Monday, 18 April 2016

Prague 2015: Day 5 [Last Day]

You can catch up on our first four days in Prague here: 1, 2, 3, 4.

On our last day in Prague, we headed for a tasty post breakfast snack - the yummy trdlo from Casserol Bakery!

We dined at the adjacent Casserol restaurant on our first evening in Prague and the waitstaff had told us of the freshly baked breads they served, made available daily at the bakery next door. It only seemed right to go and try it :P

I really enjoyed watching the man behind the counter prepare the piping hot trdlos! The steam that came off each one as he loosened it from the metal column... we only wish that we could have tried our trdlos hot!

The store was incredibly busy, with the queue growing out of the shop itself. Granted, it was a tiny space, but there always seemed to be a queue of people!

Highly recommend. 

If I ever go back, I plan on trying plenty of their other baked goods!

Krusta Artisan Bakery
Karlova 147/44, 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic

With our tasty trdlo in hand, we headed towards the Petřín Tower, crossing Charles Bridge, and climbing uphill amongst what was mostly grass and stairs.

Around an hour later, we arrived at the Petřín Tower. Inspired by the Eiffel Tower, it stands at 63.5 metres, with a stunning view over Prague.

On arrival, we purchased our tickets and set off for the first observation deck.

We had a great view of Prague from this half-way observation point, with little obstruction. You could easily see Prague Castle and Charles Bridge in the distance.

After a couple of photos, we headed to the observation deck at the top. Unfortunately, the view from the top deck was not as great as we had hoped; grubby windows circled the whole observation deck and made it difficult to get a good view or photo. We decided to back down to the first observation deck, before eventually making our way back towards Old Town.

We went for the tired and windswept look.
On our way back, strolling along Charles Bridge, we noticed a large number of tourists wearing sunglasses despite the gloomy and cold weather. We figured this was worth a photograph to capture the moment - we found it rather amusing.

I wish it had actually been sunny!

By this point, we felt deserving of a well-earned tea break, at no better place than Tri Cafe!

From their small menu of home-made goods, we decided on a vegetable quiche (we can't remember the exact name!), and I went for another cup of their relaxing and warming mocha.

Once we had refuelled, we headed for the Astronomical Clock. Aside from chiming every 15 minutes, the clock contains four figures that are set in motion every hour: Vanity, Greed, Death, and Lust/Earthly Pleasures - these are said to be the four things that were despised during the time the clock was made.

I completely forgot to go through the best parts of the Astronomical Clock when writing about day one - it is one of the reasons why I love it so much!

The large outer circle of the clock itself displays the numbers from 0 to 24, covering the total hours in a day. The smaller circle displays the zodiac, with the yellow sun shown in its true location amongst the zodiac. A separate dial connected to the smaller circle shows the moon's position relative to the sun. What fascinates me the most is that the model of the moon itself shows the actual phase that it is currently in. At the time of this photo (on our second day in Prague), the moon was in half phase - the model shows half black and half silver. I find it fascinating how several hundred years ago, they were able to map the position of the moon and the sun, and implement this into a fully functioning clock complete with moving status and sounds!

Enough about the clock though - the reason we headed for the Astronomical Clock was so that we could see the view of Old Town from the top :)

We walked up the spiral within the Astronical Clock tower instead of taking the lift, and before long we were faced with a pretty stunning view.

As the Sun began to set, Old Town slowly became more and more beautiful with its twinkling yellow street lamps and Disney-like castle in the distance.

Hey, Prague like to party too!

I regret not having stepped inside the Church of Our Lady before Týn (pictured above). We always walked past it, and there was never a moment when I didn't feel it defined Old Town as much as the Astronomical Clock. Seeing it lit up so beautifully reminded me of Sleeping Beauty for some reason, and has made me curious to see if it is as beautiful inside as it is outside.

On our way down, we decided to take the lift - the pod looked pretty futuristic as it rose and fell!

Inside, not so much! :P

As we left the Astronomical Clock, we took one last photo of what I had come to love, lit up in the street lights. Three days after our first photo of the clock tower, look how the face of the moon has become almost completely black in the photo below! 

Displaying a small crescent moon, we looked up in the sky to find the same shape beaming back at us.

This was the perfect end to the perfect holiday - the clock showed us once again how magical this city was, both through the views it provided and the amazing detail and mechanics behind the clock itself. I will definitely return to Prague one day - perhaps in the summer months; I'd like to see this incredible city in a different atmosphere. Perhaps with warmth and light, Prague could even become my favourite summer destination! :)

Thank you for following our Prague journey. I hope you've gained a small insight into how we viewed Prague, and that it's made you want to visit too :P

Disclaimer: The amazingly beautiful and professional shots featured in this blog post are not my own. They have been used with kind permission from Kin :) A few belonging to myself appear, but the majority do not belong to me.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Review | 3INA Cosmetics: First Impressions

The first time I stepped into 3INA, I was drawn by the bright and open space that they had created. I didn't look at the store name before I walked in - I only went in because the interior appealed to me (and the make up, of course).

The way that their products were displayed really reminded me of KIKO Cosmetics, but I knew it couldn't be - the store for KIKO was just across the road. So what was this new fresh and open space?

A sales assistant came up to me:
"Welcome to Mina! We're new here, and just opened about three weeks ago. Can I help you today?" 
She was sweet, and very friendly. I took a quick browse, but soon found something that I could not quite understand...

Why did both their logo and packaging remind me so much of the Korean brand 3 Concept Eyes, also known as 3CE? In case you aren't aware, the 3CE logo is formed by a black triangle, with the 3CE letters aligned within it. Put off by the idea that they were trying to mimic another brand that already has a good reputation and amazing products, I quickly left the store. I don't tend to purchase a product unless I find some credible reviews singing praises about them!

Seeing the similarity?
However, over the next few days, the wide range of products and their colour range had my mind on constant day dream. As I happened to be in Covent Garden for a meeting that week, I decided to step in and give them another chance; after all, it's the products that do the talking, no matter how similar their packaging seems to 3CE and their product shelves remind you of KIKO.

So, after much browsing and occasional help from the sales assistants (one of whom asked me the weirdest, most irrelevant questions), I headed home with a small 3INA bag of goodies totalling £19.83. Not cheap, but similar to a Revlon purchase at Boots.

So what was inside?

A nail polish, their matte lipstick, and an eyeshadow.

The products come housed in sturdy cardboard boxes that have a very 'recycled' feel to it... grainy to the touch, I would've expected a better material for their outer packaging.

The lipstick and eye shadow both come in lightweight, matte black packaging that click in place when opening and closing. My only gripe is that it feels cheap because it is so lightweight... However, if you travel a lot, this could be just what you need - you could take the whole range on holiday with no worries about luggage being overweight!

You will have also noticed that the lid of the nail polish removes to reveal the typical cylindrical handle of the nail polish brush. I personally have no issues with this, but it may get annoying for those who prefer square shaped brush handles. With this design, you could solve a common nail storage problem by painting the square lid so you can see what colour it is, within the sea of your nail polish collection!

3INA Nail polish (£4.95) in shade 158
Metallic deep brown with iridescent flecks of bronze running throughout.

Note: You must remove the square lid in order for you to open the nail polish.

I have to say, it was incredibly easy to test the nail polishes in store. With such a large range of colours, you would think it wouldn't be possible to test out all the colours... BUT they have a very simple and effective system in place - just take a piece of magic tape, stick it to your hand (or arm if you want to test out a large number of colours) and swatch directly onto the tape. Just be aware that it doesn't smear onto your clothes or bags before it dries, and it works out perfectly. I took the opportunity to stick tape over my nail and paint it, to see roughly how it would look, and it was actually a very easy way to decide whether or not it suited me!

I wore two coats of this nail polish with a base and top coat for a week to see how it would fare. By the third day, the nail polish had begun to chip along the tips of my nails, and by the fourth it was a lost cause. I kept it on for the full week, but only less than half remained on my nails by the end. The week after, I used two coats of a Revlon nail polish with the same base and top coats - it lasted four days before it chipped, and by the end of the week, I still had over half on. 

I love the colour, but I think I will be sticking to Revlon and Barry M polishes unless I can find a base and top coat combination that works with 3INA polishes.

3INA Matte lipstick (£7.95)in shade 411
What can only be described as a nude pink. Slightly pinker and lighter than MAC's Velvet Teddy.

As you can see, I already managed to chip the lipstick *cries*. This is because the bullet does not wind down any further than it appears in the photo above. You have to be incredibly careful when you take off or replace the lipstick lid - the chipped lipstick left inside the lid then gets smeared all along the outside of the lipstick when you clip the lid back on... It gets very messy if you aren't careful, so it can be a pain for those of us who tend to be in a rush.

I'm not actually sure how much product you get, since it is not listed on the lipstick itself, or on the cardboard packaging it came in. On a side note, the twist up mechanism on the lipstick itself is not very smooth. It takes some work to twist up compared to some of the other drug store lipsticks in my collection (of about 50+), but I love the cut of the bullet - it seems to have the perfect slanted angle that makes for easier application.

I own a few E.L.F. Studio lipsticks, and these look the most similar to 3INA's design. Compared to those, 3INA's lipsticks feel a lot lighter and subsquently less sturdy - interesting, since E.L.F.'s lipstick cost me a grand total of £3.50!

Slightly pinker and lighter than MAC's Matte Velvet Teddy

3INA's matte formula is creamy, pigmented, and paraben free. However, there is a scent, so those who prefer otherwise should steer clear. It does drag on application and settles into the lip creases, but with prep work (I love Lush's Mint Julips) and a good lip balm, it becomes easier to apply. Alternatively, you could use a lip primer and lip brush. If you don't like to spend time preparing your lips, then you may need to steer clear of this range due to it's drier matte formula. In terms of longevity, I think the drying formula meant that it clung to the lips longer than expected.

MAC's Matte Velvet Teddy is creamier and glides on a lot easier than 3INA's product. It is also less drying. However, this is half the price and if you're willing to do the work, you can make it work!

Eye shadow (£6.95) in shade 104
A shimmery champagne gold, eye shadow that looks more yellow in the pan than on the skin.

I had a very hard time choosing a colour to take home with me - they had a really exciting range of neutrals, and although they all looked relatively normal on the shelf, they all swatched beautifully and I just couldn't make up my mind!

Eventually, I picked out shade 104 - a champagne gold, shimmery eye shadow. I loved the way it provided an evident shimmer, but the colour itself was not overpowering. Some golden shades tend to make me look aged. When testing this out, it was great worn alone without primer for a natural fresh look, or worn over other darker neutrals to add an extra layer of shimmer on top. It also looked great on the inner corners of the eyes, or under the eyes for the aegyo sal look.

This was my favourite purchase out of the three. The eye shadow is pigmented, velvety, and it blends out so easily! The shimmers are evident but in no way are they chunky. Compared to some of the chunkier Urban Decay shimmer shadows (Dust, Sidecar, Snatch...), I would probably reach for 3INA's instead. For longevity however, definitely use a good primer to ensure it lasts the day.

Trying out these three products has been a great way to introduce myself to the brand. My overall impression is that their nail polish range has a great variety of colours, but this can currently be bettered by Barry M's reliable, good quality, and lower cost range. Unless there is a colour that really stands out to me, I probably would not purchase any more 3INA polishes. Lipstick-wise, I liked the shade I purchased, but am unlikely to purchase more due to the lip preparation required. However, I would like to try out their liquid lipsticks in the future. And finally, I will definitely be returning to take a look at some of their darker neutral eye shadows - I just can't get enough of the velvety formula!

Have you tried 3INA products? What else should I try?

Monday, 4 April 2016

Prague 2015: Day 4

You can read up on our first three days in Prague here: 1, 2, 3.

Our fourth day in Prague happened to be Valentine's Day! We started off by grabbing lunch at a local restaurant (/pub) that our tour guide had pointed out as the local's favourite.

We ordered their meat platter to share, and asked for a small beer...

Between the two of us, we slowly worked our way through the meat feast, occasionally turning our attention to our beer. Like I said, we'd asked for the smallest size they had, since we don't really drink.

We ended up with a tankard bigger than both of my fists held together!

 Pivnice Štupartská 1869
Štupartská 745/9, 110 00 Praha 1 - Staré Město, Czech Republic

After hanging around for a while, we started our long walk over to see the latest exhibition at the National Gallery. As our feast slowly started to digest, the Sun set slowly over the river, producing a beautiful pink landscape.

Eventually, we arrived at the National Gallery of Prague's Veletrzni Palac (Trade Fair Palace), and fell in awe of the giant paintings produced by Alfons Mucha. Titled 'The Slav Epic', twenty large canvases were presented before us, summarising the history of Czech and other Slavic nations.

Each one was produced with so much detail that we actually ran out of time to fully appreciate each them all! We highly recommend seeing this exhibition if you get the chance to - the guide books that we purchased on entry were also incredibly useful in explaining the scenes shown with the paintings and what it was that Mucha was trying to portray through his intricate paintings.

We stayed until the very last minute; right until the security guard found us and told us that the museum was now closed. (He was very sweet, and gave us a few more minutes before he told us he really had to switch off the lights and lock up!)

To fully appreciate the beauty of Prague at night, we decided to walk back to the hotel. Everything was lit up and the river sparkled in the dark!

Since it was Valentine's Day, we decided to have dinner at the hotel restaurant - we figured all the restaurants in town would have been booked up months in advance, and I personally just wanted to eat, get into my pajamas, and sloth around watching dramas till bed time. I'm so romantic, I know.

Dinner, on the other hand, was rather romantic with a live band and a special Valentine's Day menu. Kin ordered the baked wild piglet knuckle 'sous vide', with parsley potato puree and cranberry sauce, whilst I stuck with my junk food tendencies, and ordered a burger and fries!

As we left the hotel restaurant, the maître d' picked out a single rose from a giant bouquet, and handed it to me :) Nice touch, Jurys Inn!

And with that (and plenty of Breaking Bad episodes), our fourth day in Prague had come to an end. Today was relaxing, and it felt great to see Prague in a way that was less rushed that typical city breaks. The next day would be our final day in Prague, and I remember feeling sad that this magical place would be a distant memory; way too soon.

Disclaimer: The amazingly beautiful and professional shots featured in this blog post are not my own. They have been used with kind permission from Kin :) A few belonging to myself appear, but the majority do not belong to me.
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