Sunday, 30 March 2014

My first Nars blush (and bronzer!)

Nars blushers have always been something that I've looked at in awe, and have never been able to justify buying. Even overseas, where they were a little bit cheaper, I couldn't bring myself to pay £22.50 (which is $40 at the moment) for one blush. Really, I can count the times I've been into Mecca on 1 hand... what's the point of swatching something you know you're never going to buy?
Then along came Sophie from Born to Buy with a giveaway, and I was lucky enough to be the winner! I decided that although I wanted to play with my new presents ASAP, that it was easier for both of us if she sent it to my home in Australia, rather than all the way to the UK. After a few months, I had almost forgotten about it, so when I came home one of the first things I did (after cuddling George of course) was rip open my package! Along with a bunch of amazing products (including a lovely UD palette and beautifully scented Créme de Rose lip balm), was a mini Nars duo of Orgasm and Laguna.
Although it is mini, I really don't find it hard to get into the product at all. I usually use a Thin Lizzy brush as my blush brush, as it's smaller than a kabuki, but big enough to cover my cheeks. I don't find I have a problem getting at the blush, and never accidentally get any of the bronzer. The packaging is really sturdy and sleek. The mirror is a little bit pointless in such a small product. Even if I was traveling I would have better mirrors to use, but it's does make the product seem a lot nicer than if it wasn't there.
In the shade
In the sun
Orgasm really is worth the hype. It's so soft and so easy to blend! The colours are absolutely perfect for me. Pinky peach, with gold shimmer. It's not as pigmented as I was expecting, but I prefer that with a blush... there's nothing worse than accidentally putting on too much blush and looking like a clown! It's buildable, so you can get a nice subtle wash of colour on the cheeks, or go for something a bit stronger.
In the sun
Natural Light
With Flash

As for Laguna, I am a real rookie when it comes to bronzers. I can't get them right. I'm super pale, so whenever I use one I feel like I've just got dirt on my face. However, I have used laguna once as a bronzer, using my Real Techniques setting brush and it didn't turn out too bad. Like Orgasm, it's really easy to blend, which I hear is the key to getting bronzing right.

So, would I pay $45 for a blush? You betcha! I'm not in any hurry to drop that cash on one blush just yet, but I will for sure sometime in the not too distant future!

What's your favourite Nars blush? Or product? Do you think they're worth the money?

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Winter Spirit day 22-24: Amsterdam

Day 22: Berlin to Amsterdam
Another long bus day today! We got to stop at Burger King at our service stops which was a nice change, and I managed to have 3 cheeseburgers in the 2 stops we had.
When we got to Amsterdam we stopped at a farm where we had a cheese and clog making demonstration. The guy who did the clog demonstration was really crazy and it was cool to see how they were made. We got to sample their cheeses, which were really delicious and most people ended up buying some cheese from there.
When we got to the hostel we had a little time to eat some cheese and drink some schnapps before heading out on an orientation tour of the city, ending at a sex show. I won't say much about that, other than the fact watching everyone's faces was priceless. Awkward.
After the show we walked to a bar, past a fast food shop called Febo, which is my new favourite thing ever. It sells burgers and croquettes out of vending machines. And they actually tasted good. I ended up having my 4th cheeseburger for the day.
We walked to a bar where most of the group split up to do other things. After a few drinks we wanted to go dancing but it took so long to round everyone up that I was ready to head back to the hostel when everyone else went into the club. 

Day 23: Amsterdam
We had a bike tour this morning! It ended up being with Mikes Bikes, the same company I was looking at doing a countryside bike tour with before we decided to do Topdeck. We got rad cruiser bikes and split into 2 groups. We rode to the I Amsterdam sign, through a park, past the Paradiso (a small venue that a lot of big bands play at) past Anne Franks house and back to the hostel. It was really nice riding through Amsterdam, definitely the best way to see the city.

After that we walked down to the food markets for lunch, and had delicious waffles and chicken rolls. There wasn't so much food there as there were clothes stores, but we did buy some Gouda with cumin in it! We walked to the flower market next, which was mostly just bulbs as it was still winter. We walked back to Dam Square to get a few souvenirs, and I found out that there was a Body World exhibition on, an anatomy exhibition by the anatomist  Gunther Von Hagens, which would have been amazing to see, but by this time it was already 4pm. We walked back to the hostel, past some cheese shops that had free samples, and filled up on them. We had another cheese party before we met everyone to leave for dinner.

Dinner was on the biggest floating Chinese restaurant in Europe, and it was pretty good, lots and lots of food! After dinner we went on a canal cruise which had an open bar! It was a lot of fun, and our group attempted to drink the boat dry (that didn't happen) and ended up playing save the queen all night. Towards the end of the cruise the music stopped working so we entertained the group by singing a great rendition of bohemian rhapsody.
After the cruise we walked to a pub that had a live band which was fun, and then went to a nightclub and danced.

Day 24: Amsterdam to London via Brugge.
Another long bus today today, with an hour stop in Brugge. In Brugge we walked to a square with some beautiful gothic architecture and had frittes with mayonnaise. We tried to find a good place for waffles, but had to settle for somewhere that wasn't nearly as good as the waffles we had in Amsterdam the previous day!
We left a few people in Brugge before we headed to Calais to catch the ferry back to Dover. There was a bit of an emotional goodbye to our bus driver and bus, but the ferry back was a lot less rocky than the way to France. We got on another bus for the last time and headed back to London.
We had the worst goodbye ever at the hostel, most people were staying there that night, but we said goodbye to the few that weren't about 5 times before we all parted ways. We said goodbye in the foyer, then we all went for a drink in the bar, said goodbye there, then all went our front to say goodbye, then we all ended up walking to kings cross to catch the train or get some food, and said our last overly emotional goodbye there.

Topdeck was an excellent experience, and I'm glad I traveled with them rather than organising everything by myself. I got to meet some amazing people from all over the world who became great friends quickly. We also had an amazing group leader and bus driver who ended up becoming friends with everyone too. Bus days went by quickly because we slept for half the time and stopped plenty of times. We could plan our days easily as we were always given maps and tours of the cities we were visiting. The tours of the cities were always interesting and is something I would never have bothered with before now, but I will always look into tours now. Sometimes the accommodation was a bit rough, but you hardly spend enough time there to worry about it, and the breakfasts were always good.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Winter Spirit day 20-21: Berlin

Day 20: Prague to Berlin via Dresden.
We headed to Dresden which was only about 2 hours from Prague. We walked to see a few buildings that had been reconstructed after the war, then got coffee and cake from Starbucks. We walked around a little more to see more beautiful buildings before getting on the bus for Dresden.
When we got to Berlin we had a few hours of free time, so 3 of us took a walk down the east side gallery on the Berlin Wall. There's some good artwork there but unfortunately it is covered with graffiti.
After dinner we stayed in the bar for a few drinks.

Day 21: Berlin
This morning we had a 'Third Reich' walking tour, where a guide took us around the city and told us a lot about the rise of Hitler and the nazis in the lead up and including world war 2. He was very interesting and told us a lot of information. We started at the Reichstag, the German parliament, then visited a few memorials, the last being the Holocaust memorial. After a coffee break we walked past the place where Hitler's bunker was, which is also where he died. We walked past a few buildings that were used by the third reich, and then went on to the Topography of terror, a museum built where the Gestapo and SS had their headquarters. There is also has a section of the Berlin Wall here. The final stop was at Checkpoint Charlie, where during the Cold War the US and Soviet Union had a long standoff with their tanks. There is a museum about Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall here, which would have been interesting to visit as I don't know much about it. 
After the walking tour, a group of us went back to the Topography of Terror to visit the museum, and use the free public toilet. The museum is interesting, however there was a lot of written information, and I found our tour guide had already told us a lot of the information.
Then we went back to the Holocaust memorial as there is a museum there too. At this point I was pretty hungry, and the information was repeating itself, so we walked over the the Brandenburg gate and found a stall to get curryworst. 
We walked down to Alexanderplatz to try and find some shops, but failed, so we took the metro back to the hostel. We walked along the east side gallery again, then went to Lidl to get some cheese for dinner. We had a cheese party, and then everyone went out for the pub crawl, but I stayed in the hostel as I was feeling sick again.

Winter Spirit day 18-19: Prague

Day 18: Kraków to Prague
This morning we were stopping at the former concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Our trip leader gave us a good introduction to the camps, nazi occupation of Poland and Eastern Europe, which sadly included his family's personal experience with the holocaust. We had a tour guide there and spent about 3 hours between the 2 camps. I'm not going to lie, it was awful and even remembering my time there is hard. It was interesting to learn more about it, and would recommend a visit to everyone who is visiting Eastern Europe. 
After the tour we had a very quiet bus ride to our next service stop, and then watched the movie the Pianist, which was interesting after learning about the holocaust.
Once in Prague we had our dinner, then went into town for a walking tour. We learnt a little about the city, including a story about the astronomical tower, where the maker was going to make more astronomical towers for other cities and the people in charge of Prague didn't want them getting tourism, so they got the clock maker drunk and when he passed out cut our his tongue and burnt his eyes. The clockmaker woke up blind and mute, unable to make more clocks, and once realised who had done it he made his way up the clock tower and threw himself onto the gears, killing himself and making the clock stop. Today it does work, but it took them over 100 years to fix it.
We ended up at the Charles bridge, and started our night out! Our leader took us to a bar where we got a welcome shot and a few drinks, and watched our leader do some pole dancing (and guess what, he's Polish! Haha). Then we went to the biggest night club in Central Europe, which has 5 floors! Even though it was a Sunday night, there were quite a few people there. We went to the ice bar, which was 150czk to get in, but you got a very strong drink with it! The ice bar was lots of fun, and after we'd finished there we went upstairs to dance the might away. We ended up at Macdonalds a little after 3.30 after getting a deep fried cheese burger from a street vendor, had a very loud tram ride back to the hostel, and ended up getting to bed around 4.30!

Day 19: Prague
As much as it would have been nice to have a long sleep in, today we wanted to get to the castle by midday to see the changing of the guards. We made it with enough time to have a look at the St. Vitus Cathedral, where the stunning gothic architecture rivals that of Notre Dame in Paris. The changing of the guards was interesting, even though I couldn't really see, and there was a lot of music coming from a band in the castle.
After the guard change, we went inside the cathedral, then a few people in the group we were with wanted to go to a classical concert, so 5 of us headed back down into town. We visited the plaque on the wall of part of the university in memory of a student who set himself on fire in protest against the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviets.
We went to Old Town Square in time to hear the astronomical clock, which although was a little underwhelming was still fun. We went up the tower, which luckily enough has a lift, although many people choose to walk up the ramp for some reason! The top of the tower gave beautiful views of the city, especially the Tyn Church, a church in the square with beautiful gothic towers, which were uses as inspiration for towers in one of the Disney princess movies.
We walked through the Jewish Ghetto, but unfortunately didn't see the cemetery there,  a small site where many Jews were buried up to 15 people deep to make sure everyone was buried.  We then walked for almost an hour as a girl in our group had a map that pointed to a cafe that did 'the biggest best banana milkshakes in the city'. When we got there they didn't have chocolate milkshakes, which is the only flavour I like, and the milkshakes came in a cup the same size as as a small coffee. We got the tram back to the hostel, went for a swim and 9 of us went for Mexican food at a restaurant down the road from the hostel which was no Zambreros, but delicious none the less.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Winter Spirit day 16-17: Kraków

Day 16: Budapest to Krakow.
We left Hungary, driving through Slovakia, and again had each meal in a different country. Lunch was at a restaurant in a ski town that took a lot longer than usual. Toby and I both had pancakes (which we thought were platzky but weren't) filled with chicken livers. It was delicious! Maree had platzky with blue cheese on top which looked amazing!

We had a hotel tonight and dinner was included. After dinner our leader organises a pub crawl for us, going to 4 different pubs and clubs and getting a welcome shot at each one. The first bar had an open bar for 1 hour and they free poured shots. Needless to say, we had a very fun night, even though you can smoke in bars in Poland and it really didn't help my cough. Turns out Macdonalds in Poland sell crumbed broccoli, and apparently I was very vocal about my amazement of this. We ended up getting home at about 3am.

Day 17: Kraków
Today we did a walking tour of the city. After last night a lot of us, including me, weren't feeling so fantastic. The tour started at Wawel castle where we learnt the story behind the name of the Kraków. In the castle there is a dragons den, and in the den was a sleeping dragon. The people of the city had to be careful not to wake the dragon because bad things would happen. Then some teenage boys went in to see if there really was a dragon, they wondered around then cave and bumped into something soft that wasn't a wall. It was the dragon, and he woke up and started terrorising the city and eating all the sheep and virgins, until one man, a shoemaker decided to make a fake sheep filled with poison from his shoe making and stick it in front of the cave. The dragon was tricked and ate the sheep, and his tummy started burning so he went to the river for a drink. He drank so much water he exploded and the city was saved, and named Krakow to thank the shoemaker. There is a metal dragon outside the den which blows fire every 8 minutes, which happened just after our tour leader was saying the dragon ate virgins(which used to mean young women, not what it means today).
We then walked to the Rynek Glowny, the main market square, and St Mary's cathedral. The Cathedral has a tower where a trumpeter plays every hour on the hour, to commemorate the guard who died mid song when the mongols came to attack the city. The city was prepared to fight them when the arrived because they were warned by the guard who started playing his trumpet when he saw them coming, which was the fastest way to warn them, but was shot in the neck by an arrow. We then walked to the old wall of the city and the barracks.
Then it was time for the tour of the Wieliczka salt mines. We walked down stairs to 64m below ground which felt like they went on forever. We met our guide, and walked through passages, past many amazing sculptures, all made from mine workers out of the rock salt. There was even a chapel made out of salt, with a sculpture of the last supper made of salt, and chandlers made of crystal salt. We ended up 135m below ground. Thankfully there was a lift back up, and we got back on the bus to go back to the city for some food. We visited the Wawel castle and cathedral first, but unfortunately the dragons den was closed. We went to a 'milk bar' for lunch that was recommended by our tour guide as somewhere that locals eat and were not disappointed! I got goulash with potato pancake, and everyone got a serving of polish dumplings called pierogi. The food was delicious, really really cheap, and we got a lot!

After our late lunch we went back to the market square to see St Mary's cathedral and were lucky enough to hear the trumpet play. We got some souvenirs and went back to the hotel to check out the shopping mall across the road, spend some of our leftover money and get an early night.