Why You Should Add 'Milford Sound Overnight Cruise' To Your Bucket List

26 April 2019


















Milford Sound - there's a reason why they call it "the eighth wonder of the world". One of the most beautiful places on earth (that was carved by glaciers in the ice age, no less) and set in the heart of the stunning Fiordland National Park, the sights will leave you truly awestruck. It's an unmissable destination if you're visiting New Zealand's South Island.

The best way to see Milford Sound is by ship or helicopter, and the majority of people do a daytime cruise. Of course it depends on time and budget, but I'd strongly urge you to go for the overnight cruise option for the following reasons.

The difference in price between the daytime and overnight cruise for us was (sic). We would've booked a hotel nearby (these aren't easy to come by and are therefore pretty pricey) and had meals out anyway, so a night's accommodation plus dinner and breakfast was essentially subtracted from the cost. Milford Sound is remote so you need to book transport or drive, and the overnight option means that your journey isn't rushed. 

Convinced? Good! On with the review...

Coach connections are available, however we took ourselves (it really pays to have a lovely uncle who lives in Christchurch who'll lend you his truck!) and I can't stress how gorgeous the drive through Fiordland National Park is. If you've seen the Peter Jackson version of King Kong, it kind of looks like you're driving through Skull Island but more glacial. Yep, apparently my niché descriptions translate from my beauty posts to my travel ones!

We booked our overnight cruise costing (sic) each via Real Journeys on the Milford Mariner. What struck us immediately was how relaxed and laidback everything was whilst still remaining really professional. It was only us and six other people waiting to board the ship and the friendly crew welcomed us with huge plates of sandwiches (to my boyfriend Will's delight) and a safety talk.

In the afternoon you explore the waters and shoreline, either via kayak or tender. Will is an adventure seeker through and through so he chose to kayak, whereas I opted for the easy 'pop on a life jacket and get driven around in a boat' option. It reminded me of an open-top bus tour - think tour guide (who's also a nature expert - ours was called Forrest and he was a legend!) at the back, steering us through the still, pure waters and telling us everything there is to know.




Dinner is a three-course affair and it was delicious. Sometimes with mass-catering meals you end up with sorry-looking salads and dry, crusty lasagne but not aboard the Mariner - everything was wonderfully fresh and flavoursome, and they have a fair 'first served for dinner, last served for dessert' system that also stops the buffet from getting swamped.

An impressive platter of cheese and biscuits was brought out following dinner and our specialist nature guide, Forrest, gave a really interesting slideshow presentation and answered any questions. A young couple handed me their adorable two-year-old, so I spent this time singing Baby Shark and not paying much attention - sorry, Forrest!

Will and I were expecting a right knees-up, to be honest - being in our early twenties we were up for a night of drinks and laughter and games with some newfound friends. Well, friends we did make, but we must've been the only people onboard under sixty and as soon as the nature presentation was over, literally everyone went to bed, including the crew.

This turned out to be really fun and romantic as we were the only ones awake, and the evening that ensued can only be described as 'pretending we're Jack and Rose in Titanic'. We bundled ourselves up, took a bottle of red wine up to the top deck and, when our eyes adjusted to the inky black sky and all we could see was mountains and stars, spent a couple of hours feeling as though we were the only two people in the world.

Sleeping arrangements are either a private cabin or a quad-share bunk. We were in the latter as those were the only two spots left on the ship for the date we wanted. It was significantly cheaper and really comfortable and cosy - it's always going to be slightly awkward when sharing a room with strangers, franted, but it was totally fine!




Morning is when things get really beautiful. We woke at 6am and had a lovely breakfast, then we grabbed a coffee and headed outside. Like the night before, it was a case of everyone else staying inside and giving us the gift of having the entire boat to ourselves, and the views were unparalleled. Mountains towered over us in every direction as we sailed through the mist, and it was definitely the most atmospheric coffee of my life!

Things got even better with the arrival of five wild bottlenose dolphins, and it was so beautiful that I burst into tears of joy as they swam alongside the ship and cruised the bow wave. Our nature guide explained that you have a 1 in 7 chance of seeing dolphins in Milford Sound, and the wildlife didn't end there: we passed a family of seals playing in the water and snoozing on the rocks of Seal Point, and we were also lucky enough to see two albatross and a guillemot. We didn't see any penguins or whales, but these can be found in Milford Peak - how special is that?!

We spent a few hours cruising the waters and marvelling at the awe-inspiring sights - we headed out to the Tasman Sea and were taken so close to the stunning, world-famous plummeting waterfalls (e.g. Stirling and Bowen Falls) that you could feel the spray.

A once-in-a-lifetime experience, an overnight cruise at Milford Sound is probably my #1 New Zealand recommendation. Of course the day trips are amazing also, especially as the journey into Milford Sound is as impressive as they come, but there was something really special about spending the night in the depths of a remote fiord and it's something I'll never forget.

Photos by Will Burchill Photography

Your Morning Routine Is Missing This £8 Body Product

23 April 2019



Sanctuary Spa Wet Skin Moisture Miracle

Described as
"the ultimate moisturiser when you're short on time"

Meg says...
Sanctuary Spa has been a brand that's inhabited my bathroom since childhood (shoutout to all the various school teachers of mine over the years who received a Sanctuary Spa gift-set with a Boots gift sticker on it for Christmas, holla) and something about the name of this product really intrigues me. Is it the word 'miracle'... probably, yes.

Packaging
Actually really pretty! I've got a feeling that Sanctuary Spa's packaging may have had a revamp at some stage. The cream with the copper rose-gold is gorgeous (a definite 'on the edge of the bath rather than in the cupboard' product) and you get a decent 200ml inside.

Texture/consistency
Like yoghurt, but a thin one... think your Actimel drink rather than your thick Liberté. Honestly, my comparisons in these blog post reviews really do know no bounds. It's got a lovely light consistency - not too watery so that it runs everywhere, but liquid enough to be able to apply it in (to quote Rowan Atkinson in Love Actually) the flashiest of flashes.

Application
This is the highlight! Never in my life have I tried a body product that's as quick and as effective as this. Sanctuary Spa recommend that you apply this whilst you're still in the shower (after you've turned the water off, you put it all over then step out and pat yourself dry without rinsing it off) but I do it slightly differently - such a rebel, I know. I hop out of the shower, dab my skin with a towel then whack the Wet Skin Moisture Miracle all over. This application, from top to toe, takes approximately thirty seconds. Honestly, I'd be surprised if it was longer than that - it IS a miracle!

The miraculousness of this product continues, as it soaks in in an instant (wow, how many 'ins' are there in this sentence) and you can get dressed immediately, making it the ultimate morning product for anyone who's low on time or energy or the motivation to stand in the bathroom applying thick body butter for ten minutes.

Scent/fragrance
Ooh, that Sanctuary Spa Classic scent! If you're British and into your beauty products then I'm gonna guess that you know exactly what I mean, but if you don't however, it's an exotic blend of jasmine, vanilla, sandalwood, patchouli and bergamot and it's gorgeous. I've also just discovered that they do two other scents also (I can't even tell you how much this new knowledge has excited me, it's impressive that I haven't left my desk to run to the closest shop in search of them) which are Green Lemon & Orange Blossom and White Lily & Damask Rose. Edit: you can tell by the photo that I've ended up acquiring the latter, as after I finished writing this blog post, shop run was imminent - I can confirm that it's gorgeous!

Results
A beautifully soft skin with minimal effort. Your skin's optimum hydration moment is when it's wet, so it makes perfect sense to cover it in something easily absorbable and nourishing at this time and it really is as simple as running your hands over your body post-shower!

Price
£8

The bottom line
I'm obsessed. I love how nice my skin feels post-application and throughout the day, as the hydration really does last for hours and hours, and as it's ridiculously quick it feels like there's no excuse not to use it on a daily basis. Sanctuary Spa is always on 3 for 2 at Boots (or a similar offer, like buy one get another half price) in case, y'know, you needed another reason to try the Wet Skin Miracle Moisture after this absolutely glowing review!

Photos by Megan Duffield Photography

The Complexion Product That'll Get You ALL The 'What's On Your Skin?!' Compliments

5 March 2019






Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter

Described as
"a customisable complexion booster [to] illuminate skin and make lines and pores appear smoother"

Meg says...
I'm late to the party with this one, aren't I? In all honestly, I think it's because I've been confused about what it actually is and what it actually does. Is it a primer, a highlighter, a concealer, a bird, a plane? Let's figure it out together, shall we...

Packaging
As you expect when you buy anything from The Tilbs (and rightly so, as it's a luxury brand that isn't cheap in the slightest) the packaging feels satisfyingly heavy and looks extremely pretty. It's not the most travel-friendly product which is a shame, but the weighty glass and rose-gold lid are kind of worth it!

Texture/consistency
This is a lightweight, creamy liquid. I wish I could expand further on that but in all honesty, I'm sat at my desk right now with the back of my hand smothered in the stuff and all I'm coming up with is: 1. it's very light 2. ooh, it's creamy! 3. not actually a cream though, more of a liquid... so, there we go.

Application
There are a multitude of ways you can apply this: under makeup as a primer, mixed with your foundation for extra glow, dotted over the high points of your face as a highlighter or simply all over your face by itself. It's extremely, wonderfully versatile!

My personal favourite way to use this is both as a primer and a highlighter. Using the huge doe-foot applicator, I sweep a generous amount over my cheeks, forehead, nose and chin. Next, I place a few dabs of foundation over the Flawless Filter and use my Look Good Feel Better Multi-Tasking Brush to blend everything. I go for another dip and dot the product in a C-shape around my temple onto the tops of my cheekbones, on the bridge of my nose and on my cupid's bow then bounce in with the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge.

Scent/fragrance
I can't quite put my finger on its faint scent but whatever it is, it's clean, non-offensive and disappears once you've blended everything in.

Shade/colour
This comes in seven shades from fair to dark. The product doesn't actually leave much colour behind once it's blended in, but obviously you want to get the right one for your skin tone and the Charlotte Tilbury website is really useful for helping you decide this. I use 'Light 2' and it's an absolutely spot-on match for my MAC NC20 colouring!

Results
The perfect 'I'm positively glowing with health and my skin really does look this good naturally' lit from within glow. It practically airbrushes your complexion: pores seem to disappear, dullness is immediately brightened and the word 'flawless' isn't an exaggeration. It blends seamlessly with foundation and really does give this Hollywood-esque red carpet look to your skin, especially when you double up on the old primer/highlighter combination. I feel like it gives a decent amount of coverage also which I wasn't expecting, as I definitely use less foundation and concealer and would happily wear this by itself on good skin days (or 'no makeup' days, wink wink).

I can't imagine any skin type this wouldn't work on either, as you can simply alter the way you apply it. If you're dry then whack it all over like I do, and if you're oily then stick to a few teeny dabs along the tops of your cheekbones for glow (not shine) instead.

Price
£30

The bottom line
I'm absolutely obsessed with it. The first time I used it, I genuinely couldn't stop staring at my skin in the mirror as I'd never seen it look more glowing or perfected before. How did I sleep on this product for so long?! If you haven't tried it, you really must - it's reasonably priced for the difference it makes and you'll be pleasantly surprised by how many "which foundation do you use?" or "your skin is looking great!" comments you'll get. Pinky promise!

Photos by Megan Duffield Photography

The Best Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner You'll Eat In Pai, Thailand

26 February 2019



I'll always remember Pai as being the place where I spent my first Christmas and New Year's outside the UK, the place where my boyfriend Will joined the circus (quite literally) and the place where I enjoyed some of the most delicious food I've ever eaten.

As you've clicked on this post I'm gonna guess that you're a fellow foodie who's heading to Pai (I'm actually here whilst I'm writing this and I'm still jealous of you!) and it's a pleasure to introduce you to these spots. As someone who eats 95% plant-based these are mainly vegetarian and vegan recommendations, however Will eats meat and fish and he loved the following restaurants just as much as I did. Read, visit, eat and enjoy!

Breakfast

Om Garden Café
You could have twenty people in your party and each of them would find something to suit their appetite at Om Garden! They offer 'main meals' such as chickpea curry or pesto penne (both of which I've had and loved), lunch options like soups, salads and sandwiches and an all-day breakfast menu with plenty of avocado toast, savoury crepes and porridges. I'm a big fan of their tempura cauliflower burger (ask for the wasabi mayo on the side, it may make your eyes water!) and really like the green 'tropical garden' decor. They also do a proper cup of tea - we're talking actual Yorkshire Tea teabags, people. I hadn't had a cuppa in about three months and it was a slice of home (and heaven, as if you know me you'll know how much I love my cups of tea!)

Big's Little Café
A popular spot with Brits, probably for the sole fact that they serve hash brows and baked beans! When they say 'little' they aren't kidding, this is a tiny hut where you pull up a stool to the bar and watch the cooks at work. This is your best bet if you're after a classic fry-up - get the big hash brown with all the trimmings and thank me later! They also serve jacket potatoes, baguettes, burgers and more brunch-like options such as Spanish omelettes.

Fat Cat
Organic home-cooked food for a reasonable price, and cats! Their cats are extremely adorable and very friendly - even if the food wasn't great I'd go here to get my cute kitty-fix. They do great herbal teas and coffees (with lots of non-dairy milk options) for about £1, and we always go for the 'on toast' option of scrambled egg or avocado with seeds which is roughly £2.20. Their sandwiches are generously filled and come with salad and chips, and they have a fridge full of vegan desserts like raw cheesecakes.

Lunch

Na's Kitchen
Probably our most-visited restaurant in Pai, you must come here for a traditional Thai curry! They do all of the classics (green, red, panang, massaman etc) with rice included, so you can get a really decent and delicious feed for around £1.50. Check the back of the menu for their "one dish" options, these are even cheaper and just as tasty! Their spring rolls were also the best we had in Pai - some restaurants give you three tiny ones chopped in half, but theirs is a generous portion. Na is an angel and her warm smile always brightened our day!

Pen's Kitchen
Another cheap and cheerful one that never disappoints, Pen's became our go-to lunch spot as the meals were inexpensive, filling and always full of flavour. The portion sizes are healthy and their panang is to die for - we took two new friends from Colorado here and they agreed! I fell in love with Thai curry soup (with a side of plain rice stirred in) whilst in Pai, and Pen's Thai red or green curry soups with tofu were my favourite.

Charlie & Lek
Continuing with the theme of family-run restaurants that offer amazing Thai food with tiny price tags, we headed here for quick lunches and group meals alike. I didn't like tofu before I came here, which is saying something, as theirs isn't 'mushy' and I especially enjoyed it in their red curry and their vegetarian khao soi. If you haven't tried khao soi before, it's a coconut curry noodle soup from Northern Thailand and it's divine. Other Charlie & Lek recommendations include the papaya salad and the vegetable tempura - and if you're missing red wine, they give you a generous glass (rare in Thailand!) for 100 baht.

Dinner

Le Rêve de Pai
Hands down one of the best meals I've had in my life. I'm sure that's enough to convince you to enjoy a meal here, but I have more to say so let me proceed... the menu is small and therefore extremely well executed, and from the moment we walked in and ordered two glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon we were in love. Good Italian food is extremely uncommon in Pai but this is the real deal: the bruschetta is lovely, the pumpkin soup is wonderfully warming and their cheeseboard is such a pleasure after months without 'proper' cheese. Will had the salmon pasta and I had the mushroom pasta, and I'll forgive you for thinking mine sounds plain as it was anything but! They use dehydrated stalks of shitake mushrooms and I can't even explain how meat-like the texture was - it's the closest thing I've had to steak in years. Combined with silky spaghetti, beautiful red chillies and practically whole garlic cloves, it was genuinely my perfect pasta dish and every mouthful was sheer heaven. Our bill came to around £25-£30 with red wine and G&Ts included and was the perfect 'let's treat ourselves' romantic date night spot. We'll be going back for that mushroom pasta!

Update: we did indeed go back, as we decided to treat ourselves to another meal here on our last night in Pai, but we had a horrible experience. During my meal I bit onto something hard, pulled a sizeable piece of sharp broken piece of glass out of my mouth and when we told the owner, she couldn't have made it clearer that she thought we'd made it up (presumably to get a free meal?) and I was so mortified that I genuinely could've cried! It was a painfully awkward situation, she offered no apology and we left feeling incredibly uncomfortable - so whilst the food is lovely, the rude treatment was pretty inexcusable.

Maya Burger Queen
If you're British and missing 'proper' chips then you won't be disappointed with a portion of Burger Queen's fries. Chunky-cut and fluffy, you'll find yourself ordering another portion (with their homemade garlic mayo) before you've even finished the first one. Will thought their mushroom burger tasted like pulled pork, and their vegan sweet potato and pumpkin patty with avocado is so satisfying - the perfect hangover cure!

Cafecito
If you're finding yourself craving something different then why not give Mexican a whirl? I had a pretty average burrito at One Fine Day but an outstanding one at Cafecito! They do various Mexican classics like quesadillas, tacos, tostadas and tortas with your choice of homemade chorizo, pulled chicken, avocado or mushroom carnitas and you can add toppings such as black beans, pickled jalapeños, rice or avocado. I actually almost sent my meal back as I thought they'd given me pulled pork instead of mushroom carnitas but nope, they're just genuinely that meaty and tasty! The heuvos rancheros from the all-day breakfast menu was a real treat for Will, and the tostadas were my personal favourite. Ask for the off-menu spicy margaritas if you're in fiesta-mode!

Honourable mentions go to Nong Beer which is great for groups, Earth Tone for all the vegan food and desserts you could want, Air Restaurant for the cheapest Thai lunch in Pai and of course, Walking Street.

Walking Street (officially Chai Songkhram Road) is basically a night market selling souvenirs, clothing and all the food you could possibly want! Head here for an inexpensive meal on the go - there's falafel wraps, Mexican burritos and nachos, sushi, pancakes, gyozas and much more, all made right in front of you. Our favourite was Thai Food Bar - it's a converted vehicle where you'll find the nicest guy who cooks fresh meals to order that you eat from the bar on the side of his van. I loved his veggie mushroom green curry - just don't say yes when he asks if you want it "Thai spicy", I'm really good with spice and struggled!

If you'd like to see these meals in action, check out the weekly food diary in Pai video I made. Hope you enjoy these recommendations as much as we enjoyed discovering them!
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