A Letter to My Fresher Self

unnamedAs a recent graduate things are always changing quickly. Friends are packing their bags and leaving to chase their dreams in far flung continents, getting new jobs, new friends and new flats. Today, I lose one of my closest friends to France for a year, where she is going to au pair, get a tan and probably find a ridiculously good looking Frenchman. It’s crazy to think that four years ago we were days away from meeting for the first time in an overcrowded student flat where I would also meet my boyfriend, my future flatmates, and a girl from Hungary that enjoyed stripping on celebratory occasions such as birthdays and Christmas.

This week I was also asked to write an article for Source Magazine, sharing a letter I would write to my eighteen year old self about to embark on Fresher’s Week. To coincide with the launch of my new graduate blog http://callyourgradfriend.wordpress.com/ I thought I would share the letter on TASTE today as a kind of send of to my friend Josie and to all that I’ve learnt in the last four years. Here’s to the next chapter in my life, and to the eighteen year old me, that thought she knew it all (when really she didn’t.)

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Just pause Gossip Girl for one second would you; I have something to say. I know you’re awful with confrontation (you’ll get over that mostly) but this is important. You’re about to go to uni (yay!) and not to sound too much like Mum or anything, but you’ve got a lot to learn.

You’re nervous, that’s okay. In fact it’s GREAT. You are about to be thrown completely out your comfort zone and meet tonnes of people from all over the world, from all sorts of backgrounds and they’re going to force your eyes wide open. Speak to everyone but only surround yourself with people that make you feel totally at ease: you’ll trust them wholly, the jokes will come easily and they’ll happily call you out for being an idiot. If people disappoint you or break your heart, it’s okay to walk away, but give people chances. Have an open mind; be fast to listen and slow to talk (I’m still working on that for us). See those girls in the picture up there? Four years later they’re still going to be your best friends, biggest cheerleaders and ill-advised advisers. Nine times out of ten when you think you are having a full on mental breakdown, you really just need to sit down with them for a pot of tea. Sometimes you’ll need something stronger. You’ll always need biscuits.

 Don’t fight with Mum and call her at least once a week, even if it’s for ten minutes. She wants to hear that you’re okay and looking after yourself now she’s not there. She has great taste in wine and is usually right about most things. Listen to her next time she tells you not to buy that jumper. It really is hideous.

Go to the gym and don’t eat what you want just because you can. Admitting that 50 orange Jaffacakes doesn’t cover your 5 a day will be a big learning curve for you. Surprisingly, so will the challenge of making cheese sauce. Don’t exist on toast, potato wedges and mug cakes even though they’re easy to make. By the time you graduate you’ll be making full roasts and ripping recipes out of magazines but for now, cook some stir-fries and big batches of chilli that you can freeze. When in doubt, buy eggs – scramble them, poach them and omelette them. This will be a big thing for you.

Don’t do all-nighters or drink three Red Bulls before an exam – you’ll see spots and your grade will be rubbish. Go to class even when it’s boring, even when you’re behind and ESPECIALLY when you’re confused. Speak up, ask questions and don’t be afraid to be wrong, that’s how you’ll learn. Hundreds of people will be smarter than you; they’ll know about fishing tariffs and java script but you can tell them which pizza place serves the peperoni under the cheese.

Get on Twitter (it’s going to be big) but don’t obsess about it. Ditto Facebook and Instagram. Use it for keeping in touch with friends and for procrastination, but don’t let likes dictate your life. Change your profile picture only when you look deliriously happy, not when you find one that has a weird angle that makes you look slim-ish.

Never make excuses for what you like or what you want. People are going to say that FOMO is a thing but it’s not – you’re smart enough to know when you need to catch up on sleep, save some money or work on that deadline. That said, don’t be scared to take some chances, go to parties in strange flats and join sports teams and obscure societies. Do work experience, as much as you can– you’re going to love it. And when people tell you there are no jobs left in the industry smile to yourself and think ‘That’s fine, I’m coming after your job.’ Be kind to yourself and others, experiment and take chances. And one last thing: please, please don’t get that fringe you’ve been thinking about.

Don’t forget to keep up to date with my new blog here and learn all the best job, flat and life advice for students and graduates that I’m learning along the way!

How Much Of A Summer Cliché Were You?

As the summer draws to a close and September creeps around the corner, TASTE asks, did you avoid becoming a summer stereotype?  Read below to find out which summer holiday tribe you belong to.

The Couple on the Verge

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You went to Paris to prove to the world (and all your Facebook friends) that you are both in love with a capital L. Pictures show you kissing beneath the Eiffel Tour, wearing matching mouse ears overlooking the Disneyland castle and looking edgy (and in love) outside the Louvre. The reality is that you split up on the first day, spent you trip crying into complex carbs from the local patisserie and got kicked out of Disney for having a screaming match Solange style on the teacups.

Single Girls Holiday

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Basing their annual trip on the WWMICCG motto (Where Would Made In Chelsea’s Cast Go) these twenty-something uni grads channel Millie Mackintosh-come-Moss while lounging in a Croatian villa they found on Airbnb. While they wish they could turn off their iPhones, send postcards and ‘connect’ with one another, instead the day includes hangovers by the pool sipping cheap rose, throwing shade behind a dog-eared Grazia and uploading a constant stream of perfectly executed cliff jumping shots to Twitter/Instagram/Facebook. By night they’re even heavier on the filters and the fake tan application, playing international Tinder and Never Have I Ever. Pass out before midnight on their pool lilo.

Festival Fiend

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Since going to uni you’ve managed shed all evidence of the Gilet glad and Abercrombie obsessed persona you so carefully curated at your private all-girls school. You’ve bagged a boyfriend that does ket and a friend that sells her own ‘garms’ on ASOS Marketplace and now it’s time to up the ante, don your extensive bindi collection and head to some off the wall festival with repetitive music and too many floral headbands. You pay £150 in the hopes that you’ll ‘discover’ the next Klingande. Instead you get drunk on Aperol spritz by noon, unable to leave the tepee that is playing Pharrell’s Happy for the 197th time.

The Long term Lovers

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Dream of joining friends in Berlin but end up alone together in Cornwall B&B (again). Pretend to rather have a holiday that includes egg sandwiches, surfing and Breaking Bad over late night kebabs and warehouse raves. Imagine the weekend will also involve sun, sex and some questionable surfing and connecting as a couple. Instead you pretend to have diarrhoea just so you can dart into a pub and use the wifi for 30 blissfully uninterrupted minutes.

The Yoga Bore

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Reformed wild child who can’t stop telling people how ‘centred’ they are since taking up the stretchy stuff this summer. Longs for Jennifer Anniston arms and the clarity of Hilary Clinton. When not discussing the downward dog to anyone that will listen, Yoga Bore  waxes lyrical about the damaging effects of refined sugar and how important it is to ‘eat clean’. By ‘eating clean’ they are referring to spending three hours and roughly £50 on making ‘healthy’ kale and avocado cheesecake that still contains 99% of their daily fat intake and tastes like burnt grass.

The Gap Yah

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You just finished your last year in school or uni, panicked and booked an overpriced 11 month trip to Australia/ Thailand / Bali to avoid your parents questioning and the threat of pending adult responsibility. You wear those ‘alternative’ trousers you bought last year in Zara but never had the balls to wear and organise the rest of your clothes according to day and activity, fantasizing about zip slides, hot boys and rainforest raves. Instead you spend the first month stranded and broke in rural Oz working as a sheep farmer trying to save up enough to hitchhike to the nearest city so you can email your parents for more cash. You’re not so hopefully about the next ten months.

Sex in the City: How To Date In Glasgow and Edinburgh

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They say Paris is for lovers – so can the romantically inclined please hop back over the channel and leave Edinburgh alone? It bemuses me that the city of Edinburgh has been voted one of the world’s top romantic places and eighth best city break in the world by Wanderlust travel magazine this year. That means despite the rain, the cold and the grumpy locals roughly 6 million couples visit Edinburgh every year.

Loved up tourists, you have been lied to. If we locals can’t stand half the commotion that goes on during the Fringe then we certainly can’t abide your excessive PDA in front of the castle, blocking our way to the bus stop. In general Edinburgers are reserved, rude, rich and in a rush. We become quickly frustrated with tourists over the festival months, particularly when they come in loved up pairs. We really are not interested in the Jim Carey impersonation show you saw – please don’t give us a flyer. We will not wait for you to get your picture rubbing Greyfiars Bobby’s nose because we are fairly sure that dog, and his lucky nose, is an urban myth solely told to take the piss out of gullible tourists. No talking to us on the trams. No talking about the trams. And certainly no eye contact.

No Edinburgh is not the place to be in a couple abroad– we hate you here. Nor is it the place to be single – yet somewhere along the way pop culture created a terrible, terrible myth: that, Edinburgh, like New York City, is a town of great romance.  As a result hundreds of girls every night are lured out of George St clubs by over confident rugby buggers  and into overpriced taxis. It’s an epidemic.

The problem with Edinburgh boys is that they have no charm but plenty money; hoping to lure you into bed with a vodka and fresh orange and a story nearly always beginning with ‘when I was lifting…’. Exactly the opposite is true in Glasgow – here the boy will spend the taxi money on a chippy for two and bum a cigarette off you in exchange for walking you home safe. See? Pure romance.

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Glasgwegians have manners, spontaneity and, more often than not, a pint in their system. They are friendly, sentimental and best of all they have beards which I am sure you’ll agree is pretty attractive.

Thank goodness then, that Glasgow was voted most romantic city last year by the Royal Mail who noted a 11.7% increase in mail from Glaswegians on the 13 February- an 8% rise over the national average.

But of course, love is (geographically) blind. Whether you are flirting, dating, Tindering or traveling together, there are plenty places to look deep and longingly in to each other eyes, regardless of your location. I guess what I’m trying to say is there will always be sex in the city, whatever the city  and all you really need is a good sense of humour, a willingness to try new things and, just for good measure, TASTE’s official guide to the best date spots in Scotland. So here it is: this one’s for the lovers.

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Eat: Under the Stairs. Tucked under George IV Bridge this unpretentious hide away is the perfect place for a date. Low ceilings and cosy tables – illuminated by flickering candles – provide the atmosphere of what can only be described as a sexual business meeting. In a really good way.

See: The Dalmeny Estate. Just a twenty  minute bike ride from the centre of Edinburgh sits the incredible Dalmeny estate owned by the Earl of Rosebury and the grounds are open to the public. The sprawling 19th century gothic mansion will lead you right to foot of the Fourth Road bridge where you can stop and enjoy a bottle of wine and some fish fresh from the sea. Very Downton.

Do:  You know you’ve got a keeper when a boy suggests a date that doesn’t revolve around drinking or eating. So for the ultimate activity- led date, head up Arthur Seat for spectacular views of the city.

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Eat: Hanoi Bike Club is the ultimate date restaurant – all giant lanterns, flickering lights and snug tables. The place is always stuffed full with young couples enjoying the best Vietnamese food the West End has to offer and the staffs are more than happy to help guide you through the menu. Dishes are best shared – you just know you’re going to make if you are prepared to split prawn crackers.

See: Kelvingrove museum. In my opinion the ultimate date – where better to get lost than among the shadows of Picasso’s masterpieces and the luring figures of taxidermy? Plus across the road Orlando’s offers out of this world fish and chips which are definitely worth a try.

Do: Now that Glasgow have their very own version of ‘Boris Bikes’ there is no excuse no to get out and explore your city. Head down Kelvin walkway and finish with the Botanics where you can explore the beautiful greenhouses or enjoy an ice cream on the grass.

The Ultimate Guide to Barcelona

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The ultimate dilemma when choosing where to spend you summer holiday: city break or beach retreat? Lucky for you the incredible city of Barcelona offers the best of both worlds: lazy days on sandy beaches, late dinners, even later drinks and more culture than you can shake a stick at. The city is undoubtedly the cultural hub of Spain where an exuberant, young party atmosphere meets some of the twentieth century’s greatest achievements in art and design. It is also 50 quid return on Ryan Air with cheap booze and a beach. With so many dimensions to the city, Barcelona is exactly what you make it – here are TASTE’s top tips for traveling to the iconic city.

Where to stay

Barcelona is the perfect city break, whatever you bank account and there are plenty great places to be found on Airbnb – just make sure you read the reviews carefully and don’t get caught out by hefty deposit fees. Not ready to take the Airbnb leap of faith? You can still do Barcelona on a budget.

If you are really strapped for cash, look in to staying at the university accommodation over the summer. Stick to Residencia Universitaria C. R. Bonanovain in El Puxtet, a great location just a little further out the city but full of great bars and cafés that are popular with the Spanish locals and a little more authentic than what’s going on in the centre. The accommodation, broken up into small student flats, is extremely basic – we’re talking singles beds, no towels and a shared bathroom, shower and kitchen.

If you are looking for something a little more luxurious but are still on a budget, its worth looking at Secret Escapes and Lastminute.com where you can find great deals on four star hotels. On my last trip I upgraded from the student halls to stay in Expo Hotel which boasted a roof top pool and terrace and clean modern accommodation located right next to the Barcelona Sants Station train station.

Where to eat

Barcelona is absolutely bursting with bars and restaurants but the standards and prices throughout the city can vary dramatically. It’s always best to have a place in mind rather than being sucked into an overpriced tapas bar on La Rablas. Lucky for you, TASTE has plenty suggestions.

First up Bar Lobo, the perfect metropolitan den, tucked in a corner just off Las Ramblas. The ultra-modern space is large and airy complete with oversized Chinese lanterns and dramatic oak décor. While it’s well worth a visit for the design alone, the cuisine on offer is equally impressive. Come in the afternoon and enjoy a bottle of wine on the terrace or join the city’s young crowd in the evening to try a range of classic tapas dishes.

If Bar Lobo is all about the atmosphere, La Maladrina is all about the food – specifically it’s world class steaks for less than the price of your metro ticket. The best steak dinner I’ve ever had was topped off with a five euro bottle of wine, and shots were offered with the bill as a parting gift – what more could you ask for? Down by the pier, this place is a little off the beaten track, but don’t be misled by its humble interior or lack of tourists. La Malandrina is one of the locals’ best kept secrets so it’s best to get here a little early. The Spanish don’t typically eat till nine or ten so beat the rush and get there for around eight.

Not to be missed are the fabulous bars and well-priced cafes in the EL Puxtet area. Hop on a subway to the north of the city and wander round this quieter neighbourhood filled with bakeries, tapas bars and, best of all, plenty of locals. You can always tell how good a place is by how many Spaniards choose to eat and drink there – and this is especially true in El Puxtet. In the evening, weave through the streets and follow the natives to the most packed out bar and order a goblet of gin and tonic. By day you can’t beat Doctor Coffee – order a café latte and a delicious pastry. For a light afternoon snack or a delicious meal on the cheap, head to the local focaccia joint where you can enjoy beautifully made bread topped with fresh ingredients, all made on site.

What to see

Thanks to Barcelona’s amazing metro system you can pack in all the sites in just a few days. While of course the beach is the highlight of the holiday for many Easyjetters heading out to Barcelona, the atmosphere within the city centre is equally electric and not to be left out.

Start your break with a visit to La Sagrada Familia, a vast Basilica designed by Catalan architect Gaudi, that has remained under construction since 1882. Avoid the swarms of tourists and visit early in the day, where you will experience the beauty of the morning light flooding in through the stained glass windows – an unmissable photo opportunity. Even better, do as I did and use your last metro card of the trip, pitch up several shots the merrier and enjoy a full on midnight photofest.

As I’ve already mentioned, one of the best things about Barcelona is that it’s a city with a beach. Tourists tend to head for Barceloneta, but why not try local favourite Bogatell beach- it’s cleaner, safer and a lot less crowded.

Any true nineties kid will remember the episode of Friends (The One with the Video Tapes) in which Joey tells the elusive seduction story of him backpacking through Europe  ‘hiking in the foothills of mount Tibidabo’. While visiting the real Mount Tibabdabo might not bring you the luck it brought Joey, it is certainly a sight to see. Standing at 512 meters, it’s the tallest of all of the Collserola mountains and marks the frontier of the Barcelona’s county. It also houses Barcelona’s only theme park with 25 rides, a telecommunications tower and an imposing neo-gothic style Catholic Church.  Natch.  It’s well worth the walk up from Mount Tibabdo metro station and the dizzying height of the funicular to find the best panoramic view of Barcelona (as well as the best candy floss). For something a little closer to sea level, the Barcelona Bunkers offer a full 360º view of the city, revealing everything from the spiralling city street to the glorious beaches. Built in 1937 and used during the air raids in the Civil War, the site has come to be regarded as Barcelona’s most popular secret space.

No visit in Barcelona would be complete without paying a visit to the legendary Parc Guell. The park is a breath-taking space overlooking the city filled with Gaudi’s remarkable architecture and signature mosaics. While general entry to the park is free, unfortunately they now charges for entry to the Monumental zone, the space where all of Gaudi’s work can be found. Depending on how badly you want a picture with a mosaicked lizard, these tickets can be booked online for seven euros,  though it is probably worth mentioning that the average supermarket rose here is a mere two euros.  My tip? Take a peek through the gates and some well angled pictures and head to the nearest supermarket with seven euros in your pocket and sense of smug superiority in your heart.

Where to party

Razzmatazz is probably one of the best known clubs in Barcelona – and for good reason.  This gigantic warehouse club caters for a huge variety of events and tastes, hosting everything from tech house to electro pop. It’s a little off from the centre but revellers can hop on buses straight to the club from outside Corte Ingles in the city centre and often tickets for events can be bought on the beach from Razzmatazz young PR staff.

What to wear (aka how not to look like a tourist)

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1.Hat £10 by Topshop |2. Slit Skirt £155 by Whistles |3. Off the Shoulder Top £20 by Miss Selfridge |4. Black Sandals £65 by Topshop |5. Bracelets £30, £45 and £50 all from HS Samuel

The local girls are naturally dripping in the latest finds from sexy Spanish labels Mango and Zara (and unfortunately the less sexy but equally popular Desigual) and while this is undoubtedly a stylish city, shopping is bound to be your last priority when in Barcelona. Instead pack casual but party ready outfits – heels are a no-no here – the look is one part boho one part raver. By day wear Supergas and cat eyed sunnies with a bag that fits snuggly under your arm or across your body (in other words, don’t let the pickpockets immediately target you.)A snazzy leotard or swimming costume paired with shorts is sure to keep you cool when you’re fighting you way through sweaty ravers in the wee small hours. If sightseeing is more your thing, stack some delicate bracelets and pair them with a floaty skirt and a top that let’s the sun bronze your shoulders.

The local lingo

Catalonians, in general, are a feisty lot. With a history of fighting for their traditions, culture and lately, their independence, the people of Catalonia are no pushovers– add this to a mix of clueless British stag dos on packed out metro and things might get a little heated. The best way to win them over is to speak their language – no matter how feeble your grasp of Catalan. Pronunciation is fairly straightforward and of course, is very similar to Spanish. Still no clue? When in doubt, always praise Messi.

Useful Phrases

Yes Sí

No No

Hello!/Hi! ¡Hola!

Hello Buenos días

Thank you (very much) (Muchas) gracias

You’re welcome De nada

Okay Bien

Please Por favor

Excuse me Perdóneme

Do you speak English?  ¿Habla inglés?

I’m sorry Lo siento/Perdone

I don’t know No lo sé

The shoes at Next are fabulous and I’m not even afraid to say it.

I’ve already mentioned how suburban mum favourite Next has recently upped is shoegame. At the risk of sounding like a Next groupie (is there even such a thing?) I’m going to tell you all over again.

These shoes remind me of the kind that Carrie Bradshaw would lose it over, buy and then declare that she was broke for a month. Unlike those shoes however, these babies won’t set you back more than £60 so you don’t have to running around saying rubbish like ‘I bought the shoes because I felt they will feed me more.’ *

So treat yourself to a few new pairs – not to sound cliché but these heels will take you from boardroom to bar and everything else in between. They’re pretty snazzy and grown up, with just a hint of LK Bennett, but they’ll look good with everything from distressed denim to flippy skirts. Go forth and shop, after all it’s what Carrie would do.

Black Mule £55 |Laced Sandal £60 |Black Point Mule £30 |Monochrome Strap Point Toe Shoe £32 |Strap Detail Shoes £35 |Nude Metal T-bar Shoes £36

 

 

*To paraphrase CB. In all seriousness the more I watch Sex and the City as I get older the more I question it. Yesterday I watched the one where Carrie literally asks Miranda if she is turned on by a man dressed as a hot dog. Seriously, what was that about?

How to Shop Stylishly on a Red Stripe Budget

I really need to stop keeping up with the Kardashians. With more consistency than I’d like to admit, I always keep up to date with the who/what/wear of the Kardashian clan.  Kylie and Kendall have undoubtedly upped the family’s fashion A-game (or K-game as I guess they’d prefer) with  eighteen year old Kendall  recently seen walking in Paris Couture week and dripping in designer garms for Givenchy’s latest ads, while I sit at home, a recent graduate the wrong side of twenty two, shopping low to high on bargain sites.

For now, it seems that my budget is more Red Stripe than Raf Simons but does that mean I’ll be going cold turkey on the fashion front? Hell no, couldn’t even if I wanted to. And although some girls are able to work thrift store finds, I have neither the patience nor the ounce of hipster authenticity that this pursuit requires. So for now it’s just about being sensible rather than stupidly ignoring the inevitable lure of the shops. Here’s what I’ve learned from being poor and and having a savings account that affords little more than a Red Stripe, never mind new Topshop’s new red sandals:

You are never too fancy for Argos.

Okay now, don’t roll your eyes fashion snob. I’m not advocating that you go all Jeremy Kyle and get your engagement ring here, but for low priced (real) gold you really can’t beat the big A and it’s gigantic catalogue. My new favorite guilty pleasure Niykee Heaton layers up her ghetto fab gold necklaces which she herself declares are from ‘ratchet malls’ and I can’t wait to follow suit and splurge in Argos guilt free. No maxed out credit card, no green fingers and no one needs to know.

H&M is a good as designer

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Everytime I go into H&M I practically sprint past everything and head straight to H&M Trend, or what me and my friends affectionately refer to as Pink Label, the Holy Grail of High Street Fashion or just, em, Pink Label. It really is amazing stuff that looks like it was designed entirely for fashion fanatics and street style bloggers. I usually woose out and buy the safe stuff rather than the off the wall stuff that I really, really want but it’s all good, and most importantly, it’s all cheap.

You can do the Whistles look on an ASOS budget

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As mentioned above premium lines from high street brands are your new best friend. ASOS White essentially rips of Whistles (in a really, really good way) and like H&M, it’s slightly more expensive than the regular ASOS stuff but is still cheap enough to add to your online basket with only minor pangs of anxiety.

Do some investigating, like a shopping Sherlock.

Superga is great. When I first started buying them they were only £25 – now you’d be lucky to get them for under £45 – buying trainers is daylight robbery these days. While Superga sales are great for bargains (£17!) their range of sizes isn’t always great. Don’t be afraid to look them up on Ebay. Just don’t make the same mistake as my friend did – if they are NWT and only £6 they are pretty much guaranteed to be children’s size, even if that’s not made explicit. ASOS Marketplace, similarly, is a great place to find what you want for less. I’ve picked up a few American Apparel pieces for next to nothing while my friend found a new season men’s Cos coat for 20 quid.

Unineed is my latest find. Admittedly a rubbish name for a site that sells heavily discounted beauty and fashion buys, but it’s pretty much like shopping duty free. While their fashion side of things is a bit dodgy, their beauty bargains are amazing – with everything from YSL Touche Eclat to Benefit brow kits being sold at a fraction of their usual price.

I’ve also been recommended to try Lyst – a comparison site that promises to be the shopping equivalent of Skyscanner.

Aspirational footwear in unlikely places

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Zara and New Look are undoubtedly the reigning Queens of fast fashion footwear. Each season you can buy a couple of on trend shoes without feeling too guilty and/or strapped for cash. But may I also recommend shock contender River Island? A seriously cool girl was rocking silver flatform sandals under her robes at graduation and I was deeply jealous until I found them in the sale days later along with a few other gems.

The ultimate footwear surprise however has to the suburban mum superstore Next – I got some pretty great strappy heels from there – very Rhianna- that have taken me from nights out, to graduation, and then out to work the next day. Despite having a fair few cringe chiropractic looking shoes on offer, they also stock dead ringers for Birkenstocks (in a cool navy suede) , fashion forward clogs and a pair of low heels that would make Olivia Palermo squeal with jealousy.

M&S does it best.

So much more than the home of Two for Ten, national treasure Marks and Spencer have been trying to up their fashion ante for a while now. Despite pulling in the big celebs for the campaigns and an even bigger supermodel to design lingerie, Marks recently admitted to yet another slump in sales. Every time they announce a slump it honestly pierces my heart but shopping there goes far beyond my sense of british duty. Their stuff is actually really good. I’ve bought my ‘comfy’ jeans there for ages, you can’t beat their snazzy indigo denim jeans for only £17 a pop in the sale. Right now they are also absolutely nailing the humble jumper. These two remind me slightly of Hannah Reid’s enviable style and I reckon they’d look great with some high waisted vintage jeans when winter finally creeps in. Also worth mentioning is their cheap as chips cashmere (not really cheap as chips, but you know what I mean.) Spot a cashmere jumper on Net a Porter and it will cost you upwards of £300, in Markey’s you can get them for £30. Try the men’s section for oversized knits with a round neck and grab them in navy or grey. Perfect for wearing with a statement skirt.

The Ultimate Guide to Budapest for Every Budget

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The city, divided into Buda and Pest, has a history as dark as it is diverse. Occupied by both the Nazis and the Soviets and only becoming a free republic in 1989, Budapest has transformed itself into a bohemian playground full of wine bars, hip restaurants and outstanding architecture. The city itself is full of juxtapositions – standing hillside, Eden-like Buda casts a magnificent shadow over the gritty and urban Pest, while much of the impressive neoclassical architecture, is in fact only 50 years old, rebuilt following the destruction of the Second World War. Yet the contradictions are what make it one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in the world, where the new and the old are perfectly entwined to create an idyllic city and an atmosphere that is second to none.

When to go

Bargain airlines offer cheap flights out all year round and the destination is fast becoming the only city break worth bragging about. In the summer months the heat soars to 90 degrees, making it the perfect time to enjoy all the outdoor baths and walk the city streets. Saying that, tourists may also wish to return in the winter months, when the entire city will be coated in snow and boasts one of the largest outdoor ice rinks in the world as well as countless winter markets and festivals.

Where to stay

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The blogosphere has gone mad for Brody House – a B&B with a twist. Radio One DJ Gemma Cairney, labels this place ‘the best hotel in the world’ and it’s not hard to see why. Each one of the 11 rooms has been decorated and designed by different artists who have all spent time at Brody Studios. As a result, the hotel boasts an eclectic mix of designs celebrating Budapest’s emerging art scene. The vintage antiques and stripped back brick walls give it a twenties speak-easy vibe yet the staff strives to offer the ultimate modern hotel experience. You can borrow CDs and DVDS for your room and take advantage of their honesty bar- making it the perfect home away from home. A truly unique experience, far better than any Air bnb you could find. Prices starting at 70 euros a night.

If you are looking for something a little cheaper but still want a private room and a central location, look no further than Pal’s Hostel. Unlike most hostels you can actually rent an apartment space, perfect if you are travelling with friends. Situated near the Chain Bridge, around the corner from popular bars and restaurants, you are also located by the intersection of all three metro lines. Prices start at just 12 Euros a night.

According to the locals there are two types of people in Budapest: the ones that stay in Buda and the ones that want to stay in Buda. While there is a lot more accommodation on offer in Pest, see what all the fuss is about over in Buda by staying at the hillside Hilton resort. The Hilton is perched right in the centre of the castle district in Buda; neighbouring buildings include the Royal Palace and the Fishermen’s Bastion. Built on the request of Golden Hollywood star Zsa Zsa Gabor, this hotel used to be one of the only places Westerners could stay during Cold War and the Soviets had wires and bugs in every room. These days, the hotel offers a lot more privacy and promises panoramic views of the entire city. Prices start from 130 euros.

Where to drink

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Hip, unpretentious and just a little bit grungy, Budapest’s nightlife is what would happen if Glasgow and Leeds met and shared a dirty pint.  With an unmistakable retro vibe, Budapest’s party scene is littered with hipster hangouts, ruin pubs and wine bars celebrating all that the local vineyards have to offer.

A must see is the Jewish district, the undisputable nightlife hub. Start on Dob street and wind your way round all the quirky bars and clubs this area has to offer. One of the best picks is Doblo wine bar (Dob Utca). This little bar is all exposed brick and smoky settings with staff more than willing to educate you on the local wine. Sit under vintage chandeliers and enjoy a glass of Hungarian red or white wine for the perfect evening treat.  Just around the corner sits the infamous Király Utca, a cluster of restaurants and bars including Koral and Lokal, great for a late night drink. But it’s Spiler that really stands out. The mix is pure downtown New York with a hint of Hungarian edginess and is great for those looking for something more familiar (steak, pizza burgers) but still want a magical setting. Fairylights included natch.

Then head to Kazinczy Utca (dubbed as the street of culture) and visit one of the spectacular open-air garden pubs  that are considered the best party spots in Budapest, try Szimpla, 400 Bar or Ellátó. For clubbing it’s best to head out later, most clubs don’t get going until midnight and stay open till sunrise. For a night of good music and plenty of dancing work your way round any of the clubs on Dob, Wesselenyi Utcas and Kiraly. These warehouse clubs split music and bars over various floors and offer everything from techno-house to electro-pop.

Where to go

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No beach I hear you cry! No problem – Budapest’s Baths are world famous, offering the chance to lounge in mineral water that promises to cure all your aches and pains. At the Gellért Thermal Bath, they have both outdoor and indoor pools as well as every spa facility you could imagine. But ladies be warned, it’s not uncommon to have male masseuses. Come in the morning when it’s less busy and once you are done, head straight uphill to the Statue of Liberty (and one of the best views in the city). If you fancy some sunbathing and beach fun outside the baths however, head to Margaret Island. At the weekend this place is buzzing with locals and tourist taking advantage of the amazing outdoor pools, flumes and bars (see above image). Plus there is also quieter corners for those wishing to chill out in the shade or enjoy a run, cycle or walk around the island.

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If lounging around isn’t for you, there is still plenty sites to see. In fact, you’ll be doing well to fit them all into a short weekend break. For lovers of history, the spectacular House of Terror is a must see. This unsuspecting townhouse was the headquarters for the Nazis, and later the Soviets, earning its name from the horrible crimes that went on inside until 1989. The whole house has been fully renovated into an ultra modern and slick museum – apart from the basement where the killings took place, which remains chillingly untouched.

How to get around

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The transport system of Budapest has to be one of the best in Europe. The first underground in Europe (so the Hungarians claim, the first was actually in London) and trams that offer panoramic view of the city operate frequently across the whole city well into the night, and are much better value than hopping into an overpriced street cab.  That said, the best way to see Budapest is by foot, that way you can wind your way round the various squares, gape at the outstanding architecture and soak up the electric atmosphere of the various districts. Well worth doing is going on one of the fantastic bike tours on offer, try Yellow Zebra Bikes. Their tour last just over three hours taking you from the Opera House on Andrássy Avenue and all the way up to the Castle District in Buda, passing all the must see sights along the way. With the guide’s fantastic knowledge of the destinations and history, and a pit stop at a slick bar to sample some local delicacies, this tour is a must if you want to catch all of Budapest’s highlights.

Where to shop

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Perhaps the reason why Budapest hasn’t gathered as much acclaim as other European cities is that fashion hasn’t really arrived in Budapest. Aside from a couple Zara’s and  H&M’s, the style here is definitively Eastern European so you’re not likely to spot any cutting edge fashionistas or upcoming trends here. Aside from the overpriced designer stores on Andrassy Avenue, high fashion shops are few and far between. Save your well-earned forint for the duty free.

What to pack

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In the summer, temperatures reach an almighty 90 degree, so pack light. Airy dresses and comfy sandals for all the walking. Dressing is very casual –  locals here tend to wear as little as possible and as mentioned already, aren’t at all fussed with the latest trends.

Handy phrases

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Hungarians pride themselves on having a language that is near impossible to master. Alongside Russian and Mandarin, the Hungarian language is one of the trickiest in the world so don’t feel deflated if those phrases you learnt from your guidebook are received with blank faces or confusion.  That said, the locals really appreciate it if you try. The most useful then, is köszönöm (coo-sey-nom), their word for thank you. Basic English is spoken where needed – hotels, restaurants and airports -otherwise you’re pretty much on you own (aside from the mandatory tourist hand gestures obviously).