Lifestyle: Tips for the Fringe Festival

For the past two years I’ve been lucky enough to holiday in Edinburgh – I’ve fallen in love with the city, and I would highly recommend you visit. There’s just so much to do and see, yes it is often chilly and rainy but it’s just lovely. I wrote a post about Things To Do In Edinburgh a few months ago, so if you’re planning a visit do check it out!

Last year I was even luckier and got to visit in August – during the Fringe Festival. Word of advice if you do plan to visit in August, its a lot cheaper to stay out of the city. We rented an absolutely gorgeous apartment (1 bedroom, slept 4) for around 1/3 of the price of what we would have paid in Edinburgh – we stayed on the coast in North Berwick, had a sea view, and it only cost around £4 for a return to the city centre. Staying outside of the busy city means we had time to relax, and we even managed to spend a whole day playing on the beach. It did limit us slightly as there was a last train, which meant no late shows, but we still saw all the ones we wanted to!

Tips for Visiting the Fringe

    • Pack picnics. This will definitely keep costs down, mainly because I saw for myself that many places (Hula Juice bar, full review here, was not one of these though!) increased prices for the festival. Cafes are also likely to be extremely busy, so at least a picnic will allow you to eat as and when you need to. One of my favourite and cheapest picnics is to buy a baguette and a pack of chorizo slices – so thrifty, so tasty.

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  • Designate a meeting point. The city will be busy, scarily busy at times. The likelihood is you will lose someone, so have a place in mind to meet. I’d suggest a particular cafe or shop, as opposed to the station or tourist attractions.
  • Avoid eating at venues. Ridiculously overprice in general, and the food wasn’t really that great. I do remember a really nice burger just before seeing Jay Foreman though!
  • Buy tickets in advance. Seriously, the queues were just so, so long. Even the queue to pick up tickets was rather boring!
  • Take all the leaflets you can carry! Don’t shun people giving out leaflets; take them, read them, and consider which ones you’ll see. We saw some of our favourite smaller shows this way!
  • Work out where venues are. Even if you just glance at a map beforehand, it’ll probably ensure you won’t be late.
  • Get to shows early. For bigger acts, this is a necessity. There’s no allocated seating, so the earlier you get there the best seats you have. I become a pro at getting to the front – we had front-row seats for quite a few, including Omid Djalili (who is hilarious).
  • Book early. If there’s a big name there, tickets will sell out. I’ll never forgive myself for not getting Sarah Millican tickets. Especially now my boyfriend and entire family has seen her, my favourite comedian, and I haven’t. Not that I’m sore about it…
  • Plan meals, book restaurants. As I said, the city is busy and so its best to book a table if you do want to eat out. I have a few detailed reviews coming up, but I highly recommend The Filling Station (American diner type of place), Just Burgers, Urban Angel, and of course there’s the usual chain restaurants too!
  • Store luggage. Edinburgh is hilly, so you really, really don’t want to be pulling cases around. Its also busy (if I haven’t mentioned it) so you will just be in the way. However Edinburgh Waverley charges an immense £9 per item to store bags, which is ridiculous. The easiest and cheapest option we found (not taking advantage of the galleries lockers for visitors) was taking the short walk to the bus station and hiring a locker there. We hired a large locked for 12 hours at £8, which took our two medium suitcases, two large bags of shopping, and coats – we could have fit more too. An advantage of these lockers is there is also a 3 hour storage option, so you can chose something that will fit your needs. Highly recommended!


Are you going to the Fringe this year?

Restaurant Review: Urban Angel Cafe, Edinburgh

Before we went away to Edinburgh, I spent hours researching places to eat. Myself and my boyfriend are both students, both on relatively tight budgets, so I wanted to plan away, find deals etc, and make sure we weren’t excessively spending. One of the deals I came across was Urban Angel’s 10th Birthday Celebration, so we decided to go with their dinner deal of two courses for £10.

 photo 2014-06-19185751_zpsc79e7daf.jpgWhilst thoroughly impressed with the decor of the place (all nice and rustic, an instagrammers delight, though the second photo was taken from their site!) we were a little disappointed when none of the staff knew about the offer. We promptly got it up on our phones (to convince ourselves too!) and we were offered one small plate and one big plate each for the £10 as promised. Whilst it could have been my imagination, I felt service decreased then slightly, it was a little less friendly although still nothing to complain about! In our defence, their website actually stated the offer was running from the 10th June to the end of July, and we visited on the 19th – surely we weren’t the first?! Anyway, onto the food…

 photo 2014-06-19191831_zpsc953ce0b.jpg photo 2014-06-19191839_zps6d89aba3.jpg photo 2014-06-19191928_zps70b0cf53.jpgI suffered serious food envy when the starters came out. I’d gone for the Handcut Chips with Thyme Salt & Aioli. Whilst it was lovely, I kind-of expected a little more than just a huge plate of chips. Bit of an ordering mistake if I’m honest, the mushrooms would have been a far better bet! I found the thyme salt to be barely noticeable, though the aioli packed a huge garlicky punch – I would have loved that spread on warm fresh bread! Onto my boyfriends far more satisfactory starter – Falafel Balls in a Curry & Coconut Emulsion. I’d avoided these as I couldn’t be bothered with the tomato issue, but after inspected his plate I promptly demanded a taste – they were delicious! I’d probably want my falafels a little crisper, but the combination of flavours was great. One happy boyfriend, one jealous girlfriend!

 photo 2014-06-19193720_zpsee437ed6.jpg photo 2014-06-19193728_zpsb18f7b83.jpgOnto bigger plates, and I think we were both satisfied – I like to think my dish was the better but in reality I couldn’t try the other! Will went for the Veggie Chilli and really enjoyed it, despite him having an issue with veggie chilli (to be fair, meat ones are better!). I scored with my choice of a Herby Ham Hock Cake with Soft Poached Egg & Hollandaise – yum yum! Again I’d have preferred the cake to be slightly crisper as it was a little soggy, but the flavours were beautiful. The egg was absolutely perfectly poached, there were decent sized chunks of tender ham hock – one of the most different and exciting main courses I’ve tried! I would say that all out dishes required seasoning at the table to taste their best, but other than that it was a pretty good meal for £10 each. We’d happily go back to Urban Angel again, their brunch sounds delicious!
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Have you have a nice meal out lately?

Restaurant Review: Just Burgers & Beers, Edinburgh

We’d planned to have a ‘dirty’ meal at The Filling Station one night of our holiday – tasty, greasy, bad-for-you American style food, as opposed to local Scottish ingredients and a more romantic environment. We found it to be closed for refurbishment, and we’re particularly taken by other menus especially as we try to avoid big chain restaurants. Then we spied this place over the road…and headed on over to have a menu browse. Within about 30 seconds we’d confirmed we’d be visiting, and the second night of our holiday saw us scurrying up the Royal Mile for a burger fix. The actual restaurant is just lovely, really roomy, far from crammed in, light, perfect level of music, and the decor is just amazing – I took the above photo from their facebook page as it show perfectly both the amazing food and amazing room. The menu is so, so simple – it is pretty much burgers and beers!

 photo 2014-06-18191945_zpsea29c46d.jpgThe drinks list is presented on a clipboard, and is four/five pages of beers, then a page for soft drinks, ciders and wines (red or white). My boyfriend opted for a sweet Coconut Beer, which he really enjoyed, and which seems to be hugely popular with their customers. Personally I felt it smelt too much like shampoo to even try, but I’m far from a beer-girl. Cider was calling my name, so I went with the unusual Old Mout Kiwi & Lime – it was delicious! Its actually (quite embarrassingly!) the first time since my operation that I’ve drank a whole bottle of cider, the other ‘first’ time actually involved secretly disposing of some down the sink! This is the perfect cider for those who like less dry drinks, its also not as fizzy as some, however its not as sweet as it sounds. They also do a Passionfruit version (they’re available in Tesco!) which I’ve also enjoyed since my holiday.

 photo 2014-06-18192823_zpsf34efe11.jpgHaving not been particularly well the night before (overeating on top of a five hour train journey, never good!) I was meant to be sticking to something smaller, something a bit more sensible, like a plain old burger, or even one with a little cheese. Did I follow my self-imposed rules? Nope, I went for The Mac Attack – the menu puts it better than I can, but basically its a cheeseburger with mustard and a mac’n’cheese fritter. Sounded like my idea of heaven!

 photo 2014-06-18193830_zps6fdae70a.jpgThere it is in all it’s glory – it was massive! No way were we picking this bad boy up and eating with hands, it was a cutlery challenge. I’m afraid to say I actually ended up taking the fritter out and eating it seperately as I wasn’t a huge fan of it in the burger, but on its own every element was delicious! The burgers were cooked lovely and pink (love a pink burger!) and were so meaty, flavoursome and juicy. I also loved the beer mustard – I have a thing for mustard at the moment anyway, but this was amazing. It also paired well with the fritter – which was good although I think our were a tad overcooked as they were very solid. Overall I reckon the burgers could have done with a bit more ‘goo’ as everything was a little solid, but it was a damn good burger. Can’t say I was overly impressed with the chips as they were a little dry, I was having major food envy over other tables onion rings though!

 photo 2014-06-18194237_zps3c745b4d.jpg‘Fraid to say I got in a little bit of a mess eating mine…I loved the fact there was complete freedom to make up your own burger – I was so tempted to do that! Their Dirty South burger sounded stunning (I couldn’t deal with the hassle of checking tomato content of the pulled pork), my dream burger would probably be a medium-cooked beef patty, topped with a little pulled pork, some spicy-ish sauce, a little cheese, with some onion rings on the side. Mmm…
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I’m now craving a burger – what would be your dream burger?

Lifestyle: Things to do in Edinburgh

 photo 2013-08-13172902_zpsa0a9f626.jpgLast year I visited Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival, so due to shows and the sheer amount of people about I didn’t see that much of Edinburgh. This year we travelled up for a few days during June (luckily coinciding with the heatwave, though my shoulders think otherwise!) and were able to see a little more, do a few more touristy things and generally relax. Kind of, we still packed loads into a few days! Here’s what we got up to…

Visit to the Zoo

On our first day we let our inner child out and went to the zoo! I’m not a huge fan of zoos in general as I hate seeing animals caged up, but I was really impressed with Edinburgh. The enclosures were large, but there was also hidden bits so the animals weren’t on show – they could escape from the public if necessary. The highlight of our visit can’t be singled down to one thing – we loved the Penguin Parade (the door to the enclosure is opened, and any penguins that want to join in and walked around the path, they aren’t bribed in any way) and also viewing the Pandas.
 photo Meerkat1_zpsfa7467ac.jpg photo Rhino_zpsde59c4cd.jpg photo Panda2_zpscb114121.jpg photo Panda1_zpsd7eb8bfc.jpg photo Koala_zps1af43b7c.jpg photo Leopard_zps1d30e317.jpg photo Penguins2_zpse000410e.jpg photo Penguins1_zps61558ac6.jpg photo Penguins3_zpsac24804d.jpg photo William_zpsf7bc0117.jpgVisiting the zoo cost us £14 each, with student discount and including a voluntary contribution. We took a picnic (always do this – also nowhere seemed to be open to eat so we are glad we did!), and the Panda viewing was free but time allocated. We spent a good 4 and a half hours there and still didn’t see everything, so you definitely get your monies worth. We got there on the bus, which was another £3.50 each from the city centre, although we could then use any bus for the rest of the day. Definitely worth the money in my opinion!

Visit a Whisky Distillery

Last year we escaped the rain/cold of Edinburgh in August and visited The Scotch Whisky Experience near the Castle. Whilst we really enjoyed this we decided we wanted something a little less touristy this year, so opted to visit a working distillery. We went to the Glenkinchie Distillery, about 40 minutes drive from the city. They run a transport-inclusive tour during peak months, which is the option we went for, and we also opted for the Flavour of Scotland Tour, which meant we were able to taste four different drams of whisky (of our choice) – I highly recommend this one, as we were able to really define our own tastes. I now know which whiskies I would happily ask for!

 photo 2014-06-29162935_zps3e20f045.jpgThe whole distillery was a great experience, we had a wonderful guide (thanks Fraser!) who was knowledgeable, honest and really knew his whisky. It cost us £24 each, including transport, four tastings and a discount on purchases (we bought a signed-by-manufacturing-staff bottle of Glenkinchie whisky) – not the cheapest day out, but well worth the money.

Climb Arthur’s Seat

One for the fit people this; I highly recommend those who aren’t completely comfortable with long walks and hills to give this a miss. I like to think I’m in relatively good shape (though definite room for improvement) but I really struggled on our walk, though in my defence I think we picked the hardest route, and it was really, really warm! The week of our holiday was when Edinburgh suffered a heatwave; none of my packed jumpers were used, and my boyfriend actually had to take a trip to buy some shorts.

 photo ArthursSeat8_zps0e1ef2c3.jpg photo ArthursSeat6_zpsfbc704d2.jpg photo ArthursSeat2_zpsbb5f33df.jpg photo ArthursSeat5_zps48e841ea.jpg photo ArthursSeat4_zpsdd66d163.jpg photo ArthursSeat1_zps1e89b3f7.jpgAlthough the walk was difficult, and involved climbing/scrambling at some points, despite me wanting to give up multiple times, I really enjoyed it and the sense of achievement at the top was wonderful. The views were pretty fabulous too! For a free thing to do (minus the bright blue slushie I wangled from my boyfriend on return to the bottom!) it was one of the best things I’ve done in a while, and I kindof want to do it all again. If you are up to it, I highly recommend you give this a go!

Other Things to Do

  • Visit the Castle. We didn’t do this as we felt the pricing was, to be honest, taking the Michael. £16 is fair enough although a bit steep, offering no student discount is a little stingy, especially when discounts are offered to other customers. I’d love to visit at some point, but I wasn’t giving up nice weather on top of my money! Perhaps one for a rainy day…
  • Shop. Edinburgh has some lovely unique shops (post to come!) as well as some lovely high-end designer ones. I tend not to shop much when on holiday, so only nipped into Harvey Nichols to use the loos (which were, quite frankly, disgustingly unclean, and some of the worst toilets I’ve used!) and browse the makeup clearance (disappointing). I make a point of visiting independent shops that look interesting, hence I adore the street Hula Juice Bar is on.
  • Eat. I’m slowly posting reviews of where we ate over our holiday, but Edinburgh has some amazing places. We treat ourselves to two ‘posh’ meals (one was an unbelievable bargain!), and also had a couple of cheaper ones – I still have a long list of places I want to try too!
  • Bus Tour. Last year we did one of those expensive guided bus tours – we really enjoyed it, and even during the Fringe it was surprisingly empty, so a great way to get away from the crowds. The thrifty person inside me knows it would be a lot cheaper to buy a day ticket at £3.50 each and do things that way, but would it be as fun? Probably not! If you’re new to Edinburgh I’d definitely recommend a tour, if you’ve been before try doing it yourself!
  • Museums & Galleries. Edinburgh has loads of these too! Many of them are free, or ask for a voluntary donation. I’ve only been in the free one towards the bottom of the Royal Mile, and it was a small but really interesting place. Lovely and quiet (and cool!), full of unique little objects and to-the-point information boards. The building and its interior were also old and historic too, which added to the feel; something about history museums in more modern buildings really annoys me. I also want to visit the visitors section of the Parliament building too (we stayed opposite – amazing architecture!) but the only time we had free we were pulling our suitcases so decided that wouldn’t be a good plan!

Do you prefer active city trips, lazy beach holidays or a mixture?

Beauty: Holiday Makeup

 photo 2014-06-16124732_zpsfb9ccb4f.jpgBeing in a long-distance relationship means I have packing down to a fine art. I can (and do!) pack in a rush, using one small suitcase for everything, with just uni work crammed into a satchel. I do admit that in the past few months I’ve become lazy with this packing, and now have a drawer at my boyfriends full of essential bits and pieces – but that’s another post!  Having booked a short break in Edinburgh after my exams finished, I knew that I didn’t want to take too much with me beauty wise as clothes would take up a lot of room – packing for Scotland is so difficult as you have to prepare for all weathers. As it turned out, it was lovely to be part of the heatwave last week, though slightly annoying that the jumpers/jeans/coat I packed never left the case!

So, my makeup bag was pretty restricted, but I reckon I did pretty well – I used everything I took with me, and didn’t really find myself lacking anything. Apart from aftersun for the horrific sunburn we both received…

 photo 2014-06-16123430_zps974ab0d7.jpgOne of the best things I’ve bought has to be this bag of miniature bottles from Wilkinson’s. By far the cheapest I have found, and really good quality too. The only thing I was slightly disappointed was all three bottles have the same type of dispenser, which wasn’t the best for liquids such as toner. But still, excellent value! I can’t find the link online, but there’s loads still available in my local store at a reduced price of £1.

 photo 2014-06-16123512_zps1220cca0.jpgFor hair products (I made my boyfriend pack a suitable shower gel for the both of us – he bought the tooth paste too!) I decanted my favourite shampoo/conditioner duo into the smaller bottles. ASDA’s Jojoba range is something I have used for many years, and at 80p for big bottles its by far the best cheap haircare I’ve come across. The shampoo is slightly too drying (I prefer something without sulphates…but generally only just after my student loan has been paid!) so I tend to mix it into some conditioner for washing, and then condition as normal. Styling wise I filled one of the little tubs in the set with some Herbal Essences Tousle Me Softly Cream – something which I’ve mixed views about. Sometimes I love it, sometimes its far too sticky. But you only need a tiny amount, and this tub has been on the go for over a year so its worth trying!

 photo 2014-06-16123612_zps8752f30d.jpgSkincare wise, I obviously took a cloth and my beloved Dr Organics Pomegranate Soap – I never go anywhere without it! I used more mini bottles and took some Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water (highly recommend this for removing eye/lip makeup, though I don’t use it on the whole of my face) and Pixi Glow Tonic (love this stuff!). Since this post I’ve simplified my moisturisers, so took Garnier’s Ultra-Hydrating Cream in a little post to use as a night cream, and their Illuminating Light Lotion for use during the day. I can’t recommend these products enough, the lotion is the best facial SPF I’ve used, and the cream is so moisturising. Just for a head’s up – they are generally cheapest in Wilkinsons! I’ve also been using Nuxe Reve de Miel every night – its the perfect lip balm, my lips have never looks so good!

 photo 93fe0700-9627-47a4-bfb0-9ace1e8b3cbc_zps19cb73aa.jpgNow onto the exciting bit – makeup! I’ve grabbed the Everyday Makeup Essentials that I’ve already talked about, and then added in a few little extras. Bourjois Java Rice Powder to add even more of a glow – this was great dusted over sunburn as it really calmed the glare of red! One of MUA’s neutral palettes (this is one that lives at my boyfriends!) to add definition to my eyes for romantic meals – I can’t say I’m in love with the quality of these palettes, given the £4 price tag its fine for holidays but realistically it’s going to be nowhere near as good as higher ends, and it does irritate my eyes a little! I bought an eyeshadow brush for 50p from Wilkinson’s to take with my as I find my beloved Bodyshop versions don’t travel so well (I didn’t want to take my whole brush roll with me!) and for the price it did a great job.

 photo 2014-06-16154940_zps3aa45519.jpgOnto lips (my favourite part!) and I took 4 bits with me – two Revlon Matte Balms in Sultry and Standout, and two MUA Power Pout’s in Rendezvous and Broken Hearted. Both of these products are so, so lovely. The Matte Balms are going to get some serious wear when I start work as they look so professional (being matte) but also last forever. I love the glossy finish of the MUA offerings and they leave a lasting stain too. Rendezvous is a seriously underused colour – admittedly it looks disgusting but ends up being a lovely pink/coral toned neutral on the lips. Its what I reach for when I’m not quite sure what to wear, and I’m tempted to buy one for every handbag as it does go with every outfit!
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And that’s it! What makeup do you take on holiday?