Thursday 30 April 2015

Travel: My Travel Bucket List. #TransunLights

Singapore 2014.

Boarding my first plane at four years old for my first fourteen-hour trip of many to the Philippines, the travel bug bit me at a very young age (or I suppose you could call it the travel gene; I hope to take after my Dad, who constantly boasts a full passport of stamps, although the thought of having over 700 flights under my belt makes me feel a little queasy- I'm that person who squeezes the hand of the person next to me so hard during take off that it might break and panics at any signs of turbulence). As I grew older and started attending school trips to Rome and New York, and finally making journeys without a familiar face (or hand to squeeze) by my side to Calvi, France and most recently Singapore, I was captivated by the beauty and culture of places unfamiliar to me and have since craved more adventures. There is an endless list of places that I would like to visit during my life time, from quaint and quirky European cities such as Paris and Amsterdam, to Walt Disney World to relive the part of my childhood I never got chance to experience, and of course, to see the Northern Lights (but that need not be mentioned, after all, this blog post is an entry to Transun's amazing competition to win a trip to see the fascinating Auroras). However, here is a list of some of the top destinations on my travel bucket list:

Rickshaw Run, India.
Whilst the sun, sand and surf of typical holiday destinations is usually enough to keep me happy, sometimes the bolder side of me craves something a little more adventurous and down-right ridiculous, and what says that better than travelling 3,500km across India in your own pimped up tuktuk- or what The Adventurists describe as a "7 horsepower glorified lawnmower". Since watching the JacksGap series on their Indian adventure, the Rickshaw Run has been right at the top of my bucket list, not only for the feeling of accomplishment as we cross the finish line, the sheer stupidity of it and the laughs (and probably tears) that would be shared with my friends, but to stop and enjoy views such as the Taj Mahal and have a authentic Indian curry or five along the way.

I've got to hand it over to the lovely Amy over at The Little Magpie for the mini-series she has recently written documenting her trip to Iceland for the fact that I am now completely obsessed with the idea of visiting this slightly cooler holiday destination. Iceland was never a country that had crossed my mind as somewhere that I needed to see, but where else can I bathe in mineral-rich 37 degree hot springs with a face mask on and a cocktail in hand whilst enjoying the view of snow-covered mountain tops?
The Golden Circle Tour sounds amazing also; unsurprisingly one of Iceland's most popular tours amongst travelers, watching the Strokkur Geyser intermittently erupt in to a turbulent blast of hot water and steam, witnessing the powerful flow of the Gullfoss waterfall and strolling around villages of quaint little brightly-coloured houses isn't something that you get to do at home (or many other places, for that matter).

The Philippines (well, more of it).
As mentioned before, I have visited the Philippines a lot throughout my life- nine times to be exact- and whilst I know the streets of the capital city, Manila and my mother's home province, Zambales like the back of my hand, having half of my family and a little house at our convenience has meant that I haven't really had the chance to explore much of the country that holds half of my heritage (did you know that the Republic of the Philippines is made up of 7,107 islands in total? That's a lot of islands to explore!). One of the saddest things about Zambales is that the devastating eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 left the surrounding beaches covered in a layer of volcanic ash, so whilst they are still lovely to visit with their own beauty and stories to tell, I would love to travel over to the island of Boracay, one of the Philippines' more popular tourist destinations which luckily still boasts beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise waters. The island of Bohol is home to one of my favourite animals, the Philippine tarsier, and it has been on my bucket list for many years to see one of these boggle-eyed, pint-sized primates in the flesh.
As well as these, it would be amazing to see some of the Philippines' very own wonders in real life, including the Chocolate Hills, the incredible 2,000-year-old Baneue Rice Terraces and the (almost) perfectly conicle Mayon Volcano.

What are your dream travel destinations?

Frances x

*DISCLOSURE: This blog post is an entry in to Transun's #TransunLights blogger competition.
Sunday 12 April 2015

Lifestyle: Let Your Shoes Do The Talking.

Firstly, I just wanted to apologise for the lack of blog posts over the last week or so- You know when you work a day job that you no longer enjoy and it diminishes any motivation you had to do the things you actually love? Yeah, that.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I was able to take a short break from work and was treated to a romantic (albeit partially sponsored by Jacamo) night in by Simon, which involved dinner, a bubble bath and a chick flick with a glass of wine and a box of chocolates. Not a bad one, is he?
Now, I wish I could say that this was all for no reason, but this bout of romance came with a bit of a twist. Jacamo have recently launched a new campaign called, "Let Your Shoes Do The Talking", which has not only been created to try and prove that romance in relationships is, in fact, not dead, but also give a little advice to the men out there who need a little help getting off on the right foot (teehee) when it comes to dating. If you've been wondering where it keeps going wrong, guys, it could all be down to what you are wearing on your feet.
You see, Jacamo carried out a survey which showed that a man's shoes are often what us ladies notice first, and 51% of women use a man's shoes to try and figure out his personality (I suppose it's kind of true!). Now, before you throw out those battered old Nike Blazers that have probably been turning off the ladies, don't despair- Jacamo have made a dedicated Shoe-Duction page full of shoe success stories and advice on picking the right pair from some top British male fashion bloggers. You can also find out what type of shoe is the most popular amongst the female population in your region of the UK and then shop from Jacamo's collections (which are available in a huge range of sizes and are pretty spot on, if I may say so myself) right from their website. 
So guys, treat yourselves to a new pair of trainers or brogues and try your luck- You may find that it wasn't that cheesy chat up line that turned her away. And if shoes just aren't your thing, there's still hope; there's still another 49% of ladies who are attracted to other articles of clothing- I'm pretty sure I complimented Simon on his jacket on our first date!
Ladies, do you think that a man's shoes do all the talking?
Frances x
*DISCLOSURE: Jacamo kindly provided us with a date night hamper as part of their campaign.
Thursday 2 April 2015

Review: Breakout Liverpool.

[Image credit: Breakout Liverpool]

Remember those online escape games that you used to sneakily play (along with The Impossible Quiz and all of Miniclip's procrastination-perfect offerings) instead of learning how to use Excel during I.T. lessons in high school? They've recently been popping up in the form of real-life escape rooms that you and your friends can pay to get locked in, in the hopes that you can break free in just an hour.
I was recently invited along to the Northwest's newest escape centre, Breakout Liverpool*, with my team consisting of my boyfriend, his brother and his brother's girlfriend, to try our luck at breaking out of their 'Classified' room. The second hardest of their three rooms and the prequel to their most difficult escape game, 'Sabotage', Classified saw us sitting our final exam to become a secret agent, in which we had to examine the various objects in the room for hidden clues, unlock a series of padlocks and find a sequence of cards in order escape from the room and pass the test.
Sixty minutes trapped in a room no bigger than your living room where every single object inside is relevant to your mission. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. Whilst a GCSE in math isn't compulsory in becoming a top secret agent (a calculator is provided for any mathematic equations you may need to work out, who knew?), these escape rooms require a fair amount of logical thinking, common sense and a knowledge of how to actually open different kinds of padlocks after you have unlocked them (heh...). By the time we hit the thirty minute mark, the suspenseful music was getting to us, our patience with one another was wearing thin and nervous sweats were forming at the sound of the yelling coming from the escapees trying to break free from the room next to us. We had only managed to find three of the eight cards needed to work out the final combination and we had been stood staring at the same pictures on the wall for the past ten minutes- we were doomed, surely.
However, the Breakout team are on standby in the control room, watching your every move on the CCTV cameras and flashing up cryptic clues on the wall-mounted monitor whenever they felt you needed a little extra help (and probably laughing every time you walk past something obvious... suckers). These clues aren't easy, however- they are puzzles in themselves, there to jog your mind in to thinking outside the box and they often left us kicking ourselves for not noticing clues that were right in front of us.

With twenty minutes left to spare, the thought of continuing with our day jobs got too much for us and we picked up the pace, working out the last few combinations and discovering vital clues which led us to the remaining cards. With just over six minutes to spare before our dreams of becoming the next Jason Bourne would be crushed, we tapped the mathematical equation on the series of cards in to the calculator to reveal the four-digit padlock combination which broke away the chains on the final box containing our key to freedom. The name is Bond. Frances Bond.

If you are in to puzzle-solving, team-building or simply yelling at the contestants on Fort Boyard/ The Crystal Maze on your TV, Breakout Liverpool is for you. Allowing teams of between two and five players, the more people you bring along with you, the cheaper it is for you to play. However, it is never going to cost you more than £20 a head, so Breakout Liverpool is a fun and affordable way to try something new with your friends, whether it be a birthday, a staff night out or just a much-needed break from essay-writing. Read more about the missions they offer and book in for a game here. Or, if you're not local to Liverpool, Breakout also have a centre in Manchester.

Have you visited Breakout Liverpool/Manchester yet? Did you escape?

Frances x

*DISCLOSURE: We were kindly invited along by the Breakout team to escape from a room for free in return for an honest review.