Brunch is probably my favourite meal, which I think we should all take more time to appreciate and indulge in. What’s even better in my opinion is when you come across a brunch menu that isn’t filled with the typical dishes that are synonymous with this trendy past time. Smashed avocado on toast is great but let’s be real, we’ve all mastered this to perfection.
As the weather slowly heats up and we finally start to introduce sandals and short sleeves to our daily wardrobe – when it’s not pouring down with random rain – you’ll come to find that wedding season is upon us. It does seem over the last couple of years that so many people have decided to take the plunge and get engaged, and inevitably with their big day approaching I’ve been on the hunt for some wedding appropriate outfits.
Two hours west of Paris lies Nantes, one of the major cities of the historic province of Brittany. Dubbed by the Times in 2004 as the most liveable city in Europe, Nantes has continued to flourish and is now a buzzing destination for art, culture and culinary delights. On a recent press trip to the 2013 European Green Capital, we were treated to an eventful history as well as a glimpse into a sustainable and fruitful future.
Between our visits to notable landmarks and towns just outside of Nantes, there was time for deliciously rich food, which even in the blazing heat went down an absolute treat. Granted, Nantes isn’t a halal haven, there is ample choice when it comes to vegetarian and/or seafood options. Let’s not forget we’re in France, which can also only mean one thing – dessert and pastry BLISS!
La Boulangerie d’Antan was our first stop for lunch on day one. I admittedly scoffed my baguette down before capturing a picture, but trust me when I say it was absolutely delicious. Fresh tomatoes and mozzarella was perfect for a hot summer’s day and dessert didn’t disappoint either; Tarte au citron.
Dinner was a delicious affair at Le Bouchon where I fully delved into the seafood options. For dessert we all opted for the Sable; a French shortbread biscuit, with a cream cheese-like topping and fresh strawberries.
Next was wine tasting – without the wine. We headed to Clisson the next day to meet with a family owned vineyard that has been passed down through seven generations. I prepared myself for some astonishing pictures – what I didn’t prepare for was the thoughtful glasses of red grape juice throughout the tasting experience.
Lunch at the Great Western Villa Saint Antoine in Clisson was another three course feast with fresh mussels, soft risotto and a minty dessert. Our view of the historic castle and calm waters made for the perfect view.
On our last day we headed to see some stops on the well known art trail around Nantes. Lunch was at La Civelle, our last stop before departing to the airport. Known for their seafood, I couldn’t not try their sea bass. Soft, melt in your mouth with a smooth butter sauce to compliment the entire dish, this was the ideal meal. Light but filling and bursting with flavour and overall goodness. Just when I thought I couldn’t eat anymore, I laid my eyes on the profiteroles. I’ll let the images do the talking for this one…
House and Garden featured an all encompassing event last weekend called HOUSE. Aimed at interior design enthusiasts, designers and generally anyone with an eye for home design and decorations, I was in my absolute element perusing aisle by aisle, eager to see what the vast list of exhibitors had to offer. Visitors could source a wide range of interiors, furniture and key furnishings to enhance or create a stylish living space with a focus on heritage and craftsmanship whilst featuring classic examples of British design. In addition to this there were expert-led presentations and one-to-one consultations and create with the latest style ideas and integral pieces for a designed living space.
April Russell curated two rooms, complete with furnishings from exhibitors at the event. The result was astonishing. She said in a press release: “This year I was honoured to curate two room sets within the ‘HOUSE’ exhibition. We were delighted to include arts and antiques from the Olympia International Arts and Antiques Fair from the adjoining exhibition hall, floor and wall finishes and furniture from the exhibiting companies at House.”
In addition to this stellar feature, the event had a number of clothing brands present but it was the stationery and furnishing brands that really drew a lot of attention. Whether it was wall art, interior accessories or outdoor statement items, crowds were in abundance and thoroughly engaged with the plethora of brands in attendance.
Leonora Hammond was buzzing with interest as visitors snapped up wall stickers that creates an individual look to almost any space or surface. Made from easy to apply self-adhesive vinyl, they offer endless possibilities to create unique styles and statement walls.
Bespoke Verse provided further quotation inspiration with their quirky and charming gifts including mugs, frames and notebooks. A stationery lover’s haven, quotes are both sentimental as well as catchy. Their ‘Stroppy before Coffee’ mug being very relatable indeed! La De Da Living also embraces quotes and sayings and extends their product range to jewellery and cutlery, which makes an ideal gift. Personalisation is also available.
Greeting cards proved to be a popular sell with Cardology drawing exceptional interest with their handcrafted pop-up greeting cards. With such variety, their attention to detail and their delicacy makes them a one of a kind greeting card that recipients will want to hang on to for years to come.
Beautiful statement items for the house and garden could make the weakest of design lovers reach straight for their credit card. David Harber featured some mind blowing work you can’t help but factor in to your fully equipped garden. Art-like sculptures like Mantle, pictured below, is a verdigris bronze sphere, consisting of dozens of individual bronze petals welded together to represent the broken nature of the Earth’s crust.
Away from the exhibitors, visitors could take a breather and revel in a glass of champagne at Louis Roederer Champagne Bar or tuck in to some lunch at Mosimann’s Restaurant. The Food Pavilion provided some exceptional nibbles like CRU, who specialise in gourmet raw and paleo food. Sampling their chocolate macaroons, it’s hard to believe these tasty treats are both wheat and dairy free. Do we sense the next big thing here?
These type of shows really do get your creative juices flowing, whether it’s forward planning or a current ongoing project, HOUSE was the perfect moodboard for enthusiasts who are looking to bring beauty and authenticity into their homes and living spaces.
“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” – Anita Desai
I’ll let you in on a secret – the Middle East has intrigued me for the longest time. The fashion, the culture and of course the knowledge that I’m able to eat pretty much everything out there – my halal haven. But never did I think I could fall in love the way I did with Marrakech.
Met by our very helpful transfer rep from TUI Travel, we were equipped with options for the next three days.
The bustling Rose City lined with charming salmon pink buildings really is a sight to behold. What makes Marrakech so appealing to both the young and old is the perfect balance between modern developments and older landmarks. In fact, it’s the natural and somewhat ancient landscapes and customs that is revered the most by visitors. Mint tea, tagines and of course Jemaa el-Fnaa, the popular market filled with an abundance of souks and eateries.
The souks have a life of their own with everything on offer from generic souvenirs to food, clothing, pottery and fragrances. I’ll be honest, I can’t haggle very well. However if I can whittle prices down, so can you.
Marrakech exceeded my expectations and even though you have to be wary about extortionate prices reserved for tourists and some people openly begging, that won’t stop you having a good time. There is plenty to admire and discover.
For those that aren’t overly keen on sampling Moroccan cuisine – can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t want to though – then you have your failsafe fast food joints. McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut are all available, along with independent restaurants that offer menus perfectly tailored for tourists.
Having only visited for three days, it was hard to tell what the night scene in Marrakech was like. Our choice? A rooftop bar at Cafe Renaissance which not only does good shisha, but delicious desserts and an array of drinks.
The weather was gloriously hot for November making it the perfect autumn escape where you can easily explore other cities such as Casablanca, Agadir and Fez.
I’ll stop and leave you with some snaps below from Marrakech, which are more than just your average holiday pics – they’re the precise reasons why I can’t wait go back.
For many, SouthEast Asia is the ideal getaway, boasting a mixture of secluded islands, bustling cities and glorious sunshine. Without really giving it much thought, my tickets were booked and my friend was pleased to hear that I would be making the oh so glamourous 12 hour journey to see her in Hong Kong. *I’ve never been on a plane for that long.*
Considering this was my first trip to SouthEast Asia, Hong Kong was definitely a good place to start. As with any new destination, there were a number of concerns that arose before flying off. They all however, were swiftly washed away once immersed within the party capital of Asia.
1. The language barrier
Elements of the previous British colonisation can be seen throughout Hong Kong such as street and station names and the number of expats working and living there. Both local and big businesses have made noted efforts to communicate in English, which makes it super easy to navigate around and snap up a bargain.
2. Efficient travel
For a couple of days I had to travel solo. The thought of this petrified me. What if I get lost, what if I get stranded and can’t contact my friend… what if I end up in Mainland China!?!
Hong Kong’s MTR frankly makes London’s underground look amateur. Traveling is ridiculously easy with fewer lines and extremely cheap prices, with a single fare from Prince Edward, where I was staying, to Wan Chai, on Hong Kong Island costing HKD$10.70 – that’s the equivalent to £0.82. As for being unable to contact anyone, Hong Kong’s MTR doesn’t get in the way of making phone calls or perusing through your email – even when you’re on the move. There’s no rushing to connect to WiFi once you stop at a station like you would do in London. Hong Kong’s service is absolutely seamless – and again, way cheaper than TfL.
Anyone can tell you that a city or town is safe, but unless you venture out, you won’t appreciate just how secure it really is. Hong Kong exudes this. Not once did I personally feel unsafe or threatened by locals and generally the rapport between expats and locals is civil and pleasant. That doesn’t mean go out and flash your cash. It’s good to keep your wits with you, but it’s very unlikely you’ll be needing to consult them.
4. Food glorious food
Food was definitely a top concern. Finding restaurants that serve halal food can be challenging enough in London where there is a big Muslim community. Given the large Chinese demographic in Hong Kong, I couldn’t imagine there being much in the way of halal restaurants/eateries and so I prepared myself to be a Pescetarian for a week. Surprisingly enough, there was no need for this as there were many halal restaurants to choose from. For Muslims, the availability of halal meat in dream destinations can be somewhat disheartening. However Hong Kong boasts a surprising number of restaurants that hold accreditation. Ma’s Restaurant offers halal dim sum and authentic chinese dishes. There is also halal dim sum available at the Islamic Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui – Hong Kong’s answer to our Oxford Street.
5. Shopaholic Heaven
If you’re obsessed with your designer labels and fashion, then Hong Kong is definitely the place to get your shopping fix. Luxury designer stores line the streets at Harbour city in Tsim Sha Tsui and more affordable brands can be found at the various shopping malls that is directly linked to MTR exits. Whilst travel is cheap, designer brands are not, so make sure you venture out with enough money.
6. Stunning Sights
There are pockets here and there within Hong Kong that really takes your breath away. The Ladies Market at night is something to behold. Crowds of people descend on these stalls looking for the best deals when it comes to fake designer bags and purses, souvenirs and clothing. The way in which the streets come alive with bright lights is somewhat reminiscent of New York if you’ve ever visited. The real show stealer is of course the skyline. What can only be described as stunning, you will definitely want to snap pictures both day and night. Some of the best places to get a picturesque view includes Harbour City, Victoria’s Peak and one of my highlights of the trip – the Ritz-Carlton’s Ozone Bar. Perched on the 118th floor, it is the highest bar in Asia, boasting delectable nibbles, refreshing drinks and views from among the clouds, making Hong Kong truly memorable.
I thought I’d lighten the mood and write about something not so serious today. Think… satirical. For those that don’t know, my parents are Guyanese, which is pretty nifty. You can eavesdrop on other Caribs having conversations in heavy accents and understand every word, Asians give you freebies because they figure you originate from the same village as their forefathers… But then of course, there are downsides like getting your freebie taken away because you clumsily tell them the truth when they ask where your parents are from. Here are a few more.
1. Everyone – even Asians – think you’re Indian…
…or Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi… basically every nationality from Asia. I have had the odd guess from outside of Asia like Arab, Kenyan and Mauritian, which to me is über exotic. But generally speaking, people have no damn clue where Guyana is.
2. And even if they do, chances are they’re mistaking it for Ghana
I get that it’s not the most well known country in the world (its major exports are only sugar, rice and rum), but you must know that nationals of Ghana are Ghanaians. Not Guyanese. Geography isn’t everyone’s forte, I get it, but who knew I could be West African as well as East Indian?!
3. We have serious identity issues
Guyana is a sovereign state situated on the Northern coast of South America. It is also part of the Anglophone Caribbean and is one of the few caribbean countries that is not an island. Seems reasonable right? But what happens when it comes to our ethnicity? It’s the only English speaking country in South America so we’re hardly Latinos. We’re not exactly Asians, however brown our complexion is, and somehow ticking “Black Caribbean” on those ethnicity forms makes me feel like a wannabe. “Other” it is then…
4. Over the top Caribbean accents are not funny – they’re embarrassing.
I went on a date once where I was subjected to a brief monologue in a Caribbean accent by an Asian guy after I told him where Guyana was. Not wanting to be rude, I smiled, gritting my teeth through the whole spectacle. It wasn’t funny, nor was it impressive. When asked if that’s how my parents spoke, I killed his dream by informing him that at no point in my existence, have I heard my parents say “What’s wrong with your bumbaclart.” *Major Eyeroll*
5. You can’t make “green card” jokes – because they might just be true
If you’re from the UK or USA then I’m sorry to say but you’re fair game. For some, the most beautiful thing about you is not your kind heart or your delectable culinary skills. It’s your passport. And he wants one too.
6. EVERYONE makes the “best pepperpot”
If you haven’t had pepperpot, you’re missing out! Usually cooked on Christmas morning and other special occasions, the truth is not everyone has been gifted with the ability to make a knock out Pepperpot. I don’t have that je ne sais quoi just yet but my Mum does. And as far as my family goes, no one else has been able to match her level. Not my family in New York, Florida, Canada… None of them. If anyone who makes pepperpot tells you they make the best there is, don’t believe them. Great cooks don’t boast about their talents. They let their cooking do the talking.
7. Life really is a competition
You think you have it bad competing for jobs against other graduates. Well add your family to that. In some cases, Guyanese children aren’t just made to carry your name on – they’re created as ammunition. To prove to your family and the Guyanese community that you’ve done everything right as a parent and as a result, have raised a GENIUS. Yep. Your brain box’s acceptance into Cambridge/NYU (depending on which side of the Atlantic you’re on) is all down to your discipline and duck curry. It has nothing to do with their preference to read or their natural ability to absorb information.
Don’t lie now. You know exactly what I’m talking about!
A crisp Friday evening where the work week is officially over and the chaos begins as everyone eagerly makes their way across London, anticipating the weekend ahead. Some heading home, others out with friends.
Instead of heading home where it’s cosy and warm, I’ve decided to detour and seek out a new retreat that doesn’t come with any distractions, allowing me to give my full attention to my beloved blog. No, before you raise your eyebrows and wonder, “What’s Safeera doing at a champagne bar?!”, calm down and read on…
Comfortably occupying the first floor of St Pancras Station, Searcy’s is a stylish champagne bar with accommodating staff, plenty of space and a spoilt for choice menu when it comes to choosing the perfect glass of bubbly.
Away from the hectic Friday evening crowds below, I’ve nestled myself into a comfy seat, Elderflower Presse my drink of choice. Sweet, sparkling and in my opinion a fabulous replacement for champagne. See, you don’t need to necessarily have champagne. The non-alcoholic drinks are limited, but considering this is a champagne bar, you can tell thought has gone into the alternative drinks on offer.
Food and beverages are what you would expect to be priced, in what I deem, the heart of St. Pancras. Placed outside the actual restaurant, you don’t feel like you’re missing anything with a selection of edibles that ranges from seafood to sandwiches to a cheese platter. I was told however, that the restaurant is something to behold, so watch this space!
What I loved most about this place is it isn’t a social venue for the pretentious. Whether you’re waiting for a train to whisk you out of London, or simply meeting friends for the night ahead, Searcy’s is the ideal spot and caters for all. (You know this is true when a party of 1 turns up wanting to just sit there and write a blog!)
The odd Eurostar pulling up on the platform behind you adds a lovely touch, almost tempting you to throw caution to the wind and escape the crazy busy city for a few days. If you’re more level headed than me, then the decor, the vibe and the charm of this bar is enough to satisfy the need to leave reality behind for a few hours.
Cover photo by: Plodicus via Flickr
There are two things I’ve learnt since attending my first Asian wedding exhibition; One, how to navigate amongst slow moving crowds. Two, how to gracefully tell people I am not getting married (though it is quite flattering that they think I look like a blossoming bride to be).
The Asiana Bridal Show is one of the most notable exhibitions in any Asian bride’s diary. This year the anticipated event was held at the Riverbank Park Plaza Hotel and drew in crowds of people eager to see what 2014’s line up of exhibitors had to offer.
Spanning across four floors, exhibitors ranging from fashion, to venue hire, catering, cakes and beauty, lined every twist and turn. All of them were happy to make your acquaintance and were enthused to share a mutual passion.
Most brides will of course pay extra attention to their dress, make up and hair. I’m more of a venue-table setting-centre piece kind of girl. For me, Maz Events put together such a rich showcase demonstrating how far their creativity can go. Stepping away from light, whimsical colours, their peacock themed display was full of drama and stopped everyone in their tracks. Some may say it’s an overdone theme, but I personally reckon the sharp purples and striking blues have earned their place as a classic theme for Asian weddings.
An important aspect with all wedding exhibitions is to offer something for all the elements that go into a wedding and sure enough, Asiana delivered this. Designers straight from India set up stalls and showrooms of colourful bridal wear, intricately designed and completely bespoke. If you wanted a one of a kind dress, this was the place to snap that offer up. I did exactly this, though I should stress, my purchase was not a wedding dress (come on..no groom and a purchased wedding dress… Umm, just a little odd)!
More familiar fashion brands such as Bibi London were also exhibiting who were a delight to speak to.
I was particularly drawn to Kaniz, a make up artist who’s knack for perfection was applaudable. I loved the way she created a polished finish that not only showcased the beauty of the model but also complimented the outfit she was wearing. As for Kaniz herself (pictured below,right), she too looked absolutely amazing.
Ambreen Make Up was also exhibiting and had two lovely models showcasing yet again flawless make up artistry. Down to earth and lovely to speak to, I wished my job consisted of sitting and looking absolutely immaculate for the day! *Sigh… to be a model…*
Food is always an important aspect (duh, have you been to an Asian wedding?!), so it was refreshing to see new spins on traditional dishes. Kadiri’s Events did just this, transforming the all too familiar gajar ki halwa with – wait for it – popping candy! (I’m so having that at my wedding!)
I can imagine the complexity of running a seamless operation in a hotel filled with over 2,000 people. Organisation is never going to be the easiest of tasks but I think Asiana handled it relatively well considering the full scale of the event. Whilst the weather was a bit of a washout, and went some way in sabotaging my attempt at looking like the “quirky lifestyle blogger”, the Asiana Bridal Show was far from that. I highly recommend attending at least one of these if you’re looking to tie the knot soon. If you’re not, then you can just spend the day staring at these beauties…