One of the things I love about blogging is the amazing people you meet along the way. I’ve gained some of my closest friends, been introduced to lots of incredible girl bosses and been inspired to follow my dreams in terms of my little space on the internet.

I’ve mentioned before that I am part of the We Blog MCR group, which is full of encouraging women from the Manchester area. They work closely with Six & Flow an inbound marketing agency based in Manchester, who emailed me a few weeks ago to see if I would be up for a day of discovering the Barton Arcade, which I said yes to.

The Barton Arcade is a glass arcade that links St. Anne’s Square to Deansgate in the centre of Manchester. One of the main reasons I know of it is that my mum used to take me when I was younger to a clothes shop, which has now turned into STA travel, but if I’m honest, I haven’t been through it in a good few years.

It’s one of those places that is absolutely beautiful and does not get the recognition it deserves because there are no major brands there; instead, it is full of independent shops, restaurants, hairdressers, and cafes, which is a great reason in itself to visit. The aim of the day was to give the Barton Arcade a bit of a boost on our social channels and to run a competition throughout the day.

We met in the Six & Flow offices at 10.45am where I saw some familiar faces and met some lovely new ones. Just after 11, the whole group went down to Pot Kettle Black, directly below the offices. I’d seen the inside of the cafe a few times, as there was a photography workshop in there not too long ago, and it is perfect for getting those insta snaps.

We were welcomed by James, who showed us to a bit table directly in the middle. The inside of the place is lovely, with lots of windows and natural light coming in, big wooden tables, and white tiles. He took our drink order (a tea for me, obviously…) and came back about 5 minutes later with plates of different items off the menu. I follow Pot Kettle Black on Instagram, so I was already well aware of the amazing food they did, but in real life, it was so much better.

We started being massive cliches and taking photos of everything before anyone had a bite: we had blueberry cheesecake french toast (which is actually making me salivate just thinking about) with a bacon and egg breakfast sandwich on a pretzel role, and N’duja baked eggs with smoked mozzarella and pecorino. The food was all amazing quality, really tasty and made for some very good Instagrams. We even got to share an espresso martini (I say share, but it was mainly me who drank most of it…)

After breakfast, we had a wander around the independent shops. The first one was Jeffrey West, a men’s shoe brand, which had some beautiful pieces, but as we were all 20-something girls, none of us bought anything. Afterwards, we went into Jill Black, which had an eclectic mix of women’s clothing, ranging from sequinned ball gowns to floaty, festival-wear. Although I am a sucker for buying new clothes, I restrained, and instead one of the other girls bought a lovely navy jumper.

We headed back up to the Six & Flow offices to drop off our bags and grab our cameras, before heading onto the roof. I’m a big fan of a roof terrace, and this one was really cool for photos, and the sun just happened to come out, which we took full advantage of. We did a few posed and candid snaps, before heading back down to Lunya.

I’m a big fan of tapas, and was really surprised that I hadn’t been to Lunya before. Not only is the decor absolutely gorgeous and very authentic, but there is a deli as well which sells meats, cheeses and loads of other things. We were showed to our table upstairs and treated to a glass of wine. We got to chose three tapas off the menu – I went for pita and hummus, patatas bravas and the special, which was deep fried cod with bechamel sauce, all of which was delicious and one of the best Spanish meals I have ever had.

We were so full that we packed away some of what was left, and headed down to our hair appointment at Too Funky Hair. I’d never been to this salon before (mainly before I haven’t had anything done to my hair for quite a long time…) but I had heard of them on social media. We were treated to a glass of prosecco as soon as we arrived, and were taken to our different stations and all the girls were so lovely. I had my hair blow dried and curled, and they did such a good job with this old mop!

With our fresh new do’s, we headed to Be At One, which I’d never been to before, but had seen the last time I was in London. The bar was down a spiral staircase and looked ultra fancy when you walked in. Because it was happy hour, we were treated to two cocktails – I went for the Candy Pants; Kurant vodka, Chambord, lemon juice, strawberry puree and cranberry juice.

The day started to wind down here, with people bobbing off to their Saturday night plans. I went shopping with a couple of girls, but quickly found out that being tipsy in Boots was never going to end well…

If you’re ever in Manchester, make sure you head down to the Barton Arcade to have a little visit of the shops there. There are some great eateries, individual sellers and a couple of brand names too.

Thank you to the Barton Arcade and Six & Flow for inviting me down – I had such a wonderful day!

xx

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I can’t quite believe that we are nearing the end of June, and I have been doing these posts for the past six months. It’s crazy!

This week had lots of ups and downs, but even in the darkest times, we still need to remember to find the light (slightly paraphrasing Albus Dumbledore there…)

1. Starting The Week In Paris

If you read last week’s Weekly Love post, you would know that I spent that weekend in Paris, just after my birthday. We came back on Monday afternoon, so we had a bit of time there in the morning and just after lunch. We went up to the Sacre-Couer and had lunch in the sunshine, and even paid a quick trip to the Moulin Rouge before getting back to the hotel and picking up our bags. The Monday was definitely the hottest day we were there and Paris just looked so beautiful in the sunshine!

2. Everything Everything

On Tuesday night I went with my friend Phil to see Everything Everything at the Albert Hall in Manchester. It was the third time I’d seen them, and they didn’t disappoint. They did a mixture of their older tracks and tried out some new ones with the crowd, which went down really well. I always love going to the Albert Hall as it is a really cool gig venue, although it can get quite stuffy so stand more towards the back where they have fans if you find yourself there in summer!

3. Reading

On Thursday morning, Jordan and I drove down to Reading to have a few days down south. I chose Reading over staying in London because a) I didn’t fancy driving to the capital and b) Accor Hotels very kindly put us up in the Ibis, which had just been done up. We arrived mid afternoon and went out for a wander and found a beach bar with real sand, swings and amazing cocktails so we spent the next couple of hours there. I was really impressed with Reading overall, and would definitely recommend it if you’re going down South, but would rather not pay London prices. Plus it is only 25 minutes on the train to London Paddington.

4. The Real Greek

Whilst in Reading, we made our first visit to The Real Greek where they had a training night on, and gave us 25% off, bonus! I absolutely love Greek food, and have always wanted to try this place when I’m in London but have always gone elsewhere. At the moment, they do not have any restaurants up north which is a real shame because the food was lovely. We shared about 7 different dishes, washed down with some house red, and it was absolutely delicious.

5. Ascot

One of the reasons that we went down south in the first place was because we were going to Ascot on the Friday. If you know Jordan at all, you will know that he is obsessed with horse racing, and I love any occasion where it is acceptable to day drink and dress up! We got the train from Reading about 12:15 pm and it was already heaving with rowdy (but lovely) southerners. We were in the new Village enclosure which has just opened for this year and is done out with a festival vibe – think bunting, a grandstand and loads of food vendors.

6. Bills Brunch

On the Saturday morning, feeling slightly worse for wear, we headed over to Bills for brunch. This was only my second time to Bills, but it is one of those restaurants that people always seem to go back to, and seen as though it was packed out, I knew we had made a good choice. I got smoked salmon, avocado and scrambled eggs (which easily could have fed 2) and Jordan got their famous buttermilk pancakes with bacon and maple syrup which were divine!

7. Getting Back to Simba

I know this point is completely cringe, but if you are a pet owner, you will know how nice it is to get back to them after a few days away. Simba had been staying with my parents whilst we were in Reading, and I missed him so much! It was so nice to have him back home with us and having a chilled Saturday evening.

8. Family Sunday

On Sunday, we headed over to my auntie and uncle’s house in Tarporley to have lunch with them. It had been a while since I had seen them or my cousins and it was really lovely to catch up. My auntie always knows how to put on a spread, and the food was lovely – and of course, I had two desserts! How can I say no?!

xx

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I was umming and ahhing for days about whether to write this post, but I have always been a firm believer that getting your thoughts straight will help you in the long run, and make you realise how far you have come. And if anyone has ever been through something similar, then I want them to know you are doing incredibly well, even if you don’t see it.

Yesterday marked the year anniversary that we sadly lost one of my best friends. It was the hardest day I have ever had to face, made even harder by the fact it was totally unexpected. This time last year felt not only as though a huge part of me was missing, but also that the wound of losing someone so close to you, would never heal.

To me, the wound is still very much there: In time, I have managed to stitch parts of it back together, helped massively by the support net I have around me; but from time to time the stitches break open, and I am left to relive the whole situation again.

It was and still is totally surreal that she isn’t here: We were talking 10 minutes before, had seen each other two days before and were discussing plans for the summer. And within 24 hours, our lives had changed forever.

Because I never thought something like this would ever happen, I had no idea how to react. In many ways, I am still in denial that that fateful night ever happened and in my head I sometimes think I made the whole thing up; that everything will be perfect again when I wake up or that it was all a mistake.

I always said from the start that I hoped I would feel happy again, but it will always be a different kind of happy: A kind of happiness that is laced with feelings that one of the people you thought you would share your wedding day with, introduce to your children and have by your side throughout anything, will not be around.

In the last year so much has changed. I have made incredible friends, memories I will cherish forever, and come much further than I ever thought possible; but with this happiness comes overwhelming guilt. A remorse that one particular person won’t be here to celebrate life’s crazy rollercoaster of emotions with me. Someone that you thought was in it for the long run with you.

Something that has come out of this whole situation is my changed outlook on life. Although my anxiety and depression have been at a lifelong high, I have managed to reduce my fears in other areas, and live a whole lot kinder and compassionately. I still have a long way to go but my path is going in the right direction.

Unfortunately, we never know when our time will be up: Tell the people you love how much they mean to you; don’t argue with your boyfriend over something that means nothing in the long run; leave a job if it is making you unhappy – life is too short not to grab each day as it comes and learn to appreciate all of the little things that you might ordinarily take for granted.

My best friend lived just like this. Nothing phased her – she was fearless, a breath of fresh air, always putting others before herself and never letting life get on top of her.

She is one of a kind.
A true shining star.
No life on earth would have been perfect enough.

xx

I can’t believe we’re almost halfway through the year; where did the time actually go? That’s one of the reasons I’ve been loving writing these posts because I can look back on them and remember all the fun things I did in 2017.

This last week has been jam-packed as it was my birthday on the Tuesday, which meant seeing lots of different people and celebrating!

1. Takeaway

Well, it wouldn’t be a weekly love post without me talking about food, would it? Me and Jordan had spoken about going out on Monday evening as a pre-birthday celebration, but when it came round to it, I was still so tired from the weekend, that we decided to have a chilled night in. There is a sushi takeaway not far from where we live, which we’ve been to a few times, so we decided to treat ourselves to some food from here, which was a very welcome change to ‘whatever-we-have-in-the-freezer’ Mondays.

2. Band & Bean

On Tuesday night (a.k.a my birthday) I was invited to an acoustic event at Grindsmith in Media City. My friend Emily puts on these events to pair her two loves of coffee and music in a chilled environment. She and a group of others are very passionate about the Manchester music scene and discovering new artists, which is what this event was to promote. There were 2 bands and 1 singer, who were all amazing, talented individuals. We watched Tuscan Sun, Stillia and Hannah Ashcroft, and if you would like any more information, check out their Youtube channel and Facebook page.

3. Tattu

I want to do a full review of Tattu on here in the next couple of weeks, but I wanted to give it a mention because I had such a lovely time. On Wednesday it was my friend Sophie’s birthday so a group of us went to the Spinningfields restaurant which specialises in Cantonese food in such a beautiful atmosphere. We had a really chilled evening and I got to catch up with a couple of the girls who I hadn’t seen in a while, which was lovely.

4. Dinner With Parents

On Thursday evening, me and Jordan went to have dinner at my parent’s house. My mum has recently gone veggie so we had a Quorn spag bol, halloumi, garlic bread, a watermelon and feta salad (which was delicious!) and apple crumble for dessert. She definitely overfed us, but all the food was amazing, and it was nice to spend time with my parents at home, rather than go out for a meal.

5. Paris

On Saturday morning, Hannah and I flew out to Paris for a weekend break. We had such an amazing time. filled with lots of food, rooftop drinks, sunshine, boat tours, wine, croissants, wandering and everything else you are supposed to do on a city break. I even managed to film a few video clips so I might make them into a vlog! You can check out my Instagram (and Hannah‘s) to have a look at everything we got up to!

xx

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It feels like it was months ago since Jordan and I went to Bruges when it was only in March, but I guess that’s the way that 2017 has been flying by.

We decided back in January to take a little trip mid-March as we knew that a house was on the horizon for us, and we wanted to have a break just the two of us before the chaos started. At the time the Eurostar was having a sale, so we started researching the places you could go to on the train, which turns out is only Belgium or France, and I’d already booked to go to Paris in June for my birthday.

I’ve been to Brussels before a few years ago and loved the city, but I wanted to go somewhere different, so we agreed on Bruges. A few of my friends had already been over the last few years and said it was such a beautiful place, making it an easy choice; plus, the chocolate and waffles were a big deciding factor.

Because the Eurostar we booked got us into Brussels at 7pm (and the train to Bruges was an hour on top of that) we decided to have one night and morning there before heading over. I chose a hotel that was relatively near the centre so we dropped our bags off and went for a wander.

We started at a bar called Delirium, which, if you’ve ever been to Brussels will know is quite an attraction. I had a mango Timmermans, and Jordan went for a Kriek (cherry beer) which quickly turned into his drink of choice for the whole trip.

After a wander round some of the Belgium chocolate shops in the Grand Place (tip – if you want to bring chocolates home with you, or just eat them whilst you’re there, go further out of the main square where the prices significantly drop) we went to an Italian restaurant on one of the side streets where they very awkwardly made us feel like VIPs in front of a full restaurant. We went for a couple more beers before walking back up to the hotel for the night.

The next morning we woke up early and went to find some breakfast, which turned out to be harder than anticipated – who knew Belgians were the only people in Europe who don’t love brunch? Although we did find quite a lot of bakeries, we grabbed a quick snack and headed for the train to Bruges (which was a double decker one and really really cool!)

When we arrived in Bruges, we jumped into a taxi to our hotel, Hotel Ter Brughe, and surprisingly made it there in one piece seen as our taxi driver thought he was a stuntman in a Bond film. When we jumped out, I noticed how similar the buildings were to Amsterdam, and there were even a lot of cyclists – when you look at Bruges on the map, it isn’t too far from Holland at all.

The one thing I noticed more than anything about Bruges is how different it was to Brussels. The whole pace of the city was much slower and much more chilled, and the people seemed more relaxed. The city itself is stunning: It’s a mixture of Belgian, almost gothic architecture, but feels quite Venetian with the amount of canals and river boats.

Once I’d picked up a bar of chocolate to fix my sugar craving, we went to the Beer Museum, which, if I’m honest, wasn’t massively impressive. You’re given an iPad to go and learn about the history, but mine stopped working half way through, and I enjoyed the tasting side of the experience much more. With your ticket, you get to try 3 Belgian beers and have the option to buy more, which obviously we did…

After the Beer Museum we had a wander around the shops, and took a beer for the road: I’m a massive fan of Belgian beers from trying them over here, but the real thing just tastes so much better.

We decided on a burger restaurant to have dinner in, but before that, we visited Bar2Be which was recommended by a friend. I’m so glad we went here because firstly, the outside bit of the bar was right next to the canal, secondly, you got to try 4 different beers for 10 euros, and thirdly, those beers were so good! My favourite from here was a coconut beer, which usually I wouldn’t have gone for, but it was amazing; we also got a little side of salamis, nuts and cheese.

After dinner, we went to another bar overlooking the canal and had a really lovely evening just watching the world go by. I have a thing for eating and drinking outside by the water, so this really was a great evening.

On the second day, we had breakfast at the hotel, which was a mixture of pastries, cooked breakfast, bread and cold meats. After going back for a 4th or 5th plate, we decided to have an hour to regroup (i.e. not throw up…) before we went out.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of a walking tour as I feel you get to see a lot of the city that you wouldn’t on a tour bus, and learn about the history of the everyday people. I’d googled in advance the best one to go to, so after a mosey around a few shops (and a cheeky lunchtime beer) we headed to the meeting point.

Funnily enough, our tour guide was from Yorkshire, about an hour away from us, and was absolutely lovely. The tour lasted about 3 hours, but the time flew by. She pointed out that the chocolate shops that have a cocoa bean outside are the best in the country, and as we’d walk past a couple, we went back to them to pick up some goodies. They were slightly more expensive that the other ones that we had visited, but the quality of the chocolate was unreal.

Still on a sugar high, we decided to go to the chocolate museum, which I really enjoyed and would highly recommend. We learnt all about the history of chocolate and the origins of different types and watched an expert make truffles at the end of the tour, which we got to try as well.

After getting ready for dinner, we wandered through the streets just as the sun was setting, and it was truly picturesque. We went to a traditional Belgian restaurant and shared a double portion of stew with dumplings and fries, and it was delicious. Afterwards, we stopped at a waffle truck and ate them walking down the canal with a beer.

On the final morning, we had breakfast at the hotel again, packed up and left our bags with reception before heading out. We had seen the boat tours the past couple of days and decided it would be the perfect time to go on one in the early morning sunshine. The tour lasted about 45 minutes, and we got to see so much of the city from a completely different angle.

After the boat tour, we walked over to the Huisbrouwerij de Halve Maan brewery, where they produce Brugse Zot, one of the most popular beers in Belgium. I’ve done a few brewery tours in the past, and this was up there as being one of the most informative and interesting. The beer we got to try at the end was really nice, even at 11:30 am.

Because the brewery was really close to the Beguinage gardens, which is home to the Benedictine nuns, we went for a walk around the daffodil-filled gardens, which was so peaceful. After another waffle and a stop in a chocolate shop to buy presents for our family, we walked back to the hotel and jumped in a taxi to the train station.

After an hour train to Brussels and a two-hour Eurostar back to London, we found ourselves back in the UK after a lovely little break.

I would definitely go back to Bruges in a heartbeat – it was so magical and tranquil and perfect for a few days away (especially if you love beer and chocolate!)

xx

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