Library Lates: Tolkein exhibition, Oxford

Library Lates: Tolkien exhibition

This weekend gone, the Bodleian Libraries held a very special evening, a Library Lates: Tolkien exhibition. As the largest J.R.R Tolkien archive in the world, they certainly know a thing or two about Tolkien.

Curator of Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth, Catherine McIlwaine, held the first talk of the exclusive evening. Detailing her journey, she told the audience how it took 5 years to plan the exhibition, which included travel across to the US on more than one occassion and the approval of the Tolkien estate.

Her expert knowledge was simply astounding, and Catherine wrote two publications to compliment the exhibition itself. It was originally meant to be an exhibition solely on hobbits, to tie in with Peter Jackson’s films.

After visiting Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books, she decided that this exhibition needed to be bigger and better. It needed to present more than just hobbits and it must delve deeper into Tolkien’s world – it was to be a never before seen event. 

The Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth exhibition itself, all stems from the creative genius of its curator and the dedicated work of many within Oxford University.

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth exhibition review

When planning, Catherine sought to borrow Tolkien’s manuscripts and visual items which had been sold to Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the sum of £1,500 in the 1950’s.

Tolkien had been informed by his publishers that Lord of the Rings would not sell well, so he agreed to the selling of his manuscripts after two years of no revenue. The Tolkien archive is highly prized to Marquette and includes plot notes and visual items which are now on loan to the exhibition.

These include interesting things such as character name changes, plot amendments and alternative endings. Catherine said that she “was looking for items that would shed new light on Tolkien’s work” and that each item had to speak strongly for itself. “I chose items that would surprise the visitor,” she added.

Tolkien’s attention to detail was phenomenal. So much so that not only did he map the realistic distance a hobbit could walk but also invented his own Elvish script for the books. As Tolkien said, “mythology is language and language is mythology.”

He agonised over numerous elements of the book, frequently changing his mind back and forth as shown is his rapidly written plot notes within the exhibition. He finished Lord of the Rings in 1949 and it was meant to be one text but proved far too long for the publishers, eventually being split into three.

Discover Tolkien’s family, educational and literary history in a city which proved a massive influence in the creation of Middle-earth, right in the heart of Oxford. You can book tickets here until the 28 October, 2018.

Are you going to attend the Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth exhibition? Who is your favourite Lord of the Rings character?

Stephanie xox

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Uber Sonic Electric Toothbrush Review | The LDN Gal

Uber Sonic electronic toothbrush review

The Uber Sonic electronic toothbrush is sleek and efficient with an exterior crafted from brushed aluminium.

It comes as part of a subscription service ensuring your whites stay pearly with two replacement toothbrush heads being sent to your address each second month.

These refills are certainly a unique selling point, as well as the tooth whitening kit when you first sign up. You can choose to purchase these separately if you prefer.

Since using the Uber Sonic, I have noticed that my teeth do in fact feel great after each use when compared to my manual toothbrush.

So, what did I think of the Uber Sonic electronic toothbrush? 

The toothbrush has a timer inside that tells you every thirty seconds to change quadrant. The small toothbrush head makes it easy to reach difficult areas of your mouth.

Although the Uber Sonic is aesthetically pleasing, I would perhaps like a little more power. Nothing drastic, just a slight bit more intensity.

What makes the Uber Sonic oh so unique is its subscription service, gorgeous aluminium exterior and ease of use. You can buy the Uber Sonic here.

Have you tried the Uber Sonic yet? Do you prefer manual or electronic toothbrushes? 

Stephanie xox

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This Uber Sonic was sent in exchange for an honest review

5 great European road trips | The LDN Gal

5 great European road trips

Europe’s mix of open fields and rolling mountains make a perfect scenic backdrop for any road trip or holiday. From the stunning scenery, unforgettable nature or even vibrant nightlife, Europe will not disappoint.

I’ve teamed up with Compare and Choose to round up my top five European road trips.

Verdon Gorge circuit, Provence, France

Province boasts one of France’s deepest central gorges, the Gorges du Verdon, and a lot of care has gone into keeping it as beautiful as possible. The circuit takes just under two hours at full speed, but you can easily enjoy it at a more leisurely pace – from the quaint little town of Moustiers Sante Marie to the spectacular views of Balcons de la Mescala, this road is a constant stream of new sights and sounds that you’ll never get tired of!

There’s plenty of places to stop and take in the fantastic view from a distance, and if you’re hungry, there’s classic French food available from the many towns and businesses that you’ll find on your journey.

The Autobahns, Germany

Adrenaline seekers will flock to Germany’s famous Autobahns, the giant highways that let you cut loose and enjoy miles upon miles of raw speed! If you prefer to pace yourself, you can always slow down on the side lane and enjoy a long, smooth, hassle-free afternoon drive.

Most Autobahn roads are lined with trees, fields and small forests – nothing over-the-top or exotic, but enough to keep you relaxed and interested throughout the whole journey.

Plus, with so many places you can break away from the road, who knows where you’ll end up?

La Route des Grandes Alpes, France

Designed, constructed and maintained specifically for tourists, this road takes drivers through over fifteen mountain passes and four national parks, as well as some of the most scenic points in the French Alps. The gorgeous Geneva Lake provides a lovely backdrop to the fresh air and wide-open spaces of the mountain region.

There’s no need to rush – the easy turns and straight roads make the Alps easier to explore than ever, offering a new way to see some of the world’s most famous mountains from the comfort and warmth of your car.

Furka Pass, Switzerland

A Swiss Alps road that challenges even the most confident of drivers – more variety and fewer stretches of plain straight road mean that you’re always seeing something new with each new corner you turn or hill you pass. The beautiful grasslands and majestic mountains give you a view that’s definitely worth the effort.

Patience is a key part of any good road trip, and there’s almost nowhere it’ll pay off more than Furka Pass.

Transfăgărășan, Romania

The “Road to the Sky” takes drivers from the base of the mountain range to the highest peaks in all of Romania, always sticking to an easy-to-climb angle that even the most overloaded car could easily tackle! From a beautiful grassy valley to a spectacular mountain peak, the Transfăgărășan is the definition of variety and can last anywhere from a few hours to a whole day depending on how you want to pace your trip.

The intriguing wildlife and scenic pathways offered by the mountains’ off-road areas mean that you can easily stretch your legs, so there’s no need to confine yourself to your car all day – every good road trip needs a stop now and then, after all, and the Transfăgărășan is more than happy to oblige.

Which of these road trips would you take? Where is your favourite place in Europe?

Stephanie xox

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This post is in collaboration with Compare and Choose

A 20 something's guide to Budapest - Hungarian Parliament Building

A 20-something’s guide to Budapest: Top 10 things to do in Budapest

A city of beauty, culture and cheap eats, Budapest is simply on everyone’s European bucket list – and for good reason.

Celebrated as the “Paris of the East”, the winding Danube highlights the city’s beauty, separating Buda from Pest in a sea of twinkling lights by twilight, emulating the grandeur of its buildings and monuments that line its banks.

With a Budapest card in tow, it is time to explore this city and with your new card, all your public transport travel within Budapest is totally free!

The Hungarian Parliament Building, Budapest - A 20 something's guide to Budapest - The LDN Gal

The Hungarian Parliament building:

Renowned as one of the most iconic buildings in Budapest, The Hungarian Parliament building is a truly spectacular sight on the Pest side of the river and one that cannot be missed. You can venture inside and see its stunning interior and the Holy Crown of St. Stephen on an organised tour.

See it from the Fisherman’s Bastion on the Buda side at night for a truly enchanting view – and photograph to boot.

St Stephen's Church, Budapest - A 20 something's guide to Budapest - The LDN Gal St Stephen's Church interior, Budapest - A 20 something's guide to Budapest - The LDN Gal St Stephen's Church view, Budapest - A 20 something's guide to Budapest - The LDN Gal

St. Stephen’s Basilica:

St. Stephen’s Basilica is a truly magnificent Roman Catholic cathedral, named in the honour of the first King of Hungary.

Step inside this Neoclassical church and discover its gorgeous and grand interior and the mummified hand of St. Stephen himself (eek). Once done, ascend up to its cupola lookout for some fantastic panoramic views.

You can save 15% off your cupola lookout ticket with the Budapest card.

Szimpla Kert ruin bar exterior, Budapest- A 20 something's guide to Budapest - The LDN Gal

Szimpla Kert:

Allow yourself a cheeky evening treat and stop for a drink in one of Budapest’s famed ruin bars. Within seemingly disused buildings and overgrown outdoor spaces, these bars are housed within their remnants.

My favourite? Szimpla Kert. A quirky bar embellished with stolen literature, mismatched furnishings and years of memories, its ceilings littered paper. It has a cool vibe and offers a fantastic selection of drinks, food and even shisha. It can get busy, so head there early or during the week to soak up the interior and just unwind for a few hours.

House of Terror - A 20 something's guide to Budapest - The LDN Gal

House of Terror Museum:

Discover more about Budapest and its fascist and communist past at the House of Terror Museum. Here, you will learn more about the historical terror the tyrannic occupying forces made locals endure as you immerse yourself in the interactive exhibitions within.

This haunting building served as the former Nazi and Soviet headquarters and commemorates the victims of these regimes. Its basement, the former prison, emulates the horror faced by these victims at the time, who were tortured in its darkness.

Shoes on the Danube - A 20 something's guide to Budapest - The LDN GalChain Bridge at Night - A 20 something's guide to Budapest - The LDN Gal

Explore the Danube:

Regarded as one of the most beautiful rivers in Europe, the banks of the Danube are just asking to be explored. Be sure to take a cruise, be it in the day or at night, to soak up the architecture and beauty around you.

Once done, spare a moment by the haunting Shoes on the Danube memorial and pay your respects to the 20,000 lives cut short on the Danube banks under Ferenc Szalasi’s influence.

Be sure to cross the illuminated Chain Bridge at night, it offers a lovely evening stroll from Buda to Pest or vice-versa. With brazen lions standing to welcome you at each side, be sure to use it as a photostop.

Church Cave, Gellert Hill - A 20 something's guide to Budapest - The LDN Gal Gellert Hill, Budapest panorama - A 20 something's guide to Budapest - The LDN Gal Gellert Hill, Danube view - A 20 something's guide to Budapest - The LDN Gal

Gellért Hill:

For the best view in the city, take a leisurely stroll-come-hike up Gellért Hill. Once atop, you will see Budapest in all her magnificence with panoramic views. It is the perfect place for a shop-bought picnic beneath the grand statues of the Citadella.

As you make your way down, stop by the Gellért Hill cave church for a unique venture into a church within the hill – not an everyday attraction.

Hospital in the Rock, Castle Hill, Budapest - A 20 something's guide to Budapest - The LDN Gal Hospital in the Rock artifacts, Castle Hill, Budapest - A 20 something's guide to Budapest - The LDN Gal Hospital in the Rock mural, Castle Hill, Budapest - A 20 something's guide to Budapest - The LDN Gal

Hospital in the Rock: 

The Hospital in the Rock presents a turbulent and at times tragic wartime past, offering visitors a fantastic history lesson. Step back in time and discover this former hospital located within a cave system underneath Castle Hill.

Tours are given on the hour in numerous languages and offer an informative insight into the hospital and its fascinating WW2 and 1956 Revolution history, as well as touching on the nuclear disasters within Japan – I held back tears on more than one occassion.

You can save 30% off your ticket with the Budapest card.

Fisherman's Bastion - A 20 something's guide to Budapest - The LDN Gal Matthias Church, Budapest - A 20 something's guide to Budapest - The LDN Gal

Fisherman’s Bastion:

Fisherman’s Bastion is a dreamy structure sitting atop Castle Hill. This fairytale terrace sits in front of Matthias Church and close to Budapest castle.

It is free to wander around but if you desire to go up the ramparts to the upper lookout there is a small fee. From here, discover the picturesque and panoramic views of the Danube and Budapest cityscape.

You can save 10% off your ticket to the upper lookout with the Budapest card.

Holocaust Memorial Centre, Budapest- A 20 something's guide to Budapest - The LDN Gal

Holocaust Memorial Center:

Within the Holocaust Memorial Center you will discover that around 1/3rd of the people at Auschwitz-Birkenau were Hungarian. It is a shocking statistic and the interior of this memorial center emulates the shocking reality of the horrors faced by Hungarian citizens, Jews, Roma gypsies and homosexuals during this time. Its a harrowing and humbling experience, and one that simply cannot be missed.

You can save 10% off your ticket with the Budapest card.

Budapest zoo petting zoo - A 20 something's guide to Budapest - The LDN Gal

Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden:

The Budapest Zoo is one of the oldest in Europe and rather strangely, located within the city centre. It has nearly 1,000 species of animals on display from across the globe and a lovely botanical garden to boot. The best part for most? An interactive petting zoo where you can stroke goats and deer.

You can save 25% off your ticket with the Budapest card.

Have you been to Budapest? Where would be your first stop?

Stephanie xox

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This post is in collaboration with Budapest card

Light wall at Tonight Josephine - The LDN Gal

A Tonight Josephine experience review

If you haven’t been to Tonight Josephine yet, you are in for a treat. Based in Waterloo, this pretty-in-pink hot spot is probably one of the most Instagram-worthy bars in London.

Adorned with a neon light feature wall on entrance and an interior embellished with iridescent streamer lined walls, mirrored ceilings, a floral ‘lady garden’ and mug shot decorated bathroom. This overtly girly bar serves quirky cocktails in an oh so cool environment.

Every corner of the bar proves to be a photo opportunity and most will probably spend just as much time sipping cocktails as they will taking the perfect picture – it is simply a millennial girls dream come true. 

Tonight Josephine is certainly a lot of fun with its bright, bold and brilliant interior. The bar itself is quite small but this offers a degree of intimacy and exclusivity to boot I guess.

Cocktails at Tonight Josephine - The LDN Gal Bathrooms at Tonight Josephine - The LDN Gal

So, what did I think of Tonight Josephine?

Obviously, the décor and atmosphere is fabulous – it is marketed to be just so. Though despite the glamour, its nineties and noughties soundtrack and scented interior (yes, I said scented), you cannot help but feel a little cheated when it comes to drinks – no matter how good they taste.

Unfortunately, my cocktail proved to be more ice than alcohol, free-poured swiftly before being garnished and passed across the bar. It certainly didn’t last long.

Despite this, a few hours at Tonight Josephine makes for a lovely evening and is certainly a fabulous place to stop by for drinks and snaps with the girls – just be sure to take advantage of the 2-4-1 happy hour! 

You can get a free cocktail when you sign up to the Tonight Josephine mailing list here.

Have you been to Tonight Josephine yet? Which cocktail would be your go to?

Stephanie xox

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Rebound Revolution Bicester

Rebound Revolution Bicester review

So, let me hit this post off by establishing something, I am pretty unfit at the moment. You know when you get a little bit busier and a little more indulgent, well the lb fairy has certainly paid me a visit over the past few months.

I guess it is time to do something about it and I have made the executive decision to get my backside into gear and shift a few pounds. Looking around my local area, I was a little put off by the gyms which seemed to all want to wrangle me into a 12 month contract – no thank you.

When I realised that the newly opened trampoline park next door to me did fitness classes, I was pretty intrigued and decided to take the plunge. Rebound Revolution Bicester offers a selection of workout classes and I opted for the High Intensity Hiit Workout Class.

So, what do I think of Rebound Revolution Bicester?

I have to admit, I was pretty terrified walking across but what could be more fun than bouncing yourself to fitness eh?  Arriving, I was given a pair of grip socks (included in the price) and ushered over by the peppy and lovely instructor.

I have to admit, at times during this hour-long session I could have dropped to the floor, but the feeling afterward was incredibly euphoric – I must keep in mind that fitness is great for your mental health.

After an intense mixture of aerobics moves, circuits, stretches and yoga positions, resistance and core training, I felt sweaty as hell and pretty damn accomplished. I will be returning and would highly recommend anyone give trampolining workout classes a try.

The fantastic class aside, the trampoline park itself is great, with 50 trampolines, a climbing wall, giant leap platform and airbag, wipeout area, basketball hoops and foam pit.

You can book from the Rebound Fiit selection of workout classes here.

Would you ever try a trampolining fitness class? How do you stay fit? 

Stephanie xox

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