Scones at Patisserie Valerie Oxford, Afternoon Tea at Patisserie Valerie review

A Patisserie Valerie Afternoon Tea review

Afternoon tea is one of the numerous pastimes that makes me rather proud to be British – it is a fabulous tradition. After a busy week at work, what better way to unwind than with good company, deliciously quaint sandwiches, and a selection of delicious treats?

The best thing about Patisserie Valerie is that it offers quality afternoon tea for two, nationwide – they are literally everywhere. Being my thrifty self, I indulged in a Groupon voucher (please, stop presenting me with so many good offers) and saved myself over 20% off the original price!

What is included in the Patisserie Valerie Afternoon Tea?

So, what did we get in our Patisserie Valerie afternoon tea for two? Check out the menu below:

  • A selection of finger sandwiches: cucumber, smoked salmon and cream cheese, egg mayonnaise and cress, ham, spinach and mustard and chicken, pesto and sunblazed tomatoes
  • Two mini vegetable quiches
  • A selection of mini cakes: mini Victoria sponge, 2 mini chocolate éclairs, mini carrot and walnut cake, mini mixed berry mousse slice and mini chocolate mousse slice
  • Four homemade scones (two plain and two fruit), clotted cream and a selection of preserves
  • A pot of tea or two hot drinks of your choice

Cakes at Patisserie Valerie Oxford, Afternoon Tea at Patisserie Valerie review(1)

So, what did I think of the Patisserie Valerie Afternoon Tea?

My initial reaction was how wonderfully it was all presented, there is such an array of food on offer so it is all pretty indulgent. A nice touch is that sandwiches are made to order and there is also vegetarian options available.

However, I will truly be impressed if you manage to finish it all. There was far too much there for us to eat, and our lovely selection of mini pastries were beautifully packaged and taken home with us to indulge in later.

I found the staff to be a little brash, but this may have just been the Oxford branch. Some venues even cater to bubbly-fanatics and offer a glass of prosecco alongside your afternoon tea – go on, treat yourself.

Have you tried the Patisserie Valerie Afternoon Tea? Where is your favourite place to have afternoon tea?

Stephanie xox

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Fancy winning an Urban Decay Liquid Moondust eyeshadow in Zodiac?

If you do, entering is easy! To win the Urban Decay Liquid Moondust eyeshadow in Zodiac please complete the following:

  • Comment on this blog post below and tell me why you would love to win!
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Each of these will allow one entry, so there is a lot more chances to win! 💞

All of these entries will be collected and the winner will be announced at random on The LDN Gal Facebook page  on the 8th of April.

 
Good luck everyone! 😘

Stephanie xox

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Sabai Soaps, Green seaweed soap bar

Sabai Soaps review

A few weeks ago, I was introduced to Sabai Soaps. An ethical and family run soap business based in the UK. Their aim is to present the beautiful beauty products of Asia to the European market.

All Sabai Soaps products are organic, natural and vegan-friendly, handmade in Thailand from exquisite natural ingredients before being lovingly packed back to the UK to be sent out to their new owners across the world.

I was very lucky indeed to be gifted the Green Seaweed Soap*, this lavish soap arrived beautifully packaged in printed Thai paper and emitted the most wonderfully subtle peppermint scent – and this was before I had even opened it!

Sabai Soaps, Green seaweed soap bar

So, what did I think of the Green seaweed soap?

This refreshing soap bar is rich in essential vitamins and oils, and left my skin feeling clean and soft with its fabulous combination of ingredients – who doesn’t adore smelling fresh and having really soft hands and skin? 

It contains a wonderful array of 100 per cent natural and cruelty-free ingredients, including coconut oil to soften and treat the skin, peppermint oil to leave it glowing, and the addition of seaweed to exfoliate, dragging out excess oil in order to leave the skin feeling revitalised.

If that isn’t fabulous enough, 20 per cent of all Sabai Soaps company profits are donated to local charities within the communities in which they work with to produce these beautiful soaps.

Having used the Green Seaweed Soap for over a week now, I am utterly delighted with the results, it has worked wonders on my dry skin and has proved to be lasting too! You can shop the rest of Sabai Soaps natural soap collection here.

What do you think of Sabai Soaps? Which handmade soap is your favourite?

Stephanie xox

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A view of Prague Castle from the Vltava River, Prague

Prague: A long weekend of pastel coloured views and terracotta roofs

Prague has always fascinated me – pretty buildings, cultural attractions, and an affordable price tag, what more could a girl want from a city break? With all that in mind, a weekend in this scenic city was definitely on the cards, and Prague was the next destination myself and my boyfriend had planned to visit in Europe. Here is a 20 something’s guide to Prague:

Prepped for a long weekend, our mini adventure would begin after a nights sleep in our okay-ish hotel. The Hotel Colosseum was well located to attractions and to be honest, pretty cheap – I am not overly snobby when it comes to hotels, I literally sleep there. 

Old Town, Prague:

Our hotel was Less than five minutes from the celebrated Dancing House or ‘Fred and Ginger’ and this was to be our first stop. This deconstructivist style building features quirky architectural design and fascinates many in its placement amongst a myriad of Baroque, Rococo and Renaissance buildings, to name a few architectural styles found within Prague. We gave the Dancing House a quick glance and raced towards the UNESCO-listed Old Town – naturally.

Church of Our Lady before Týn, Old Town, Prague

Church of Our Lady before Týn, Old Town, Prague

Stepping into the Old Town in Prague is very charming, lined with ornate buildings, street food vendors and the grand Church of Our Lady before Týn and of course, the wonderful Astronomical Clock. Embellished with cobbled streets, Gothic churches and its array of architectural styles, the whole city is very romantic – our favourite start to the day being coffee together in the square each morning.

Astronomical Clock, Prague:

What did we love most about the quaint Old Town and its buzzing square? It would have to be the famed Astronomical Clock. Be sure to await the hourly procession for a truly lovely show, with rhythmic chimes and animated figures – we managed to miss it about eight times during our stay before finally seeing it.

Astronomical Clock and Church of Our Lady before Týn, Old Town, Prague

Astronomical Clock and Church of Our Lady before Týn, Old Town, Prague

Another cultural delight that mesmerised was the exquisite Gothic Church of our Lady on Tyn, a grand building, which dominated the Old Town skyline, its interior almost as astounding as its exterior. This divine and ornate church dates back to the 14th century.

LETENSKÉ SADY PARK, PRAGUE:

However,  there is another church that dominates the Prague cityscape, and that is St. Vitus Cathedral, a beautiful church within the mighty walls of the Prague castle compound. Uphill, we made our way through the lush Letenské sady park to the castle – there is so much green space in Prague, it is truly fabulous. 

A view on the descent towards Prague Castle, Prague

A view on the descent towards Prague Castle, Prague

Once you have made your way to the top of Letenské sady , ensure to stop a moment and appreciate the wonderful view of the city beneath you, it is so picturesque, a sea of pastel houses, terracotta roofs, and trams, separated by the delicate and winding Vltava river – it is a little bit magical to say the least. 

Prague castle, Prague:

As you enter, be sure to purchase a ticket for Prague Castle that includes all the attractions you desire to see. The handy thing about these tickets is they seemingly last two days, so no rushing around to catch everything in one visit before 4pm.

St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle, Prague

St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle, Prague

ST. VITUS CATHEDRAL, PRAGUE:

For me, St. Vitus Cathedral was the focal point of the area, its dark exterior boldly contrasting against the smooth and light pastel walls surrounding it. Similar to all the other churches in Prague, the interior was sublime, truly beautiful for any fan of churches like myself.

Golden Lane, Prague:

After a rather disappointing venture into the castle’s interior, we had a bite to eat and wandered down towards Golden Lane, a collection of former and rather cosmopolitan looking homes of seamstresses, moviemakers, and herbalists that used to live within the castle grounds.

Golden Lane, Prague Castle, Prague

Golden Lane, Prague Castle, Prague

Charles Bridge, PRAGUE:

While in Prague, be sure to sample some Czech delicacies by indulging in some delicious street food. Local treats include trdelník (essentially a spiralised pastry with delicious fillings), as well as famed sausages and hams. Saying this, we were tempted more so by the Hard Rock Cafe in Prague, and had a wonderful Americanised meal. Whatever food you choose to carb overload on, be sure to make your way towards the exquisite Charles Bridge afterwards.

A view of Charles Bridge from the Vltava River, Prague

A view of Charles Bridge from the Vltava River, Prague

MALÁ STRANA, PRAGUE:

Strolling along the winding Vltava River it is almost impossible to miss the entrance to the grand Charles Bridge. It becomes an even more impressive affair as you cross it, adorned with religious statues along its ancient stone walls. The bridge connects the Old Town with the pastel coloured streets of the historic district of Malá Strana. It is like crossing into a fairytale, with many a wow moment.

The historic district of Malá Strana, Prague

The historic district of Malá Strana, Prague

John Lennon Wall, PRAGUE:

The backstreets of Malá Strana are amazing to wander, as you step off Charles Bridge you will discover an array of food vendors, cosy riverside views and sweet lock bridges in abundance. An interesting stop in the area, is the John Lennon Wall, a graffiti shine to the late Beatles singer and songwriter, adorned with some peculiar quotes and imagery  – It makes for an interesting picture, to say the least. 

The vibrant John Lennon Wall, Prague

The vibrant John Lennon Wall, Prague

Petřín Hill, PRAGUE:

Having already seen Prague Castle, we took the steep climb from Malá Strana, past the exquisite Baroque St. Nicholas Church, up to Petřín Hill to explore some more. There we discovered incredible views, old castle ruins and so many cute dogs we didn’t really want to leave. It really is nice to just step away from the city for a moment to stop and see it all. We decided against Petřín Tower, already having gained some incredible views from walking through the parks alone.

The view from Petřín Hill, Prague

The view from Petřín Hill, Prague

After all the walking and with a recommendation from a friend, we decided to celebrate one evening with a few quirky cocktails at AnonymouS Bar, a very tucked away establishment near the Old Town Square. This quirky bar sells some strong cocktails, doing so in a rather animated and exciting fashion – trust me on this one, try it out and try to get a glimpse of the secret menu.

After a whirlwind weekend, we had managed to walk about 30 miles (public transport really isn’t too necessary), see all the attractions we desired to, and had a truly amazing time. I would recommend Prague to anyone and would be more than happy to give some advice if needed!

Have you been to Prague? Where is the next European destination on your travel list?

Stephanie xox

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Ghibli by hyung86

The great Animation debate: Ghibli versus Disney

Disney is a universal brand, a timeless reflection back to our youth, brimming with fond memories of cinema trips and cosy nights in with the family. Tales of traditionally perfect Princesses, talking animals and sing-along-songs. The companies ability to hold a special place in the hearts of each generation for almost a century is admirable. So, why is Studio Ghibli, the Japanese counterpart for the East, so much more?

For those who do not know of Studio Ghibli, it was founded in 1985, around 62 years after its fair-to-say rival, Disney. The Japanese company has created over 20 beautiful animated feature films to date, with their own array of wonderfully crafted heroes and heroines.

The two animation giants undoubtedly share similar traits, their work is utterly timeless and adored globally. However, it is a belief shared by many that the East began to take over the West when it came to quality animation, and there are a fair few reasons why Studio Ghibli will always surpass Disney.

Growing up, I watched both Disney and Studio Ghibli films, and the latter continues to move me as I edge towards my mid-twenties (a scary prospect). The heart of Studio Ghibli stems from its animation team, especially from the creative brain of the former lead director, Hayao Miyazaki, who created something with a far deeper moralistic and feminist meaning.

Ghibli Posters

Why are strong female leads so important in animation?

Like many, I found myself learning far more from Studio Ghibli, with their tales of female struggle and empowerment (most films tend to have a strong female lead). Unlike the Disney Princesses, the heroines are relatable without the patronising undertone and the magic and depth of their fantasy tales awakens the attention of adults, as well as presenting important moral dilemmas and messages for children watching.

Looking at the female leads in Disney films (predominantly the Disney Princesses) in comparison to those in Studio Ghibli, a striking difference will continuously manifest itself. Time and time again in Disney, it will be seen that these princesses are overtly defenseless without the men in their lives to rescue them (Mulan, Merida and the new Princess Moana being the few exceptions).

Compare this to Studio Ghibli, and you will find feminist icons in abundance,  the majority of Ghibli films have an admirable and strong female lead. Miyazaki says:

“Many of my movies have strong female leads – brave, self-sufficient girls that don’t think twice about fighting for what they believe in with all their heart. They’ll need a friend, or a supporter, but never a savior. Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as any man.”

Not relying on a man (or anyone for that matter) is a recurring theme, everyone is seen as equal in the gender Olympic’s and this is just wonderful for the self-esteem of a small child, who doesn’t love feeling empowered and equal?

WHY is female empowerment needed IN ANIMATION?

An example of utter reliance on men is presented to us in The Little Mermaid (Disney). Our leading mermaid, Ariel, plays centre-stage under the sea, she is beautiful, feisty and terribly naive. Of course, she falls head-over-heels for the ‘wrong’ guy in the opinion of her father, whom she then desperately seeks out upon the land in exchange for her voice. He notices her, but not enough to avoid being bewitched and ensnared by a witch. Says it all but a happy ending is guaranteed, this is Disney.

old-sophie-howls-moving-castle

Compare this with female protagonist Sophie of Howl’s Moving Castle (Studio Ghibli), and you are presented with a self-conscious wallflower. Sophie is plain and unnoticed, obviously reinforced as viewers see that even her own mother fails to realise her transformation from a young girl into a twisted hag. This ordinary girl, no ‘beauty’ on her side, must seek out a wizard whose attention she had caught in her youthful state. The issue being that she cannot speak a word to anyone about the curse and therefore must lurk around until she can figure out how to break it herself, while her wizarding companion is on a quest to find himself also.

There is far more depth to Sophie, she’s opinionated, brash and stern (probably something to do with the aged state and being utterly fed up). Whereas Ariel is presented as emotionally motivated and stroppy, only seeking her happiness as an end goal and caring little for the loss of those around her (particularly her somewhat overbearing father who is terrified about her disappearance). On the other hand, Sophie seeks to help all those around her, she is a complex character whose love and compassion motivates her throughout, perhaps even at her own expense and happiness at times.

The problem with Disney is that helplessness, ‘love’ and beauty define the Princesses. With Studio Ghibli, beauty isn’t key, the female leads are admired for their strength, journey, and powerful hearts. It is a stark and reoccurring difference, just select any Disney or Studio Ghibli film.

Some critics argue that Studio Ghibli films exploit these young heroines. However, It would seem that the consensus argues that Ghibli, in fact, challenges girls to solve their own problems. Saying this, modern Disney appears to have approached this too with ‘stronger’ characters such as Mulan and Merida, to name a few. In contrast, Studio Ghibli has been doing this with his characters since day one, in a culture often perplexed by such dominating female empowerment.

Another perk is that Studio Ghibli animations provide far more cultural exploration for us Westerners and prove themselves to be culturally apt. Whereas Disney often fails to truly embrace the cultures of their Princesses in their locality.

Often you will hear of Disneyland being the ‘most magical place on earth’, its stories the basis for this magic. I argue that Studio Ghibli offers far more magic, it teaches us to be kind, to not judge, to respect and cherish our environment (nature being of great religious importance to the Japanese), that pacifism can work and childhood transitioning is tough, no one can save you from it but you.

Their stories are creative, with complex and challenging storylines, developed and iconic characters, heartwarming and meaningful messages, embellished with beautiful animation. Studio Ghibli will remain timeless to its audience, holding many an animated heart for a lifetime with their emotion invoking work. The core and important message will stay the same, despite your gender, appearance, size or background, you can achieve anything you want to, and this is why Studio Ghibli will always surpass Disney.

Does your heart remain with Disney or Studio Ghibli? What is your favourite Ghibli film?

Stephanie xox

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