Exploring Oxford

It is truly amazing that you can live near somewhere your whole life, but never really SEE it. My home city of Oxford is really one of those places. I wasn’t until family from the USA visited that I did anything touristy, because you seem to take everything for granted when it’s where you’ve grown up, or in my case I did anyway. I went to college in Oxford and I was walking through the Oxford Castle Quarters every day to get there from the bus stop and I didn’t bat an eyelid, and I was ironically studying to get into university to study history! So now, after doing some actual exploring, I’d like to share some top tips about visiting Oxford and where you should go, but I would also welcome any tips from anyone who has visited, because it is wonderful to feel like a tourist in your own city!

The Radcliffe Camera, Oxford. Photo taken 24th August 2018.

Top Ten Things To Do:

1. Oxford Castle. You can take a guided tour around the remains of the castle, which date back to the Norman era. A must do.

2. St Michael’s Church and Saxon Tower. Just off of the bustling Cornmarket Street is this beautiful church. With the tower dating back to 1040, it is considered the oldest remaining building in Oxford. The views from the top are incredible!

3. Explore Oxford University Colleges and buildings. Of course, Oxford is most famous for its world-class university. There are many colleges that comprise of the university, and each are as grand as each other. Take a guided walking tour around the colleges and the Bodleian Library, Radliffe Camera, Sheldonian Theatre and Christ Church, where

4. Go Punting. This is a must do and a fun activity! Hire a punting boat from Magdalen Bridge (you can fit up to 6 people in one boat) and have endless hours of fun while participating in an Oxford tradition.

5. Visit the Turf Tavern! Now unfortunately this tavern isn’t a good as it used to be in my opinion, as it’s now own by the commercial budget company that I’m sure you’ve heard of – Greene King (sighs), so isn’t as unique and wonderful as it once was. However it’s still worth a visit as the foundations and use of this site as a tavern date back to 1381! It’s hidden away down a winding narrow alleyway near the Bridge of Sighs (a pivotal photography spot when you’re visiting Oxford).

6. Go shopping! The new Westgate Shopping Centre is the main shopping district, offering many big name brands, high street retailers and copious places to eat and drink. Nearby Clarenden Centre offers more of these stores, while Queen Street and Cornmarket Street add to the variety.

7. Get in touch with nature. Even though you’re in the city, the University Parks offer the perfect place for a picnic or a stroll and the Oxford Botanic Gardens are absolutely beautiful to walk around, offering a sense of tranquillity while surrounded by a busy city.

8. Take an open top bus ride. Open top bus tours always provide and insight into the city you’re visiting, and Oxford is not the exception! Google ‘city sightseeing Oxford’ to book your tickets!

9. Tour the museums! Being such a historical city, it’s no wonder that there are an abundance of museums to choose from! The Natural History Museum, Pitt Rivers Museum and the Ashmolean all offer a fundamental and educational experience for all who visit.

10. Enjoy a pub crawl in Jericho. There are many wonderful taverns and bars to choose from in the north of the city, a few of the best being the Old Bookbinder’s Ale House, the Eagle and Child, the Lamb and Flag, Rickety Press, the Duke of Cambridge and Jude the Obscure.

Further afield

These places are great if if you want to explore the wider Oxford area but would like to get out of the city centre, each is as different to each other as can be:

1. Around 10 minutes walk from the city centre is Cowley Road, which is home to a colourful vibrant and exotic scene. Restaurants, shops and bars of many different cultures galore, you’ll certainly be taken in by the contrast of the city centre. You can always walk down it and take the bus back, but parking isn’t exactly easy of the road.

2. Binsey and Port Meadow, where Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, often acquainted! Perfect for a walk on the outskirts of the city but away from the hustle and bustle.

3. Take the bus to Woodstock and Blenheim Palace! The birthplace of Winston Churchill and home to the Dukedom of Marlborough. You can read my latest post about Blenheim here.

I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it! Let me know if you’ve visited any of these places, if you’d like to visit Oxford or if you have any more tips for readers in the comments below!

Michelle xx

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Blenheim Palace

Hi everyone!

Today we visited the beautiful Blenheim Palace in West Oxfordshire. I’ve visited before; if you read my post about the Luna Cinema experience at Blenheim you’ll know, but it’s been a little while since I actually toured the palace. I now only live ten minutes away so yesterday we upgraded to an annual pass. You can do this by asking to donate your entry ticket to the Blenheim Palace Heritage Foundation Charity, which is excellent. I have a feeling Blenheim is going to become my second home now!

Blenheim Palace is situated in the outskirts of the historical market town of Woodstock, where there are many places to stay and a wonderful and vast choice of pubs, resturants and cafes to eat and drink in. Blenheim Palace is really easy to get to: it’s just off the A44 and has copious amounts of parking, with overflow parking available in adjacent fields during major events such as Countryfile Live.

I would throughly recommend starting with the palace tour. You will need to keep the receipt of your entry ticket, or your print-out if you booked tickets online, and show this to the lovely people working on the audio guide stall which is in the colonnade just outside the front steps. The audio guides are brilliant: they are really easy to operate, extremely informative and simple to carry. You learn so much about the family line of the Dukedom of Marlborough, the reason why Blenheim was built, who the land came from, why the palace was decorated in such a way and what each room was used for. I won’t tell you any of the details and information, because as exciting as it is, it’s much better to learn it all yourself when you visit!

After the palace tour, the best thing is to have lunch in the Water Terrace cafe, which has a great selection of food and drink. Once you’re full, why not walk it off with a leisurely stroll around the gorgeous landscaped grounds. The courtyards are beautiful, the Great Lake is breathtaking and the rose garden is lovely!

his isn’t all. You can ride the train from the outside of the palace grounds down to the pleasure gardens, which encompasses an exciting maze and a butterfly house, as well as a toy shop, childrens adventure playground and more places to eat and drink. If you do not wish to take the train, you can drive down to the pleasure gardens as there is parking available. There really is so much to do, and it is great fun for all the family.

A member of our party was in a wheelchair, and we found that the vast majority of Blenheim is wheelchair accessible which is great; we also had my one month old niece with us and her stroller!

Blenheim Palace is of course the birthplace of one of the most infamous Briton’s of all time – Sir Winston Churchill. You can learn all about his life in the Chuchill exhibition inside the palace, and the nearby village of Bladon is where he was laid to rest along with his family at St Martin’s Church.

Overall, I would throughly recommend visiting Blenheim Palace! It’s a must do, especially if you live in or around Oxfordshire! I have a history degree from Oxford Brookes University, and I remember in my first year one of my history professors, Professor Dillinger, comically bellowing “if you haven’t been to Blenheim Palace, what are you doing? Get on the bloody bus and go!” in a lecture. That certainly woke everyone up just after 9am on a rainy morning! So really, take my Professor’s advise, and go!

Thanks for reading!

Michelle x

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The Ordinary Foundation Review

So I have read so many reviews about this foundation and the brand itself, and I just had to give it a try! At only £5.90 from Cult Beauty, you cannot really go wrong.

The Ordinary is owned by Deciem, who do not test on animals, and therefore do not sell their products in China. None of their products include chemicals such as parabens, sulphates, and many others either, so I think it’s clear that this is an ethical and trustworthy brand.

Cult Beauty provides clear shade swatches, and I usually mess up and get completely the wrong shade when buying online but I chose 1.1 N (fair, neutral) and it actually is the most perfect shade for me!

Often, when I buy something so hyped up I end up disappointed. However I was really surprised with the foundation. I have combination skin and I didn’t find it too drying or too oily either. It’s pretty full coverage but doesn’t mask or cake your face either. I did find that it went a little bit oily without using a setting powder, but the second time I used this I set it with a face powder from Revolution and it lasted all day.

I was a bit shocked when this product arrived as it looks really tiny, however it does state that it is 30ml which is pretty standard for a foundation, so I think they’ve just been clever with the packaging.

Overall I am happy with this product and I think it’s good value for money, so I would purchase it again.

Let me know in the comments if you have tried this foundation and what you think about it, or if you have tried any other products from The Ordinary!

Thanks for reading,

Michelle xx

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Artyard Cafe, Enstone, Oxfordshire.

Hey guys!

So I wanted to tell you all about a lovely little gem in Enstone, West Oxfordshire, pretty close to the edge of The Cotswolds – Artyard Cafe. I live about ten minutes from this place so I’ve visited quite a few times and each time it never ceases to amaze me, so I wanted to write a review!

Basically, the Artyard Cafe is a bistro, bar, cafe, restaurant, sports bar, grill, all rolled into one. There generally is something for everyone. Outside is a covered patio area with tables, a projector, pool/snooker table etc,as well as a children’s play area. Then, you head downstairs to the main entrance via a little terrace area that also has seating. Inside there are two rooms: the main cafe, which is as fun and quirky as could ever be imagined, with art everywhere that you are able to purchase (hence the name ‘Artyard’), and a smaller room out the back, known as “the den” which is where you’d go and chill if you just wanted a drink or to watch a sports game. They have wonderful food, from breakfast to lunch to dinner, to snacks, ice cream and freshly baked cake, it’s just amazing.

Today I sat in the den as the cafe room was quite busy (the Sunday roasts are extremely popular), it was chilly and raining outside and my OH wanted to watch the football. I sat in a little nook in the bay windows and it was so cosy, just watching the world go by.. (sidenote: does anyone else find the sound of cars passing really therapeutic? Just me?). I had a pot of tea (tea always tastes best out of a teapot, this is a fact) which was lovely. I posted this photo on my instagram earlier:

I generally do not think there could be a better way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon!

I then decided that I was rather peckish and ordered bbq ribs and fries, but i was not prepared for how huge the portion was! (still ate it all though, obviously)

I love how you even get lemon water to wash your hands with after, what a cute, funky idea!

Overall, I really love this place. Excellent value for money, friendly staff and a unique setting. Here is the website which includes the wonderful menu!

Basically, if you live around this area like me or you are just visiting or passing through, you need to check this place out, and I guarantee you will love it!

Thanks for reading!

Michelle xx

*disclaimer – I’m not affiliated with Artyard Cafe in anyway, nor do i know the management or staff personally, I just really really love it!

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Greatest Showman at Luna Cinemas Blenheim Palace

Hi guys!

So last night I finally got to see the Great Showman, and I have well and truly fallen in love with it! I love musicals and this was phenomenal. Hugh Jackman is such a fabulous actor, and I love Zac Efron, Zendaya and Michelle Williams. All of the cast were brilliant. My favourite songs from the film are Rewrite The Stars, A Million Dreams and This Is Me. 10/10 would watch forty million times.

I saw this at the wonderful Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. I live 10-15 minutes away and I feel so blessed to live so close to this beautiful palace and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. The Luna Cinema comes to Blenheim every year (it tours the country, so I’d definitely check if it’s coming to somewhere near you), and it’s a fab experience. I go with my best friend, her mum and her boyfriend and we always have such a laugh!

This year it was raining, so we did get a bit wet and cold, but luckily it did stop raining before the film actually started. We took a huge flask of hot chocolate which was extremely beneficial, and had blankets so that we could wrap up warm. We also took lots of snacks because if you don’t did you even go and see a film?

Had a fabulous evening, I’ve played the Greatest Showman soundtrack on repeat and I wanted to share it on my blog!

Thanks for reading!

Michelle xx

Eco-Natural Products Nacomi Coffee Scrub Review

Picture it: it’s yet another early morning, you’re still half asleep as you stumble to the bathroom and you’re struggling to even turn the shower on. Now, imagine how lovely and stimulating it would be to wake yourself up with an all-natural, vegan coffee body scrub! If you like this idea, oh have I got the product for you – Eco-Natural Products Nacomi Coffee Scrub.

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Now, quick disclaimer, Eco-Natural Products did very kindly send me this product for me to review it, but this will not sway this review in any way. This post will detail my honest thoughts.

The reason I was so excited to try this product was because it is completely natural and vegan. This means that it has no parabens or chemicals in so you know exactly what you are putting on your skin. I really like the simple paper packaging as it is environmentally-friendly, and it is re-sealable which is of course super handy. The smell of strong freshly brewed coffee is simply divine – hence my comment above about it being the perfect accompaniment to your morning shower. I would recommend resisting the urge to eat it though, tempting as it is! Coffee is well known for it’s skin benefits and anti-oxidant properties, so this product is a perfect way to enhance the appearance of your skin. It is anti-inflammatory and the caffeine invigorates your skin – perfect for a daily wake up call or a pamper evening!

The Ingredients:

  • Robusta Coffee
  • Cane Sugar
  • Sea Salt
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Sweet Almond Oil,
  • Macadamia Oil
  • Argan Oil
  • Vitamin E

Feeling hungry yet? I really do love the fact that these are the only ingredients and that there really aren’t any chemicals or any harsh additives. I definitely think that this is beneficial to me as I have quite sensitive skin in some areas, which I’ve found can often become really irritated when using scrubs, but whilst using this product my skin was absolutely fine so that is fabulous! I even used this on my face; it felt really nice and didn’t cause any redness.

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When I opened that packaging I was greeted by that lush sent of fresh coffee!

I must admit that I haven’t ever used a dry scrub before, but actually I think that it felt like it was much more effective at exfoliating this way. My skin certainly feels really smooth. The product also claims to be effective with it’s “intense anti-cellulite and firming action”. I can’t really comment on the cellulite aspect as it’s not something I currently have, however I did think that the scrub does have effective firming properties especially around the thigh area. I have heard countless reports that coffee can reduce cellulite due to the caffeine content so if you do wish to reduce the appearance of cellulite I would defintely give it a go!

I personally think that there is only one issue that I found – being a dry scrub this of course does make a bit of a mess in your shower or sink when you wash it off. However it’s not exactly a big deal and easily washes away, no bother. There are much worse things to have in your shower! At £14.99 the product is a little pricier than some of the other products sold by Eco-Natural but I would personally say it’s worth it to be able to use an all-natural and handmade product. You do also get 200g of product which, again as it’s a dry product, goes a long way; you only need a very small amount each time.

Overall I am really satisfied with this product. I would recommend this and I would also purchase this myself. You can find this body scrub on the Eco-Natural website, right here.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Michelle xx

Huge thank you to Eco-Natural Products for sending me this body scrub! www.E-NaturalProducts.co.uk.

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25 Facts About Me!

I’ve seen a few posts like this and so thought I’d join in! I’m afraid I’m not really that interesting though! Hope you enjoy, and let me know in the comments if we have anything in common! 🙂

  1. I’ve always loved writing and talking lots about things that interest me, so writing this blog is so much fun!
  2. If I could be any Disney princess I’d be Rapunzel because I have always loved having long hair. I want it as long as possible and I’m really trying to grow it even more.
  3. I’m a Ravenclaw and a huge Potterhead. My favourite character is Luna.
  4. I love Game of Thrones and I am team #HouseStark. Arya is my favourite character.
  5. I live in West Oxfordshire, UK.
  6. I love all music, but country music is my guilty passion, which doesn’t seem to be very common in the UK.
  7. My favourite singers are Little Mix. I idolise Perrie, Jade, Jesy and Leigh-Anne and I think they are such wonderful role models for women.
  8. I am a huge Royalist. I never grew out of the princesses/fairytales stage.
  9. I’m getting married next August, eek!
  10. Everyone seems to pronounce my name Michelle as ‘mih-chelle’ or ‘mer-chelle’, which seems to be the norm, but my mum has always pronounced it ‘mee-chelle’ so anything else sounds odd to me. I like people to call me Miche ‘Mee-ch’. I think I’m just awkward.
  11. I have two younger brothers.
  12. I had a major tomboy stage in my pre and early teens, but I feel so girly now I’m in my 20s. Pink, flowers, glitter, I love it.
  13. Red is my favourite colour.
  14. My favourite shop, if you haven’t read my previous blog post, is Hobbycraft.
  15. I love the TV programme Friends and I’ve seen every episode hundreds of times (throwback to its being shown on repeat in the late 00s on E4 and being sponsored by Appletiser). If I was any character from friends I think I would be Phoebe as she’s eccentric, fun and ditzy.
  16. My birthday is 9th January and my birthstone is garnet (hence the first part of my blog name)
  17. My favourite part of the morning is applying my make up! I’m not the best but I’m starting to improve slightly (thanks YouTube)
  18. I seem to have an obsession with dark chocolate Bountys
  19. I have a History degree from Oxford Brookes University
  20. I am a certified Scuba Diver, although I haven’t dived in 4 years due to an accident I had. I’ll probably write a post about it at some point to stay tuned!
  21. I’m obsessed with Christmas and as soon as the weather changes and it starts to get cold (i.e, September) I start counting down. It’s a magical time.
  22. My favourite TV program when I was growing up was Tracy Beaker without a doubt!
  23. I didn’t travel overseas until I was 18 in 2014 and since then I have visited the USA, Italy, Egypt, India, France, Germany and Canada (briefly). I have a Travel Bucket List which I have written about in a previous post.
  24. I love coffee, especially since I gave up sugar at the beginning of the year. I couldn’t imagine ruining coffee with sugar now!
  25. I have a Russian Dwarf Winter White hamster called Princess Hammie (yes I am sad).

So there we have it, 25 facts! Hope you enjoyed, and thanks for reading! 🙂

Michelle x

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