Friday, 26 June 2015

Review - Novotel London City South

When travelling in London, hotels don't come cheap. With a holiday to Florida fast approaching, I was trying to watch the pennies when booking a London hotel, but wanting luxury at the same time.. tricky business!

After leaving it till 6 days before we were due, I finally settled on a deal that I had found on last minute via their secret hotels options. This is a scary option for me because I am pretty fussy when it comes to hotels, so the thought of not knowing where I will be staying till after I had paid made me a bit anxious to say the least! However I had used secret hotels once before and came out with an impressive deal for a swish airport hotel (which is still waiting for us, ready for Florida!), so I had a bit of faith in there somewhere.
After selecting the areas in which I was happy to be situated in London, and narrowed my search down to what star rating I'd be happy with, I scoured what they had to offer and settled on a price I was happy to pay. After paying, an email winged its way to me which revealed my chosen hotel.. Novotel London City South. I immediately checked out the photos, reviews etc and was not disappointed. A 4* hotel for 1-2* prices.. perfect.

In a fantastic position, the Novotel City South is just a stones throw away from tourist locations such as The Thames, The London Dungeons and The Shard. It's minutes away from London Bridge tube station which offers links to the rest of the city.

After reading the reviews, I was aware that the hotel was under renovation before I even arrived. After simply asking for a refurbished room upon check-in, it was no problem at all for staff, who were more than happy to accommodate us. There was a slight glitch with room cards, but after a quick switch of rooms, this was all sorted and we were presented with a newly renovated room. The kind staff even offered us complimentary late check out of 5pm which was perfect because our train on the day of departure wasn't till tea time, so this saved us lugging our heavy bags around the city - result!

The rooms are spacious with warm modern colours and different materials/textures to add uniqueness. The bed was huge and super comfy (I even had a sneak peak at the mattress label to see if I could buy one myself!) with an option of different styles of pillows and crisp white sheets. A perfect addition which is very rare in most hotel rooms was A plug socket next to the bed! The amount of hotels we’ve stopped in are missing this simple little amenity. I also loved the bendy reading lights next to each side of the bed..  the ultimate spotlight and perfect if one wants to read whilst the other sleeps (like me, in this case!).

Although the bathroom was great to look at (tiled from floor to ceiling, back lit mirror etc) due to us being in an accessible room (because no other refurbished rooms were available) our bathroom was wheelchair friendly, and we had a slight issue with the water from the shower seeping into the bathroom (rather quickly as well!). This wasn't ideal and showering became an unfortunate burden instead of something I usually look forward to. However I'm unsure if all rooms are like this or it's purely because it was a disabled room. Either way, its not very practical that the shower was unable to be put on full power for this reason.

The room also came with complimentary tea/coffee and biscuits, which is usually standard in most hotels now. It also had a fully stocked mini bar, however prices were steep so unfortunately this was avoided on this occasion! A safe and many USB ports were provided in order to recharge all those gadgets!

Unfortunately because we were too busy exploring the city, we didn't get to sample any of the hotels amenities, although we were told we had free access to the swimming pool and sauna.

Apart from the glitch with the shower I would definitely return to this hotel. Its location is ideal for people wanting to explore the city, and its on point in regards to luxury, especially for the fantastic price that I paid!

Where is your favourite place to stay in London?

Check out my footage below of the room tour!


Monday, 22 June 2015

London Theatre, Afternoon Tea & Lush!

This weekend I spent in London as an early birthday present for Mike. We had such a good time and did lots of exciting things.

After arriving mid afternoon on Friday, we booked into our 4* hotel in the London Bridge area, made ourselves look pretty then headed to Covent Garden for tea. We enjoyed a 2 course meal in Fire & Stone which was so good, and best of all was free (an old competition win that I finally got round to using!). Showing our age, we called it a night at 830 and headed back to our hotel to relax for the night (trains have a knack of making you tired!).

Saturday morning we arose bright and early and headed into Oxford Street and did a little shopping. I may have over-

indulged in Lush's new Oxford Street store (that store is A-mazing, I'm sad that I turned down the Spa tour that was offered to me too!). There were so many new products in there that I'd never set eyes on many pretty colours and smells.. I was like a kid in a sweet shop!

Mid afternoon we headed to The Hilton Hotel in Westminster to indulge in some afternoon tea (another competition win, gotta love a freebie!). I'm a bit of a pro in Afternoon Tea now, however unfortunately I didn't rate this one, but more on that in another post!

On the way back to the hotel we found ourselves passing Tate Modern so we had a browse at some amazing art work before heading back to the hotel to freshen up again before heading to the theatre in Leicester Square, ready for 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?' - I'd never heard of this show up until 6 months ago when Mike introduced me to it. Now I'm not usually a comedy girl (simply because I'm slow on the uptake with jokes!) but this was so funny and I had a really good night.

Sunday morning we rose late and was hoping to grab some brunch at The Breakfast Club, however they were queuing outside the door. We jumped on the tube and I was adamant to eat in an American Diner. We tried Ed's Easy Diner but wasn't keen on the seating plan, so we settled for 'The Diner' down Carnaby Street. We ordered milkshakes and they were THE best. We totally splashed out on American junk food and was in a food coma for hours afterwards, but it was so worth it.

The guys at the hotel gave us complimentary late check out (dream!) so we went back up to our rooms, grabbed our bags and headed to Kings Cross.. our trip was done in a flash.

I love London! Hopefully I'll be returning soon!

Sunday, 14 June 2015

A Beginners Guide: Tips When Buying Your First Home

I was 26 when we bought our first home. We decided to skip the whole renting thing first because we thought we'd struggle to save enough if we had rent coming out as well as everything else, so we moved straight from our parents houses into a mortgage. You obviously don't need me to point out the massive commitment that comes with a house so its important to consider everything before deciding between renting and buying to ensure you are 100% ready!

The more deposit you can put down, the better! I'll be honest, at 26 I still wasn't entirely clued up with how everything works, I didn't understand how deposits would effect things, I didn't get this whole 'fixed rate over 25 years' business... I just sorta breezed through it and let Mike (my partner) do all the deciding. Now I'm more older (and wiser!) I would completely recommend to start saving as soon as you decide you want to buy a house - it makes sense now I think about it but the bigger deposit you have to put down, the less your monthly mortgage payments will be, which means more cash to spend on other things! I was too eager to move and I think we only started properly saving for approx. 1yr and only managed a 5% deposit. Luckily we found a mortgage provider that would accept this, a lot of banks want 10% deposit at the very minimum. Obviously, depending on the bracket of house prices you are looking at, this deposit may be able to be reached fairly quickly, again, depending on the price of houses you are looking at.

Don't punch above your weight in regards to house prices. Its all well and good looking at luxurious 4/5 bedroomed houses in the middle of no where with a garden the size of a jungle and an indoor swimming pool, however if you don't earn big enough bucks, your money just wont to cut (not to mention you wouldn't be accepted anyway!). Even if you can afford the mortgage payments, you have to consider everything else in between, it wont be a happy place if you're leaving yourself short every month. The best thing to do is start small and work your way up as the years go on. It might not be your dream house in your dream area but hopefully in a few years time after a promotion (or two!) you'll be able to upgrade! Although I wouldn't exactly class ours as a 'starter home' (they are usually smaller with no massive luxuries), I definitely don't intend on staying here long term. We're coming up to our 4yr anniversary, and within the next 3 years we are planning to move again.

It's not always about the size! Currently, me and Mike live in a 3 bedroomed house with a conservatory. No children, no pets, just us. I'll be honest, the size of the house appealed to me.. my head full of ideas of what I'd do with the spare room, how I was going to decorate the conservatory etc. In reality, once the novelty of a new house has disappeared, its all downhill. I remember when we were house hunting, my mum kept reminding me that there's 'only 2 of us' and 'the bigger the house, the more there is to clean' 'whatever...' I thought, but (as always!) mums really do know best and I can completely agree with her now, 4 years down the line! The cleaning drives me insane, 1 spare bedroom I've turned into my dressing room/study, the other room (which was going to be Mikes 'games room') and 4 years later its still a dumping ground (and a big one at that!). I think apart from my OTT collection of clothes, we would have still managed with a 2-bed house. I'm never on top of the cleaning...ever. So, moral of the story, only buy the space that you really need, unless you have the time (and willpower!) to clean!

Don't waste your money on a mortgage advisor. We did this and we could have done everything ourselves (admittedly with some help) and saved £300! You'd probably learn a lot more as well because your being forced to research it all yourself!

If you do happen to use a mortgage advisor, don't get talked into all the policies that they'll try and make you purchase. Young and naïve, we had no real clue what insurances we needed (apart from the obvious!). I remember after one visit, we had bought life insurance and some form of insurance for if any of us was off work sick. I think it took us nearly 2 years before we decided to get to grips with it all, assess all of our policies and cancel some! It makes me mad knowing how much money we wasted in those 2 years paying for an insurance that we never really needed. If circumstances were different (i.e. if I (God forbid!) had some form of illness but I could still work, I might have considered the latter policy, but we're both (fairly!) fit and healthy so we were putty in that advisors hands!

In conjunction with the one above, get new quotes annually for all your present insurances. Again, we were late on the uptake with this (simply because it's left to me to do!) but when I did it last year (I think for the first time!) I ended up saving us a massive £40 a month just buy changing companies when my renewal came round! Crazy!

That modern furniture is not always the comfiest! Buying your first home is probably the first time you will encounter buying larger furniture pieces. For the most part, I'm pretty happy with my purchases, but I remember going to DFS and buying a large corner sofa with a round cuddle swivel chair because I loved the appearance of it (and it felt comfy in the shop!). We also paid extra for it to have a pull out bed, for allllll those guests we'll be having. Have we ever had a guest over to sleep in 4 years? Nope. Waste of money. Do we use the cuddle chair other than to dump stuff on or for nieces/nephews to play on? Nope. Waste of money. Despite the appearance of it,  is the sofa the most uncomfiest sofa I've ever sat on? Yep. We paid a lot of money for this as well. Moral of the story, be sure, and doubly sure of the purchases you make. Little tip (never buy bedroom furniture from Argos either!)

Assess your living situation. Are you out at work a lot of the time? Are there very few of you living at home? For us it worked out cheaper to be on a water meter as opposed to paying a set amount every quarter. We changed and now just pay for the water that we use, and now our bills are ridiculously cheap.

If you work full time and have your hands full of other social activities outside of work, chances are you'll have little real time to care for your house. Adapt things so its low maintenance - e.g. do any of you have green fingers? If no, it might be wise to change the garden a little - get rid of any grass in exchange for pebbles/slate etc. Pretty it up with some potted plants as opposed to bedding soiled plants. It might be a little expensive on initial pay out but in the long-term, having a low maintenance garden will save you so much time! Its so easy for me to spend almost a full day every couple of weeks in the summer in my garden just keeping on top of things.

If any of you are on the brink of buying your own house, good luck, but keep some of the above in mind!

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