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Sunday, 23 July 2017

My boyfriend and I visited Blackpool recently and we packed so much into our short time there, but we're already thinking about returning either this winter or next. The reason being is that Blackpool is the type of place you can visit all year round - in fact, Blackpool's out of season is in the summer as there's just so much to do in winter, which not many people realize.

Here are some reasons you should think about visiting Blackpool this winter.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Travel | Blackpool

THE ILLUMINATIONS
This ones a given, but Blackpool is famous for it's illuminations or, rather, the golden mile (despite the fact that the illuminations actually run for around six miles). The light festival consists a large display of lights running above the main seafront, which people travel in car, coach or bus to view - entirely free, of course. There is often trams and cars alight too. The illuminations are switched on on the 1st of September each year with a concert and with famous people often conducting the switch on - a few years ago it was Tim Burton! All those lights look dazzling at night, especially the closer we get to Christmas.

THERE'S SO MUCH TO DO
Really, the list is almost endless. There's Blackpool Tower, The Tower Circus, The Blackpool Tower Dungeon, The Tower Ballroom (where Strictly's final takes place!), SEALIFE Blackpool, the Pleasure Beach, Sandcastle Waterpark, casino's, arcades (and the famous Coral Island!), Ripley's Believe It Or Not!, Madame Tussauds, three piers, lots of shows, the beach and a theatre - to name just a few! Most attractions also offer combined cheaper tickets to help you save money. You definitely won't run out of things to do here.

There's more further afield. In Blackpool, everything is close together and in walking (or tram!) distance, but on the outskirts of the city and in Lancashire in general there's also a lot to do if you're with a car. There's Blackpool Zoo, Ashton Gardens, Fairhaven Lake and more.

IT'S  GREAT FOR A ROMANTIC *cough* DIRTY WEEKEND AWAY
I'll be honest with you here: as well as being known for a popular area for stag & den do's, it's also a great place for, ahem, a dirty and/or romantic weekend away. With lots of great bars for laid back drinks, a theatre, tons of shows and even a few lingerie/sex shops dotted about, it's going to be very hard to visit Blackpool on a weekend away with your other half and not feel closer together or rekindle things between you. A kiss at the top of Blackpool Tower is also a must. Plus if it's freezing outside, it's always a good idea to get hot and heavy inside, no?

NO SUNSHINE? = NO PROBLEM
Lets face it, you don't visit Blackpool to go and lay on the beach to get a tan. You can still visit the beach of course and huddle up on a bench and eat some classic seaside fish and chips. You really don't need nice weather but if you insist on those summer holiday vibes, you can always head over to Sandcastle Waterpark for a giant indoor paradise/water theme park. Some hotel's also offer pools too. For example, the day we went and got caught in the rain, once we got back to the hotel we treated ourselves to a swim, hot tub and sauna to warm up. Plus, as we found, a little bit of overcast meant we had to wait in virtually no lines at The Pleasure Beach too.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Travel | Blackpool

IT'S CHEAP AS CHIPS
A weekend away doesn't have to be expensive, especially when Christmas is fast approaching and money needs to be saved. As a whole, being up north means most things are cheaper than they are down south, but there are plenty of ways to save money. We got the coach up which saved money and for travelling around Blackpool, we got a fab tram pass which meant for around £11 each, we got unlimited travel on the trams for all three days. Trams were super frequent so this was really useful, especially when we spent the day at The Pleasure Beach and were too tired to walk all the way back to the other side of Blackpool for our hotel. As I mentioned, most attractions do great deals too. The tower offers varied types of tickets depending on what you want to do there (as not everyone will want to pay for the children's play area for example!), and we won a free wristband for The Pleasure Beach by playing the app The Big One. I mean it drove me freakin' mad at times but after playing on and off for a few days, we wracked up enough vouchers for one free wristband which was great. You can also buy wristband's cheaper the earlier you buy them in advance online. This is a tough one as often the weather can be unpredictable, but the park offers a Rainy Day Return deal. If it rains for more than three consecutive hours (or even just rains lightly or spits!), you can return for free the following day or for half price during any Sunday later in the season.

THE BIG ONE (ROLLER COASTER) AT BLACKPOOL PLEASURE BEACH
Okay, so this ride is amazing no matter what time of year it is, but it still deserves an honourable mention. The ride begins with a slow ascend to the top to offer a beautiful view of surrounding Blackpool, followed by a stomach clenching steep drop of 205 feet. The rollercoaster broke many records when it was first built, such as the tallest and steepest rollercoaster in the world and the fastest in Europe in 1994. It now still remains as the tallest in the UK. Plus it's just amazing. Need I say more?!

These are just six reasons to visit Blackpool this winter (and some reasons to visit anytime really), but there really are so many reasons and more to discover. For example, I had no idea there was paintball or Stanley Park in Blackpool, nor that there was a model village! Even though we went less than a month ago, writing this post has given me serious nostalgia to go back ASAP...

Have you ever considered Blackpool for a winter weekend away? Let me know!

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Friday, 21 July 2017

I'm not going to lie; this is probably the first of many, many H&M haul posts since I started working there again - but more on my new job later. In the meantime, having worked there for around two weeks now, I finally gave in and used my staff discount for some goodies.

The make-up I'll likely be keeping spare at my boyfriend's house, but first it's a nice little haul for our upcoming holiday in two weeks time (speaking of which, I'm looking for guest post's if anyone is interested...)

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Beauty | Make-up | H&M | H&M Haul | Shopping Haul

I actually only planned to buy a bikini and tried a bunch on before eventually settling on this beautiful printed one. I was quite surprised; most I tried on fit really well which I always find surprising in shops. It's always tough enough trying on bikini's in the horrible lighting in changing rooms and most shops have a lot of varied sizing but H&M was really good for sizing this time. I have two patterned bikini's to take away with me but I'm going to still keep an eye out for a more simple plain one too.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Beauty | Make-up | H&M | H&M Haul | Shopping Haul

I do really love the detail on this one and the bottoms fit really nice without showing too much. I remember how much I hated shopping for swimwear ready for my Mexico trip as everything in the shops was just really revealing and skimpy so I'm glad H&M has more variety.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Beauty | Make-up | H&M | H&M Haul | Shopping Haul

I bought these cute glow/highlighter pens just because they're so damn cute. I like the idea of using a 'crayon' as a highlighter as I haven't much experience with highlighters before. These look super easy to use and really versatile and subtle too.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Beauty | Make-up | H&M | H&M Haul | Shopping Haul

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Beauty | Make-up | H&M | H&M Haul | Shopping Haul

I also purchased this simple highlight palette which has more of a variety of colours; a couple of which that can be doubled up as a blusher. I like the look of this but they looked quite glittery in my swatches so I'll likely just use this palette for an evening look as opposed to a day-to-day one.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Beauty | Make-up | H&M | H&M Haul | Shopping Haul

I've been after a new liquid eyeliner or so long now as the one I currently use is one I've had for years. I like my eyeliner to be like a felt tip and loved the look of this one, although when I took a swatch on my hand, the line seemed thicker than I originally thought. Still, with practice I think this will serve me well.

Finally, I also picked up a super cute mini brush and makeup sponge kit from the sale. The brush is sooooo soft and I chose to get a sponge too because a) it's cute and b) currently I apply my makeup with like..I don't even know what to call it but probably also a type of makeup sponge but it's really flat and just ugh. So I figured I'd jump on the beauty blogger band wagon and try one of these.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Beauty | Make-up | H&M | H&M Haul | Shopping Haul

I'm pretty pleased with my purchases and I think they'll serve me well; then again I still need to actually try them out so once I do I'll ensure I get a review up. I think they'll do the job for the price that they cost = I'm not expecting amazing results but I am also only after make-up for an everyday look and it's not like I'll be putting together creative out there looks inspired by Instagram. So for what they are, they're exactly what I need.

What do you think? Have you tried any of H&M's beauty/make-up range? Let me know!

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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Oh yes, the Mexican BLT tour related posts aren't over yet!

I've spoken a lot about what I got up to on my trek around Mexico with Trek America back in April, but I haven't yet spoken about my feelings about the tour overall and the company that hosted the tour. Although, spoiler alert, my thoughts are generally pretty damn positive.

I'd wanted to book onto a Trek America tour for years and years before I finally took the plunge and it left me feeling like everyone should take one of their tours at least once in their life. They're all so varied and provide such amazing opportunities that it's hard to decide which one to choose.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour |

THE PRICE = WORTH IT
The first thing to be aware of is that the tours can be pricey - as it's obviously not your average holiday - but for what the tour actually includes, the price is really fair. Of course it does add up when you add on your flight and spending money, but I personally felt the price was worth it for such an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity. Plus, there's always lots of sale's taking place on the site and last minute offers with up to 25% off so there's definitely ways to save further.

One argument against the tour is that it could be cheaper if you did the same tour on your own terms/without the company. I'm not so sure. Obviously you pay for a tour guide and the help, knowledge and experience they provide cannot be achieved if you were to do a tour alone/without Trek America. Booking the flights, accommodation and trips etc alone could be around about the same price but only if you're an expert and know what you're doing. 

For example, now I feel confident that I could head back to Mexico cheaper and do similar things than what I did on the tour - but simply because I have that knowledge of the hidden gem's and top tips from already doing the tour if that makes sense.

THE PEOPLE 
The people I was on the tour with were great. Obviously the tours are designed for a younger audience, but Trek America are really good at making sure you're travelling with like minded people. I got on with everyone as there was a real mix of people and although I had no issues with anyone, I do feel confident in the fact that any issues would have been dealt with in a great manner by the company.

Our tour guide was knowledgeable, friendly and knew tons of hidden gems like great places to eat and such. At points, he seemed a little less enthusiastic about the tour than we would have liked, which we felt was odd as when you first begin a tour with six other people you don't really know, you want a guide who is pumped and enthusiastic about the day ahead. We also noticed that once or twice he failed/forgot to mention a couple of extra excursions we could have booked onto and when it came to the nocturnal jungle tour for example, he seemed very disorganised to the point that those who took part had to push it back to the following evening. 

He did however offer up a lot of knowledge on new places and answered our questions in detail. He was friendly and often felt like part of the group as opposed to just a leader/guide and seemed to genuinely enjoy most of the tour. He was much better than what I was expecting, which was someone similar to a club rep or something. Overall, Delai was great, bar a few points that could probably be improved on with time.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Travel | Mexico | Trek America | Trek America Mexican BLT Tour |

THE ACTIVITIES
The actual activities themselves on the tour were great and so varied. We did jungle trek's, boat rides, beach days and visited many ruins. It was the perfect way to see all different areas of Mexico and really feel at home in a country as opposed to a tourist. I felt what the tour did involve was well worth the money.

My only qualm - which I've noticed other people have expressed too - is that there was more downtime than expected. I personally enjoyed the downtime we had throughout the tour, as it was spread out and well deserved, but come the last couple of days of the tour, I felt like we were on our own. Our guide was still on hand to take us to dinner, but our last two days really just consisted of beach days and we weren't given any guides to what else there was to do in each place or any extra activities we could have booked onto. It was nice to have downtime at the end, but perhaps not that much as overall it really felt like we'd paid for a nine day tour that actually only seemed to last seven or so days.

It wasn't a huge issue, but as I'd arranged to stay on a few more days for my own downtime, this time felt a little wasted. I think perhaps the tour could be shorter or a tad cheaper to avoid paying money for two days just spent on the beach or doing our own thing.

OVERALL
Overall though, I haven't been able to stop recommending the tour to everyone I know. Despite one or two small negatives, I had the time of my life and enjoyed the tour from start to finish. It was one of the most amazing experiences that I'll never forget and has only really left me feeling like I want to book even more trips with Trek America!

The price was worth it, the people were great and the week was jam-packed, offering us a real authentic glimpse into Mexican life. What more could a girl ask for on an adventure around Mexico?

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If you're considering booking a tour with TrekAmerica after reading my experiences on my Mexican BLT adventure, you can visit their website to see the variety of tours on offer.


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Monday, 17 July 2017

Ah, the festival season. The yearly ritual of donning our wellies, packing as many Pot Noodles as possible into backpacks and checking we have every type of waterproof clothing, is already in full swing and so far it’s been memorable.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Music | Music Festivals | Guest Blog

We’ve seen Ed Sheeran woo the crowds on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury, Aerosmith make their final UK appearance at Download and Rod Stewart charm everyone at the Isle of Wight Festival. We’re not even half way through the season, so we can still expect to see some fantastic performances by some of the biggest names in music too!

So, what is it exactly that we love about festivals? Here are our top five reasons why the festival season is our favourite (who needs Autumn and Winter anyway?).

THE WEATHER

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Music | Music Festivals | Guest Blog

The weather is probably one of the most dreaded things about festivals. The lack of showers and sleep?
Not a problem. But the risk of downpours dampening the mood? Not ok. But despite the risk of the odd shower, the weather is one of the most memorable aspects of our festival experiences. Of course wellies are a must, as well as any waterproof garment you can think of. Those foot-deep mud pathways? Not a problem when you’re armed with your trusty pair of wellington boots and waterproof poncho.

We always like to check the weather as far in advance as possible, and if you’re heading to V Festival this year, it’s been estimated that there could be a 39% chance of rain, so make sure to pack those rain ponchos and wellies!

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Music | Music Festivals | Guest Blog

Festivals are actually perfect for getting some vitamin D (on the proviso that the weather is on our side!) and taking in the clean, fresh air. You might not be able to get a peaceful night’s sleep when camping, but there is no better medicine to life’s worries than watching the sunset, surrounded by fresh air and friends.

THE OUTFITS

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Music | Music Festivals | Guest Blog

When else could you have the opportunity to wear a sequin catsuit?! Dressing for festivals has always been the perfect opportunity to wear the outfits that you would normally never dare venture out in. Sequins, feathers and glitter are the common staples of festival get-ups, which are all ideal for allowing us to channel our inner diva!

The makeup is just as important as the clothes, and glitter and neon face paint is always a winner. Festivals are the perfect excuse to rock bold eyeliner, bright lipstick and delicate stick on gems.

THE CELEB SPOTTING

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Music | Music Festivals | Guest Blog

It’s fairly obvious that festivals are playgrounds for the rich and famous, with some of the biggest names in music adoring the many stages during the festival season. It’s not just on stage where the celebrities are flocking, but you could be in with a chance to spot the odd celeb rocking within the crowds.

At Reading Festival, they have had their fair share stars attending the festival over the years, including actress Emma Thompson, Game of Thrones Star Emilia Clarke and Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac, to name a few.

THE MEMORIES

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Music | Music Festivals | Guest Blog

Festivals are an amazing experience and one that we aren’t quick to forget. Even after the mud has washed away, the glitter has disappeared from our faces and we’ve caught up on our sleep, we’re still remembering the fun times we had, the friends we made and the bands we saw live. Taking lots of photos, either on your phone, using a Polaroid camera or buying a cheap disposable camera for that ‘old skool’ vibe, can really help keep the memories alive.

And with that being said, let’s pack our festival gear!

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Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Food is the way to a girl's heart and one of the favourite things my boyfriend and I like to do is discover hidden gems of restaurants and cafes. Being that he is entirely vegan, we often have to think out of the box when it comes to visiting a new place. Of course, we know of a lot of restaurants that offer vegan options, but it's always a rarity to find an actual vegan restaurant.

Therefore, we were super happy to stumble across Faringo's restaurant during our time in Blackpool recently. It was one of those ones where we weren't quite sure to begin with - it's not a chain, so we weren't 100% sure it was still open, and it was right next to Blackpool Pleasure Beach and looked like it was tucked away down an alley on the map.

Still, I know that sometimes the best places are found in the most weird and oddball locations, so we persevered and were ecstatic when we stepped inside the warm and inviting restaurant. The menu really was entirely vegan and it was extremely varied too, with vegan pizza, pasta and curry on offer - and even a vegan roast dinner!

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Formidable Joy Blog | Food | Faringo's | Faringo's Vegan Restaurant | Vegan | Blackpool

We were spoilt for choice but as we tried to decide, we took time to speak to the owner. He explained that Faringo's was the first entirely vegan restaurant in Blackpool and had only converted to fully vegan a week prior. The idea came to him when he was asked to put together vegan options for breakfast in the hotel and, despite not being vegan himself, he decided to venture into going entirely vegan.

The result was Faringo's and what a result. The thing is, being that he wasn't vegan himself and that it was the only vegan restaurant in Blackpool, we weren't sure what we expected. Of course we expected the food to be nice, but a lot of places don't know a lot about vegan food so cook with the wrong oils or offer real basic food = this wasn't the issue here.

The owner knew exactly what he was doing and we spent much of our conversation sharing tips. The food was beyond delicious too and full of flavour - let's just say there was no avocado on toast on the menu; only delicious filling food.

The first night, we gorged on cheesy garlic bread and garlic mushrooms for starters, whereas for a main Vincent went for a pizza and I opted for pasta. I loved the unique take on garlic mushrooms and the owner explained that people are always surprised to see their meal served up, having become used to mushrooms covered in breadcrumbs. Instead, the mushroom arrived in a tasty garlic sauce.

I couldn't say much about my boyfriend's pizza as it was a little too spicy for me, but the pasta was delicious and filling.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Formidable Joy Blog | Food | Faringo's | Faringo's Vegan Restauraunt | Vegan | Blackpool

As usual, my photos suck so I just have the one. It was kind of dark inside the restaurant but in a lovely way, with lots of pretty fairy lights. It gave it a real homely and romantic feel.

The food was so delicious that we returned for a second night, this time having garlic bread and pate for starters and both choosing a pizza for main. Much like the previous night, it was all delicious.

All in all, it's clear to see that Faringo's is going to do well. Not just because it's the first vegan restaurant in Blackpool but because the food is actually amazing and the staff are ever so lovely. Eating in the restaurant sold the whole place to us and now we're set on staying there upon our next return to Blackpool.

I'm so glad we found this hidden gem and would definitely recommend a visit to Faringo's if you're ever in Blackpool.

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