Glossybox - Under The Sea July 2018

Tuesday, July 17, 2018
If you want to see all of the blogger mail and subscription box unboxing then follow me on Instagram (@ofbeautyand) because I show everything on my stories! I always love receiving the Glossybox boxes every month as they contain so many wonderful items and I've genuinely loved some of the items I've received so far and this box is no different!

*Glossybox - Under The Sea July 2018 
This box is a little late but I'm glad that I've received it because the box theme is so unique, under the sea. The theme leaves the door open for lots of summery products which is very appropriate for the heatwave we've been having over the past month or so in the UK. There are six items within the box featuring brands such as Hawaiian Tropic, Crabtree & Evelyn, Oriflame and more.
Oriflame The One 5 in 1 Wonder Lash Mascara (£9, full size)
Let's start with the one disappointing product in the box, for me anyway. Oriflame is a brand I haven't tried before but I have heard pretty good things on the whole. The mascara claims to lift, curl, volumise, lengthen and separate lashes but for my lashes it only defines and separates. The one thing I'm always looking for in a mascara is volume and this one doesn't do it for me; however, if you do love a lengthening, separating and defining mascara then you'll love this!
Regenerate Enamel Science Advanced Toothpaste (£2.50, 14ml mini)
One item that is ideal for me is a travel sized toothpaste as I have a couple of trips planned for August including a weekend away in the Lake District and a cruise as well as a couple of day trips and maybe a night camping! I have tried a toothpaste from this brand before and liked it so I'm glad to have another - the timing is perfect too.

Hawaiian Tropic Duo Defence Sun Lotion SPF 30 (7.4ml sachet)
The second mini included in the box is another that is ideal for summer holidays as it's a sun lotion from a very reputable SPF brand. I have heard great things from other bloggers about this particular sun lotion as it smells amazing (and I have to agree).

Senhor Do Bonfim Sea Water Hair Spray (£15, full size)
This theme is just perfect for the upcoming summer holiday season as we have another ideal summery product, a sea salt hair spray. I adore the packaging for this product, it's so cute! I also like the scent although I think it will be a marmite aspect of the product. I haven't tried it yet but I can't wait to, especially when I have my hair cut short next month - I'm getting close to 10 inches cut off and donated to the Little Princess Trust.
Crabtree & Evelyn La Source Hand Therapy (£8, 25g)
The penultimate item is one of my favourites from the box, although to be honest, I'm love all but one of the products in this months box! Crabtree and Evelyn is one of my favourite brands and their hand creams are so lovely - I've tried a couple already. This mini size is going to be perfect for my handbag and I will be taking it on holiday with me next month.

Inuwet Cheek Shell Brush (13.20, fulls size)
The final item is the most adorable makeup brush I've ever seen! Along with mugs and books, I have a habit of hoarding makeup brushes so I always need more especially when they're so cute. This cheek brush, that would be ideal for cream blush, bronzer or highlighter, is the most adorable and uniquely designed makeup brush I own.

What do you think of the July Glossybox

*Driving Safety Tips + Heatwave Car Checks

Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Image from Pinterest
Today's post is all about car safety and since passing my driving test after the second time in December 2016, it's become something I'm much more aware of. You can read about my experience of learning to drive on my blog.

Before learning to drive I knew very little about car safety checks or the internal workings of a car but I personally think that it's something every driver should know the basics of. I'm still learning and thankfully my dad is very knowledgable when it comes to cars, engines and the mechanical components but there's still more I need to learn. I don't want to be one of those people who knows nothing about their car besides that they like the colour!

Coolant Levels 
Looking after your car is something that should be done all year round but particularly during the winter and summer seasons when the temperatures are a little more extreme and can affect the safety of your car. The coolant levels within your car are important to check as you don't want to it be low because that could make the engine and radiator work harder resulting in a over heated engine - not what you want at any time but especially not during a very hot day or during a heatwave like the one we've been having over the past few weeks in the UK. The coolant level is something you can top-up yourself or you can take your car to a garage.

Air Conditioning + Ventilation 
Another important point to check particularly if you are going on a road trip this summer is the fans, ventilation and air conditioning of your car. Checking that these aspects are working is important because as with the first point, you don't want your engine to over heat, you also don't want the driver or passengers to overheat! Checking that the air conditioning system is fully gassed is something that your garage can do for you.

One of the most important components of your car is it's exhaust! For me, it isn't something I've ever thought of but it's invaluable because it removes toxic gases and fumes from your engine. If the exhaust isn't working properly then the worst case scenario is toxic fumes such as deadly carbon monoxide, building up within the interior of the car posing a serious health risk to the driver and passengers so it's not something that should be overlooked. There are a few warning signs to look out for such as a warning light, rattling noise, vibrations and loud exhaust noises, if you experience any of these then you should get your car checked immediately - I can't stress enough the importance of making sure your exhaust is fully working. It is actually illegal to drive with a non-functioning exhaust - the fumes need to pass through a silencer/muffler to reduce noise. If there is a problem and you are based in London, your exhaust can be replaced by DAT Tyres. It's a safety check that should be done constantly but particularly before a long journey.

The final safety point I'm going to mention in todays post is about tyres. The tread depth and quality of your tyres is important as it's something that could cause your car to fail an MOT test. We recently had to replace two tyres as they were getting close to the minimum legal tread depth in the UK. We've all heard about winter tyres but did you know that you can also buy summer tyres? Summer tyres can provide high grip on dry and wet roads and also provide high driving stability and optimum mileage performance for the higher summer temperatures, perfect for the heatwave temperatures we've had recently.

Did you know some of these safety points? If you drive, did you know about the dangers of a faulty exhaust (I didn't)? 

*This is a collaborative post
*Image from Pinterest

*Looking After Long Hair: Tips

Monday, July 16, 2018
I have never been happy with my hair, it's been very short, red, every shade of brunette under the sun, dip-dyed, highlighted, mid-length and more recently, very long! For the past six or so years, I've grown out my hair to my waist and then I've had at least seven inches cut off to donate to The Little Princess Trust. As I'm going to cut around ten inches off my hair next month, I thought I'd write about some of my experiences of having very long hair, tips and product recommendations.

Minimal Heat
Back in secondary school I washed my hair almost every single day and I straightened it almost every day as well and to be honest, I don't know how I still have any hair left after that! For at least the past six years I've rarely used heat on my hair, I wash my hair around three times per week and I always wash it in the evening so it can dry naturally overnight. I use my hair dryer, curler or straighteners four to six times per month, depending on what I'm doing that month - next month will be a busy month so my hair will be subjected to heat much more (a weekend away, my birthday and a cruise) but normally heat is very rarely used on my hair. When I do use heat, I use my amazing GHD Earth Gold Styler as it makes straightening my hair very quick so the time my hair is connected to the heat is vastly reduced.

Masks & Oils
Masks and hair oils are something I try to use once a week to keep my hair as smooth, healthy and tangle free as possible, the latter is very important because very long can can become extremely tangled (mine literally resembles a birds nest sometimes). I love Morrocan Oil Light, any of the Redken hair masks and the Salon Science range.

Detangle Brushes
Speaking of tangles, one way in which I prevent tangles is to brush my hair when it's wet with my Wet Brush which is a fantastic brush for those with long or very long hair. I've had mine for years and it's still going strong! Since I was a child, I've had a sensitive scalp so brushing out stubborn tangles can be quite painful but The Wet Brush makes it very easy and as pain free as it can be; Tangle Teezer brushes are great too. Your hair is the most prone to damage and breakage when it's wet so it is important to use a detangling brush!

Minimal Washing
As I've mentioned, I try to only wash my hair three times per week as you lose even more hair when you wash it. One of my hair problems has been hair loss, it's something I've struggled with and been self conscious of since I was a teenager until I tried the Regrowz treatment which has helped immeasurably!

Hair Loss Treatments
Very long hair does have a tendency to fall out much more because of the weight of it but hair loss can also be due to genes or stress however there are solutions, thankfully as I have experienced hair loss and it isn't a pleasant process by any means. Harley Street Hair Clinic offers treatments to help; hair transplants Harley Street use the most modern FUE hair transplant techniques which are available for both men and women. There are various treatment options and you can see some of the amazing results and case studies on the Harley Street Hair Clinic website.

Do you have any long hair tips or product recommendations? Do you also experience hair loss?

*This is a sponsored post

Blog Tour: Wrecker by Noel O'Reilly

Sunday, July 15, 2018
I have been lucky enough to take part in quite a lot of blog tours already this year with a range of wonderful publishers (which I'm very grateful for) but this book has to be one of the most beautiful books I've ever received! I was very kindly sent Wrecker by Noel O'Reilly from HQ (Harper Collins) so thank you! Today's book blog tour is featuring a newly released historical fiction and we all know how much I love historical fiction!

*Wrecker by Noel O'Reilly (384 pages) ★★★ (3.5)
I received this book from the wonderful people at HQ at Harper Collins and it has to be one of the most beautiful books I own as not only it is gorgeously designed but it's a naked hardback so the cover is printed onto the hardback book, no annoying dust jacket! I absolutely adore the cover, it's stunning! Anyway, enough gushing about the cover. Set in the wonderful, atmospheric and beautiful setting of Cornwall we follow Mary Blight who rescues a man from a shipwreck after a storm. Shipwrecks are a very common occurrence as is the practice of looting the washed up cargo and personal affects of the dead (I didn't know this was done until I read Sentinels Of The Sea in May).

The story unfolds as the identity of the rescued *handsome* man is unveiled as a minister and what follows is a look into the impoverished lives of the community, how religion plays a part in everyones lives and the intertwining lives of Mary and the rescued minister, Gideon as they struggle with their feelings for each other, the judgement of the community and religious beliefs. Oh also, there's supposedly a cannibal in their midst...

I loved the writing style which was quick and easy but had an eerie and darkly descriptive tone. It was a very quick read, I wanted to find out what would happen and I think the ending was as hopeful as it could have been given the events in the book so I was happy about that! I found Mary annoying at times but I also liked how she subverted the typical expectations and actions of women. There are  some scenes of domestic violence in this book which made for slightly uncomfortable reading but thankfully it is viewed as negative in the book rather than normal part of life, however I think it could have been dealt with even better, if that makes sense. I found some of the characters and their views frustrating at times and I'm not religious at all so some sections of the book were a little tedious but overall I really loved this novel! I'd definitely recommend it for fans of dark, bleak historical fiction.

Do you like historical fiction? Will you be picking up this book? 

*Summer Holiday Beauty Prep

Saturday, July 14, 2018
Image from Pink Peonies via Pinterest
Summer is finally here and the heatwave in England is looking like it's going to stay! I've been looking at holidays and I've booked a weekend away in the Lake District with friends in August; also I'm going on a cruise in August too so I've been thinking about summer holiday prepping! Here are some of my holiday beauty prepping steps, along with more exercise, toning and healthy eating.

Hair Removal 
Let's start with the most important and the most painful step, hair removal. The only thing I don't like about going away on holiday is the hair removal process as while shaving is very quick, easy and inexpensive, it doesn't last for very long at all! In comes waxing to the rescue, a painful rescue, which lasts much longer.

Waxing within a salon is definitely the way to go as I'm always too scared to do it myself, unless it's my brows! Groupon have a range of fantastic deals and offers on waxing within my home city of Manchester (there are various locations of salons around the city) with prices from as little as £6 which is so much more affordable than other options I've looked at so definitely check out Groupon for waxing deals before your summer holiday.

Teeth Whitening 
Next up is something I've done on and off for years, teeth whitening. I have tried almost every whitening toothpaste, mouthwash and at home treatment available (you can check out some of my reviews) and I have found a few that actually work! Firstly, the surprisingly amazing Blax Pro toothpastes which I've been using for a couple of months and it's dramatically helped and the iWhite Teeth Whitening kit - both of which I cannot recommend enough!

Masks & Treatments 
Lastly, for a masks and treatments! I use hair masks and face masks constantly for the few weeks leading up to my summer holiday. One of my favourite face masks is the Caudalie Detox Mask which is a fantastic mask for deeply cleansing the skin. I also like to use hair masks once a week or I will use my Moroccan Oil hair oil all over my hair and scalp for a few hours then wash it out for smooth, moisturised and tame hair.

What are your pre-holiday favourites or pampering processes? Do you use Groupon?

*This is a sponsored post
*Image from Pinterest 

Cath Kidston Rose Gold Watch ft. First Class Watches

Friday, July 13, 2018
One of my favourite brands has to be Cath Kidston! I have so many of their mugs and kitchen items; I also love their bags and stationery. I had no idea that they had a range of watches, don't tell me I'm the only one who didn't know this! I was very kindly sent one of their watches from the super lovely people over at First Class Watches.

*Cath Kidston Rose Gold Bracelet Floral Pink Dial (£67)
I was able to choose the watch that I wanted and I opted for the stunning Cath Kidston Rose Gold Bracelet Floral Pink Dial Watch, phew. There are quite a few to choose from, even though I've never come across them before so it was a difficult choice to make. The following Cath Kidston watches were in the running too: CKL051RGM, CKL038CRG, CKL035CRG and CKL037RGM but I'm so happy with my choice.
The Cath Kidston watch I chose is rose gold in colour, it's splash resistant and features a gorgeous floral design. The box the watch comes in is so cute too, it's a red and white polkadot box with Cath Kidston on the front with a little information about the Cath Kidston brand on the back. Inside the box there's a cute red cushion on which the watch is displayed so visually it's such a beautiful gift, for yourself or someone else. Additionally it comes with a mini guarantee and instruction booklet.

As with all watches, this one is a little too big on my teeny tiny wrists but I'm going to get a couple of links removed so it will fit perfectly. The watch itself is pretty, I adore the rose gold strap combined with the pink watch face, it's perfect for spring/summer. It is an ideal casual but beautiful watch and I know so many of my friends and family would love to receive it as a gift!
I adore the design of this watch along with colours of the face - it's just so gorgeous and very Cath Kidston. Cath Kidston designs are so gorgeous and when you look at the watch you can instantly tell that it's a Cath Kidston design (and the box is similar to some of the other gift boxes of hers).

I cannot recommend this watch enough, it would make a lovely gift especially for those who love Cath Kidston as a brand and their prints. I adore the design, especially the watch face and the rose gold shade. I also cannot recommend First Class watches enough, they have an amazing range of watches and brands!

Did you know that Cath Kidston had a watch range? Will you be checking out First Class Watches (they currently have their summer sale on)? 

*Summer Holiday Shopping Without Breaking The Bank

Thursday, July 12, 2018
Image from Pinterest
Summer holidays are expensive. Especially if you’ve got kids and are tied to a school holiday trip, which can be almost double the price that the same holiday would have been a few weeks before. Of course, there are ways to travel on a budget, and plenty to do when you are away to save money and spend less. But, flights, accommodation and spending money aren’t the only expenses that come with taking a trip. Many of us forget to budget for holiday shopping. Leaving ourselves in a financial pickle in those few weeks before we travel when we realise we need holiday clothes, toiletries and other bits to make our holiday perfect. This shopping trip can easily become much more expensive than you might have imagined, heavily cutting into your holiday spends before you’ve even got to the airport. Here are some ways to do your summer holiday shopping on a budget.

Start Early
Ideally, you want to shop for your next summer holiday at the end of the summer before. Shops tend to start stocking autumn/winter ranges as well as back to school paraphernalia in mid-august, and bikinis, flip flops, beach bags and sunscreen get relegated to the sales at the back of the shops. Even the top summer books and insect repellent get cheaper. So, plan ahead. It might be too late for this year’s holiday but get on it for next time. Just remember, sunscreen has a used by date, and it won’t last as long while it’s open. So, if you are buying for next year, check the dates and keep in sealed in a cool, dry cupboard.

Shop for Deals 
Both high street stores and online shops are packed with deals at this time of year. All trying to compete for the holiday shopper market. Make the most of this. Don’t buy anything without first looking for BOOTS DISCOUNT CODES or comparing with other shops. You can quite easily do most of your holiday shopping without paying full price for anything. One item that I'm always looking for deals on is shoes, sandals and boots; sandals are summer essentials for me so it's always nice to get a discount. I'm luckily going away on a cruise at the end of August so I'm currently on the look out for deals!

Invest in Quality 
If you can afford it, it’s worth investing in decent products that will last a few years. A good pair of sunglasses will cost more than a cheap pair from a budget retailer, but they’ll last a lot longer and protect your eyes from UV rays. The same goes for swimwear and holiday gadgets. Buying cheaper is often a false economy as you’ll end up spending a lot more over the years to come. Buy the best you can afford in the first place.

Only Buy What You Need 
We’d all love to buy a whole new wardrobe every single time we go away and take 14 swimsuits for a beach break. But, it’s usually not necessary. If you’ve got things like bikinis, hats and beach shoes that you haven’t worn since last summer, they’ll still be in great condition, and no one will remember you wearing them before. Perform an inventory of what you’ve already got and write a list of what you need before you go out shopping.

Do you have any summer holiday wardrobe buying tips? Where are your favourite places to buy summer clothing or travel beauty products on sale? 

*Image from Pinterest 
*This is a collaborative post

*Gift Ideas: Thorntons Mint Chocolates

Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Image from Thorntons 
It's coming up to that time of the year for teachers gifts and the start of the summer holidays, while I loved school, I loved the start of the summer holidays even more! I loved choosing gifts for teachers and I still love choosing birthday gifts for friends and family. One of my favourite chocolate brands and a brand that is very nostalgic for me, is Thorntons and it's the perfect gift brand.

Teacher Gifts 
I always used to get Thorntons chocolate lollies, Easter eggs, ice cream and fudge growing up so it's a very nostalgic brand to me! Thorntons also have a range of fantastic gift ideas, some of which would be perfect as teacher gifts as they can be personalised with the teachers name such as the chocolate models and the alphabet truffles, the latter is pictured below. Additionally, there are boxed chocolates including mint chocolates, classic collection, sweet shop collection (which looks amazing) and more.
Image from Thorntons 
Summer Collection
Next up, their summer collection includes a range of colourful, unique gift options such as their summer drinks chocolate collection which is inspired by long summer drinks on a long summer days as well as their new orange and passionfruit fudge which sounds amazing! The sweet shop collection is my favourite option as the flavours are inspired by traditional sweet shop flavours including rhubarb and custard!

Last but not least are some of the most indulgent and luxe gift options from Thorntons, their chocolate hampers! To be honest, in terms of food gifts, I don't think anything could top a chocolate hamper. There is a huge chocolate hamper option as well as combined alcohol and chocolate treat hampers.

Do you love Thorntons chocolates? What do you think of these gift ideas? 

*Images from Thorntons 
*This is a collaborative post

Ryman Personalised Stationery

Tuesday, July 10, 2018
We all know by now that I love stationery, I have numerous drawers in my typically blogger Ikea desk just for stationery. I've always loved stationery and I use notebooks, pads and pens every day for my to do lists and random scribblings; notebooks are never empty for very long in my home office! One site that admittedly I've never really looked in is Ryman Stationery, until now.

*Heritage Personalised Notebook (£19.99)
I have a few favourite stationery/homeware stories and sites that I always look on every so often to see their new stock but Ryman Stationery isn't one of them. To be honest I don't know why because they have such a wide range of stationery and they have a gorgeous collection of stationery that can be personalised with initials or names.

I was very kindly sent a couple of their items including this gorgeous Heritage Personalised Notebook in the Burgundy shade. I opted for the burgundy shade as I thought it would look so pretty with the rose gold/copper foil personalisation and it does! I adore the burgundy shade as well as the metallic copper foil of my name on the front. There are various other colours to choose from as well including grey, green, navy, white and purple. It's a lined notebook, the best kind, and it is a great size too. The quality is fantastic and I think I'll be using mine as a book review notebook when I've filled the one I'm using now. It would make a great gift!
*Personalised Mug (£8.99)
The second and final personalised item in todays post is a cute mug and as with stationery, I'm a bit of a mug hoarder too. The mug can be personalised with a name, profession or adjective such as 'M is for Mummy' or 'N is for Nurse' but I have 'H is for Heather' which I love! The design is very simple but I adore the almost brush lettering (on both the personalised items) and I think it would make a great gift for a student, new mum or as a birthday gift - I have had quite a few birthdays to buy for already but this would have been perfect. I'm using mine as a cute pen holder which is so much nicer than the candle holder it is replacing!

*Zebra Ballpoint Pen Rose Gold Pack (£1.39 - sale)
Last but not least is an item that is currently on sale and some of my favourites from todays post although I love all of them. The pens are basic black pens which write smoothly but the best thing is that they are rose gold! Rose gold is one of my favourite trends and it might be a bit of a cliche now but I still adore anything rose gold or copper toned!

What do you think of these stationery items? Did you know that Ryman Stationery offered personalised stationery? 

Manchester Eats Food Festival: Review

Sunday, July 08, 2018
Yesterday I visited a food festival for the first time, the Manchester Eats food festival in Heaton Park which is very close to where I live so I had to go especially as Heaton Park is such a beautiful park. Yesterday was such a boiling hot day, perfect food festival weather! I was kindly added to the guest list for the food festival which is one of the few times I've been on an event guest list and it doesn't feel any less special! Annoyingly I completely forgot to take my DSLR so I had to use my iPhone 7; you can see some of my Instagram Stories for more!

The festival started yesterday and featured chocolate workshops, cooking demonstrations with celebrity chefs including the famous (and super lovely) Marco Pierre as well as numerous stalls from a range of Mancunian and international brands such as Hotel Chocolat, Costco and more. The festival also had a large kids village including fair ground rides and childrens workshops.
We arrived a little late yesterday but thankfully we were able to see some of Marco Pierre White's first cooking demonstration which was of a delicious sounding mushroom risotto. I haven't seen any celebrity chefs before so it was very exciting especially as Marco Pierre White is such a famous and accomplished chef. He seems so lovely, down to earth and funny which definitely came across in the demonstration.

The chefs tent wasn't as large as I thought it would be so there were limited seats and for me personally, I think it would be have been better value for money if the celebrity demonstrations and events were closer together. Additionally, when we arrived at the car park, there were no signs indicating which direction the festival was, we just had to follow the noise without knowing if we wee heading in the direction of the entrance.
There were various stalls that catered for a wide range of interests and tastes such as a vegan/vegetarian area, craft beer stalls, Hotel Chocolat mobile van, greek food, Thai pies, cookies and ice cream stalls and stalls dedicated to just garlic produce...yes! We only bought a couple of items at the festival including some delicious samosas from an Indian food stall (I can't remember the name) and natural salt from The Dorset Sea Salt Co. As well as food, snacks and alcohol, there were produce stalls with pre-made condiments and cooking ingredients.

A few friends were interested in going on the Sunday, today, and thought that there would be lots of food samples but from my experience, there weren't but there were some. The prices differ per stall but the food prices overall were reasonable. We had a sample of the ice cream buns from Milky Stax and it was incredibly delicious!

Overall, for my first food festival experience, I was very excited and it definitely met my expectations on the whole; the celebrity cooking demonstrations were definitely my favourite aspects of the food festival. The only negatives for me personally was the lack of sign posting at the car parks, the wait between demos and the slight lack of seating - as it was such a hot day I think covered seating would have been useful. I definitely want to visit more food festivals now and there's one in Liverpool on the 15th and 16th September that I'll be looking out for so if you missed the Manchester Eats food festival you don't have to long wait until the next one.

Have you been to a food festival? Did you visit the Manchester Eats mood festival yesterday or today? 

Manchester Eats Food Festival - THIS WEEKEND

Friday, July 06, 2018
If you didn't know, I'm based in Manchester and that means I'm usually unable to attend so many exciting blogger events as they're always in London *cries* which is so frustrating especially at this time of the year when the Christmas in July event invites are starting to come through. However, there is a very exciting event in Manchester, basically around the corner from me, this weekend!

The Manchester Eats food festival is taking place on the 7th and 8th July, this weekend, from 10:30 to 19:30 on Saturday and 10:30 to 17:30 on Sunday. There are full prices on the Manchester Eats website but tickets on the day for adults are £9, a weekend pass on the day will be £13.50 and children under 14 go free. You can book tickets online and they'll be a little cheaper. As well as the food festival, there will be so many activities for children in the kids village including face painting, fair ground, exotic animals, cooking classes and more.
The part of the food festival that I'm most interested in and excited for are the celebrity chefs that will be there including: Matt Tebbutt, Ed Baines, Adam Reid and last but not least....Marco Pierre White! Unlike most food festivals the cooking demonstrations will be free and the celebrity chefs will be providing cooking demos throughout the day as well as book signings and Q&As - you can find the full schedule for each day on the Manchester Eats website.

As well as the extensive kids village and the celerity chef demonstrations, there will be cooking demonstrations from the vegetarian society cookery school, chocolate workshops, BBQ demos and many stalls, gin garden, prosecco tent and a global food court. I'll be attending the event on the Saturday from 12ish and I cannot wait!

Will you be attending the event this weekend? Have you been to a food festival? 

June Reading Wrap-up 2018

Thursday, July 05, 2018
June has been a bit of a busy month for me with birthdays, my dads retirement, a wedding rehearsal and I was a bridesmaid at my friends wedding! However, I still managed to read the books I wanted to this month while we've been having an insane heatwave. I did read quite a few huge books last month with my longest book being 688 pages with the other long books being 512 and 560 pages so I'm more than on track with my book goals for 2018! As well as the 10 physical books I read, I was also able to listen to a couple of audiobooks in June.

*A Sacred Storm by Theodore Brun (688 pages) ★★★ (3.75)
I won't write too much about this book for two reasons, the first is that it's the final book in a duology and the second reason is that I've already published an in-depth review of this book on my blog which you can read for more information. This second and final book follows on from the previous and contains viking warriors, power play between kingdoms, forbidden love, battles, revenge and much more. It would make an amazing TV show and I can't recommend it enough but be prepared for torture, blood, sex scenes and battles as well as a slightly unresolved world (if that makes sense) - I wanted more from this book!

*Genesis by Brendan Reichs (512 pages) ★★★ (3.75)
I can't write too much about this book either as again it's the second in a duology. I read the first book, Nemesis, last year and really liked it so I couldn't wait to read the next book. This book follows on from the events of the first but if the action, peril and mystery of Nemesis was a 5/10, this book ramps it up to a 10/10! To me, the book feels like a dystopian world in the vein of the hunger games so if you liked that series then I think you'll love this duology, especially the second book which was very action filled - the second book was my favourite of the two by far.
The book is much longer compared to most YA reads but don't be put off by that as it reads very quickly, the writing style is simplistic (not in a bad way, maybe because it's told through the eyes of teenagers?) and easy to follow. I loved the world and deadly consequences, most of the characters and the action; however the only thing I didn't like was that it felt a little too long in places and I didn't like the 'love' interest Noah. Additionally the second book doesn't have sprayed edges as the first does; all books should have sprayed edges! Despite a couple of negatives, it was a fantastic YA read that I'd definitely recommend of fans of action, mystery and dystopian/sci-fi reads.

*Sentinels of the Sea: A Miscellany of Lighthouses Past by R. G. Grant (160 pages) ★★★ (3.5)
Onto a book that I included within my Father's Day gift guide; I was very kindly sent this gorgeous hardback book from the super lovely people over at Thames and Hudson. It's loosely part of a series of similar books and I love it - I received one of the other books last year which was all about dentistry and I bought a couple myself about the history of surgery and also about the history of 'madness'.

I adore the style of these books, they're so beautifully designed, published and well put together so naturally they'd make lovely gifts! This read focused on the history of lighthouses which I knew very little about and I was surprised to find out that Robert Louis Stevenson's family was closely related to the history of lighthouses. Additionally, I didn't know that some poorer coastal communities in England didn't welcome the construction of lighthouses as it lessened the chance of shipwrecks from which they profited (this point is related to a book I finished in July). It's an unusual and quirky non-fiction book but it's a quick, easy and informative read that I cannot recommend enough! Thanks again Thames and Hudson, your books are so beautiful!

*City of Lies by Sam Hawke (560 pages) ★★★ (3.75)
The vast majority of the books within this wrap-up were sent to me by lovely publishers so thank you! One of the most exciting books I was sent last month includes City of Lies which is categorised as an epic fantasy read and is on the longer side but the setting is fantastic, I loved the vivid fantasy world and the mysteries, secrets and poisonings along the way...

We follow Tain, Jovan and his sister, Kalina as their uncle and the powerful counsellor are both poisoned by an unknown substance. Jovan was an apprentice to his uncle as a poison taster to prevent the death of the consellor so now the family's reputation and power in the country is in jeopardy. What follows is an investigation into the poisoning, a siege, warfare and an exploration of forgotten gods.

The whole premise of a war involving poisoners was very intriguing to me and I love the little sections about various plants/poisons between chapters. I loved the world as it was very rich, vivd and had a historical fiction feel to it (with magic though...). I really enjoyed the storyline, the main characters, the rich writing style and the mysteries. I did have a couple of minor issues such as the actions of some of the characters (eg: having a conversation about the past with a love interest in the middle of an evacuation) came across to me as a little ridiculous; I personally wasn't a fan of the love interest, I think it could have jus focused on family and the importance of friendship. Additionally I wasn't as interested or invested in the ending of the book, if that makes sense, as it just seemed a little out of left field (I can't fully explain how I feel about the ending of this read).

Overall, I really enjoyed this read from the characters and setting to the politics, magic and poisons (the poison aspect was my favourite part of the book as it's so unique). It is definitely a hefty book but it read relatively quickly for the size and I adore the cover. I would definitely recommend it for fantasy fans, don't be put off by the page number!
*The Trilogy Of Two by Juman Malouf (416 pages) ★★★ (3.75)
Thanks so much to the lovely people over at Pushkin Press for sending me this beautiful childrens book to read and review - Pushkin books are always so gorgeously and meticulously designed! We follow two identical twins who are musical prodigies with unusual powers that joined the circus after being abandoned on the doorstep of the circus's tattooed lady.

What follows is an adventure involving magical kingdoms, mysteries, friendship, special talents and more as well as lovely illustrations throughout the entire book (which I loved!). I also adored the tone and atmosphere of the book which gave me feels similar to The Night Circus, A Series of Unfortunate Events and Heap House, all of which I loved reading so if you liked any of those three, then I think you'll love this read.

The authors imagination is fantastic, the story/characters are magical and whimsical; the world is filled with unusual creatures, magical abilities, villains and love between friends, guardians and sisters. I loved the process of reading the story as secrets are uncovered and as we explore so many wonderful worlds with more and more mystical characters. As I was reading this book it definitely gave me the same feeling I had when I read Heap House and it has a similar feeling as A Series of Unfortunate Events so I think would would make an amazing film if directed by Tim Burton!

*The King's Spy by Andrew Swanston (464 pages) ★★★
I was lucky enough to be sent all three novels in Andrew's Thomas Hill novels by the author himself (thanks again). I adore historical fiction so I couldn't wait to read this trilogy, starting with The King's Spy which is set during the time of the King Charles I and we all know how his story ends (with a rather gruesome weightloss from the neck up...).

In the novel we follow Thomas Hill, a bookseller, who is summoned by the king on the recommendation of his ageing college professor and friend, to decode parliamentary messages in his old haunt of Oxford. The story unfolds slowly to reveal treachery, secrets, ciphers, codes and a couple of rather gruesome murders! I loved the writing style, it was quick and easy but descriptive and vivd. I also loved the setting, the characters of Thomas Hill, Silas and Simon and the mysteries along the way. I did have a couple of issues as I thought it was a little too long and while I loved the code breaking and ciphers, I thought the explanations were slightly too detailed.

This is the third book I've read by Andrew Swanston, I've read his short story collection (Beautiful Star) and Incendium, both of which I've reviewed on my blog already and I think that out of the three, Incendium was definitely my favourite! If you like historical fiction then I cannot recommend Swanston's books enough. I'll be carrying on with this trilogy in July!

*The King's Witch by Tracy Borman (448 pages) ★★★ (3.5)
I am a huge fan of historical fiction and I also find anything related to witches very interesting so naturally I had to request this book from Hodder & Stoughton. In this historical fiction read (written by a historian I recognised from a few documentaries I've watched) we follow Frances Gorge and her family as Queen Elizabeth I dies and her rein is passed to King James VI of Scotland, who became King James I of England.

I didn't study this time period in school but I have watched a fair few documentaries about it particularly because of the witch hunts of this time and the book Daemonologie written by King James (basically a manual on how to find witches). In this novel Frances is in danger as she is a healer and can recognise the medicinal uses of plants which means that they're under suspicion of witchcraft but the kings witch hunt is derailed by a more volatile and radical plot that threatens parliament and the royal family.

The author Alison Weir, whose latest read I finished in May, described this book as 'dark intrigues, a poignant love story...a shattering and shocking climax', I would definitely agree with the dark themes and tone of the book (which I loved) and the sweet romance but I didn't find the revelation or ending very shocking as it's an event in English history (that I'm not going to mention or spoil) that most are familiar with so we already knew the ending before it happened. I hoped that it wouldn't follow the course of history as it did make for a predictable latter half of the book - that's my only negative about historical fiction in general as most seem to follow history which makes for a less shocking and predictable course/ending. However, I adored the setting, I liked the general story and the sweet romance as well as the historical figures and events mentioned. For me, it was a quick, easy and entertaining read that I would recommend to historical fiction fans. Also look at that gorgeous cover!
*The Sacco Gang by Andrea Camilleri (128 pages) ★★★
Thanks to Europa Editions for this early copy! In this short read we follow the history of the Sacco family from humble beginnings to outlaws with death, revenge and criminal trials along the way. I loved the very short chapters, quick and easy writing style and the setting. It's based on a completely true story which is baffling to me as to how any society could be controlled as Sicily and other areas of Italy were under various mafia gangs. I personally don't know much about the mafia, beyond what I know from popular culture so I found this book to be an interesting, shocking and very quick read. I would definitely recommend it!

Blackwing by Ed Mcdonald (384 pages) ★★★★
I have had this book on my TBR for months so when I received the second book in the series, I decided it was time to read the first in the Raven's Mark series and I was so excited to start it as I knew I'd love this read! This month's reading has been amazing with so many of the books being very very close to four star reads (most books get a three star from me which isn't bad by any means, a three star book in my mind is a really good read that is worth reading with just a couple of flaws).

This first book is categorised within the grimdark genre which is a subcategory within the fantasy genre and it's one of my favourites! I adore the cover of this book and the second in the series which I was kindly sent by the lovely people at Gollancz. You'll have to bear with me for this description of the plot as it isn't easy to explain and it's very bizarre but the book itself is easy to follow, throughly entertaining and compelling, as was the second.

In Blackwing by Ed McDonald we are introduced to the rugged, foul mouthed but kind hearted (deep down) killer, soldier and bounty hunter, Ryhalt Galharrow who is one of the most unique and vivid characters I've met. Ryhalt Galharrow is a Blackwing captain in command of a ragtag group of killers and soldiers who kill whoever they're ordered to by his master, Crowfoot who is one of the Nameless, powerful sorcerers who held back the Deep Kings long ago. In that conflict an engine was created to protect the cities along the eastern empire from the Deep Kings and a disturbing, harrowing place called Misery was also created in the process.

The premise instantly intrigued me even though it sounded a little complicated initially (it isn't, don't worry) I thought I'd love this book....and I did. I liked the sarcastic writing, dark humour and the relationship between the main characters including Ryhalt and Nenn. I've read fantasy before but nothing as bizarre, unusual and sometimes fairly gruesome as this and enjoyed it from the first to the last page. I did like the romance that reignites in this book but thankfully it doesn't fully take over the story. There are so many unique aspects to this book including ravens ripping themselves from flesh, disturbing nightmarish creatures and magic! If you're a fan of dark fantasy then check out this award winning read!

*Ravencry by Ed McDonald (432 pages) ★★★ (3.75)
Following on from the first book, Blackwing, I had to continue with the second book, Ravencry. We follow on from the main events of the first book but four years later and if the first book was disturbing and gruesome, it's nothing compared to the second! I can't say too much about the plot of this second book as I don't want to spoil the first but I will say that it is filled with the same sassy Ryhalt and Nenn, it's just as action packed and contains so many bizarre, Frankensteinesque creatures that you'll probably have nightmares about. You can check out my full blog tour review post for more information.

*Charmed Life by Dianna Wynne Jones via BookBeat ★★★
I listened to Howls Moving Castle a few months ago so I wanted to listen to another book by the author as she has such a wonderful, whimsical imagination and this one was no different. It's a short childrens/YA audiobook with witches and magic. The style and tone of the audiobook reminded me of Howls Moving Castle so if you liked that audiobook then you'll probably like this one despite the simpler storyline. It's the first in the Chrestomanci novels so I might carry on with the others on BookBeat as I did enjoy this audiobook.

*The Ashes Of London by Andrew Taylor via BookBeat ★★★
I've read quite a lot of historical fiction over the past three or so months so why not carry on with an audiobook I've been wanting to listen to for a while, The Ashes of London which is set during the great fire of London in 1666. I listened to the audiobook on BookBeat and the narrator was great, it was an easy to follow audiobook (which isn't always the case) and it was entertaining.

We follow James Marwood, who is the son of a traitor as he is investigating the deaths of a couple of murdered individuals throughout London while the fire rages and during a chance encounter outside the burning silhouette of St Pauls, he stumbles into our second main character, Catherine Lovett who is an heiress and daughter of a royalist traitor. We follow both of their lives during the background the devasting fire as a cat and mouse game unfolds and for the main characters to meet again with murder, secrets, rape and evasion along the way.

The synopsis of the book on Amazon made it seem more like a murder mystery but it was mainly focused on the two main characters, if they would meet again and if Catherine would be found. I did like this historical fiction audiobook, the setting/time period and the mysteries along the way so I definitely want to carry onto the second book. I listened to the Gothic Fireside audiobook in May and loved it too so if you like historical fiction with a gothic tone then check out Andrew Taylor's books.

Are we friends on GoodReads? Have you read any of these books?

*Travel Wish List: Ultimate European Grand Tour

Wednesday, July 04, 2018
Image from Mann Ali via Pinterest
During the regency period in England, the upper classes, mainly gentlemen because women weren't really allowed to do anything outside of the home and sewing, went on epic grand tours of Europe which were basically raucous gap years (yes, years) for rich, aristocratic sons. While the grand tours of the regency ended at the start of the napoleonic war, the idea of the grand tour is something I find compelling and sparks my wanderlust. My idea of an epic grand tour would have to include the following countries:

Vienna, Austria
I've been lucky enough to go on about seven cruises around Europe including 15+ countries but there are quite a few that I haven't been able to visit either as they don't have a coastline or aren't on the itineraries of cruise lines. One of those countries is Austria, in particular the capital Vienna, which is famous for some of it's sons, daughters and residents including Sigmund Freud, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, among others. Vienna is also home to a rich history, stunningly beautiful buildings including various palaces such as Schonbrunn, Hofburg and the Belvedere palaces and mouth watering Sachertorte.

Warsaw, Poland
An Eastern European city on my list is the capital of Poland, Warsaw. I feel as though Eastern European countries are slightly overlooked or thought of as similar eastern block countries but they have their own history, gorgeous architecture and culture. Warsaw's Old Town, home to the Royal Castle, looks like it's been conjured up by the Grimm brothers!

Reykjavik, Iceland
Now a country close to the edge of the Eurasian continent, Iceland and it's most famous city (and one of the most difficult to spell), Reykjavik. It's the largest city in Iceland and it's situated on the shores of Faxa Bay. Reykjavik is not only home to one of the worlds most uniquely designed churches but also near the Krysuvik geothermal area, Videy Island and the Árbær Open Air Museum. I think Reykjavik would make an amazing alternative and unique hen party destination as there are so many things to see and do in Reykjavik.
Image from Conde Nast Traveller via Pinterest
Venice, Italy
All of the cities in this post, apart from Venice are new to me but Venice is a city that I visited around five or six years ago. I visited very little of Venice at the time so there are a number of sights that I still need to visit such as Saint Marks Square, Doge's Palace, Saint Mark Basilica and the colourful island of Burano which is located in the gorgeous Venetian lagoon. To me, Venice is such a magical, mysterious and intriguing city and one of my favourites within Italy.

Moscow, Russia
I've visited the gorgeous city of Saint Petersburg but I'd absolutely love to visit Moscow and it's not just because I'm reminded of Russia almost every day due to the world cup. One of the most famous Russian landmarks is Red Square, the Kremlin and Saint Basil's Cathedral which are all located together along with the more macabre attraction of Lenin's tomb - I'd want to see that too!

Hamburg, Germany
Last but not least is a city that I might be visiting next month, Hamburg. I haven't been to Germany despite having to learn the basics of the German language for three years in secondary school. Hamburg is a major port city within Germany and is home to St. Michaelis church which was originally built in 1641 and boasts an amazing view of the city from it's 106 metre high tower. Additionally within Hamburg's old town resides the city hall and is close to Mönckebergstraße, the main shopping street in the city.

The days of ostentatious grand tours are over but now more affordable travel is available; however if you want to experience some of the luxury of the grand tours you can opt for an empty leg flight with Vistajet. Empty leg flights are a new concept to me, they consist of a private jet flying without passengers for one leg of the journey. For example, the plane can take you to your destination but it will return without any passengers, hence the 'empty' in empty leg flights or it can fly to your designation empty and pick up passengers at their location. Luxury empty leg flights are perfect options for flying to harder to reach destinations or leisurely flights without the hassle of economy/scheduled flights.

Have you visited any of these destinations? Would you consider empty leg flights as a travel option? 

*This is a collaborative post
*Images from Pinterest 

Limited Edition Vegan GlossyBox: July 2018

Tuesday, July 03, 2018
If you haven't seen some of my food related posts, particularly my latest recipe post with Magimix in which I made a rather delicious (if I do say so myself) chickpea curry with cashews and garlic cauliflower rice, then you might not know that my diet is mostly vegan and I'm slowly trying to switch to a more vegan lifestyle as well, which includes beauty, body and skincare products. The amazing people over at GlossyBox have created a limited edition vegan box which has a total value of £80!

*GlossyBox Vegan Box (£30 for non-subscribers, £25 for subscribers)
The limited edition vegan GlossyBox contains ten items, seven of which are full sized which is amazing! The other samples which aren't full sized are great sizes for travelling or trialing the product. The brands included in the vegan box include: Original Source, Noughty, So Eco, Tropic, Maria Nila Stockholm, Tints Of Nature, Kat Von D, Dr Organic and Weleda; some of which I've tried before and loved and others which I'm excited to try out.
*Weleda Birch Cellulite Oil (£2.95, 10ml mini)
Let's start with a brand I haven't tried much from, Weleda. The cellulite oil contains apricot, wheat germ and jojoba oils and is designed to smooth, firm and tone the skin which is great for this time of the year. However, I'm not a fan of body oils so I'll give this a miss but I'm sure it will be useful if you like body oils.

*Original Source Lemon and Lime Foaming Shower Gel (£3, 180ml, full size)
Another body product smells equally as nice, actually even nicer, it's a new shower foam from Original Source. I love the Original Source shower gels and this foam version is no different. It feels so refreshing, the scent is so fresh and it cleanses the skin well. It contains 100% natural fragrances and essentials oils and best of all, one bottle should last for up to 35 washes!
*Dr Organic Vitamin E Super Hydrating Cream (£8.49, full sized)
Let's start with a brand I've tried and loved, I used their lavender shampoo a while ago and I need to pick it up again! The moisturiser contains vitamin e, cocoa butter, sweet almond oil, aloe vera and antioxidants so it's sounds perfect for the summer months to nourish sunburnt and sensitive skin. I love the packaging, the scent is pleasant and subtle and it's so moisturising! I have dry skin and so many moisturisers just don't cut it but it's one is fantastic!

*Pure Chimp Match Tea (£4.95, 20g, full sized)
As well as the body, hair, skincare and makeup items included in this vegan box, there is also a food item in the form of a full sized packet of match tea. I love matcha/green tea but I haven't tried it as a powder like this before and to be honest it isn't my favourite; however I'll try it again in another variation.

*So Eco Eye Shading Brush (£5, full sized)
Additionally, there's a makeup brush in the box and if you have seen my beauty sash then you'll know that I have a rather large...collection of makeup brushes. I don't know why but I always need more so another is great especially as its from a brand I've already tried and loved. I love the bamboo handle and rose gold detail. It's such a smooth and soft brush that's great for packing eyeshadow onto the lid.
*Tints Of Nature Hydrate Shampoo (£3.99, 70ml mini)
One of the few mini, sample sizes is a hydrating shampoo from a new to me brand, Tints Of Nature which contains lots of natural and organic ingredients to cleanse, moisturise and soften the hair. It is 100% natural and has such a gorgeous fruity, berry sweet scent that I love! I will definitely be keeping this mini shampoo for a weekended away in August!

*Maria Nila Stockholm Head & Hair Heal Masque (£26.99, full sized)
I received a shampoo and conditioner duo in a previous GlossyBox and loved them so I'm very happy to receive another item from them as not only do they look so pretty in the bathroom but they smell so nice and they're lovely to use. The mask has a general hair care scent, a little goes a long way and it leaves my hair smooth, soft and moisturised as well as detangled. It's crudely free, vegan and I cannot recommend this product/brand enough.
*Kat Von D Tattoo Liner (£6.18, 0.2ml mini)
The most exciting items from the box for me has to be the famous Kat Von D Tattoo Liner which has received nothing but rave reviews. Now I'm don't agree at all with Kat Von D's recent stance on being against vaccines however I do want to try a few of her makeup products. The liner is mini so it's ideal for travelling and it has a fine tip which means that you can get a really fine line. I've only used it once so far but it's fantastic and I think it might be one of my favourite items from the box along with the Dr Organics cream, Maria Nila hair mask, Organic Source shower foam and the So Eco brush....I have quite a few favourites from this box!

*Tropic Skincare Lip Fudge Lip Plumping Conditioner in Rosewood (£12, full sized)
I have seen this brand mentioned on so many blogs but this is the first product of theirs that I've tried and I'm impressed. I have tried another product like this from Tata Harper and the shade is so similar too. The lip plumper has a gorgeous natural deep rose shade that is a my lips but better shades and it's so smooth and hydrating on the lips.
*Noughty To The Rescue Anti-Frizz Serum (£8.99, 75ml)
Last but not least is a product that I'm desperately in need of as my hair is naturally incredibly frizzy and nothing can smooth down or tame the frizz - I basically have Hagrid hair! I love the packaging, it contains a few natural ingredients such as wheat bran extract, sunflower seed extract and argan oil. I've only used it a couple of times but so far so good as it's a smooth serum that has definitely helped to reduce the halo of frizz I always have!

Overall, I'm so happy and grateful that I received the vegan box to review from the lovely people at GlossyBox as it's one of the best subscription boxes I've received, not only in terms of the number of full sized items but also because the range of brands and products is great too. I love so many of the items included especially the hair mask, facial moisturiser, eye liner, shows foam and the makeup brush - all of which I'd recommend. The value of the box is £80 so it's fantastic value for money so get it while you can!

Will you be picking up the vegan Glossybox? Have you tried any of these products or brands? 

*Summer Travel Wish List: India

Monday, July 02, 2018
Image from Song Bird Echoes via Pinterest
In Manchester currently it's 28 degrees Celsius and it's been like this for over a week now and it doesn't seem to be ending soon...can it be autumn now? The unusually Mediterranean weather has been making me wish I could travel the world, sadly I can't so todays post is one of my travel wish lists, the list is quite long. I've only travelled around Europe (which I adore) but I'd love to travel elsewhere including Canada, America and a few more exotic locations including the colourful country of India.

New Delhi
When I was about two years old my dad travelled to India for a month for work and he brought me back a few gifts including an amazing Aladdin style outfit and an adorable carved wooden elephant which I still have on my bookcase. Since then I have definitely been intrigued by India, especially the wildlife and main sites such as the Taj Mahal. One city that I'd like to visit is the capital, New Delhi which includes sites such as The Red Fort, India Gate and Qutb Minar, the latter is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One of the most beautiful cities has to be Jaipur as it's not only filled with historic buildings, forts and palaces but it's also named the pink city - we all know that's my aesthetic. Jaipur is such a historic city within India and it contains some of the most beautiful, unique architecture including the Hawa Mahal, Amer fort and the Jantar Mantar which is a 18th century park and heritage site. One of the most famous landmarks within Jaipur is the City Palace which is actually home to the current royal family of Jaipur. The more I learn about India, the most I realise how many gaps there are in my knowledge!
Image from Champagne and Paper Planes via Pinterest
Agra is a city within the state of Uttar Pradesh which is home to the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Akbar's Tomb and the Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah which is described as the baby Taj. As well as the plethora of historic buildings, it's also contains Mugal-era mosques, grand gardens and woodland. The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum completed in 1653 for Mumtaz Mahal, the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan's favourite wife. There are so many iconic structures and buildings within the world such as the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace and the Colosseum but one of the most unique and beautiful has to be the Taj Mahal.

Periyar National Park
For something a little different the Periyar National Park is one of the largest national parks in India with options for various hiking and walking trails as well as a tiger trail! The park is a wildlife sanctuary home to an abundant elephant and bengal tiger population in additional to macaques, sambar deer, leopards and Indian bison so it's naturally a place I'd love to visit! While I love city sightseeing, I'd love to see some of India's naturally stunning landscape and fascinating wildlife.

If you're looking for a a city with a stunning combination of wildlife, woodland, historic buildings and beaches then look no further than Goa. Goa is has a long history connected to Portuguese rule and that's reflected in the gorgeous churches and architecture including Fort Aguada, Se Cathedral and the Basilica Of Bom Jesus which is a incredibly beautiful baroque Catholic Church which was opened in 1605.

While I've never visited India, gifts from my dad's month long trip to India were a constant while I was growing up and I still love the carved wooden elephant from Calcutta. Unlike countries within Europe, India is a country that I thought I knew but there's so much more to it than I previously understood. It looks like an incredibly vibrant, colourful and exotic country home to a controversial colonial history, a mixture of European-style architecture and unique Mughal-era buildings, wonderful natural landscapes and adorable (and sometimes deadly) wildlife.

Have have visited India? If not, do you want to? 

*This is a collaborative post
*Images from Pinterest