Last Sunday I stepped back in time for afternoon tea in an 18th century five star manor hotel with the Into the West Blogger Network and Erika Fox, aka Retro Flame, one of Ireland’s most successful Fashion Bloggers. If you were following me on social media over the weekend you’ll probably already have seen how amazing it was but you only got a little peak of what we got up to so here’s the full story! (Warning – this post may evoke serious envy 😉 ).
Saibh and Sinead (founders of the ITWBN) sure know how to throw a showstopper event and I think this one may have been my favourite to date. It was held in the lavishness that is the Glenlo Abbey Hotel. Nestled on the outskirts of Galway city with views of Lough Corrib and it’s own private golf course you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were in a rural oasis when actually you’re only a 10 minute drive or 4km row up the river from the city. I’m not joking about the rowing part either – back in the day I used to row past the hotel at least 2-3 times a week for 8 years, always looking up at it but never actually setting foot in it until now!
When we arrived we were treated to a punch reception in the Ffrench reception room and only for the fact that we weren’t greeted by Mr Carson himself you’d be forgiven for thinking that we had just arrived at Downton Abbey. Being in a room full of Bloggers who are all equally as eager to take photos and snapchats of the decor and tweet and Instagram to their hearts content was so refreshing – usually I’m trying to do it on the sly because non-social media addicts just don’t seem to understand the need to take document everything. It was when I was taking a snapchat of the punch and noticed the person beside me, none other than Retro Flame herself was taking the same shot that I was like wow! I started to chat to Erika, having a slight fangirl moment I may admit. With over 36k followers on her Instagram account alone she is a big deal in the blogging world. I also follow her on snapchat where, like others, she takes her followers along on her daily life so when I was chatting to her I must have sounded like a total stalker because I knew everything she had done in the previous week from following her story but she was actually so lovely and genuine.
The ITWBN events are always a great opportunity to catch up with other Bloggers and build connections with new ones. From fashion, lifestyle, beauty, arts and crafts, food and fitness, mental health to photography and current events there are so many different types of Bloggers so you always learn something new and have someone to bounce ideas off. On Sunday I learned how to strike a pose and the lovely Jade from Drop Some Sparkle directed my impromptu photoshoot!
Rather unfortunately I decided to do this photoshoot after eating my afternoon tea. We got to have it in the gorgeous River Room, which as the name has views out over the River Corrib. The decor is so elegant and detailed that I felt I could have been sitting in the Palais de Versailles eating cake with Marie-Antoinette herself. We had so much to chose from, and taking the “let them eat cake” saying a bit too literally I chose the salted caramel popcorn macaroons (my favourite), guinness cake with baileys buttercream, rosewater and raspberry macaroons, lemon and poppyseed cake with white icing and the awesome snow cone cupcakes. There was more, and I really thought I was restraining myself just taking that but then I started looking through twitter and Instagram and saw the dainty little plates everyone else was posting with two or three cakes on them and I suddenly realised maybe I had gone too far. Just as I was polishing off my plate and half the buffet, the girl next to me enquired as to what type of Blogger I was…um health and fitness I swear!
But you know “YOLO” and all that, or “you only live twice” as I actually ended up winning a voucher to go back to Glenlo Abbey for afternoon tea in the next few weeks! They’re holding an “Afternoon Tea Week on Wonders” at the end of October with different themes on each day -think Bollinger on the Orient Express, “Frozen” themed Family day, Parisian Chic and an actual Downtown Abbey meets Glenlo Abbey! If you have a special day coming up then I think these will be brilliant and I’m already trying to decide which one to go to!
To accompany our food we were treated to a selection of locally made teas from the award winning Solaris Botanicals. I love this brand – the fact that they are local, use all organic ingredients, have such unusual flavours and that the brewers actually have degrees in Medical Herbalism make them so appealing. I chose the berry fruity flavour purely to keep up the sweet and colourful theme of my lunch but if you like green tea then I would recommend the Chunmee green tea. I also came home with a sample of their Rooibos Espresso blend, which I’m hoping I can use with coconut milk to make a healthier alternative to my beloved cappuccino’s. I also got some of their Mate with Cacao and Mint (after they spotted my rather unappealing looking Brazilian Mate tea on my Instagram). I also bought some Vanilla Matcha powder. Matcha is renowned for its health benefits but until now the only experience I’ve had with it was a rather awfully made matcha latte in a coffee shop but this was so much nicer so I’m going to give it another go!
Once we were all happy out and fed it was finally time for Erika Fox’s, aka Retro Flame‘s speech. Erika, 24, is one of Irelands leading Fashion Bloggers. She is originally from Kerry but now living in New York (having studied Commerce in NUIG and Fashion Industry Practice in GTI). I think everyone who follows her snapchat (@retroflame1) has serious life envy – from sitting on the steps of the Met, to having lunch in Central Park or even just walking through Manhattan, she never seems to have a dull moment. She is the perfect example of someone who has figured out exactly what they want (and even she admits it took her a while), worked extremely hard and hasn’t given up. As Erika said during her talk “Luck is when hard work and opportunity meet”. She said that to get where you want in life you have to take chances, send emails on a whim, ask for what you want and just chance your arm!
Post pep-talk we had the chance to chat with some of the businesses who had stalls at the event. Inailz were there with their really innovative customisable false nails. You can get an image printed onto a set of nails and delivered to you or printed directly onto your nails in a salon which is pretty cool! The lovely ladies from St Moriz tan came all the way from Manchester and since I’m not the best fake tan applicator they advised me (and most Irish women) to go for the lotion as opposed to the mousse as it’s better for anyone with dry skin as it moisturises too. The products are a bargain aswell at €5 a bottle. Also on display were some gorgeous pieces from local Galway boutique Design House Barna with a fellow ITWBN Blogger, Edel of A Dash of Lime manning the stand.
After such an eventful day, as always, we left with jam packed Blogger goodie bags full of everything from make-up, tan, tea, Butlers chocolate, Propercorn popcorn, nail varnish, fake toe nails (I’m actually intrigued to see how these work), Holos body oil and fake lashes to name just a few! If you don’t already follow me on snapchat add me at “superfitfoodie” where I’ll go through these as I use them.
Overall it was a really inspiring day. Everytime I go to one of these Blogger events and hear what other Bloggers are doing and bounce my own ideas of them I end up leaving completely remotivated! This event was particularly inspiring after hearing Erika’s story. So if any of you are reading this and looking for advice this lady is definitely one to look up to!