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Afternoon Tea at The Corinthia London

Sunday, 2 December 2018

festive cakes afternoon tea the corinthia london

Afternoon Tea is an integral part of British culture and as such widely appreciated as an activity to spend your Sunday afternoon. The classic experience is usually offered by cafés and 4-star hotels. Think Ascot, Sketch or Peggy Porschen as London's top addresses - but even in Central, high-end hotels in Westminster have been very popular for the extravagant tradition. 

In particular, The Corinthia Hotel is worth mentioning here as it serves Afternoon Tea* in the most traditional British fashion set in the most luxurious surroundings you'll ever see.

The Corinthia Hotel in London

Located in a leafy side street leading up to Trafalgar Square, right next to the Embankment underground station and overlooking the Thames is the 5-star hotel The Corinthia. It’s been known for its exquisite penthouses and lavish suites regularly visited by celebrities such as Victoria Beckham, Will.I.Am, Bill Clinton or Beyonce – but The Corinthia will soon also be known as THE place for Afternoon Tea.

In fact, the hotel has invested in reinventing their previous Afternoon Tea all year and launched their new tasty experience with a contemporary twist in the summer. It’s not as much as the hotel is venturing into new territory as the classic elements of Afternoon Tea are very much incorporated. It is more the combination of taking a new turn on some of the classical elements which shows bravery to bring British longstanding tradition into 2018.

The Crystal Moon Lounge at Corinthia London


The service is discreet and highly professional, yet greets you with a warm welcome upon arrival and further scores with excellent hosting skills throughout your entire stay. The Corinthia serves Afternoon Tea in their Crystal Moon Lounge which is dominated by a magnificent chandelier as its centrepiece. 

Under this opulent globe of shiny lights is the marbled lounge with white sofas that are so soft that you sink into the fluffy cushions once sat down. To set the scene further, you’ll hear soft piano tunes filling the air with the most beautiful Christmas songs. 

The lounge is open which allows you to be directly in the middle of The Corinthia’s heart and become a part of its high-end luxurious world. And you’ll never know who may walk past as you’ll see some interesting people dressed in suits or extravagant fur coats walking in and out of the hotel.

The real head-turner, however, is the tasteful cutlery and bespoke tea sets which The Corinthia has ordered specifically for the new Afternoon Tea experience. The 25 sets consist of black or red striped teapots and plates plus either silver or golden shimmering cup which reflects the striped pattern and creates a marvellous effect. The delicate porcelain is so elegant and further complemented by crystal Champagne flutes, each set costing around £200. With such a set up there’s only one thing missing: the food.

The Crystal Moon Lounge at The Corinthia London
Afternoon Tea served at The Corinthia London
The Crystal Moon Lounge Corinthia Hotel Afternoon Tea

The Tea Is Served At The Corinthia Hotel In London


With a selection of more than 26 different teas, the choice is tough. From mango tea via rooibos, green tea to British Earl Grey or even Matcha – each tea is carefully curated and prepared by a tea sommelier. There’s also the option to choose Hot Chocolate which is unconventional but well received by guests. This is a nice twist to the usual Hot Chocolate as this one is made with milk and a dissolved piece of fine Chocolate which applies a tender subtle hint of chocolatey flavour and a more dairy taste to the drink.

Hot Chocolate served at The Corinthia London

First Afternoon Tea Course: Finger Sandwiches


The selection consists of five delicately placed sandwiches with fillings such as egg & truffle mayonnaise; cucumber, radish & cream cheese; turkey, caramelised apple & chestnut stuffing; horseradish cream with watercress and salt beef or the classic salmon sandwich. 

My personal favourites were the egg & truffle mayo and the beef with horseradish cream. Both choices were flavoursome with a delicious creamy texture that would leave you wanting more. I had seconds on both of them and I don’t regret it at all. The truffle in the egg & mayo sandwich was full of flavour and very exquisite. 

The horseradish & beef version was an excellent blend of the two flavours venturing into new culinary territory. Though I find horseradish to be sharp and unpleasant at times, this one was more creamy with a very subtle hint - at first, I actually thought it was cream cheese. Highly recommended.

finger sandwiches served at The Corinthia London

Second Afternoon Tea Course: Traditional Scones


The presentation is everything with the next course: scones, either plain or with raisins are served in a wooden tea box together with strawberry or rhubarb jam and Cornish clotted cream. The amazing display was an Instagrammer's dream! The scones themselves are light and fluffy with a wonderful shiny sweet glaze on top. In combination with the rhubarb jam and clotted cream, this divine treat takes the Afternoon Tea experience to the next level.

Scones served at The Corinthia London
a box filled with delicious scones

Third Afternoon Tea Course: Sweet Cakes & Patisserie


After tasty sandwiches and sweet scones, the final course is an epic highlight. The hotel breaks with the tradition of having a delicate cake stand to present the cakes and patisserie, but a Victorian silver trolley displays all the festive delights instead. 

Each piece is designed of the highest quality with absolute impeccable precision that these could have easily come straight out of a French patisserie – in fact, there’s a French man involved. Chef Loic Charbonnet has created beautiful compositions such as chestnut, mandarin & hazelnut tartlets, mini black forest cherry eclairs, white chocolate & cranberry snow baubles, traditional Christmas loaf (aka Stollen), rum vanilla chocolate truffles and a ruby grapefruit with mascarpone Chantilly & coconut meringue.

The stars of the trolley, however, are the snow baubles with their meticulous shiny glaze. These little baubles are a pure joy to look at and the inside doesn’t disappoint either: made out of vanilla and white chocolate mousse there’s a delicious fruity cranberry core embedded on a crunchy crisped rice base. 

The glaze has a hint of cranberry flavour but is never too sweet, too sticky or overpowering. Unlike the Black Forest cherry éclair which has a rich cherry filling and a very boozy cherry on top. The combination of the dark chocolate paired with the taste of cherry will never get boring plus it’s a nice reminder of my German culture.

silver trolley serving afternoon tea cakes
festive Patisserie served at The Corinthia London
enjoying afternoon tea at the corinthia london
black forest and cherry tonka eclair afternoon tea
vanilla and white chocolate cranberry christmas bauble cake afternoon tea
a plate of cake delights british afternoon tea

My Final Thoughts On The New Afternoon Tea At Corinthia London


Though visually stunning the hazelnut tartlets and the grapefruit Chantilly were a bit mediocre for my likening. The tartlets have an interesting texture, somewhere between nutty and gritty with a rather dull taste. 

The mandarin livens up the combination but is too weak to make the tartlet a culinary standout. Unlike the grapefruit in the mascarpone, Chantilly with its sharp and bitter flavours make a disturbing contrast to the sweet and otherwise creamy mascarpone and coconut meringue. Overall though, the Chantilly is a cute dessert and a safe crowd-pleaser.

It’s been an extraordinary afternoon at The Corinthia and with their Afternoon Tea costing around £65 (incl. champagne), the experience was simply flawless. The service has been impeccable and very attentive, seconds were served with a warm smile and even vegetarian/vegan options were no inconvenience at all. This is a wonderful addition to the Afternoon Tea scene in London which I can highly recommend.

Thanks for reading, 

Till next time,
Carolin

*The experience was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own.

The Best Deals For The Sales Season

Friday, 23 November 2018

the best sales and promotions during sales season

With the end of the year comes sales season: Black Friday, Cyber Monday or even the Boxing Day post-Christmas sales. These are all great opportunities to shop for Christmas and birthday presents at a bargain and discounted price so there's literally no need to get anything at full price.

Some of the deals are recurring annual deals, such as Hotel Chocolat. You can literally set your clock for their sales which are usually one day after Christmas, one day after Easter and one day after Halloween with lowered prices of up to 60%. With other retailers, I've seen usual discounts between 20-30% and to be honest with you, these percentages have been too low for me to get in the spending mode. 

However, last year was phenomenal and I actually got all of my gifts at discounted rates between 60-70%. Now that's when we're talking! So this year I've compiled a small list with items that I got during the last sales season and which shops are worth checking out this year as well. Let's go! 

The Best Deals For Flights


Like all millennials, I love going on trips and explore new places. For 2019, I’ve got a few cities on my mind for a getaway and even a summer destination is on my radar – oh and then there’s my friend’s wedding in Rome for July. With Lufthansa offering £99 for flights including accommodation, or Easyjet and Ryanair banging out Black Friday deals, it won’t be hard to snap up a good deal on a flight for your next trip.

Where To Shop For Glasses?


This has been three seasons ago now, but I got a really good deal at John Lewis opticians in Westfield post-Christmas in 2015. A new pair of Ted Baker frames, including lenses, free consultation and eye inspection as well as a cleaning kit worth £25 got me to a final price of £125. I still have my glasses and they look like brand new. 

Which Brand Offers The Best Deals For Handbags?


Every year, I save some pennies in my piggy bank and spend it during the sales season. Think 1p, 2p or 5p coins that I regularly declutter from my wallet, money I find on the street (it does happen), extra photography jobs or even the odd survey through Qmee. Last year, I had a whopping £180 to spend and I invested it into a Poppy handbag from the Cambridge Satchel Company. Their Black Friday sale had up to 70% off so I got my Poppy bag for £100 including having my initials embossed. Ever since I've used the handbag on a daily basis and unfortunately, after a few months, there was some wear and tear on the leather, the embossing and the clasp. The clasp got changed twice this year but when I went in again for the embossing, they exchanged my bag for a brand new one. So with the bargain price comes also excellent customer service. 

Oliver Bonas Usually Has Great Black Friday Deals & Offers


As well as the Cambridge Satchel Company, Oliver Bonas had massive reductions during their Black Friday sale in 2017. The sales prices had a drop between 50-70% and I’ve bought a pastel-coloured cardholder which was reduced from £25 to £12. In-store, I got an additional 20% so in the end I only paid £8 for the cardholder. In general, I feel Oliver Bonas does really good deals in the sales season, so it's worth going into the shop a week beforehand, checking out all the items you have set your eye on, and then go hunting when the deals are on. 

Anthropology Dishes Out Sales Of Up To 70%


This is a no-brainer if you’re a sucker for beautiful candles, plant pots, mugs or any other nice little golden gift ideas. Anthropology had a generous discount of up to 70% so I made a huge candle haul, in particular, the travel set from Voluspa is worth mentioning here if you have many people to buy for. Bulk buy it is. The Voluspa travel set contains three little candles which came at a price of £12. So instead of spending £10 on each, I ended up with three packs and gifted all of my friends with a  lovely quality gift. 

The Sales Season Is Perfect For Christmas Decorations Shopping


Christmas decorations are an investment for a lifetime and the good thing about them is, you only buy them once, as you get them out every year after that. I spend most of my money last year on Christmas ornaments from some of the most luxurious shops: India Jane, Fortnum & Masons or John Lewis had massive reductions on their Christmas range literally the moment it hit midnight on the 26th December, e.g. India Jane’s Victorian Santa Claus retailed at £10, after Christmas, I got them for £3.50. 

The Fortnum & Masons Christmas shop at Somerset House reduced their star ornaments from £15 down to £3 so I took three of them home with me. This year, John Lewis is not really my shop to keep an eye on, but in the past, they tend to have some evergreen ornaments in their range e.g. a Victorian clock ornament. Also, I found Petersham Nurseries as well as Sass & Bell worth having a look after Christmas as they do lovely traditional decorations with lots of gold and wood.  

Uniqlo Also Runs Annual Mass Reductions & Promotions In November


An evergreen has been the Uniqlo Black Friday range of slouchy winter jumpers. They are not included in the normal range and come annually out during the sales season. Uniqlo has released these cosy woolly jumpers for like £12 which are perfect for snuggling up at home or ice skating. 


Further Deals & Promotions for 2018
Gant - 20% off, Friday 23rd to 26th Nov
ASOS - code Hello20 will give you an additional 20% off even on sales items. Ends Tuesday, 27th Nov

There you go, these have been my go-to destinations in the past to snap up some bargains.

Happy Shopping and till next time,

Carolin

Adidas City Run. My Clapham 10k Playlist

Thursday, 20 September 2018

the ultimate running playlist with songs you need to listen to when you run a 10km race

When I finished my first 10km London run at Richmond Riverside last month, I was determined that I would not participate in another race for a while. I had completed a 10k, ticked off the box, what’s next? But then I picked up the 25th-anniversary edition of Runners World and besides an inspiring interview with Mo Farah (who runs 130 miles per week!), a full-page advertising had caught my eye: the Adidas City Run series.

I was intrigued and checked them out online to learn that Adidas were organising four runs across London throughout summer and autumn. The entry fee would cover a stylish race T-shirt, the closure of London’s roads for the route, a cool medal, professional photography and discounts for local eateries after the finish. I was sold and signed up for their up-coming 10k run in Clapham.

Preparing For The Adidas City Run In Clapham


My preparation was (again) terrible. I had two weeks for training and managed three runs. My Nike Run Club app measured around 3.5km in 30 mins with an average pace of 8.49 which didn’t look too great if I'm honest. Nevertheless, I was determined to run – or worse came to worse – walk it if I had to. The Saturday before the race, I spend my afternoon preparing. I went on another 30mins training session, rested for a bit and downloaded some new music to my iPhone which would keep me motivated on my mission.

Adidas City Run clapham common 2018

I've Discovered Deep House Music Through Vanilla Web Radio


Ever since I came back from my summer round trip to Spain, I’ve been obsessed with Vanilla Radio Deep Flavour Channel which plays the finest house, nu-disco, 2step and refreshing beach sounds ever…..it literally takes you back to that beach bar in Mallorca, where you’ve watched the sunset and felt the warm sand under your feet - and I love electronic music, so some chilled out evergreens have made it onto the running playlist:

My Track List for the 10km Clapham Adidas City Run


Warm-Up
Looptone - Strategy (Original Mix)

1km-3.5km

Looptone – Strategy (Original Mix)
Alex Herrera – House Muzik (Original Mix)
KAASI – Maybe Monday
Break: Britney - Sometimes

3.5km – 6km

Jabberwocky – Photomaton (Kartell Remix)
Rout Funk – Lovedisco
MBNN – Alone

6km – 8km

Black Coffee & David Guetta – Drive
Ferreck Dawn & Robosonic – In Arms (Extended Mix)
Break: Kyle Watson & Popartlive – Sink Deep (Nora En Pure Remix)

8km – 10km

Bodyrockers – I like the Way You Move (SNEBASTAR Remix)
Nightcrawlers & Big Nastie – Push That Feeling
Andrey Exx, Elis M Feeling feat Mary Irene – Rapture (Andrey Exx Mix)
Scooter – Weekend
*

Running With Great Music Makes A 10km Run Fly By Easily


I started with Looptone’s Strategy, a song which is at first a bit annoying, but I love their 1999’ house vibes which remind me so much of Back to Basics from Shapeshifters. It’s a catchy and very happy warm-up tune with its funky beats and easy lyrics. It has the right bassline to slowly get your heartbeat up and help you get into a routine. 

Followed by a timeless Alex Herrera’s House Muszik, which is another great warm-up song for the first 3km to get into your own pace. I actually managed to run 3.5km straight before taking my first break and was surprised when I checked my running app that I made those 3.5km in 15mins at a pace of 7.10! Time for Britney to help me take off my mind during a small break and powerwalking up that steep hill!

Bristol-based artist KAASI and Jabberwocky have been on my playlist since April. Their chill-out tunes invite you to relax and focus on your breathing. It is very easy to let the music run in the background whilst you run past that park, that lamppost, those traffic lights, that bend.....it's just so easy to let your mind wander, your feet run by themselves and you set yourself little mini-goals on your route. 

Then follows Lovedisco by Rout Funk which is a remix of my all-time favourite song Lady by Mojo. I love how artists over the years have picked up that simple melody and have reinvented it over and over again. It’s a sweet piece of house music that pushes you forward and is again very easy to listen to.

10km running race clapham london
running in london with adidas

Ok, 6km-8km and I’ve nearly done this and the party in my ears continued. Drive is another of those songs that you can play easily on repeat. It is so lightweight and melodic that you just want to adjust your running pace to the tropical rhythmic bassline. 

But since these are the final kms, this is the time for some upbeat and more energetic sounds. Ferreck Dawn & Robosonic In Arms will provide you with exactly this. Their song is a great bridge from getting you out of your steady pace to really push it through the final kms. It’s a motivator and pusher song with some nice vocals and a sick bassline. 

Speaking of sick basslines next on the list was Kyle Watson & Popartlive – Sink Deep (Nora En Pure Remix). This is a wonderful piece of music if you like a touch of trance teamed up with piano sounds...think 

Any Other Name by T. Newman from the American Beauty soundtrack but just...uhm...faster and more dancy. Once the 8km mark was reached it was time for the grand finale and just when I started to struggle and really needed a kick-ass song, the Bodyrockers with I like the Way You Move (SNEBASTAR Remix) came on. 

What a song! The original version is already a total headbanger but in the SNEBASTAR remix, there's an underlying bass that goes hand in hand with the bassline making this song a proper motivation cocktail. Music on, volume up and give speed!

Next on the list was Andrey Exx, Elis M Feeling feat Mary Irene with Rapture. Originally by IO, Rapture is another dance classic and a favourite of mine. The song gave me the final push and I actually sprinted for the last 1km listening to Scooter shouting into my ear “It’s WEEEEEEEEEEEEKEEEEEEENNND” when I ran over the finish line.

motivational music to listen to whilst you are running

And guess what?!? I made a new personal best, finishing the Clapham City Run in 77 mins, which is an improvement to my first 10km Richmond run by 17minutes. 17 minutes! Motivated by the new PB time, I've also signed up to Adidas' Shoreditch and Fulham races and I'm sure my dance songs will keep me on my feet.

Thank you so much for reading, 

Till next time, 
Carolin

From Couch To 10km. My First Run In London

Sunday, 19 August 2018

from couch to 10km my first london run

One day in April, I started "running". Well.....I started very slowly to avoid muscle damage and since I have a thyroid condition have to make sure I don't overheat too quickly. I set myself a time target of around 20minutes lightly jogging two rounds in my local park with one lap afterwards walking and then do it all over again for another three turns. 

From Couch To 10km Or Straight To Signing Up To My First 10km Run


I had downloaded an 8-week training schedule from Runners World but only used it for the first week or so. I went running every second evening and found it more of a relaxing activity for me to clear my mind and to get some sort of exercise rather than doing it for building stamina or weight loss.

I managed to stay persistent for exactly one month - which is a major achievement as a Gemini! - then life came in between and it was June when I restarted my running regime.

One day in June, I logged into my Facebook after God-knows-how-many-years-of-absence and I saw an ad by The Fix Events promoting their Richmond Riverside 10km run. I was intrigued because I love the Richmond area and running along the idyllic river sounded good to me. 

A nice change from the usual monotonous laps I do in the small greenery of my local area. Within the next minute, my enthusiasm and naive optimism signed up for the run. With less than three weeks to go for the event, I exercised precisely twice. T-W-I-C-E.

My First 10km Run In Richmond - What Could Possible Go Wrong?


I'm not proud of my lack of exercise and preparation for the run and yeah, well....I'm pretty lazy when it comes to workouts and gyms and in general athletic sports. I'm more of an ice skater but I know deep down that I need to overcome my inner laziness to take my ice skating to the next level and that demands regular exercise. Anyway, with less than three weeks away, I was pretty relaxed about the run. In the past, I had managed to run for 20minutes consistently and thought no one would mind if I walked in between to regain some energies. I was convinced, that I would somehow manage 10km easily.

One Saturday morning in July, at ridiculous o'clock in the morning I made my way over to Richmond, which is at the complete other end of the city for me. I wanted to be there nice and early to make sure I was properly warmed up and having had a look at the map, the event started at Ham House which was a fair bit away from the train station.

couch to 10km my first london run

I got out of Richmond station and then walked 3km to Ham House which is a beautiful countryside residence in the picturesque surroundings of the English wilderness located by the river Thames - and this part of the river is actually very nice with clean water and lots of wildlife to watch. 

I had my rucksack packed with fresh clothes, flip-flops, protein bars and plenty of water - all ready to take on the challenge of a 10km run. When I arrived at the start, I was given the lucky number 324. On the event page it said that 400 people had signed up for the event but later on when I checked the end results, it must have been significantly less. 

The Fix Events team had everything so well organised and before everyone set off to take on the challenge of 10km, the company Swedish Fit did a very active warm-up session with us. I'm definitely not fit for these super-fast exercises and I have no coordination whatsoever but it was good fun and we were definitely fully warmed up for the run.

event warm up
warming up before the run

Let's Start Running: The First 1km. Expectations vs Reality


At 9:25am I got in line with the rest of the participants and we would start in small groups to allow runners ahead a bit of leeway. Eventually, the time had come and for the first 1km, I lightly jogged. It felt forever! To be honest, when I do my training at home and run my laps, it is easier for me to measure the distance. Once I got passed the 1km mark, I thought to myself "OMG what have I signed up for?!?" It literally felt like the longest distance ever but I kept pushing forward and made it to 2.5km in one go without taking a break. 

Tracks I listened to: Ed Sheeran - Shape of You

The Next 3-5km: The Sun Burns from the Sky


Running along the river has the advantage that there's a lot of shade so it was very cool to run with an occasional breeze, however, somewhere between the 3rd and 4th km, came an open space and you were in the direct sun. 

The heat in the morning slowed me down a lot and I saw myself on another short walking break before I had enough energies to keep on running. Towards the 5th km I started to curse myself for not being better prepared, like for example having a water backpack on me or even an armband to fix my phone. Instead, I had the glorious idea to keep my phone in my hoodie pocket which I had to take off because of the heat and which I then had to carry. Not very practical but lesson learnt for the next time. 

Tracks I listened to: Freemasons - Uninvited, Axel Konrad - R.U.F.F. Beat (if you're struggling)

Running My Way Back To Richmond: 5km - 7km


The distance for the run was from Richmond to Kingston and back. The first water stop came at 5km and it was so welcomed. I had at least three cups of water before I felt energised again to tackle the way back to Ham House. It wasn't important to me to be the fastest or to run in a pack, by then I was pretty much the only runner for miles and it felt quite nice because I didn't feel pressured or that I had to compete with others. 

I literally took my time and ran at my own pace. Energised through the refreshing water and running for a bit in the shade made me manage to run my longest distance in one go of 2.7km before having another walk as a break. At this point, I had a feeling for when the km marks would come up and it felt less dragging compared to the first km. 

Tracks I listened to: Dua Lipa - New Rules, The Other Tribe - Skirts

focused on my running
final km whilst running

Nearly At The Finish Line: 7km - 9km


The course led past the event's venue where another water stop was set up. It was so close and the thought of running further north and then having to come back all the way again made me feel annoyed but at the same time, the water refuel gave me the power to keep going. 

This part of the 10km run was dragging as the course was flat but sometimes natural meaning you had to watch out for roots, stones and residents walking their cute dogs. It was so hard to not stop and cuddle them all! Because it was so close, I could hear the cheers and announcements from the event for a while which was another motivation to keep going as the 10km were nearly done. 

Tracks I listened to: Paul Van Dyk - Pikes, Paul Van Dyk - We Are Alive

The Finale: 9km - 10km And I Finished My First 10km Run!


Oh dear, the final stage was a struggle. Not kidding and it helped that the event finish line was in clear sight from the 9th km ahead so it was motivation enough to keep going. I had no idea where the rest of people were or what time it actually was, all I knew was that I was close and wanted to finish this run. I made it then in one go without a break and received my medal at around 11am.

Tracks I listened to: Paul Van Dyk - Buenaventura

fix event richmond riverside run

So I had done this. A 10km in about 1:31:21 in which trained folks probably run the distance three times, but for me, all that counted was that I got until the end and I didn't finish last! After I had my medal engraved with my achievement, I changed into fresh clothes, my flip flops and then headed to the Breakfast Club for some much-needed pancakes. I couldn't believe that I had actually made it and I proudly wore my medal until I got home. 

Running My First 10km And Not Giving Up 


So where am I with running now? The run was fun and definitely an experience. It has pushed me out of my laziness and grown my respect for runners who do this on a regular basis. Overall, I've learnt a few things about myself and that it is more mental strength and inner will that can release energies and powers you would have never thought are within you. 

You can be lazy and untrained but once you've set your mind to reach a specific goal, you can and will go to extreme lengths to reach that goal no matter what. You will become focused and set all your energies towards that goal which is a nice metaphor applicable to many things in life. If you really want something, you can be untrained or lazy AF, but once you've put your mind towards something then there's nothing stopping you. 

On the other hand, I found running a bit....boring. After a while when you no longer pay attention to the scenery around you or you don't notice the tracks you're listening to, you are alone with yourself and your thoughts for self-reflection. I do this kind of personal analysis quite often outside of running so for me there needs to be something else I can do whilst I run...otherwise it feels a bit of wasted time for me...hope that made sense. 

Unlike ice skating, where your concentration is required at all times to do the exercises correctly and which is mentally stimulating, I found running doesn't offer me that much....or maybe I haven't found the right podcasts yet. I was actually thinking during my run, that Google glasses would be cool to watch a film or so. Anyway, I definitely want to challenge myself again and have signed up for the Adidas 10km in Clapham in mid-September. 

This time I'll be prepared....but I will go on holidays first. 

Thanks for reading, 

Till next time, 
Carolin

*All photography in this post are made and provided by The Fix Events.

Olé España. My Spain Round Trip. Part 1

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Spain Round Trip Summer Holidays

To me, no other country has summer holidays written all over it than Spain. Having grown up in Germany, summer trips to Spain were annually kind of mandatory. Spain and summer belong together such as the refreshing ice in ice tea and sand on the beach – but there’s so much more to the country than just beaches, Ballerman and the certainty that every day will be filled with sun and heat.

Last year, I planned a different summer holiday than the usual one – a round trip to explore more of Spain’s culture, learn about its versatile nature and of course there was time for a little break on the beach with ice cream. 

Travel Round 1: Mallorca - Island of Diversity


Away from the partying and retiring Germans in Palma, Mallorca positively surprised me with its diversity. Wherever you go, you can tell the island is wealthy and invests a lot in tourism. The streets are neat and modern, the villages still sleepy and untouched though very well connected with the infrastructure, there are hiking paths for you to get lost along the coast or simply the fact, that wherever you go in Mallorca may it be to the lush vegetation in the mountains or the crystal clear coves at the coast, you’ll always find an excellent restaurant serving local cuisine and fine dining experience.

I can highly recommend the beautiful Boutique Hotel & Restaurant Cas Xorc which is located right at the top of a mountain in between overgrown greenery and gardens. Built in typical historic Mallorcan style, the hotel is a popular wedding venue and I can totally see why. It was completely hidden away and there wasn't even a sign on the road. 

At some point, there was a dusty little sideway, very narrow and hard to navigate around and difficult to manoeuvre by car. After a 20minute fine-tuning and inch by inch work up the winding path with the car, I made it. Olive trees and lush greenery awaited, lemon trees and rose gardens filled the air with a heavenly scent. In the shadows of olive trees, I enjoyed lovely views over the area and a light summer lunch. This is definitely an insider tip and was the highlight of my trip.

Freshly picked lemons in mallorca
Summer in the soller mountains mallorca
palma de mallroca cathedral from insidePalma de mallorca cathedral outside

You can also spend sunny afternoons in cute cafes in local villages, enjoy cake and do some people watching. Port d'Andratx and its harbour were white boats rock softly in turquoise water are perfect for people watching. Then you can also discover abandoned coves with water so warm it resembles a bathtub, snorkel through the underwater world or simply enjoy the flora & fauna high up in the mountains. There’s literally so much to do and to see. 

If sightseeing and shopping are more your thing, go to Palma. The capital is officially my new city crush as it boasts the usual High Street sellers in a modern, clean and very historic environment. Many favourite brands such as Zara or Massimo Dutti are Spanish, so you’ll pay a fraction of the usual costs in comparison to buying in the UK. Roaming Palma’s streets to find little boutiques and admire its traditional colonial architecture is pure joy. 

Don’t forget to visit the cathedral which will impress you with its medieval charm and remarkable construction. The outskirts of Palma are home to many internationals who have gathered here in settlements: if you need your German hairdressers or doctors – well, there is. If you need a local German to help you buy a house – you can. There’s even a garage for your car repairs or scooter rentals. Especially in the summer, renting a scooter and exploring the island by yourself is a lot of fun. 

The island stretches some 100km into all directions but you’ll never get lost as the transport network is so well built and established. From the Soller Mountains in the North to the coves in Cala d’Or in the South East or the Mediterranean terracotta trail in the West, I found Mallorca has a lot to offer and to discover. Or if you want a day trip to Ibiza, Formentera or even to the mainland, you can do so as the airport is very accessible and flights f.ex. to Barcelona are only 40 minutes away.

The only downside I saw with Mallorca is its temperamental weather – because the Mediterranean Sea is sandwiched in-between the continents, the climate tends to be somewhat uncomfortably humid. 26 degrees can turn the air very nastily into hot as hell which also supports the population of bugs and vermin. 

Unfortunately, you can tell and see a lot of it flying and crawling around which is a bit of a shame really. However, this shouldn’t put you off from visiting as otherwise, you’ll miss out on a fantastic island that is so versatile and has a huge range of activities to offer. I can’t wait to return this year and explore more remote parts of the island and indulge in its exquisite fine-dining scene.  

Travel Round 2: Barcelona - The Perfect City Break for the Summer


Barcelona has to be one of the most inspiring city trips I’ve ever been to and my visit last year will definitely not be the last one. I would even rate the trip on the same level as my sightseeing in Rome experience from 2016 and here’s why: located right by the coast in the sunny South of Spain, Barcelona offers you the perfect mix of sightseeing, shopping and beach holiday. 

First things first – the sightseeing. The city’s iconic landmarks from Gaudi are simply breath-taking. If you have the chance to see the surrealistic buildings such as Casa de Batlo, Casa Mila, the Sagrada Familia or Park Güell please go for it. 

You will regret it in your life if you’ve never made it to Barcelona to see and enjoy the genius of artwork that has been created by Gaudi. Even if art is not your thing, no one can escape the fascination and magic that Gaudi’s lifework exudes. Book your tickets in advance and don’t be put off by the rather expensive entrance fees, they are worth it. Admire the futuristic architecture inside the Sagrada Familia and imagine yourself living in one of the houses in Park Güell. 

Especially the later invites you for hours to stroll around, see Barcelona in a stunning 360-degree view and hosts Gaudi’s house where he lived till his death. As the park is in the North of the city, I would suggest starting here first, and then slowly walk downhill towards the Sagrada Familia that towers over the city. Whilst you walk towards it, you’ll pass through suburban neighbourhoods, leafy alleys and neat streets that follow a regular pattern – from above, Barcelona’s city structure actually reminds me of a sushi board.

sagrada familia sightseeing summer holiday
Holidays in Barcelona City Break and Sagrada Familia
Barcelona Cantina Street Food
View over Barcelona from Park Guell

Getting lost in Barcelona is easy, but also to find your way back. I’m thinking of the labyrinth-like Gothic quarter with its narrow, mysterious alleys that boast of unique shops and eateries. The Barcelona cathedral and parts of the city wall in this quarter will impress you equally and wherever you go, it feels like the city is one giant shopping mall. 

There are tonnes of shops everywhere which buzz with people. In general, the city is super lively, there’s live music and street artists everywhere. At night there’s the habit of half-naked men performing in the streets which is quite nice for the female eye to watch. Las Ramblas, the cable car by the harbourside, Ciutadella Park or the beach with the iconic W Hotel are all famous places worthy of a visit. 

I loved the vibrant energies of the city which never felt as exhausting as the chaotic hustle of London. People are literally everywhere enjoying themselves, the weather, the extraordinary food, the beach or simply Barcelona’s relaxed lifestyle. Vibrant, young, cultural and arty is how I would describe Barcelona and I can highly recommend it as a summer getaway.

Travel Round 3: The Canary Islands - Where All Year Round Is Summer Time


Sunshine, 35 degrees and the guarantee that every day will be pretty much the same are the reason why I love the Canary Islands. Their location so far out in the Atlantic is another plus as it means that unlike the Balearics, there's a light cool breeze and you won't feel the heat as unpleasantly humid but rather dry. 

This also means there are fewer bugs and in general, a cleaner environment but enough said about cleanliness and the weather. Last year I actually managed to go twice to Gran Canaria as I found an absolute gem of a hotel and I loved spending more time there.

The hotel is Santa Monica Suites Hotel, a four-star boutique complex located directly by Gran Canaria’s famous dunes. It was love at first sight: there are incredible views over the dunes teamed up with palm trees and a glistening blue ocean on the horizon. 

At night, the vast open space allows you to watch the stars and listen to the soft sound of the waves. The hotel itself is very new and modern with its own private access to the dunes. I rarely sleep and fully wind down at hotels, but during my stay(s) last summer, I never felt more relaxed from a holiday than coming back from Santa Monica. 

The hotel is medium-sized, very stylish and seems to target young couples. I've rarely seen any children and if there were some, they were usually really well behaved. So no screaming kids, no fights for sunbeds in the morning, nice food and comfy beds made my holidays unforgettable.

Dunes of Maspalomas Gran Canaria
Summer Holiday in Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria offers lots of water sports and whale watching from Puerto De Mogan but the island itself, especially the touristy area around Maspalomas/Meloneras/Playa del Ingles in the South, has not much to offer. In fact, unlike in Tenerife, the area is quite rundown and outdated. 

The island is worth visiting if you appreciate a nice endless walk at the beach as the dunes invite you for a long stroll along the sea and in general, just crave some very quiet relaxing time – and if you love star gazing than this is the spot for you. There’s nothing more memorable than sitting in the dunes, feeling the warm sand and watching the stars come out.

I’ve been to Canaria's Palmitos Park in the past which is not a comparison to the Loro Parque which I visited during my holidays in Tenerife. Gran Canarias capital Las Palmas is unfortunately pretty rough. If you seek some nice restaurants or shopping areas than I would definitely recommend to stay in Tenerife rather than in Gran Canaria. 

At the time of my visit, I was craving nothing more than a nice beach and some peace to read my book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It's a wonderful coming off age tale of a young boy who grows into a man on his journey to find a treasure that is supposed to be buried at the pyramids in Egypt. The setting takes you through Andalusia and the desert in Morocco, so with the backdrop of the dunes of Maspalomas, I felt closer to the book and its spiritual message.

Anyway, that was last year's Spain Round Trip and it offered the perfect mixture of nature, sightseeing and beach holiday to me. I hope this post has inspired you to explore more of Spain as there's so much to see and do. This summer I will return and travel to the North as well as to the South of the country. Keep your eyes open for my Spain Round Trip Part 2 coming later this year. 

Thanks for reading, 

Till next time, 
Carolin

A Day Trip To The Mayfield Lavender Farm

Monday, 2 July 2018

My_day_trip_to_Mayfield_Lavender_Farm

I'm tired of London.

There, I said it.

The hectic and changing lifestyle, the never-ending hustle & bustle as well as the masses of people were all a tiny bit too much for me lately.  All I've been craving for is a bit of space to myself for some much needed “Me time” but places for seeking solitude and getting an inch to breath is hard to find in a mega city such as London – not quite! They do exist if you’re willing to invest a bit of time and are up for an adventure to visit these places.

Having read a couple of blog posts about the amazing day trips to the surrounding countryside to escape the city, I felt inspired and ventured out by myself. So one sunny afternoon it was that I decided to take my camera and a good book on an adventure trip to the outskirts of London, namely the Mayfield Lavender Farm in Banstead/Surrey.

How to get to the Lavender Fields From London?


From my home in City Airport, I took first the DLR to Canning Town, then changed into the Jubilee Line to Canada Water and then took the Overground to Croydon. Once I’ve arrived at the station, I walked 10 minutes to the bus stop, waited nearly 20 minutes for the 166 bus and was then on a 50-minute ride to the Fields….told you this is a bit of a long journey so definitely bring your book! 

Especially the change in Croydon was time-consuming because the bus stops aren’t very well signposted and the one I needed was in a side street approximately 500 metres away from the Overground station….and well…Croydon is not necessarily my preferred area in London.

Anyway, the bus journey itself was actually pretty nice as the route goes straight out of Croydon via Purley Hills into the countryside. The further you got away from the urban space leaving the London bubble behind,  the prettier the houses and tranquil the neighbourhoods became – and then you’ve found yourself driving down this wonderful leafy alley – a typical English country lane with wild vegetation on both sides and the beauty of purple lavender peeking through its lush greenery every so often.

Lavender close up England
Lavender Farm near London

Life Outside of London Exists!


After my 2h world trip, I’ve arrived at the Lavender farm which could have easily been an untouched spot in the French Provence. It was so cool. Perfect weather and only a handful of people meant I had the fields nearly entirely to myself. Oh, hello solitude!

At first, I wasn’t so sure for how long I would stay at this place and if the time investment of coming here was really worth it, but then I started to take off my sandals and walked barefoot in the grass. It felt great! The warm summer breeze would take a subtle smell of lavender to my nose and the soft humming sounds of bees to my ear. 

I could feel the sun on my face, the soft rustling of wind through the lavender and the occasional screech of a falcon (sadly no swallows) and it felt like I was back home in Germany, at my parent’s house in the countryside enjoying the best time of the year in harmony with nature – yeah, a Central European Summer is something I really miss.

Anyway, I ended up spending 2h at the Lavender Farm roaming its rows of blossoming lavender, attempting to take pictures with my mini tripod and remote control or just sitting in the sun watching the wildlife around me or reflecting on my thoughts. It was very relaxing, quiet and the smell of lavender felt therapeutic to my stressed soul. I went in the first week of June and the place was already stunning. Can you imagine what it must look like later in the summer when the rows are in full blossom?

english summer time
enjoying british summer time
Mayfield Lavender Farm in mid June

Another highlight of my little trip included their own farm café which sells next to afternoon tea a wide range of lavender-infused snacks and food as well as local produce. I treated myself to a lavender scone with strawberry jam and clotted cream and their 100% apple juice. I have to confess that my lavender tea time was one of the nicest I’ve ever had.

adventure time is waiting where to next
day trip that feels like a mini holiday

The journey back to London felt shorter though it took the same amount of travelling time as before. I felt so much more relaxed and venturing out of my usual radius of London had the same effect as if I had gone on a short holiday. 

By the way…speaking of holidays….I have so much to tell you, including my first time in Florence back in May, as well as my spontaneous trip to Vienna and I’ve not even mentioned my summer round trip to Spain. Well, they will all get a blog post over the next couple of days (weeks?) so I hope to see you back on my blog soon for more Carolin Adventure Time. 

Thanks for reading, 

Till next time, 
Carolin

Exploring London By Megabus

Thursday, 7 June 2018

megasightseeing with megabus

My love story with London began in 1999 at the tender age of 14 when I visited the city for the first time on a school exchange. Coming from a very rural countryside of Germany into the “big smoke” was going from one extreme to the other – I was simply blown away by London’s charm and vibrancy. 

It was everything I’ve ever dreamt of and more: there were theatres, restaurants, museums, libraries, cinemas, shopping at your doorstep, the people and the constant impulsive energies never seemed to stop. It was on that school trip that I realised I needed life around me in order to feel alive – it felt inspiring and as if I had woken up from a dream. From that moment on I knew that I wanted nothing more than to get out of my small-minded town in Germany and demand more from life.

My Life Changed When I First Visited London In 1999


Fast forward a few years to my A-Level graduation and it was all set in stone that I would go to London to attend a private language school. Over the years the desire manifested and stayed persistently with me so, in 2005, I finally moved. Though it was only temporarily, I felt that I had made the right step into a great future. London was still exciting and I’m grateful for the friendships I made, mainly with internationals and the experience bonded for a lifetime. Sadly, after my course had finished I had to return to Germany to start uni and finish an English language degree.

The years to follow were marked by working hard to shape my academic career but I never lost touch with London. I regularly returned to roam its streets and explore new areas to add to my personal London map so soon I knew the city and its secrets inside out. No matter how often I kept coming back discovering new sides of the city, I died inside when I sat on the plane back home. The romanticised version I kept of London ever since my first visit was stronger than ever and I knew I wanted to be here – ideally forever.

coca cola london eye VIP treatment
sightseeing bus in london

Fast Forward another few years, a finished degree a broken relationship and basically cutting all ties with Germany, I landed a job in London – Day X in 2015 had arrived for a life change I had been craving and worked towards for years.

So, how do I feel about all of this now looking back? Well, I’m no longer 14 anymore and though dreams are wonderful and you feel like on top of the world once you’ve accomplished them, the harsh reality brings you straight back to earth sooner or later. The initial love and admiration have slowly turned into frustration and annoyance – finding your place in London is tough.

- Rant to follow -

I live in zone 3 because the central zones are heavily polluted and finding a nice home to live unless you’re willing to call it “your place to sleep only” is worse than finding a needle in the haystack. London is expensive. No matter how hard you work your salary will never be enough to put a pound or two aside. You simply work in London to be here, nothing more.  I’m fed up of all the long distances, the many people that squeeze in the morning onto tubes and on trains. Don’t get me started on jaywalkers and tourists! 

Everyone seems to rush aimlessly around chasing something that’s hard to define and explain – and I feel I’ve become part of that. I no longer have time for my hobbies, my 12h day is filled with a 2h commute back and forth working for 8.5h and then socialising after work because you never know when that connection will prove itself useful in future. 

Sometimes I’m so busy, I don’t even have time to go to the bathroom or take my 1h lunch break. I have to organise all my life admin either in lunchbreak or somehow after work. I have no idea how I do it, but I keep rotating, and somehow it still works. At night, I often can’t sleep because I worry about life, the people I care about or simply what it is that keeps me here in London after all. It’s draining and exhausting and I have no idea where I keep taking the energies sometimes from to keep going. I just do.

- Rant Over -

Megabus Launches A 2h Sightseeing Tour Across London


So when Megabus invited me the other day to join them alongside other bloggers for a private event* I felt like a long-overdue “Me Time” break was needed. It was a lovely warm April evening and I left work a bit earlier than usual as I wanted to make sure I can stroll over to the London Eye without rushing for once. It was a gorgeous evening, one of these very early warm spring days, with people out and about and truly enjoying themselves. I arrived at the wheel for 5:30pm as Megabus treated us to a private capsule with drinks and stunning views over London.

I’ve been on the Eye a few times, but it is each time a wonderful experience. The wheel rotates very slowly so each round takes approximately 30-40minutes with a little break on the very top to take in all the 360-degree views of the city. The weather couldn’t have been any better for this. You could see for miles and the city seemed to glow in the evening light against a bright blue sky. I felt suddenly that all the pressure had been taken of me and I could just be in that capsule, watching life go by 135 metres beneath my feet – take me away yes, please!

london sightseeing tour with megabus
sightseeing bus tour through the city of london
sightseeing on an open bus tour in london

A Trip Down Nostalgia Road In London


After the trip on the Eye, Megabus had another treat for us waiting around the corner. The company have introduced a new open bus fleet to provide city tours in Cardiff, Bristol and London. As one of the first to experience the brand new tour, we boarded the top of the bus and got treated to a 2h drive around London. Starting at Waterloo, we headed over Waterloo Bridge down Fleet Street towards East London. 

I can’t stress enough how perfect the evening was for this, as it was so warm sitting on top of the bus felt like you were on a summer holiday. Everyone sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the views. I couldn’t help it but my mind wandered off a few times. 

Now and then Megabus provided some information of the passing sights but I never felt disturbed in my personal daydream nostalgia trip. I can’t even tell you when it had been the last time that I was a tourist in my own city. I’m usually so fed up with London its long waits to be seated in restaurants or booking theatre tickets months in advance, that I try to avoid the city as much as possible – but during the tour, I felt so relaxed that I had time to reflect on a couple of things why I’ve fallen out of love with London. 

I’m so absorbed in my own little everyday bubble that I keep forgetting why I loved the city in the first place. Being on top of the bus, I was seated in a higher position than usual and I could see more details of the incredible architecture that combines modern and ancient tradition. Especially the area around Fleet Street, London’s former press and centre of journalism has beautiful houses and facades. It’s the small details that I kept forgetting and loving about London.

trafalgar square sightseeing tour in london
seeing piccadilly circus for the first time in london
admiring city lights during london summertime

Being A Tourist In Your Own City For One Day


The tour headed over London Bridge and returned back to the city via Tower Bridge. Whilst passing over, we were able to see a beautiful sunset over the city. It was still warm and the soft summer breeze that occasionally blew around my nose felt comforting and pleasant. Passing Tower Hill down to Bank, the tour took us to the west side of London along Westminster, Trafalgar Square, down Piccadilly Circus to Hyde Park and back to Waterloo via Victoria. 

Seeing London’s casual evening vibes slowly turning into a vibrant city at night with all its beautiful city lights reminded me of my 14-year-old self, who was totally overwhelmed by all the impressions when she visited the first time.  There is beauty around every corner but we’re too busy to hold still for a moment and to look closer.

Taking a step back and watch London pass by without being an active participant of it felt good – I needed that break and given the fact that the Megabus London sightseeing tours start from £1 onwards, I can see myself doing this again maybe with friends and family when they will come to visit. I guess as it is with every relationship, once the honeymoon phase is over it’s more about the actual work that we have to put in. 

We need to appreciate the small things of it and not get side-tracked by all the bigger things that seem to not work out. It’s in the detail and to appreciate it whenever we can to not get lost and I think this is what has happened to me and how I feel about London. Yes, I still hate its loud and smoggy atmosphere and I loathe the commute, always surrounded by people and never really having a moment to myself. 

But knowing that there is something that only London can give me – a career perspective, a city with endless opportunities and most importantly a place where I for once in my life have true friends, is something that’s worth staying here for. And it is that certainty, whether I want it or not, that I need you to breathe.

Thanks for reading,

Till next time, 
Carolin 

*I was invited by Megabus to try their 2h London sightseeing tour. All views and opinion are my own.
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