If you’ve ever travelled from Birmingham International Airport before then you will have walked through their World Duty Free store, however since February they have been having quite the makeover and at the end of July the newly refurbished store opened along with several new brands.

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As well as the usual counters from Clarins, Chanel, MAC and YSL, you can now enjoy VAT-free products from the likes of Urban Decay, Smashbox, Bobbi Brown and Jo Malone. I was invited along to have a tour of the new shop and to try out a couple of treatments.

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When we had gone through airport security (it really felt like we were going on holiday, I wish we could have gotten on a plane!) we were taken through to the new Duty Free shop and were treated to glasses of champagne, a selection of canapes and these amazing travel themed bicuits from Biscuiteers. We were then divided into pairs for our treatments and I was partnered with Ting.

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Ting and I started off at Urban Decay where they talked us through the new Vice lipsticks and also tried a couple out on us. I went for Tilt which is a lovely vibrant orangey red, perfect for the summer. I didn’t realise how much I loved Urban Decay until the sales assistant was showing us the products and I kept saying “Yep, I’ve got that one” to every other product. I own Naked 1, 2 and 3, the Naked Basics 2 palette, a couple of lipsticks, an eye primer, the Naked Skin concealer and the Setting Spray so I’m quite a big fan.

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Our next stop was the brand new Jo Malone store. I am a huge fan of Jo Malone colognes and already own three (Vanilla & Anise which has sadly been discontented, Pomegranate Noir and Mimosa & Cardamom) so I was excited to have a complimentary hand and arm massage using products in a fragrance of our choice. We were shown the new Cologne Intense Body Cremes and I chose to have my massage with the Velvet Rose & Oud creme and cologne. I’d never had an arm massage before and this one was so indulgent – first of all the Geranium and Walnut body scrub was used, then the Cologne Intense Body Creme was massaged in before the Cologne Intense was sprayed over the top. We left the boutique sniffing our arms as it smelt so good – the scent lasted all night as well.

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We were then shown the most popular makeup trends for this season by top makeup artist and youtuber Harry from Harry Makes It Up which included blue eyeliner and blue mascara. She gave a demonstration on Ting with MAC’s Fluidline eye liner gel in the shade Siahi.

After the event, we were given the most amazing goody bags (contents shown above) as well as £100 in World Duty Free vouchers which I spent on the Jo Malone Cologne Intense in Velvet Rose & Oud, a MAC lipstick in Matte Royal and a MAC Mineralise Skin Finish in Lightscapade.

It was such a fantastic afternoon and I can’t wait until I go through Duty Free at Gatwick airport in October – I hope the shopping is just as good there!

Although I’ve lived around Birmingham for over 20 years, there’s still so many places that I have yet to discover and I’m making it my mission to try out as many new restaurants as I can, so when I was invited to the press launch of Pasta di Piazza a couple of weeks ago, I obviously jumped at the chance to go.

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Based in Birmingham’s famous Jewellery Quarter, just off St Paul’s Square, Pasta di Piazza is a beautiful building with exposed brickwork, impressively high ceilings and the most wonderful stained glass windows. Pasta di Piazza is not a new restaurant, however they have just undergone a £400k renovation and have recently opened up the top floor of the restaurant allowing for more tables and it has a lovely cosy but airy feel.

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There’s so many delicious things on the menu and it was really hard to choose a starter! In the end, Tom went for the stuffed mushrooms which he thoroughly enjoyed and I had the grilled goats cheese which was absolutely delicious. There were also baskets of bread with butter on the table for us to have along with our starters.

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The star of the show was definitely the mains. Tom went for a seafood dish, the Linguine Alla Marinara –Marinated seafood mix with olive oil and herbs cooked with Neapolitan sauce, king prawns and garlic. Served with linguine. He really enjoyed this dish, however he was a bit disappointed that there was only one king prawn!

As I’m not a fan of pasta, whenever I visit an Italian restaurant I will usually go for a pizza, however I decided I would try something different and chose the Involtino Pollo. The Involtino Pollo is described as –  Flattened, rolled chicken breast filled with ham and provolone cheese with a breaded herbycheese crust. Topped with a light cheese sauce. It was honestly one of the best things I have ever tasted and I could have eaten it again straight away. Everything about it was perfect, from the creamy cheese sauce to the herby cheese crust. I’m now desperate to go back to Pasta di Piazza just so that I can have this amazing dish. I’m so glad I went for something different and didn’t go for a predictable pizza!

Tom and I are both in agreement that Pasta di Piazza is the best Italian in Birmingham. The building and the atmosphere is fantastic, as are the attentive waiting staff and obviously the food is divine. I definitely recommend that you book a table here the next time you want to treat yourself to a great meal.

You may have seen my post about my trip to London with Megabus, well a week later it was Kariss‘ turn to come up to Birmingham and visit me. I wasn’t really sure what we could do in Birmingham as the weather wasn’t very nice so I decided that indoor activities would be the best thing!

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We started off by getting on a train at Birmingham New Street and heading for Bournville where we visited Cadbury World. Cadbury World is somewhere that we had both been before (I have been many times!) however not for a number of years. Unfortunately we were both a bit disappointed as it has changed quite a bit since we were younger and I’m not sure if it’s because we are both adults now but it didn’t seem as exciting. You don’t get to see as much of the factory as you did 15 years ago and the chocolate that they give out isn’t as great as it used to be – there’s no Dairy Milk Caramel anymore! One part that we both enjoyed was the part where you can choose a cup of melted chocolate with different toppings. I went for marshmallow and honeycomb pieces which was delicious!

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We then got back on the train into the city centre and I showed Kariss around the Bullring which is Birmingham’s huge shopping centre. We had a look around the shops and did a lot of swatching in Kiko before getting a Starbucks so we could sit down and chill out for a bit. After our Starbucks, we decided that we were both ready for our dinner so we went on down to Handmade Burger Co in the Bullring as I am absolutely obsessed with their Denver Chips. I went for a chicken burger with chorizo and cheese and Kariss decided to go for a burger in yorkshire puddings instead of a bun!

After our food, we went for a wander down Broad Street and the canal to find Kariss’ hotel before I went back home.

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On Sunday, we got up bright and early to visit the Sealife Centre. Again, this is another place that I haven’t been to for years and since my last visit they’d got some new additions – penguins! We spent absolutely ages watching the penguins, they’re all fascinating and I loved watching them swim and hop about. We spent a good hour and a half having a look at all of the fish and even watching the 4D movie.

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We then braved the rain and walked back into the city centre to Grand Central where we indulged in some food from Yo Sushi. I am completely obssessed with the beef teryaki, it’s my favourite dish so I had to make sure I had some of that. It was then time for Kariss to get back on the Megabus and travel back to London, so I walked her to the Hill Street stop where we said our goodbyes.