MariesConnections

A beauty, lifestyle & photography blog.

On a very sunny and warm Saturday morning I left my little town and headed to Oxford, which is only 15 minutes away by train, to spend an afternoon with the team at Marco Polo Guides, fellow travel and lifestyle bloggers along with travel industry professionals for a great all day event. 

Marco Polo Guides have been relaunching all their best guides including the guide for Oxford so what  better way to rediscover with them this beautiful and architectural city of Oxford with their latest guide in hand. 
This ancient city has so much to offer from museums, art galleries, world renowned colleges (that all look like sets of Harry Potter films), bars, restaurants... and everything that just makes this city a must see!
About a dozen of us met first for a brunch at The Handle Bar Cafe & Kitchen because what better way to start your day with a brunch somewhere trendy and especially with an avocado on toast and some latte art and spending as much time snapping away your food than eating it. Hey! Bloggers will be bloggers! By the way just a little shout out to The Handle Bar Cafe & Kitchen for their very friendly and welcoming staff (especially our French waiter) and let's say the food was just... Top Notch (I'll go back with toddler and partner for sure!). 





After an introduction to the Marco Polo Guides and what we were expecting to see and do while following the walking tour right from the guide, we all tucked in and chatted away about, you know... what Oxford meant to all of us (some were locals others just studied there etc. so we all had our little story to add) and anything blogging related of course!
Then we got sun glasses and cameras at the ready and we all headed down to town to start our Marco Polo walking tour.












Our first stop was the Covered Market situated right in the middle of the city (off High Street) this market has everything to offer from everyday food to amazing bakery stands, latest fashion, very instagram-able coffee shops to the must try Moo milkshake stand. We spent a good hour wondering between stands and taking all in. Also enjoying the smell: you know! that market mix of fresh fruits, vegetables, brewing coffee, freshly baked bread etc. a mix and match of odour all as delightful as each other.
Then a little walk down the High Street we reached Queen's College founded in 1341 with its fabulous grand entrance. This place just makes you want to go back to Uni and if the aspect to study does not attract you anymore then do not worry! you can visit the Queen's College but make sure to check here for their open day. 
After a few snaps for Instagram and the blog of course, we carried on our walk tour to our 3rd stop: The oxford canal and in particular the Magdalen Bridge where you can go on a punting tour and see parts of the city in a different and romantic perspective. I actually do think that if you come to visit Oxford one day you have to go on a punting boat its an experience I highly recommend and so is the Marco Polo guided tour.


Then we all head back up to Holywell Street for the most instagram-able street of all Oxford for its very colourful pastel little houses. In fact we probably spent more time taking pictures here than seeing all the other sites! But for a little story, No. 99 was home to J.R.R. Tolkien which holds a special place in my heart, yes! I'm a big fan of Lord of the Rings, and these have been my favourite books of all time, so if you are a fan of Tolkien then you know where to go (The Marco Polo guide also included other areas where Tolkien used to hang out so make sure to check these too!) . 


Then hidden away in the cutest and tiniest street off Holywell Street we reached our break pub from our walking tour the famous Turf Tavern for a well deserved, refreshing drink. This crooked, wonky pub that dates from the middle age is literally hidden away and mostly known by the locals and students. Known also for its great pub food. This place has seen and served some of last decades most famous personalities such as Emma Watson, Barack Obama and some older legends like Ernest Hemmingway, J.R.R.Tolkien, C.S. Lewis etc. Just stop there and get that cheesy burger or mac and cheese, a local beer and after your feet have rested head down for the final tour of our day, The Bridge Of Sights between Hertford College and New College Lane one of the most famous land marks in Oxford, this bridge was completed in 1914 & is a passage for the students from the old and new Hertford College.

And finally our last visit was the Radcliffe Camera right on a square situated just behind the High Street  between Brasenose and All Souls College. This beautiful round library founded in 1749 is very impressive to see from the outside and ends perfectly our walking tour on a highlight. You must take a picture in front of this amazing tall building with it's bikes (as so Oxford!) in the background for the perfect shot and if you can get a few students in gowns too then this is perfection at it's best!
But we could not finish our Marco Polo walking tour of Oxford without a well deserved Afternoon Tea. The Marco Polo Guides's team had it all organised for us, and it is highly recommended in their guide. To try and see the Vault & Garden literally just opposite the Radcliffe Camera. It's a perfect place to eat scones & sandwiches in the garden while admiring the square or inside for the impressive arch and high ceiling. A beautiful table was already dressed and waiting for us with yummy scones, sandwiches, organic teas and of course some bubbly.
For the little story this place is the Oxford University's Old congregation (dated 1320) but now its a beautiful cafe using local and organic products so it's the perfect place to bring the family visiting or your besties. Shout out to all the waiters at the Vault & Garden for being the most friendliest bunch ever. 



So there you have it, my little guide to Oxford using the excellent handy pocket size Marco Polo Guides which you can find here. Highly recommended if you are looking for a guide that condenses all in one from where to eat, what to do, visit etc. including transport, where to stay and even including a map! 
Also I am not stopping there, look out for a future post where I'll guide you through Oxford where you can find anything Harry Potter related (where a few scenes from movies have been filmed etc.) as being a big fan I can not resist doing it, right!? using of course Marco Polo Guide Oxford Edition to help me through my next adventure. 
PS: I would like also to say a big thank you to Hayley, Petra, Senja & Diane that made this event so much fun and made all of us feel so welcomed. Cheers girls!!!

Have you visited Oxford before? What was your favourite place? Tell me all by commenting below.


All above though , comment are my own as per usual...you know the drill. 

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Lately have been re-loving facial toner. I can no longer finish, especially with my night time skincare routine, without a toner. Its now there to stay for a very long time.
One that have been the highlight of my routine is the Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner. A long name but this bottle is full of kindness and surprise. When Klairs contacted me to try one of their best selling little number I, in all honestly, could not refuse. Skincare is one of the love  (along with lipsticks but that's another story!) of my life so of course I embark on the trial journey!
I am extremely lucky to say the least to be now a home owner. I am 40 years of age and when I was living in London I though this would never become a reality and that I'll be renting (and paying someone else mortgage) for the rest of my life. To be fair buying in London is still an almost impossible thing for most Londoners due to high sky house / flat price even if you are earning well, rent price are so high along with everything else, that saving is near impossible or at least saving enough for a mortgage prove to be very difficult have been there and I am not even a high maintenance person . Therefore we did it. Don't take me wrong my partner and I, even so we managed to save enough, we were still not able to buy or to save enough to buy in London unfortunately.
So we moved out of London (unfortunately like many other Londoners that I had no choice to move out to be able to offer a property) to be able to get on the housing market. We moved to Banbury in Oxfordshire. A one hour journey to London by train. We bought our 3 bedrooms semi-house just over a year ago and even so moving out of London (I lived in London for 18 years) was not an easy move, as I miss this city a lot, I will so do it again with no hesitation.

 So what we learned from buying our first place:

TIME
You need to know that it s not going to take 2 weeks and its not going to be an easy ride. Buying a place can take from 6 months to a year. so my first advice to you its be prepared once you found a house and that your offer have been accepted that you might not move in your dream home until maybe a year. Once you accepted this you'll be fine and ready for the challenge upfront.


AGENCY
We dealt with an agency, not by choice but previous owner sold their house with the help of one and we had no choice to go along with it.
I'll tell you something the day we'll decide to sale our house I can ensure you we'll avoid agency like the plague and we'll be selling our house independently. 
Like renting agencies in London (and I am sure everywhere else too)  they've been the pain of my renting life for many, many years and buying a house made our experience as bad as when we were renting. Dealing with the agency have been extremely slow to get the simplest answer, paper work etc. (hence why it can take a year along with lawyer etc.to get the 'key' ) In fact so slow that when our offer got accepted along with the bank credit ...we had to start all over again by sending our mortgage request again to our bank for a second time as the date on our first agreement expired! This was not our fault but the agency fault. 
So my advice its be prepared that if the house you buy is being sold through out an agency this might make you grow white hairs or not... but be prepared! Always keep copies of everything, anything you send by post to be 'sign for' etc.  it will cost you a little fortune but worth to avoid all the headache in the long run. Keep chasing them, keep reminding them dead line, be the pain in their life (for once sounds amazing!) sound arsh but our experience have been so poor that if you want things done quicker (or hoping to) then be on their case at all time. 


HOUSE VALUATION
Have one done! Don't even think of avoiding it. I highly recommend you get a house valuation done at 100% . To have it fully done cost much more money than partly done but it will reveal if you are about to pay the right price for the property but mostly to really find out the state of your property that you are about to buy from roof to the ground your house have been builted. We did uncovered few things, which weren't alarming, but was worth to know and this is how we found out too that the offer we gave was the right offer (originally previous owner ask much more than what his house was worth it so good to know as you could save thousands!!).


MISTAKE WE MADE
But we learned from it. 
When we first visit our future house we regret to not have done some kind of agreement or even some kind of contract for previous owner to empty their house to all their belonging including what was in the loft and not take with them stuff that belong to the property such as doors.
Let me explain:
On the day we got the key (the same day as we moved in) previous owner left all the curtains, all light ceiling pendants, pot plants, garden ornament and other bits and bobs. 
Don't take me wrong, even so we do not like their taste, we were rather happy they left all curtains behind as we had none at the time (we were not too keen on the rest left but we were just not too bother). 
But this is where we got very angry: we uncovered few weeks later that they left a huge amount of their rubbish in the loft. Here what we found: a large sink (yes a fully functional sink!), a broken stereo, huge broken speakers the size of a chair, a oven, a microwave (all broken too!) a large amount of broken mirror and frames (why keeping broken stuff in a loft ??), large random piece of wood, some old curtains, curtain shower ,a whole broken wardrobe that have been flat pack etc. 
It was very annoying to find that, as not only we almost broke our back to get all down from the loft, it literally took us 4 trips to the recycle tip. Yes 4 trips! Trips that cost us money on petrol, as our nearest recycle tip is 25 minutes away, and also money as some stuff that we left at the tip were chargeable for, such as the sink and electric goods. We were not happy to say the least.
Oh! I forgot the most important thing. We have a porch! so to get inside our property we had to open 2 doors. Well guess what? The day we moved in one of the porch door was missing. After chasing for weeks the agency, which could not gave us a real answer on why the door was missing? We find out from our neighbour that previous owner just took the door with them. As we can not prove it we just had to sat on it. 


So my advice its make sure you have some kind of agreement on paper/contract...? with agency/lawyer/ previous owner that the house you are buying will be emptied of all previous owner things including from the loft and missing part of your house (e.i. door, gate etc.) will be credited back (if missing on the day of moving in). Sounds a bit extreme but having to spend a whole weekend emptying that loft and paying £400 for a new door was not something we wanted to pay or deal with.


So here you have my little insight on buying a first home. I have so much more to say but it would take me 12 pages if not more to mention it all. Just remember to not trust anyone (agency, previous owner etc.) but do work with them as best as you can too. Keep copies of everything and just enjoy because it is stressful but also very exciting!!!


Are you a home owner too? Tell me all about your experience below. 
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As I mentioned on my Dressing Table | Interior Design blog post that you can find here , my partner and I are first time home owner, for just over a year now, and we've been working hard on making or 60's built home, which pretty much have been unloved for many years, to a more modern and loved home. 
So far we've redecorated or 3 bedrooms and the living room and we are yet to start on the kitchen, the conservatory and the bathroom but hopefully by end of this year or early next year everything that we have left to do would be done.
Since we finished our living room, over a month ago, have been enjoying gathering bits and bobs to make our house a home. We still need to purchase wall arts (along with making our own wall art) and other furnitures but we are not rushing and we prefer getting things that we really fall in love with. 
So far this is what we gathered and that we totally love. our style is retro / hobo/ modern. I know make no sense but I don't really stick to one style I quite like mixing retro with more modern furnitures. Enough bragging here what we bought so far:
Gold Planter by Matalan - Totally in love with this planter. Very on trend at the minute but still looks great with the 'theme' of my living room. What can I say it's a keeper and my succulent plant just look perfect in it !
Hand-woven seagrass Basket by Samber- Loving the natural eco-friendly seagrass colour with the dark grey . Goes perfectly in my living room even so I am still not sure if I'll put a plant in it or blankets. Mmmm...decision decision ?

Have been on the hunt for a handbag for month and despite the fact that we are surrounded by 100 of  shops selling us all type of bags, I could never find the right one. Either way they were too boring, too expensive, too cheaply made, too small, too big etc. it was always a 'too ...something'. And lately, from all the places, I found my perfect Spring / Summer handbag.
Happy Women's day. A day not to fucking celebrate women with given them a 30% off coupon for bras and makeup.... NO!!! No it is a day to remember that we still need to fight against women discrimination (and transgender ) all over the world. A reminder that everywhere in the world women and girls are subject to discrimination by not having access to vote, to drive, to work, to education, not aloud to also decide what's best for their body, to FGM, being force to be married, not be able to stop a non desire pregnancy, to women that everyday suffer sexual harassment at work, at school, in the street and at home. This discrimination is happening every day and everywhere from so called 'developed' countries to 3rd world countries. No women in this world never ever could tell you that she never felt discriminated in some way or another. We ALL have a story to tell. All of us women. All unite.
A day to remind all women that the fight is still happening, it is a long journey to acceptance and equality. It is not going to change overnight unfortunately and probably many future generations still will have to suffer this discrimination, but I have high hope that one day all women born on this planet will be able to do and become whatever the fuck they wants to be and be equal to men. The journey is long but lets carry on the fight for future generation to enjoy that right.

I also dedicate that post to all the women in my life:


My mum that always told me I could do and be whatever the fuck I wanted to be.


To my sister, Anne, that had 3 kids and yet has her own carpentry business (and yes she has a vagina and she is doing a 'men' job!) and her business is doing amazingly well.


To my sister Virginie, who is sadly no longer with a us, but fight breast cancer like a champ. We love you and miss you so much!


To my bad ass grandmother that never let anyone tell her what to do.


To my 1 year old daughter that, even so she is very young, I know she is already full of determination and will. I will teach her that she is equal to men in EVERY WAY and that she can become whatever she wants to be. simple because she has the right. I am fighting for her every single day (yes you guessed it I am a feminist and proud of it!!) 


to Betsy, my best female friend who has that girl power attitude. Go girl! Go get them!


and finally to ME:

I did not had an easy life to start with. Have been also discriminated for having a vagina from being bullied from a young age to my late 20's for just being 'different', to anorexia, bulimia, depression, to have been sexually harassed at work, in the street and even in my own family, to have been told by my own father that the best that could happen to me was ..and I quote:  'to get married and become a house wife' to a male teacher that his only hope for me was also to have a good marriage (what the fuck is wrong with them?!) .
Well... I proved to those male that not only I succeed at school, despite them thinking I would failed, that I left, on my own, the comfort of home to travel 1000 miles away in a country where I could barely speak the language to then land my dream job in that same country and you know paid my own bills and shit. 
I proved everybody that I could be independent and needed no one to be a success (and yes I still did not had a penis by then after checking numerous time).
Today I speak 2 languages, I am a business partner to the love of my life, I have a blog that start getting paid interest from brands, I become a mum and I am successful in my own way and proud of what I achieved so far.


And finally to all of you, female, reading this. I salute you as I Know we don't have it easy everyday, be proud of what you achieved whatever that could be. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do anything.


Teach your girls and boys that equality is a right, regardless your gender, that your little girl can wear dinosaur pyjamas or super hero outfit and dream to become a footballer and expect to be paid the same as a man. and that your little boy can wear a dress like a princess and play with dolls and teach them to respect the opposite sex from day one. Let them be free, equal and educated from the start.


Love & respect to all my bad ass girls out there. Lets carry on the fight. #metoo
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It was a clear but a crisp Thursday morning in January. What a better day for my partner to take baby and I to our near by, and one of our favourite city: Oxford, and discover what this beautiful and full of history this city had to offer. 
We made our choice to spend a day mostly in the Jurassic, while scrolling a little bit through Victorian curiosities to giant African animal skeleton and many other wonders. This place was the Oxford University Museum Natural History and this was our main place of choice for that chilly but beautiful sunny day.
I can't believe we are already in 2018!
2017 have been the year of many new releases from brands that came across the pond to our old land that is UK. Its been a year that I feel changed the beauty world forever as I felt there were more choices, more brands, more releases than ever before. I am not sure if its a better thing or not but either way it was an exciting year for beauty. This past year have been a bit odd for me so it does reflect in my beauty best bits and by that I mean I did not get all the trendy products or all the new brands out there. Reasons being its that I became a first time mum, moved from London to the countryside and I also did not longer have a full time job that feed my beauty thirst. I became in 2017 a mum at home (although training to become a Freelance Video Editor to work alongside my partner which is very exciting). A drastic life change (but an amazing one don't take me wrong !!) after working over 17 years in London as a Merchandiser / Production assistant for High Street Fashion brands such as Top Shop, River Island, ASOS, Urban Outfitters etc. to name a few to a full time mum to my gorgeous baby girl. Having said that..my love for beauty haven't vanished hence why there is still rather a few products that I really enjoyed using in 2017 and that I felt needed to be mentioned and not forget:
This is the first time ever that I do one of those 'What I Got For Christmas' post. I think, in the past, I never wanted to do one as I always though people might think I am bragging, but the truth its that I totally adore watching 'What I got for Christmas' YouTube videos and same with blog posts. I am just a nosy cow and I love to see how excited and appreciative people are showing their Christmas gifts. 
So this year I decided to do my version. The only difference its that I combined my birthday and Christmas gifts as my birthday is literally a week before Christmas. And yes ... I know I am late and Christmas was like 2 weeks ago but I am never on time in my schedule, perhaps a new year resolution or at least something I should improve on ? :) 
 If you read my Autumn Favourite (here) and my Bedroom Mood Board which you can also find here. You'll know that my partner and I are in the middle of refurbishing our entire house from literally floor to ceiling. Its a fairly old house and every rooms needs to be modernised. Windows need to be changed, all floors to be redone, plastering etc. you name it the whole lot! So far we've done our 2 bedrooms and the office/ studio room.  

Since I first heard about Glossier, months ago, I just knew this brand was up my street. New beauty launches happen almost every month and to be honest with you for a lot of them I am just not that interested (mostly because I don't always have the funds), but last summer when I heard Glossier was soon to launch in the UK I could not be happier. I am a skincare type of girl, I love my make up (especially my lipstick), don't take me wrong, but I get way more excited about skincare. Glossier had everything that I love, and yes, I'm not going to lie that the huge number of mentions this brand had before their arrival in the UK got me even more excited!
There is a new kid on the block and it goes by the name of Botanicals. What appealed to me was the Organic label, the vintage looking packaging and mostly for the promise of many things that come with this brand, that I am sure we'll hear more and more good things about in the months to come. 
I am lucky enough to own a house that my partner and I can decorate as we pleased. We moved there early this year and the whole house is in serious need of redecoration (see my post about it here). We have now completed my baby girl room, the office / studio and now we are in the process of decorating our bedroom. My partner mentioned, numerous times, that I can design it how I want it. So with this in mind I decided to go with one striky feature wall. The paint I choose is Nirvana by Colours, a very deep dark blue with a teal undertone that I totally adore. It is 'out of my white walls comfort zone' but I love it. My plan now it's to built decor and furniture around it, I am feeling:  teal, copper, rust, grey & mustard colors along with texture and also gold and wood artefacts is, I believe,  the way to go. Below are what is inspiring me and I hope will inspire you too.
There is a misconception that when you first start a blog you need a lot of equipment to be able to create professional content. The truth is that really you don't, you can easily create content that is very pleasing to the eye without breaking the bank.
Here is what people think you need but really you do not:
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