MEMORIES FROM NEW YORK CITY


I fucking love New York.

I’m aware that that’s not the most loquacious way of expressing my feelings but I feel like it best describes exactly how I feel. Plus the fact that I’m currently sat in the airport with our flight being 10hrs delayed, a flight attendant so rude that it’s making my blood boil at a temperature of 379248 degrees and I’ve just realised that I’ve lost my memory card full of New york content… so I kinda just need to drop an F bomb anyway. Just to get it off my chest, let out a little rage alongside the love, ya know?

So yeah, I really fucking love New York. I’ve spent the past week there with one of my favourite humans Hayley and my god the thought of leaving and going back to “real life” is just filling me with the most amount of dread and stress and anxiety and just shit vibes.

You see, new york is my happy place. When I’m there, nothing really matters and everything is OK and not an issue and no problem can’t be solved. I’m aware that I’m going to sound like a giant bellend (what an image) but Jay Z and Alicia really weren’t joking when they said the streets will make you feel brand new and big lights will inspire you. 

BRB whilst I vom into a bucket of “never let me say that again”…

But it really does make you feel like you can do anything. It’s the place that I go to when I’m happy and it’s the place that I go to when I need to run away from life. So here’s a little diary* from the last week/thoughts on NYC/thoughts on friendship/thoughts on life.

*Diary, in this case, means a complete word vomit of thoughts so you know, just bear that in mind.

This was my 8th time in New York and I think out of every trip I’ve done, I probably worked the most and the hardest this time around. Hayley and I are just very similar when it comes to work ethic and getting content and our love of New York and sharing it with you guys… and it’s amazing because I know that we are both as dedicated to getting that shot as the other, but it also meant we never really switched off until the last day (where I accidentally bought some Gucci Loafers, I currently can’t talk about it because we’re still at the point of feeling sick at spending so much money on flats). So we laughed until we cried and we spoke life stories and had deep meaningful convos that I’ll never ever forget and we had the best time but we also worked our arses off and I have to say, I’m really f**king proud of us. We did an amazing collab with Primark and our content was some of my favourite that I’ve created in forever. We shot so many photos that I could post NYC blog posts everyday for a month (but let’s be honest I just about manage to find time to blog once a week these days so that won’t happen) and we just sort of went above and beyond to do the best we could. And we were talking about work and travels and campaigns we have coming up and I kinda just had this moment where I thought (probably slightly self-indulgently which will subsequently make me want to punch myself in the face), hard work really does pay off. We are in New York, we are working with our favourite brands, we are fronting campaigns… and it’s all because we’ve given everything for years to make this work. After said moment I forced* Hayley into getting another bottle of prosecco to go alongside our takeaway pizza in our room and toasted to us. To blogging. To Team Internet. And to being in N-Y-Fucking-C off of the back of it all.

*When I say forced, what I actually mean is she suggested it, I said absolutely yes and no more convincing was needed. My kinda girl.

So now I’ve taken a moment for myself - heavily induced by being hormonal x100 - here were some of my favourite parts of our trip;


Being upgraded on the way out. HI LEG ROOM, HI SLEEP, HI FEELING LIKE A MUCH ROUGHER AND LESS SASSY VERSION OF BEYONCE.

Turning the corner and seeing that Manhattan skyline for the first time.

Discovering Two Boots Pizza in Brooklyn which did the most incredible gluten free Pesto pizza, and taking it away to eat in our hotel with a bottle of prosecco and just chilling for our first night. What dreams are made of.

Shake bloody Shake. I didn’t know that Shake Shack did gluten free buns and pretty bloody amazing ones at that and let me just tell you lads, demolishing the Smoke Shack in Madison Square with a grape soda putting the world to rights was a pretty special moment.

Exploring Brooklyn. This was the first time I’d ever stayed outside of Manhattan and I absolutely loved it. We stayed at the Williamsburg hotel which is all the interior goals you could possibly imagine and I really really loved finding cute independent coffee, clothing, interior etc. shops whilst also pretending I was Dan Humphrey’s girlfriend just waiting for him to come and pick me up. No you’re cool.

Heading to a party shop to buy balloons for a shoot and accidentally ending up in an extremely rough af area of Brooklyn. It was probably one of our most silly moments but the thought of us extremely English looking tourists wandering around with 18 helium balloons in the hood still makes me laugh until I cry.

Spending time around Union square which made me reminisce so much about my trip last October where I spent 3 weeks living in NYC and just having the best time imaginable. I stayed in an Air BnB not far and it’s always felt a little bit like home from home.

A strange one, but getting to grips with the Subway and seeing all sorts of characters on it. From buskers to the most insane dance groups, there's always something to see and smile at.

Visiting the Top of the rock for the 305835 time. No matter how many times I see it, that view never ever fails to blow me away. This time I got my tickets through Attraction Tickets direct which is perfect for booking tickets in advance so you don't end up queuing on the day or struggling to book while you're out there.

Really taking in Brooklyn bridge and the view of Manhattan and Brooklyn. We shot there for well over an hour which was complete and utter chaos with the thousands of people constantly getting in the way but at the end, I kinda just took a moment to take the view in and see it with my eyes and not my camera and just appreciate where I actually was. My favourite place on earth.

Nailing the cliches. Pietro Nolita, Cha cha, Egg shop, Sezane, Mott Street.. looking at you huns.

Finding a new found love for Pizza and prosecco in bed. No amount of lovely meals out quite compares to being a total slob in your pjs with a face mask demolishing every crumb of pizza in sight.

Just spending every second with Hayley laughing until I was ugly crying (shout out to anyone that looks like a goddess when they're laughing, teach me your ways.)

And I think I’m gonna wrap this up here because to be honest, I’m about to board a plane for 7hrs and I’m lucked out in Premium again and I’m hoping to just sleep for the rest of eternity. Thank you always for all of the love on my New York content - especially the Instagram’s… you always give so many good vibes - I think anyone that has followed me for a while knows how much I’m obsessed with New York (somewhere between my love for Harry Potter and my love for pizza) so I hope you didn’t mind this little diary/favourite moments type of post rather than a really helpful guide because in all honesty, sometimes i just want to be able to look back and remember some of my happiest moments rather than constantly focusing on trying to get the best, most helpful, searchable, high blog traffic worthy content. Sometimes I just want to have a little brain splurge and that’s exactly what this is.

Sending lots of love to anyone who’s stuck around to this point, from a totally broken, jet lagged Elle that will probably read this back and re-confirm that I’m a complete and utter mess in life.

xx

WHY THE KALIYOGA RETREAT CHANGED MY LIFE

Anyone that knows me will know that I am 95385935x more likely to go for extra fries than exercise. I don't exercise - my arteries and cellulite will attest to that - and I don't really eat healthily (blueberries on top of pancakes totally count as 1 of my 5 a day, right?) and I am a self confessed psychopath Stressy Sally so embarking on a retreat consisting of a lot of yoga, a lot of mediation, nothing but extremely healthy food, no alcohol and caffeine - NO YOU ALMOST HAD A HEART ATTACK AT THE THOUGHT OF NO COFFEE! - and lots of time to chill and "be at one with myself" was basically not something that I was ever going to say yes to was it?

Until, well, it just was.

You see, I started February going through a bit of a rough patch/quarter life crisis and to be honest, whilst yes it made me feel all of the goddamn feels that I did not want to feel, it also made me reassess everything. It made me make decisions I didn't really want to make, it made me put myself first, it made me push myself out of my comfort zone. It made me take control of my life rather than forever choosing Option c (which fyi, is avoiding the issue and dilly dallying your way through life).

It made me just say yes. Yes to things that were scary and yes to things that I might not even like or enjoy, but it made me say yes.

So fast forward a few weeks and there I was, on a plane alongside 8 other absolutely babe'in bloggers - Hayley, Megs, Jess, Anna, Jess, Scarlett, Jamie and Andrea - heading off to the nothing short of f**king incredible Kaliyoga retreat in Spain, Orgiva

And the rest is history*.

*I when I say history, I actually mean a life changing 4 days.


Kaliyoga is set in the heart of Orgiva, Spain which is around an hour and a half's drive from Malaga airport. There are so many reasons why the retreat is one of the most magical places I've stayed but the location and backdrop is most definitely up there in my top 3. Surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountains, beautiful blossom (they obvs knew I was coming #doitforthegram) the retreat is genuinely drop dead gorgeous. Like, give Ryan Gosling a run for his money, gorgeous.

Founded by Rosie and Jonji Miles, two of the most inspirational people and wonderful souls I have ever met, the 4 day retreat we embarked on consisted of the following;

  • Daily Vinyasa Yoga and meditation classes
  • A hike in the breathtakingly beautiful mountains
  • Macrobiotic Ayurvedic Food (the vast majority being gluten, wheat, sugar, dairy and alcohol free - I have coeliac disease and there was only 1 or 2 things I couldn't have on the whole trip)
  • A raw chocolate/fermentation workshop
  • One holistic therapy (You can choose from Reflexology, Thai or a deep tissue massage).
Honestly, without sounding like a tree hugging hippie - not that there's anything wrong with that because my god you are all so cool - but the trip really was life changing and I feel like because everything was so incredible, I need to break it down into a list of my top 5 reasons why I loved it and why I honestly couldn't recommend booking in immediately, enough.

1. Daily Yoga and Meditation Classes - True story, a few years ago I tried hypnotherapy for severe insomnia and the hypnotist - who was world renowned fyi said I was one of the hardest people to "put under" because I have such an active mind. LOL. (You know that lol is the kinda laugh where you laugh because if you don't you'll just cry).

Anyway, I struggle deeply to switch off. In massages I'm thinking about what I fancy for lunch or that email that I forgot to send. In quiet moments I'm concocting hilarious messages to send to Ally. You get the gist. So when I knew I'd be partaking in 1.5/2hr yoga and meditation sessions, I was genuinely worried. Worried that I wouldn't switch off and then Jesus christ 2hours is a long time to be overthinking your entire existence. Worried that everyone else would be connecting while I'm like lol but tonight's episode of Grey's Anatomy is where Derek and Meredith write the frickin post it note.

I didn't need to worry. Our instructor Lelly, was absolutely incredible. She is the first instructor that I felt like I've ever really connected with, like she wasn't judging me and like she was just here to help. We were all doing it together, with no one better than anyone else (I mean, I put myself at the back because this wasn't actually the case but I didn't feel like my moves were sacrilege to Downward dogs even though they definitely were). All I can say is that every time, those hours just flew by, every session I could feel myself challenging myself further and genuinely wanting to get better. Our morning yoga left me feeling so ready for the day and our evening yoga made me almost want to skip dinner and go straight to chill and sleep... it really was just incredible.

And. AND. I did meditation and was so relaxed that I fell asleep at some points. UP YOURS OVERACTIVE MIND, I WON!



2. The Retreat itself - We all know that a picture speaks a thousand words but in some cases no photos and no words can quite do justice to something so beautiful and this is the case with the Kaliyoga retreat. One of the most peaceful, zen, truly stunning landscapes I've ever set eyes on, my favourite thing was just taking a few minutes to wander off by myself and stare at it. A bit like builders when a blonde walks past but without the creepiness.

3. The Food - During the trip we had the absolute pleasure of spending lots of time with Nutritionist and Superfood expert Becs who not only had the clearest most insanely amazing skin I've ever seen, but she also gave us an incredibly insightful nutrition workshop which I actually enjoyed so much (I know, enjoys something foodie that doesn't involve pizza or burgers, who the hell knew?). The food on the trip was probably one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises for me. We went Alcohol/Sugar/Meat free and I hand on heart absolutely loved everything we ate. The chefs at Kaliyoga are not only the most creative beings alive but so much thought goes into each dish that there's honestly so much flavour that you struggle to believe it's so healthy. I came away from the trip A) not missing meat at all which for the girl who's middle name might as well be Nandos, was a massive shock. B) Desperate to recreate everything we ate and C) full of energy and finally feeling light and clean and not like a sluggish potato (forever the sexiest human on earth).

FYI - Kaliyoga have their own cookbook and if there is one book/thing you buy this month, make it this. I promise you won't regret it.


4. The Therapies - I spoke more about the Sound therapy we had with Kim in my Youtube video but in short, this part of the trip was 100% the most eye opening for me. It's quite difficult to put into words how I felt during the session but if you imagine that every person in the room was crying at one point (in a positive way), you felt like Kim reached right into your soul and knew everything about you just with a single look, and then in one sentence she managed to sum up entirely how I'd been feeling for the last few weeks/potentially over many years. 

She was absolutely wonderful. The therapy was life changing. And honestly? I'd go back just for this alone.

I also had the most amazing reflexology session with the wonderful Anna and I'm going to be completely honest.. I was last to put my name down so I missed out on the deep tissue massage and was a bit gutted that I had because omg massage me always. But, Anna was a total genius and reflexology is now something that I am the biggest advocate for and have also incorporated into my life. I fell asleep at one point (this has never happened in a massage) and felt completely refreshed afterwards. 

BRB whilst I work out how to smuggle Kim and Anna back to the UK with me.


5. Discovering myself away from the internet - I think when you live your life on/for the internet, sometimes your actual life and your internet life blend into one a bit too much. I for one, am the world's worst at finding a work/life balance and it's something that's really affected my physical and mental health in the past year or so. Taking myself away to the retreat - which would usually be more of a digital detox but obviously us bloggers were getting content so we could tell you all about it - and having much more of a digital detox than usual really made me reassess the way I've been living and the way I feel about myself. I'm a perfectionist and ever since taking this blog full time, I've never had a day off and never taken time out to appreciate everything I've achieved - still haven't got the McDonalds black card yet but I'm working on it - I learnt that whilst it's fine to consistently be the class clown and the joker of the group, it's important to not hide behind it, to take that mask and guard down at times and let yourself be vulnerable because actually, I would rather take a risk and wear my heart on my sleeve and risk getting hurt than never truly opening myself up to feel all of the amazing things I could be feeling.

I learnt that my life going forward will prioritise me, my family, my travels, my best friends... people that truly deserve my time and love. I work to live now and not live to work and this has honestly changed the game for me.

So thank you Kaliyoga for not only giving me the most amount LOL's I've had in ages - pretty sure couples yoga with my main gal Hayley will be burned in everyone's brain forever - for not only making me realise that I do enjoy healthy food and I don't need coffee all day long but also that I am actually OK at yoga and when I put my mind to it, I can meditate and switch off. Thank you for giving me an experience that will stick with me forever, I already can't wait to return.

And PS sorry for completely butchering Downward Dogs more than they've ever been butchered before. God loves a trier though right?


I'd love to know if you guys have ever been to a Yoga retreat before? Have you heard of Kaliyoga, is it something you'd consider booking? And if you do, I'm coming with you in your suitcase yeah?

xx


Costs: £995 (Sharing a twin Mulberry room/for single occupancy teepee glamping), £1,250 (Room with shared bathroom), £1,300 (Single occupancy En-suite room).

ULTIMATE CHILL TIME AT THE MERCURE BRANDS HATCH

Most of you reading this will know that what you see on Instagram is about 0.23923% of a blogger’s actual life. You’ll know that whilst it’s absolutely not a lie in any way, shape or form… social media is a way of showing off your highlight reel, probs whilst sat in pyjamas with baked bean stains all down them, greasy hair (no you’re sexy) and no makeup on. And that’s cool, it’s what our job is and it’s fun and it’s art and that’s just how it works.

One thing that my social media would say about me is that I chill out a lot when, if I'm being totally realistic, I genuinely can’t remember the last time I felt completely, totally chilled out without any stresses, my to-do list longer than Kanye’s list of positives about himself constantly crossing my mind and generally feeling like my brain has an outrageous amount of tabs open. So a few weeks ago mid snow storm - the awkward moment the beast from the east takes your nickname - I took myself off to Brands Hatch with MumNextDoor to stay overnight at the Mercure, escape London for a bit, eat all the food and do all the chill.
Firstly, for any racing driving fans that might want to go to see some racing at Brand’s hatch, you won’t find a better location than this. It literally looks over the track so, you know, if you fancied keeping warm you could just watch it from your room (yes I’m aware that that is sacrilege, apologies). So yeah, we arrived, dived on the bed - because if you don’t turn into a 5 year old and face plant the freshly made bed are you even in a hotel? - made a cuppa and chilled for a while before dinner.

Now, I’m gonna be completely honest with you. Mercure hotels are known for being comfortable and practical and a place that does the job. So when it came to the food, I kinda just expected it to be standard hotel restaurant food. Lol BRB whilst I eat humble pie and day dream about my pulled pork burger because sweet baby f**king jesus it was incredible. Not just good hotel food, but really, really good food. And not the kinda of good food that comes in teeny tiny portion sizes… hearty, tasty af, dreamy food. I went for the tomato soup (it was called something more snazzy than this but I obviously can't remember and my god, if it was socially acceptable to propose to a bowl of soup then I’d be down on one knee because it was so good! Add the double - yes I did size up because I wasn’t joking when I said I am the beast from the east - pulled pork burger which was just so god damn good and we had ourselves one pretty bloody great meal.
Then I went back to my room, got my heels and my Victoria’s secret add 30 cup sizes bra on and went out on the razz*.

Lol, JK, went back to the room, made a cuppa and fell asleep watching The Voice.

*Razz. One day my inner 90 year old will stop insisting on making an appearance in posts.

If anyone has been around this corner of the internet for a while, you’ll know that alongside generally making a tit of myself, my other forte is nailing a breakfast buffet. So obvs that’s what I did the next morning. Every Mercure that I’ve stayed in have always had amazing staff but the guys at Brand’s Hatch really did go above and beyond. I was made aware of everything that was gluten free and offered gluten free toast - obviously said yes because, me - and it’s just a really nice atmosphere to sit and chill ant 9384394 rounds of breakfast.
Super frickin annoyingly because of the snow I had to rush off before getting totally snowed in so I had to miss my massage but I did manage to have a quick swim and check out the facilities before leaving. I’ve actually had a massage at a different Mercure before with the babe’in Decleor products and it was one of the most relaxing I’ve ever had, and I even managed to switch off and not think about my schedule for the next few days/lunch/any random thought.

I left Brand's hatch feeling something I hadn't felt in a really long time... refreshed. The staff were incredible, the food was great, the room was just everything that you really need to be... it was just a good time and place to get away and chill and close at least a few of those tabs open in my brain which honestly looks like a child's paint splattered painting.

I'd love to know what you lot get up to when you need a bit of a break? Where's your favourite place to run off to and chill? And finally, if you have any tips for decluttering a jam packed brain then send em a sister's way and I'll do my best to actually implement them rather than just looking at them, knowing they're a good idea ;)

xx

This post was sponsored by Mercure.

TWO PRODUCTS THAT IMPROVE MY DAILY CONFIDENCE

If any of you lot follow me on Instagram, you'll know that my weekends are mostly dedicated to pancakes, pretty baths, pamper sessions, Netflix, more carbs than are socially acceptable and the occasional shopping trip. Basically what I'm saying is, I like to leave my bed less on a weekend than Kanye likes to be in a room full of people who don't want to talk about him. But last weekend I got on my gladrags - lol at consistently saying phrases that make me sound 120 years old - and headed down to the Glamour Beauty Festival with my faves, Philips (who were the main sponsor for the festival FYI), to check out what's new, chat to some beauty experts about how to get the best out of some of my products, mingle with fellow beauty lovers and basically just have a really bloody lovely saturday.

I also spent most of my time fangirling over the Philips Lumea - which you guys already know I adore - and the new Sonicare DiamondClean smart to anyone that would listen.

Because I'm super cool. Obviously... 
So after wading through the queues and finally getting into the festival, I headed straight through to the Philips section - not at all because they were offering a free prosecco for anyone sharing content tagging Philips ;) - because I wanted to check out the new launches and chat to the incredible experts on hand there. After swooning - yes I said swoon, you don't need to judge me because I'm judging myself - over the beautiful pink Lumea Prestige I hunted down the gorgeous Chico Shigeta to talk all things facial massage (she's an expert and also the cutest lady alive) and the Philips VisaPure (which I am BUZZING to try) as well as the lovely Megan, celeb dentist and teeth whitening expert to basically be like, how can I drink 350539853 cups of coffee per day and still have white teeth?

Finishing the day off with a flower wall selfie (obvs) and another glass of prosecco (would've been rude not to right?) and then I went home to have the biggest pamper of all time with all my new pieces.

So shall we have a little in depth look of said game changing products then? Yeah? Perfect, let's do it...
So as I mentioned, the Philips Lumea Prestige has been a product that I've used and loved for a long time now. In short, it's an at-home IPL (Intense Pulse light) which is designed to provide a tailored hair removal solution for all parts of the body meaning us ladies (and guys) can experience the feeling of continuously hair free skin (I.E THE BLOODY DREAM) for up to 8 weeks. It's been clinically proven to remove hair growth up to a whopping 92% when used every 2 weeks within an 8 week period and works by applying gentle pulses of light and heat to the hair root/follicle which gradually reduces the amount of hair that your body grows.

There are so many reasons why I bloody love this piece of genius (alongside 1.5million other women, now there's a stat for you), not only because it helps me not be such a humongous Hairy Mary (no you're sexy) but also because it's just so easy to use which means it really easily fits into your day to day life, and it has a SmartSkin sensor which basically works by assessing your skin tone and determining which setting will work best for you. Once you've got your setting, you're ready to go. The back of the product also has a white light too to let you know when it's ready to treat so you really can't go wrong.

Let's be honest, if I can figure it out, anyone can.

As I said back in May, within 2/3 sessions I already noticed that a lot of my hair hadn't grown back at all and after using it for another 8 sessions nearly all of my hair was totally non existent. Nearly a year on, I still love it just as much as I did nearly a year ago (where has the time flown?). For numerous reasons, travel, lol being so single and therefore slightly lazy with looking after myself... there were points where I couldn't use it so much and did notice some regrowth but as soon as I got back on to it, it has worked like a total dream every time. 

It's funny isn't it, there's a bit of a stigma around hair and yet for me, being hair free is one of the few things that instantly makes me feel 10x more confident and ready for the day/night/whatever I'm up to. So yeah, in case you couldn't tell, I'm still more than just a little bit obsessed with this ;)
Ok, so I am pretty excited to sink my teeth into telling you about this next product.

It's a toothbrush. Sink your teeth. Get it? Get it?

Lol, won't be giving up my day job any time soon...

But yeah, after trialling the new Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart toothbrush I can officially say that I am obsessed with a toothbrush (if that's wrong, then you know I don't even want to be right). Described as a complete healthy mouth system bringing you the latest in Philips Sonicare innovation and a new range of high performance brush heads, this, honestly gal and guy pals, is the Ryan Gosling of toothbrushes.

So, now might be a good time to take a seat because I've got a fact for ya. The Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart removes up to 10x more plaque than a normal toothbrush, with up to 100% better stain removal within 3 days, and up to 7x better gum health in just two weeks.

I know. I know. 

The Smart sensor technology in the brush provides personalised coaching and guidance and just helps you feel like you're actually making the most of the brush by focusing on the areas that really need it and therefore giving you confidence in your smile (nothing is more attractive to me than a beautiful smile). I have to say, every single time I use it, I genuinely feel more and more confident in how my teeth look and feel. Apart from not being a total hairy mary, the other one thing that gives me a boost is having a bright smile because let's face it, your teeth/mouth is pretty much the first thing people see when they speak to you, so I honestly cannot even tell you what a difference this has made.

Now bring on all those Bumble dates.

Lol, just kidding.

*insert upside down emoji here*

But it really is incredible. It actually makes me look forward to brushing my teeth which yes probably means I need to get out more but it's just the truth. 

And I think that's probably my cue to wrap this up. In case you couldn't tell, I absolutely adore both products and credit them hugely for giving me more confidence in my appearance and how I feel in myself so I can't wait to hear your thoughts if you've tried them/try them.

What's the one thing that always gives you a confidence boost? How are you prepping for the summer months? As always, I love hearing your thoughts!

xx


This post was sponsored by Philips
© the Elle next door

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