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18 Sep 2017

How To Travel in Style and Comfort Wherever You Go // Ritz Carlton, Budapest

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Ritz Carlton Budapest

The weekend after my birthday, we jetted off to Budapest for a 3 day break. After having just recently visited Prague for the first time before, I was looking forward to seeing how this Hungarian city compared (having often heard people speak about the two as though they were quite similar). 
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RITZ CARLTON BUDAPEST
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We entered our room to the sight of white rose petals scattered everywhere (these images were taken the next day as we originally arrived at night and it was too dark to take photos) and a tray of gorgeous chocolates laid out at the foot of the bed. "...Do they think it's our honeymoon again?" I asked Jarv (it's happened to us before in the Maldives 😂). Then I remembered my birthday had just passed; he had obviously mentioned it to the hotel beforehand. He's too good to me!

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Ritz Carlton Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Ritz Carlton Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Ritz Carlton Budapest

No, I didn't gobble them all up (the giftbox was far too large...I ended up leaving most of it).

Before I continue, let's quickly delve into the title of this post: how to always travel in style and comfort wherever you go. I've had a number of people comment asking how I always seem to be 'put together' when I travel and how they always wind up in leggings and a hoodie. Truthfully, it doesn't take much effort in my opinion to travel in style - just a few key ingredients.

Obviously, staying at the Ritz is a privilege and if anything embodies 'travelling in style', surely the Ritz does. However, there's one way to ensure that no matter where you stay and however you're getting there, you're travelling in both style and comfort. I've said it many times before and I'll say it again: the two don't have to be mutually exclusive.

Unsurprisingly, it's about you and what you choose to wear/carry. A loose-fitting dress for example is both comfortable and stylish (simply add a belt for nipped in shape and remove the belt when you're settled in your plane/train/car seat). Or casual trousers that taper in at the ankle, paired with a simple fitted t-shirt and loafers or espadrilles (depending on where you're going). 

Being stylish doesn't have to mean wearing a full face of makeup, either - keep your skin thoroughly moisturised, keep the eye makeup and foundation to a minimum and if you really don't like your eyes without makeup, a pair of sunglasses is a timeless trick that adds instant glam whilst hiding any unforgiving shadows/bags.

Most importantly - consider your luggage and travel accessories. Whether this means a stylish backpack, four wheeler or holdall like this classic Moshi Vacanza weekend bag, having gorgeous yet practical luggage is essential to my own travel style.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Ritz Carlton Budapest, Moshi Vacanza bag
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Ritz Carlton Budapest, Moshi vacanza bag
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Ritz Carlton Budapest, Moshi Vacanza bag

Right, back to the Ritz: the room was beautiful. So were the public spaces, especially the breakfast room. The only minor issue during our stay was at breakfast, with the scrambled eggs. I'm not sure if it was something different perhaps in their milk or the powder they use but they smelled very unappealing. Jarv and I both couldn't eat them and when we mentioned it in passing to a waiter to ask him to maybe check with the kitchen if that was normal or not, he just nodded without seeming to understand. 

Still, there was plenty of buffet food to sate our hunger and the rest of the staff were excellent throughout our stay (as was the rest of the food). I loved that they had options such as chia pudding with fresh fruit on the breakfast menu - it can be difficult to eat healthily and still feel full when dining out, but this isn't an issue at the Ritz.

The location of the hotel is also fantastic - we walked literally everywhere, never once hopping into an Uber or on any public transport to get around. All the restaurants, bars, attractions and neighbourhoods we visited were within a 15 - 30 minute walk away, and the weather in July was perfectly comfortable.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Ritz Carlton Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Ritz Carlton Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Ritz Carlton Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Ritz Carlton Budapest

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EXPLORING BUDAPEST
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I have to say, this was the first city trip I'd taken in quite a while where I felt completely and utterly relaxed. Often, we're taking long flights to far-flung destinations with packed itineraries in short amounts of time. Here, we didn't really bother researching too much ahead of time, opting instead to simply show up, walk around and use Foursquare or Google Maps to offer up suggestions on where to dine, grab coffee and visit.

It worked out wonderfully.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Boutiq'Bar Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Four Seasons Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Tokio Restaurant Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Costes Downtown Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Costes Downtown Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Costes Downtown Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Costes Downtown Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Costes Downtown Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Costes Downtown Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Costes Downtown Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Costes Downtown Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Costes Downtown Budapest

To Jarv's delight, our Budapest visit coincided with the 2017 Red Bull Air Race (a happy accident we weren't even aware of until our arrival), so a good portion of one afternoon was spent amongst the crowds gathered by the banks of the Danube, watching the jets speed by, performing impressive loops and patterns in the sky.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Red Bull Air Show Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Red Bull Air Show Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Red Bull Air Show Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Moshi Mythro Air in Budapest
In this photo: Moshi mythro air. My new favourite headphones for listening to music on the go without the hassle of long, tangled wires.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Red Bull Air Show Budapest
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Moshi Ionbank 3K, Budapest
In this photo: Moshi Ionbank 3K - a necessity for when you're out all day and need to keep your phone charged.


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BUDAPEST RECOMMENDATIONS:
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EAT


An utter treat, Costes Downtown is one of only a handful of restaurants in Budapest with a Michelin star. Months after visiting we still fondly refer to this as one of the most fun restaurant meals we'd had in a while - the food was fantastic, as were the cocktails and wines, and the atmosphere was buzzing yet simultaneously relaxing. We opted for the 6 course menu (Jarv's with a wine pairing, mine without) and were treated over the next couple of hours to a myriad of flavours that delighted our tastebuds - grilled quail with sorrel and red currant, pan fried John Dory with endives and grapefruit, honey glazed duck with radish and black sesame... oh, and a divine dessert called "Chocolate", with a description of "chocolate, chocolate, chocolate". Need I say more?


Rezkakas Bistro was our first dinner in Budapest - we opted to try something a little more traditional and sample some local dishes. We had - and recommend - the foie gras with sponge cake (a generous portion of foie), duck leg with carrot strudel and whole roasted pork tenderloin Bakony style with dumplings. Expect live music, too.

We stopped at Zona for a quick bite on our last afternoon, looking for somewhere convenient and casual. It's in the Michelin Guide and the food was indeed delicious - I had a fantastic cold cherry soup for a starter and a pork belly main for an absolute steal.


DRINK
Dark, moody and speakeasy style with extremely reasonably priced cocktails that taste good. Boutiq'Bar is small and intimate, great for an after dinner drink.


We swung by Espresso Embassy multiple times during our trip. Excellent coffee and the interiors are pretty cool, too, with beautiful vaulted, brick ceilings.



A lovely courtyard hideaway, Fekete serves all the usual forms of caffeine you'd expect from a modern coffee shop, including the unusual and interesting 'cascara', a slightly fizzy (in this instance, though not always) coffee cherry tea made from the dried skins of berries of the coffee plant. A drink that's about to become a real trend in coffee, perhaps? I enjoyed it.



Sit outside and enjoy people-watching or sit indoors and watch the expert barmen at work. I enjoyed one of the best aviations I've ever had at the Four Seasons, made with a decent amount of creme de Violette.

More great coffee at My Little Melbourne - they serve a decent bottled cold brew.



There was something uniquely charming about Budapest - I loved walking around both sides of the river, different as they were. There are so many great places to discover, from hole in the wall bars to Michelin starred cuisine to trendy coffee shops, I instantly felt comfortable there. It felt somewhat familiar yet also completely new... somehow like home but also an adventure.


Thanks to Moshi for the gorgeous travel accessories & bag - this post was not sponsored.

28 Aug 2017

Why it's OK to be controversial






Get the look:




Recently, I posted a photo on Instagram asking people their opinion on lip fillers and directing them to my latest blog post on my experience getting them.

Engagement on my photo shot up. Lately, Instagram has been testing us all - I've noticed the effects of the algorithm changes too. My engagement has dropped, the number of new followers I'm acquiring has dropped. It's been a little...meh. I hear it's the same for most people I talk to or whose blogs I read. 

When I posted this photo, however, the comments started flowing in. The response was clear - people were opening up. People thanked me. Thanked me?! For simply stating my opinion on something. Some identified with me, some appreciated my transparency on the topic, others disagreed but were understanding of why one might get fillers. 

Just being honest about something that might not be the easiest thing for some people to be open about can make a difference ... even if only to a single person.

I gained about 60 new followers in the next 3 or 4 hours, quite a bit more than my usual daily growth. Yes, I do think that the photo itself was good. However, looking at the number of people that felt they wanted to share their opinions and experiences in my comments on the blog and under that Instagram photo, it was clearly more than just a pretty shot that worked in my favour.

I’m not saying you should hop on social media right now and start spouting every potentially antagonistic opinion you’ve ever had on every hot topic. There’s a way to be tactful about your thoughts without causing unnecessary controversy. Yet at the same time, we simply have to remember that whatever our opinion (and whatever the topic) - no matter whether it’s something as banal as “I hate beaches” or something more polarising such as your personal thoughts on Donald Trump - it's bound to displease somebody. 

I don’t feel the urge to offer my 2 pence on every conceivable topic. Of course I have opinions on them, but I don’t tend to necessarily share those on social media. I prefer to keep my Instagram a place of positivity and share only happy moments. Yet at the same time, I don’t want to censor myself if I feel compelled to speak up about a particular topic. Some people won’t like it; with others, my words might resonate.

My words could even help someone to see things in a new perspective. They could influence somebody and encourage them to do something they hadn't imagined they would do. They could even make someone's day.

So could yours.

So, yes ... I think it's absolutely OK to be controversial. Most importantly, I try to do so in a positive way. I'll talk openly about anything I do or feel that others might consider 'taboo' (such as fillers/cosmetic procedures, being an adult woman who doesn't necessarily want children, not feeling a desire to get married, etc.) in the hopes that I might encourage someone else to open their mind, to understand that we're all entitled to our own way of life, to accept that we should be able to do as we please with our own bodies. And in the hopes that maybe one day ... these topics won't be the slightest bit contentious at all.

Which controversial topics do you wish you could talk more openly about?

Photos by Luis Calow
Editing by me

16 Aug 2017

Weekend in Prague at the Mandarin Oriental

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Prague architecture

Just before summer arrived, we and two of our friends jetted off to Prague for a long weekend of food, relaxation and exploration and a stay at the Mandarin Oriental.



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MANDARIN ORIENTAL PRAGUE
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I'll be honest, first impressions were mixed. The entrance and lobby were beautiful, but issues arose at check-in. The booking we made meant that should an upgrade be available, we were guaranteed to be upgraded to a suite. We were informed upon arrival that they were fully booked, which was fair enough. Though the girl at the desk was obviously new and eager to please, the check-in process did take a lot longer than usual as she had no backup to help her.

Once we got up to the room, she explained a little about its features and then left, accidentally still holding our free drinks voucher (not an issue luckily; it was quickly sorted back at the lobby later on).

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Mandarin Oriental, Prague
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Mandarin Oriental, Prague
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Mandarin Oriental, Prague

Deluxe Garden Room

The room was underwhelming. Now, I say this only in comparison to other luxury hotel rooms on a similar level to Mandarin Oriental, of course. I realise it can sound ridiculous to discuss the 'negative aspects' of a five star hotel that costs hundreds of pounds a night, but to give a fair review I have to take into consideration what a high-end hotel usually offers in terms of service, decor, size and general standards of luxury and ask myself - does this measure up?

Truthfully, it didn't. It was bare, the only decorative touches being a mirror on either side of the bed and two random framed photos - one of a young couple on a balcony in a candid style and the other of soldiers. Other walls were blank, the room looked a little outdated and there were next to no 'accessories' such as books, vases, etc. to make it feel either cosier, more luxurious or more modern. However, I did love that they provided a lavender 'sleep spray', and the hardware wasn't bad!

There were no toothbrushes, no iron, but strangest of all...no coffee or tea making facilities. The toothbrushes and the iron aren't that odd, though I would usually expect to see them, but to fail to provide something as basic as a kettle, a Nespresso machine, some teabags and some coffee pods seems... stingy. It can't be a cultural thing, as teas and coffees are offered at breakfast (and besides, it's an international hotel chain), so I can't quite put my finger on why these basic items wouldn't be included in a deluxe room (or any room at the MO).

Spices lounge


We headed down to the bar to meet up with our friends, who had arrived on a separate flight, and have a drink. Drinks were great, as was the cumin popcorn served alongside as a nibble. In fact, for the duration of our stay, the service at the Spices lounge and bar was consistently excellent. Staff were always polite, professional and speedy, and food and drink were always good.

Concierge

Later in the evening, we asked the concierge to help us book a specific restaurant. Not possible, he told us. We ended up giving him four options to try to help us book but unfortunately, he wasn't able to assist at all, not only seeming to having zero pull with any restaurants in town but also not bothering to offer up alternative suggestions, instead leaving us to our own devices.

After about 45 minutes of back and forth calling from our room to the concierge desk, I managed to find a suitable restaurant, which he was able to book. Or so he told us - we arrived at the restaurant only to find that they had no record of our booking. Luckily for us, they had had a cancellation and an available table for four, but this oversight could easily have ruined part of the evening. There is more than one member of concierge staff at the MO so the others may well be amazing, but this was a truly poor show in service.

Breakfast at Spices restaurant

Breakfast, on the other hand, was fantastic! The hotel restaurant Spices is the setting for breakfast every day and the decor here was far more beautiful than our room - oriental touches such as gorgeous bunches of cherry blossom flowers, ornamental vases and dark wood floors contrasting with emerald green chairs are paired together to create a really beautiful, peaceful atmosphere.

The food and service were both excellent, and presentation was impressive, too.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Mandarin Oriental, Prague
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Mandarin Oriental, Prague
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Mandarin Oriental, Prague

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EXPLORING PRAGUE
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Prague is a stunning city - gothic architecture sits beside pastel pretty Renaissance buildings and the cobbled city is very 'walk-friendly' - we spent the entire first day on foot.

However. However! It's worth noting that it was extremely busy. At one point, my friend Bena and I became separated from Jarv and our friend Ollie as we crossed Charles bridge to get to the Old Town. Crossing that bridge should have taken no more than 5 - 7 minutes - because of the amount of people lingering, straggling and stopping (understandable as there are some lovely views over the river), it took us 20 minutes. Now in case you don't know, Charles Bridge is a tourist attraction, so if you dislike crowds and being stuck in them (like me), I would avoid crossing it. 

For the rest of our trip we decided to avoid Charles Bridge wherever possible. When Bena and I finally saw the other end, we then spent a further 20 minutes standing atop the side of the bridge, scanning the crowds and patiently waiting for "those unbelievably slow pokes"...only to find that they'd strolled right off to get themselves coffee, assuming we'd just gone off our own way. Thanks, boys! 😄

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Prague architecture
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Prague architecture
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Prague

The Old Town is particularly full of people (I assume mostly tourists, like us), and getting around does take longer what with all the people roaming the streets. The MO is located in Mala Strana, on the West bank of the river Vltava, in one of the city's most historic areas. This side is beautiful to walk around and was notably quieter than the Old Town (which could be good or bad, depending on what you're after).

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Prague
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Prague
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Prague
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Prague

At this point, I should note that Jarv had sent our above notes to the luxury concierge booker that had helped us get a great rate/deal on our stay at the Mandarin. That guy was ON it! He immediately contacted the hotel, and the operations manager himself sought us out when we were in the lobby, heading out for the day. Erhan, the manager, asked us to please relay to him any and all complaints so that he could rectify them. He was particularly appalled to hear about the concierge issue and kindly offered all four of us the upgrades we would have gotten on day 1, had there been availability then. He sincerely apologised for any negative impressions the hotel had made on us and kindly also offered for the four of us to enjoy lunch at Spices on our final afternoon.

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MANDARIN ORIENTAL DELUXE SUITE
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After an afternoon out of the hotel, we arrived back eager to collect our new room keys. We'd been upgraded to a beautiful Deluxe Suite, whereas our even luckier friends had nabbed one of the signature suites - the Moser Crystal Suite!

I will say, despite the hiccups on the first two days, Erhan really went above and beyond to ensure that the rest of our stay went as smoothly as possible.

Service from here on out was a huge improvement from our first day, though it begs the question - shouldn't they have been this accommodating and proactive from the start? Whether you're in a standard room or a suite, whether you paid the full rate or a discounted one, that shouldn't change how you are treated as a guest of a luxury hotel. None of it comes cheap! One shouldn't have to make complaints in order to see basic things like a Nespresso machine or at least a kettle in their room, or an honoured dinner reservation. 

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Mandarin Oriental, Prague
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Mandarin Oriental, Prague
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Mandarin Oriental, Prague
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Mandarin Oriental, Prague
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Mandarin Oriental, Prague
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Mandarin Oriental, Prague
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Mandarin Oriental, Prague
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Mandarin Oriental, Prague
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Mandarin Oriental, Prague

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PRAGUE RECOMMENDATIONS
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EAT

The food is excellent, service is classy yet relaxed and the decor is strikingly elegant. The flavours are modern Indian meets Czech - recommended dishes are the quail breast, the traditional kulajda soup, the foie and South Bohemian duck.




COFFEE

Great coffee in a casual, chilled out space right in the heart of Old Town, where all the action is.


DRINK

We actually went here for dinner and whilst the steaks were very good, there were a few issues with our orders. The drinks, on the other hand, are expertly made and are proper, so maybe skip dinner and just come here for a pre or post-meal cocktail or two.