Sunday, 26 October 2014

SOUTH WALES' SECRETS



THE RIVER WYE
The River Wye flows 215 kilometres from source to sea meandering its way through plenty of Welsh beauty along the way. The winding river serves as a border between England and Wales for much of its journey and takes in some great locations such as Tintern Abbey, Wye Valley and Chepstow Castle. Pick your riverside village or town and enjoy a day exploring a new place.


GLAMORGAN HERITAGE COAST
The beautiful and mysterious Glamorgan Heritage Coastal walk separates Swansea and Cardiff and stretches from Merthyr Mawr to Southerndown. Grab your walking boots and head down to the trail. The rugged cliffs, untouched sand dunes, and white beaches are waiting for you, all ready to create an adventure.


SUGAR LOAF MOUNTAIN
Located just a short train ride away from Cardiff and Newport lives the rural Welsh town; Abergavenny. It serves as the ideal Sunday escape, the perfect way to let the country air dissolve those city blues. Take a walk up the Sugar Loaf Mountain where you will succumb to some beautiful views of South Wales, and then finish the day with a meal at Michelin-starred restaurant The Walnut Tree Inn.


THE VAULTS
While a lot of clubs can be found in the form of a leaflet on your doormat, The Vaults in Cardiff Bay seems to be South Wales’ best kept night time secret. Tucked away down an alleyway next to the infamous The Valleys house lays a little door which leads you down a set of dingy stairs and into one of the coolest venues in Wales. The underground club is an old bank that has been transformed into a club reminiscent of 90s clubbing. It has three rooms; two for hardcore partying to the finest local DJs and the third is a large cinema room where you can indulge in some retro cartoons. If this sounds like your sort of night be sure to get tickets in advance as every event is a sell out.


THREE CLIFFS BAY

The Three Cliffs Bay is a beautiful Welsh costal getaway throughout the year. The crystal clear waters, golden beaches, and rugged mountains invite you to explore them in any season. After a long walk across the cliffs, tourists and locals flock alike to discover exactly why Rhosilli Bay was voted third best beach in Europe beating off competition from Greece, Italy and Spain; anyone who visits can see exactly why.


*This article was previously published in Buzz Magazine Student Guide.

Friday, 24 October 2014

WE HAVE AN HOUR TO PACK AND GET THE F*** OUT OF DUBAI #2










On our third day we headed away from the sky scrapers and into the serene desert. Dubai has crazy large buildings and tonnes of construction work in progress, so it was nice to escape it all to go to a completely different part of the Emirates which is almost untouched by humans. The day started with a jeep safari; honestly... it was sickening. I think it is something you have to do once in your life, but then you will be haunted by the vivid memories of stomach turning and sand hopping. The views and the complete empty space for miles around you and the view of the sunsetting on the dunes I have to say do make it worth it though. 

Our tour then provided an evening in the desert. We were treated to a belly dancing show where enthusiastic tourists were invited to join her for some belly rolling, some local dancing in which a man used his illuminated skirt to make all sorts of spectacular shapes while fastly spinning to the beat of the music. There was also traditional BBQed food, sheeshas, camel rides and henna tattoos and we took full advantage of all the Arabian night time treats on offer. The whole day and night cost just a mere £20, if you are ever in Dubai and would like to do something similar book here.






As previously mentioned flying is my number one joy, in second place is water parks. Take me to a theme park and I'll refuse to get on anything apart from the teacups but add a bit of water and you will find me at the front of the queue. Atlantis, The Palm is one of Dubai's biggest resorts; I don't even know if you could call it a hotel. Not only does it have rooms to stay, it has a water park that guests have free access to every day, a private beach, many shops and more restaurants that you could ever dream of visiting on a one week holiday. With all the activities and facilities on offer I think this would be the ideal hotel for families, but we just had day passes which suited us perfectly. It was a dream day spent sliding and slithering down the many slides, getting stuck circling the (massive) lazy river twice due to missing our turning and my personal favourite going down a slide that led us into a shark tank, the only thing shielding us from the water villains was glass walls.

After a lovely day, we were ready for our final night at Dubai's markets, but everything didn't quite go to plan...

It started off with a taxi ride that was meant to take around 10 minutes lasting over an hour due to extreme Friday traffic. This would have been fine but our taxi driver was insisting on taking us out for dinner and he pointed out the rape laws meant that if he did anything then he would no longer be allowed to live in Dubai. He probably should just not be raping people anyway. Alarm bells began to rand and we were on edge for the entire taxi drive, but when we arrived at the markets we were willing to shake it off and spend the night happily shopping away.

We walked into the first shop and were immediately led out on a ten minute walk to a warehouse. The shop was amazing the walls lined with bags and shoes that were almost identical to their designer counterparts. The smiles began to creep back on to our faces. After around an hour choosing our favourites we sat down to talk prices. He wanted £200 for a fake Prada bag, that to me is ridiculous when you could get a real Michael Kors bag for around the same price. The once friendly shopping assistant began to get angry when Abbi told him the flaws in his products and the pricing. The bags and shoes that lined the shop walls now looked sad and their differences to the real version were alarming and I wondered how I hadn't noticed on my walk in. We were then practically chased out of the shop with aggressive arm gestures and cursing in Arabic. It was right then and there we vowed never to even consider buying anything fake again. I would rather wait until I'm 30 and have the real thing than go somewhere so phoney, cheap and seedy ever again in my life.

We were stressed and felt so lost, but being the optimists we are we decided we would proceed to the Dubai Mall to rescue the night by seeing the mesmerising water fountains one more time and having some proper retail therapy. We arrived and discovered the mall was closing in ten minutes we ran around like loons in our high wedges trying to find the fountains again. Realising how desperate and ridiculous we were being I shouted to Abbi "STOP!". Immediately when we looked at each other the uncontrollable giggles started and the whole night just turned into our very own SATC "Let's get the f*** out of Dubai" night.


The night was rescued however when we got a table at the Cheesecake Factory and my sister got an email informing her that she had got through to an Assessment Day for a Solicitor Training Contract, I couldn't be a prouder little sister if I tried. As a whole the holiday was amazing, and I would love to go back to Dubai in around 10 years to see how all the completed building work affects the city and how much the fast paced city has changed.
Friends come and go and you realise as you get older that some of them just weren't meant to remain in your life, but there's one person I know I can always rely on, the person who has been my best friend since the moment I took in my first breath, the one who carries me home when I'm too drunk, who covers for me to our parents when I lose my keys/phone for the 1000th time, the one who will listen to me moan about the same boy over and over, the one who always offers me her ear, her shoulder and her pearls of wisdom when life goes wrong even though she told me so: my perfect big sister. Thank you Abbi for a beautiful trip.


Have any of you been to Dubai? What do you think of the destination?

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

WE HAVE AN HOUR TO PACK AND GET THE F*** OUT OF DUBAI #1


When me and my sister Abbi spontaneously booked a last minute holiday to go to Dubai we spent the nights leading up to it repeatedly watching the SATC 2 film. Even though I am a firm believer in the fact that the series are a trillion times better than the movies, we just couldn't help indulging in some United Emirates excitement in the form of this blockbuster. The very title of this blog post is a slightly altered version of a line in the movie (see 1.02 in the video above) said by my favourite of the four gals Samantha Jones. On our final night of the holiday me and Abbi had a similar experience that made us scream out this line and then fall into fits of laughter (but I will get to that later).






One of my most loved activities in life is flying, I love the feeling of being detached from the world for hours and then arriving in a completely new destination, there is something so special about it. My experience was even more incredible as we were flying with Emirates. We were provided with pillows, earphones, constant food and free alcohol, it was the dream flight. I made the most of what was on offer and tried my utmost to skip sleep (despite it being a night flight). During my two flights I watched The Other Woman (so funny!), Enchanted, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie- WOW), Blended (one of the worst films ever made), The Little Mermaid, episodes of The Modern Family and New Girl and finally enjoyed the music on offer, personal highlights being Queen Beyonce and Ed Sheeran.

As a result of my refusal to sleep during our flight I was one very tired individual so a day relaxing in the sun was needed. The sun powerfully shone down and was literally baking us in the 40 degree heat. I have always tanned easily and loved just lying in the sun but it was so hot I had to spend the majority of the day in the sea. Local taxi drivers informed us that it was a particularly hot for September.

To conclude our first day we went for a picturesque meal overlooking the Burj Al Arab, a hotel that was designed to look like a boat, before piling into our gorgeous double beds at The Ramada Plaza Jumeirah Beach Residence Hotel, which by the way is an amazing hotel in the perfect location.







After a gorgeous night's sleep we were ready to be fully fledged tourists, after a day basking in the heat first of course. The day flew past in a haze of light paddling, bathing, people watching, gossiping and reading from our beloved kindles and before we knew it it was time to climb to the top of the tallest building in the world; the Burj Khalifa.  
After a surprisingly short elevator ride we were at the top looking down on the now tiny skyscrapers. We walked around the ledge and took the obligatory tourist photos. A tower worker screamed at every tourist that walked onto the ledge to "savour the moment" before pointing her camera in their face and momentarily blinding them with her flash. With the woman keeping us entertained with her dedication to getting a photo of everyone whether they were wanted it or not, it wasn't long before the half hourly fountain show began, we were instantly enchanted. The water fires up into the air and reaches heights equivalent of a 50 storey building. Dubai is the most extravagant place I have ever visited, everything in Dubai is at least ten times the size of what you may expect, it is unapologetic in it's wealth and largeness. After climbing down again we decided to watch the fountain show which whirls, swishes and shoots along to the traditional Arabic music another two times from the ground.

After going up the world's tallest building there was only one thing to do and that was look around the world's biggest shopping mall: Dubai Mall. Me and Abbi like to consider ourselves professional shoppers, we can rummage through clothing rails with the best of them but the size of this shopping centre was overwhelming for us. We ended up just standing next to the aquarium for the best part of an hour excitedly screaming every time the shark went past.

I will soon be posting what I got up to in part 2 of the trip.

STUDENTS’ CHEAP NIGHT IN

The Buzz student guide proves that there is an abundance of things to do in South Wales, but as the student loans are dwindling, the hangovers are becoming more painful and you just can’t stand the thought of another promoter screaming at you to get into their club then a night in is just what you need. Don’t fret if you don’t have a clue about what elements make for the perfect student night in we have devised a list for you... no problem!

BOARD GAMES
Board Games are not just for Christmas day after a mulled wine or two, equally they are certainly not limited to your standard Snakes and Ladders, and no one knows this more than Cardiff’s Rules of Play. The shop located in the heart of the city boosts ceiling to floor of organised gaming chaos with something to offer the complete novice, the gaming geek and everything in between. Their unique selection of games includes the King of New York; in this game you are trying to gain the much sought after role of King to achieve this you need to defend New York from those pesky monsters, Machi Koro; you’re the mayor this time and all you have to help build your city up from its humble beginnings is your trusty die, Snake Oil; think you have a knack for selling?, put it to the test in this Western inspired game where you must collect as many customer cards as possible by making your pitch more compelling than your competitors, and Cash N’ Guns; became a gangster for an hour or two and fight for your share of the loot through eight gruesome rounds. Whatever your gaming desires the incredibly friendly and knowledgeable staff at Rules of Play are there to help you find the perfect tool to pass away those cold student nights.

BARGAIN BUCKET BAD MOVIE
Head down to your local supermarket, locate their staple bargain bucket bin and buy the cheapest, worst movie you can find, this film should have barely made it out of the filming studio, any film that made it to the cinema is strictly prohibited. Grab some popcorn and bask in its sheer shoddiness.



Valentine's Day alcohol.


Cardiff Christmas Day shenanigans. 

DRINKING GAMES
Getting drunk at home can be just as fun as getting drunk in a club and with the help of a few drinking games it’s the perfect recipe for a hilarious night. Classics like truth or date will make the night pass in a slur of laughter and juicy confessions. Movies are also a great tool to turn a night in front of the telly into a drunken haze. Try the Bridget Jones drinking game where you must take a sip of your drink every time Bridget consumes alcohol, smokes, or exhibits depression and take a shot if Bridget swears, gets frisky, mentions her weight or visibly writes in her diary. Prepare to get very merry!

GAMBLE
Grab a pack of cards, a bunch of your mates and the contents of your piggy bank, and gamble student style with no more than a £1 or two stakes on each game. If you lose your money it’s nothing but Tesco everyday value products for the week, if you win treat yourself to an M&S ready meal.



GET CRAFTY
Tie dye is all in, if you want an Urban Outfitters design it will set you back the best part of £30, but when it’s so easy and fun to do why waste your money? All you need is an old white t-shirt, some elastic bands, and the dye which you can pick up for cheap on Ebay.

WORK IT OUT
If your student loan doesn’t quite cover the cost of a pricey gym membership then get online and find a YouTube fitness video, clear the living room and workout in a fun environment. For extra laughs try and find one created by a dodgy looking personal trainer, or an over enthusiastic self-named fitness instructor.

TAKEAWAY
There’s nothing better than binge eating after a long week of university, and when you order in a big group you can afford to get many different dishes. Indulge but remember you are still a student so look out for discounts and offers, such as Noodle Box offering free delivery to students and Domino’s two-for-Tuesday.




Mine and Mary's savoury version of the game described below in which we created mash potato men.

GREAT STUDENT BAKE OFF

The GBBO phenomenon has captured the nation; its quaint style has made it a hit with everyone including us students. Host your own version of the show, everyone must bake their most delicious cake and then invite a (very lucky) independent adjudicator to judge who’s is best. The winner gets to eat the most cake, and forever know they are the Star Baker.


*This article was originally published in Buzz Magazine.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

HOW TO BE THE PERFECT HOUSEMATE


During your three years at university you are going to have to conquer many new challenging skills. For instance; doing your own laundry for the first time, pulling together fancy dress outfits on a budget, and mastering the art of downing a dirty pint while your fellow students chant an aggressive countdown, but one of the biggest feats of all is learning to live with relative strangers. So listen carefully and we will share with you our sacred Holy Grail on how not to be the housemate that everyone can’t wait to see wheeling their suitcase out the door.

Don’t be a show off.
No one has much interest in the fact that you were a prefect at high school, or that you got your 5000m metre swimming badge, sadly no one even cares much that you spent your gap year discovering yourself in Thailand. Try to spend a little less time talking about how great you life is, and more time following social etiquette and trying to learn a little more about your new friends.

Don’t be stingy.
Use the life lessons you learnt at nursery and practise the mantra ‘Sharing is Caring’, but at university it’s no longer the sand pit, this has been replaced with milk, condiments, cooking oil and the occasional victoria sponge. However, taking your housemate’s chicken and courgette to prepare yourself a gourmet meal because you thought it was “nearing the expiry date”, and you were only trying to help reduce the amount of waste food as you’re actually an avid supporter of the Green party is never acceptable.

Don’t be noisy.
Yes, you’re at university and of course going out, getting drunk and stumbling back into your accommodation at 3am is a part of it, but after freshers you are all going to have different night time routines. Save the after parties, one night stands and the drunken banging on everyone’s door for the weekends when they don’t have 9am lectures.

Don’t be dirty.
The kitchen and bathrooms are the communal areas of student living that need to be respected. Simple rules should be followed when carrying out your daily tasks in these areas, don’t leave a mess that can later be used against you when you start asking people to clean up their stuff.

Don’t be a nag.
People have moved away from home, they are excited for a life of freedom not controlled by their parents’ every demand. Don’t be the black cloud that takes on the role of the moaner, if someone leaves their dirty bowl out; try to hold back the anger. Your motherly/fatherly nature may be cute and ironic at first but it will soon begin to grate on everyone.



*This was previously published for Buzz Magazine Student Guide.