Sparkle Ombre Shellac Manicure at Zen Lifestyle, Edinburgh*

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When it comes to getting ready for the Christmas party season, I don’t think anything can make as big an impact as having your nails all done. Over the past six months or so, I’ve taken a major shine to shellac manicures. For someone who chips polishes as easily as I do, having a manicure which lasts two to three weeks is a bit of a dream!

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So, when Zen Lifestyle got in touch to see if I wanted to try their new ombre shellac, I couldn’t resist! So, I popped in to their stunning Hanover Street spa to give the treatment a whirl.

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Since we’re only a week or so out from Christmas, the whole salon is decked out in the most glorious of decorations. It’s an absolute haven from the hustle and bustle of outside, and you would never know that there are throngs of shoppers charging up and down George Street. Instead, the spa is peaceful and quiet – the perfect spot to recover a little!

Even though it was late-sh on a Wednesday evening, there was still a steady flow of ladies wanting to get primped and preened, and the nail bar is the perfect spot for a little people watching. After sitting down with a glass of cucumber-mint water, it was time for the hard part – deciding on what colours to choose. Thanfully, Zen have a whole ring of examples to choose from, with every colour and glitter you can imagine. There are so many I ideas, I think I’ve planned my manicures well into 2017!

Then it was time to sit at the nail bar and be filed and buffed into sparkly perfection. My therapist was so lovely, and so through, making sure that every nail and cuticle was perfect, while I got to sit back and relax. There is enough room for four or five people to get their nails done at the same time, so it would be the perfect spot to catch up with a couple of friends for some pampering.

As you can see, I opted for the navy and blue shimmer, which I am just obsessed with. It looks amazing with jeans, and I love that it’s pretty subtle until the light shines on it. Then it turns all shimmery and sparkly which feels absolutely perfect for this time of year! I’m already plotting my New Year nails!

Zen Lifestyle’s shellac manicure plus is priced at £48 and you can buy vouchers here

Laing Jeweller, Edinburgh

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When it comes to jewellery, I can be a touch fussy. I can’t wear costume jewellery as it makes me itch, and the real stuff I love is a tad out my price range.  So, I’m left with something of a capsule collection of daily favourites and an ever growing wish list of pieces to save up for. So, when I got the opportunity to visit Laing Edinburgh, the swishiest jeweller in Edinburgh, I absolutely jumped at the opportunity.

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Not only was I invited to have a look around the new George Street store, but I also got the chance to learn all about diamonds from Richard Laing himself – the sixth generation jeweller who runs the place, and who is pretty much the authority on all things diamond!

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The new Laing store is an absolute joy to explore – there are cabinets upon cabinets filled with real treasures – Mikimoto pearls nestle beside diamonds, and I won’t even start on the watches (yet!). My afternoon started with a masterclass in all things diamond, and I couldn’t be in better hands than Richard’s. Not only is he the sixth (!) generation of his family to run the place, but along with his father, Richard is responsible for buying almost every diamond in the place!

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Looking at a loose stone, we talked all about those famous ‘c’s – cut, colour,carat and clarity. Obviously, we all want the clearest, sparkliest stone, but what I hadn’t realized is that colour and clarity are most important. A smaller, better stone looks far better than a big cloudy one! Getting the chance to handle an uncut diamond was such a thrill. It looks pretty ordinary to the untrained eye, but knowing the brilliance inside is so special! Once the stone on the right is properly cut, it will be about two carats (the size of the stone on the left), and I was even shown a secret test to test how well a diamond has been cut. All you do is slip the stone into a special viewer and look down. If it’s been perfectly cut, the facets all line up, creating hundreds of perfect hearts. Honestly, it’s the most magical kaleidoscope you can imagine!

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Then, once I knew what I was talking about, it was time to view the jewellery on offer in the store. Honestly, stunning is an understatement when it comes to Laing’s pieces. They are designed and made exclusively for and by artisans working exclusively for the jeweller, and the result is a whole array of pieces which are beautifully elegant and absolutely stunning!

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What Laing have also done is introduce the idea of a jewellery collection. When someone opts for a particular style of jewellery, for example an engagement ring, there is an entire set to collect. It means that birthday and Christmas gifts are more than sorted, because you can choose from tennis bracelets, necklaces and earrings all with matching settings.

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What is also absolutely adorable, is that Laing’s settings are all inspired by seven women in the family. Depending on the personalities of the muses, there are flourishes to the pieces to reflect hobbies and loves. It’s such a special nod to the heritage of the jeweller, which I think is just so important!

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There are real heritage pieces in the store too! I was lucky enough to handle the absolutely jaw dropping 175 Necklace, designed to commemorate the 175th birthday of Laing. Again, the piece has been inspired by the seven ‘Ladies of Laing’ and contains nods to all of their styles. The sheer scale and attention to detail in the piece was so wonderful to see, and honestly, it is as much an art piece as it is jewellery!

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I think what affected me most was the sheer clarity of the stones Laing use. Honestly, the twinkling and sparkling of the diamonds was just incredible, and getting to handle the pieces and learn from Richard was just so much fun!

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Then, as if I wasn’t having enough fun, I was shown upstairs to the exclusive watch salon. It’s an absolutely beautiful, light-filled space, filled with concessions for the world’s very finest watches. Turning from Rolex, to Cartier to Jaeger-LeCoultre I was absolutely spoiled for choice. Without even saying anything to him, Richard whipped out a selection of the most perfect watches, including some of my real must-haves. The first was the Men’s all-gold Rolex Datejust which I’ve been in love with since I was about 15, and the second was a new favourite. A Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso with Alligator strap. I’d never had the chance to play with one before, and now I’m obsessed! Originally designed for polo players, it’s a discreet, almost cocktail-esque watch which has two faces! One is a subtler, more day appropriate side, whilst the other is a bit flashier, glinting with diamonds.

To say I enjoyed my afternoon is an understatement! A huge thank you to both Richard and to Laing the Jeweller for having me!

 

Where to meet Santa in Edinburgh*

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I think winter is my favourite time of year in Edinburgh. There’s something about strolling down George Street when it’s all twinkling and fairy lit which just feels so magical. Especially this year, when the entire West end block of the street is dedicated to the street of light.

Edinburgh’s Christmas 2016, Edinburgh – Unlike some Christmas events, which are confined to a specific location, the entire city of Edinburgh comes alive when the winter rolls in. From an enormous Christmas Market to a funfair, ice wall, ice skating, Christmas tree maze and more, you’ll find something for everyone when you’re welcoming in the festivities. Running from the 19th of November until the 7th of January, it’s an event that consumes virtually all of the city’s main shopping streets, so can’t be missed!

Of course, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a visit to St Nick! Thankfully, the capital has you covered!

Santa Land, Edinburgh — tell any child they’re going to Santa Land and their excitement levels will likely go through the roof! Santa has pitched his grotto in Santa Land this year, near the Christmas Tree Maze and Santa Train, and will be there between 19th November and Christmas Eve. He will be of course dishing out gifts too!

Opening times:

* 10.30am to 7pm Monday to Friday

* 10.30am to 8pm Saturday & Sunday

* 10.30am to 7.30pm Christmas Eve

*Many thanks to Stagecoach for sponsoring this post – you can find easy transport options at www.stagecoachbus.com

Brunch at Montpeliers, Edinburgh*

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Sunday always seems to be the perfect day for brunch. Late and slightly lazy mornings feel like such a treat, especially when you’re up as early as I am every day! So, I absolutely jumped at the chance to sample Montpelier’s brunch menu.

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They’ve just been named as the best brunch in Edinburgh by ion magazine, so, as you can imagine, I went with high expectations! Situated in Bruntsfield, we parked the car nearby, and when we got in, we were met with possibly the cutest Christmas decorating in the whole of Edinburgh. Everywhere you looked there were fluffy little owls perched alongside teeny stockings and berries.

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We settled down to the task of ordering, we got some tea and orange juice to keep us going. The restaurant had a really wonderful atmosphere – buzzing with groups of friends, families and couples, all enjoying a bit of a morning treat. There was even the most adorable maltese sitting under a neighbouring table, which was very difficult not to offer treats to!

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Since we were in to see what was on offer, we had to order the The Full Monty (£11.95). This really is a breakfast fit for a king, and comes with a pot of tea and a glass of orange juice. If you’re after something to really set you up for the day, this is it!

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The Full Monty is literally everything you could imagine in a breakfast on one plate. Fluffy eggs, baked beans, bacon, sausage, haggis and black pudding all competed for space with a rack of fresh toast and a potato scone. Considering we had dived into Montpeliers out the rain, it was really a perfect winter warmer of a dish. I admit to nicking a bit of sausage, and it was absolutely delicious – flavourful and herby, everything was so fresh and flavourful, we were more than a little disappointed when we couldn’t quite finish it!

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When I saw I could order a stack of pancakes, complete with maple syrup and crispy bacon (£5.95) there wasn’t another choice for me. There’s something about fluffy pancakes smothered in syrup that’s just delightful, and then the addition of bacon (especially when it’s crispy) just makes it heaven.

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The stack was three pancakes high, and they were absolute perfection! With crunchy outer edges and soft, fluffy centres which just sucked up the syrup, the dish was exactly what I was after! It was such a treat to be able to sit on a weekend morning, and really enjoy breakfast. Sitting in the window of Montpeliers, we got to people watch (my favourite) and really savour the morning, soaking up all of the restaurant’s convivial atmosphere. It was such a lovely way to spend an hour or so!

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Also, I just wanted to draw attention to the amazing initiative that the restaurant is currently running. If you’re dining (or just having a drink) you can add a couple of pounds onto your bar bill, and it means that a homeless person will be able to enjoy a hot Christmas meal. If you’ve been in the city centre recently, you will have noticed how many people need our help, especially in this cold weather, so I really appreciated the gesture.

Thank you so much to Montpeliers for having us!

 

 

 

Charlie Anderson artwork unveiling at The Principal Hotel, Edinburgh

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If you’ve been on George Street recently, you might have noticed a bit of a renovation going on over the past few years, as the George Hotel has been transformed into The Principal Edinburgh.

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The building is one of the city’s grandest, and the hotel spans what was once a bank, three Georgian townhouses, as well as a more modern addition to the rear. It’s an absolutely glorious building, and by far the best hotel in Edinburgh. There is even a coffee shop (Burr & Co) and restaurant (The Printing Press) onsite, meaning that if you’re lucky enough to stay in the hotel, you don’t even need to step outside, whilst still enjoying some of Edinburgh’s best spots!

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As well as getting to have something of a nose around the hotel, we had been invited for the official unveiling of a specially-commissioned artwork by British artist Charlie Anderson, to celebrate the hotel’s new look. We gathered in the bar of the Printing Press, sipping on signature vodka cocktails (Kelpies) or seriously strong Old Fashioneds whilst General Manager Andreas Maszczyk introduced Charlie and explained a little about the renovations.

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The artwork celebrates the best of Edinburgh – portraits of some of some of the city’s most prominent citizens are scattered throughout the piece, interspersed with a quotation from Sir Walter Scott. The top etching is taken from the original plan for the building (when it was still a bank) and it’s a really lovely representation of all that Edinburgh has to offer. We then heard from Charlie about the creation process and how he incorporated all of the elements of the piece together.

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Then it was time to head upstairs to have a bit of a nosey at the rooms. We were shown to one of the hotel’s Junior Suites. Overlooking George Street, we could see the sparkling lights shimmering through the curtains, but it was absolutely silent. Then, sipping on prosecco, we got to have a real look around and hear more about the hotel in general.

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The room itself is absolute perfection. Decorated in soft greys and whites, it’s exactly how I want to redecorate. With a velvet chesterfield at the bottom of the bed, and soft flannel drapes, I can’t imagine a better place to wind down.

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It was so lovely to hear Andreas talk about the hotel – the level of service and comfort that Principal Edinburgh prides itself on is seriously impressive. Every room has an old-school red phone which can pretty much grant every wish in under an hour. Whether you want to order room service or theatre tickets, it will be at your door in under 60 minutes! We were also shown all the extra little touches in the room – rather than an overpriced minibar there are complimentary tuck boxes, and the framed and wall-mounted televisions are all equipped with Netflix and the like, meaning you can sit back and enjoy a couple of episodes of your favourite shows. The hotel is now pet friendly too! Four legged guests are provided with their own beds and bowls, meaning they get as much of a treat as you do!

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The bathrooms are just as dreamy as the bedrooms too! The suite’s was an absolute confection of white marble, fitted with a glorious roll top bath and rain-fall shower. Also, they are using one of the best water softener for water softening. All the rooms in the Principal Edinburgh hotel rooms come with these showers, which sound absolutely incredible! We then got the chance to explore the Forth View Suite, which has the most wonderful views over the skyline of Edinburgh. Getting to pop outside and see the castle all lit up was incredibly special. Unsurprisingly, it’s already booked up for New Years!

Rooms at the Principal Edinburgh start at £149 per night and you can find out more here.