Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Halekulani Hotel, Hawaii

Halekulani Hotel link

The first destination Ben and I decided on for our trip was Hawaii but it was also the one that caused the most debate between ourselves and the travel agent and googling of hotels and reading Tripadvisor reviews. Ben and I have slightly different requirements from a holiday, he needs the sea, relaxation, I on the other get my relaxation from those things but would be bored lying on a sun lounger so easy access to the shops and other activities were needed.

Whilst we had a browse at some of the more exotic Hawaiian islands Honolulu was the obvious choice to provide us with both these things, the hotel search was harder as Honolulu is a City and we wanted to avoid any tower block style accommodations. The Halekulani Hotel was finally decided as the perfect place and on arrival we had certainly made the right decision.

After check in and being shown around the hotel we were taken to our home for the week. It was huge, spacious and had the most amazing views from our balcony of the pool and Diamond Head a popular spot for hiking (so I heard!).

The Halekulani are very generous, when we entered our room we were greeted with fresh fruit and chocolates which we promptly devoured, a ice bucket which was filled daily as well as a fridge stocked with water. Every evening there was a turn down service and you would be left a small gift such as magnets, key rings and shells.

Creating a home away from home didn't end there, each morning you'd wake to find the local newspaper hanging on your door and coffee was available to take away to your rooms (possibly my only complaint was there were no in room coffee facilities).

Ben and I had opted for the breakfast buffet to be included in our stay and I'm glad we did. The buffet may have been smaller than the Vegas style I had been used to it had more than enough on options from fresh fruits and cereals, pastries and the usual bacon and egg offerings one would expect. I especially enjoyed my breakfast starter (don't judge me I was on holiday!) of fruit with pancakes or waffles and whipped cream.

It was no surprise that our hotel was a popular destination for weddings, I think I saw at least one bride a day during our stay - with some fabulously dressed groomsmen too.

The pool was such an oasis where you didn't have to life a finger. Once a towel for your bed - one compete with hood so there was no wrestling to keep it in place and another provided for your dip in the pool you could help yourself to the iced water on offer or work your way through the cocktail menu, I'm sure you can guess what I did.

Watching all the surfing from my sun lounger was tiring work so it was great to sit on the balcony with a martini at the end of the evening and listening to the Halekulani band playing traditional music as the sun went down. I would return to the Halekulani tomorrow if asked.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April Empties Part One

One of my favourite parts of going on holiday is the trip to Boots where I would stock up on numerous travel sized products to take away with me or less cost effective full sized ones that I would end up leaving behind rather than weighing down my hand luggage. 

For my recent trip due to my spending ban and a skincare regime that was working nicely for me and I didn't want to stray from I decided to take away products that were already in my stash which has led to a rather bumper empties haul. For this reason I'll be breaking up into three separate posts over the next couple of weeks. 

Vichy Purete Thermale 3-In-1 Calming Cleansing Micellar Water* link
We all know the deal with micellar waters by now so I won't go into too much detail but know it was good enough to be relied on whilst travelling. I used this for removing make up before my second cleanse and took this along with me as it would double as an eye make up remover. I would repurchase although the price is higher than the L'Oreal and Garnier versions I enjoy using.

Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic link
My holy grail toner from Liz Earle which I will repurchase again and again. This was my regular at home bottle and I also had a travel size in my hand luggage for my inflight routine.

L'Oreal Eye and Lip Make Up Remover link
There was a small amount of product left in this bottle so I threw this in my case to use it up. Another product I'd repurchase although I'm going to try and work with micellar waters over the next month to remove eye make up and see if I can cut down on using multiple products. You can read more about L'Oreal Eye and Lip Make Up Remover in this post.

Soap & Glory Hand Maid Antibacterial Hand Gel link
A necessary product when travelling especially when multiple flights are included. This bottle is actually the one that would usually sit on my desk at work so it will be replaced immediately - the scent is amazing and a nice change from the clinical scents that usually come from these products.

L'Occitane Sorbet Verbena Body Ice Gel link
A small sample I had floating around for ages and thought it would be nice to use after a day in the sun - it was. 

Lush Brightside Bubble Bar link
When I passed Lush in a shopping mall during our trip I decided a bubble bar was the perfect treat so I could enjoy a bath in the hotel. I did try the Pineapple Passion Bath Crystals that I picked up in the gift shop the night before but they weren't up to much. It was amazing so stay tuned for a review on this.

Jo Malone Perfumes; Lime Basil & Mandarin, English Pear & Freesia, Amber & Lavender link
Sample perfumes are great to travel with and this was a great opportunity to try some scents from Jo Malone. Lime Basil and English Pear received the thumbs down from me but Amber & Lavender has been noted as a purchase when I'm in the market for a new fragrance.
There were also samples of Chanel Chance and Guerlain's Le Petite Robe, the former had a thumbs up but Guerlain's wasn't for me.

Kiehls Ultra Facial Cream link
This was my in flight cream and I think came via my friend Rose. I also used it as a night cream for the occasional night I wanted something heavier than my oils after flying. I'm quite glad I have another small pot and I will be stashing that away for my next US trip in September. 

Decleor Radiance Flash Mask link
I received this sample in amongst a bumper bag of goodies from Rose again which I shall share with you soon and thought it was worth taking along on my travels especially as I was intrigued to see how a 3 minute mask would fair. Designed to revive the complexion I used this after my flights or days when I was jet lagged and unable to sleep properly - it certainly did the trick

Kiehls Powerful strength line reducing concentrate link 
This is my current 'at home' serum I am using so it was great to have smaller samples to take away (I actually ended up going through 2 of these tubes over the fortnight). I'm still not convinced this is better than botox as the sales assistant claimed when I purchased but it's a nice light weight serum and I don't think I'm looking any worse since turning 35!

Heaven Skincare Hydro Cleansing Milk* link
I was lucky enough to receive a in flight kit from Heaven Skincare last year which you can read about here.

Cowshed Cow Slip Soothing Hand Cream link
Another product I was halfway through and pinched from my desk at work. This hand cream had a lovely zesty scent which would be enjoyable whilst flying. Sadly I ran out of this quicker than expected but thankfully the hotel had a hand cream in our toiletry stash so I was able to use that for the remainder of my trip.

Kiehls Olive Fruit nourishing shampoo link
I'm fussy about shampoo and didn't expect to like this shampoo and had put off using the sample for ages. Prior to my trip I had used this on a couple of occasions and enjoyed the results so I thought it was worth taking away with me - even better the empty bottle was repurchased on the Hawaii to LA leg for another product that was almost finished but could be decanted into a smaller bottle and now that has been used up I can remove the label and repurpose for decanting other products in the future.

Lotil Original Cream* link
Another product I've reviewed fully in this post but one that I would definitely repurchase for future trips. This wonder cream soothed some nasty bites I received on holiday, acted as a body lotion and foot cream

And here ends the first of three empties posts for this month - stay tuned for part two.

*PR Sample
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Monday, April 28, 2014

Alcatraz Island Visit

Ben and I had one full day to spend in San Francisco (read about the rest of our days in San Francisco here) and the number one thing to do had to be a trip to Alcatraz. It is recommended to book your trip in advance so I went for the 10am slot figuring that we'd be up early due to jet lag. 

Pier 33 was already buzzing with activity when we arrived and we were able to walk around the models of Alcatraz Island whilst we waited to board the Alcatraz Clipper to Alcatraz island. 

The ferry ride takes approx 15 minutes across to Alcatraz Island and gives a wonderful opportunity to see the Golden Gate Bridge (which was almost hidden by fog on our trip), watch people sailing in the waters and admire views of San Francisco. Ben and I chose to sit on the open top deck which was very cold and windy - warm clothing is a must. Soon Alcatraz Island came into view.

Once you have stepped off the ferry everyone gathers under the above sign for instructions from the guides. There is an opportunity to join guided tours but Ben and I decided we wanted to go it alone and rely on the audio tour and our own investigations. Once we had taken note of the ferry schedule and heeded the rules of the island (no eating, drinking and the like) we begun the climb to the prison cells. If you ever visit Alcatraz as well as warm clothing make sure you have your comfy shoes on - the climb is steep!

The cell block was surprisingly small but obviously built to pack the prisoners in going three high. Ben found the cells quite comfortable although I found them less so!

It was interesting to hear about attempted escape attempts by prisoner, one of which left the grenade scars above. One of the attempts by a prisoner was achieved by starving themselves so they could squeeze through bars which were slightly expanded - I don't think I could get my leg through the bar let alone my whole body!

It was interesting to see the contrasting prisoner and wardens facilities and I hadn't realised that families of the wardens lived on the island in provided housing. Not sure I would enjoy living alongside the countries most dangerous criminals.

At the end of the tour we were able to meet one of the few surviving prisoners who was on the island signing copies of his book about his experiences. Overall it was an enlightening and interesting experience and both Ben and I have returned home with a desire to watch Clint Eastwoods Escape from Alcatraz so an online order is on the cards.

And don't forget...

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Back to blogging

Sadly my Californian/Hawaii adventure has ended and things are slowly returning to normal - all except my sleeping pattern. I've gorged on enough burgers and steaks that have left me craving salads and vegetables and of course dreading the alarm going off Monday morning sounding the return to work.

As you will be aware despite good intentions and my laptop accompanying my holiday I ended up abandoning my blog for the duration of my holiday but I've so much to share with you all about my trip as well as the usual beauty posts and some epic hauls, what I spent on make up I just don't want to think about.

I've already begun sorting through photos and planning forthcoming posts and due to the volume of news to share I'm going to utilise instagram, twitter and Facebook for some shorter posts so click any of the links to your right if you don't want to miss out.

It's good to be back blogging.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What's in my travel make up bag

Whilst I'm not afraid to visit my local supermarket on a Sunday with a make up free face the same can not be said of travel when there's the impromptu flash of a camera possible at any moment. That said I like to keep things simple so it's easy to remove once I've boarded the plane and reapply when coming in to land - here's what I added to my inflight make up bag.

No 7 Stay Perfect Superlight Foundation
I wouldn't usually bother with foundation for a flight but as I wanted to take my current fave on holiday with me I threw this into my make up bag. Whilst I usually apply this foundation with a brush I've discovered for a lighter base using the fingers works well

Collection Lasting Perfection Concealer
The concealer no beauty bloggers make up bag is without. Aside from it's brilliance I chose this as it's coming to it's end and could possibly find it's way into my holiday empties post

Chanel Les Beiges
My holy grail product from Chanel that sets everything in place without caking and instantly makes me look alive.

Clarins Bronzing Duo
There's no time for contouring during travel so instead I reunited myself with an old favourite, the Clarin's Bronzing Duo to add some colour to my face. Not a necessity but a pleasant addition nonetheless.

Chanel Creme Blush - Affinite
This blush is both easy to apply with the fingers and my go to whenever I want a pop of colour on the cheeks

MAC Paint Pot - Painterly
I didn't want to bother with eye shadow, brushes etc whilst travelling and I've been using Mac's Painterly as a base for some time now. I like the simplicity of this on the lid with some eyeliner and it's so easily applied with fingers.

Chanel Eyeliner - Ambre
Chanel's black kohl was a must have for me years ago and I mistakenly brought in the brown and left it abandoned for years until recently when I prefer to wear something more subtle.

Maybelline BROWdrama
The simple theme continues for brows with a product you can see reviewed in full here.

Barry M Gelly Lips - Capella
Lip crayons are fantastic for travel and the Barry M Gelly Lips being one of the thinner this easily slipped into the make up bag for a pretty pink on my lips.

I didn't take any photos of the look whilst travelling but you can see it in action here when I gave it a test run when I popped out for dinner last weekend.

Not bad for avoiding scaring the immigration officials and everything above fitted neatly in the smaller of this clear make up bag set from Marks & Spencer which you can find here.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Two nights in San Francisco

The Cartwright Hotel, San Francisco link

San Francisco was the first stop on our three city American holiday and surprisingly the one everyone seemed most envious of when we discussed our plans - for us it was a welcome stop for two nights after a long 10 hour flight.

Our base for the two nights was The Cartwright Hotel with rooms which were small but clean and more than sufficient for a short stay. The lobby areas were pleasant with complimentary coffee, newspapers and printers for boarding passes and the like. The hotel staff were excellent providing swift check in, location maps and booking taxi's when requested.

After leaving our cases in the room we went for a walk to nearby Chinatown which was as you would expect; multiple shops and restaurants so we moved on to my favourite American restaurant Cheesecake Factory for a well deserved glass of wine and some dinner. Jetlag took hold so we headed back to our room and collapsed into bed ready for a day on the tourist trail to follow.

The next morning it was a bright and early start for our trip to Alcatraz which as you would expect deserves it's own post so stay turned for that later in the week. Once we had escaped Alcatraz we headed down to Fisherman's Wharf, enjoyed the brass band, sampled The Boudin Bakery's famous sourdough bowls filled with an amazing chilli (I know you're thinking it's scandalous to not try the Clam Chowder but I don't eat seafood) and made friends with the sealions.

Boudin Bakery, San Francisco link

Our dinner for the night had been booked at Harris Steakhouse after trawling numerous reviews on Tripadvisor and trying to find somewhere with good food and background music. Whilst enjoyable and very grown up we did have to send our steaks back as they were overcooked (the photo below is pre-return) which was a shame after a good start with martini's and french onion soup.

Harris Steakhouse, San Francisco link

Final mention goes to Lori's Diner, the quintessential 50's style American diner that is a must for me on any trip. Luckily Lori's Diner was a few doors from our hotel and we had 20% discount vouchers which enabled us to enjoy breakfast there both mornings for only a few dollars.

Lori's Diner, San Francisco link

French toast with a side of bacon

Denver omelette with hash browns and toast

So the question is, did I leave my heart in San Francisco? Sadly not. It was a great stopover on our trip, I thought Alcatraz was amazing and appreciate we didn't completely embrace the tourist activities but I didn't get the usual enthusiasm I have for other Cities on my travels, but am I pleased I went, most definitely.

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