Thursday, October 20, 2016

Belgium: Bruxelles

The fact that I was flying alone into a foreign country on which I knew nobody didn't bother me when I decided to go to Belgium. Landing in Brussels I didn't even know there were 3+ languages, French, Dutch, Flemish spoken in this one country.

The fact that I was alone didn't even sink in as the plane descended from the clouds to reveal the lush green trees covering much of the land that I could see. And it didn't set in either as I checked into my hostel. And I wasn't expecting it to.

From the get go I had planned to stay in Brussels as my base and travel out by train or bus to the surrounding cities should I want to.

The first night I did not meet anyone in my hostel as there was no one there. Instead I walked around my predominantly Turkish area and found a lovely restaurant to have a celebratory dinner. I felt like I needed to mark the journey, why I do not know. I guess it was my first true thing alone? I don't really know but the feeling was there and I was hungry, obviously not thinking right because I forked our about €20 for one meal albeit a delicious meal as you can probably see yourself.
This would turn out to be one of my few proper meals of the whole trip! I still regret nothing.

The next day I spent exploring Brussels. I visited Marolles Flea Market thanks to the recommendations of the girls from the Solo Female Travelers group on Facebook.There were many things to be seen from  Voodoo masks to old glasses. I even bought a really pretty photo album for one euro. It was a chilly morning so I got a cup of hot chocolate from Chaff located right next to the square. 

Following that was a free walking tour. Technically two free walking tours. The first was with a lady who was completely void of any emotion or the ability to change the tone of her voice making all the information she said put our small group to sleep. She then not so politely explained her very first point that essentially, she is expecting to be paid for her service and that her average was about €10-15.

The biggest tourist trap is the idea of a free walking tour and in case you missed the life lesson, nothing is free in life. I had thought that the service was headed by a company and its employees i.e the guides were paid some sort of wage but that was not the case. Although that is not the reason I and one other girl I met bailed on her tour and joined the much more interesting tour group we saw next to us, New Europe ( red umbrellas for anyone going there) a decision we did not regret. And in doing this I had made my first traveling friend in Brussels, who was only up for the day but we still had fun eating Belgian Fries ( not French Fries which you should never call them in Belgium) and getting to know each other. Fritland fries was recommended by our tour guide and they were so delicious and well worth the €3.50 you pay for a cone of fries.

I can't say much for the Brussels night life as I've got to be honest 1) I did not go to any night clubs with anyone as I had no one to go with 2) I didn't spend enough time in Brussels at night to even know where there were night clubs. I visited an Irish Pub with hopes of finding fellow travelers from Ireland and bonding over this fact, oh what a naive child I am. It was of course nothing like that. I heard so many different languages in my short time in this pub but not one word of English or Gaeilge either. 

Feeling a little deflated at that and the fact that no one even glance in my direction I left. And that was the first time it truly felt like I had come to Brussels alone and was truly alone. I walked around a bit not wanting to go back to my hostel where I couldn't even tell if anyone else was already checked into our room.

A quick search on Google reminded me that there was one place I wanted to go to though I had saved it for Friday's itinerary. But throwing lists to the wind I quickly pulled up my Google maps and started heading towards what would be the reason I would come to love Brussels and traveling solo. Along the way my battery died but it didn't matter because I found what I was looking for. Tucked in an alley of restaurants with waiters competing to get you inside their respective culinary facilities, easily missed by those looking for it and those who know where it is was Delirium.

 If you are ever in Brussels, forget everything you've been told, this is the one place you must go to. The vibe there is undeniable and tangible in how welcoming and enveloping it is. The playlist is SICK ( although I suspect it to be a Spotify playlist) and you'll find people of all ages there like the two Canadians I quickly became friends with. The staff are just as chill and friendly albeit I am somewhat biased after a night of free drinks and great banter with the bar men and management.

That was essentially the only real time I spent in the Brussels night life scene, after the walking tour where I became acquainted with almost all the city has to offer historically and the '8th wonder of the world' according to my tour guide. The rest of the time I returned to the city for quick walks to and from buses and stations, listening to buskers, eating waffles and drinking hot chocolate in cafe's and chilling at Scott's bar.

My last night however was spent in the city eating noodles and watching two Italian buskers as the sun set behind-the-scenes the buildings on the other side. It was relaxing, beautiful and chatting to a long haired slightly stoned angel of a man on the stairs as we watched the men sing and strum guitars and beat Cajun drums. It was not until I decided to go get a waffle before heading to Delirium that I saw that the Grand Palace square building had been lit bright purple, for what reason I do not know but it was beautiful.

I bought my waffle and headed back for a picture of Delirium, not actually going inside because I was too tired at this point and also didn't want to taint the memory of the place. However I have promised myself to go back with friends and let the dream live on then.

It was at this point, walking to my bus station that I started to realize all at once how the streets I'd gotten lost on so many times come together with just a few twists and turns that only someone living there or who'd spent enough time getting lost there would know.

If you're going to Brussels for the history then there's plenty to be seen, for the beauty...I don't know, to me it's a very modernized almost industrialized city and crowded with people not just tourists. Will I go to Brussels again? Yes. It is a city buzzing with life in which I discovered a little bit about myself. I really don't like being alone as much as I thought I did and if walking around the city to avoid my mostly empty hostel room doesn't prove it then I don't know what does. It's also thought me how to be alone and remain confident more than my bedroom has all these years.

Go to Brussels to get lost and meet people and not for the instagram pictures. Do a walking tour, a beer tasting tour if you're into that and try to meet more people, you won't regret it.

Have you ever been to Brussels? How did you find it?

Till next time my pretties xxx
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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Kiso Wear

Sleeves ~ Kiso Wear
T¬Shirt ~ Primark
Boots ~ Primark
Bag ~ Primark

*You know those Instagram brand pages you follow, like all their pictures and then wish they'd notice you and want to work with you despite your small numbers because you know you can deliver and will hopefully not disappoint? Well I have many of those pages I am following and Kiso Wear was one of them until I plucked up the courage to email the owner Melanie about a possible collaboration. Now I have to admit, I know I do not have the biggest numbers when it comes to blogging and this is not such a bad thing because I have plenty of time to grow Albatroz & Co. and look forward to that challenge but I am always keenly aware of these numbers when approaching brands.

I know from experience that numbers can mean a lot to some brands, and I mean why wouldn't they? You wouldn't want to be giving away free products or money without receiving something substantial in return. So when Melanie agreed to my collaboration outreach, I was so surprised and excited. I had been on her website and followed her IG liking her pictures with the grace of a skilled stalker and really wanted to work with her.

I am that person who would have the radiators on full blast in the dead heat of summer. I am always cold. I know people who won't touch me because I'm so cold sometimes. These Kiso Sleeves were just perfect for me because it meant that if I got too warm too quickly, as also happens, I could remove them without fretting about losing style with my outfit.

I paired them up with the Sonic T-Shirt I snatched from the men's Primark sale rack in the Large because what other size T-Shirts do they even make that matters? I teamed it up with my ever present Mint Velvet Leggings and these boots for a dark grungy vibe with some vintage hues. The dolphin choker my friend Léon bought for me from Spain and the tooth necklace I bought in a stall in Manchester Bury market when visiting there last year. 

I seriously love the edgy vibe the Kiso Sleeves gave the outfit and have worn it several times since. I love that it slips onto your arms with ease and sits quite well on the arms without moving. Most people were surprised to find out that they weren't actually sleeves of the shirt, that's how well they work with the right outfit.

The only thing I will say is that after a few wears I have noticed the tops where it lies at your upper arm has started rolling a bit, especially when worn with a jacket over it but you can always pull them back up.

All I can really say is that I quite like this product and would consider buying another one perhaps in a different colour. I'm thinking some strippy ones. 

What little clothing hacks do you use? I'd love to know.

Till next time my pretties xxx

* Sponsored Content showing my honest opinions.
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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Review: Irresistible Me Tiara

Long Cardigan - Primark
Polo - Bershka
Leggings - Mint Velvet
Shoes - Topshop
Bag - Primark
I have previously covered two out of three hair accessory pieces from Irresistible Me here on Albatroz & Co. The first being the Trinity Hair Combs which I wore to my Debs and the second the Rhea Hairband which has quickly become a staple in my daily outfits and finally here is the third. I had waited this long to be able to wear this Tiara with my outfit to my friend Léon's Debs however was unable to get a picture with the outfit I wore. But do not fret, I will be doing an outfit post of it soon and who knows, maybe the Tiara will make another reappearance.

I chose the Aurora Tiara as part of my three pieces because of it's simple and yet delicate beauty. I know it's not everyday you can wear a Tiara but I will definitely be looking for opportunities to make exceptions for this one. I really liked the rising arch design of the jewels. The quality of the tiara, as I have found in all my dealings with Irresistible Me hair accessories was equal to what you may find in H & M or Stradivarius. Wearing it, I felt like a Princess. It definitely held up well throughout the night from the 3pm I got dressed to the after 5am I returned home. It sat nicely on my head, not giving me a headache like some hair accessories do with time and never once moved from position. 

All in all, I am a lover of the Irresistible Me hair accessories. Although I cannot speak for all their products, I would certainly not have any hesitations about ordering their products again.

What are some of your staple hair accessories? I'd love to know.

Till next time my pretties xxx
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Sunday, October 09, 2016

My Go To HAIR Products

In honour of the new Hair category on Albatroz & Co. I will be sharing in this post why and how I became a natural and also sharing with you all my go to hair products.

I have been natural about two years now I’d say although I don’t quite remember the day I went natural. For those of you who may not know what natural African hair is, it is hair that has not been chemically treated to reduce or completely remove the hair’s natural curliness and therefore straighten it. From my earliest memory I have always had chemically straightened hair. In fact talks of having natural hair only applied to ‘bush girls’ who  didn’t care about their appearance and by extension were seen as having no respect for themselves and therefore not receiving any from others. 

When I expressed my own desire to my mother to go natural, I am sorry to say that I was met with somewhat of the same tone of disapproval and judgement. I would look like trash who didn’t take care of herself and was warned against it by many people. Even now I still receive comments from men and women, some known, some unknown of how disgraceful the natural state of my hair is. However these misconceived opinions are not the purpose of today’s post and will not be battled against now but maybe in a future post.

This picture is from my very first post on Albatroz & Co. which you can check out Here. I think it's fair to say my blogging game has changed an awful lot since and so has my hair! 

It was early evening I believe and I should have been at athletics training but I was at home despairing over my seemingly miserable life, or at least that’s how 16 year old me felt. I had been researching natural hair, reading threads and subscribing to every natural hair site that my friend who had gone natural had compiled for me. Curly Nikki, Naturally Curly, Black Girl Long Hair, you name it, I was there. I had even started the process of transitioning without doing a big chop. But in my room that night, I had an overwhelming need for change, to be able to change something I had control over. And so I took a pair of scissors I’d bought in Dealz to my hair and hacked of all the chemically straightened hair. It didn’t get rid of the miserable feeling, as if chopping of the ends of my hair would cut away those feelings too. However it made me not care enough to do something that I would have been undecided about for months and spent time I didn’t have trying to treat two different hair types.

Since then I’ve come to find products that work for my natural hair as it is and some are recent enough finds and others I have been using since before going natural and would stick by. So without further ado, here are my go to products for natural hair.

  1.      ORS Hair Mayonnaise

The prospect of hair mayonnaise use to bring to mind the same feeling of ‘ewww’ that I get when I tell people who aren’t naturals about it. ‘Why would you want to put something called that in your hair?’ they’d squeal with slight disgust and intrigue. But honestly I swear by this stuff. I normally like to make my own protein masks and have shared one of my favourites on Albatroz & Co. before which you can check out Here. However there are times where I don’t always get the chance to prepare something or just don’t have the ingredients at hand. Those are the times I turn to my ORS Hair Mayonnaise. My hair always feels so much more strengthened and I can see and feel the fortified elasticity in it. I’m not much of a pro on the scientific side but it never fails to make my hair feel nicer, softer and stronger.

This is one of my recent finds. When I started my transition and proceeded to the Big Chop I was using the Argan Oil hair mask, which wasn’t really doing anything for my hair and for a while I moved from product to product trying to find one that worked and didn’t go out of stock for months at my local pharmacy or Euro store. I had been using the Herbal Essence Hello Hydration Shampoo and Conditioner and when I came across the Herbal Essence Hello Hydration Hair Mask I figured there'd be no harm in having a go at it and have been using it for the last six months or so. I find that it does leave my hair moisturized for about two days if I were to go without a leave-in conditioner. However I still feel there could be better out there, so I’m on the look out for something else to look at. If you have any suggestions, please let me know in the comments below or on any of my social media.

I promise this post is not sponsored by ORS in anyway, I just really love their products and use a lot of it! I first came across this Leave-In in my local Boots store at the very beginning of my natural hair journey and opted not to go for it because at the time I didn’t see much use for it when I was wearing braids all the time to hide my transition. However back in July I bought one before going to Ghana and have not looked back since. I absolutely LOVE it! I use it all the time. It’s become my almost-nightly routine to part my hair into four and comb through each cluster with my Curls Unleashed Créme. For €9.99 I’m torn between the cost of it and how much of it there is. It’s a 545g/16 OZ. jar and it has lasted me four months now so you can definitely make it last.

Another pick from the early stages of my natural hair journey. This is not the pure Argan Oil you’d get in the Pharmacy/ Drugstore that costs about €15 for more or less 50ml. This is one I get from Dealz for €1.50 quite cheaply and much to the joy of my wanting student budget. It’s quite heavy so I often put it on in the evening after my Curls Unleashed Leave-In and wrap my hair up in my silk wrap. By the morning my hair would’ve absorbed the oil, sealed in the crème and gained the glossy shine from the oil without the feeling of residue when you run your hands through it. 

And those are my four go to  hair natural hair products. What are some of your go to hair products? And what have I missed on my list that I should definitely be using? I'd love to know.

Till next time my pretties xxx
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