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Practically perfect in every way

The release of Mary Poppins Returns, a sequel to the original sixties made film, coincided with shops releasing some fabulous merchandise.  A new generation has been introduced to the magical nanny and Disney has shown it can move with the times.  A little less magical than the original, the film is still escapism at its best.

Given my love for afternoon teas, I couldn’t resist a visit to The Shard who are offering a Mary Poppins themed afternoon tea.  My husband was reluctantly going to accompany me, until he broke his toe, so Mum kindly stepped in and my husband treated me to a Mary Poppins Pandora charm as an apology; so all’s well that ends well!

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I wanted to wear something that had an air of sophistication and a nod to a previous era, words which could also describe the film.  I decided a boucle jacket would fit the bill perfectly and saw a gorgeous one from Sister Jane but, unfortunately they are a sizest company and don’t go up to fat bloater size – so that was out!  Luckily I found just the one in Marks and Spencer.  I paired this with skinny jeans from Oasis and a plain white t-shirt.  I accessorised with red Sarah Jessica Parker heels, a red ‘Mulberry’ clutch and a geometric silver necklace from V&A museum.  The real piece, that set off the outfit, was a handmade large oval brooch depicting Mary Poppins’ tape measure and the slogan ‘practically perfect in every way.’  I purchased this online at Etsy, from a store called Shrinking Violet Jewellery, which I highly recommend.  The product was excellently made and delivery was fast.

 

After clearing security, the lift took us up 32 floors to the restaurant area of The Shard and we made our way to Aqua Shard – the restaurant offering the tea.  The corridors along the way have some wonderful illustrations depicting the map and sights of London.  As we were early we had a drink in the bar and took in some of the stunning views across London.  I noticed that some of the tables for tea had a window view and hoped we would get one, but was doubtful.  However I was pleasantly surprised when we were ushered over to one.

 

Many people would probably think the cost for this tea (almost £75 including tip) was over the top, even by London standards, but the theme was done fantastically and we couldn’t have asked for a better view or a more pleasant afternoon.  Goodness knows what it feels like to go up as high as the viewing platform as even on this floor, I was looking down on the roof of my old office and the trains looked like toys!

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A mirror was handed to us that had the menu printed on it and all the crockery on the table was Mary Poppins illustrated.  Our glass of champagne (which was so smooth, you could tell it was a luxury one) was delivered to us and we had the choice of adding a flavour to it, which were in medicine like bottles on the table.

 

The tea stand itself was even themed with Mary Poppins umbrella on the top and her boots as the feet.  A tray of sandwiches was brought over while the stand was full of delicious sweet treats, including one that resembled Mary Poppins hat and a very novel tin containing a syrup desert.

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At this point, I was concerned that the key component of an afternoon tea was missing – the scones.  I need not have worried though as a rather handsome waiter arrived at our table and pulled a paper bag with them in, from a Mary Poppins carpet bag.  It was the icing on the cake.

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To finish off the fabulous tea, the final course was candy floss!  Talk about take you back to childhood!

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After all that we were both stuffed and had spent a wonderful afternoon having mother/daughter time and catching up.  By the time we left, darkness had enveloped the sights of London and we could observe all the pretty lights.

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If you wanted to take some of the magic home with you, there was an opportunity to purchase a Mary Poppins book and themed tea leaves on your way out.

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I highly recommend this tea for all Mary Poppins fans.  Escape reality for a few hours and be spoilt in a beautiful restaurant with an even more beautiful view – practically perfect in every way!

The 12 outfits of Christmas

Christmas is my favourite time of the year, not least because it brings everyone together and helps you to really appreciate the wonderful people that are a part of your life.  Christmas also makes it legitimate to wear as much glitter and sparkle as possible!  The shops begin Christmas sometime in October but I refuse to get too into it until December.

On 1st December, out came the advent calendars, including one for Rufus of course, which by Christmas Eve he had completely annihilated!

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This was also the day of the first outfit of Christmas as we enjoyed a festive curry with friends that evening.  I wore a navy glitter dot dress from Oasis with navy suede heels from New Look and a matching clutch from Boohoo.  I even had my nails navy with the ring finger glittery.  The dress was a surprising disappointment on the quality front, particularly given my love for Oasis and the usual excellent quality.  The glitter shed itself all night, adding plenty of sparkle to the curry house and the next passenger in my husband’s car!

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I always like to arrange a trip somewhere to really get me in the mood for Christmas, so this year I chose one of the best and most famous Christmas markets in the UK – Bath.  My second outfit of Christmas comes in here.  I wore a red dress from Oasis with a mid brown funnel princess coat also Oasis and some black suede, calf high, slouch boots (yes you guessed it – Oasis) that I have been lusting after for a couple of years so finally treated myself to.

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Bath is somewhere I have wanted to go for some time and it didn’t disappoint although sadly the weather did.  Rather than a nice crisp winters day with a few light flurries of snow that would have made it the quintessential start to Christmas, we were treated to drizzle!

The market stretched for miles through the Georgian streets, selling everything from paintings and crafts to hot chocolate and waffles!  I was drawn by the smell of citrus fruits and cinnamon to a beautiful Christmas wreath stall.  We also got a couple of unusual presents for people.

While in Bath you have to visit the Roman baths it is famous for.  The baths are one of the most visited historical sights in the UK.  The thermal spring rises here meaning the baths flow naturally with hot water.  Bathing was a major part of Roman society and culture and this sight has been remarkably well preserved.

From Roman times to the late 1700’s, we had afternoon tea at The Regency Tea Rooms above the Jane Austin centre.  Jane was fascinated by bath, mentioning it in all her novels and even making it the setting for a couple of her stories.  We enjoyed the ‘tea with Mr Darcy’ served by waiters and waitresses in period costume, and avoided the worst of the rain.

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After more shopping we warmed ourselves with a drink at the Abbey Hotel’s Apres ski bar.

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As darkness fell, the beautiful streets and chalets were lit with pretty fairy lights and we finished the day with carols at the Abbey.

The following day, inspired by our trip, we put up all the Christmas decorations at home, while enjoying a snowball of course!

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Mum and I went to see the Tina Turner musical the weekend before Christmas, so this was outfit number three!  I wore a navy glitter knit dress from Warehouse with a pink shearling coat from Zara.  After the fantastic show, we took in the lights of Covent Garden as we headed for dinner at Browns.

Outfit four was for Christmas drinks with friends and was a black blouse with gold spots from Oasis with black leggings, also Oasis, with black stilettos with a bow detail on the back from New Look.

We had an early Christmas day, on the Sunday before, at my Mums with my gorgeous nieces and for this I wore my soft animal print dress from Oasis with purple Ugg boots.

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Christmas Eve arrived and we had both sets of parents over for dinner.  I wore my gingerbread men christmas jumper from Oasis with a velvet mini skirt from New Look.  We had a great meal, followed by a board game and then headed to midnight mass.

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Christmas day was spent as a couple this year.  We had bucks fizz and scrambled eggs with smoke salmon for breakfast.  We cooked a wonderful Christmas dinner in the evening and in between pigged out on nuts and sweets while finally wrapping the rest of the presents.  This year I decided to get crafty with my wrapping.  I wrapped the presents in brown paper and added red and white twine, stickers from a Kikki K book and fancy tags, finishing with a slice of dried orange.

Christmas day saw me wear a fun Christmas t-shirt I got from River Island some years back and a checked mini skirt from Oasis.  I was spoilt rotten with beautiful gifts, as was Rufus, who had a Christmas eve box, his own Christmas dinner and a blanket with his name embroidered on it from spoilt rotten pets!

Boxing day was a total chill out day, spent in our pyjamas on the sofa watching DVD’s so outfit eight was lounge clothes and cute slippers from Oasis.  I did move from the sofa briefly to make some gingerbread men!

We met Mum’s family in London on 27th for a delicious meal at The Parcel Yard in Kings Cross station.  Afterwards my husband and I sipped champagne at the champagne bar at St Pancras.  I wore a knitted stripped sparkle dress from Oasis with the same mid brown coat and slouch boots I wore to Bath earlier in the month.

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An afternoon with Phil’s family was spent in black skinny jeans from New Look, slogan t-shirt from Boohoo and a grey cardigan from Oasis.

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My Mum and I had the great treat of taking my nieces to the pantomime which was Cinderella this year.  For this I wore a mustard jumper and denim pinafore – both Oasis but to complete the look wore the wonderful Cinderella shoe necklace that my parents-in-law got me for Christmas.

All too soon, it was New Years Eve and I must be getting old as I turned down various invitations, to spend the evening in pyjamas, watching DVD’s and drinking fizz with a glowing log burner and my Yankee candles to add a bit of hygge.

So I saw out 2018 in outfit twelve of my Mary Poppins pyjamas from Marks and Spencer.  New Year always marks a time of reflection on things achieved and those still to achieve.  Once again I made a long list of New Year’s resolutions.  This year I am determined to at least achieve one and it’s a big one – to lose nearly three stone in weight.  I’m the heaviest I have ever been.  Weight is sneeky – it creeps up on you and enough is enough.  I started well with a seven mile walk around Riverside Country Park on New Year’s Day!  Let’s see if 2019 is the year I finally achieve that.

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What resolutions did you make and how are you doing with them so far?

 

 

 

‘It’s always tea-time’

What better theme for an afternoon tea than Alice in Wonderland, given that there is no tea party more famous than the Mad Hatter’s tea party, featured in the 1865 novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.   The Sanderson Hotel in London clearly thought the same and currently hosts an afternoon tea inspired by the very novel.

It was a sunny, warm June day and my friend and I were having a joint birthday tea (her birthday being May and mine July, June is always the best choice for this).   We were greeted at the hotel and led through to a beautiful courtyard garden, complete with faux flamingos. Marble tables were set out around the pond and baby pink blankets were over each chair, should a need for them arise. The garden also had a beautiful, floral swing chair, in association with Laurent-Perrier and was getting a lot of attention with girls trying to get the perfect Instagram snap.

 

I had come dressed in the latest Cath KidstonxDisney collaboration, an Alice in Wonderland shirt dress. I paired this with rose gold Marie Leonie pumps bought in Verona and a matching rose gold handbag from River Island.

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The waterfall in the background had a lovely relaxing effect as a waitress brought over the teas to choose from. These were all in small bottles like the drink me potion was in the story and each one was named after a character. The menus were stuck in a novel, crockery featured gymnasts and the serviettes were wrapped with a piece of paper with #I’m a Mad Hatter. When the tea pots came out, they had an illustration of a king on them and a black paper crown. The sugar cubes could be found, where else but in a music box.

 

When the tea stand was brought over, it was simply wonderful and really embraced the theme as much as possible. The food was one of the best themed offerings I have seen at any afternoon tea.  The savoury items were a smoked salmon Scotch quails egg with caviar and cream cheese, a stack of King of Hearts ham and parmesan croquet-monsieur, held together by a heart cocktail stick, Cornish crab brioche with spiced avocado and coriander and White Rabbit cucumber and cream cheese sandwich on pesto bread.

 

 

Next came the obligatory warm scones with Cornish clotted cream and fruit preserve. These were wrapped in black and white checked napkins as a nod to the chess game in the story. Then came the bit I enjoy the most, the range of sweet treats. There was a Queen of Hearts rose and strawberry Jammy Dodger, mocha chessboard gateau, Tweedle Dee lemon curd financier, Mad March Hare vanilla pocket watch macaroon, chocolate and pistachio Blue Caterpillar, Wonderland marshmallow magic mushrooms and Mad Hatters lost carrot and fennel meringue; all washed down with Alice’s exotic fruits “Drink Me” potion, served in a small bottle with a vintage paper straw.

Finally to round things off, we were given ice-cream served in a small terracotta flower-pot, as you do.

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I thoroughly enjoyed the experience but was slightly disappointed at the standard of service received. I said as much on Twitter and much to my surprise, the impossible happened and my friend and I were invited to return to the hotel for a complimentary dinner, so they could showcase their service. We returned and our every need was met, while we enjoyed a delicious three-course meal and the hotel’s signature cocktail. They certainly turned my opinion around – what fabulous customer service!

 

When it came to my actual birthday, my sister-in-law surprised me with a fantastic Alice in Wonderland themed cake while my husband bought me an Alice in Wonderland cake stand.

 

Lewis Carroll was inspired to write the novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland while rowing in Oxford with a friend from Christ Church College and his three girls, one of whom was called Alice in 1862. During the trip he told the girls a story about a bored girl named Alice who was looking for adventure.  This story, which the real Alice asked Lewis to write down, is the basis of what, once elaborated on, became the novel.  I wonder if Lewis Carroll, knew when he was in Oxford that day, what an influence the novel and its characters would continue to have over 150 years later.   I visited Oxford with my Mum back in May, following a shopping trip to Bicester Village.  We had afternoon tea by Folly Bridge which is where Lewis’ boat trip began, visited Alice’s shop and saw the small door in the Cathedral Gardens which legend has it is where Alice entered Wonderland.

 

Over the years, there have been many differing adaptions of the classic tale and I have to say one of my favourite film ones is the Disney 2010 adaption, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp.  Whatever the version you choose though, I think there are two very important messages to take from the tale which are, nothing is ever quite as it seems and if you believe in the impossible, it becomes possible.

Tale as old as time…

How many times have you looked in the mirror and thought, if only I were slimmer, younger, prettier?  We all do it, more so as we are living in a society where the likes of Instagram have made everything about appearance, not to mention the fact that cosmetic manufacturers, diet guru’s and cosmetic surgeons make a living off the back of our insecurities.  It is not until you get into your thirties though, that you begin to accept yourself and realise “Beauty is found within.”  This may sound strange coming from someone who adores clothes, shoes and make up but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you dress someone up, their character and heart is what makes them beautiful, or not, as the case may be.  Disney has encapsulated this thinking in Beauty and the Beast, whether you are talking of the 1991 Disney animation or the 2017 live action picture, staring Emma Watson with a fabulous enhanced soundtrack.

I always love a good Disney movie and the recent remakes have made me nostalgic for those times when I believed fairy tales came true.  I therefore couldn’t contain my excitement when I heard that The Kensington Hotel was hosting a Beauty and the Beast themed afternoon tea.  My excitement was short-lived however when I discovered that every date had been fully booked.  Luckily for me though, they released further dates due to the popularity, so after almost a year’s wait, I finally got to go.

Upon arrival, we were ushered to our table, past a rose in the bell jar and each table had been dressed with a red rose and biscuits decorated with marzipan to look like Belle’s dress.  Champagne was brought to us, along with tea and coffee.

The amount and variety of food at this tea was fantastic and they had gone to great lengths to theme as much of it as possible.  The tea began with warm savouries which included bite size venison pie, beef ragu and saffron arancini and cheese souffle, served on a plate garnished with rose petals.  We then moved onto sandwiches, which the staff were happy to replenish.  Instead of scones, there were sweet brioche baguettes to fit in with the scene in the movie, where Belle goes to purchase baguettes from Marie.

The sweet tier of the cake stand, always my favourite, was where the theme really came to life and included, white chocolate mousse served in chip, vanilla and gold jelly complete with rose petal, and cream to garnish it, served in Mrs Potts, a snowball macaron and a chocolate clock tart.

What made the whole tea all the more Instagram worthy were the Cogsworth and Lumiere props they brought to the table.  The only thing that let them down here was the fact that they didn’t have enough of the props to go round and therefore they took them to use for another table before the end of the tea.

I chose my outfit for the day to fit in with the enchanted rose element of the movie and wore a black midi dress with rose print from Miss Selfridge and completed the outfit with pink suede shoes from Oasis and a pink cross body bag.  I accessorised with a beauty and the beast necklace from the Disney Store by Danielle Nicole.  My hair was loosely based on a Belle hairstyle, that I found instructions for on YouTube.  My perfume was a Beauty and the Beast one from Marks and Spencer.

Beauty boxes and subscriptions to them are currently very popular with Glossybox and Birchbox being two of the most famous.  While I love the idea of getting a box full of beauty surprises each month, I am not keen on being tied into a subscription and also there will inevitably be products you don’t use.  However last year when the new film was released, I couldn’t resist this one off, subscription free, Beauty and the Beast themed box from Latest in Beauty.  The box included Burt’s Bees lipstick, Caudalie moisturising sorbet, a gold compact mirror, Gold Lust dry Shampoo, Soigne nail polish, Gatineau exfoliator and L’Occitane rose hand and nail cream.

There is nothing wrong with making an effort with your appearance and enjoying beauty products but always keep in mind that true beauty lies within.  In a world where celebrities are idolised and body image is always a hotly debated topic, shouldn’t every young girl be reminded that beauty isn’t only skin deep?  Let’s hope we all realise that and appreciate what we have ‘before the last petal falls’.

 

 

 

A vintage hen

Rummaging through the vintage chest of drawers, admiring the range of pearls, brooches and head-dress, I felt like a little girl in her dressing up box.  In fact we were transforming ourselves into 1920’s ladies for a themed afternoon tea at Betty Blythe in Brook Green, a short work from Hammersmith tube.

Betty Blythe tea room was the brainchild of Lulu Gwynne.  The name was derived in part from the fact it is situated on Blythe Road and partly an accolade to the twenties silent movie star of the same name.  The venue welcomes walk ins for tea during the week but weekends are strictly bookings only, making it a great unique and private venue for any occasion.

We chose it to celebrate one of my best friend’s hen do, as she is a huge lover of anything vintage.  Once we had transformed ourselves into flappers and the like in the downstairs boudoir, we headed upstairs to be seated for tea.

The waitresses that tended to our every need were also dressed in old-fashioned waitress uniforms and the food was served on a beautiful range of art deco inspired china, with Prosecco we had brought with us, served in traditional champagne flutes.

The food was delicious with classic offerings such a crudities, bread sticks and Waldorf salad as well as the customary sandwiches, finished off with a red velvet cake.

We got everyone to fill in advice cards for the bride to be and as she left the venue, we showered her in confetti.

The venue is stunning, a proper vintage tea room in the middle of modern-day London and a must for any fans of the roaring twenties.  They have been fortunate enough to welcome the likes of Mary Berry through their doors who loved their cakes!  Lulu, the owner has a genuine passion for all things vintage and this shines through in the Great Gatsby inspired venue she has created.  If you leave wanting more, Lulu has also published a book ‘Style me Vintage: Tea Parties’ which gives you the low down on throwing your very own vintage soiree.  As the great Coco Chanel said: “a girl should be two things: classy and fabulous” and you can’t fail to be both after a visit to Betty Blythe’s.

Sailing in luxury

My fast becoming favourite museum, the V&A, is currently running an exhibition entitled Ocean Liners: Speed and Style, until 17 June 2018.

The main draw for me to visit this exhibition was the fact that a piece of the Titanic was included, which has not been seen in Europe since the ship was built. I must confess to having somewhat of an obsession with the fated Titanic’s maiden voyage – not least because of the film starring Leonardo DiCaprio which was released in 1998. As an impressionable, young 14-year-old – I idolised Leonardo and wanted to be as elegant as Kate Winslet. I cried bucket loads when I saw the film at the cinema. Anyone who has seen the film, cannot forget the moment that Rose, laying on a part of the ship and floating in the atlantic, has to let go of Jack. This is what sprung to mind when I saw the wooden panel fragment from the first class lounge of Titanic, the largest remaining fragment from the ship, which was found floating in the Atlantic and is on loan from a museum in Nova Scotia, Canada.  It is in fact what the film’s set designers modelled the floating refuge on.

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I was pleasantly surprised that the rest of the exhibition enthralled me just as much.  The exhibition is very much a show of the luxury that could be found on these ships all those years ago.  People were supposed to forget they were even at sea, as the great ships aimed to replicate first class hotels.

With the introduction of passenger flights in the 1960’s, Ocean liner trade declined significantly until it ceased in 1986 except for transatlantic crossings by the Cunard line shipping company. The cruise trade has boomed however.

The lines are blurred between descriptions of cruise ships and liners, and often the terms are used interchangeably. Liners had higher fuel consumption and fewer windows as their use was to transfer passengers from one point to another whereas cruise ships follow circular routes, sometimes with no stops.

Cruises nowadays are of course more of a relaxed affair – no longer are you expected to dress for dinner every night for example.  While this is good as it opens up the demographic, I can’t help but mourn an era where luxury ruled supreme; especially given that I have always had champagne taste and beer money!

The first room of the exhibition concentrates mainly on poster advertising for the liners.  You then move into a room where various interiors from different ships are mocked up – giving you a feel of the attention to detail, when they were designed with elaborate wooden carvings.  The next room was my favourite as it was very much focused on the fashion and the glamour.

Having enjoyed the exhibition, my Mum and I decided to sample a piece of the luxury, offered by London today.  We went for afternoon tea at Number Sixteen – a high-end hotel in South Kensington.  We enjoyed prosecco, sandwiches, scones and some delightful cakes in the orangery of the mid-Victorian white terrace, looking out on the beautiful private garden.

No girls day out would be complete without a visit to the shops, so we hopped onto the tube to Knightsbridge and visited the home of luxury, Harrods and browsed all the many delights I would love to be able to afford.

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Pearls are forever

Coco Chanel once said ‘a woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls’.  Pearls have long been associated with royalty and wealth due to their rarity and difficulty to harvest. Thankfully the advent of the artificial pearl has made it possible for everyone to wear them.

Gone are the days of pearls only being used in jewellery, the Spring/Summer ’17 catwalk was filled with clothes adorned with pearls.  The association with pearls and twinsets is a distant memory with pearls often being added to grungy items such as boots and leather to give a softer, feminine edge.

I couldn’t resist these pearl embellished flip flops from Zara and what better time to wear them than a trip to Buckingham Palace, followed by tea in a Cinderella carriage!

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Buckingham Palace was first opened to the public in summer 1993, as a way to raise funds to repair Windsor Castle following the fire the previous year.  Since then, the palace, which is one of the few remaining, working palaces in the world, has welcomed over six million visitors.

The changing of the guard was in progress when we arrived, with the Old Guard leaving Buckingham Palace for Wellington Barracks accompanied by the band.  I immediately felt very proud of our country’s heritage.  We had chosen the State Rooms ticket, which includes the 19 rooms used for official engagements.  I particularly enjoyed seeing the Throne room and the Ballroom.  We entered through the porte-cochere or covered carriage entrance and admired one of the royal carriages. The Grand Hall leads to the magnificent staircase that is a masterpiece in gold.  Displayed on the staircase are various portraits of Queen Victoria’s family.  Each of the State rooms has various items from the Royal Collection, given to the Queen from countries around the world.  There was a special display for Princess Diana, curated by her sons, as a tribute,  being that 2017 is 20 years since her death.  Princess Diana was a great lover of pearls, mainly due to their versatility.  She made pearls appealing to a younger generation during the eighties.

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Pleated skirt Asos, lace sleeved t-shirt New Look and sandals Zara

 

I was a little disappointed that the view of the gardens was literally a quick glimpse on the way out and you have to buy an additional ticket to see more.

After the palace we made our way to Hyde Park and enjoyed lunch overlooking the Serpentine followed by a walk around Diana’s memorial fountain.

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The last activity of the day was by far the best and that was afternoon tea at the Tea Terrace at House of Fraser Victoria.  A friend had shared with me on Facebook the fact that they had a golden Cinderella carriage there that you could book to have tea in.  This was right up my street given the carriage I chose for our wedding and my love of all things princess – fairy-tales do come true after all!

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There is a usage fee and you can only occupy the carriage for one and a quarter hours, or it turns into a pumpkin, but what an amazing experience for all us girly girls.  The Tea Terrace is designed to give a traditional afternoon tea experience, painted in baby pink and blue with inspirational quotes on the walls.  There is a self playing piano to provide atmospheric music and the crockery is all Royal Albert fine bone china.  We indulged in the Celebration Afternoon tea that was served with prosecco.  There was a choice on sandwich fillings, which is often not the case with afternoon tea packages and beautiful warm fruit and plain scones served with the traditional jam and clotted cream.  A selection of cakes was also included although these were a little disappointing given that they were banana cake and lemon cake which are two cakes I am not keen on.  It felt amazing to sit in the carriage while enjoying this lovely British classic.  As Henry James said ‘there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea’.

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The pearl trend is going nowhere, with autumn/winter catwalks again filled with them. These pearl embellished jeans from Zara were a fabulous purchase.

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Pearl embellished jeans Zara, pink shearling coat Zara, grey frill shoulder jumper Oasis, shoes Oasis and bag Asos

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Why not share with me how you are rocking the pearl trend? I’d love to hear from you!