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Latest Purchases #90 – Dotcomgiftshop

Happy Saturday! Ian is working today so I snuck back to bed this morning with brioche and tea to read a few chapters of my new book and plan to spend the day baking, blogging, pottering and doing a little bit of marking.

A little while ago, I made another order at Dotcomgiftshop (which does the most amazing sales!) Here are a few things I picked up…

First up a fun new print for the kitchen. I like the retro style of this picture and of course the celebration of all things pudding! I was going to ask Ian to hang it this weekend but after almost falling out hanging some other prints midweek I think I may need to butter him up first!

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I have phases where I find cross stitching really relaxing to do as I watch TV (it stops me constantly checking my phone too!) and this ‘Home Sweet Home’ print is a very sweet project to have lined up.

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This metal sign made me giggle. I plan on hanging this in our utility room by the washing machine when we finally decorate it.

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I really like this next item – a pastel green herb house. I saw a similar style in IKEA recently and almost bought it but thought this was a little more unique. It comes with six plant pots with blackboard-painted signs for you to add the name of your herbs on. We always have fresh herbs on the go so this will be a lovely way to grow and display them.

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I can never have too many notebooks and this pretty pink and gold design is a happy addition to the collection.

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I also picked up this pencil box to try and keep my desk tidier at work.

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I love making my baking efforts look a little bit better by using pretty cupcake cases.

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I had to bin my old flask recently as it was leaking so this is a good replacement…perfect for filling with hot chocolate when we go on an autumnal country walk!

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We always need tea towels and I thought these apples and pears designs looked very Orla Kiely-esque.

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Clearly influenced by the same designer, I bought a new jar for storing our teabags.

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Napkins.

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Despite Ian telling me we don’t need any more tins, I couldn’t resist these pretty ones and they all fit inside the big one so they aren’t taking up too much room!

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Some washi tape in pretty gingham designs.

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Some metal candle holders that I plan on hanging in the garden next summer.

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Finally, my most middle-aged purchase (which I am secretly really excited about) is this little gardening set as my knees really hurt when I have to kneel down to dig and plant stuff!

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Travel Guide – Washington DC

We spent 5 days in Washington DC this summer which felt just right to visit the various iconic monuments and museums dotted around the capital city. Whilst this wasn’t my favourite US city, it is definitely worth a visit and was a lovely ending to our most recent trip.

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EAT

Luke’s Lobster

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I became a little bit obsessed with lobster rolls on our two weeks away and we had a great early evening dinner at Luke’s Lobster where we had crab, prawn and lobster rolls with a few sides.

Shake Shack

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We had an awesome burger here that definitely lived up to the hype.

Oyamel

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We ate at this Mexican restaurant and had an amazing meal. I am used to Mexican street food-style places like Wahaca but this was a much more refined version of my favourite dishes. We had fresh guacamole made at our tables, margaritas and some great fish tacos.

DO

Visit the Newseum

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Probably my favourite museum of our whole trip, the Newseum is just fascinating. I love the ins and outs of the media and seeing how different events are reported around the world and this place had such interesting exhibits. My favourites were the Vietnam War, 9/11 and the Pulitzer Prize winners gallery. I even had a go at some news reporting in the interactive gallery!

Walk through the Sculpture Garden

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We stumbled upon this quite by accident on our way to a museum but it is a lovely little park to have a wander through. The Roy Lichtenstein ‘House 1’ is very cool to view from different angles.

Go and watch The Nationals

We’ve been to see a couple of baseball games in America now and although I’m a little fuzzy on some of the rules, the atmosphere is always great! It also feels like you are doing something non-touristy and on certain nights, there’s a fireworks display after the game and who doesn’t love some fireworks?!

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Take a Bus Tour

We found that Washington DC was very spread out so trying to do everything by foot in the August heat was impractical. We bought tickets for a 2-day hop-on/ hop-off bus tour which took us all over the place.

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Hang out in Georgetown

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My favourite district in DC, this place is so cool and doesn’t feel like a city at all. Im just annoyed we found this on our last day as I would have loved to come back. I did quite a bit of damage in Sephora here!

STAY

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We stayed at the Hyatt Place Hotel and had a bit of a mixed experience. The hotel itself was amazing; probably the best we stayed in during our two weeks away. The room was modern and had a cool lounge area, the staff were ridiculously helpful and there was a really tasty free breakfast option which we took advantage of. If I could pick the hotel up and drop it in a slightly more central location, it would have been perfect. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the nicest area, especially after dark, which just took the shine off our stay.

TIPS

Watch House of Cards before you go!

This brilliant political drama on Netflix gives a great insight into the inner workings of Washington DC and meant we knew quite a few of the famous landmarks before we went.

Dismaland

This weekend, Ian and I braved the crowds and visited the latest ‘bemusement’ park in the South West, Banksy’s Dismaland.

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Hotly anticipated tickets meant the website crashed so for the opening weekend, you could just turn up and try your luck. Having missed his last exhibition in Bristol, Ian and I were determined to see this one down the road from us in Weston-Super-Mare so set our alarms and after a swift 3 and a half our wait (!!!) we were in!

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As soon as you stepped inside the once-derelict Tropicana building, the experience started with in-character staff giving you a very gloomy greeting. My first impressions were of a sad, tired, ageing seaside resort  with a dilapidated castle as a centre point and various attractions dotted around.

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We visited the art galleries first of all which were incredible. A mix of sculpture, art installations, paintings and a whole model village; the subversive art genre was very much alive. My favourites were the tattooed ornaments and the cross-stitched car.

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We spent the next few hours wandering around, watching some short films in deckchairs, riding the big wheel, eating pizza, visiting the exhibits and having a go on both the carousel and rotating caravan.

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Having grown up in a seaside town that is dependent on a holiday park, I loved the social commentary behind a lot of the exhibits here. It was great that there were a variety of artists’ work here and as I would say is normal, there were pieces I enjoyed and others I didn’t. It was refreshing to be able to see these works of art in an alternative setting and despite the rather lengthy queue, I felt once inside the organisers got the numbers just right and there was no queuing or having to wait to do anything.

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I believe that it will be ticketed entry from this week onwards and although I cannot say that anyone else will ‘love’ these pieces of art, I do recommend a visit here, simply to experience the originality of the whole concept and you can go for fish and chips afterwards on the sea front! x

Travel Diaries – Washington DC

Washington was our fourth and final stop on our East Coast road trip – you can read Part One and Two of our New York trip and all about Atlantic City and Philadelphia by clicking on the links!

Day Eleven – Thursday 6th August

I couldn’t have left Philadelphia without running up and down the ‘Rocky Steps’ so I dragged myself out of bed early, put on my trainers and ran out to the art museum, up those famous steps, posed for a quick pic with Sly then headed back to our hotel room to pack our bags again.

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We caught a bus to Washington which was fine (it had free wifi!) then taxied it to our hotel – you know it’s going to be an interesting ride when you tell the taxi driver your hotel address and he asks you “Where’s that?”

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We stayed in Hyatt Place and we loved the room. It was a pretty new hotel and had a lovely little lounge area to chill and watch TV and a really modern, cool bathroom. We weren’t that impressed with the area our hotel was in. NoMa is apparently very up and coming but I just don’t think it was quite there yet and although it seemed quite vibrant in the daytime, it didn’t feel the best place to be walking about at night.

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We decided to head out and do some exploring that afternoon so walked down to the Capitol Building (which was stunning but covered in scaffolding!), wandered through the parks, saw the Washington Monument and had a great dinner of prawn, crab and lobster rolls – yum!

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Day Twelve – Friday 7th August

After breakfast at the hotel, where I tried my first ever ‘biscuits and gravy’, we spent the morning at the Newseum, a museum dedicated to the media. Outside, there is the front page of every main US State’s newspaper as well as some from the UK, Spain, Brazil, China, France and so on.

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This was a fascinating museum and there was such a good variety of exhibits including the Berlin Wall, the history of comic strips in newspaper, a huge archive of the most important headlines over the past two hundred years, a September 11th exhibition, the challenges journalists face in different parts of the world, the dogs of the White House (loved this one!), the Washington Nationals and my favourite which was all about the Vietnam War and the influence the media had on changing public support for it. There was also a section where you could record yourself as a news anchor on screen which was really fun! This was probably my favourite museum of the whole trip (OK, maybe joint favourite with Ellis Island in New York and the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia!)

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We refuelled with some chicken wings and pizza before a wander through the Sculpture Garden on our way to the Museum of American History. On paper this place looked cool but it was very much aimed at a younger audience so we only did a couple of exhibitions…obviously the one including food and a visit to Julia Child’s kitchen!

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That evening we caught the metro over to the Nationals Park to watch a baseball game. This was so much fun especially the firework display at the end of the game.

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Day Thirteen – Saturday 8th August

After a few days in Washington DC, we started to realise how huge and spread out it was so in order to cover it all and not add to our blister count, we bought tickets for another hop-on/ hop-off tour bus. Whilst it wasn’t as good as the Philadelphia one as it was a recording and felt a lot less personal, it did take us everywhere and also to places and memorials we probably wouldn’t have gone otherwise such as Arlington Cemetery and the Pentagon which are over the water in Virginia.

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Lunch was my first ever Shake Shack and was as good as I had hoped! That afternoon we visited the Vietnam and Lincoln memorials before heading to Chinatown for happy hour cocktails and an amazing Mexican meal where our waiter made our guacamole at our table…I grilled him for his recipe!

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Day Fourteen – Sunday 9th August

Our last full day in America! It was Liverpool’s first match of the new season and I read about a Liverpool supporters’ bar not too far away from us. We spent the morning there and it was such a good atmosphere and a chance to chat with some locals too. We left a bit tipsy and realised it was still only about midday!

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That afternoon we went to Georgetown, one of the oldest parts of Washington and one I’d heard was a bit less touristy and cool. I loved it here and wish we could have spent longer wandering around the shops and trying out the bakeries and bars. We had a really nice lunch here (ribs!) before hitting Sephora where I got so excited running up the stairs that I tripped and fell! I was so embarrassed and ended up overspending to hide my shame – like in that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie falls over in Dior and ends up buying loads to make up for it!

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We spent our final night packing, eating doughnuts and watching Sons of Anarchy and I also cracked open my new Essie polish to try out!

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Luckily our flights home were a lot less stressful than when we left the UK, although I suffered with horrendous jet lag for the next few days and was a bit zombie-like most afternoons!

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So that is the end of this ‘Travel Diaries’ series. I think you can probably tell we had an absolutely incredible couple of weeks and I feel a bit lost now I don’t have something to spend my spare time planning for…I may have to get our next trip booked soon! x

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Travel Diaries – New York (Part Two)

If you haven’t already, you can read Part One of our New York trip here!

Day Three – Wednesday 29th July

We were up bright and early for another beautiful, sunny day in NYC. We jumped on the Metro and headed for breakfast at Tick Tock Diner. I love American diners, especially their breakfast and brunch menus, and I had some delicious lemon and ricotta pancakes with a raspberry sauce and maple syrup.

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That morning, we decided to head up to the top of the Empire State Building. It’s one of those iconic New York buildings and just has the most breath-taking views, including my favourite building, the Flatiron. Weirdly, this also really helped me get my bearings and see how far apart various areas were – there was also another good audio guide session here!

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After we had taken in the views, we walked the High Line. This wasn’t in existence the last time we visited New York so was something I really wanted to do. An abandoned railway line, it is now an elevated walkway lined with wild flowers, art work and great views over the surrounding neighbourhoods. We wandered along, cooling off with some ice lollies (I had a refreshing cucumber and mint one), adding to the Lego artwork, dipping our feet in the water features and relaxing on the day beds.

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We ended up at the end of the High Line near Gansevoort Market, aka foodie heaven! There was such a lovely selection for lunch but I opted for another lobster roll, a mint iced tea and macarons for pudding.

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After lunch, we had a wander around Greenwich Village, visited Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker (which was a huge let down!) before popping back to the hotel for a cat nap as I had something very cool planned that evening…kayaking!

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I found a place online that offered free kayaking on the Hudson River and was slightly worried it sounded too good to be true. However, it was so much fun and such a pretty sight as the sun set although we did get very wet bottoms so had to go back and change before dinner!

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That night (the last in my twenties!) we went for wings and margaritas at Hooters (I love their chicken wings!) before heading back up the Empire State Building for a second view of the city at night. Although we had to queue for a bit longer, this was just as magical and I just don’t think I could ever get sick of the 360° views up there.

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Day Four – Thursday 30th July (and my 30th Birthday!)

I started my birthday off with another Central Park run and chai tea from Argo then opened my presents from Ian. He knows I can sometimes suffer with post-holiday blues so he bought me tickets to see three of my favourite comedians so we would have something to look forward to over the next few months – an excellent present!

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We went to Stardust Diner for breakfast, near Times Square. This place is so much fun – the waiters sing (mostly show tunes) as they serve and there is just a great atmosphere inside and the food was good too!

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After breakfast, we hopped on the Metro and spent a few hours at the Natural History Museum before a spot of shopping, which included theatre tickets for that night.

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I love Mexican food so we had an early dinner of taquitos and margaritas at a place near our hotel (it even had its own mariachi band!) before going to Broadway to watch the play ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’. I enjoyed the book of this and had wanted to see the play for a little while. I loved it and thought the staging was excellent, although some of the Wiltshire accents were a little off!

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We ended my birthday with beers and mini birthday cakes in bed.

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Day Five – Friday 31st July (and our two-year wedding anniversary!)

For our last full day in New York, we hopped on the Metro again (we definitely got our money’s worth from our weekly passes!) and went for breakfast in Grand Central Station. The building upstairs is stunning but it also has a really nice food court downstairs too.

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We then had a very cultured morning visiting the Guggenheim and the Met. This was my first visit to the Guggenheim and I loved it. Lots of variety inside and I really love the way the curved inside of the building guided you through the exhibitions.

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We then walked up through Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This place is huge so we decided to just pick a couple of exhibitions to enjoy and explored the Ancient Egyptian section, the featured ‘China’ one which had lots of Chinese-inspired clothing from the major fashion houses and then saw some Monet paintings (one of my favourite artists).

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It was getting on to lunchtime then so we headed to a New York institution – Katz’s Deli. The queues were out the door but well worth the wait. We got one pastrami and one beef brisket sandwich and they were huge! I think I preferred the brisket but both were exceptional…my Dad was very jealous of this visit!

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We decided to spend our last afternoon chilling in Central Park so grabbed some drinks and snacks, a good book and found a quiet spot on the grass. On the way we bought each other our anniversary presents too. You are meant to give cotton after two years of marriage so we bought each other an ‘I Love New York’ t-shirt to remember where we spent the day.

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We had planned a big, posh anniversary meal that night but were so stuffed from the huge sandwiches at Katz’s that we just decided to do that the following evening and opted for cocktails and a slice of pizza near to our hotel before cheesecake and wine in bed!

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And that was the first stop on our trip. We love New York and cannot wait to return. Next up, Atlantic City…

Friday Night Dance Parties

Just a short but sweet post today as it is mine and Ian’s eleven year anniversary so we are off out for a bite to eat to celebrate. I have a real craving for a burger which isn’t the most romantic of foods but hey!

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I wanted to share one of the little gifts I bought for Ian which pretty much sums up our Fridays nights. Families have a whole range of little traditions and our favourite one involves a trip up to our local pub on a Friday night to chat about our week, make weekend plans and enjoy a few ales (Ian) and a cocktail or two (me). We wander home and then proceed to cook dinner whilst enjoying a playlist of our favourite bands and having a little boogie in the kitchen.

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This print will look great on the wall and make me smile when I think of our Friday night dance parties!

 

Our London Break (Warning: lots of food photos!)

Ian and I have just got home after a wonderful few days away in the big smoke. He has gone off for a run whereas I have chosen a cuppa, a catch-up of this week’s Apprentice and sorting through my photos instead! I decided to take my ‘proper’ camera up to London with me in order to practise using it for a variety of shots rather than just reaching for my iPhone. I did look like a complete tourist with it around my neck but hopefully I managed to take some better photos and I definitely feel like I have gotten to ‘know’ this camera better after shooting a variety of inside, outside and (of course!) foodie pictures!

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As you have probably guessed by now, I am one of those weirdos who wants to drag out a mini-break for as long as possible and thinks a holiday starts at the airport (or even at the hotel the night before a flight!). This trip was no different and before we even got on the train we had treated ourselves to a Bertinet Bakery (the best in Bath!) brunch and I had a new book ready to get stuck into on my Kindle.

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Upon arrival, we headed straight to our hotel in trendy Dalston, Avo Hotel. We have a good variety of friends we usually stay with in London, but for this trip we decided to treat ourselves to a hotel and I found this little boutique hotel which turned out to be cheaper than your bog-standard Travelodge and it always feels good to help the independents. We stayed in the King Top-floor Suite which we loved. It had a huge and comfortable king bed, a double sofa with good tea and coffee facilities and a fabulous bathroom with sparkly black tiles, a rainfall shower and nice Elemis products. Oh, and a view of the Gherkin! It is a family-run business and really friendly. There was always someone behind the front desk and they offered a simple but tasty breakfast too.

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After we had settled in, we hopped back on the tube and went to see the poppies at the Tower of London. I thought this was stunning and a very moving installation although be prepared for the crowds!

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Seeing as it was such a gorgeous autumnal afternoon, we decided to have a wander along the river via Borough Market and a drink with a view as the sun set.

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We also noticed several decorated buses dotted about. I hadn’t heard of this project but I do love these city-wide art installations and it was great to see the different varieties.

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That evening we were meeting our friends, Cat and Lucie, to try out a new restaurant; DF Mexico in Shoreditch. I will be writing a separate restaurant review of this soon but it was a great night with good friends and margaritas…need I say more?!

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The next morning, after a quick bite to eat at our hotel, we paid a visit to the Saatchi Gallery. There were a couple of installations I wanted to see (the ants and the oil room) which we both loved and then we wandered around the remaining rooms. I really like this gallery – there are bold and daring installations which can invoke a love/ hate reaction and you don’t feel like you need to be an ‘art expert’ to enjoy yourself. I think this may be my new favourite art gallery in London.

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Next, it was time for lunch and I had heard amazing things about Comptoir Libanais which was just around the corner from the Saatchi. Again, I will do a restaurant review soon but I really enjoyed our lunch here, from the décor to the sharing platter to the wonderful rose-mint tea and baklava.

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Unfortunately, it was a bit of a grey and drizzly afternoon so we decided to head over to the Tate Modern to shelter and soak up a bit more culture. I’m not sure if it was due to the half-term crowds but I wasn’t really feeling this visit compared to how much I loved the Saatchi Gallery. We didn’t stay too long here and instead popped back to the hotel for a warming hot chocolate and to get glammed up for our evening out.

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For an early dinner, we had booked an afternoon tea with a twist…burgers! We ate at BRGR where we had a delicious selection of mini sliders, drinks and puddings – my review is coming soon!

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Then, we walked over to the Noel Coward theatre to watch Shakespeare in Love (via Leicester Square where we tried to grab a glimpse of Matthew McConaughey at his latest premiere!). For our first wedding anniversary, where it is traditional to give a ‘paper’ gift, Ian bought me these tickets and being fans of the film, both had high hopes for the play. It did not disappoint and was actually better than I thought it would be. It had some really funny moments followed by some very poignant ones and there was a dog which easily makes it deserve its five star reviews!

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I also discovered Crème Brûlée flavour Häagen-Dazs during the interval which was a highlight for me!

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On our way home, we both had the munchies and noticed a Jamie Oliver pop-up diner selling burgers and hotdogs – perfect midnight snacks!

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Today we were pretty knackered so just enjoyed a late-morning brunch at an amazing American-style diner near our hotel, aptly named The Diner, a quick photo opportunity in front of Big Ben and my first pumpkin-spiced latte of the season before catching the train back to Bath.

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Suffice to say, after such an indulgent foodie few days, my shopping basket was full of fruit and veg this afternoon to restore some much needed balance!