What I Did: Started a new blog!

I was trying to think of a way to start this blog off without sounding melodramatic, but it had me completely stumped, so I'm just going to come out and say it: N (the boyfriend) and I are jacking in our temp jobs and going round the world for six months. The families and friends have been told (thankfully they're all really excited and have basically said 'Go for it now while you're young and carefree!'), the travel books have been ordered, and every last penny is being squirreled away into the savings account. But I wanted somewhere where I could write about my experiences, and maybe hopefully offer something to other female travellers as well, as from the initial research I've done there doesn't seem to be an enormous amount of info out there that's girl-specific.

So, my new blog - Where Laura Went - is going to become my little outlet for all my travel posts and pictures. I'm going to start with a couple of brief intros by posting about forthcoming trips to Malta and Cornwall, as well as a couple of blogs about the practicalities of going round the world as a girl, from things like female-specific backpacks to how little you can really manage on clothes- and make-up-wise whilst still having a few dressy things and feeling like a girl.

I'm also in the process of setting up a new travel Twitter account to go with the blog - more to follow soon about that one - so will keep you posted on how that goes. Hopefully I'll see you over there soon!

Beauty Review: 17 Magnetic Nail Polish in Grey

As regular readers of this blog will know, when it comes to nail art I'm all for the easier methods - mainly because I'm not the most steady-handed of people and, whilst my efforts would be noble, the result would probably look like someone had let an artistically challenged three-year-old loose on my polish collection. Give me something you can use straight from the bottle, like a glitter or a crackle, and I'm a happy bunny. As a consequence, most of my nail art tends to have a slightly 'rocky' edge rather than the prettier, more delicate details of those with more finesse, and that extends to today's product - magnetic polish.

There are loads of magnetic polishes around, particularly from Nails Inc, but the shade I've picked out is a 17 version in Grey. I've blogged a lot about 17 polishes before, but this is as good an opportunity to sing their praises as any; they're very reasonably priced, they last well and they come in every colour you could possibly want, from the latest trends to timeless classics. The trendiness also extends to their styles of polish - they were very quick to jump on the bandwagon for the likes of crackle and metallics, and then followed suit with adopting magnetic polish. For those who maybe haven't caught on to it yet, the polish contains tiny magnetic particles which then react to a magnet in the polish lid, and you can move the magnet around to create different patterns.

It is a bit tricky to use to start with as you have to hold the magnet quite close to the nail but without touching the nail directly, although thankfully removing the polish with nail polish remover doesn't seem to affect the magnet. It took me about three or four goes but eventually I figured out a method of holding the magnet over the polish for about ten seconds (there is a handy little 'rest' on the top of the lid that you can place against your finger to steady it). Also first coat coverage is not all that great - I'd say you need at least two coats to get an opaque finish - and you have to use the magnet as soon as you've painted your nail. This is quick-drying stuff and leaving it too long means you won't get any effects.

All that said, once it's done you do get some amazing patterns (please excuse the slightly smudged litle finger and the tip wear). This is with three coats - I did one in the light of my living room and one in daylight outside my office:

Base coat is Nails Inc Hyde Park, as always, but I went for a matte top coat as I felt it was more appropriate to the slightly rocky feel of the polish - a shiny top coat would have made it look too glossy, which I didn't think worked with it. My matte top coat of choice is Rimmel Lycra Pro Matte Finish, as it's cheap and durable; the nails held up for the best part of a week, and probably would have survived longer if I hadn't got bored of them.

Overall, I really like this polish - it holds up well, it's easy to use and it gets loads of compliments. Yes it's a little bit time-consuming in comparison to just whacking on three coats of polish and a top coat, but it's probably a good gateway to more delicate nail art if you're that way inclined.

If you fancy picking up a bottle of 17 Magnetic Nail Polish it comes in four shades (I also have the green which I'll try out another time) and costs £5.99 a bottle from Boots.

Bar Review: Jewel Covent Garden

Obviously an awful lot of my 'What I Did' blogs will be about new places I've visited and new experiences I've had, but occasionally I'm going to throw a review of an old favourite into the mix. Jewel is definitely the latter. It's a cocktail bar on Maiden Lane in Covent Garden which rapidly became the place for me and my friends to head to when in need of a post-work drink or a Friday night celebration, not least because for some reason my boyfriend seems to get a free round of drinks from them every other week, which was the reason for my latest visit.

Upon entering Jewel, it looks like a pretty typical cocktail bar - dark woods, dim lighting, black marble bar, lots of classical-style statutes and mirrors in ornate gilt frames. However, there is one major difference: it doesn't look as busy as a cocktail bar in the West End should right after work. This is a street full of bars and restaurants and whilst the places next door and over the road seem to be constantly packed, Jewel is more often than not likely to be all but empty. But in that regard, it lives up to its name as a little undiscovered gem, as I'll go on to explain.

The cocktail menu includes around 80 cocktails, ranging from classic martinis to contemporary cocktails to creations unique to the bar, as well as a seasonal specials menu which gets updated every few months or so. I've never had a bad cocktail in Jewel so picking a favourite is really difficult, but if I had to choose one it would probably be the hibiscus bellini - hibiscus syrup mixed with Prosecco. The only thing I will say is that the degree of detail that goes into your cocktail will depend entirely on who is making it for you; for example, with some of the champagne cocktails, you'll just get the stuff mixed in the glass rather than shaken together, and it really is luck of the draw depending on the bar staff. They're still normally pretty good, but just not quite as good as they can be if they're made properly. So my tip is that once you find the person behind the bar who knows how to make the cocktail as it's described, stick with them all night as much as possible. And, which admittedly is partly down to a lack of space for a coffee machine, the menu would be vastly improved by the addition of an espresso martini.

Jewel has a fairly extensive happy hour, running from 5 PM to 7.30 (5 to 7 in December and January), where all cocktails are £4.50 (apart from the champagne cocktails which are £5 each), as well as discounts on beer, wine, food platters - a fairly standard mix of chicken wings, garlic bread, mini pizzas etc - and champagne. Outside of happy hour, they're fairly standard central London prices at about £7-8 a cocktail. Its staff are also very good about accommodating parties of varying sizes (including getting on the guest list afterwards, although once you're in that make sure you specify cocktails as part of the free round as sometimes they can be fussy if you don't) and you can get the same happy hour deals as you would otherwise.

The Covent Garden branch is one of three dotted around the city, and you check them all out on the website.

Restaurant Review: Souk Medina

I admit that I will eat pretty much any type of cuisine, and I don't really have a favourite cuisine, but after a trip to Turkey a couple of years ago I developed a bit of a 'thing' for Middle Eastern food (the proper stuff mind, I'm ruined for kebab vans for ever after having the real thing). And trying a new restaurant is one of the highlights of living in a city like London, where you can eat whatever kind of food you want, whenever and wherever you want. So when the two things came together last week and a friend invited me to Souk Media, I jumped at the chance.

The restaurant is in the heart of Covent Garden near Seven Dials and would make for a great place to grab a quick dinner after a day of shopping and wandering around or before heading off to the theatre. From the outside, it's hugely open and welcoming, with a big canopied front. Inside, it's absolutely cavernous; it goes back for what seems like forever, and there's a downstairs section as well, which was where we sat. For anyone who has been to Istanbul or Morocco, the decor is very reminiscent of that - all flagged stone floors, dark woods, lamps in sconces on the wall and comfy low sofas with loads of cushions.

In true Mediterranean style, we ordered a mixture of snacks - they come with pitta bread so I think about two or three each would be plenty, depending on your appetite. All the food was delicious, particularly the chicken briouat (chicken in pastry with Moroccan spices and spinach), the grilled aubergine and the merguez (lamb sausage with tomato sauce). However, I think next time I might go for one of the tagines; the couple on the table next to us had them and they smelt absolutely amazing. We also had really lovely cocktails with figs, vodka, mint and rosewater, kind of like a mojito - I can highly recommend them.

Overall, a great place to grab a relaxed dinner with friends, due to the great food and perfectly pitched staff (they know when to leave you well alone and when to come over, and will happily let you sit and chill out long after you've finished eating), and pretty reasonably priced - admittedly we got 50% off the food with my friend's Tastecard, which are a great handy thing to have if you eat out in London regularly, but for a treat it seems like a pretty good deal at about £15 for three plates of mezze or a tagine.

Souk Medina also has a nearby sister restaurant, Souk Bazaar. I'll post about it if I ever get a chance to visit, to compare and contrast, but if you want to check it out yourself in the meantime, you can visit the website.