I love to eat fish when I’m out as I’m so afraid of undercooking it that I end up overcooking it instead and salmon is one of my favourites. The risotto was super creamy and went with it beautifully. The glass of prosecco I had to go with it didn’t hurt either.

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If you’re lucky you can get these rooms for under £150 a night but the average seems to be about £220 and Guoman offer a Best Rate Guarantee where if you find a lower publicly available rate  on another website, prior to, or within 24 hours of booking they will create a new reservation for you honouring that lower rate – well worth looking into as I found rooms for quite a bit less on Trivago.

Rooms: 4/5
4 of 5 starsService: 4/5
Value: 4/5

Overall: 4/5

The DUFF, Soap & Glory Screening

I’ve had a bit of a winning streak recently with a total of five competitions won within two weeks! One of the prizes was two tickets to an exclusive screening of The DUFF in association with Soap & Glory so last Monday after work I made my way to the Charlotte Street Hotel in Soho – which I actually featured as a Heavenly Hotel back in the day – to meet my friend Jemz.

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Sadly the prize didn’t include a nights stay (how amazing would that have been?!) but we did get to see the inside of the very plush screening room in the basement of the hotel. They might not look it but these bring orange leather seats were actually really comfortable and there was loads of leg room too!

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We were greeted with soft drinks and when we made our way to our seats spotted some excellent freebies. Everybody likes free stuff right?

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It wasn’t long before the movie started and I have to admit I liked it more than I was expecting. A lot of teen movies these days can be a bit cheesy but this was a perfect balance of Mean Girls meets the amazing teen romcoms of the 90’s. Definitely right up my street! It’s out in theatres now so be sure to go see if it you can.

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After the movie there was a short Q&A with one of the stars; Bella Thorne who has over 40 IMDB credits, has published two books and is in the middle of writing the third despite being dyslexic and has only just turned the tender age of 18! She was so eloquently spoken too, talk about making other people feel like under achievers. It was a really fun evening so thank you Soap & Glory!

Circus Show at The Aeronaut, Acton Town

So as I mentioned I was out painting the town red in West London last Saturday night for a colleagues 40th birthday (even though she’s 41 this year ;) ) she wanted to see the Circus Show that her local puts on every Saturday so of course we all agreed!

I arrived just a few minutes early (even though I thought I was actually half an hour late so had my pick of where to sit on our rather long table – I didn’t realise just how many people would be there!

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I loved the big bright dodgems sign but I really wasn’t keen on the layout of the venue. The stage was incredibly small and with the raised sides it was difficult to get a good view of what was going on once the show actually started.

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There were five acts throughout the night, sadly I was enjoying myself too much to take a not of the performers names but there were cabaret dancers

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Masters of the hula hoop

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An incredible fire-eater/dancer

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A male gymnast (with a blonde wig dancing to Beyoncé)

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And an aerial artist

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All of the performances were fantastic but I found the fire-eater to be particularly amazing. (Although I did wonder what would happen if she’d accidentally let go of one of them while on fire!) Another thing I really liked was the fact that none of the female performers were stick thin while still being obviously very fit and healthy. Body positivity at it’s best.

After the show there was a DJ and the stage was opened up as a dance floor as well as a false wall between the performance section and the pub being opened up to make it one large venue.

I’d already eaten at Stax beforehand so I didn’t try any of the food but what I heard from those that did was that it was average and overpriced. For the cost of the ticket though (£12) I’d say that it was a great value night out. The Aeronaut also host comedy and quiz nights, ping pong tournaments and best of all a bottomless brunch on Saturday mornings!

BitBS Rating – £

The Weekend #31

Last weekend was a pretty busy one. I had a work colleagues birthday night out on the Saturday so I had planned a quiet day in so that I wasn’t too tired come evening time but my friend Rob happened to be in town getting new headshots taken so we met up for a spur of the moment late lunch/early dinner at Stax which I’ve already blogged about. I have to admit I felt a little bit overdressed in my red Lindybop dress in what is essentially a diner but the food more than made up for it.

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How cute is my hair though? The curls actually stayed in for a considerable length of time which is unusual. Rob and I headed our separate ways at Green Park and I headed further West than I think I’ve ever been for recreational reasons. We were at The Aeronaut in Acton Town for their Circus Cabaret show which I’ll cover in another post for you. I got the time wrong so even though I thought I was half an hour late I actually ended up being the first person there! The good thing about this was that I could easily get to the bar to get that first glass of prosecco.

It was a really fabulous night out and so many people turned out to celebrate my colleagues birthday both from work and without and even some from other countries! The venue was a bit of a strange layout though and it was incredibly loud so I found it difficult to hear people but everyone was in good spirits.

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I decided to be sensible and head home on the tube as otherwise it would have taken me close to three hours to get home using night buses and I simply couldn’t afford a taxi. Turned out it was good job that I did as when I got home my flatmate was sitting outside the flat door having lost her keys!

Sunday I got all dressed up yet again and headed to Kettner’s to meet up with some bloggers. On my way I popped in my Chinatown to get a new phone where the guy mistook this picture of Taylor (which is my wallpaper) for me! I’ll take that thank you very much!!

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I didn’t even know about Kettner’s before I was invited along by Polly from Follow your Sunshine who was in the UK briefly for a friend’s wedding but the funniest thing is right after she did it kept appearing on blogs I was reading or on Twitter! Another blogger I follow on Twitter was even there are the same time having afternoon tea with her family.

Oh my days 😍

A photo posted by Leanne Fraser (@brokeinthebigsmoke) on

Kettner’s is a really cute little place but I took my blogger hat off for once, which was kinda weird as we spent most of the time ‘talking shop’, and didn’t take many pictures. I had to instagram the pudding that I had though, it was delicious. It was one of the most fun blogger meetups I’ve been too. Most of the ones I go to are events arranged by a PR but there are usually so many people there it’s difficult to actually have the time to talk to everyone and get to know them but there were just seven of us so it was nice. Also there were Kelly from Around the World in 80 Pairs of Shoes, Rebecca from Runaway Kiwi, Suzie from Luxury Columnist, Sara from Big World Small Me and Cara from Britventures.

Kelly, Emma and Rebecca also host the Travel Linkup every month which I’ve blogged about over on Eat Love Wanderlust this weekend so why not check it out.

How was your weekend? Any exciting plans for this one?