Pamper Night Essentials*

Whether you've had a tiring day in the office, or even if you've just spent a while writing up blog posts, taking photos, and scheduling your tweets for the week, when evening hits we all deserve to take some time out to relax! Self-care is super important and allows you to feel tranquil and refreshed before hitting the hay. If you're looking to craft the perfect pamper night, have a read of my essentials to make sure you're getting it right!


1) Let's get ready to rhuuuumble!
Hands up if you were alive when Ant and Dec sang that song! ANYWAY, the most important thing to do for your pamper night is to PREPARE! Once you get started, you don't want to interrupt the tranquility for even a second! So, make your bed, have your pjs at the ready, switch off your phone, and get your room smelling gorgeous with a candle or an essential oil diffuser. My go-to essential oil for a relaxing evening is the De-Stress Aromatherapy Blend from Neals Yard Remedies. I pop a few drops into my diffuser and my room is soon filled with the relaxing fragrances of ylang ylang and and neroli.


2) Soak it off, soak it off, I, I, I soak it off, I soak it off!
Ok so maybe Taylor Swift didn't sing it quite like that, but you get the picture. My first stop when I'm trying to relax is to run myself a hot bath, and enjoy a nice soak. If you're a LUSH junkie, you can throw in a bath bomb, or if you're feeling especially achey, you might like to try an Arnica bath. Arnica baths are great after any form of strenuous activity, and even just after a long day on your feet at work. They really help to ease tired muscles.




3) I've got youuuu, under my skin!
Stress won't be able to get under your skin while you're indulging in a luxurious skincare routine! Treat yourself to a face mask, exfoliate your worries away, smother yourself in moisturiser, and enjoy that healthy skin glow! In recent weeks, my moisturising product of choice has been the Madagascan Coconut Night Moisturiser by Organic & Botanic - a full review of which is coming up very soon on my blog! Watch this space!


4) Right foot, let's stomp! Left foot, let's stomp! Cha cha real smooth!
Don't start dancing (unless you really want to!) but stop for a moment to consider: when was the last time you really took care of your feet? I know that I am definitely guilty of neglecting my tootsies, and a pamper night is a perfect excuse to give them some TLC. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to try out a fab foot cream from Lotil*, which is both cruelty free and vegan! Using the Lotil cream to rejuvenate your feet couldn't be easier: simply apply a layer of the product to your feet, wrap your feet in cling film and secure in place with a pair of socks, and wear overnight. When you remove the socks and cling film in the morning, you'll wake up with super-soft feet! I had great results with this method. The cream is thick and luxurious, a real treat for your toes! If you want to sample it, you can purchase a tub from Amazon.


5) Let meeeee, entertain you!
The last thing you want to do on a relaxing evening is spend the whole time on your phone! Social media is great, but it's also good to step away from the technology once in a while, just to rejuvenate yourself. So find a chilled-out activity to enjoy, like a Netflix marathon, painting your nails, or getting stuck in a book. If you're looking for a new book to delve into, why not check out my first ever book review for some inspiration!


I hope these tips allow you to enjoy the perfect pamper evening! And if you got all the song references in the sub-headings - well done, you deserve a cookie!


When did you last pamper yourself? What other essentials would you add to my list? Let me know in the comments.


Until next time,


A x



*This post contains samples that were sent to me for review.

Lust List - August Edition


August has been a fab month for blogging. I have come across so many interesting, insightful, and unique blog posts from the people that I follow that I just had to write a post of my own, showing my appreciation for the bloggers' hard work. Here is my August Blogging Lust List - the five posts I enjoyed reading the most!

Charlotte from The Porcelain Doll: If I was a Superhero
If you were a superhero, what would your powers be? How would you dress? Who would be your trusty sidekick? In this really fun, creative, and unique post, which was inspired by a conversation with her five year old nephew, Charlotte shares a vision of her as a superhero! I think Charlotte would be the ultimate heroine - with her beauty products transforming into lethal weapons and her psychic dog as a sidekick, she'd be a match for any bad guy! I really enjoyed reading this post and I definitely recommend that you check it out!


Laura from LauraSnow.co.uk: Girl Time
This post really struck a chord with me. Laura candidly shares her experiences with having just a few female friends. She writes about how social media can make her feel bad about not having a huge girly group chat on Whatsapp and not jetting off on girly holidays. I definitely experience the same thing, and it was a comfort to read that I'm not alone! Laura has been making a real effort to enjoy more girl time with her close friends, and that's something I aim to emulate! 



Pandora from Pandora's Jar of Curiosities: Modern Gypsy OOTD
This was my favourite fashion post of the month! Pandora is the queen of hippie-chic and her August outfit post was just perfect! Her photography is excellent, she used flat-lays for her accessories alongside full-length outfit shots, which worked so well. Pandora, you should definitely take confidence from this post, I absolutely loved reading it and you look stunning!
Jess & James from Food and Baker: Afternoon Tea @ Chester
Jessica and James never fail to impress me with a post! As part of their afternoon tea week, they concluded with an afternoon tea at home with their family! I thought that this was a really touching and heartwarming way to round of a series of blog posts, and their spread looked delicious as well! The presentation of their food was immaculate and it was all washed down with prosecco - what's not to love?

Eloise from Is That Eloise: A Little Piece of Crete
Eloise posted this gorgeous selection of photos from her Cretan holiday on the same day as I returned from my trip to Greece, and her post made me want to hop straight on the next plane back! She shared some lovely photos of her trip to Chania, including an amazing sunset and an adorable kitty! If you are experiencing wanderlust this summer, definitely have a read of Eloise's post!


What blog posts have you been loving this month? Leave me a comment with a link to the best blog post that you wrote in August and I'll check it out!

Until next time,

A x

What kind of blogger are you?

How do you see yourself as a blogger? What are the defining features of your blog? What's your blogger personality? After the success of my first ever interactive blog post, I decided to create another quiz to help you figure out all the answers. I hope you have fun taking part! Don't forget to leave a comment once you're done to let me know which category you fell into!

https://pixabay.com/en/coffee-cup-apple-laptop-working-1284041/

How would you describe your writing style?
1) Like a chit chat, it's as if I'm writing to a friend!
2) Polished - my piece wouldn't look out of place in a glossy magazine.
3) Quirky, funny, and utterly unique to me, nobody else writes like it!

Which of these best resembles your blogging process?
1) A genius idea comes to me at random, and I write up the post and publish when I feel like it!
2) I have a long list of blog post ideas that I refer to - I choose one that I like and post in line with my schedule.
3) I take note of what's popular in the blogging community at the time and put my own spin on it!

Do you stick to one or two genres on your blog, e.g. beauty, lifestyle, books etc.?
1) No! I love sharing diverse topics - whatever takes my fancy! This week I'll write a fashion post, next I'll be sharing recipes.
2) Consistency is key for me. I tend to stick to the same genres so that people know what to expect from my blog!
3) I'm not afraid to try something that nobody has ever written about before - I am my own genre!

What impression do you want your readers to take away from your blog?  
1) I aim to make my readers feel as if we are friends! I want to make my blog like a conversation!
2) I want them to feel like they've read a really polished post that I've clearly worked hard on!
3) I'd like my readers to feel like they've read something totally unique that makes them want to come back for more!

Who is your blogging idol?
1) It would have to be Jemma from dorkface.co.uk, she's super artistic and creative, and has the ability to blog about pretty much anything and pull it off every single time!
2) Someone like Corinne from skinnedacartree.com - her blog is of the highest quality, she's super consistent, has amazing photos and you can always depend on her to post something excellent!
3) Vix from vixmeldrew.com for sure! She has carved out her own niche in the blogging community and her posts are always hilarious and unique!


If you chose mostly 1's: The Creative Fairy
Blogging is a really creative process for you! You don't restrict yourself to schedules and you blog about whatever you like, whenever you feel like it. Writing is something totally organic and you put your heart into everything your produce. You always put out content that you're excited and enthusiastic about - this is something that your followers love about you!

If you chose mostly 2's: The Professional Princess
Is there any blogging eventuality that you're not prepped for? Going on holiday for two weeks? No problem. All your posts will be ready in advance, with photos taken weeks before, and of course your tweets will be scheduled too. Your organisation and professionalism put everyone else to shame! You're the blogger than brands love to work with and that other bloggers want to emulate.

If you chose mostly 3's: The Trendsetting Tycoon
You're more on-trend than Vogue! Your blog doesn't follow the trends, it sets them! Countless people take inspiration from your thought-provoking and interesting posts. You put your own spin on every post that you produce - you're full of personality there's nobody quite like you online! Nobody is ever sure what's coming next from you, which makes your blog hard to click away from!

So, what kind of blogger are you? Comment below!

Until next time,

A x

The Awkward Person Gift Guide

Image Source
We all have that awkward person in our lives who is a nightmare to buy for. You want to buy them an amazing Christmas or birthday present, but you just can't think of a single thing to get for them. Perhaps they seem to have everything they want already, or maybe they just never ask for anything. Today I'm going to offer up some suggestions for what to purchase for the awkward person in your life.

Charlene with her cat Gizmo
This post isn't just intended to advise you, it's also being published today (on a Friday, not part of my usual posting schedule *gasp*) because the 19th of August is a special day for someone very close to me. This person's name is Charlene McElhinney. I met Charlene on Twitter at the very start of my blogging career and we have been friends ever since. She has been so kind, generous, and supportive, she is always a friendly face on Twitter, and she's one of the most inspiring women I know. Today it's her birthday, so this birthday themed post is in honour of her! Please join me in saying Happy Birthday Charlene! Have an amazing day!

Without further ado, onto the gift guide!

1) A Gift Card with a Twist
Nothing says "I had no idea what to buy for you" than a gift card! But what about a gift card with a difference? For the person that has everything, why not give them a really feel-good present by making a charitable donation on their behalf? Oxfam, for example, offer a range of gift cards, allowing you to help feed a family, and provide safe water and other lifesaving supplies to those in need. This gift will make a big difference to people's lives, and you can even see your gift in action! These gift cards start at £5 so they suit any budget.

2) A Happy Jar
This is a gift that keeps on giving! And yes, I totally stole the idea from Pinterest. The basic idea is that you fill a mason jar with pieces of paper which contain messages for the recipient of your gift. These could be memories of good times you've had together, or just kind words about how much you value them in your life. When they're feeling down, they can pull out a message from their happy jar and it will bring a smile to their face. This is a really thoughtful gift which I know that I would love to receive!

3) Birthday Coupons
These can be a lot of fun, and they're an inexpensive gift for you too! You can find templates such as this online and make your own coupons, which can entitle the recipient to anything from a foot massage to a cake baked by you! They can then choose when to redeem the coupons. For your Mum you could choose to make some coupons for household tasks like hoovering or dusting, or for your partner you could make them a bit more... naughty! *wink wink* The possiblities are endless!

4) Themed Gift Baskets
I make these for my friends all the time! I buy wicker baskets from Amazon and fill them with lots of small items. For a friend who needs to find time to relax, I would create a 'Spa Day' basket. This would include a candle, some bubble bath or a LUSH bath bomb, some sachets of cammomile tea, and some moisturiser. You might also like to create a baker's basket for someone who's into cookery. This might include a small recipe book, some bun cases, sprinkles for the top of cakes, and a wooden spoon, for example. The baskets can be as big or as small as you like, as your budget allows.

5) Subscription Box
It's always an exciting feeling when a piece of mail addressed to you drops through your letterbox. Why not give the recipient of your gift this feeling all year round with a subscription box? For someone who loves food, Hotel Chocolat offer a monthly chocolate tasting subscription box, Lootcrate is another option for the nerd in your life, and if you're buying for a beauty lover (or another blogger!) Birchbox is a great choice. There are many more out there, just have a Google!

I hope that this post has given you some inspiration, if you have any bright gift ideas that you'd like to suggest, please comment below as I'd love to hear them!

Please head over to Charlene's Twitter and wish her a happy birthday!

Until next time,

A x

A day out: Afternoon Tea at Browns

As a little treat for finishing our university exams, I booked in for an afternoon tea at Browns Brasserie in Oxford with two of my friends. After seeing Jemma's post all about her afternoon tea at Browns in Liverpool, I decided to share my experiences at the Oxford branch! My friends and I opted for the 'Traditional Browns Afternoon Tea', which cost £12.50 per person. 

 

After being shown to our table and offered tea or coffee (I opted for a hot chocolate - yum!), we were served up two delicious tiers of sandwiches, cakes, and scones. Each of us had three butter brioche rolls, filled with free range egg and watercress, chicken and avocado, and smoked salmon and cream cheese. The slight sweetness of the brioche rolls complemented the savoury fillings very nicely. The sandwiches were perfectly sized for an afternoon treat as well, anything larger would have been too much. It was plain to see that a lot of thought had obviously gone into the food selection.

Once we polished off the sandwiches, we turned on the desserts! We tucked into red velvet cake, lemon cake, a white chocolate mousse topped with raspberries, and my personal favourite, salted caramel profiteroles. All of the food was very fresh and tasty, you couldn't fault the quality at all! Each of the cakes was light and fluffy, and the white chocolate pot was deliciously creamy.

Me (on the right) and my lovely friend Laura
However, it was the scones turned out to be the biggest treat! They had obviously been freshly baked that afternoon, in fact they were still warm from the oven! They were utterly delicious when smothered with cream and jam. I could have easily eaten many more than my share!

Although our experience was generally very positive, it wouldn't be an honest review unless I mentioned the little things that let it down slightly. The service at Browns left something to be desired. Despite there being plenty of staff milling around, none of them checked back to see if everything was alright for us after bringing the food, and actually getting a member of staff to come over and take our payment took an age, although we had a debit card ready when they brought us our printed bill.


Overall, the three of us had a lovely time, and based on the quality of the food, I'd definitely consider returning to Browns for another afternoon tea.

Here's my afternoon tea question of the day, and it's a divisive one! With your afternoon tea scones, do you put the jam on first, or the cream? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time,

A x

Did I "Heart" New York?

Welcome to August's edition of the Ab Fab Collab! If you're new to these posts, the Ab Fab Collab is a collaboration between myself and the gorgeous Abbie from AbbieChic.com. We write monthly posts together associated with similar themes. July's theme was Growing Up; you can read my post about growing up as the home schooled kid here, and Abbie's, all about how being 30+ doesn't necessarily mean that you're necessarily a grown up, can be found here.

For August's post, Abbie and I decided to do a book swap! Abbie picked out Lindsey Kelk's 'I Heart New York' for me to read, and I chose 'Step Back in Time' by Ali McNamara for her. Keep reading to find out what I thought of the book! Don't worry, there won't be any spoilers!

 

What happened?
After Angela Clark discovers her fiancé Mark shagging his bit-on-the-side in the back of a car at her best friend's wedding, she decides that the only way to cheer herself up is to go on an impulse trip to New York. Upon her arrival, she spends a few days in the luxurious Union hotel, where she meets Jenny, a concierge who becomes her New York best friend. Jenny helps Angela to get her mojo back with a brand new look and some expensive shopping sprees, and she also encourages her to start dating again. On a night out, Angela meets Tyler, an attractive Wall Street banker who doesn't just have a massive bulge in his wallet *wink wink*. Tyler takes her out on a series of romantic dates, including a trip to Tiffany's, where he splurges on some special gifts. At the same time, Angela also begins dating Alex, a broody indie musician from a popular NYC band, with the obligatory floppy hair and skinny jeans. The novel follows Angela as she becomes a hit blogger for a fashionable magazine called The Look, where she writes about finding herself in New York and her experiences of dating two men at once! She ends up falling for one of the guys (I won't spoil it and tell you who) so she has to deal with letting the other one down. In addition, Angela's Mum and her best friend in London beg her to return home, and Angela is faced with a massive decision by the end of the book: does she stay in New York, or go back to London?


What I liked about the book:
  • It kept you guessing until the very end. For a long time throughout the book, I was unsure about whether Angela would stick with Tyler, or with Alex. The storyline definitely wasn't predictable. At the very end, where Angela was presented with the decision of either staying in New York or returning to London, I found it impossible to guess what she would do. I really liked this as it kept the suspense going until the very last page!
  • It was a fun read! I genuinely enjoyed the book and at times found it hard to put down. Some of the characters, such as Jenny, were very funny and the book did give me quite a few laughs! If you're looking for an easy, fun read, I would recommend this book!
  • Angela was a very relatable character. Angela doesn't really know what she wants and sometimes struggles to make decisions, which I think is something that most people can relate to. However, in the end she has the confidence to follow her dreams and that is an inspiring message.

What I didn't like: 
  • Everything was a little TOO perfect. Angela had a lot of perfect sex with perfect, good looking men. She stayed in perfect hotel rooms, bought thousands of dollars worth of perfect clothes, makeup, and shoes, all at the start of the book, where she was still an unemployed writer. Although reading about these shopping trips and her liaisons with attractive men was fun, it just felt a little irrational at times.
  • Angela did a lot of bad things without consequence. She transferred half of her fiancé's savings into her personal account in New York, and faced no repercussions. She also blogged very publicly about her relationships with multiple men, and neither of them confronted her about this fact for a very long while, despite the fact that they both read the blog. The man that she ended up with didn't seem to be angry that he wasn't the only guy that she was seeing. This seemed a little unrealistic to me - if I'd found out that my other half was dating other girls and writing online about it, I'd have chopped off his testicles immediately after reading the blog. I'd like to have seen Angela held more accountable for the bad decisions that she made.
Overall, I did enjoy the book and I definitely thank Abbie for picking it out for me! If you're looking for a fun, chick-lit novel to fill a few lazy Sunday afternoons on the sofa, I would give Lindsey Kelk a try! You can read what Abbie thought of 'Step Back in Time'  here.

Until next time,

A x

My spa break at Champneys Henlow


If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you'll know that my sister, Mum, and I recently went on a three night spa break at Champneys Henlow. Henlow is an opulent Georgian mansion turned luxurious spa retreat, located in rural Bedfordshire. Set in 150 acres of manicured grounds, the house features a full set of spa facilities: swimming pool, steam room, sauna, whirlpool, thalassotherapy pool, Physiotherm cabin, and much more. They also offer countless treatments including massages, facials, and wellness treatments, to name but a few. If you're feeling energetic there is an extensive programme of exercise classes, and a fully equipped gym - lots to keep us occupied during our stay! Read on to find out how I enjoyed my time there...

A view of the conservatory
Setting
You certainly couldn't complain about the beautiful setting at Henlow! After breakfast every morning, us girls went on a walk around the grounds, exploring the beautiful gardens, which were in full bloom. Another big plus for the resort was that in addition to the pool area, there was a large conservatory with big sofas to relax on. That way, if you didn't fancy sitting by the swimming pool all day, you had another place outside of your room to enjoy. We spent a lot of time in the conservatory during our stay!

You could also choose to recline in one of these secluded wicker pods!

Our luxurious bedroom
Accomodation
The rooms also left nothing to be desired. Our bedroom was spacious, perfectly clean, and very well equipped. I shared the ensuite twin room pictured to the right with my sister. We were very lucky to have a first floor too, overlooking a view of the weir. In our rooms we found our spa robes and flip-flops, all ready to go! At Champneys, you can wander around in your big, fluffy, white robe all day, which is very comfortable and contributes to the relaxed feel. The atmosphere of the whole place was so chilled - perfect for ultimate relaxation.
The gorgeous view from our bedroom window, overlooking the weir

Spa treatments
Image source
We booked in for three spa treatments each during our stay. The first was thalassotherapy. The word thalassa in Greek means 'the sea', so this treatment involved getting into a warm, mineral-rich saltwater pool, and using hydrotherapy jets to massage and stimulate your muscles. The minerals infused in the water, including copper, magnesium, and zinc, promote the body's natural detoxing processes. Each person in the pool rotated around the various hydrotherapy jets, which massaged everything from the soles of the feet, to your shoulders. You came out feeling like you'd been to a masseuse!

My next treatment was a hot stone massage. This was absolutely heavenly! I was apprehensive about the heat from the stones to start off with, but the warmth actually turned out to be really pleasant! The hot stones aren't just placed on your back and left there, the therapist holds them in their hands and actually uses them to massage your back. This felt totally blissful, and really managed to work out the knots in my shoulders. I'd recommend this treatment to anyone!

Finally, I enjoyed an Indian head massage. I enjoyed this treatment the most! The 45 minute therapy included an upper back and shoulder massage, as well as the head massage. My specialist's name was Isabella and she was absolutely wonderful - her relaxed and friendly demeanor really put you at ease. I felt like my head was in the clouds when I left, it was wonderful!

Food
One of the delicious desserts - lemon meringue mousse
A word definitely has to be said about the amazing food at Champneys! As part of our package, we had three meals a day included. My breakfast highlights included the juice shots, which consisted of beetroot, brocolli, cucumber, and apple juice. At lunch there was a hot and cold buffet with choices galore! As all of the food was locally sourced, freshly cooked, and very health conscious, you could eat as much as you like, guilt-free! We had a three-course dinner every night, with my favourite dishes including a roasted Mediterranean vegetable salad, and grilled chicken served with chorizo and olive risotto. All of the meals were very light and didn't leave you feeling bloated.

Gym and Fitness
I couldn't resist trying out some of Champneys' gym classes, as the vast majority are free for resort guests. I had a go at my first ever Hula Hoop fitness session and I had a really good time! Trying to keep the hoop spinning was a challenge but lot of fun, so I didn't even feel like I was exercising! It was a good workout though, my sides ached the next day from the weighted hoop. I also attended a Stretch and Relax class, which provided a great opportunity to chill out and stretch out those tense muscles that you didn't know you had! My Mum and I paid a supplement to attend an hour's meditation class, which was well worth it. The instructor explained the basics of meditation and mindfulness to us, and gave us some really helpful tips to take away. I'll definitely be using some at home!

Have you ever been on a spa break? Share your experiences in the comments!

Until next time,

A x

A day in the life of an Archaeologist

As you're reading this, I'll be in Greece, knee-deep in ancient pot sherds, working on an archaeological project. I thought it might be fun to give you a little flavour of what I'm getting up to, and explain my absence from social media! I studied a BA in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History at uni, which means that my focus was the ancient civilisations of Greece and Rome and their literary and archaeological records (for more in-depth info on my course, click here). A compulsory element of my degree was to undertake an archaeological dig in my first year, and I enjoyed my first one so much that I have been working on digs every year since! 


Here's what a typical day on the dig site was like. We worked six full days a week, sticking mostly to the routines outlined here, but we had one day off each week on a Sunday.

5am: Breakfast time! The day starts very early on an archaeological dig, especially if you're working somewhere hot, like Greece or Italy. The photos in this post were all taken in the Italian Abruzzo, where temperatures reached the high 30's celsius most days. This meant that between the hours of noon and 2pm, it was too hot to work, so we had to compensate by getting started early.

That's me in the foreground in the blue bucket hat!
5.30am: Off to the dig site! In Italy, our accomodation was in a small secondary school just a ten minute drive from where we were excavating. We excavate on the slopes of a mountain, and the views are absolutely stunning!

5.45am - Noon: First digging stint of the day! We would work in teams,  uncovering large features under the earth such as walls, as well as smaller finds such as ancient pottery and animal bones. Sometimes we even found really exciting things like arrowheads and flint tools! We have never come across any human remains on our site... Yet! During the morning, we take several biscuit and shade breaks in order to stay refreshed.

Noon - 2.30pm: My favourite part of the day - lunchtime! During our time in the Abruzzo, the archaeology team got to enjoy some real, authentic Italian food, including the obvious pizza and pasta dishes, as well as courgette frittata, and fresh local seafood, as we were located very close to the coast. After lunch we had some time to relax in the shade during the hottest part of the day. This time was very often spent napping, sunbathing, or playing cards.

2.30pm - 5pm: During this time, we either went back out to the excavation field or we stayed back at the base to work on processing the finds. Small finds such as pottery had to be washed and catalogued, and then it could be photographed and drawn. These photographs and drawings would then be used in the publication of the material.

One of my hand drawn images of a pot sherd

After pencil-and-paper drawings of the pottery are completed, these are digitally inked on Photoshop. My drawing talents were sufficient for some of my pencil-and-paper work and my digital inkings to be included in an upcoming publication of the excavation material, which is really exciting!

The drawing team usually took a coffee break during the afternoon and we always wandered down to the same little Italian coffee shop where they served amazing hot chocolate! It was the consistency of chocolate pudding, and served with wafers dipped in nutella and crushed nuts - absolutely delicious! Just the sugar rush we needed to finish the afternoon's duties! If you've never tried an Italian hot chocolate, add it to your bucket list right now.

5pm - 7pm: Work is over! Now everyone joined the mad dash for the showers! After washing away the inevitable layers of dirt and dust that built up over the course of the day, we had an evening lecture. Each member of the senior dig staff gave a talk on the history of the area we were excavating in, some of the most important finds, and archaeological techniques that we were using on the project, such as flotation, which is used to capture the remains of ancient organic material on the site.

A few of the courses from our Samnite dinner!
7pm: Time for dinner! On our project, our meals would be split between those that we would cook at the school where we stayed, and dining in nearby restaurants, supporting local businesses. One restaurant even put on an archaeologically themed dinner for us, recreating an ancient Samnite meal, based on the evidence for food that we had uncovered on our dig site! Not everything was to modern taste (some of the porridge mixes were pretty gross!) but it was an interesting journey back through time!

One of my all time favourite local delicacies that we tried was traditional Arrosticini Abruzzesi, lamb kebabs cooked over a barbeque, then drizzled with spicy honey and sprinkled with salt before serving. We even had a competition within the archaeological team for who could eat the most Arrosticini kebabs! I think the record was around 40 - and although these were absolutely delicious I got nowhere near this number!

Image Source: Kashgar lamb kebabs via photopin (license)

9.30pm: Evening entertainments! During our time in the Abruzzo, the little town in which we were staying hosted its annual beer festival, where people from the surrounding area flocked in to sample a whole host of locally produced beers, and others from across the world. There was even a British beer stand which admittedly wasn't that popular! Although beer really isn't my thing (it all tastes like piss to me), there were plenty of other entertainments on the night, including music and dancing. We would usually crash out in bed at around 10.30pm, ready to get up and do it all again the next day!

I hope this has given you an interesting insight into my life as a Classical Archaeologist - if you have any questions, please do comment below!

Until next time,

A x

A day out: Blenheim Palace

You think this is impressive? This is the back of the house.
After finishing my degree at the start of June, I had a week left of term to really enjoy the sights around Oxford that I'd never before had the time to see. Top of my Oxford Bucket List was Blenheim Palace, a stunning stately home constructed in the 18th century by the first Duke of Malborough after his military victory over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession.  

Nothing says "I'm awesome" more than an enormous column with your statue on top
The Duke was given the money to construct the Palace by Queen Anne after his exploits in war, and he is commemorated by a large statue positioned at the top of a small hill, in line with the house's courtyard. On the statue, the Duke is shown wearing Roman military costume (the obvious choice). The Palace is actually still home to modern day Duke of Malborough, James Spencer-Churchill, and his very dishy polo-playing son. The family still reside in the private wing of the Palace.

Me (on the right) and my two lovely friends, Charlotte and Mirjam, who made the trip with me
You've probably heard of a few other members of the family who own this illustrious mansion. Sir Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace in 1874, and the late Diana Spencer, former wife of Prince Charles, also had a familial connection to the Palace. At the Palace currently there is an exhibition commemorating the life of Winston Churchill, which alongside the tales of his actions as Prime Minister, tells the touching story of his romance with his wife Clementine. Also included in the exhibition is Winston Churchill's very own onesie. I'm not kidding.

Photographic evidence of the onesie!

Exploring the Great Court

Posing on the steps

As you'd expect, the inside of the Palace is just as opulent as the exterior. Almost every available surface is sculpted, painted, or gilded. The image below shows the painting on the ceiling of the entrance hall, which supposedly shows the first Duke of Malborough, supported by the personification of Victory, laying out his battle plans. Excessive? Yes. Gorgeous? Definitely.

Start saving your pocket money and you might be able to afford one of these ceilings in about 284139494592 years
If that ceiling wasn't enough, one of the free tours put on by Blenheim Palace's staff will take you though to the state rooms, all of which are decked out with family portraits and crystal chandeliers. Those ceiling adornments are 24 carat gold.

Just one of the state rooms
One of my favourite items from the Palace's state rooms are the so-called chaperone couches. A couple who were courting would sit on the main part of the red sofa pictured below, and their chaperone would sit on the little section at the end, making sure that no funny-business, which might compromise the lady's modesty, could take place. Can you think of a more awkward arrangement? I certainly can't.

No cheeky smooching with bae on one of these couches
Naturally, as is the case with most all days out in good old Blighty, it started to rain towards the end of the day, so we took refuge in one of the Palace's colonnades. The incoming thunderstorm meant that we weren't able to visit the Palace's formal gardens, but as we converted our day tickets into yearly passes (which is free to do on the day and takes just 5 minutes), we will definitely go back and explore the bits we missed. Blenheim Palace provided a really gorgeous day out and I will be returning!

Sheltering from the inevitable rain
 Pros: 
  • Plenty of indoor space to explore if it rains
  • They offer a student entry price of £12.60, and this can be converted into a yearly pass for free
  • Some tours are free
  • There are 150 acres of gardens to see if the sun is shining!
Cons:
  • Eating in one of the cafes is EXPENSIVE, so take a packed lunch
  • You have to pay to go on some tours (£5 for adults, £4 for concessions) and the areas of the house which these tours show you are not otherwise accessible

The day wouldn't have been complete without another posey photo

Getting there:
It's very easy to get to Blenheim on public transport. Take the Stagecoach S3 bus from Gloucester Green in central Oxford, and you can get dropped off right outside the Palace gates. If you're driving, the Palace can easily be found from Oxford, Birmingham, or London.

I hope you enjoyed this mini-tour of Blenheim Palace! Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Until next time,

A x

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