11 December 2017

Travel Post: Italy - Day 6 (Venice)

Day 6 - Thursday

Our first morning in Venice didn't start off too well: the room was incredibly warm but the geyser didn't produce any hot water, the water was lukewarm at best. The room already cost a lot (and it was the cheapest I could find that looked decent online) and our breakfast was a further 7 euros extra per person. Granted, we didn't have to eat there, but we figured that we wouldn't be able to eat a hotel-style breakfast AND have coffee someplace else for that price. So all in all we weren't vey happy campers at that stage.

The breakfast itself was nice. Not the best we've had by then, but not bad. There was a selection of cold meats and a strong white cheese (those with the holes in it) that I don't really like. They also had yogurt, breakfast cereal (nope), small stale buns, hot breakfast options, juice, and a variety of croissants. Their coffee option was from a Douw Egberts machine which didn't exactly blow my socks off.

After breakfast I complained about the lack of hot water in the room and within 10 minutes the handyman was there to fix it. He fiddled with the shower taps and tried to talk to me, but with him only speaking Italian and me only speaking English, it didn't go so well. The husband asked him to do something about the central heating (the lady at reception said they couldn't do anything about the heat) but the handyman said he'd switch off ours. 

After breakfast we set off for St Mark's square. And by "set off" I mean, basically walk 80 m, because that's how close the hotel is to St Mark's square. The options were: walk around on St Mark's square (it's just a square with shops and restaurants around the edges), go to St Mark's Basilica, or go to St Mark's Campanile (clock tower). By then we were a bit tired and wanted to take things slow. We decided to go to St Mark's Basilica, but we had to wait around as it only opened at 9:30. We went inside but weren't allowed to take photos. It is really beautiful inside and all the artwork on the walls,  the ceilings, and the floors, were made from teeny tiny mosaic tiles. Every single artwork! It's incredible to see. We could also go up to the almost-top of the basilica (next to the four horse statues) which had a stunning view over St Mark's square and, in the distance, the ocean.

After this we thought about going up the clock tower, but we decided against it. We ended up drinking coffee with a view of the ocean and the "harbour" and deciding what to do next. We decided to take things slow and to walk around instead of chasing monuments. Venice is a very expensive city and we decided against going to Doge's Palace (photo fourth from the bottom), for instance, as it was a whopping 20 euros per person to go in. 

We settled on taking a water taxi and going "overseas" to a small island called San Giorgio Maggiore. Saint George's Major is both the name of the island and the church built on the island. We initially missed our stop and got off on the adjacent island (the two islands are about 50 m from each other but there is no bridge) and had to wait for the taxi to come back on its route so that we could take it to where we were supposed to go.

The church itself is beautiful and the ticket gives you access to the clock tower from which you can see the entire Venice in all its glory. The sun also decided to make an appearance and the blue skies offset the beautiful old buildings beautifully. It was also at the top of this clock tower that we finally opened the note from my doctor telling us that we are expecting a baby girl.

After this we still had some time left over on our water taxi pass, so we took a water taxi basically right around Venice. We saw lots of cool buildings and I also saw the famous hands "holding up" on eof the buildings on the edge of the canal, so cool!

By coincidence we got off at the stop closest to the Rialto Bridge and it was at sunset, so we got the chance to photograph it. Venice sunsets really make for gorgeous photos and I'm contemplating printing and enlarging at least one of the photos I took to hang in our house.

 Oddly enough we also met a couple from Cape Town on the bridge which was very cool! They were also there taking photos of the sunset and heard us speaking Afrikaans. After walking around some more we went to a restaurant for dinner. I can't remember the price, but I know it was quite a good price for a four-course meal and they served Venetian specialities, so that was another plus point.

We started off with a Venetian speciality: Sarde in saor (sweet and sour sardines). Now this might sound a bit weird, but they basically pickle sardines in a sweet and sour brine. This particular dish was served with pickled onions (I think they pickle the sardines with the onions) and grilled polenta. I would have liked a bit more sardines and a little less onion, but it was still very, very tasty.

For our second course we had the most delicious seafood pasta. I've found that usually if your order any seafood-related dish in a restaurant (I'm talking about SA specifically), they skimp on the seafood. You'll get one or two mussels and a few crab sticks. But not here: the portion was big and the seafood plenty. I could have happily stopped here and just had my dessert, but there was a third course on the way...

For the third course we had another Venetian speciality: Nero di seppia (loosely translated to squid ink). It was as disgusting as it sounds and looks. I just tried to Google the correct name (still not sure this is it) and I saw someone comparing it to wet tar. That is pretty accurate. And imagine further that it tastes like Bovril. Now look, I'm a big fan of Bovril but I would prefer to not eat a big, warm, chunky plate of it. Normally the Italians use the squid ink to colour the spaghetti, but sometimes you get a pile of squid pieces with the ink. I ate about a quarter of it and then sent it back saying that I was too full. I was full, but it was also disgusting.

Our fourth and last course was dessert: tiramisu. You can't go wrong with a bowl (or in this case, a plate) of creamy tiramisu!

When we got the bill it was, of course, much higher than just what we ate: the restaurant was kind enough to add a "tourist charge" to our bill. How lovely! This is something that really annoys me of a lot of restaurants in Italy. If you're going to charge me extra, at least tell me so from the beginning.

Anyway, we set off for the hotel for our last night in Venice. The room wasn't as hot as when we left and although not steaming hot, the geyser water was at least warm enough to wash and rinse my hair with.

And that was our sixth day in Italy! There are two more posts coming your way, please check in soon so you won't miss anything.

Until next time!


08 December 2017

Haul! Sephora and Duty-Free Buys From Europe

When we were in Italy a month ago (how has a month gone by already?!) I did some damage at various beauty stores, including Sephora. In a previous post I showed you what I bought from the drugstore, pharmacy, and supermarket, but today is the biggie: Sephora and duty free!

K-Beauty Sheet Masks

I am fascinated by Korean skincare and beauty practices and I enjoy reading up on it. I've never bought or used any K-beauty before but Sephora had a whole section devoted to it so I had to try a few things. One of the most popular ways of getting into K-beauty is with using sheet masks. There are the most interesting types of sheet masks with the most interesting types of ingredients. Three popular K-beauty brands (well, that I've heard of) are Tony Moly, Too Cool For School, and Dr. Jart+. I bought two masks from Tony Moly: an avocado sheet mask for nutrition and a tomato sheet mask for radiance. From Too Cool For School I got the Egg Cream Mask for hydration, and from Dr. Jart+ I bought the Soothing Hydra Solution mask. I wanted to buy more of the Dr. Jart+ masks, but they were the most expensive of the three.


Keeping with the K-beauty theme I bought the Egg Mousse Soap from Too Cool For School which is a facial cleanser. I'm a bit hesitant to use this as I'm scared it's going to smell like rotten egg. My nose is even more sensitive than usual due to the fact that I am pregnant, and the box the facial cleanser came in already smells bad (just the box, not the can), so I'm a bit worried!

I also bought the Panda's Dream So Cool Eye Stick from Tony Moly. The packaging is just so cute! The actual eye stick is a pale blue twist-up stick that smells very fresh and glides across the skin. I don't think it'll have major benefits for my eye-area, but it's a super cute product nonetheless.

Sephora Sheet Masks

As you can see, I have a mild obsession with face masks. These Sephora masks were very reasonably priced (considering that you had to multiply each price by 17), and they came highly recommended. I got the Lotus face mask (moisturising and soothing) and the Algae face mask (purifying and detoxifying). I also got the Lavender foot mask which comes in the form of socks, so, basically sheet masks for your feet.

Becca Glow on the Go Kit

I've never owned a Becca product before and I know minis aren't good value for money, but it's much more affordable than buying two full-sized products and let's face it: I won't use it up before it (1) dries up, or (2) before I have to throw it out. I decided on the Glow on the Go kit which features a small Shimmering Skin Perfector in Opal and a Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed in Opal. Both are the same gorgeous golden sheen in different formulations: liquid and pressed.

Sephora Cream Lip Stain Set

I've heard good things of the Sephora Lip Stains and this holiday set containing four tiny lip stains looked too good to pass up. There is the very popular Always Red, Vintage Rosewood, Nude Blush, and Blackberry Sorbet. I've already worn Always Red and I have to say, it is gorgeous. It's a bright juicy red and it dries down matte. It's not too drying given that it's a matte and it wears off evenly, leaving me with an even stain and no blotches. 

Urban Decay Naked Heat Palette

Last but definitely not least...the latest Urban Decay Naked Heat palette. I bought this at duty-free at Frankfurt airport in Germany. I've had my eye on the palette ever since it launched. It is exquisite: warm sunset-like shades that range from a light sandy shade to a dark plummy-brown. Doesn't that sound absolutely delicious? I haven't swatched it yet, I just take it out of the box and stare at it currently. The packaging is quite different to what we've seen so far from the Naked palettes: it's a plastic case and it's quite thick. It comes with a nice big mirror and a decent double-ended eyeshadow brush.

And that's it for my European shopping! Let me know if there's anything you'd like to see a review on and I'll start there. Or let me know if you've ever used any of these products, I'd love to know your thoughts.

Until next time!


06 December 2017

Travel Post: Italy - Day 5 (Florence, Venice)

Today's blog post is about our last day in Florence and our first day in Venice. Both cities were quite cold and there was a light drizzle when we got to Venice.

Day 5 - Wednesday

After packing up having had another great hotel breakfast we went to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, otherwise known as the Cathedral of Florence or just the "duomo". 

We went into the baptistry and then continued to the dome. The baptistry is beautiful but we were quite excited for the dome. I was, however, a bit apprehensive as there are a LOT of steps to climb in order to reach the top. I rested along the way and made it to the top. There were a couple of places that were very narrow or where the roof was very low, but it was a good experience all in all. From the top of the dome you can see the whole of Florence. We also went to the cathedral (the "bottom" part of the dome, if that makes sense).

After this we took another regional train to Venice. It was dark by the time we got there, so I didn't get to see Venice from afar for the first time. When we got to the train station we bought tickets for the water taxi (which were quite expensive) and I was a bit hesitant as I normally get motion sickness quite easily. I am happy to report that I was perfectly fine on the water taxis!

We had trouble finding our hotel as my phone struggled to regulate its GPS. When we got to the hotel there was a sign saying that we should go to some other hotel for check-in. That should have been our first clue that this wasn't going to be the most pleasant stay...

The hotel and the room are both quite kitsch and not really my style, but apparently Venetians like their decor to be slightly over the top. Our room was quite small, but we only planned on sleeping there, so it wasn't that big a deal. It was also incredibly hot in the room and we had to open the windows even though it was cold outside.

This was the end of day five, please check back in later for more installments.

Until next time!


04 December 2017

New From the Drugstore

I don't know if it's just because I've been preoccupied lately, but it feels like the drugstore is exploding with new offerings. Every time I go to Clicks or Dischem I go to see what's new and end up with a bunch of stuff (you know how it goes). I've rounded up everything I've bought in the past few months and today I'm going to show you what's new at the drugstore in terms of some of my favourite brands. I haven't tried any of these products beyond swatches yet, so leave me a comment down below if you want a review on something specific.

Wet N Wild

I'm not sure if these items are limited edition, but I do know that I couldn't manage to find them in Pretoria so I asked my mom to buy it for me in Cape Town. The Au Naturel palettes each contain 10 eyeshadows ranging from very light sand colours to dark and smoky greys. The palettes are named "Nude awakening" (left) and "Bare necessities" (right). Both are a mix of shimmer and matte shades. Nude awakening contains more rose gold and plum shades and Bare necessities contain more golden shades (although it doesn't look that different in the photo). I haven't yet swatched these but I will dive into them soon.

The highlighting powder is also quite scarce and I was very glad when my mom managed to find me one. The shade is called "Crown of my canopy" and it's a golden shimmery highlighter. It is in fact very shimmery and I hope it won't make me look like a disco ball!


Maybelline have been knocking it out of the park lately in terms of new releases and I couldn't be happier. New items from them include a set of four primers, each geared towards a different goal. The pink one that I have is an illuminating primer as you can see in the above two photos. It contains micro pearls and gives the skin a beautiful glow.

They released their Master Strobing sticks a few months ago and now we finally have the Master Strobing Liquid. I have the shade "Light/Iridescent" and you can see that it's a very cool-toned almost silver highlight that's really beautiful. The photo doesn't do it justice at all.

They also released a cushion foundation and this thrills me endlessly. It's very expensive for a drugstore foundation (R300!) but I was too excited to pass this up. I have the shade "21 Nude" and I hope and pray that it's my correct shade as the lighting in stores always throws me off. In-store it looked like the perfect match, but we'll see. The foundation contains SPF 20 and is said to be "naturally luminous", "fresh face finish", "medium coverage", and "smoothes and perfects skin". 


I only have one essence product to share today and that's the Fresh & Fit Awake Primer. It is said to give the skin a healthy glow as well as a pore minimising effect. It contains a vitamin complex and cranberry water. Interesting. Upon swatching this (I forgot to photograph it) it leaves a glow on the skin. But not like a highlighter or illuminating primer, it's like it's colourless but still gives you a "lit from within" glow. I am quite excited to slap this on my face.


 Catrice has also been knocking it out of the park lately and their new collection is so beautiful and sophisticated, I had to stop myself from blindly buying everything. The packaging is rose gold and glass, and the glass bottles are all frosted, gorgeous!

First up is a lipstick. The packaging of this is insanely beautiful and all the shades are very classy and "grown up". The shade that I have is "C02 Meet Metal" and is a frosty pink-peach. I don't know if this will suit me, but I think it will look equally stunning on very fair skin tones and dark skin tones.

The Liquid Metal Long Lasting Cream Eyeshadow is not part of the limited edition collection, so they'll be around for a long time. I have the shade "050 Smart Mauve" which is a beautiful mauve-y taupe shade. It feels very cool on my skin and is very creamy. When it dries down it stays put, so I think I'll have to work fast to blend this onto my eyelids before it sets!

I'll be honest and say that I bought these two products solely for their packaging. I mean, how cute? The bottle on the left is part of the limited edition collection and is a Sheer Serum Bronzer, so basically a liquid bronzer. I'm a bit hesitant to use liquid bronzers for fear of looking like I've been dragged through a pool of mud, but I think a few drops mixed into foundation would look gorgeous. As you can see from the top two photos, the bronzer is quite pigmented.

The other bottle is not part of the limited edition collection and is the Light Correcting Serum Primer in "Candlelight". It's very watery (hence, serum) and blends in like a dream. I am, however, not too impressed with the amount of fine glitter in the primer. I'll have to test it to be sure, but on my hand I can see the micro glitter on the back of my hand with every keystroke.

The last item I didn't photograph on its own as it's not meant to be used on its own: it's called Make Up Transformer Drops in "Lightening" and this is essentially the same as the drops from The Body Shop: if your foundation is too light you mix a few drops of this into the foundation and voilĂ , the foundation is instantly lighter. I'm always a bit skeptical to see if these types of products will make my foundation look ashy, but I will try it and report back.

That was it for my drugstore haul/show-and-tell. Please let me know which products you would like to see reviews of first, and also let me know if you've tried any of these products.

Until next time!