Sustainable Valentine’s Gifting

Hey, my little lovebugs! Happy month of luuuurve! I love *love* and everything about it, and I think it’s so fun to celebrate Valentine’s Day (even though it’s a kinda ridiculous marketer’s-dream holiday). However, I am not about to tell you buying tons of crap for your loved ones is the best way to go. It’s not! Just like birthdays and Christmas, I think it’s important to try and think of the recipient and what they would really like. Although you can never go wrong with chocolates, right?! We all know the typical ‘dinner and a movie’ date idea (dates are totally gifts too!), so I thought I’d throw in a few other suggestions…

*Disclaimer: of course the practicality and sustainability of any gift is subjective, so please take these ideas with a pinch of salt and tailor them if necessary! They are all things I personally/people I know would love. I’d love to hear other ideas in the comments section!*

Jewellery
One of my very favourite gifts to give and receive is jewellery. There are so many options for both men and women, you can pick something with meaning, you can pick something on a small budget or a large budget… there’s just so many options. My go-to jewellery brands to browse for women are Missoma, Monica Vinader, Aleyole, Daniel Wellington and Olivia Burton. For men I’d suggest looking at Monica Vinader, Ted Baker and Thomas Sabo. It’s also handy if you know if the recipient has a preference, for example I only wear silver jewellery because I’m allergic to gold! (I really don’t like gold jewellery either as I’m so fair skinned, so this works out pretty well hah).

A candle
Candles are my love language. Seriously! Candles set the mood for romantic evenings, make a room feel so much more welcoming and are honestly just an integral part of my morning/evening routine. I burn candles every single day, they just make me so happy! My very favourite luxury candle brands are Jo Malone, Diptyque and The White Company, although I love more budget friendly brands such as Waitrose, Dovecote (which are a local brand and I’m so happy to support them), and Aldi’s own brand just as much. If your significant other already has enough candles *cough, no such thing, cough* I think reed diffusers and room / linen / pillow sprays also make wonderful gifts.

An experience
I’m not exactly suggesting you sign yourself and your partner up for a life art drawing class – although each to their own – but doing something together that’s different than your norm is SO MUCH FUN. And, er, you get the benefit of the gift too. Whether you know your way around a kitchen or you’re likely to burn toast, taking a cooking class is a sure fire way to heat things up between the two of you! Maybe going to see a sports game is more up your street, or a trip to the theatre, or even a spa day. Whatever floats your boat, surprise your loved one and book something they wouldn’t be expecting. Almost two and half years ago Matt and I went to Go Ape and it was one of our best ever date days, I’d totally recommend that!

Fragrance
Another of my most favourite gifts to give and receive is a beautiful fragrance! Perfume is such an important part of getting ready for me, as I think it is for most people, and it’s such a beautiful gift. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, my favourite ever perfumes are Lancome La Vie Est Belle, Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt and MAC Turquatic, although I’ve been eying up Dior Joy for the longest time… maybe that will be my V Day present to myself! There are so many incredible men’s fragrances, although I think my personal favourites would be Bleu De Chanel (I bought this for Matt two years ago for Christmas and he treats it like it’s gold dust!), Mont Blanc Legend and Dior Sauvage. Don’t be afraid to buy someone a scent they’ve never tried before either – if you like it and it makes you think of that person I think that’s such a sweet gift!

Breakfast in bed
If there’s one day that practically screams ‘let’s have breakfast in bed’ I’m going to safely say it’s Valentine’s Day. Whether you go all out with poached egg and avocado on toast (my fave!) or stack pancakes up high drizzled with maple syrup and all the berries or Nutella (Matt’s fave!) there’s so many options and so many choices. If, like us, you’re working on Valentine’s Day even a cup of tea and an extra five minutes of snuggles in bed is a special treat that will be so appreciated. Whoever gets the short straw to make breakfast in bed just has to make sure they get a little something in return!

Flowers (or a plant!)
Plants are incredible gifts to give because they have actual health benefits! Plants help to purify the air, boost your mood and even can relieve stress or anxiety, and let’s be honest… they looks so dang pretty! You can even buy a cute plant pot to house the new plant in, which is a very thoughtful 2-in-1 gift. Flowers are a great gift for yourself too; I love to buy myself flowers and I don’t care if that’s not something people ‘normally’ do. Occasionally when I’m doing our weekly grocery shopping I’ll pick myself up a bunch or two, although I have to admit there’s something a little extra luxe about M&S’ flowers! You don’t have to spend a fortune either; most bunches are less than £10.00, and if you’re giving them as a gift delivering them personally is way more inexpensive fun than sending them by courier.

I hope this post gave you a few ideas if you and your partner are giving gifts this year. Maybe you’re celebrating galentine’s (on February 13th) with your best girlfriend and want to give them a little treat, there’s so many possibilities! Please just don’t feel stress about gift giving, or the day itself. You can always treat yourself… What is your favourite sustainable gift to give or receive? If you’re in a relationship, do you and your partner celebrate Valentine’s Day?

-G x

Staycation Booking Tips

Hi, loves!

Last weekend Matt and I enjoyed a little staycation in our very favourite local hotel; Hotel du Vin, Newcastle. We’ve stayed there many times before and it always feels like such a treat, so much so that we rarely book anywhere else if we’re looking for a luxurious and romantic staycation! We especially love a night or two away from home because it’s just like a mini holiday for us, and we always treat it like that. We pack minimally, play tourist in our own city and just enjoy spending time together. I feel like it’s such a blessing that we’re able to take trips like this and I never want to take it for granted! I totally get this is not everyone’s cup of tea which is fine, but if you’re a fan of nights/weekends away I really hope this is helpful to you.

So, there’s several things to consider when you’re booking a staycation. Are you going to spend a lot of time in the hotel? Does it make sense to splurge a little more on your accommodation as you’re travelling less distance? Does the hotel look comfortable and cosy? Do you know of any friends or family who have stayed there before? Is it a suitable distance to the nightlife of the city/town you’re visiting? Is there anywhere to explore or play tourist nearby? If you want to really relax is there a spa facility?

Our checklist for a romantic weekend trip is pretty standard whether we’re staying close to home or travelling a few hours away. The five top things on our list are:
– a little bit of luxury that feels extra special
– the hotel being based close (ish) to shops restaurants and bars. We love to play tourist even in our own city and we went to make sure we can explore easily
– a roll top bath, because why the heck not?
– beautiful views
– a good deal on the room price, bonus points if it includes breakfast

For us, the benefit of a staycation is we’re jumping in the car and driving less than thirty minutes to our destination, and we want to R E L A X. We spend a lot of time in the hotel room before we go out for dinner, and also like to make the most of our morning there too. A roll top bath is obviously not a necessity for a hotel room, but hey… when in Rome Newcastle… Truthfully we are bath lovers, and a bubble bath sounds like a pretty fun way to spend time during a romantic weekend to me. Little luxuries of boutique hotels like fancy toiletries and a mini bar are great, but we try to take any extras we need… including our own cans of Diet Coke. I wish I was joking, hahaha. We usually book breakfast as an extra little treat because most days we don’t get to eat breakfast together due to our work schedules. And you all know, we love a breakfast date!

Choosing the right hotel for you and your needs is important; I personally think it’s extra special to be in a boutique hotel because there’s so many extra little touches that you don’t get in a large franchised hotel. We’ve stayed at several HdV’s (seriously guys, feel free to work with me!) and all of them have the same feel of a grand building, muted colour tones, huge comfy beds – which makes no difference because we always wake up right on the edge of Matt’s side, oops! – and friendly staff who look after you. I personally think Hotel du Vin’s have a very ‘homey’ feeling, it’s just really relaxing and quiet which is perfect for us. Every time we stay we also go for a walk along the Quayside which feels like something extra special too, because it’s somewhere we both love to be.

BOOKING (& PACKING!) TIPS

– read lots of blog posts and Trip Advisor reviews if you’ve never stayed at the hotel before
– look through the Instagram geotag to see real photos from guests
– check there is parking available on site, but remember it’s often charged separately to your hotel room
– set a budget beforehand so you aren’t tempted to book something too expensive
– plan ahead; if you stay on a Sunday evening you’ll normally get the best rates
– compare prices on different sites before booking, although often the best deal is with the hotel’s own website
– bring your own champagne/wine if you fancy a tipple in the room and you’re going all out on the romantic feeling. Glasses are always provided for free!
– you probably don’t need pj’s because hotel robes are the BEST
– whether you’re eating at the hotel or at a restaurant in the town/city, book ahead of time to avoid disappointment
– don’t overpack on the toiletries, it’s all there for you anyway
– check the hotel’s amenities for things that are important to you. Is there a hairdryer / coffee machine / fridge etc? Chances are, yes!
– make a (rough) itinerary of things to do and places to see so you aren’t tempted to spend all of your time lounging in your beautiful hotel room!
– pack snacks, nobody wants to be getting hangry

I hope this post was helpful to you if you’re thinking of planning a staycation any time soon! I’m still dreaming of that bubble bath… Have you stayed in a Hotel du Vin before? What hotels are your favourite for a luxury staycation? Do you have any additional booking tips to share with me and my readers?!

-G x

#NEwhereToGo: A Sunday Afternoon In Tynemouth

Hi, loves! I am so excited to share today’s blog post with you because it’s the very first in my new series, #NEwhereToGo! Every few weeks I’ll be sharing one of my very favourite places in the North East (#NEwhere… anywhere… get it :)?) from things to do, places to eat or just beautiful places to see. I’ve never took for granted where I live – Matt and I are the biggest advocates of the North East not getting the credit it deserves – but seriously, it is so beautiful here. Right on our doorstep we have the countryside, world famous (yes, really!) beaches, and our favourite city, Newcastle Upon Tyne. From where we live it’s literally a ten to twenty minute drive in different directions to get to all of these places, how lucky are we?! The North is known for being a bloody cold place, but it’s also known for how friendly the people are, the local businesses, the amazing coastlines, the countryside and a whole host of incredible food places. I’ll be sharing all of my favourites and I’m so excited!

All of the below photos are from a Sunday spent in Tynemouth, one of Matt and I’s very favourite places. The town is right on the coast and the view in every direction is just so pretty, even on an incredibly grey day like this one. There’s several little coves along the front, and our first stop is usually right by Tynemouth Sailing Club. This area of the coast is much more quiet, and the views are still so pretty. The walks through town are great but walking along the coastline is our favourite; we love to go out on the pier and walk all the way along to the lighthouse. The views back into the mainland are incredible, and you can see for miles out to sea. Unfortunately on the day we went the winds were too high and the waves were crazy -splashing right over the walls – so the pier was closed to the public. This didn’t stop us from walking onto the viewing platform to the left of the pier; it’s such a cosy spot to take in the view and a little bit of a hidden gem as you’d never know it was there unless you walked right up to the pier.

It’s a pretty steep uphill walk from that part of the coastline to the main town, but it’s so worth it! The views are breathtaking all the way up, and you’re right next to (what’s left of) Tynemouth Priory. This area has it all; the views over King Edward’s Bay are the very best. It’s often a lot busier in this part as this is the ‘pretty part’ that tourists want to see too, and everywhere around you I can guarantee people are eating fish. The place to go in town for fish and chips to takeaway is absolutely Longsands Fish Kitchen! It’s the place everyone knows and flocks to, especially in the warmer months of the year. Also, just in the bay below is Riley’s Fish Shack; another local favourite that has so many unique fish options!

After a walk around the Priory (you can pay to go in and tour inside, but we chose not to on this particular day) we went right into the town centre. The centre is always the busiest; it’s lined with quirky local stores like To The Moon & Back – we found these gin glasses with the Newcastle Upon Tyne skyline along the top in there, how sweet?! – and Razzberry Bazaar are so worth a look. You can find incredible one-off items here, that I guarantee you’d never find anywhere else! We love to wander in and out of the cute independent stores, and it’s so nice to #shoplocal when possible.

Tynemouth is known for being a little bit quirky and one of the sweetest things, in my opinion, is an old church-turned-shopping-centre. It has all the original structure outside and the stained glass windows are so beautiful! Named Green Ginger Shopping Arcade the former church hosts a bunch of independent stores, including Longsands clothing which you will absolutely see people wearing anywhere in the town! There’s some incredible cake and chocolate sold in here, and there is a teeny tiny cafe upstairs that literally is like something from a movie. Downstairs you’ll find a Peaky Blinders themed bar – aptly named Blinders – that is SO small yet packed with personality and all the fun of one of Matt and I’s favourite TV shows.

We love Tynemouth on a weekend especially because they have an incredible market held at Tynemouth Station; it has different stalls on a Saturday (including a football memorabilia one that Matt just LOVES!) to a Sunday, but both days are packed with bric-a-brac, old books, homemade treats and amazing food! The station is still fully functioning, so whilst you’re shopping trains are coming in and out. Some of the homemade goods are incredibly cool and equally as wacky, we stumbled across these fire-extinguishers-turned-loo-roll-holders this time around… it’s never dull, I promise! The vendors are all incredibly friendly and there really are some gems to be found, especially if you have a love for anything vintage. Our go-to food place at the market is Acropolis Street Food; their chicken gyros are pretty much famous here I swear! The guys who run it are always so sweet to us, and the taste takes us straight back to Kos.

The cute, quaint streets surrounding the centre are also worth a wander; the houses are so big and beautiful, and it’s just such a nice place to walk around. I have loved Tynemouth since I was a little girl, and Matt and I often find ourselves there on a weekend just to look around and enjoy the views. It can be a little bit of a tourist trap in the summer, but we honestly love to visit in all seasons. I’d love to share Tynemouth again with you as the seasons change, but you can’t deny it still looks so beautiful on a grey January day!

Thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed this post – are you now desperate to explore in Tynemouth?! ME TOO! We also love the nightlife side of Tynemouth, I’d love to talk about that in another post if that’s something you’d be interested in? There are so many great independent restaurants (and chains, too) and bars that we love here, it’s a great way to spend a Friday night. Have you visited Tynemouth before? Where is your favourite place along the coast to visit?

-G x