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Sunday Catch-up #12

It has been a quiet week but a super busy weekend for me with a comedy gig on Friday night, an old friend’s wedding on Saturday and my brother and his girlfriend over to ours for lunch today. I’ve got one more week left until the Easter holidays so I am hoping this coming week flies by!

This week I have been…

Making: half-term plans

Going: to see Suzi Ruffell and Romesh Ranganathan live…both were excellent

Wearing: heels all day on Saturday (ouch)

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Eating: this gorgeous rose chocolate

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Drinking: champers darling

Reading: I’m now on book four of this series

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Watching: the new series of Masterchef (and thinking I could at least get through round 1!)

Buying: more pairs of tights as I go through them way too quickly

Planning: some recipes involving quinoa

Cooking: veggie burgers with ALL the extras!

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Baking: cherry, blueberry and almond crumble

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Writing: more blog posts

Favouriting: Pixiwoo make-up tutorials – perfect to watch as I’m getting ready each morning

Working on: my fitness again – hoping to squeeze in a few more weekly runs now it’s getting lighter

Trying to decide: which red to go for on my nails (Nails Inc won!)

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Wishing: daffodils were here all year round – so bright and cheery

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Enjoying: time spent around friends this weekend

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Needing: to start saving for our summer trip

Feeling: like I want short hair again, after almost a year of growing it!

Giggling at: post-tequila-shot faces

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Our Birthday/ Anniversary Camping Trip!

We got home last night from the most amazing and relaxing mini-break camping along the Dorset coastline. Ian surprised me with the trip for my 29th birthday (last year in my twenties….aargh!)then it was our first wedding anniversary the next day so it seemed right to spend a few days together away from the daily grind of home, laundry and work!

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I started the day with my favourite almond croissants from Bertinet Bakery in Bath. If you ever get the chance then just buy one and thank me later! Ian had paid for me the day before to get my hair cut and coloured but he also surprised me with a little black box…

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…the boy did good this year! (FYI Nars Orgasm blusher is the most beautiful item of make-up I own…review coming soon!)

Anyway, we packed up the car and set off to Osmington, a little village just outside Weymouth. We have stayed here before and love the views on the campsite and the great pubs nearby. When we arrived, we put up the tent, slapped on the sunscreen and enjoyed a picnic in the sunshine.

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As it was my birthday, we brought a few cocktails too!

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That evening, I was treated to minty lamb burgers, cooked on our little gas stove before heading out to our favourite pub, The Smugglers, to watch the sunset and have a few birthday beers.

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The next day was our first wedding anniversary. As you know, we headed off to Vegas to say our ‘I Dos’ and this year has flown by! (You can read about our special day here!) Traditionally, you give paper gifts on your first wedding anniversary so I bought Ian a cool print of Bath Pubs (I think he sees this more as a ‘to do’ list!) and he got me some lovely things from Paperchase.

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We enjoyed a fry up by the tent in the morning before heading to the beach. We stopped off at Chesil Beach, an 18 mile long lagoon for a spot of sunbathing and a picnic before driving on to Lulworth Cove for ice-creams (my Turkish Delight flavour was amazing!) and a dip in the sea.

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That evening we got our glad rags on and went back to The Smugglers for cocktails in the sun followed by a great meal (I’m going to write a separate restaurant review about this)

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We woke up the next morning to the pitter patter of rain on the tent at about 5am. For some, this may be your nightmare camping scenario but I love that feeling of being snuggled up inside while you can hear the rain outside! It wasn’t really that heavy and within a few hours we were back to glorious sunshine again.

That night, we had booked a table for Mat Follas’ (from Masterchef) new restaurant in Dorchester and enjoyed the most amazing 6 course taster menu. Mat came out to chat to the guests too and it was lovely to hear about the food and how locally everything was sourced.

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On our last full day, we headed to Weymouth beach for a few hours of sunshine. It has a traditional seaside promenade although we sat slightly away from all the fairground rides and arcades. My highlight of this day was definitely our lunch on the beach…scampi for me, battered cod for Ian and a huge portion of vinegar-soaked chips to share!

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We spent our last night at the campsite enjoying the sunset and my rather tasty one pot chicken curry and rice…slightly different from the decadence the night before but just as tasty nonetheless!

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We went old-school and played a few card games then had hot chocolates and marshmallows in our sleeping bags – an absolutely perfect end to a great mini-break!

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Restaurant Review – The Boathouse, Bradford on Avon

We are going camping! Yes, I will be gone for a few days as my lovely husband has surprised me with a little holiday. It is my birthday tomorrow then our 1st wedding anniversary the next day so we are packing up the tent for a few days by the sea to eat, drink and be merry! It is hard to believe that one year ago today we were flying over to Las Vegas ready to start our American adventure but we still have such amazing memories of that holiday.

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Unfortunately I have been left with the task of packing today. I don’t know how people manage to just throw the tent and some clothes in the back of the car – I pack with military precision for every eventuality and to ensure we are super comfortable in our tent…I am definitely a fan of ‘glamping’ as opposed to roughing it!

However, in the spirit of complete procrastination, I wanted to share a little restaurant review with you today. The Boathouse is a lovely little pub which sits on the canal on the outskirts of Bradford on Avon. It used to be the Beef and Barge, which didn’t have a particularly great reputation, but is now under new ownership and has undergone a rather wonderful transformation.

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We ate here last week when we fancied eating al fresco and there are great outside spaces to choose from including a lovely beer garden or benches overlooking the marina and barges.

I decided to start with the crispy fried hen’s egg (surely that’s just an egg?!), smoked ham and mushy peas. Quite a strange combination on paper but it worked well together. The egg was perfectly cooked and runny inside and the ham added a lovely smoky flavour. I wasn’t overly keen on the mushy peas but as a dish it was tasty.

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Ian had the bread-crumbed belly of pork served with a scallop and salad. Again, this was a lovely combination and both the pork and scallop were perfectly cooked.

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Both of our main courses had quite an American feel to them but there was a really varied menu – we just so happened to choose BBQ-style items! I had baby spatchcock chicken roasted with cayenne, honey and garlic and served with chunky chips, corn on the cob and a BBQ sauce. The chicken was delicious and so juicy. The rub on the outside had just the right amount of spice and I struggled to finish it! The BBQ sauce was the only let down – it was so sharp and just didn’t work with the rest of the meal.

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Luckily, Ian let me dip my chips in his sauce! He ordered pulled pork shoulder in a cider gravy served with crackling, a potato cake, apple sauce and greens. This was a really nice dish and the portion size was just right. The cider sauce kept the pulled pork really juicy and the crackling was a nice extra texture.

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We were too full for puddings (even though they sounded amazing!) so just enjoyed the last of the evening sunshine (and my handsome hubby!)

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This pub was a great find and if the weather stays like this then we will definitely be back soon!

See you in a few days! xxx

Ten

Ten years ago today, Ian and I made things official and got together. We met at Birmingham University and were soon inseparable, spending our term times going out most nights and sleeping in too late and our summers going camping and on other adventures.

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As part of my degree, I had to spend a year living and studying in Spain and then France. We both knew this much time apart would either make or break us but luckily absence made the heart grow fonder and we soon left Birmingham and moved into our first flat together in Bath.

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While Ian’s career went from strength to strength, I felt mine was lacking something so I went back to uni for a year and did my teacher training, starting my new job the next year and I don’t regret the change at all – I love it!

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After years of saving, we managed to move to a lovely village just outside of Bath and buy our first house. It has been wonderful putting our mark on our very own place and having a garden to enjoy weekly BBQs.

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Not only is this a special anniversary because it marks a decade together, it is also our first one together as husband and wife after tying the knot in Vegas last summer.

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We are heading out tonight for a posh steak dinner and pudding. We are both doing ‘Dry January’ so won’t be getting a bottle of bubbly but instead will toast our ten years together with a lemonade and hope for ten more amazing years full of adventures, good food and love.

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2014! We have just arrived home again after a wonderful and food-filled night in London. Ian and I spent the evening with our best friends and were up at Alexandra Palace at the stroke of midnight where we had the most wonderful view over the whole of London and could see the various firework displays going off, all toasted with a glass of bubbly (in plastic champagne glasses of course!)

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Like most people, I find myself in a pensive and reflective mood at this time of year. 2013 certainly had its ups and downs and it really was one of the best and worst years of my life. I know that sounds rather dramatic but I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such highs and lows.

Without a doubt, the highlight was our American adventure this summer where I got to marry the love of my life in Las Vegas.

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Of course, when we got home again we received the terrible news that my Mum had breast cancer and we are still on that journey but halfway through chemo now so we are hoping for a healthy and happy 2014.

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Some other pictures of my year:

January

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February

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March

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April

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May

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June

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July

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August

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September

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October

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November

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December

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I looked back at the post I wrote this time last year to see if I managed to stick to any of my resolutions I made for 2013. On the whole, I think I did OK especially with starting to run, improve my skincare routine and making time for good friends, all of which I intend to continue with!

For 2014, I am trying hard to not to take on too much or set overly high expectations for myself as I only feel bad when I don’t meet them and to be honest I don’t see New Year Resolutions as radically changing your life or who you are but simply making small improvements to add to your overall happiness. So this year I aim to…

  • Get my DIY mojo back! Our home improvements have ground to a bit of a halt in recent months and I intend to fix that. I really do love working on our house and feel such a sense of achievement when a room or project is finished so I am working on my to-do list.dresser28
  • Run. A little bit of a repeat of last year but I want to continue running. I appear to be somewhat of a fair-weather runner and haven’t pulled on my trainers since the weather has gotten colder (!) but I bought some cold weather running gear in the sales so intend to get back into a routine. I am considering signing up to a 10k or half marathon towards the end of the year. The idea terrifies me but maybe that is a good thing?! Watch this space!run4
  • Host 12 dinner parties. I love having people over and I love cooking so I want to try and host one dinner party per month this year where I make a starter, main and pudding from scratch. This is to continue to make the effort to spend time with good friends and to try out some new recipes, hopefully with delicious results!
  • Read more. I am someone who needs a decent amount of sleep to function properly and I want to try to get out of the cycle of being shattered throughout the week and needing long lie-ins at the weekend – as much as I love them, they do eat into the day! I am going to try and go to bed at a decent time and spend some time winding down and reading a book. I have a huge stack of unread books just waiting to be read and several recommendations from friends to work my way through so I think this is one resolution I will really enjoy!fete21

I don’t feel any of these resolutions are too radical or unachievable and the good thing is that I can pick them up throughout the year. Ultimately, a new year is only another date in the diary but even though things aren’t perfect at the moment, I think a fresh start and a chance to reflect and grow is always welcome.

Wishing all my lovely readers a wonderful and adventure-filled 2014!

Have you made any New Year resolutions? x

Las Vegas – Part Two

We woke up on our first day as husband and wife so happy and glad that the main event of our holiday was done and we could relax a bit more now!

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We had earmarked today for a spot of shopping so jumped on the bus and headed down to one the outlet villages, located at either end of the Strip. I was very excited about this. I haven’t really mentioned this on the blog but in the 6 months prior to getting married I made a conscious effort to improve my diet and fitness levels and as a result lost just over two stone. This meant that I dropped a couple of dress sizes so I saved up some money to treat myself to a new wardrobe which would hopefully flatter my new shape. Over the two weeks I ended up buying A LOT so I thought I would do a separate post on this to show you the goods in one go!

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After a satisfying day at the mall, we had a wander through some of my favourite hotels on the Strip, I met up with Lu and her friends for a quick catch-up then we got glammed up and had an awesome Mexican meal. I had fish tacos which were delicious!

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After that we had tickets to see The Blue Man Group. Somewhat of a Vegas institution, I wasn’t too sure what to expect but I loved it. I can see how it wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste (and I had had a few drinks!) but the show was amazing, full of drums and other percussion instruments made from odds and ends. I also found parts of it hilarious, especially the end of the show which culminated in the whole audience on their feet shaking their bums, bouncing huge balls around and covering the entire theatre in strips of toilet roll…sounds strange but it was brilliant fun!

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The next day, my parents and brother went to the Grand Canyon and Ian’s parents were leaving to drive to their next holiday destination so we went for a farewell breakfast with them (Denny’s again!) where I had the most amazing blueberry cheesecake milkshake. It felt ridiculously unhealthy but tasted soooooooo good!

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After waving Ian’s parents good bye, we found ourselves on our own which was strange after being surrounded by friends and family all week and trying to make plans which everyone was happy with! We decided to explore the hotels we hadn’t seen yet, go on the New York New York rollercoaster (terrifying!) and try our luck with a bit of roulette. I also couldn’t resist a spot more shopping along the way! Here are a few pics of our adventures:

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That evening was our last in Vegas. My brother decided he was feeling lucky so hit the casinos (I don’t know how he did it but he won a ridiculous amount of money when we were away!) and Ian and I went for dinner with my parents. I recommended Bubba Gump’s, which is a great seafood restaurant with a Forrest Gump theme. Ian and I have eaten in Bubba Gump’s in New York and Florida and always had really good food and left with an urge to watch the film again! We had a lovely meal (and cocktails!) overlooking the lights of the Strip and it was the perfect end to a great week away.

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Tomorrow, read about our Road Trip! x

Our Wedding Day 31.07.13

Wow…I don’t quite know where to start writing this post! There are so many little details, emotions and memories that go through my head when I think about our special day that I think I’ll just have to let the photographs do most of the talking as I couldn’t possibly write them all down.

I guess I should start by setting the scene. Ian and I have been together for almost ten years after meeting at university. Two years ago on my birthday, he proposed to me with a beautiful diamond ring next to a lake whilst we were camping and I of course said yes! We decided to elope with close friends and family and tie the knot in Las Vegas. In case you were wondering why we decided to take this slightly untraditional option, I wrote about it here and here.

Anyway, it was my birthday the night before our wedding (28…argh!) but we got to bed at a reasonable time and woke up at about 7 the next morning. Now I know traditionalists will take a sharp intake of breath here as the bride and groom aren’t meant to see each other on the morning of the wedding but we didn’t take any notice of that! Partly because we were staying together in a hotel, but also because I didn’t want to spend the night on my own and actually wanted to wake up next to Ian and spend the morning together.

Luckily our parents and my brother were all staying in the same hotel so we popped along to their rooms and opened some cards and presents with them. Then Ian and I headed downstairs and went for breakfast together, although I don’t think either of us really managed to eat anything!

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I have to say it was lovely to have this hour or so together before the events of the day really got started, rather than being kept apart and wondering what the other one was doing and feeling. I think it helped keep us both calmer too.

After some caffeine, it was back up to our room for showers and manicures (me, not Ian!) until there was a knock on the door and my best friend Lu arrived, armed with her ‘Wedding Morning Survival Kit’…

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Then it was time for Ian to take his stuff to his parents’ room to get ready while I sat chatting and laughing with Lu and my Mum as we got ready. At this point, we had one of those surreal moments where we couldn’t quite believe that the three of us were in a hotel room together in Vegas getting ready for my wedding!

About 45 minutes before we had to leave, my Mum left to get ready in her room and Lu had a hair straightening emergency when she couldn’t get her GHDs to work so ran down to our hotel’s salon for a quick blow dry, leaving me on my own for about 20 minutes to finish my hair and make-up and put my dress on. Although it wasn’t planned, this little bit of alone time was actually lovely and I could just focus on getting ready and have a moment to myself while people around me were flapping! I actually managed to stay really cool and calm all day which I wasn’t expecting.

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The only time I did risk ruining my eye make-up was when I gave Lu her gift, a beautiful bangle set, to say thank you for being there for me on the day and we both got a bit teary so had a quick shot of rum (me) and tequila (Lu) before we left the room!

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We met the rest of the wedding party in the lobby and I have to say how handsome all the boys looked and how glamorous us ladies looked! A white stretch limousine was waiting for us so we piled in and it was a short drive to the wedding chapel.

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We chose to get married in A Special Memory Wedding Chapel, which is located downtown amongst the other little chapels. I had read lots of positive reviews about this one in particular and was really impressed with the service from start to finish. If you want any more information about it or getting married in Vegas then do drop me an email and I will be more than happy to pass on my tips!

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Although there were only the 8 of us for the ceremony, the chapel gave us their biggest and nicest room so people took their seats whilst my Dad and I waited outside the room. I had butterflies in my stomach but I do remember my Dad turning to me and saying not to worry because this marriage wouldn’t count in the UK at which point I had to correct him and inform him that this was in fact the real deal!

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We walked down the aisle to Bright Eyes’ ‘First Day of My Life’ which is a sweet acoustic song with really beautiful lyrics and I just remember everyone smiling, the sun streaming in through the stained glass windows and how handsome Ian looked!

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The ceremony is now a bit of a blur but I remember how nervous Ian looked and how I just wanted to give him a big hug! We both got through our vows with only a few tears (Ian!) and then the minister said those magic words and I could give my husband a big kiss and hug before walking back down the aisle to Ian’s favourite song, ‘Mr Jones’ by the Counting Crows. The ceremony was everything I wanted it to be – sweet, emotional, romantic and really personal.

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After we had hugged and kissed everyone, it was time for the photos. Now, I love taking photos but don’t particularly like being in them so I found the instructions to ‘look lovingly into Ian’s eyes’ and the constant kissing photos to be a bit cringe worthy and we both got the giggles at one point but I guess it was worth it as we have some lovely pictures to remember the day! Here are some of our favourites from the professional photographer:

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And a few iPhone ones for good measure!

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I should have mentioned that it was over 40°C in Las Vegas that day so in the outside photos we were literally melting! After our faces started to ache from smiling, we decided it was time to eat so it was back into our limo, up the Las Vegas Strip and to the Bellagio for lunch. Completely by coincidence (although I like to think maybe Ian planned it for me!), the Bellagio fountains were mid-performance when we drove up which was stunning…look how excited I was!

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We met a couple more friends outside the hotel then walked through the casino to the Bellagio Buffet. There were several reasons behind choosing this place to eat. Firstly, it is probably the best buffet in Las Vegas and most of the reviews and every person I have spoken who has eaten there has said it is amazing. Secondly, between our families, we are a bunch of very fussy eaters so I felt that a buffet would be the perfect solution to ensure people could just choose exactly what they wanted and if someone just wanted to eat a plate of puddings then that would be fine too!

As it turns out the food was INCREDIBLE! When you think of buffets, you may think of huge trays that have been sat underneath hot lights for ages slowly drying out and mass catered food that has not had a lot of love or thought put into it. Well, the Bellagio couldn’t be more different and the quality is like that of a high-end restaurant with different food stations dotted around offering different cuisines.

There were Japanese chefs making fresh prawn, salmon, tuna and crab sushi and two different types of seaweed salad (my favourite!), 5 different types of mini sliders made with top grade beef, huge racks of ribs and different cuts of roasted meat being carved up on request by chefs, salads, cheese, meats, antipasti and several soups with different varieties of breads. There was home-cooked style food which included creamy, buttery mashed potato, bacon and great fried chicken. There was an Italian-inspired area where you could get a variety of pastas in different sauces or a slice of one of their pizzas and a huge carved ice block which was bursting with king prawns…I think I counted at least 20 of these on my Dad’s plate alone!

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Then it was time for the puddings and they certainly did not disappoint. I purposely made sure I left a good amount of room for these as I knew I wouldn’t be able to choose just one and I am ashamed to say I had 5! Although in my defence they were mini-puddings and if you can’t splurge on your wedding day then when can you?! I had baked cheesecake with a salted caramel sauce, a pecan pie, cream puff, hazelnut chocolate brownie and a mini éclair filled with the most delicious creamy lemon filling.

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We washed all of this food down with a never-ending supply of margaritas and had the best couple of hours there eating and drinking with our nearest and dearest. The laid-back buffet style suited us perfectly and it meant we could have a leisurely lunch with a little break in between plates to make room for some more!

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After lunch, we headed back to our hotel and crashed out for a couple of hours with plans to meet up again that night to visit Fremont Street. I was quite sad to take off my wedding dress as I felt absolutely gorgeous in it but I did bring a second dress to wear that evening which I called ‘Wedding Dress Number 2’!

We all caught the bus downtown to Fremont Street and arrived just in time to catch their light show. Fremont Street is effectively a mall in the downtown area of Las Vegas and is where all the casinos and bright lights started. As the newer and bigger casinos moved up to The Strip, Fremont Street became rather run down until the area was completely revamped and now it comes alive at night!

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Despite the claim that the Las Vegas lights never go out, on the hour the shops in Fremont Street dim their lights ready for the light show that is shown on an overhanging roof canopy in the main street. This is loud, fun and bright and really captivating. The casinos down here don’t tend to have a theme like the ones on The Strip do and they are very much old-school Vegas with lots of neon and bright lights.

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One other reason that Fremont Street is now so popular is the free concerts that are held. There are two main outdoor stages and most nights there are bands playing. We saw the most amazing live band the night we went down who played a collection of covers from the 1990s and 2000s. We danced and drank beer for hours and if you go to Las Vegas I definitely recommend making the trip down here!

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We caught the bus back up The Strip to our hotel and decided to get off at The Bellagio to watch the fountains at night. Each performance is set to a different piece of music, from opera and classical pieces to modern rock songs.

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The fountains are truly stunning and watching them with my new husband stood next to me was the perfect end to our day.

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