So yesterday it was my niece’s first birthday. Yes, the little cherub who gripped my finger when she was just a few days old is now one, and she was having a party.
The venue had been booked and the date had been pinned in the diary months ago. All I had to do was not show up looking like a bedraggled and embarrassing aunty. But what to wear? Well luck would have it when Wish Want Wear, the designer dress hire company, came to my rescue fairy godmother style and loaned me a dress.
Wish Want Wear is genius – you can borrow a bang-on-trend designer outfit for any occasion for a very small cost but not pay the designer price tag for it. If only Wish Want Wear was around three years ago when I desperately needed a dress for Royal Ascot.
Perusing their extensive website, I wished I had a wedding to go to just so I had a valid reason to get a gorgeous gown for the night. Or an invitation to Ascot again. But I had to be sensible for a day time birthday party so I settled for a dress by MW Matthew Williamson, the Carnaby maxi that I teamed up with a gold necklace, gold watch and gold hooped earrings. I liked the mix of colours on the print, which gave me a lovely contrast when accessorising and the sheer panelling on the shoulders and back was just beautiful.
The price tag on my chosen dress is £430 but the hire price is only £65 (currently on sale at £45) and includes a back-up size and free returns. That’s less than buying a new dress off the high street. There isn’t a subscription, there are no dry-cleaning bills, just the comfort of picking a posh frock from your computer and having it delivered to your front door.
You can also select how long you’d like to keep an outfit for whether it’s for 4 days or more, and if you’re not sure, for £25 you can ‘try before you buy’ by borrowing 3 outfits and having 24 hours to try them before sending them back in the pre-paid Royal Mail envelope.
I can see how this could become addictive but it’s guilt-free and makes practical sense. I’ve bought some beautiful dresses and yet I’ve been waiting for the right moment to wear them. Sadly I don’t get too many uses out of each one. There was one dress in my wardrobe with its tag still on for 3 years!
I’ve decided to sign up to Wish Want Wear so the next time an occasion calls for it, I can borrow a designer dress from this never-ending wardrobe and be confident it’ll be worth it.
*This dress was kindly loaned to me by Wish Want Wear for review purposes.
I had made a pact that I wouldn’t leave Marrakech without having a hammam. You may know I tried one at Casa Spa in London earlier this year (and loved it) so a truly authentic one in the heart of this bustling city was destined to be the highlight of my trip.
There are hammams on every corner in Marrakech but it’s difficult to know which ones are good (and hygienic) or which ones are terribly bad. It’s why I relied on recommendations from friends and good old Trip Advisor.
I managed to book with Les Bains De Marrakech, a hugely popular boutique spa with top ratings. Conveniently I made a reservation through their website while I was in Marrakech and paid securely through Paypal.
Their website is superbly designed and easy to navigate so I could select which treatments I fancied. I went for one of the packages the spa offers: a 45 minute hammam and traditional body scrub with black soap and kessa glove plus a ghassoul body mask with plants and either a one hour relaxing or draining body massage for 580 dirhams per person (roughly £48). A hammam on its own is 170 dirhams (about £14).
Les Bains De Marrakech, which opened its doors in 2008, is situated in the old medina, by the iconic Kasbah gateway. There are scooters and motorbikes whizzing through the souqs and the spa is tucked away down an alley way that magically takes you away from the noise to tranquility.
From the reviews I had read I was very excited and to my delight, appearances exceeded my expectations as soon as I stepped inside. It is a luxurious spa, tastefully decorated in traditional Morrocon décor. The corridors are like a maze but they are lit up by the stunning traditional Morrocan lanterns.
I was instructed to arrive half an hour before my treatment was due to begin. The staff are highly professional, polite, well spoken and friendly. Once I had been welcomed, I was taken to the changing rooms to get ready. Les Bains De Marrakech provides everything – you only need to bring your swimwear.
While I waited for my appointment, I relaxed on a sun lounger by the pool and was served mint tea. I had requested for a private hammam (at no extra cost) but if you visit with a friend or your partner and have no qualms about sharing then your treatment will take place together.
The therapists usually don’t speak English but are fluent in French and Arabic. I managed to get by with some French though my therapist made a sweet effort to speak broken English. Well you don’t really need to be engaging in much dialogue when a hammam is very much hands-on.
I knew what to expect - steam, soap, scrub, steam, mask, wash. I had heard a few horror stories about some hammams’ tendency to not observe hygiene properly but thankfully Les Bains De Marrakech use a brand new kessa glove on every client and let you take it home afterwards.
The therapist is not shy about poking you in intimate areas; it is an invasive treatment which if you’re not aware of (let alone not used to), you won’t like. I just tell myself they do this all the time and it’s true, they don’t bat an eyelid about your wobbly bits…plus there is hardly any light in the stream room so you’re alright!
Having experienced such thorough scrubs with my London Moroccan and Turkish hammams, my actual Moroccan hammam at Les Bains De Marrakech was mild in comparison. I also was deprived of seeing how much dirt and dead skin was coming off me because the steam room was very low on lighting.
But it was my massage I was disappointed in. I chose a ‘relaxing’ massage which was explained to be a strong, deep massage to loosen my muscles and help me relax. Instead my masseuse just rubbed oil into me, and stroked my back, shoulders and head. It felt quite limp and amateurish and I did not leave relaxed and relieved.
Perhaps I was unlucky in landing someone who didn’t appear to know what they were doing, but for what I had paid (which was exceedingly more expensive than other spas), I had expected much more. I craved for a massage at Casa Spa and am yearning to book an appointment there. I wouldn’t have to fly to another country for it…
Les Bains De Marrakech has invested a lot in its vision to be an aesthetically beautiful spa and it accomplishes this flawlessly. I just can’t help but think had I gone to a lesser known hammam and consequently paid less, I would have left more satisfied.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. This was certainly true when I was on holiday and Do Not Refreeze‘s Leanne howled it had been more than a week since we’d seen each other. Well at the weekend after two whole weeks we made a date at Westfield Stratford City to catch up. And it didn’t involve our usual jaunts to a beauty launch.
Westfield Stratford City is conveniently close for Leanne and an easy drive along the A406 for me. It was also a nice change to venture east as I’m always at Westfield London.
Turning up at 11 o’clock in the morning, we were amazed to see how blissfully chilled out and empty Westfield Stratford City was for a Saturday. The calm before the storm… My suggestion is get here in the morning to take advantage because come 2 o’clock, it’s a different story altogether.
We planned to see what Westfield Stratford City had to offer to a couple of beauty junkies so we headed straight to Tantrum for a manicure first. It would be rude not to since we are beauty bloggers…
Having had naked nails for the past fortnight, I was in need of a splash of colour and a re-shape after breaking two of them. Leanne likes to be awkward so she presented her talons covered in glitter. Her manicurist didn’t bat an eyelid and happily removed it.
Tantrum is a new face on the high street and their first and flagship store is in Westfield Stratford City. It opened last summer as a pop-up store but recently underwent a makeover, making its permanent mark in the mall. You’ll find it on lower ground floor in between the food court and Great Eastern Market.
From outside it doesn’t give the game away but when you step inside, it’s a haven for jewellery, hair, nails and make-up for the fashion conscious yet affordable. We were thrilled to see cherry-picked Nubar and Mavala polishes as well as Bourjois and Jessica, plus skin care from Elemis and Amie on sale.
Tantrum’s nail bar is at the back where you can perch yourself on a stool, order a cold drink and get your nails done. Leanne and I both had a mini manicure, which costs £10. As our manicurists beautified our nails, I was entertained by Leanne’s tales and anecdotes (the details of which I cannot disclose…).
Our next destination was a short stroll away at Neal’s Yard for an express facial. We had a skin consultation and discussed our main concerns before our therapist selected the best products to use.
I much prefer cleansing balms to take off my make-up so their award-winning Wild Rose Beauty Balm was used, which was perfect for tackling dehydrated skin – something I complain about quite a bit. This was followed by the Rejuvenating Frankincense Toner and Rejuvenating Frankincense Facial Serum, both which are elasticity-boosting and give the skin a radiant glow.
With our complexions glowing, the finishing touch came from some light make-up from Neal’s Yard mineral range of foundations, bronzers and blushers, which we’d never tried before. Shocking, isn’t it? It was like wearing next to nothing on the skin, very light but with a subtle shimmer and totally skin-friendly.
I forgot how much I adore Neal’s Yard for their organic skin care so this visit has prompted me to rekindle my relationship with an old favourite. I definitely want to invest in the Wild Rose Beauty Balm as my next cleanser. Meanwhile we were given a few samples to take home and try, so I may add a few more items to my shopping list.
We then trotted off to L’Occitane for a fragrance workshop and to gush over some of our L’Occitane favourites. Interestingly, L’Occitane at Westfield Stratford City hosts monthly events in the evenings that you can bring all your girlfriends to. It’s a chance to try out their products outside of the madness you sometimes get during the shopping hours.
After over 3 hours of being pampered, our bellies rightfully made a point that they were being neglected. We wandered to the Great Eastern Market area tucked away by Waitrose and overlooked by many in favour of the more commercial joints. Our pit stop for refuelling was Umai by Japan Centre – an incredible place that is packed with so much in such a small amount of space.
It has a counter serving piping hot noodles and crisp tempura, fresh handmade organic sushi on the other side and it’s also a mini supermarket selling authentic Japanese ingredients to set you off on your Japanese cooking adventures.
We ordered deep fried sweet potato and asparagus as sides while Leanne opted for beef and rice and I chose crispy fried king prawns and vegetables with sticky rice for our mains.
The staff at Umai are so warm, friendly and adorable, and the food served is delicious, filling and such good value. I think our main meals were under £10 each. Next time I’m taking away a sushi box – far more appetising than the standard supermarket offerings.
Our final stop? The shops of course. Like we were going to leave without buying at least one or two little things…
The best quote of the day came from Leanne (naturally): “We look like a frigging zebra crossing – you’re so dark and I’m so pale”.
I *love* this girl.
Leanne and I finally left Westfield after 4 o’clock that afternoon – more than 4 hours later. We did well not to be over zealous in the shops and in fact, had a better time enjoying each other’s company and discovering other things Westfield has to offer.
You can make a date at any of Westfield’s shopping centres across the country – Westfield London, Westfield Stratford City, Westfield Derby and Westfield Merry Hill. If you pop along to either of the London ones, your visit can be made that little bit sweeter with some special offers on eating out and at the cinema until 5th June.
For more information, visit http://uk.westfield.com/stratfordcity/news-and-events/make-a-date/.
*We were invited by Westfield to experience ‘Make a Date’ and received complimentary treatments and food courtesy of our kind hosts.
Stop the traffic, this is a fashion post! “Whaaat?”, I hear you say. Yes, that’s right, this is a fashion post. Please don’t give me a hard time because I’ve not mastered the art of posing with one leg up (and all that jazz) but when the lovely folk at bonprix approached me, something inside me leapt at the chance to do something out of the ordinary on Just Nice Things.
Bonprix has a new collection of beachwear and looking at some of their other outfits especially the dresses, I am missing out on some beauties for my heaving wardrobe.
I was kindly sent this paisley sleeveless maxi. I confess it was a couple of months ago but with the unreliable weather we are blessed with in old Blighty, it’s been very difficult to actually wear it and I ended up leaving the country!
So when I was in Marrakech a few days ago, I took advantage of the sunshine and 30 degrees heat. And here I am, posing around the ruins of El Badi Palace:
I am fond of maxi dresses because I hate my short legs and fat thighs and they cover them up. But also these long summer dresses look elegant, they keep me cool and make me look tall at the same time. Paired up with some accessories and sandals, I’m sorted. I even attempted to match my nails with the dress…they remind me of those rocket ice lollies.
Sadly this dress is no longer available but there are plenty of others to choose from at bonprix and they are all priced very reasonably for exceptional quality. I know because my mum had a good look and if you know what Asian mums are like, they know how to spot quality fabric! My paisley dress was about £25.
If you’re getting ready to go away then it’s worth looking at the selection bonprix has to offer to get you in the mood for summer…or if you’re an optimist like me, we WILL have glorious sunshine. For first orders, you can get 20% off and free delivery until 30th June.
So, how did I do for my debut fashionista post?