Showing posts with label bangarangadventures. Show all posts

Why it’s O.K. to not want to visit again

Ruins in Cyprus

As you may have heard, I didn't exactly fall in love with Cyprus when I went on a Villa Holiday with the girls. Now, I'm not saying I hated every second of it because that would be far from the truth. It's just not my favourite.

Unlike some of the girls, I have never been to Cyprus, Greece or Turkey so I really had no idea what to expect from that side of the world. I only really know what I've seen in History books and movies. Plus, none of us bothered to do any proper research before we arrived. After several years of wanting to visit, I was really excited so it was a shame to be so underwhelmed.

Boats in a harbour in Cyprus

There aren’t many places I have visited where I felt no desire to go back. With Cyprus, it felt like I was doing something wrong because I have heard so many people rave about it. Sure, we were there off-season and we didn’t really know where to go and explore, but at the same time, it was all a bit ‘meh’. I had a great time at some points, but I don’t miss it at all.

So far this year, I’ve been to two countries that I definitely want to see more of so it’s almost like Cyprus is the let down of the bunch.

Now, don't get me wrong, there are many reasons that could be why I didn't enjoy it as much as I imagined. I'm not blaming the country at all.

Temple Ruins in Cyprus

As we were there on a blogger trip (NOT being ungrateful here, at all), half of one of our days was spent with activities of the resort. A resort I could NEVER afford in my wildest dreams. It was very much forced fun with golf and tennis, which we made fun, but definitely not something I look for in a holiday. It made the day feel a bit forced. Like we had to have fun. We had to enjoy resort life, even though I'm the kind of person who's more than happy to go camping in a field.

View from Aphrodite Hills Resort in Cyprus

Because we went in the off season so the weather was unpredictable. Sure it was a lot warmer than back in London but we seemed to go on one of the only weekends in the whole year where there wasn't blazing sun. It wasn't exactly bubbling or bustling with people either. At times, I felt like we were the only ones on the resort! I'm sure this would have been entirely different at the height of summer but I'm not sure that would have made me feel any better. The British Expat area we passed with its Red Lion pubs made me feel uncomfortable. Like some of the magic that could have been in Cyprus had been sucked away and replaced with a mini British replica to stop people from feeling homesick.

Most importantly, I didn't feel inspired by Cyprus. It was all very beige. The blue seas were a beautiful contrast but from where we were (and the weather) we couldn't really appreciate them. We only really popped to the sea to visit Aphrodite's Rock on our way to the airport on our last day.

The beach and sea at Aphrodite's Rock in Cyprus

The whole point of this isn't to slag of Cyprus, not at all. In fact, I have had conversations with so many people recommending areas to visit that may be more my style of travelling, or simply to go at a different time of year. My main reasoning is how it's OK if I'm not too fussed about going back. As much as I look forward to seeing all the new places and seeing as much of the world as I can, there are a couple of places I will always go back to. Cyprus doesn't feel like one of them though and I don't feel like I should be bothered about it.

I have had a couple of people say 'oh, you should really give it another go', but I really don't want to and that's OK. You shouldn't force a relationship if you're not happy, just like you shouldn't just keep going back to the same place in the small hope you might end up liking it eventually. I wouldn't want to waste money on something I'm not going to enjoy either. Although I know it doesn't matter how much you spend on a holiday, you always don't want to just throw money away (essentially).

Give me new adventures and new places to fall in love with instead.

Standing in the ruins of the Tombs of the Kings in Cyprus

Why going on holiday with your friends is the best thing you'll ever do

2017 has clearly been the year of adventures and exploring. Sure, I haven't been away as much as some people I know but it has definitely been a lot. For me anyway.

I still have my trip to Scotland with Gary to look forward to which is nice and we're going to *hopefully* spend a couple of days away over my birthday. This year has mostly been about me and the girls.

With three little trips away with my friends under my belt, from weekends in Bucharest and Cornwall to a day trip to Whitstable, just me and Leanne. I have decided that hollibobs with your friends is just amazing.

Beaches in Cornwall

I love going away with Gary but there is something different about going away with your friends, even more so when you're all bloggers!

When you travel with your friends, it's an entirely different vibe. There are a bunch of you who want to do different things meaning more adventures to be had and itineraries to be planned. Or you can just wander around being perfectly happy in each others company. Whatever suits you!

I've mentioned before that my girls are like a little family to me and it brings me so much joy that even though we're all so very different, we're also like minded, this is what makes travelling with them makes them even more awesome.

visit bucharest

Through travelling with friends, you'll get to so more of one place, whether it's because someone wants to eat at a particular place or someone else wants to see a particular old thing. You make sure there's enough time to do at least one thing everyone wants to do.

There are also the giggles. The 'in' jokes that will just appear. Like, did you know R Kelly was the greatest artist if the 90s?

You'll also find out more about each other, how someone may not be a morning person (me) or how someone has never tried Cornish Ice cream (Jasmin)

weekend in cornwall

As a little blogger-only one, you'll also be sure to get the very best content. Because we all love photography so much, what should be a 20 minute walk can easily turn into an hour. You want to spot the tiniest details of everything, find the perfect door to have an outfit taken and have at least one person spot the opportunity for the perfect candid. Just another way we support each other completely.

A lot of people worry about going on holiday with friends. I mean, you'll be spending more time in close proximity with each other. What if someone falls out? What if that giggle you thought was cute actually becomes irritating AF? Well, none of these things have applied to me. I was so happy to explore with my best girls and most definitely will again.

You take a whole new experience away with you and new memories that you'll look back on forever.

Pocket friends

Like possibly everyone on the planet, I'm part of a Whatsapp group that doesn't shut up. I woke up this morning to 60 messages and that was only in the space of an hour or so, Srsly. 

To my boyfriend (who ignores his Whatsapp), it's a strange thing having multiple conversations all happening all at once in the same thread. To me it has become the new normal. One of the girls shared this the other day and now it all makes sense.

I am a pocket friend and I have several of them.

About a year or so a go, maybe longer... I don't even know anymore, I made a bunch of fellow blogger friends. We found a mutual love for the film 'Hook' and thus Bangarang was born. At the time there was a handful of us but we have now become an unrelenting force. 11 girls who are happy to be weird together. A group of friends who have accepted me and made me feel like I belong.

We chat everyday but are still yet to all be in the same room together at the same time. We came close once.

Charlie Distracted is on the phone screen...)
Having these girls around is kind of like a security blanket. I had the worse year of my life last year but they were always there. Individually and as a group.

We're each other's cheerleaders, someone to turn to when things just don't feel right when you can't explain to yourself what it is, people to cry to, people to laugh with. More often than not, they're always on another side of a screen but they are always there. Doesn't matter what time it is, someone will more than likely be awake for you.

When you're an adult with a career (how this happened, I will never know) sometimes you genuinely don't have time to SEE people but this way you are never alone. It feels like you see each other every day, because you talk everyday. Pocket friends can provide moments of sanity in a chaotic day and insanity when you're bored as fuck.

Making friends on the internet seems like a very weird concept when you think of it but it's the best decision I have ever made. I have made some of my best memories with these girls and I am most certainly living my best life with them. It makes me happy to think that I'm constantly carrying them around in my pocket and they make me smile every day.

Thank you Bangarang, the best of pocket friends.


A video posted by Ashleigh-Jayne O'Connell (@smashleighjayne) on

So no one told you life was gonna be this way...

*clap, clap, clap, clap*

Yup, you're going to have that in your head for the rest of the day now and I'm not even sorry.

YES! I know I went to Friends Fest AAAAAGES ago but generally being and adult and stuff has meant I have HAD NO TIME.

For the majority of twenty-somethings out there, Friends was and always will be a major part of our lives. Quotes from the series have become key parts of our vocabulary and as we 'grow up', we find ourselves relating more and more to the characters and their story arcs.

When Friends Fest first came along, we tried desperately to get tickets and failed. This time, Charlie, Distracted being the best ticket person ever managed o nab some up and e were all pretty darn excited.

The journey to East London was a bit of a pain (North London, Baby!) but it was absolutely worth it.

We were booked to view MONICA'S APARTMENT at 6:45 but first there were obviously photo opportunities to be had (where I hit poor Katy in the face with an umbrella) and Boomerangs... that took three attempts.

Just look at Pablo, he's so Bangarang.

Monica's apartmrnt was amazing, they had gone to stupid levels of detail including sticking Rachel's 'Trifle' recipe to the fridge and putting copies of The Shining  and Little Women in the freezer.

The staff weren't that great though. We were pretty much rushed out the second we stepped over the threshold. #Rude.

Following on from Monica's apartment we went through to the Chick and Duck bar which included iconic items from Joey and Chandler's apartment including Rosita, the Canoe and the entertainment unit locked up with a hockey stick. Poor Joey.

The cocktails in the bar were expensive for the small amount of booze you got but had hilarious names, and you got bonus points if you asked for them with passion. I went for the Smelly Cat but was debating the PIVOT! We later worked out that is was better value for money to buy two bottles of Prosecco and split it. We're geniuses.

I have no idea what I am doing with my legs...

My favourite bit was possibly Central Perk and 'marrying' Charlie after 14 years of friendship. All in all, it was just a FABULOUS evening but the company made it 1000 x better.


We Are Lumos: Charity Gala and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child London

In 1997 one woman captured the hearts of a generation and more to come. The story of a little orphan boy, his adventures and friends taught us that it's OK to be different and that there will always be a light, no matter how dark and bleak the world may seem. Now, 19 years later, J.K Rowling is putting that into practise.

Lumos is not only the spell that brings light, it's also J.K Rowling's charity working towards making the world a better place for over 8 million children (that we know of) in institutions.

Lumos Charity

I'm going to be honest here, I had heard of Lumos (obvs) but I had no idea what they really did nor the immense scale of their work. While at their charity gala as new ambassadors for Lumos, we had the opportunity to meet some of the celeb ambassadors and listen to talks from Georgette Mulheir and Bill Di Mechele who both chair the charity.

Normally when people think of orphanages (or institutions), many people will have the image of a loving environment and happy children running all over the joint. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Lumos charity

The harsh reality of the children in institutions is that 80% of them have at lease one living parent but have been placed into the system because of poverty, disability. discrimination and the need for health care that their parents may not be able to provide. Many children could then be subject to trafficking and abuse. Not only will they suffer physically and emotionally but also intellectually as their education could be considered as a sideline or they are lacking support to succeed.

Lumos Charity Gala

On the even darker side of things, shocking figures show that 1 in 7 children raised in institutions will resort to prostitution later in life and 1 in 10 will be driven to suicide, One. In. Ten. It's enough to send a chill down your spine and the look of sheer shock I saw on Jason Isaac's face (who is also new to the campaign), really said it all.

During the talks, Warwick Davis and Evanna Lynch told us more about the work they have been doing with Lumos, most recently in Moldova, what they have seen and how they are working with Lumos to get these children out of the institutions. It made me desperately want to help more.

While we were there, we had the opportunity to actually meet Evanna Lynch ( LUNA BLOODY LOVEGOOD) who is hands down one of the nicest people I have ever met. She came right over to our table and started chatting away and we all ended up huddled around her phone watching videos of Chris Martin singing a song about wanting to be in Gryffindor.

Gryffindor for the win.

Lumos Charity Gala
From left to right: 1. Mugglenet 2. Alex, 3. Katy 4. EVANNA LYNCH, 5. Katie, 6. ME 7. Charlie

Warwick Davis is in pretty much everything and sums up my childhood in movies so just being in the same room as him and working towards the same cause filled me with joy. Jason Isaacs... well, I have no words.

*cue silly giggles*

So very dashing, in a nutshell.

Following all the talks, photos and general nattering, we all filed over to the Palace Theatre for a special Gala performance of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. There, the experience was opened by the one and only J,K Rowling giving is a speech about Lumos and their goal and their work.

J.K Rowling is just inspiring. Did you know she covers all costs of the charity out of her own pocket? I did not. Did you know that this then means that all proceeds go directly to the charity and their work to help those 8 million children (that we know of) one by one? I did not. The way she spoke so passionately about Lumos' goal to get those children out of institutions and into loving families really struck a chord. I've been privileged enough to grow up in a very loving family and this has made me want to do more. Already there have been discussions with the Bangarang Girls about what we can do. All. The. Ideas.

If you also want to help the work of Lumos, you can buy one of these AMAZING t shirts right here.

They're absolutely fabulous and I will continue to wear mine with pride. They're only available until October so you'll have to be quick and, remember, all proceeds go directly to Lumos and not into someone else's pocket.

Lumos Charity Gala
Don't we all look fabulous in these tops. You should buy one.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child London

When it comes to the play itself, I will obviously #KeepTheSecrets. I'm going to be seeing it again VERY SOON and will be sharing a completely spoiler free  review. In the meantime, for those of you who have read the script and had some sad #opinions, remember that it is not the finished project, There are so many elements that cannot be portrayed on paper. It's just the dialogue and stage directions so it's far from the full experience on stage. In short, it's an absolute delight. I laughed, I cried, I screamed. Charlie, Distracted, who has already seen it, thoroughly enjoyed watching my reactions!

Really, you just need to see it for it to completely make sense.

I am beyond thrilled that I have been given the opportunity to work with Lumos as an ambassador for their work. This was honestly one of the best days of my life and, despite how long this blog post has become, I really don't have enough words.

Earlier on, I described J.K Rowling as inspirational but, looking back on it, I don't think that word is big enough. She created a world that made mine, and so many other people's lives, better through a work of fiction and now she's using her influence as literary queen and icon to make this a reality for those who so desperately need it. Be the Light with Lumos and J.K Rowling and remember that children need families, not orphanages.

* Disclaimer: This post is on behalf of Lumos and to raise awareness of their latest campaign. I was not paid for this opportunity, just really bloody happy! 

I love the 90s: Little Nan's Rio Bar

Little Nan's Bar Dalston

I don't really DO East London, if that makes sense. I lived on Old Street while I was at University so I think I just eventually fell out of love with East London. The 90s, however, are something I will NEVER fall out of love with. I was brought up on Britpop and have loved bands like Pulp and Blur for as long as I remember. I'm adamant that some of the best music and best films came out of the 90s and I refuse to admit that songs from my childhood now class as 'old school'. Just no.

Little Nan's Rio Bar in Dalston, pretty much combines a bunch of my favourite things - from childhood nostalgia to ugly teapots. The whole thing was decorated as though it could have been your Nan's living room but some kind of rebel had also taken over. It was amazing. Mismatched furniture with doilies on the tables yet surrounded by posters of Pulp Fiction and Fight Club (hellooooo Brad Pitt topless) with toy dinosaurs in random places.

Little Nan's Bar Dalston

Obviously, this is the kind of place that would send us #Bangarang girls into all a frenzy. Seeing as we were the first people there, we automatically ran around everywhere taking pictures of everything before we got down to the business of the day... Alcohol, Obviously.

Little Nan's Bar Dalston

I love a good cocktail and I'm one of those people who loves it when they're served in teapots and tea cups. I have a collection of teapots at home so should probably start making some myself!

We left Erica in charge of ordering the booze and we ended up with three tea pots one with gin, one with vodka and one with rum. All of my favourite things. We were so excited that we hadn't even noticed a cocktail tea pot had already been left on our table as a welcome. Erica was very happy that there was a little card on it saying 'Lady Erica' so she completely over looked the extra pot of booze.

Little Nan's Bar Dalston
I only chose this cup because it reminded me of Beauty and the Beast
After choosing our mugs/tea cups for drinking purposes we sat down and enjoyed some Uncle Jon from Jamaica, Queen Kitsch Bitch and another one I can't remember. My favourite was Queen Kistch Bitch and wish there was more of it. Once we were happily settled in and on our way to merry, we sat back and did what we all do best; gossip. We can talk for hours on end, and didn't even realise how long it had been until we were offered more drinks but had barely made a dent in  the ones we already had!!

When it came time to head home, the first thing we did was obviously abuse the photobooth room. Complete with props AND WIN MACHINE. Half of the videos I put on my snapchat don't make any sense now but I'm sure they were perfectly valid in the evening. Here's a snapshot:

Little Nan's Bar Dalston
Little Nan's Bar Dalston
Emma Inks
All in all, a wonderful evening was had. If you get a chance to go down and indulge in the 90s nostalgia of Little Nan's, do it and do it soon. It's going to be there until August. You pay £39 for a block of time with unlimited cocktails (plus pick 'n' mix AND popcorn) or you can pay as you go. There were talks of reserving a table again some time in the future so I'm excited about the prospect of going back!

Goosebumps Alive - Backstage Tour

Goosebumps Alive London

Remember that time I went to see Ghost Stories and I was terrified? How about that time I went to see The Woman in Black, cried and had to go and buy some shoes to feel better? Well, guess who thought it would be a good idea to go and see Goosebumps Alive... That would be me.

Last week, Milly from Mini-Adventures, invited me to go along as her +1 to see the show and go on a  backstage tour organised by Yelp London. I had been wanting to see it for so long because CHILDHOOD so I obviously said yes. Obviously forgetting that the Goosebumps books made me sleep with the lights on, even as a teenager.

No, just no. Glad I missed this room!
As the day went on, I realised what I had committed to and the nerves were kicking in. I pre-warned Milly about how much of a wuss I am and how it was pretty much guaranteed to scream and cry. She said she understood but then realised later in the night how I was really not exaggerating...

I do have one slight problem when I go to things like these, aside for being a complete and utter wimp, there's that whole Epilepsy thing I have. Fun times.

When we arrived I said 'One question, I have epilepsy...' (People started laughing immediately because it 'wasn't a question' despite the fact they hadn't even let me finish the bloody question out of sheer rudeness...), the dude on the front desk let me know which rooms would be safe and which ones I should avoid. Later on in the show, one of the crew members came up to me to take me into a separate show/room so I avoided the most risky of them all. Very kind. Very considerate. Hats off to you.

Image stolen from  Mini-Adventures

The show consists of disorientating corridors leading you to short performances of some of the original Goosebumps stories, set in a modern era, versions of 'Say Cheese and Die' with the new iPhone instead of a camera and 'Don't go into the Basement' showing the story of a young couple in love moving in for the first time.

I repeat. These books gave me nightmares as a kid. The first show we saw was 'Say Cheese and Die'. I was the only one in the room who screamed at the loud noises...

One of the rooms are also immersive where you're encouraged to participate. Normally this would be fun if it weren't for an evil clown man with Salad Fingers fingers who controls bloody Slappy the Dummy, the WORST of all Goosebumps baddies...

Goosebumps Alive London Review
Set for 'Don't go into the basement'
There are two rooms in particular that will stick in my mind for life. Actual life.

There's the Lift and the Grand Finale. 

Milly had already warned me about the lift. I don't like lifts. Especially when there are scary things happening. Even though I knew what was coming, I still ended up on the floor by Milly's feet, holding her hand and crying. She still loves the fact that one of the cast members broke character to check I was OK. I was a god damn mess.

Also stolen from Milly but I did ask first!

But the last room was worse, There were clowns. I don't like clowns. They're evil and wrong and just need to be stopped. I managed to get myself into a safe spot to the side of the room (not the back or front, that's just bloody stupid, Are you asking to be killed by a murderous clown??) but, oh my, was I not safe. The bastarding clowns appeared out of nowhere and I tried to run. At one point Milly was hugging me where 'her boobs were keeping me safe'

Seriously, they should have paid me to be there because I brought so much entertainment.

Despite the fact I was terrified and crying and having all of the emotions... I loved it. 

The entire show runs on a military stylie scheduled with not only the actors being perfectly on cue for multiple performances in a day but also the special effects. When we went on our mini backstage tour, I was still jumping at things I knew were coming even though the show was over.

It's a shame the show is over now as I want to go again. Lord knows why, but I do. If it ever goes on tour/comes back, I urge you to see it.

* Disclaimer: I attended this event for free as Milly's +1. All hilarious tales of me being a pathetic mess and crying at everything are true. I'm not going to deny it. 

Brazilian Wine and Food with Cabana

*Warning* - This post contains a lot of pictures of delicious food. Only proceed if you think you can handle it.

Cabana have been oh so very kind to us recently. In Islington, they treated us to a wine tasting and in Brixton  they had us all stuff our faces on the new menu. I was so full when I got home at the end of both events, I barely had to the energy to just put on my onesie and get into bed. SO FULL... and a tad merry.

After each event there were some key takeaways:

2. These cheesy dough ball things are a revelation
4. #Balls 

To be honest. They were two evenings of revelation.

As much as I like to pretend, I know sweet bugger all about wine, except that I don't like chardonnay and red is clearly the best. I didn't know Brazilian was really a thing (New World, yo) but apparently, it's pretty damn good. We had the opportunity to taste red, white and sparkling (ooh, fancy and delicious) as well as guided through what you would expect from a wine tasting. Except for the spitting in a bucket part you see on the TV... such a waste of wine.

Cabana Islington

We also discovered that cheese with honey is possibly one of the best combinations known to man. I thought so anyway.

My favourite wine (although I think I can safely say 'OUR favourite') was the Miolo Family Pinot Noir. I'm a red wine girl anyway but the fact that a red wine Being Erica likes exists is clearly a VERY impressive feat.

At Cabana Brixton, we were greeted with smiles Caipirinhas (normally £6.95 each) and chips and dip. Seriously, give me booze as soon as I arrive and you have a very happy blogger. As we were sipping away, we had the privilege to meet the owner. As we nattered away about our experience in the Islington branch, he had a bottle of the Miolo brought to our table. Such a nice chap!

Cabana Brixton review

As our starters arrived, Katy and I were too busy taking outfit photos and left the poor girls waiting. Knowing blogger pain, they didn't touch a thing and waited for us to come back and take all the pictures before they had a bite. Such good girls!

To start, we had a combination of their street menu dishes; Halloumi with Guava dip (£5.45), Crispy Lula Squid (£5.95) and some cheesy baked dough balls (£3.45). We also had chicken dough balls too hence the #Balls thing...

I swear I could eat those cheesy dough balls until I explode.

Cabana Brixton review

Our mains on both evenings were pretty much plates of meat. Cabana serve Meat Skewers or your choice, it means the meat is cooked so well it just falls apart in all its barbecue goodness. We had a selection of their skewers but you can choose what you want. I can say with authority here that they will all be delicious.

The desserts. THE DESSERTS. Most importantly, Nutella doughnut ball things of heaven. I don't think I really need to explain much more other than desserts = divine.

I can't really write any more about Cabana, it's so far away from lunchtime and it's making me hungry.