Living it up in London ~

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My time in London is coming to an end and yet, here I am with my first post ever on this fabulous, metropolitan city. I’ve always loved this place and so when it came to deciding my next location, it was not a difficult choice to make.

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Sadly, my third time in London was not met with a very warm welcome as my stay kicked off with the theft of my phone. Two men on a stolen scooter snatched it right out of my hands while I was attempting to locate my Uber. How did you know the scooter was stolen? Well, apparently, this seems to be a common phenomenon, I am told by the locals and usually, the culprits are juvenile delinquents who steal scooters in order to zip around town stealing phones.

 

 

Don’t even ask. It’s beyond me.

However, despite this very unfortunate mishap, the rest of my time here has been enjoyable! I got to do all the cringey, touristy things while living amongst the locals.
I’ve been to the London Eye and Westminster Abbey, but also shopped in Morrison’s every week for groceries.  I’ve had drinks at the breathtaking Sky Garden but I’ve also grabbed a quick beer at the local pub. I’ve spent an afternoon in a swish South Kensington boutique hotel having high tea but I’ve also spent an afternoon crouched over shelves of books at a second hand book store in Stoke Newington. I’ve spent Saturday nights out in town meeting people on the dance floor but I’ve also spent Saturday nights at home, conversing with my flatmate over wine about life. Chuckle*

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I am grateful to the kind lady on the Eurostar who offered me a place to stay after overhearing my telephone conversation about how I might not have been able to retrieve the keys my friend had left for me at his office building reception.
I am grateful to the various people who offered help (and their numbers) “if I ever needed anything in London” and to the peace and quiet I found on the streets. It is an utter relief to wander about the city without an untasteful comment from a poorly educated member of the opposite sex. I’d been living in Paris for so long, I’ve forgotten how freeing it feels!
Most of all, I am grateful to my lovely Airbnb host, Sophia, who rented me a room but gave me a home and also to my flatmate Stella, who filled this home with her warm presence.

 

Three months is in no way sufficient for discovering this ever-changing, dynamic capital but it was a delicious taste of what London has to offer.

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Dear Aletha

It’s been a while since my last blog post but while browsing through Google Keep, my new obsession as I LOVE lists, I came across a letter I had written to my dear friend, Aletha.

It is a recount of my trip to Egypt and was written on my 2-3 hour flight from Istanbul to Paris using my phone. I never sent it. Now two months later, I’m reading this letter, looking back at the photos and am feeling the vibes of the country again so here goes.

Aletha, if you’re reading, this one’s for you! Wink*

 


 

Dear Aletha,

I am currently on the plane from Istanbul to Paris. It has been an extremely long flight that started at 3am this morning and not a particularly comfortable one at that.

A female official in Turkey was trying to make my life difficult and did such a good job of it that I was literally fuming. The problem? She couldn’t find my stamp of entry and was looking at my previous visas.
So I tried to show her and she asked me to step aside! A whole queue of people couldn’t advance as we were blocking the progression of the line and was being watched like a theatre piece because of this foolish woman.
Normally, I’d be a lot more patient but I haven’t slept in 36 hours and I have a huge spot above my right eyebrow.

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Ahhhhh…all complaints aside, Egypt has been a wonderful experience. You’ve probably seen from some of my posts on Facebook and Instagram how much I’ve enjoyed my stay. As a child, I was an avid reader of Egyptian history books and watched almost every Mummy movie there was. As you can imagine, for me to see real life hieroglyphs etched into almost every surface available on every tomb and temple we visited was a dream come true!

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We swam in the Red Sea and saw an aquarium of fish, then took a boat to cross the Nile River the following day. All these important landmarks we’ve heard and read about, I got to see with my own eyes. They are all the more impressive when bathed in the golden sunlight so unique to Egypt!

egypt1However, the country is still fresh out of its civil war/ second revolution but is in full development. The people praise the current president, calling him a “visionary” and it is true! He has built the roads and the housing he promised them but as all this is still work in process, many parts of Egypt look “war-ridden”.
The villages and cities have a worn down, dilapidated look about them and where we were in the south, people are still very religious and traditional.

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To illustrate what I mean, there was a shisha tent on the beach at the Movenpick resort in Hurghada and one of the men employed by the Jamaican Rastafarian looking, Bob Marley loving, hash smoking Egyptian owner called Mustafa told us an otherworldly story about how his first wife was his own cousin and how she spread rumours about how he was unable to produce offspring. He was so heartbroken by what the village was whispering about him that he made his way to the Arabian gulf to work for ten years where he met his second wife. This wife gave him a son who’s now eight months old and of course, he went back to the village to celebrate and “take his revenge”. What an incredible story huh?! Never did I even stop to think for two seconds that there are still people who lead such lives and marry into their own family.

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Anyway, continuing on the topic of conservatism in the country, women still wear burkas like uniforms and the only time I’ve ever even seen women around and about were in schools so at least they have the right to an education but I have rarely seen women in the workplace. When we went to Luxor, it took me a couple hours to figure out why something seemed…off, just not quite right…and then it hit me: there were literally no women. Not in the museums, the souvenir shops, the restaurants etc. And it makes me wonder…do they feel suppressed or is it the whole “what one doesn’t know can’t hurt them” situation? What do you think?

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So all this just to bring us to my one real disappointment on this trip: that there is such a disconnect between ancient Egypt (which was such a progressive civilization during its time) and the Egypt of today, almost completely destroyed by extremist Muslims.
Emphasis on ‘extremist’. I am not at all against any religion, race, colour or what have you but the extremists of each group do not make me feel very comfortable.
This includes vegans who resort to converting others by spreading the “good word”, or rather by sharing gory videos of animal abuse. I sympathise but this isn’t the proper way to go about things.

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One thing has to be said though and that is one doesn’t need much to be happy. The Egyptians embody this humble spirit better than most people I’ve met. It is truly eye-opening when you see those with much less, much happier and more grateful than you are. They have such a hunger and a thirst to succeed so they work very hard but their smiles never falter. I’m sure we all know this but it is easy to forget when you live in such a strong consumerist society and when you have social media and the stress of a fast-paced, city life. 


 

Strangely, I never signed off but then again, in my own bizarre fashion, I never sent this letter either. 

But there you have it!

Aletha, I was thinking of you and didn’t forget about my pen pal but as usual, life sweeps us away.

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My Makeup Forever Experience

For those of you who don’t know, the globally recognized brand also owns a successful academy where they impart knowledge and techniques to the makeup moguls of the next generation.

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These students, however, need a canvas to dabble on and so, through some lucky and unlikely connections, I was introduced to the receptionist of the Makeup Forever Academy.

As someone who has lent her face to numerous makeup artists and hair stylists in the past, you could say I am used to being prodded and poked around with sponges, brushes, curling irons and the like. In those days, I did it for money and was absolutely blessed to have had the opportunity to work with some of the best in Taipei. Now as a retired veteran, I decided to take this “job” purely for fun and out of curiosity.

The student who had picked me was a lovely Bangladeshi who lives in Thailand and was here, in Paris, for the five day course. This particular class was called “the Asian bride”; a natural glam look where the skin was supposed to be luminous and minimum coverage. That’s where many struggled because in the West, we tend to opt for a more full coverage foundation as opposed to the natural, glowy skin you get often in Korean makeup.

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I sat there, my skin stinging from the hydrating primer while this lady reapplied the foundation a second time because the first time, it came out patchy. Luckily, the rest of the makeup went on smoothly with the eye look being my favourite. She finished it off with a dusting of glitter and voilà! We were done.

The instructor came round to do a final assessment and I was on my way back to the reception desk to pick out a makeup kit comprised of two products worth 50 euros in total. You pick from a list of five kits and as I needed brow products, I went for the brow gel with the brown liquid lip in 107!

Current Skincare Products

My skin has never really been troublesome and has never wreaked havoc but it has taken me a couple years to discover amazing skincare products that truly work for me! Of course, there are many other products I would love to try but here is my current skincare routine:

Cleanser – Avène Cleanance Gel Cleanser ♥
Before we apply any products to our face, we clean. Obviously. This soap-less, thermal water based cleanser removes all dirt and is perfect for sensitive skin. Although the label says it is for “oily, blemish prone skin”, it doesn’t leave your skin feeling dry and flaky at all.

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Toner – Caudalie Eau de Beauté ♥
I feel like this one needs no introduction but just in case you’re not familiar with it, imagine a product that’s refreshing, tightens pores and smooths fine lines. You can even set your makeup with it! The only downside is that if you’re sensitive to strong scents, the eau de beauté can be quite overpowering but don’t worry! All ingredients are 100% natural.

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Moisturizer – Avène Ysthéal Anti-Wrinkle Emulsion
Let’s be real. I don’t really have any visible fine lines let alone deep wrinkles but expert dermatologists have said that it’s never too early to start the anti-ageing process. This emulsion is perfect for younger skin and reduces early signs of ageing.
One ingredient in this product that truly caught my eye was retinaldehyde. We hear a lot about retinal, retin-A and retinoic acid but they all tend to be harsh on the skin. Retinaldehyde is gentler and perfect for sensitive skin but equally as effective! It is meant to improve skin texture and brighten the skin.
I have been using this product for about a week so far and my skin definitely feels smoother. Sadly, I feel like it isn’t hydrating enough – I took the emulsion for oily/combination skin – so I’ll probably be purchasing for dry skin next time but will also grab a hydrating moisturiser for the time being.

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Sunscreen – Nuxe 50 SPF Sunblock
Before I continue, I must touch on one thing that I cannot stress enough. To effectively protect your skin from premature lines and wrinkles, PLEASE USE SUNSCREEN. Even on cloudy days when the sun doesn’t make an appearance, those UV rays are out there ready to strike. Sunscreen is your best friend and is your most effective anti-ageing product.
This one is hydrating but a tad too oily and am looking for something a bit more lightweight and suitable for application to the face.

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Body Oil – Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse ♥
This numerous award-winning oil has my heart. I usually apply it before bed and my skin drinks it up. I’ve even used it to remove eye make up and it does the trick each time. This French pharmacy staple is meant to be multi-purpose so apply generously.

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Must Have Holy Grail – The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil ♥
For the occasional pimple, the tea tree oil does wonders. Its really no surprise that this is one of their best selling skin care lines. Just buy it.

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Masks
The Body Shop Tea Tree Clay Mask
The clay mask balances the skin and prevents possible breakouts but I feel like it really does nothing for my blackheads. I once tried the Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing mask and was expecting similar results. How silly I was to have the same expectations. Then again, the tea tree clay mask does exactly what it’s meant to do and has said nothing about cleansing out dirty pores but still…
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Dr. Morita Face Masks ♥
The Dr. Morita Face Masks on the other hand have been a firm favourite of mine since I was living in Taipei and are a STAPLE. I usually buy their hydrating masks as hydrated skin can then be treated. If you are trying to brighten/smooth/even out the skin tone of dry skin, forget it.

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Et voilà, voilà! If you are looking to try new products, hopefully this has helped a little. Quick note: products marked with a ♥ are staples. This means that I have repurchased these products and they have a special place in my drawer.

 

Your Shakshuka Fix – Café Méricourt

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They say Café Méricourt has the best shakshuka in town and it shows: the line was a good 20-30 minutes long on that Sunday morning. However, as I approached the café, I saw a queue that was shorter than I had imagined. Little did I know, it had ‘potential’. Wink*

It was freezing and the sudden drop in temperature had taken us all by surprise. We were shivering and shaking as we greeted each other and quickly caught up over the events of the past week.

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Finally we were ushered in and shown to a table for three. The ambiance was warm and cosy, the slightly rustic but also bright and simple décor contributing to the overall feel of the restaurant. The menus were placed in front of us and we were given ample time before the waiter came around to take our orders.

Truth be told, the service was rather slow and not particularly friendly but as it was a busy morning, I can understand. However, in my mind, no matter how slow you are in serving the coffee, they should all be served at the same time. Not two first and the last ten minutes later but perhaps that’s just me being picky. The food was served at the same time though.

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We had all ordered the small shakshuka which was more than sufficient. The dish was served in a mini pan with a portion of yoghurt littered with nuts that was a delicious and light counterpart to the shakshuka that was heavy in spices and flavour. In addition, the bread was EXCEPTIONALLY good and this deserves a special mention of its own.

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In conclusion, does Café Méricourt deserve its title as one of the best brunches in Paris? I would say yes! For the ridiculously affordable price point (10 euros for a shakshuka + 4 euros for the coffee), it makes my list and I will definitely be returning to try its other equally well-known dish: the breakfast roll at only 8,50 euros!

See you soon~!

Address: 22 Rue de la Folie Méricourt, 75011 Paris
To learn more about Café Méricourt:
Official Website (check out the menu here!)
’21 Totally Unmissable Brunches in Paris’ – Timeout Paris

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Afternoon Retreat – Caudalie Spa

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It is hard to imagine that less than an hour outside of Paris, you could find such peace and quiet.

Situated between this magical French capital and Versailles, is the Caudalie Spa that I should’ve written about many weeks ago but as a professional procrastinator…I have put it off until now.

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What is there more to say though? This gorgeous little retreat is tucked away neatly inside a 4 star hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant next to a pond where many take their afternoon walks.

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The service is friendly and professional, as you would expect from Caudalie and you get a bag of goodies along with your bathrobe and slippers. It contains:

  • a 15ml Moisturizing Sorbet
  • 5ml Clear Skin Purifying Toner
  • 2ml Skin Perfecting Mattifying Fluid
  • 1ml Energizing and Smoothing Eye Cream
  • 7ml Nourishing Body Lotion

Strangely, I have a feeling that these are the products that sell the least and as a “two birds one stone” strategy, they’ve given testers out to clients who visit the spa. None of the products that I really want to purchase (and that sell well) have made it into this goodie bag. Right now, I have my keen eye on the VinActiv line, mainly the serum and detox oil.

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Regardless, we spent a good amount of time in the jacuzzi and hammam, alternating between the two and taking a wine break in their gardens which were bathed in warm, golden sunlight – the kind you get only in Autumn…

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For more information, visit their website!

 

 

 

The Sephora Gold Party

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25% off on ALL your purchases, on EVERY brand!

Sounds crazy?

It was.

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Sephora is usually crowded but never had I seen it THAT crowded. Benefit had their girls in vintage outfits, Killian whipped out a gambling table and Makeup Forever had a moving sushi conveyor belt!
Instead of sushi, of course, they had different makeup looks and products in each plate! The sales associates were busy chattering away and throwing out pearls of wisdom here and there while customers were milling around, their baskets full of goodies.

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Those who had received an invitation got a gold badge at the entrance. This gives them the right to a 25% reduction on their purchases, free champagne and free hors d’oeuvres! In addition to the red carpet that they rolled out and the long queues at the registers, I’d say it was a pretty successful event!

I’m not a huge hauler so I only stocked up on some essentials I was low in stock on:

  1. The Lancome Teint Idole Ultra Wear concealer in camouflage lin
  2. A mini Becca highlighter in moonstone
  3. The Andrea clear adhesive lash glue

The concealer has become a new holy grail with its formula that’s hydrating yet full coverage and the highlighter is now a firm favourite as I don’t have one that this natural!

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