Thursday, 27 October 2016

TRAVEL: 48 Hours In Galway

During the summer, on a whim, my parents, brother and I went to Galway for the weekend. We were all wiped and our proper holiday for the year was still a month away, so we thought we'd go on a pre-holiday to keep us going until we could get a real break.

As per, leaving took longer than it should have, and we didn't arrive in Galway until the afternoon. We unpacked, had a drink on the balcony, overlooking the ocean and then walked along the sea into the city centre for dinner at Dela Restaurant.

Luckily (or unluckily, in this case), we happened to have chosen a weekend during the Galway Arts Festival and the town was buzzing with excitement. There were all sorts of musical, art and performance events taking place around the city and we planned to take full advantage of the fact. However, it also meant extra people in the city and when we arrived in the restaurant, we were informed that Bell X1 and their entourage had just been in and eaten all of the pork belly, much to my disappointment.

After perusing the menu for an alternative and ordering, I nipped to the bathroom. Cue potentially the most Colette story of my life.

I did notice, as I locked the door, that the lock was a bit dodgy but ignored my intuition and turned it anyway. When I tried to unlock it, I realised that the knob was loose and not turning the bar that slid across to open and close the door. I turned it repeatedly and, at the noise, a girl outside asked me if I was okay. I told her what had happened and she went to ask a waitress for help before returning shortly to say that it was, apparently, common and to keep trying and turning the handle. She left before I could say that wiggling it was not going to solve the problem. Battling the panic that was starting to wash over me (I have a childhood trauma about being locked in bathrooms), I decided to just ring my father and tell him what had happened (thank God I, unusually, happened to have brought my phone with me).

Next thing I knew, my father, brother and the owner were all gathered outside the cubicle, passing me knives under the door and giving me advice on how to jimmy the lock into place. I knew that the bar was knocked out of place and removing it was the only thing that would fix it and kept asking for a screwdriver. But my pleas were ignored and my dad even attempted to kick the door in. Finally, a screwdriver was passed under the door to me and I removed the lock and escaped, without succumbing to a panic attack. When I walked back into the restaurant, all eyes were on me as word of the incident had clearly spread. As I moved through the building with burning cheeks and shaky legs, back towards our table, I realised the worst part of the situation: my traitorous family had eaten all the starters without me.

I perked up when the owner brought over a bottle of Prosecco for the table, on the house, and once the leftover shakes went away, I even laughed about the whole thing. Plus, the food was great and eating always improves my mood.

The next day we got up late, took a bus into town and had brunch in the House Hotel, as we planned what to do with ourselves. After going to the market and wandering around the shops, I convinced everyone to go to the Hughie O'Donoghue exhibition that was being held in town and, happily, everyone enjoyed his work. The riot of colours and grand scale against the pared-back warehouse setting made for a striking pairing and everyone indulged me in some art talk, which I don't have enough of in my life anymore.

We then sat outside in the sunny little courtyard at the Kings Head, a medieval pub, for a gluttonous afternoon snack of desserts and pints. The rest of the day was spent lazily wandering and shopping some more before heading to Bite Club for dinner. I had been on my last trip and really loved the place so I insisted on dragging everyone else there. The hip interiors and street food menu worried my parents at first but once my dad got a Margarita Slushie into him, he was a lot more receptive to trying new things.

That evening, after we got back to the apartment, my brother and I went down to the beach and splashed around in the water, while others looked at us like we were lunatics for braving the cold Atlantic sea on an overcast night. Then we decided to dry off and head up to the arcade in Salthill where we just about managed to earn enough tickets to win a ridiculous stuffed flower toy for our mother. When we returned to the apartment, we presented the prize to Mammy (who was somewhat underwhelmed) and spent the rest of the night watching movies together.

Upon waking the next day, we found a Galway that was so sunny, it looked like the Mediterranean. The sky was perfectly clear and the water was bluer than I've ever seen in Ireland before. Of course, it happened to be the day we were headed home but we made the most of it: we had brunch by the sea, walked along the beach and then drove out to the village of Spiddal and had a wander around the craft centre there. And then, as if proof were needed, my being spoiled was made especially apparent when Dad drove me all the way back to my apartment in Dublin.

The whole trip was very short but incredibly sweet and I got to spend a lot of quality time with my baby brother, which I don't get a lot of in my life anymore. And, of course, I'm eternally in love with Galway and jump at the chance to visit whenever I can.






















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Monday, 24 October 2016

BEAUTY AROUND THE WORLD: Cutest Makeup Ever? - Thai Makeup & Skincare Haul

My sister spent a month in Thailand this summer and when she asked what I would like for her to bring back to me, I immediately remembered the series that I had planned a long time ago. I wanted to try more beauty products from around the globe that I might not have heard of before or that are less well-known.

I have never really heard anything about Thai beauty products before - nothing good or bad - and this blank slate made me even more curious. Of Asian countries, it is South Korea and Japan that are probably the best known for their cosmetics internationally and I have personally tried plenty of products from both countries before but this was my first time trying anything from Thailand.

When my sister returned home and passed over the bag of goodies, the first thing I noticed was that the products were cuter than I thought. I don't know why this surprised me, as any Asian beauty products that I have tried in the past have had incredibly cute packaging, but it did. In fact, the plastic bag from the store, Beauty Buffet, was adorable in its own right. In pastel pink and white, it looked like it was from a bakery instead and all of the products from this store are based around food and sweets.

I delved inside the bag and found that my sister had been rather generous on her backpacking budget, with a considerable offering of two sheet masks, an eyeliner, an eyeshadow and a blush.

Since I received the bag all those months ago, I've tried everything that was in the bag and found that the makeup was great but the skincare a little less impressive compared to the Korean innovations that I am so used to. The Scentio sheet masks - in Pomegranate for Anti-Aging and Tea Tree Essence for Anti-Acne - were fine. Pleasant but not the kind and standard I've come to expect. I'm accustomed to masks dripping in essence that can be used twice (front and back) with enough essence left on your hands and in the packet to be spread over the arms and chest as well. These just weren't that. I just didn't feel dewy and fresh after using them.

The makeup, however, is both cute and great.

The Macaron Eyeshadow is the standout highlight for me. Impossibly adorable, it comes in this lovely shimmery orange hue that builds beautifully and looks subtle, pretty and girly on the lid. Don't expect intense pigmentation. Instead, you get a soft wash of colour that straddles somewhere between "no makeup" makeup and a sweet, fresh look.

I also like really the blush that she got for me. The Kanom Chan Blending Blusher is inspired by a Thai dessert and the packaging tells you all about it, which is a cute little bonus. It is also in an orange shade and is made up of four tones in a block that can be swirled together or used one at a time. Unlike the eyeshadow, however, this stuff is pigmented and packs a punch so I'd recommend using a light hand for application. Like the eyeshadow, though, it is a very pretty colour that looks terribly sweet and natural.

Finally, there is the Candy Eyeliner, which looks like a chocolate bonbon. It is a nice true black shade and isn't an eyeliner that sets immediately and stubbornly. In fact, I wouldn't say it's waterproof at all, which is probably a negative for some but a positive for me as I hate eye products that require intense scrubbing to be removed. My only problem with it, in fact, is that it has a brush applicator and I'm way too useless to use it without messing up. But that's my fault, not the eyeliners.

In all, I'm not blown away by innovations but do really enjoy how cute and pretty both the packaging and applications are. Obviously, this is only a tiny peek into Thai beauty and couldn't be considered representative of the whole but it's enough to leave me suitably intrigued as to what else Thailand has to offer when it comes to cosmetics.















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Saturday, 22 October 2016

Alex & Ani Liberty Copper Collection

Blogger launches probably seem glamorous from the outside. And they probably are, for most people, but I seem to constantly embarrass myself at these things and shouldn't really be allowed outside on my own without an escort. At the launch of Alex & Ani's new Liberty Copper Collection in the Kilkenny Design Centre on Nassau Street last Thursday, I managed to, once again, make a tit of myself.

The launch was happening during a customer evening and there was lots going on; there was candyfloss, popcorn and retro glass bottles of Coke being passed around, the Bugle Babes (a trio of ladies in forties military garb) were singing ragtimey tunes, Dara Kenny was painting the New York skyline and totes were being screen printed with an image of the city by Damn Fine Print. Cue my arrival in the midst of this, a wave of social-awkwardness washing over me and my turning to the snacks in lieu of human interaction. Sadly, when I reached for some candyfloss, six sticks had melted together and after a flustered interaction with the girl handing them out, I was told to take the lot. Which is why I spent the rest of the launch walking around with a giant melted glob of candyfloss in my hand, trying to juggle my camera and be taken seriously...


Anyhoo, if we ignore my little bout of social disfunction, I'm sure a trend or theme has already become apparent. New York was brought to Nassau street to celebrate the launch of Alex & Ani's very limited line of jewellery that features recycled copper from one of the city's most famous landmarks; the Statue of Liberty.

And how, pray tell, did the brand end up with recycled copper from a world famous monument? They were on the ball, that's how. When the Statue of Liberty was recycled between 1984 and 1986, to celebrate its centennial, the original copper supports were replaced with stainless steel and the copper was removed. Alex & Ani were clever enough to seize the opportunity and bought up the copper.

Now, they have produced a limited line of 26 special pieces using the copper that they purchased.

As per the brand's usual ethos, this line has a deeper message; it is the Carry Light collection. The design of the charms on these pieces features a torch and flame that is an exact replica of Lady Liberty’s torch and is a powerful symbol of hope.

The line is super limited due to the nature of the material used and each stockist was only granted a certain number of pieces. Kilkenny were given the most in Ireland but there still aren't many knocking about, which is something to keep in mind if you are interested in the line.

To me, jewellery with a sentiment behind it is really meaningful and personal as a gift, in particular, and I think that this line is the ideal thing as a present to someone in need of a reminder that there is always hope or, maybe, someone with whom you share a fond memory of New York.










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REVIEW: Topshop Aircushion Skin Perfector

When I saw that Topshop had released a cushion foundation, I was really excited. My favourite foundations are my Korean cushion BB creams. However, these have to be ordered online, take a while to get here and a few that I loved, I later realised weren't cruelty-free and couldn't repurchase.

Topshop having their own version that I could pick up, in person, whenever I ran out, and was cruelty-free sounded fantastic. I mean, there were already versions from brands like Lancome, L'Oreal and others but none of these are cruelty-free and were, as a result, pretty useless to me.

One of the great things about the Topshop Aircushion is that, unlike Korean brands, these are designed for an international audience and there are a few more shades to choose from and shades that run deeper than your typical cushion foundation. In saying that, however, the lightest shade "1.0", is actually a little bit dark for me. In fact, my biggest, and really only, complaint about the product is that it is that orangey-hue that a lot of Western brand often go for. That's not really my thing personally and its not offensively orange, it's still wearable, but it isn't the complexion brightening shade that I'm used to from cushion foundations.

When it comes to the formulation, it doesn't have SPF, as most cushion foundations in Korea do, so it is better suited to nighttime use as it won't react to flash photography and leave you looking like a ghost. It is also quite cooling and soothing when first applied, which is a pleasant bonus. I will say that I'm not mad on how it smells but, again, it's not an overly offensive thing, just mildly off-putting.

Another thing to note is that, unlike Korean cushions, it's not as dewy on the skin but it isn't quite matte either, so it's a nice option for those intrigued by dewy skin looks but a little afraid of looking shiny.

When using the cushion, be sure to moisturise and prep the skin well in advance as it will show up patchiness on the skin's surface. Furthermore, cushions aren't designed to be heavy-coverage so don't expect flawless skin from this. Instead, you get a light-weight, pretty, natural finish that improves the complexion overall but won't cover blemishes.

At €22.00, it's not the most expensive cushion on the market, and considerably cheaper than the Lancome version, but not the cheapest either. As of yet, I don't think there are refills, as there are with other cushion foundations, but I imagine that it would be part of Topshop's plan to launch them down the line. In which case, they become more cost-efficient overall and there is less waste - which is always a good thing!

Overall, I don't hate this foundation, there are just others I prefer. It's mostly the shade that personally throws me off but if you don't mind a more obvious and less natural colour to your foundation, that won't bother you. This is also a great launch for those requiring deeper shades who are interested in cruelty-free cushion foundations as the market isn't the kindest, in general, to them. If Topshop were to launch even more shades and refine the formula, I'd totally be down. As a first step? It's not too bad.




(This product was not a sample and was purchased with my own money)


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Tuesday, 18 October 2016

TRAVEL: 48 Hours in Madrid

Last weekend I went to Madrid to finally visit a friend who has been living there for over a year and to go to a gig by a South Korean rapper that I like. I flew in on a Saturday evening - a fact that my friend repeatedly gave out to me for as I "wasted a day" but considering how hectic things have been lately, I wasn't rushing for anyone - and we dropped off my stuff and immediately went out for the night.

We arrived late to his friend's birthday dinner and didn't end up eating a lot so while the others went on to a bar, we went for second dinner at Mercado de San Ildefonso, with the plan to meet everyone later. The Mercado was seriously cool and I wished we'd arrived earlier to explore it properly. It is a permanent indoor market and bar where there are loads of different kinds of cuisines to choose from. We went for the burger stand, upon my friend's insistence they were some of the best in the city, and I frustrated him again by choosing to order a hotdog.

When we finished eating, everyone had already gone home so we wandered the city a little, hit up a couple of bars and then headed home, much to my friend's disgust at my old lady insistence of sleeping rather than staying out until 6am like a local. But it was a good thing that I did as the next day was crazy busy.

My friend gave me an intense guided tour of the city in one day which involved stops at the palace and gardens, a visit to a crypt and accidentally attending mass (Granny would be proud), trying jamón in Plaza de Mayor, spotting Pikachu, visiting Sol (a square at the centre of the city that has streets radiating off the circumference like a sun), a pit stop in Sephora and a long, unplanned interlude in the Reina Sofia museum (again, frustrating my friend). Once I had enough of seeing Man Ray, Picasso and Dalí (for now) IRL and was dragged out the door, we headed to the Parque del Buen Retiro and the Statue of the Fallen Angel and the Crystal Palace. Suitably blown away by the scale of the park and the vast range of things to see and do there, I realised I was starving and we went for an insanely delicious five course meal.

Cue the panic as we suddenly realised the time. We ran to the Metro and arrived at the gig about an hour after it had begun but I was in time to see Sik-K, the main rapper, and hear him play my favourite songs. Afterwards, I toddled happily out the door and only noticed that my friend had gone missing. Moments later, he burst outside, grabbed my arm and yanked me inside without much explanation. Next thing I knew, I was dragged into a bar upstairs where he had spotted Sik-K and his crew go. Despite a security guard trying to tell my friend that only people who had paid for a Meet and Greet could be in there, (which I hadn't because I think it's effing weird to pay to hang with a person) my friend insisted that I had come from Ireland specifically for the gig (not exactly true but what can you do?). After saying this loudly a few times, a member of the crew went over to tell Sik-K and, next thing I know, my friend is shoving me towards him for a hug and a picture like a pushy stage mom. Once we had the picture taken, I thanked everyone and tried to get my pal to leave as the security guard eyed us with increasing agitation. Afterwards, all I could do was laugh and call my dad to tell him someone had pulled one of his classic moves. Though I was kind of embarrassed at the time, it's a good story and memory and I'm pretty grateful to my crazy, lovely friend.

The next day I was on my own and spent it sweating and panicking about using public transport solo and then hanging in the Prado Museum. Where I made a show of myself by full-on actually bawling because I got so emotional. Like with the Reina Sofia, I really need to go back for multiple visits but the place was incredible. The emotional mess began in front of Dürer's self-portrait. You know the one. The one where he's all tumbling golden locks. He was one of the artists I first loved and I've only ever seen his prints IRL in the Chester Beatty Museum in Dublin. To see this was different. The next room on, I accidentally stumbled upon some Botticellis. They aren't particularly famous examples of his ouevre but he was also an early and large fave, an influential one. And I suddenly started to cry. People passing by looked at me, startled, probably assuming someone had just broken up with me in the museum or something. I pulled myself together and walked into the next room and spotted Rogier Van Der Weyden's "Descent from the Cross" and the scale and vibrancy of the colours in person set me off again. Sadly, this was one of the museum's big-hitters and had a crowd in front of it...Jesus, I'm an embarrassing human.

The rest of the visit was less intense as there were fewer works thereafter that had such a deep personal resonance for me. I left the museum, grabbed lunch in the  Prado Cafe and delved into the Metro and my many line changes to get to the airport. Having arrived extraordinarily early, I wandered around at a leisurely pace, ending my trip the way I had intended the whole thing to go. But, I guess, if I didn't have someone less calm than me lighting a fire underneath me, I wouldn't have had the amazing experience of the city that I did.

And that's what my 48 hours in Madrid looked like x








































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