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Diagon Alley at Universal Studios, Orlando

May 30, 2014 in Travel

The first official Harry Potter theme park opened in June 2010 in Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure, and went down with such a blast, attracting millions of visitors from around the world, that they very soon afterwards announced plans to open a second phase of the Wizarding World with Diagon Alley in the Universal Studios section of the park.

The opening of the new section of the park is just around the corner, set for late June, with many sites touting the soft openings to begin in the first couple of weeks, and be open to the public by the last week of June.

There are more than just a few things to be excited about, the main ones being the construction of the iconic Kings Cross Station in a modern façade of London into which the Hogwarts Express will travel. Expected to hold around 200 passengers, visitors will be seated in their own cabins and taken from Diagon Alley into Hogsmeade in the sister park with virtual views of London and the countryside of Britain.


As with the main attraction of Hogsmeade being the Forbidden Journey ride, the Gringotts Bank Rollercoaster, Escape from Gringotts, is heralded as being the top sight to see in Diagon Alley. Visitors will walk through the marble floored lobby passing by goblins working away and will be immersed in the full experience of a multi-dimensional ride to escape the bank.

For those that would prefer to stay away from the bigger rides, there are plenty of things to keep you occupied, including various shops and eateries made famous in the books and movies. Grab something to eat at the Leaky Cauldron, the gateway between modern London and the wizarding world, where you can sample Bangers and Mash, Toad in the Hole, Fish and Chips, Fisherman’s Pie or Ploughman’s, and have your dessert at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour with frozen delights with flavours including Earl Grey and Lavender, Orange Marmalade, Strawberry and Peanut Butter, Apple Crumble, Salted Caramel Blondie, Clotted Cream, Chocolate Chilli, Sticky Toffee Pudding, or even Butterbeer. To quench your thirst, head to Horizont Alley for the Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshment cart where you can try the Draught of Peace, Babbling Beverage, Elixir to Induce Euphoria and Fire Protection Potion. Although it’s not known what these will taste like, Universal has stated: “By adding these magical elixirs to Gillywater, guests will see their drink transform before their eyes and experience delightful flavour surprises.”

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(Image: Orlando Informer)

When you’ve filled up on the delights of modern day London and wonders of the wizarding world, make sure to check out a few of the shops and sights. Ollivanders, makers of fine wands since 382 BC is being moved to its rightful place from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley; pick up your uniform at Madame Maltkin’s; experience the one-stop joke shop, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes; and be careful if you take a turn down Knockturn Alley with infamous Dark Arts shop Borgin & Burkes. The Modern London section will also be home to the interactive Knight Bus, Charing Cross Road, Grimmauld Place, Wyndham’s Theatre and Leicester Square, and make sure to keep an eye open for secret entrances to the Ministry of Magic.


How to get the perfect red lips

May 28, 2014 in Beauty, Makeup, Trends

red lipstickIn the world of makeup, the perfect red lips are the equivalent of the Little Black Dress in the fashion world. It’s the colour of love and passion, and on your lips makes the statement you’re looking for to stand out from the crowd with a stunning 50s inspired look.

You first need to find the right shade of red to suit your skin. It sounds crazy but there are hundreds of shades of red, and different skin types such different ones. A matte red that errs slightly towards orange is best for fair skin; sun kissed skin with dark blonde or light brown hair will suit a deep dark red with golden undertones; darker skin tones will suit a blue based cooler shade of red for a chic, modern look.

To apply the lipstick, you need to start with clean lips; if they are chapped, use lip scrub to get them smoother. You then need to apply foundation, concealer or primer over your lips to block out your natural lip colour; they should be blending into your face now. Use a lip liner that matches your chosen lipstick to outline your Cupid’s bow and your bottom lip. If you want your lipstick to last as long as possible, fill in your lips with the lip liner before drawing over the top with the lipstick. For those that need more precision than just the lipstick in the tube, use a lip brush. You should then blot your lips on a piece of tissue paper. A final trick to get it to stay longer is to use a product such as Lip Cote which will seal the lipstick in place.

Image courtesy of Sergio Bertolini.

Summer Fashion Problems

May 5, 2014 in Beauty, Fashion, Hair, Makeup

Every season has its difficulties fashion-wise: in winter, you end up looking like a snowball under all the layers of clothing to keep warm; autumn and spring see the confusion of whether to wear a jumper or not, whether to wear tights or not, and you end up either freezing or overheated; but summer’s the worst of all for many fashionistas, with the heat playing havoc on your clothes and hair. Here are a few of the worst and some solutions on how to help with them.

Heat + Hair

frizzy hair

As every frizzy haired lady knows, the heat and humidity can and will play havoc with your hair. You can do everything possible to stay cool and inside, but the second you step out into that heat, your hair becomes a crazy mess again. A couple of tips to keep frizz to the minimum: use a sulphate free shampoo followed by plenty of conditioner when washing hair, leaving plenty of time for it to sink in, then use an anti-frizz serum on wet hair and allow to dry naturally only brushing with a wide-toothed comb or paddle brush so as not to stretch hair. Never try to smooth out your frizzy hair with water, and don’t try to calm it with your hands as the moisture will cause it to go crazy. Carry a bottle of hair spray or anti-frizz serum in your bag with you too to control it in case of emergencies.

Heat + Make Up

make up

Is the heat just out to get you and your beauty regime? We all know that hot and humid days are the devil for make-up, causing it to just melt and slide off your face. Not only that, but if you’re around the pool but want to look good, you risk getting splashed and your face being ruined. To get your make up to last longer in the sun, use light, sheer or waterproof cosmetics rather than heavy or oil based ones. Use only cleaners that contain no oil and use a primer to help keep make-up in place, smoothing it on properly, then set it with powder afterwards.

Awkward Tan Lines

tan lines

This is really quite an easy one to solve if you keep on top of it. Whether you’re on holiday or you just happen to work somewhere where you’ll catch the sun, make sure first that you’re always wearing plenty of sun cream and that you top it up several times throughout the day so as to avoid any painful and damaging sunburn. But to avoid the tan lines, make sure to wear clothes in different styles so that you’re tanning different areas each day: try strapless one day, spaghetti straps another, T-shirt another time, and halternecks too.

Packing for holidays


One of the worst parts of summer can be packing for your holidays. If you’re going away for more than a week or so, you’re going to want to take everything, all your favourite clothes, your make up, beauty products (to keep that frizzy hair under control!) and shoes with you – you can’t really be seen without them! But getting it all into two suitcase, let alone one, can be a huge issue. You can do one of two things: get more organised with your packing by deciding on things you only really need to take, but that isn’t really an option here. The other is to send your essentials on ahead of you with a company like Send My Bag who will send your extra luggage for less of a cost than an airline would. You can’t send your beauty products etc. that way though, so ensure those are with you on the plane.

Bikini Shopping

Athletic bikini

It’s something that many women around the world dread every year when summer comes round. Why does it look so good on the model but not on you? Don’t listen to any advice that tells you what you can and can’t wear for your shape and weight – anyone can wear any bikini, it’s just finding one that fits you best and flaunting it. One of the major issues is finding the correct fit, so try to buy one that offers separately sized tops and bottoms, because there are only so many women out there who are proportioned well enough to wear the same size for both, and get properly fitted into a bra sized bikini if you’re bustier up top. If in doubt, take a cover up to prevent sun burn, for modesty or to keep you warm if it’s likely to be a bit chilly.

Images courtesy of leyla.a, Renata Alves dos Anjos, Miranda and Nedra.

Best rail journeys around the world

March 16, 2014 in Travel

ARail travel is generally thought of as being under the same bracket as cruises and coach trips: reserved mainly for the older generation who have time to spend taking travel at a slow speed and taking part in gentle activities. Although this generation do still enjoy this form of transport and travel, it’s not something that’s not open to young people. In fact, recent surveys have shown more young people taking an interest in slow travel, with more than ever booking cruises and rail journeys during Gap years and holidays. The world is a fantastic place to see at a slow speed, and there’s so much to see and do that you shouldn’t need to rush.


The United States are one of the top destinations for rail journeys. The country is so large and widespread that you can spend weeks travelling it all and not even get close to see half of it. With a number of rail journeys taking you from city to city, coast to coast and through the great National Parks, there’s something that everyone will enjoy. The West Coast offers up day trips into Las Vegas and San Francisco as well as traversing the glorious mountainous peaks of Yosemite and cruising along the coast. The East Coast on the other hand shows off America’s stunning natural beauty, particularly in the Fall when the leaves are turning, including the highest peak in the East Coast, Mount Washington, and the historic cities of Salem and Boston. You can travel as far afield as the glaciers of Alaska or as deep into the South as the paddle steamers of New Orleans.

Taj Mahal

For a further afield and more exotic trip, India boasts some of the most diverse landscapes and cultures of the world. You can experience everything in a ten day trip from visiting spectacular palaces such as the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, to the once in a lifetime chance of tiger spotting on a safari at Ranthambore National Park.


If you want to take on some of the world’s most scenic rail journeys, Scandinavia can offer you everything you want. Book a romantic honeymoon on the Northern Lights journey around the Arctic Circle, starting in Oslo then heading off to exploring the glacial blue watered bays and spending your evenings on unforgettable excursions including a Viking Feast and experiencing the mystical Northern Lights.

For a long weekend break, rail journeys closers to home in the UK have as much to offer as those abroad. From Edinburgh to Torquay, including the quaint Christmas Markets of Bath and Bristol, the picturesque Norfolk Broads and the ancient hills of the North York Moors, there’s as much to see in our own country as there is away from home.

Images courtesy of skittledog, wbeem, Nathan Jones and postivesustainability,

London’s Superyacht Hotel: London Sunborn

February 28, 2014 in City Breaks, Feature, Luxury Destinations, Travel

London Sunborn 2Have you always dreamed of holidaying on a yacht but never even dared to look at the prices? Those with itchy travel feet but a lack of expenses and desire to leave the country will certainly jump at this opportunity: a 394ft (120m) superyacht, named the Sunborn London, has been docked in London’s Royal Victoria Dock and converted into a luxury hotel.

The hotel has not yet opened, with the date set at the 7th April, but places on board the sumptuous floating hotel are already booking up. The yacht has 138 rooms spread across five floors, including a fine dining restaurant, a spa and terrace viewing points overlooking Canary Wharf. In addition to the entry level rooms which are currently priced at £180 per night, the hotel will have a number of signature suites and two royal suites, each of which feature a private sauna, sunken Jacuzzi and curved glass wall that opens onto a 100ft private terrace.

This is not the first London has seen of this kind of venture, with an unmodernised version of a similar vessel appeared in 2005 which welcomed overnight guests on a temporary basis before moving elsewhere. The Sunborn, however, is expected to remain in London, but it will have the capability to move should the necessity arise.

The Sunborn London is being created by property developers and investment company, Sunborn, based in Turku, Finland, alongside another ship to be launched at the same time, the Sunborn Gibraltar. While the London Sunborn aims to target business travellers primarily, and leisure travellers at the weekend, the Gibraltar Sunborn plans to attract the leisure market. The latter will have 189 rooms over 7 stories and 22 suites. They also plan to release plans for a similar hotel in Barcelona in the future.

London Sunborn


Images courtesy of Cristiano Betto and felinebird.

Ted Baker SS14 Men’s Footwear Collection

February 18, 2014 in Designers, Fashion, Footwear, Menswear, Trends

Ted Baker SS14 Mens15Ted Baker has just realised the campaign images and press shots of their SS14 collection for men, and it’s one that’s set to make an impact in the fashion world. The overriding theme appears to be formal and traditional styles of shoe which will create a polished, gentlemanly look but with unexpected flashes and pops of colour, including pastels and neons, hues not frequently seen in the men’s fashion world.

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The desired look of the collection is eccentric gentleman: while the first impression of each shoe is of a conventional design, it is the intricate and discreet details that give the footwear its finishing touch. The evening footwear is sumptuous and decadent, in glossy patent leathers mixed with soft suede.

Ted Baker SS14 Mens3


Ted Baker SS14 Mens4 Ted Baker SS14 Mens5

It is the unexpected colours that steal the show in both the day time casual and smarter evening shoes with cobalt blue shoelaces, raspberry pink soles, sky blue chintz china patterns and lime green bodies. The air of the debonair gentleman is strong.

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Even the final pieces, the brightly coloured sandals, two buckle monks and swishy slip-ons, which exhibit Ted’s love of travel are original in their strappy designs and hues. Quirkiness in the details combined with overall elegance and sophistication is top of the agenda this season for Ted Baker and is bound to make a big impression.

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Ted Baker SS14 Mens14

Julie Sandlau for Pieces Capsule Collection at ASOS

January 23, 2014 in Designers, Fashion, High Street

Julie Sandlau 3Pieces have recently made an announcement that they are releasing a capsule collection in collaboration with Julie Sandlau, the renowned Scandinavian jewellery designer, which is now available at ASOS.

With a modern classic look, the pieces are elegant, sophisticated and feminine. The collection features dainty gold necklaces, rings and earrings with star motifs, and more edgy standout pieces in silver and black.

Julie Sandlau 2

The silver jewellery is sterling silver 925, 92.5% fine silver; the gold is gold-plated 22 carat; and the black is black silver in oxidised sterling silver 925, 92.5% fine silver, so you can be certain that your newest jewellery is made from only the finest materials.

Several of the pieces are already available at, and more are to be released over the SS14 season.

Julie Sandlau


Vero Moda pre-Spring 14 campaign

January 10, 2014 in Designers, Fashion, Trends, Womenswear

Vero Moda 3

In an innovative move, Vero Moda have released their pre-Spring campaign featuring a collaboration between interior design and fashion. The Danish brand has worked with a huge number of icons in the fashion world in the past, but are now focusing on a new angle.

In a set built in a Copenhagen studio, a room has been constructed with mustard coloured flooring, duck egg blue walls and a minimalistic white door creating the ideal background to show off Vero Moda’s new collection. Katja Hundrup, International Head of PR and Image at Vero Moda stated: “We wanted the room to play a big part in the images, and we wanted it to feel both modern and timeless.”

The props and furniture which are swapped in and out for each eclectic photo are designed to have a “decadent feel” and are from a range of eras and styles.

Unusually two models are used in the campaign to add more life to the images, they “wanted to show two girls who take a room and fill it with style, fashion and fun”.

The collection is available across Europe now.

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Galeries Lafayette to buy House of Fraser?

December 18, 2013 in Fashion

Galeries LafayetteThere are currently rumours that Galeries Lafayette are in the “advanced stages” of talks with the British based department store House of Fraser. The company is due to float on the London Stock Exchange early in the coming year, and it is likely that Galeries Lafayette are to purchase it.

With the companies being a similar size – House of Fraser currently owns 61 UK stores, and Galeries Lafayette manages 65 in France and abroad – there will be huge benefits for both.

The potential buyer only has exclusivity on this offer until the end of January according to the Financial Times. House of Fraser may then conduct a dual-track process. The chairman of House of Fraser, Don McCarthy is expecting at least £450 million, although stock market analysts value the company at much less, £350 million.

Galeries Lafayette are concentrating on expanding at the moment, with its first overseas opening in Beijing earlier this year in October. They are also rumoured to be looking at buying out their rival in Paris Printemps.

Harrods opens a Disney Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

December 5, 2013 in Children clothing, Fashion, Feature


With just a wave of a magic wand and a little bit of fairy dust, Harrods has opened its very own Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique with Disney. With these boutiques already a success in Disney theme parks around the world, you can now treat your child a little closer to home.

The boutique is based on the famous scene in Disney’s Cinderella in which the Fairy Godmother prepares Cinderella for the ball. Inspired by the palace from the film, the boutique is set within a fairy tale castle within Harrods, complete with velvet sofas, stone chambers and gilded mirrors.

There a five different packages for your children aged three to twelve with prices starting at £50 and going up to £1000 for the ultimate luxury experience which includes hair styling, make up or face painting and costumes. It’s perfect for your fashion obsessed little princesses.

The experience is not just for little princesses though; children can choose to become either their favourite princess or knight.

They meet the Fairy Godmother in the looking glass as they enter the first stone chamber, and are led away to the makeover suite by their very own Fairy Godmother-in-training. Each dressing table is customised for their favourite Disney princess with a rose on Belle’s and shining red apples on Snow White’s.

Throughout the experience, everyone stays in character and the final touch is your little ones pledging a royal oath.

Harrods also offers a Disney store and a Disney café.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

Images courtesy of insidethemagic and you.go