Travel Diaries: Amsterdam

Hi friends! Today’s post, FINALLY, is my last installment of our trip to Europe – this one is all about our 3-day stay in Amsterdam. This post is way overdue, but I wanted to get it up before the new year – just in the nick of time, literally. Everyone who has visited Amsterdam comes back with raving reviews, so we were very excited to check the city out. We took the Eurostar from London to Amsterdam, which was only about three hours and $50. Travelling by train around Europe is such a fast and affordable way to get around the continent.

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Travel Diaries: London (British Museum, Westminster Abbey, Hamilton, and More!)

Hello, my friends! I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I keep forgetting to upload my travel blog posts. This was supposed to go up on Tuesday! Today’s post is the last post on our trip to London, which includes days 4-5 in the city. I have one more travel blog post, which will be about our three days in Amsterdam. It should be posted sometime in the next week, if not this one!

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Travel Diaries: London (Harry Potter Studio Tour, Camden Market)

Hello, friends! You guys, I have literally forgotten to post this entry for five days in a row. It was supposed to go up last week, and I just kept forgetting to post it. But better late than never! Today is a continuation of our travels in Europe at the beginning of fall, and this one covers the third day of our stay in London. Read Part 1 here to see the first two days of our trip, including Tower Bridger, Tower of London, Borough Market, and visits to a few museums!

DAY 3

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Our third day in London was going to be a long and exciting one for us. We started the day off at the Museum of Natural History, which wasn’t originally in our itinerary. As I mentioned before, my husband and I are big into museums, but this was another one that I was reluctant to visit. I feel like once you’ve visited one Museum of Natural History, you’ve visited them all – and we’ve seen several throughout over our years of travelling. I always think they’re a great place to bring children, though, and to be fair, the collections and exhibitions at the Museum of Natural History are quite extensive. The architecture of this building is gorgeous, too.

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Regent Street

After the museum, we headed off to Regent Street, specifically for their Summer Streets festival. For the last seven summers, London has closed off Regent Street to cars on a few select Sundays to encourage pedestrians to enjoy the festival. We just so happened to be in London on the last weekend of the festival, so we decided to check it out. Regent Street is a street with beautiful, curved buildings, and it’s a great place if you’re in the mood for shopping, as it includes both high street (affordable) and luxury brands. There were a few food stalls and some live music, and some of the stores along the street were also giving discounts. In terms of the festival, I would say if you’re in the area, you should stop by and see it, but otherwise it’s not a must-see. I would love to see Regent Street at Christmas one day!

By the time we finished at Regent Street, it was lunchtime, and we headed off to Camden Market for some food.

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Camden Market

Camden Market is both a food place and an activity. Unlike Borough Market, this place doesn’t really sell produce, but similar to Borough Market, it is also packed full of delicious food stalls. Besides eating, there are tons of little boutiques to browse – craft booths, art shops, vintage clothing shops, handcrafted jewelry, and such. The larger area that Camden Market is located in is called Camden Lock, and the shops in the greater area are definitely more edgy and punk than what you see in central London – they all give me Hot Topic vibes, haha.

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As we walked by each food stall, we wanted to try everything here! I wish we had planned our trip here a little better, because we could have spent a lot more time checking this area out, but we were in a rush to get to our next attraction (which we had arrive on time for). We did end up coming back here for more food another day, but it was a little out of the way for us. We ate a bunch of really yummy things, but unfortunately forgot to take a photo of most of them because we were so hungry. Everything we had here was scrumptious!

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I have no idea what this is (I think it’s a Middle-Eastern grilled pita) but I remember it being absolutely delicious
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This model of Hogwarts takes up a large room, and in the movies they actually use it in all of the close-up external shots of  the school!

Warner Bros. Studio Tour

This was the moment I was waiting for! The reason why we were in a rush to leave Camden Market was because we had purchased tickets to visit the Harry Potter studio tour. The tour was the first thing I booked after we had decided we were going to London, and one of the things I was looking forward to the most on this trip.

If you’re planning on going to the studio, The biggest tip I have for you is to leave yourself adequate time to arrive at the studio – I would say allocating 2 to 2 1/2 hours if you’re coming from London is safe. Because your (mostly self-guided) tour is scheduled to start at a specific time, you need to arrive on time. The studio is located in Leavesden, which is 20 miles outside of the city center and requires visitors to take a 30 minute train (not the Underground) from Euston station to the closest station to the studio, then a 20 minute shuttle from the station to the studio. It can be confusing to find the right train to take out of the city center, so give yourself a few extra minutes to get your oriented, too.

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The set that was used for the Gryffindor common room scenes, as well as the costumes that Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, and Rupert Grint wore in Prisoner of Azkaban.

The Leavesden studio is where they filmed the Harry Potter movies, and the tour contains a ton the actual movie sets, props, and costumes they actually used during filming, in addition to “behind-the-scenes” information such as concept art and special FX makeup. For kids (or even adults who want to try it), there are also things like a green screen set up behind a broom, so it looks like you’re flying. As a huge Harry Potter nerd, I was obsessed with this place. There is SO much to see and learn. Instead of being busy taking photos, put the phone down to take in ALL the details of the sets! My husband is not big HP fan (he’s watched the movies but hasn’t read the books), but he thoroughly enjoyed the studio tour as well. They have the iconic Butterbeer available at the cafe, as well as a huge gift shop where you can get pretty much any HP product your heart wants!

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Lily and James Potter’s House in Godric’s Hollow!

Leave yourself at least 3 hours to go through the entire studio – we could have spent probably 5 hours here, but our tour was booked for 4:30pm, and we didn’t want to get back to London too late at night.

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It was quite late by the time we got back to London, but that didn’t stop us from getting dinner at one of the most popular restaurants in the city. Dishoom is an Indian restaurant that was recommended to us by a friend who visited London a few years ago (and then again by my blogging friend Poutnplay on Instagram). The restaurant has become so popular that they’ve now opened up several locations, but we had our minds set on eating at their original location in Covent Garden. Wanting to eat there the night before, we had passed by and saw a HUGE lineup outside, but we chalked it up to it being a Saturday night. We thought Sunday night might be better because people would have to work the next morning, but the line was just as long. However, the employee manning the line told us it doesn’t really get any better on the weekdays, so we just decided to wait it out.

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This is only half of the line waiting to get a table for dinner – there’s another long line to the right of this photo!

We were told the wait would be an hour and forty minutes long, but I think it only ended up being half that! They passed out shot glasses of chai while we were waiting, and it was the yummiest chai I have ever had, no joke – so rich and fragrant. And let me tell you, the wait was so worth it for the meal. It was by far the best Indian food we’ve had in our life! You would think with the huge amount of traffic they get, and also likely having to deal with tourists, the people working there would be grumpy, but they were all so, so nice. I would gladly come back and eat here any time.

Even though we were stuffed and it was getting really late, I had a lot of dessert places I wanted to try in London, so we had no choice but to grab some before heading back to the hotel for some much-needed rest. Our dessert for the night was at Mamasons Dirty Ice Cream, a Philipino dessert shop located in Chinatown. This place itself was super cute and Instagram-worthy. We ordered their signature dessert bilog, which is essentially a hot ice cream sandwich – ice cream placed inside the middle of a warm milk bun. We got the flavours ube (sweet purple yam) and black buko (which we thought would be black sesame, but turned out to be coconut with activated charcoal).

Mamasons

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That’s it for Part 2 of our visit to London! In our next post, I’ll be talking about Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and Hamilton!

Travel Diaries: London Part 1 (Including Covent Garden, Tower of London, Borough Market, and more!)

Hello, everyone! Today’s post is the first installment of my travel blogs all about our trip to London and Amsterdam back in September. I’ve split our visit to London into 3 different blog posts, and hopefully Amsterdam will only take one. Today’s post covers he first two days in the city.

Just as a note, I am horrible at travel blogging – besides the fact that I only travel 1-3 times a year, there’s a reason why I’m not a travel blogger!

This was my second trip to London, but my first time was with my high school when I was 17, so I’m not sure the first time even counts. To be honest, the first time I visited, I wasn’t entirely impressed and didn’t think I’d ever go back, but when my husband suggested it for our vacation this year, I was down for giving it another shot. It was 1000% more fun this time, and my husband and I were even saying it’s a place we could totally see ourselves living in for a year or so.

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Feel-Good Friday

Hello, beauties! Today I have another installment of Feel-Good Friday because there are a lot of lifestyle things I’ve been enjoying lately, and would love to share with you.

I started watching the TV show Shameless two weeks ago, and I’m already on Season 5! I’m the definition of a binge-watcher, haha. Shameless was recommended to me by a coworker, who said it’s a really funny show. It centers around the Gallagher family, which includes 6 kids and their deadbeat alcoholic father and bipolar mother. They live on the South Side of Chicago (ie the sketchy area), and since both parents are otherwise preoccupied, the children are raised by the oldest daughter, Fiona. The family is scrappy and completely messed up, but at the center of it all, they love each other fiercely. It is a funny show, but it’s definitely dark humor. If you’re sensitive to bad language, nudity, crass humour, or inappropriate topics, this is not the show for you!

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35 Things I Want to Do Before I Turn 35

Hello, everyone! Today is a lifestyle post, which I don’t do often. May 18th marked my 30th birthday, but I’m not mad about it! I know a lot of people moan about going from 29 to 30 because it’s so old, but the 20’s is such a huge decade for change and personal growth for most people, myself included, and I’m excited to see what adventures the 30’s brings.

I was talking to Always Cleia recently, and she said she was going to create a list of 30 things she wanted to achieve before she turned 30 (she’s since posted it here), and how I should come up with 35 things I want to do before I turn 35.

Read on for my list!

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Thursday Chats: Feeling Embarrassed about Blogging

Hello, everyone! Today is another Tuesday Chats post, which is a series I started where I discuss topics within the beauty community. Today’s topic is about feeling embarrassed about being a blogger. This post is actually inspired by my blogging friend New Lune, who blogged about the same topic about a month ago.

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Photo source: Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

It’s funny because when it comes to blogging, everyone always tells you to promote your blog in order to increase traffic to your blog. Use Instagram, use Twitter, use Pinterest, engage with other bloggers, etc, etc…we’ve all heard the advice. Yet I feel that when it comes to real life, we tend to clam up about our blogs. In my own personal experience, I’ve tried to keep my blog quiet with the people in my real life (more on this later), and I’m willing to bet that many of you who are reading and are bloggers are the same. I don’t see this as a good or a bad thing – it just is the way it is.

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Hong Kong Disneyland

While we were in Hong Kong last month, we carved out a day to spend in Hong Kong Disneyland. This was a bit of a last-minute decision – I love Disney so I knew before leaving for our trip that I wanted to go, but my parents weren’t hot on the idea, so it ended up being one of the “maybe” activities on our itinerary. Since it was a family trip, I didn’t want to split up from my parents to do separate things, but when we got to Hong Kong, my mom insisted that we go while they took a day to rest (because we had apparently worn them down!) Off to the Happiest Place on Earth we went!

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The easiest way to get to Hong Kong Disneyland is by the MTR train system. Regardless of where you’re coming from, you’ll have to either take the orange (Tung Chung) or dark green (Airport Express) line, then get off at Sunny Bay station. Here, you’ll transfer to the Pink line (Disneyland Resort). This line only has one stop, which is located right outside the Disneyland grounds.

It costs $699 HKD for an adult entrance ticket to Hong Kong Disneyland and $515 HKD for kids, which roughly translates to $120 and $90 CAD, respectively. If you are planning your trip ahead of time, make sure to scope out the Disney website for deals, as they’ll often have a discount on tickets when you buy online.

This tip goes for all Disney parks: downloading the official app is highly recommended, as you’ll get to see attraction wait-times, a GPS-enabled map, and show schedules. I couldn’t survive a Disney park visit without this!

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Holiday Gift Guide – Non-Beauty Edition

Hi everyone! As we’re nearing Christmas, I wanted to share with you a few gift guides. To start this series off, today I have a list for the non-beauty lovers in your life! Admittedly, this is where I’m weakest in gift-giving because I obviously am more knowledgeable about beauty. However, very few of the people in my life are beauty lovers, so I have to open my mind to the many other great gifts out there! I’ve included some specific items, as well as gifts with a large price range to fit everyone’s budgets.

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BOOKS

Who doesn’t love a snuggle up with a good book, especially in the dead of winter? This one might be tough because not everyone has the same taste in books, but if you’re thinking of gifting a book, you probably already know what the recipient likes to read. A few of my favourites in the last few years: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, The Nightingale  by Kristin Hannah, and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I haven’t read it yet, but Becoming by Michelle Obama might be a good gift too; who doesn’t want to read a book written by this incredible and inspirational woman?

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Japan Travel Diaries: Tokyo (Part 2)

Hello again! Today is a continuation of yesterdays’ travel post, where I’ll be talking about the second part of our stay in Tokyo.

DAY 4

We started Day 4 in Asakusa, another district of Tokyo. It is well-known for the Senso-Ji Temple, as you can gather by all of the tourists gathered here even though it was really early and drizzling out.

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Up next was Ueno Park, which is situated near the Akihabara area. I thought of it as a mini Central Park, because like Central Park, it has its own zoo and some museums around it. The day we visited Ueno Park was a rainy one, so we avoided a bit of the rain by going to the National Museum of Nature and Science, which was inside the park. The museum ended up being a lot better than we both expected!

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