Highclere Castle…YES! DOWNTON ABBEY!!!

Our visit to Highclere Castle was not a regularly scheduled tour. And, no, we didn’t break in. Both Greg and I are big fans of the show Downton Abbey and wanted to make this a part of our trip. Tours are limited to only the summer months, but there were none scheduled during our trip. However, Greg found that Highclere Castle was hosting a fundraiser for Marlborough College, a local private school associated to Eton (where Princes Willam & Harry and Kate attended). Although we had no connection to Marlborough College, Greg seized the opportunity to purchase tickets to the event and surprise me!! The castle is amazing and the grounds are stunning. Not only were we treated to endless amounts of champagne, but we were able to tour the castle. The bedrooms used by Lady Grantham, Mary, Cybil and Edith, along with the Library, sitting rooms and the main foyer that were common scenes on Downton Abbey were open for viewing. It was like stepping into the show itself! The furniture and drapes were as they appeared on the show. As much as I wanted to, photos were not allowed to be taken inside the Castle. But, here are few of the outside… Highclere Castle is an actual home that is occupied by the Earl of Carnarvon and Lady  Carnarvon. During the event, Lady Carnarvon spoke to guests. An articulate, intelligent and beautiful woman, she is staunchly proud of Highlclere Castle and its place in English history. She also an author and has a blog! Along with being a residence and the former setting of Downton Abbey, it...

LONDON – Eating & Shopping in London

  Yes, London is expensive, if only because of the poor Canadian exchange rate. So, I’m going to try and give you prices of things where I can,  because that is always a concern when traveling. When we were there in June, our basic rule of thumb with any purchase was to double the price. For example, if something was 10 pounds, it would be $20 Canadian. That isn’t exactly what the exchange was, but it was close and easy math on the go. When doing this, it is always better to round up than down to avoid disappointment when the bills come after you get home. Without going into a lot of specifics, we found the the average glass of wine or a pint of beer was 4-5 pounds, bottle of wine was 15-20 pounds and a bottle of sparkling wine started at around 23 pounds.     Our first night in London, we ate at an Italian restaurant called The Spaghetti House, on Duke Street (near Oxford Street and the department store Selfridges). The food was very good and average priced. Greg and I shared an appetizer, we each got an entree and shared a bottle of wine and dessert. In the end, our bill was around 65 pounds, which was about $120 Canadian.     Around town, there are lots of grab and go places, like Pret A Manger where you can get decent, healthier food options. Also, places like Tesco (local grocer) have grab and go items like prepared sandwiches, drink and snack starting at 3 pounds! On our last night, we met up with...

LONDON IS CALLING – Coming, Going and Getting Around in London

It took us a while, but this summer we finally decided on a vacation. London, UK. What a city! What an experience! The history, the vibe, the shopping and the hustle and bustle that is London. For a week, we took in what this world class city had to offer. Here are some useful tips and insights for those thinking or have made plans to visit London.   Flight and Arrival to England – Our 7 hour, overnight, direct flight from Toronto had us arriving into Gatwick Airport. Prior to leaving, Greg found a gem of time saver. It’s called the Gatwick Premium Pass. Before passing through to the Baggage Claim and Customs, all arriving passengers have to pass through Border Control. This is where you present your passport to a Border Control Officer and are officially allowed to enter the country. To sum it up, the line leading up to this check is insane.   In order to avoid this, Gatwick Airport offers a service where you can bypass the line, ergo the Gatwick Premium Pass. For 25 pounds total, Greg and I were able to purchase this pass, beat the huge line and enjoy our vacation sooner. After purchasing the pass, Greg was sent an email confirmation. When we arrived at the Border Control area, we presented our confirmation to a staff member who immediately ushered us to a Border Control Officer. Within minutes we were collecting our bags and making our way to the city. This was such a huge time saver and I highly recommend spending the money on this service. For more information on...

Mother’s Day with Hallmark

May. The month of spring flowers, warmer weather and of course Mother’s Day. To show your Mom how special she is give her a gift from the heart. A handwritten note or card. Technology provides a multitude of  options to stay connected to friends and family, but the art of the handwritten note can’t be matched.  The personal touch of the handwritten word has now become a unique treasure that allows people to connect on a more intimate level. Personally speaking, my hubby has written me notes and cards for the past 23 years and I have kept each one. They mean so much to me and each one has provided a history of our relationship that just can’t be captured in a text or email. Recently, I hosted an evening event with Hallmark. They invited people to revisit the art of the handwritten note. Of course, they had many of their gorgeous gifts and cards on display, but I was honestly blown away by the stunning Hallmark Signature greeting cards. The beauty of these greeting cards is almost a gift in itself. The cards are handcrafted and designed with such attention to detail; including premium paper stock, embossing and foil and high impact embellishments like gems, beads, fabrics and more. SO PRETTY! So this Mother’s Day, surprise your Mom with the beauty of a greeting card from Hallmark enclosed with that special, heart felt, handwritten message of what she means to you. Here are some photos from the event! Happy Mother’s Day to all of the special women in our lives- Mothers, Grandmothers, Aunts, Cousins and Friends. ~...

She Shed, Diva Den, Lady Lounge, Chic Shed… whatever you call it, it’s all yours!

Hey ladies, are you dreaming of your own private space? One that you can call your own, to do whatever YOU want to do and decorate it how YOU want it decorated? Check out the “She Shed” I recently highlighted on Cityline. This can be your “Diva Den”, “Lady Lounge”, “Chic Shed” counterpart to your hubby’s or boyfriend’s “Man Cave”. Whatever you call it, it will be all yours! So, take a peek at my recent Cityline segment where tell you how you can enjoy a “She Shed” of your very own. ~Shoana Click on the video below to watch the...