Summer may be officially over, but there's still plenty of fun stuff happening right now and for the rest of the month. Read on for my Top Picks in September 2019. There truly is something for everyone... and let's just say that fellow fans of live music, culture and fabulous home-grown food are in for a real treat!

Air Waves


31 August - 1 September FREE

A line-up of aerial attractions for two days of thrilling flying, with highlight, the fast and furious P-47-D Thunderbolt American fighter. On ground entertainment includes live music, trade stands, fun zone, artisan food market, arts and crafts stalls, military vehicles and a high-tech STEM village.

Clandeboye Food Festival

Clandeboye Courtyard, Bangor

31 August - 1 September

A fantastic local food event with cookery demonstrations, wine tasting and children's entertainment. Featuring producers such as Papas Minerals, Eringrove preserves, Kennedy Bacon, Heatherlea Bakery and Brownie Barn, this promises to be a great family day out!

 Blue Grass Festival

Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh

30 August - 1 September

There’ll be strumming on the porches of the log cabins, dancing in the cobbled streets and jamming outside the General Store at the 28th Annual Bluegrass Music Festival. Three days of live music from some of the biggest names in bluegrass and old time music.

Angela's Ashes the Musical

Grand Opera House, Belfast

3-7 September 

I absolutely loved and loathed Angela’s Ashes at school. And I only loathed it because of my own discomfort (and perhaps immaturity in dealing with) some of the hardships. The beautifully told story returns in this major musical adaptation of Frank McCourt’s memoir and I can’t wait to see it. The story is brought to life in an emotional telling of a childhood in Limerick and beyond, featuring songs and melodies with a rare lyricism and a warm sense of humour.



Belfast Waterfront Hall

Sunday 8 September

No need to walk 500 miles to see these talented Scottish twins, as The Proclaimers take the stage in Belfast Waterfront Hall. The pair's enduring appeal across generations has carved a niche where pop, folk, new wave and punk collide in sing-along raucousness.


Strangford Seafood Supper Club

Castle Ward, National Trust, Strangford

19 September

The first ever Castle Ward Supper Club takes place during Seafood September and features my chum Comber born chef, Will Brown, cooking with stunning local seafood ingredients from around Strangford Lough. A shared table setup in the NT's intimate candle-lit space, with the chef on full view and explaining each of their courses as they go along. Price includes a complimentary cocktail on arrival... But it’s BYO, so bring a bottle of your favourite tipple.

Tickets and info at

Wrap Up in Culture


20 September (free)

Wrap up in culture, as venues and public spaces across the city and district open their doors to host a programme of free entertainment, as part of an all-island celebration of arts, heritage and culture. There will be something for people of all ages and with all interests from visual arts to music and dance, heritage, discussions, street art, tours and trails and family fun.

Culture Night - and Day!

Belfast (various venues)

20-21 September (free)

Belfast Culture Night enters its second decade with its first ever weekender. The biggest event in the city's cultural calendar returns on Friday 20th September (1-9pm). For the first time, it doesn't stop there, with events rolling into a bonus Culture Day on Saturday 21st (10am-4pm).  Hundreds of free attractions include live music, theatre, cabaret, bespoke food and drink stalls and a Flea Market at St Anne’s Cathedral. There will of course be loads of family friendly activities for little ones with music, face-painting and dancing.

Belfast Restaurant Week

BT1 + BT2

23-29 September

From Monday to Thursday enjoy 2 courses for just £15 in over 40 restaurants across BT1+2, with £10 lunch deals from 12-2pm, Monday to Friday. On Friday and Saturday you’ll find food demonstrations, producers’ market and live music at a Taste the City event in Writers’ Square from 10am-4pm, as well as a host of other events across the city, finishing off with the Big Belfast Brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 2pm.

And if one week and one city isn’t enough, then check out the Tourism NI ‘Taste the Island’ 12-week celebration of Ireland’s finest food and drink, tasty experiences and scrumptious adventures, with an extensive range of events taking place throughout September, October and November.


Two Fingers Up

The MAC, Belfast

24-25 September

Set in the cultural context of #metoo and Repeal the 8th, Two Fingers Up is a humorous  journey back to your teenage self, to being scundered, self-discovery, abstinence-only sex education and coming of age, Northern Ireland style.



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 Northern Ireland’s biggest and best beach festival has just been announced to take place this summer as the world’s hottest DJs join the Ulster Orchestra to mark 50 years of partying in Portrush - all thanks to Kellys and Lush!

 Kellys Portrush/Lush! have announced plans for an all-new 12,000 capacity Beach Festival in their spiritual home of Portrush this summer and we can’t wait!
Following the overwhelming success of the sell-out Lush! Classical shows at the SSE Arena Belfast and Ebrington Square, Derry/Londonderry for the Clipper Yacht Race celebrations, Lush! are now taking things to the next level with their Biggest classical show to date...taking the ‘Lush Classical’ concept outdoors with the North Coast’s stunning coastline as its backdrop. The event is in celebration of Kellys 50th year providing top-class entertainment for music fans across Northern Ireland…bringing it home to Portrush… can you imagine a better Summer evening?!

Lush! Classical Live at the Beach will be staged on August 10, 2019, at Portrush’s famous East Strand and will feature some of the hottest dance acts on the planet collaborating with Northern Ireland's most accomplished classical musicians. The event is part of a three-day music festival event in partnership with LSFX Productions.

For generations of music-fans in Northern Ireland, Kellys in Portrush has always been synonymous with the biggest stars of the local and international dance scene filling the floors every weekend for the most enthusiastic revellers. We all remember uni nights spent dancing the night away in Kellys.

The newly revamped Kellys venue is also renowned for innovation and pushing the boundaries of genre, while pioneering new forms of dance music. 

 Despite the fact it’s celebrating 50 years providing top class entertainment, for 2019, the team at Kellys is planning the biggest and best celebration to date.

 The Lush! Classical Live at the Beach event will see a 55-piece Ulster Orchestra, produced by Kylie Minogue’s musical director Steve Anderson combined with the genius of DJ and musical producer, Dave Seaman and featuring ‘Ibiza’s favourite saxophone player’ Lovely Laura and Maria Nayler. The event has capacity for 12,000 music fans -making it the biggest ever outdoor Classical dance event in Northern Ireland estimated at contributing more than £1.8million to the local economy. 

 Special guests include Seb Fontaine, Tall Paul, K Klass, Ben Santiago, Dee Montero and Junior J and tickets are expected to sell out quickly for what’s set to be Northern Ireland’s biggest ever beach party.

 Peter Wilson (48) is the second generation of his family to take over running Kellys, originally set up by his late uncle James Kelly in 1969. 

What started as a cowshed for staging barn dances 50 years ago has developed into one of the best-known nightclubs in Europe and this summer’s event will the most ambitious to date.

“This is going to be a golden year for Kellys as we celebrate our 50th anniversary, so we really wanted to pull out all the stops and give our loyal fans the party of their life,” Peter said.

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Lush! Classical Live at the Beach will be staged on August 10, 2019, at Portrush’s East Strand from 5pm to 11pm. 
Tickets cost £35 and £50 (plus booking fees) for the VIP area (hosted by Ibiza’s Café Mambo) and can be purchased from the usual outlets. 


For more information go to Note, this event is strictly over 18’s only. 



If you’re single this Valentine’s Day, and in fact, even if you’re not, why not celebrate the love of your friends and catch up in the city with some fun things to do?  This weekend I’m hosting the Cathedral Quarter’s inaugural Galentine’s event at the Merchant Hotel with some of my friends including Paddy McGurgan, Tiffany Brien and Fiona McCartan (Gluten Free Fi) and it inspired me to go seeking out some fun things to do with my gal-pals. Here are my top ten…



Take in a show at the MAC, The Lyric or The Grand Opera House. Each of these venues provides a fab backdrop and interesting architecture as well as the shows on the stage. At The MAC, “Ubu the King” is grotesque, gruesome and hilariously absurd. Inspired by Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, which caused a riot in Paris in 1906, Tinderbox Theatre Company dares to bring the primal monster to life through a succulent feast of sheer inventiveness and fearless theatricality. A feast for the wicked.  

At the Lyric, Michael Cameron’s ‘RUBY!’ celebrates the life of popular 1950s singer Ruby Murray, who hailed from Belfast but enjoyed global fame as she became the only recording artist in history to have five songs in the Top Twenty in the same week. But there is more to life than pop songs it seems…

And down at The Opera House, the international, award-winning smash-hit musical based on the blockbuster film, THE BODYGUARD is back and features  three-time Brit nominee and X-Factor winner, Alexandra Burke.  Former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard, Frank Farmer, is hired to protect superstar Rachel Marron (Burke)  from an unknown stalker. Each expects to be in charge – what they don’t expect is to fall in love.

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I recently saw the Leonardo DaVinci exhibition at the Ulster Museum, which is awe-inspiring when you think just how influential he has been on modern art and science, among other subjects….. but there is also a Game of Thrones Tapestry exhibition on at the Museum too. Weaving the story from Seasons 1 to 7, this impressive tapestry gives Game of Thrones® fans the perfect chance to reminisce over all the action that led to the finale of Season 7, with further panels depicting the story of Season 8 due to be added to the tapestry in June 2019. And even if you’re not a GOT fan, feel some pride in the fact that it was designed locally by hand but woven by a state-of-the-art machines and hand finished in Northern Ireland. The linen used to form the background of the tapestry has been sourced from Ferguson’s Irish Linen, one of the last surviving linen mills in Ireland – and as a former marketeer of Irish Linen, I am intrigued to see this piece of work.

There are lots of other galleries and art-filled places to see in the city too – and a personal fave of mine is at the Ulster University art/textiles students’ shop at the Belfast campus too.

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I haven’t even been here yet and I’m recommending it; such is my trust in so many foodie friends’ judgement. Brunch at Freight Belfast – formerly Pot, Kettle, Black - is reputedly delicious with a capital D.  Located in the C.S. Lewis Square in east Belfast, five converted shipping containers house one of Belfast’s most talked about eating spots and I am most definitely making a date to eat there this weekend myself.

 Another great brunch venue, but back in the city centre, is AM:PM. Positioned at the epicentre of all that happens in Belfast both literally and metaphorically, AM:PM is unique, quaint, chic, cosy, opulent, and funky. These descriptions almost-but-not-quite describe how fab this place is. You will find the shabby chic rubbing shoulders with the classically demur.

 Brunch or lunch at Café Parisien is definitely dining with a view, although I’d recommend it anytime from dawn ‘til dusk for the truly wonderful French cuisine – from delicious morning crepes to bistrot dishes and succulent steak au poivre. And the house wine isn’t bad either!

Finally, Brunch at Babel in Builltt Hotel’s rooftop bar and garden offers panoramic city views, mouth-watering cocktails and delicious food. Accessed via its own entrance on Ann Street side of the hotel. Babel’s creative shrub cocktails use ingredients and garnishes inspired by its living walls which contain over 300 plants. Babel prides itself on its home grown botanicals, subtle sophistication and innovative ideas. If you’re tee-total, it’s important to note that Bullitt serves arguably the best coffee in the city, if you’re an aficionado like that…




For some physical activity, why not hire Belfast Bikes or let your feet do the talking and take to the towpath or the seafront paths – breathing in some fresh air while you’re at it. If the weather’s bad (and it’s kinda likely, considering this is Ireland) then pop into Flow Yoga studio in Hill Street for a stretch and some zen time.

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Visit Victoria Square, CastleCourt, Donegal Place and out of town areas like the Lisburn Road or  Bloomfield Avenue are great places to soak up some retail therapy.

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My personal favourite in the city for a girlie get together, spa-style, is the Merchant Hotel Spa, where the therapists are highly trained and super knowledgeable. Plus, the sauna and relaxation areas are perfect places to really get away from it all. But having said that, there are loads of great salons and spas across the city, and getting a booking for a group shouldn’t be to hard if you plan in advance.

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Be a tourist in your own city and take a tour of The Tropical Ravine and The Palm House in Botanic Gardens. The Palm House contains a range of tropical plants, hanging baskets, seasonal displays and birds of paradise, and is one of the earliest examples of a Victorian style glasshouse made from curved iron and glass. The building was designed by Sir Charles Lanyon, who also helped design parts of nearby Queen's University. Across the paths lies the Tropical Ravine, which contains some of the oldest seed plants around today, as well as banana, cinnamon, bromeliad and orchid plants. The listed building dates back to 1887 and has been restored with many of its original Victorian features reinstated and preserved. The ravine is split over two levels with an open reception area on the ground floor, and the building has been modernised to make it more energy efficient with new triple-glazed windows installed to retain heat and create the right environment for the tropical plants it is home to. Visitors can learn about the conservation work and plant collection through interactive and digital exhibits. And, final point on both these places? They’re both fab backdrops for insta-perfect pics!

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I’d recommend Patisserie Valerie on Donegall Square West, where you can enjoy the unique café atmosphere including the now famous Toulouse-Lautrec style cartoons by Terron. In their havens of self-indulgence, you will discover only the best quality cakes and patisserie, continental breakfasts, lunches, the finest teas and coffees and an atmosphere that is unique to each location. Across the road, Hotel Chocolat offers wonderous chocolate treats and hot chocolate drinks while out of town and up the Lisburn Road, you’ll find Miel et Moi, which is inspired by classical French patisseries… This truly is a little bit of Parisian Paradise in the city with its enchanting afternoon teas, delicious dishes, scrumptious cakes and delightful cocktails.

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 Even though I rarely eat bread and cakes myself, the ultimate afternoon tea experience for me is at the Merchant Hotel. Set in the sumptuous splendour of The Great Room Restaurant, Afternoon Tea in The Merchant Hotel is a truly elegant and utterly delicious experience not to be missed.  Complete with a bottle of Krug Champagne and Royal Beluga Caviar, it really is the height of indulgent luxury.

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A group lesson or make up application at Paddy McGurgan’s Make Up Pro store is the perfect experience for anyone who wants to gain an insight into their own makeup routine or just get ready for a night out with friends.




The Perch Rooftop Bar is located on the fifth floor of a historic building and has a beautiful large centre bar, surrounded by original window features, original brick clad walls and adorned, of course, with birdcages and similarly themed artwork lending itself to the name. Nip up in the original sliding door lift and find yourself looking over the sights of Belfast whilst sipping a cocktail in the outdoor area or take a perch at the bar and sample some delicious beer and gins.

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Earlier this week, I sent our summer intern (and GOT fan) Laura Gilmore to The National Trust’s Castle Ward in County Down, where she was immersed into the fantasy world of the global phenomenon Game of Thrones ahead of the Winterfell Festival in September. Check out her story here: 

Having gained global recognition as the filming location for Winterfell, House of Stark, in series one of the popular HBO programme, Castle Ward is now the location for Ireland’s only Game of Thrones inspired festival. This year, Winterfell Festival will be held at Castle Ward on Sunday 16 September 2018, where the historic estate, cared for by the National Trust, will be transformed into Winterfell, home of the Stark family for one day only.


I set off for the regal location from Belfast and was transported into a veritable fantasy land…. After being appropriately suited and booted in GOT attire, I had the pleasure of joining the Stark family at Audley’s Castle, on the beautiful shores of Strangford Lough, for a glorious banquet lunch.  Following this, we took part in a sword fighting masterclass and tried our hand at archery. Each activity was taken by a team of extremely talented and well-trained actors, fully dressed in costume and playing the part to perfection! In-between each activity, the Stark family also explained the intricacies of the set and filming, actors, costumes, and the fantastic tourist pull GOT has created for Northern Ireland. It was immersive and experiential at its best and I LOVED it!

Last year’s event drew thousands of people to the shore of Strangford Lough and this year’s festival has even bigger appeal with a gripping event story line that sees the residents of Winterfell living under a cloud of fear as White Walkers approach the wall.


Through theatrical re-enactments, ticket holders will experience a Winterfell where tensions are high as tales of ancient peoples, once thought extinct, rattle the residents. Throughout the day actors will play the roles of central Game of Throne characters, recreating scenes from George R. R. Martin’s novels at various locations around the estate. Meet The Hound and learn how to wield a sword; see if you can solve Kimmick, Bard to Lord Stark’s riddles; watch Maester Luwin perform a medical demonstrations; hear King Robert regale tales of the Nights’ Watch and follow Jon Snow to Castle Black, avoiding White Walkers as you go.

Visitors can join the crowds and soak up the atmosphere at the King’s Tournament Games where skilled horse riders will perform enthralling film-set stunts and tricks fit for entertaining royalty. Full contact jousting, sword fighting and falconry will add to the atmosphere, creating an unforgettable event.

On the day you’ll experience the sights, sounds and smells of a medieval village and watch skilled blacksmiths, silversmiths, weavers and armourers at work. You will also have the chance to meet Armourer Boyd Rankin (Mikken in Game of Thrones) who will be showcasing a selection of the swords he forged for Game of Thrones.

Day tickets for Winterfell Festival cost £25 with access to a full programme of events and entertainment including theatrical performances, live jousting, falconry, archery, a medieval village and Dire Wolves… Yes, you can meet the actual dogs who played Summer and Grey Wind in the TV show as they will also be making a special appearance.  The Starks’ Grey Wind and Summer are known as Odin and Thor in the real world and are the closest thing to real wolves you’ll ever meet!    Festival goers who purchase an additional ‘meet the actor’ ticket, will have the opportunity to join an intimate audience with stars from the Game of Thrones TV series. Details of the actors and the tickets for this additional element of the festival will be announced later this summer.

Day tickets for Winterfell Festival cost £25 with access to a full programme of events and entertainment including theatrical performances, live jousting, falconry, archery, a medieval village and Dire Wolves… Yes, you can meet the actual dogs who played Summer and Grey Wind in the TV show as they will also be making a special appearance.  The Starks’ Grey Wind and Summer are known as Odin and Thor in the real world and are the closest thing to real wolves you’ll ever meet!

Festival goers who purchase an additional ‘meet the actor’ ticket, will have the opportunity to join an intimate audience with stars from the Game of Thrones TV series. Details of the actors and the tickets for this additional element of the festival will be announced later this summer.

Supported by Tourism Northern Ireland and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, the festival, promises an immersive Game of Thrones styled experience unlike any other, in an authentic filming location.    Tickets for Winterfell 2018 are now on sale - £25 adult, children £10 (5-16), under 5s free. Family ticket £65 (2 adults and 2 children).     Tickets to meet the actors will be sold separately and go on sale later in the summer.     For more information and to book festival tickets visit       Please note - this event is independently operated by the National Trust and is not sponsored, endorsed or affiliated with HBO or anyone associated with Game of Thrones.

Supported by Tourism Northern Ireland and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, the festival, promises an immersive Game of Thrones styled experience unlike any other, in an authentic filming location.

Tickets for Winterfell 2018 are now on sale - £25 adult, children £10 (5-16), under 5s free. Family ticket £65 (2 adults and 2 children).

Tickets to meet the actors will be sold separately and go on sale later in the summer.

For more information and to book festival tickets visit 

Please note - this event is independently operated by the National Trust and is not sponsored, endorsed or affiliated with HBO or anyone associated with Game of Thrones.





Fun-loving fashion designer Henry Holland is getting the party started with his new House of Holland x Papier collaboration. Using iconic prints from his archive, new season designs and the type of tongue-in-cheek slogans that made his name, the collection is a spirited mix of notecards, notebooks, sketchbooks, greeting cards, wedding stationery and party invitations. Having once shared a cigarette and a chat with him on the balcony of El Divino in Belfast many years ago, I can vouch that they are very much his style and I absolutely LOVE them.

From ‘Where’s my f*cking present?’ invitations to rainbow coloured wedding stationery, the collaboration delivers an uninhibited gaze into the kaleidoscopic, colourful and cheeky world of House of Holland. Teamed with Papier’s design ethos and obsession for premium printed products, it’s a high-quality collection that’s bold, playful and funny – just like Henry.


Speaking of the collab, he said: “I have been using Papier for my personal stationery for a while now so I'm really excited to be collaborating with them on a full collection. We have delved into our print archive to bring together a really exciting collection of stationery and I’m extremely proud of all of it. The greetings cards are some of my favourites – I just hope everyone shares my crude sense of humour and enjoys them as much as I do. I’ve had several chuckles to myself during the design process!".

“Working with Henry Holland on a collection which takes you back to his first foray into fashion design with slogan t-shirts feels incredibly special. His design details and humour in the collaboration add something different to our offering at Papier. We hope that with Henry Holland taking the lead, more people will inject some fun and flamboyant energy into their choice of party invitations, wedding stationery, birthday cards and personalised stationery. I for one will be sending out ‘Taymoor f*cking Atighetchi’ notecards as my personal correspondence! ” Taymoor Atighetchi, founder and CEO of Papier.

All items can be personalised at

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FUN | 5 Things Every Millennial Woman Wants to Find Underneath Her Christmas Tree

Modern but meaningful, personal but practical at the same time - and always totally cute. These are the bases you most definitely need to cover when shopping for a festive gift for a Millennial. Picking something out is a stressful business indeed, especially if you’re buying something for a for a cool gal who knows what she likes. To enchant your friend with an amazing gift, we’ve teamed up with writer Amy Goldsmith from to compile a list of items that will make her jump with glee, and have you deemed as the best gift-giver of the year.


An e-book reader

While nothing beats the charm of real books, it’s really difficult to stuff more than one in your suitcase when you’re travelling, and quite expensive to own every hardcover and paperback you want to. E-book readers like Kindle are the perfect gadget for the Millennial woman who loves to read, and wants to have all her favourite novels within her reach at all times.

The battery on e-book readers usually lasts for a very long time, and the screens are made so they look like ink on paper. They won’t hurt her eyes, and font style and size is usually adjustable so they’re great for anyone who is short-sighted. E-books are more eco-friendly and are usually cheaper as well, so you might be saving her some money in the long run, as well as giving her the option of finding any title that she wants to with ease.

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A FitBit bracelet

For your friend who loves staying in shape, or for the one who is always trying to find a way to get in shape, a FitBit can be a really useful gift. Since it tracks your activity whenever you move, it’s a really good motivator to get up and work out, or at least walk around. If you get one for yourself as well you could indulge in some healthy competition and reach your fitness goals even faster.

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A personalized coffee mug

Coffee is the lifeline of any working millennial, and getting her a personalized mug is a really delightful way to make her happy. A big travel mug with her name, favourite quote, motto, or even a funny picture will make her morning ritual even more enjoyable, and it shows that you really know her. There are loads on or on


A makeup palette

Hey, every gal needs an outlet for her creative side, and makeup is its own form of art. If your friend loves using it, a makeup palette is such a classically amazing gift that it’s difficult to go wrong. Tarte’s new Toasted palette is full of warm tones that will bring the glow to her face, or you might choose something that’s incredibly versatile, like Kat Von D’s Shade and Light palette, or anything from Colourpop if you’re on a budget. If makeup is not really her thing, worry not – a nice pampering skincare set is also an option, and you can make it even more personal by creating your own little spa basket full of bathing salts, scented oils, lotions, soaps, and face masks. Check out our FACE blogs for more inspo.


A cute item of clothing

Here’s a brilliant little trick: grab your friend and take her shopping. Say you’re just there to grab something small, but you might as well have some fun and try on cute clothes. Take note of the things your friend likes. Maybe she was really into cute skirts you can order online, or a pretty little wrap dress, or even some cool boots? Now you know exactly what she’s into and it will help make the best decision. It’s also a good opportunity to learn what her size is, and what kind of style she generally leans towards.

And lastly, when in doubt, a gift card to a nice store is always a good option. It’s not very personal, but if you don’t know someone all that well it’s a really great way to show them that you appreciate them, and to make sure they end up owning something they like. Now that you’ve got the tips, it’s time to do some holiday shopping!


Summer is here and with it comes the long-awaited holiday countdown… And after an extremely busy start to the year it is safe to say I am counting down the days until mine!
For me, holidays are about taking time to relax, have fun and - if I am lucky enough - to return home with a golden glow.


This summer is all about the inflatables. I don’t think any of us could have missed them floating all over the internet and social media, from Sofia Vergara to Bella Hadid and even our friends’ holiday Insta pics it seems that EVERYONE is on board this latest craze. What’s not to love lazing about a pool on a giant unicorn or flamingo? (And it does make for the greatest insta pics!)


To the delight of inflatable-lovers everywhere, PASX has collaborated with Sunny Life to create its own range of inflatables they are uh-mazing! Spectacular, eye-catching and fun – they definitely tick all the boxes and are guaranteed to bring a little extra sun into our lives. All that’s left to do is choose whether I will be lounging on a Golden Swan, Flamingo, Pineapple, Watermelon or Rainbow and then hop on and float away – bring on the fun!


Check them out at:


My partner and I love fine wines and good food. And we are pretty heavy on 'stuff', so for Christmas gifts I always like to treat my better half to an experience - ideally involving some culture, food, physical activity and travel. After previous tasting trips to Champagne and cooking courses in Paris, I decided a truffle hunt was the way to go this past Christmas - and it didn't disappoint. I came across Las Pastras on TripAdvisor and booked, then rebooked and chopped & changed 3 times due to work commitments. Thankfully our hosts were accommodating and flexible (or maybe just used to people like us) and we eventually made it to Provence on the last weekend for truffle hunting towards the end of February. There was a mistral wind blowing despite some sunshine, so thankfully we were well wrapped up.

We knew we were going to someone's home and that the home was in a rural environment, so others making the trip should bear this in mind. It's not luxury, in the full five star sense, but it is truly lovely :-)  Johann met us up his lane after our Google Maps app took us exactly to his almost secret home location. We heard the stories of why it is secret - and I don't want to spoil the visit for anyone else who comes, but think Peter Mayle-like stories of local suspicion and conspiracy around such simple things as food (albeit a very expensive foodstuff in terms of the fruits of this precious 'terre'). We then met the dogs - Madeline the elder female was definitely the boss, and we followed their noses to the roots of the oaks to seek out and find the precious cargo of what was almost 1kg of truffles.

After 3 hours of walking, talking and learning about birds, bees, organic farming and the Provençal way of life, we got down to some eating and Champagne quaffing alongside truffles with cheese, truffles with bread and butter and much more! Thankfully, there are not volumes and tomes of info like a wine trip, so I don’t think we’ll forget the info like we have done after visiting wine regions, because truffle farming is a lot about skill, but even more so about a lucky set of natural circumstances. Plus, Johann really welcomed questions of all types -  and I was full of them! This trip was a pleasure - and we left owning (or adopting) an oak tree with the promise of an annual batch of our own truffles for dinner parties at home! It was a wonderful learning experience and not one we’ll forget quickly.

Later that night we ate in a delicious Michelin star restaurant but the next day we burned a good bit of it all off with a dynamic trek to the summit of Mont Sainte Victoire... This is most definitely a trip for foodies and those willing to learn.

Read about the rest of our French antics here on the blog…