FUN | WHITE WALKERS SIGHTED IN WESTEROS - WINTERFELL FESTIVAL, CASTLE WARD

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.

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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.

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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  www.nationaltrust.org.uk/winterfell       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 www.nationaltrust.org.uk/winterfell 

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.

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FUN | PAPIER x HOUSE OF HOLLAND

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.

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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 www.papier.com

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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 www.highstylife.com 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.

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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 www.etsy.com or on www.notonthehighstreet.com

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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.

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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!

FUN | FLOAT AWAY THIS SUMMER WITH PASX

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.

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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!)

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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!

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Check them out at: www.pasx.co.uk

TRUFFLE HUNTING AT LAS PASTRAS, CADENET, (PROVENCE) FRANCE

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…