The Weekend #3

I didn’t have any plans for Friday night as I was planning on resting up ahead of taking on the Thames Path Challenge on the Saturday but then my friend Howard was in the city so we met up for a drink and dinner. We went to Byron for a burger and milkshake, it was my first time at a Byron and you can read all about that visit here!

IMG_6354

Saturday morning I was up bright and early to make my way to Putney Bridge where I was meeting the rest of the team from work that were also doing the 25km section of Thames Path Challenge for our chosen charity Facing the World. I had somehow managed to come perfectly coordinated with the challenges color scheme.

IMG_6363

We managed to sneak into an earlier time slot and had a quick warm up before setting off at 10am full of beans. We stayed together as a team until about 5km but it soon became obvious that we had different paces and broke off so I spent a lot of the time walking alone. I took lots of pictures to keep me occupied, listened to some podcasts and posted on social media (thank god for my new portable Technet phone charger!)

IMG_6375 IMG_6378 IMG_6405

The first rest stop came at 14km and it was at this point we realised that out “25km” walk was actually a 26.5km walk as it was a slightly longer section then some of the others. All of the team were still feeling pretty good at this point but having got there first I was ready to get back on the trail after 30 minutes and so left the others behind to keep going.

I hit 20km and was still feeling pretty good but then I crossed the bridge to go back North of the river and to take on the final stretch and something felt different. The route broke away from the Thames Path and went along a main road instead which wasn’t the best environment to be walking in and after kilometer 22 I saw no marker so had no idea how much farther it was to go, the markers really did help keep me pushing through up until that point but I did it and was rewarded with the finish line, a medal and a glass of bubbly at the end!

It really is a beautiful walk (although some sections were incredibly muddy and slidey) but I’d only perhaps do 5 or 10km of it at anyone time rather than 25km (or indeed 100km!). I have only high praise for the Action Challenge team though the organisation was superb, the registration process simple and the facilities generally very good. I was a bit worried about taking on this challenge from a health point of view, I have Crohns and the thought that there would only be portaloos at the halfway point and then again at the end genuinely filled me with dread but I watched what I ate (my symptoms are worse after I eat a large meal) and was OK all the way through and the loos that I did use were about as clean as you could expect which was wonderful! The snack and food options we were provided with were also bloody amazing so thank you to everyone who took on the huge task of organising this event! I headed straight home and into the bath before collapsing in bed for the best nights sleep I have had in ages!

You can see more pictures from the day over on my Facebook page here and if you would like you can still donate through our JustGiving Page.

IMG_5805

You’d think after all that walking all that way I’d be having a quiet day on the Sunday but no I had my third date with T to go on (more details on my dating escapades soon I promise). We met up for pizza at the Pizza Express on Bankside which is definitely my favourite location as it has amazing views of St Paul’s before heading to The Globe to see The Comedy of Errors there. It was really something special to see a Shakespeare play in its proper home and you can read more about my visit in yesterday’s post.

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

The Comedy of Errors, The Globe

IMG_6443

Take one pair of estranged twin brothers (both called Antipholus), and one pair of estranged twin servants (both called Dromio), keep them in ignorance of each other and throw them into a city with a reputation for sorcery, and you have all the ingredients for theatrical chaos. One Antipholus is astonished by his foreign hospitality; the other enraged by the hostility of his home town. The Dromios, caught between the two, are soundly beaten for obeying all the wrong orders. Basing his plot on a farce by Plautus, Shakespeare caps the mayhem of his Roman original to build up a hectic tale of violent cross-purposes, furious slapstick and social nightmare.

When T told me that he had never been to The Globe theatre despite living in London for over 5 years I decided that our second date should definitely be there. The Comedy of Errors is currently showing which I think is a fab introduction to Shakespeare as it’s funny, lighthearted and fairly easy to follow. I was also keen to see a show from the yard rather than a seat to see if it added anything to the performance.

We got to the theatre about ten past six which is a bit later than I would have had I been going on my own and did mean that the crowd in the yard was a couple of rows deep. If you want to be at the front you really need to get there early! We managed to get a pretty good spot though although at 6’4″ it wasn’t such an issued for T!

It opened with a hilarious scene starring Jamie Wilkes as one of the Dromio’s which really set the tone for the rest of the show in my opinion. It was laugh out loud funny from the beginning with a lot of slapstick humour that just got more and more ridiculous as the play went on which is exactly what you would expect from Shakespeare’s shortest play. Although he said he enjoyed it I don’t think it was really T’s scene which is a shame but I think if you have theatre in common a trip to The Globe is a perfect date idea!

BitBS Rating – £ for yard tickets, ££ for seating

Byron Burger, Leicester Square

Byron Burgers is something of a London institution now so it’s quite shocking that I’ve been living in the city over a year and hadn’t yet tried one. I think because they are always around it’s easy to say well I can try it another time but when I met up with my friend Howard last Friday after work for a quick catchup this is where we ended up. And boy was it worth the wait!

We ended up in the Charing Cross Road branch in Leicester Square which is pretty much directly across the road from my old office building so I have no idea how I’d neve rbeen in. It’s quite compact in size but has lovely views of the lane that was used as Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter movies. (I’m so sad I moved to London after filming for all of the movies was already completed :( ) We were given a little table in the corner which was nice as it was a bit quieter for chatting and there was less hustle and bustle.

IMG_6352

A quick glance at the drinks choice and the Oreo cookie milkshake leapt out the page at me asking to be ordered and was even able to tempt Howard to try its offerings as well but the burger choice was a bit more difficult. In fact our milkshakes had already been made up and delivered by the time our waitress came back to take our order and she was treated to the face that I make when I taste something bloody amazing as I took my first sip just when she came over. It must have been quite a sight as she couldn’t stop giggling bless her but if you’ve ever tried one of these shakes you’ll know exactly what I mean! I think it’s the best shake I’ve EVER had.

Byron offer monthly specials on top of their regular menu and this month it’s the Shady burger (crispy cheese, pickle relish, American cheese, onion & ketchup) which sounded amazing (minus the ketchup – blech!) but it was the smoky (smoked cheddar, streaky bacon, crispy fried onions, shredded iceberg, pickles and smoked chilli BBQ sauce) that tempted me in the end along with a side of onion rings. I did have to ask for no pickles because honestly who thinks those things are a good idea?!  Look at this yummer!

IMG_6354

The bacon was super crispy the way I like it, the burger cooked perfectly (medium well for me) and the bun was great and didn’t fall apart as you were trying to eat either. I couldn’t finish it off but Howard was more than happy to give me a helping hand – well it would have been rude to let it go to waste!

The best bit about the burgers is that even the special comes in at under a tenner. The onion rings on the other hand were very disappointing, overly greasy and not very crispy so I think Howard chose the better side option with the fries but this is definitely some place I would be willing to come back to in future!

BitBS Rating – ££

Heavenly Hotels: H10

When looking for a hotel near either Paddington or Waterloo stations to allow us a quick exit to LegoLand when my mum & niece come to stay I stumbled across the H10 hotel in Lambeth. Superstylish, cleancut rooms with some of the best rooms you can get of the city.

h10 h10-2Depending on your tastes (and your budget) you can choose which kind of view you would prefer. Street, City or London Eye. They rather unusually for London also offer a half board option as well as bed & breakfast rates but with so many amazing restaurants to try I’m not sure if I would go for this option. Street view rooms start from just £189 per person which is amazing for the location.

Budget Beauty: RiRi Hairdresser

Last week I had my hair done for only the second time since moving to London. I have quite long blonde hair that goes past my shoulder blades so I don’t really need to have it cut all that often but I do like to get my hair highlighted and after a few months it does get to the point where my roots start to annoy me enough to spend the money on getting them done! The bargain hunter that I am however never pays full price and is always looking out for a good deal usually settling for something from a daily deals site which is exactly how I came across RiRi’s salon.

IMG_6347

For just £29 I got a Wowcher for a half-head of highlights, cut, wash, blow dry & conditioning treatment which had a normal price of £100 – bargain! The salon was a bit tricky to find as it’s upstairs above some of the stores in chinatown and although they have a sign on one of the pillars outside it’s further up the road than the sign.

The salon itself is tiny and in need of a bit of TLC but you can tell that they’ve tried to make it a nice environment unfortunately the waiting area doesn’t seem to be part of the salon and is not up to the same standards which doesn’t exactly relax you in the way it should! Disappointingly the stylists were also running behind (I’m not certain on the reasons as none was given however the woman I spoke to in the waiting room said they were a stylist down for the day. I’ not sure if that’s true as I think it would have been a bit of a squeeze to have three stylists in the place tiny as it was) and it was an hour after my appointment time before I was taken. That said my treatment from that point on was wonderful.

A colour was selected for me that matched perfectly and the foils were put swiftly in. I was one of the last customers so I didn’t have to return to the waiting room which was good. Colour develops pretty fast on my hair anyway so it wasn’t long before it was washed out and the conditioning treatment was applied and again I was left to relax in the chair before it was washed out. As for the cut my stylist couldn’t have been more helpful, paid attention to what I asked for and offered suggestions as well when I wasn’t sure. I ended up leaving feeling like a million dollars with smooth silky hair and feeling like I had definitely got a bargain! I’d definitely recommend RiRi’s if you can’t afford (or don’t want) to go to the many high end designer salons in the city!

My New Budget

So I mentioned in my latest NET worth/Budget post that I would be switching to mid-month reporting to coincide with my payday and also my rental income coming in. I just don’t feel like reporting on the 1st when I’m mid-way between paychecks gives an accurate view of the state of my finances so hopefully this will be a bit clearer.

budget

First lets look at the income categories;

Rent – My flat in Aberdeen is being rented out for £650 per month which will be paid into my bank account (minus fees) by the leasing agent.

Salary – I get paid each month on the 15th and am salaried so this will stay the same until if/when I get a salary increase or change job.

Other – This is any additional income I make over the course of the month be it from interest, selling stuff or a this blog (hopefully!)

This is the first time I’m going to be tracking my income like this so it will be super easy to see exactly how much extra those little dribs and drabs add up to. I think I earn about £15/month interest the way my accounts are set up at the moment but I am always up for increasing that number.

My expense categories have changed a bit as well, first of all I’ve separated out my rental flat expenses from my personal expenses. There is very little chance I’ll be able to reduce any of the rental expenses in the near future but I will look at changing my current mortgage for a buy to let one at some point as at the moment it’s on a variable rate which makes me nervous.

Rent – The rent I pay for my room in London is fixed and unlikely to change any time soon.

Utilities & Council Tax – This is actually quite a hard category for me to budget as my flatmates are in charge of all the bills and don’t use direct debit so bills are very sporadic :/

Mobile Phone – My current Three contract costs me £33 per month but is up at the beginning of October so I’m hoping to reduce this then. That said my phone is actually starting to play up a little so I may need to get a new one.

Oyster – Travel in London is expensive but unavoidable. I loaded up a three-month travelcard at the end of August so I shouldn’t need to spend in this category til late November/early December.

Groceries & Household Goods – Fairly explanatory category here and I’ve included household goods so things like toilet roll/cleaning products are covered here too. This is one area of the budget I have most control over.

Eating Out – Again an area I need to keep an eye on and definitely the easiest one to reduce I just love eating out so much and it’s a big part of London life!

Alcohol – I don’t think I drink a lot but I have been a bit more since I started dating. I’m curious to see how much of my previous food/drink category was actually spent on alcohol so I’m tracking this separately.

Health Care – I pay for my prescriptions in England so this will cover those as well as any vitamins I buy and any eye tests or trips to the dentist.

Personal Care – I may not be the most girlie of girls but I do like to treat myself to beauty products or treatments on occasion.

Clothing & Footware – I’ve been going through my wardrobe and although I don’t see myself spending a huge amount of money on this category I have earmarked a few things that I want/need to replace.

Entertainment – Theatre, cinema, London attractions all fall into this category and I definitely spend too much money on them. I need to relax now I’m more stable with my London life and realise that a lot of these things will be there in a month or a year and I don’t necessarily need to go RIGHT NOW.

Gifts – Birthdays, Christmas, random just because it’s Tuesday gifts need to be accounted for. I’ve also decided I’m going to lump in charity donations here too as they’re a kind of gift!

Travel & Holidays – This is for any money I spend on travelling over and above the amount I’ve saved. If I do take any trips I’ll be making smaller holiday specific budgets for those using the saved cash.

Miscellaneous – Gotta have a catch-all category

The Weekend #2

No vlog for you this week just a bog standard blog post for y’all. I’m thinking the vlogs will only be every three to four weeks and I want my next one to be when I attend Vampire Ball in Birmingham so you can all see how much fun it is to nerd out at a convention – I’ll make geeks of my readers yet!

Anyway last weekend I found myself in a very odd position for me with absolutely no solid plans for the weekend whatsoever which was rather nice. I’m not one for doing nothing but sometimes I do over plan myself and end up running from one thing to the next without much time to enjoy it. I’ve been itching to start my big clear out for a few weeks so on Friday evening emptied my entire closet and tried on every item of clothing sorting into three piles; to keep, to get rid and things I’m not sure about. I’ve still got a vacuum bag of winter stuff that I need to go through but I’m hoping to share an update on my progress soon.

My cinema bud Jen has been in the States for a few weeks so we had a bit of catching up to do and decided to do a double seeing both Sex Tape and Let’s Be Cops on the Saturday at the O2. Sex Tape hadn’t had very good reviews and not ones to judge before seeing it ourselves we went to see it anyway. I’m really glad that we did as I found it genuinely funny and an enjoyable watch. Obviously with the recent theft (I refuse to call it a leak) of celebrities nekkid pictures it’s a stark warning to those out there who have used these kind of devices to do exactly what the couple in the movie did! Let’s Be Cops on the other hand just wasn’t very funny which is sad because I adore both Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. in New Girl. It could have been good but it was just missing something and felt overly long and drawn out.

I’ve also been chain watching Sex and the City recently as I want to get rid of the box set I’ve had for six years (!) without watching so I finished that up on Saturday night and while I thought it was a really good ending (I’ve not seen the movies yet) I was just a bit underwhelmed by the show in its entirety. I think it’s one of those shows that had to be watched at the time of release to get the most out of it.

Sunday I met up with Jen again and we hit up Greenwich to grab the Books About Town benches that were there so I could complete that trail. This was my least favourite trail as some of the benches were quite far apart but the benches were just as spectacular as the rest. Unfortunately for us it was also the Tall Ship Festival in Greenwich that weekend which meant that it was sooooo busy there were just people everywhere! It did mean we got to see some cool stuff though like this ship.

IMG_6331

I don’t know if you can see but there are people climbing up that furthest mast! There were lots of cool activities put on for kids and families and everyone seemed to be having a good time as the weather was absolutely glorious! We walked around for about three hours in total by which point I was bush tuckered and had somehow managed to lose my Oyster card (freshly loaded with a 3 month travelcard) somewhere in the depths of Greenwich Park. I wasn’t going to spend another three hours searching for what would have been a needle in a haystack but luckily Jen had a spare that I borrowed to get home. As my pass was registered online I knew that the pass and credit could be transferred on to another card and I’m happy to report that this process was quick and painless so it’s definitely a good idea to have a spare card somewhere at home just in case the same thing happens to you! They even refund the £5 deposit as credit onto your new card which I really wasn’t expecting!

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

Polpo, Covent Garden

IMG_6345

I don’t have any pictures of the food at Polpo for you I’m afraid as I went here with my boss when he was down from Aberdeen for a couple of days and I thought it would be rude to take them so you’ll just have to imagine the deliciousness of it all. Polpo has been on my to visit list for quite a while (I think I first heard people mention it at #LondonBookClub) but it’s not exactly the kind of place you’d go to every week as it has a strict no reservations policy. The best way I can describe it is Italian tapas. Lots of amazing Italian dishes meant to be shared. The recommend two to three plates per person and we ended up ordering seven which was just the right amount for us and luckily we both seemed to have similar tastes. There are no starters or mains everything just comes as and when it’s ready.

The first dish we tried was the fried stuffed olives. Oh my god, whose idea was it to fry olives and oh my god can I kiss them?! Although there were only four of these they were huge beasts of things and absolutely divine. I could definitely have eaten a whole portion of this to myself. Next out was the crab & chickpea crostini along with the fritto misto – lightly battered mixed seafood including octopus, squid, anchovies. The crostini was very nice with a generous portion of topping to bread ratio but the fried fish was simply amazing. It was a light batter, almost tempura style and it was just lovely. The linguine vongole – spaghetti with clams – was bursting with clams but a few of the shells were broken and I got bits in my mouth which was a bit unpleasant but to be expected when you’re eating shellfish. The proscuitto, smoked mozzarella & rocket pizette was probably my least favourite of the lot but that’s not to say that it wasn’t delicious it’s just that the rest of the food was so good. By this point I was starting to feel a little full and as a plate of classic beef & pork meatballs and spaghettini was placed in front of us it looked like a challenge but the meat was cooked to perfection that it wasn’t a chore. Finally we had the chilli & garlic prawns, one of my favourite things ever and I’m kind of glad these were saved for last as they were without a doubt the best dish. Six huge succulent king prawns with their shells still on. Mmm… I’m salivating just thinking about it!

Of course there was still room for a cheeky pudding and while I adored my strawberry & basil panna cotta which was served in a cute little glass rather than in a small mound as I’ve usually seen it presented my boss wasn’t so keen on his affogato corretto. What is affofato corretto you ask? Well it’s a scoop of gelato and an espresso spiked with a shot of alcohol! Eww… definitely not my cup of tea and not his either. He disliked it so much he actually ordered a gelato cone as a second pudding to get rid of the taste!

Including a couple of drinks each and service the bill came to just over £90 which for such a feast and beautifully cooked food I think is a bargain. I always end up with food envy so I love places that offer sharing plates as you get to try a little bit of everything!

BitBS Rating – £££

Heavenly Hotels: The Cavendish

Firstly I want to start this post by saying I am super excited to announce that I’m actually going to be staying in one of the hotels I have showcased in my Heavenly Hotels feature and will be spending one night at the K West Hotel & Spa in October when my family come to visit so look out for an in-depth review on that mid-October! With that out of the way it’s on to this weeks hotel: The Cavendish.

The Cavendish is an absolute bargain of a 4 star hotel in Mayfair with weekend prices starting from just £149 (!) and they allow you to add an extra child/person to certain rooms for just £40 extra per night. Plus you’re always guaranteed their lowest rate when booking directly on their website.

cavendish1 cavendish2

It’s location for sight-seeing really cannot be beaten with some of the rooms even have perfect views over Green Park. Unfortunately the hotel doesn’t have an onsite pool/gym but they do have a deal with a nearby LA Fitness where you can buy a day pass from reception for just £7.50 which is a great price.