Thanks, Home Office! My UK visa application experience

I've always been an inconsistent blogger, but this takes the cake -- it's now been four months since my last post! There's been a lot going on, and while the blog's never been far from my mind, I wanted to write about my UK visa application experience before I dive back into my stack of post ideas.

The Background

Some of you (hello friends-who-lurk!) may know that I've been in the UK on a Youth Mobility visa (aka the YMS). This has allowed me two years of working in London, travelling to various European countries, and buying a shit-ton of beauty products that were difficult to access in New Zealand (although I have basically been on a low-buy since November. I'M SO PROUD OF ME).

 Two year's worth of love evidence (i.e. bank statements and utility bills)

Two year's worth of love evidence (i.e. bank statements and utility bills)

My visa expires this month, and since Will is here on an Ancestry visa, I'm lucky enough to be able to apply for Further Leave to Remain and switch into being a dependant on his visa. This hasn't always been possible: historically, switching to another visa type while in the UK on a Youth Mobility visa wasn't allowed -- you had to go home to apply. However, the immigration rule changes in October 2013 -- specifically rule 196(A) -- now allows for switching into a dependant's visa as long as you're not originally on a visitor's visa or on temporary admission as an overstayer.

We'd been aware of this, and knew enough people who were in exactly the same situation (unmarried Tier 5 youth mobility visa holder switching into a being a dependant on a UK Ancestry visa) to know that it was possible, as well as what was involved. We'd had a free consultation with an immigration lawyer (who confirmed that it was possible but then advised us to use the wrong form...), checked in with a friend who practices family law and has dealt with immigration cases, Googled for advice on immigration forums -- everything pointed to "Yes! You can stay! For a bit longer!" So it was a little... stressful when I rang up UKVI and was told that I had to go back to NZ to apply. Twice, with loads of attitude from the staff both times. Going back to NZ was not ideal -- £900-ish flight home, at least a month's leave from work -- so...

The Application

Screw you, call centre staff. I went ahead and started prepping the application. Since we're not married, we had to prove that we'd been "in a relationship akin to marriage or civil partnership which has subsisted for 2 years or more" (rule 194). I couldn't find anything in the current Immigration Rules or the website on what officially constitutes evidence, though, other than this piece of guidance from 2012 (which also says to refer to another thing if applications are made after 2012, but that other thing doesn't say anything about evidence). Unofficially I'd heard and read advice ranging from the six pieces of evidence referred to in that last link to two bills or statements addressed to each of you for each month of those two years.

I went for the latter -- in other words, complete overkill and a source of unwarranted anxiety (Will you're missing stuff from May 2015! Why and how did I accidentally change to paperless bank statements?) -- and I don't know if that helped or hindered my application. Below is my main file, which has as many bills and statements as we could gather and separated by tabs into each month for the two years I've been in the UK. The application guidance says to photocopy your documents to help speed up your application, so as a compromise I picked out some key pieces of documentation, copied those, and then flagged those pieces throughout the file with Post-Its. 

 "The Love File"

"The Love File"

Apart from the main Love File (I know someone who calls it the Love Book, but I think I prefer the irony of the more clinical choice) I also put together another file with some pre-UK evidence. My worry was that since we were slightly borderline with the two full years, and considering the fact that Will arrived in the UK more than a year before I did, it was helpful to have the older stuff. 

As of July 2016, when I made my application, the FLR (O) application cost £811. We opted to apply in person at the Premium Service Centre in deep dark Croydon, which gives you a decision on the same day; I've heard of cases where the applicant was still waiting for a decision and their passport after five months. This cost another £500, plus I had to pay £200 for the Immigration Health Surcharge -- at the time of paying online and booking my appointment the costs added up to £1511. 

I'm really, really broke.

 Some soppy photos to break up the block of evidence from "The Man"

Some soppy photos to break up the block of evidence from "The Man"

The Appointment

Booking the appointment was another source of stress. The guidance and other people's experience said that you can book 42 days ahead, but when I tried to book there definitely weren't appointments 42 days ahead. I wanted a date in August as close to my original visa expiry date as possible to give us that full two years' of evidence, but I wasn't able to obtain an appointment until the last week of July. This was after ringing up the UKVI helpline a third time, where once again they weren't particularly helpful. Ongoing problems with the online booking system, apparently -- there's stuff online which suggests it's been this way for several years. 

 Lunar House, Croydon

Lunar House, Croydon

And that's not all, folks. We booked the earliest appointment we could (9.50 AM), but even so, it took us six hours to get out of there -- there were issues with the Biometrics system, not to mention the fact that they could do with a whole lot of process refinement.  Oh, and, AND I HAD TO PAY ANOTHER £200. The IHS is actually £200 for each year of your new visa, and in my case, my visa is dependent on Will's which has another two years on it -- there was no way for them to assess that when I made the online application, so I'd mentally prepared myself for it. But still, when the call came through while I was in the waiting room...

Did I mention I was broke?

The Tips

I'm grateful, really. There are plenty of people on the YMS who would have loved to stay longer than their allocated two years, and our case was relatively straightforward (dodgy advice by the UKVI helpline notwithstanding). It's not quite over either, because my Biometric Residence Permit has mistakes on it that still need correcting (apparently I'm male). The whole experience has just been a wee bit stressful, so hopefully this post will help anyone in a similar situation. Here are some miscellaneous tips:

  • Start thinking about this shit long before you need to, and make sure you don't accidentally change your bank statements to online only :( Give yourself that time to build up the evidence and save up for the fees.

  • My bank (Lloyd's) ended up printing out "original" statements which are addressed and formatted as they would have been if they'd been sent by snail mail.

  • Go for the premium service if you can afford it. It's expensive and it may take all bloody day, but you won't be without your passport for months on end.

  • Double and triple check your application for the bits and pieces you need. There's a check list in there for the documents and photos to be included -- remember your partner's passport as well. Include photocopies of key bits of evidence. 

  • Photocopy the actual application form once you've filled it out. I didn't -- the only thing I didn't back up -- and now that there are mistakes on my BRP I wish I had a copy to confirm. Again, this is a part of the process that could do with refining... UKVI, are you reading this?

  • You can only check in at reception fifteen minutes before your appointment time when you're at the Premium Service Centre. Also make sure you allow enough time to get through security (similar to airports), particularly if you're coming later in the day and there are potential queues.

  • There are very long waits in between each stage of the premium service appointment. There is a cafe on the same floor, but it's also a good idea to pack snacks -- while are shops nearby, you'll need to go through the security checks again if you go out. Bring books too, although I was too nervous to concentrate for very long.

  • The process:

    • Registration - your main details are typed in to the system. This took fifteen minutes or so, then I had more than an hour's wait.

    • Biometrics - be prepared to have your photo taken. Then there's another hour's wait.

    • They'll check your biometric details against previous applications - this was pretty quick.

    • Awaiting consideration - over an hour,

    • Under consideration - over an hour.

    • Call back to the final desk where you're given your decision letter and verbal confirmation. Before this I got a call asking me to pay the extra IHS. It took another half hour after I paid online for me to get called up. 

  • Ask for advice, look up stuff on immigration forums... but maybe don't bother with UKVI's helpline.

  • There is the suggestion that two year's cohabitation is not strictly necessary. See the case Senayt Okubay Fetle v The Entry Clearance Officer, Nairobi [2014] ) -- this appeal was eventually rejected but they successfully argued that "a relationship akin to marriage or civil partnership which has subsisted for 2 years or more" does not require strict cohabitation.

Usual online disclaimers apply: IANAIL (I am not an immigration lawyer), IANYIL (I am not your immigration lawyer), TINLA, OMG WTF BBQ.

Twenty-four hours in Athens: a vague itinerary for the non-planner

For some reason Will and I had a little mix-up on the timings of our trip to Greece. We found ourselves with an extra day and a bit to explore Athens, and not a lot of time to plan due to limited Internet access -- Greece isn't on the Three Feel At Home list -- and the fact that we figured this out on our first evening in Athens prior to leaving for the islands. So, we winged it.

Athens, as you might imagine, is soaked in history, much like how my clothes were soaked in sweat in the stifling Greek heat. I really can't hope to do it justice (the city, not my sweaty clothes), so here is a rough breakdown of what we did in our bonus holiday time. I hope you find it useful if you're actually reading this in advance of planning a trip!

9AM: Our group returned the boat to Alimos Marina, I booked a cheap hotel on Last Minute, and we caught a 20 minute taxi to the Apollo Hotel (Metro: Metaxourghio), a perfectly serviceable place which was £40 a night at the time. This included what turned out to be a slightly lacklustre breakfast -- we ate like kings on the boat, whereas this stuff probably came from giant catering tubs. We cleaned ourselves up, napped, then wobbled downstairs on our sealegs. 

12PM: I started scribbling over a free tourist map while frantically Googling things like "Athens must do". By this stage I was getting hangry, so we walked a few blocks towards the Psirri district through kind of a rundown looking area. There was some amazing street art, most of which was of a political persuasion. Lunch was moussaka, salad, souvlaki, and my new favourite dip, taramasalata (which is also super fun to say, especially if you pretend to be a pirate).

Nikitas Athens Lunch

1.30PM: My Googling had turned up Melissinos, the Poet-Sandal Maker of Athens. Stavros Melissinos' literary work is taught around the world, but his day job was working as a sandalmaker, and now his equally-accomplished son Pantelis has taken over the tiny, colourful shop. The service is pretty great, despite the swarms of tourists hemming and hawing over which of the 30-odd designs to have custom-fitted to their feet. Bob Saget has a pair, and a photo with Pantelis on the wall. Sarah Jessica Parker loves her No.22 Prince style so, according to a poster featuring her face. (FYI I got the No.26 Thebes.)

 Trying on my Thebes. They adjust the straps and hammer them down for you.

Trying on my Thebes. They adjust the straps and hammer them down for you.

 Inside Melissinos.

Inside Melissinos.

3PM: Monistiraki Flea Market (Metro: Monistiraki) is the place to go if you're wanting souvenir t-shirts, key rings, and painted icons. I'm sure there are legit shops full of wares made by artisans, but it's hard to get past the hordes of tourists, literally and figuratively. Head for the hills! Adrian's Wall and the Agora are nearby, or even better, the Acropolis Museum (Metro: Acropoli). This was a refuge from the heat and the crowds, and well worth the €5 entry fee, with some great exhibits for a Classics novice like me. You also get a really great view of the Parthenon. 

 She was sketching <3

She was sketching <3

 That light!

That light!

5PM: I convinced Will it would be a good idea to see a Greek play, so we waited around for tickets at the foot of the Acropolis. This took a while -- the ticket office didn't quite get around to opening when it said it would -- and by then it had cooled down enough for us to tackle the Acropolis. This was, as you can imagine, pretty spectacular! 

 You've all seen photos of the Parthenon but have you seen the Cats of the Parthenon?

You've all seen photos of the Parthenon but have you seen the Cats of the Parthenon?

7.50PM: Sunset. People clapped.

Athens Sunset from Acropolis

8PM: Time to head to the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (or the slightly more catchy Herodeon). We'd gotten cheap tickets to Ajax by Sophocles, which, by the way? Was all in Greek, funnily enough. Two hours of it. BUT IT WAS AWESOME LOOK AT US SITTING IN AN ACTUAL GREEK AMPHITHEATRE. (N.B. I think performances end around October, and this may have been the tail end of the Athens Festival.)

Odeon Herodes Atticus Selfie
 Will took this sneaky shot at the end of the performance.

Will took this sneaky shot at the end of the performance.

9.30PM: We were pretty tired by this stage, and I really can't remember where we went, but we must have caught the Metro to Syntagma because I took a photo of the Greek Parliament.

Hellenic Parliament Athens

10PM: Most of the bars we came across were pumping, but we really weren't up for drinks -- the heat had taken a lot out of us. So we stopped for a quick souvlaki at a joint somewhere on Ermou, I think. 

10.30AM: We checked out of the hotel, left our luggage, and set off for Anafiotika, a tiny neighbourhood built by workers from the island of Anafi in the 19th Century. Apparently they were working on the King's palace, and sneakily built their own digs in in this prime location in their down-time. The whitewashed houses are seemingly stacked on top of each other on the hills above Plaka, with loads of cats loafing about in the shade of the bougainvilleas. You can also make your way to the Acropolis from here -- a calmer, more scenic route compared to going through Monastiraki and the Agora. 

Anafiotika houses
Anafiotika bougainvillea house
 This way to a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This way to a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

12PM: We were boiling by this stage, having climbed up and down the streets of Anafiotika and the Plaka, and were about to stop for a drink when we ran into a couple of friends (also Kiwis living in London). Pretty nuts! Bars and restaurants are a little overpriced in this area, being a popular spot with tourists and well-heeled Athenians. The shopping options here are a bit more upmarket compared to Monastiraki, including quite a few art and design shops. I kept to my new tradition of buying a towel from holiday destinations (see my Sicily pick in this post), and picked up one of these guys from Pestemal

 Cafes, bars, and restaurants all spilling out into the Plaka terraces.

Cafes, bars, and restaurants all spilling out into the Plaka terraces.

1.30PM: It was time to hoof it back to the hotel and pick up our luggage to head to the airport. A note about Athens Metro: it looks like they've changed the pricing and structure slightly as of September 2015, just after we were there. For a quick stop in the city, all you would probably need is a €4 daily ticket which is valid on basically any mode of transport except the airport Metro, or maybe a €10 five-day pass if you're there for a little longer. A single ticket costs €1.20 and is valid for any mode of transport within 70 minutes. For the airport, the best option is probably the €8 one-way Metro ticket (€14 for two people), or you could go for the €20 3-day ticket for everything, including a round trip to the airport.

 I dropped those sunnies down a dirty toilet shortly after this :(

I dropped those sunnies down a dirty toilet shortly after this :(

I wish we could have spent a bit longer in Greece. It was a really affordable place to travel, the food was amazing, and there's obviously so much more to explore and learn about the country. I would love to hear your recommendations if you've been before, to Athens or elsewhere -- I'll definitely be heading back!

 Photo by Will

Photo by Will

Any excuse: how sea sickness led to a Korres makeup haul

I got complacent.

Three days into our Greece sailing trip I missed a dose of my motion sickness medication. I woke up the next morning and felt fine, and thought that my experience seven years ago of throwing up my breakfast pancakes over the side of a yacht was a one off. So I went ahead and missed the morning dose as well.

That day we set sail for slightly more open waters, with bigger swells coming from the side. Dozing on the netting of our catamaran probably didn't help either -- there's not just the jolting and slapping of the two hulls, but the independent motion of the nets as well. Apparently everyone else started feeling queasy, but I went the extra step of hurling my breakfast of fresh figs and Greek yoghurt over the bow of the boat. So glam.

 Said breakfast of Greek yoghurt and fig.

Said breakfast of Greek yoghurt and fig.

We changed our plan of heading to Hydra, and stopped off on the island of Poros instead. I was running out of medication so kept my eagle eye out for a φαρμακείο (pharmakeio, pharmacy -- I was trying my best to learn the Greek alphabet). It wasn't hard, because there seemed to be one on every block in Greece! God knows I love a good foreign pharmacy, and this was a good one: hello Korres makeup!

 Korres makeup Zea Mays Blush and Volcanic Minerals Eyeshadow sticks

Korres makeup Zea Mays Blush and Volcanic Minerals Eyeshadow sticks

Korres skincare is pretty easily found in the UK, but this was the first I'd seen their makeup range (available in the UK at House of Fraser and Lloyds pharmacies). If you take a look at the names you'll notice the references to botanicals and minerals, which goes back to their Greek origins and ethos of using products from nature. I'm not sold on the whole "natural products" thing (and that goes for all brands), but I like that they carry out research and scientific validation into their ingredients. Whether having active ingredients in makeup has any effect is dubious (see: Tarte Cosmetics), but it makes for a point of difference! 

I went for the Zea Mays blush in Orange, and the Volcanic Minerals Twist Eyeshadow in Golden Pink. I liked the eyeshadow formula so much that I went for the Golden Bronze when I came across it later on, along with the Morello Creamy Lipstick in Pearl Berry.

I didn't end up being such a fan of the lipstick on me, but I think I will include it in a pink lipstick round up soon. Here are arm swatches (roughly NC30) of the blush and eyeshadow sticks:

 Korres swatches, L to R: Volcanic Minerals Eyeshadow sticks in Golden Bronze, Golden Pink, and Zea Mays Blush in 44 Orange on NC30 skin

Korres swatches, L to R: Volcanic Minerals Eyeshadow sticks in Golden Bronze, Golden Pink, and Zea Mays Blush in 44 Orange on NC30 skin

These are the first eyeshadow sticks I've ever bought, although I have swatched offerings from Lancome, Bourjois, and Charlotte Tilbury before -- they're all fairly similar in that they set pretty fast so you have to blend quickly, and once set they don't budge or crease; you'll need a decent eye makeup remover to get it off. Both Golden Bronze and Golden Pink have a very fine shimmer. I've tried taking photos of them on my actual eyelids but dammit if I'm terrible at taking makeup selfies. Golden Bronze is warmer and deeper in colour than Maybelline Bad to the Bronze, for reference (I'll update the post with a comparison swatch soon; the original turned out rubbish). 

 Korres Zea Mays Blush in Orange -- it's a touch more true orange in real life!

Korres Zea Mays Blush in Orange -- it's a touch more true orange in real life!

The blush formula is quite silky and easy to blend. It's not super pigmented, which I find really helpful when it comes to bright shades like this peachy-orange. I'd call it a satin finish, which you might be able to tell from the swatch above -- there's an ever-so-slight sheen which doesn't emphasize my textured skin, but helps give a bit of a glow (not that I needed it, what with my naturally oily skin and extreme humidity at the height of the Greek summer). I was around NC35 after a week of sunshine and it showed up well, so I would think it'd suit a fairly wide range of skintones. Here it is on my face -- this shot is from my last post, and I've brightened and enhanced the contrast a bit because the original is pretty underexposed:

 Korres Zea Mays Blush in Orange on my NC35 Greek tan. Base is the Maybelline powder I mentioned in my last post.

Korres Zea Mays Blush in Orange on my NC35 Greek tan. Base is the Maybelline powder I mentioned in my last post.

So I'm pretty happy with what I picked up on the trip. If you're planning to visit Greece any time soon, I'd recommend keeping your eye out for the Korres makeup range; the quality is great, and it's reasonably affordable, particularly with the current GBP-EUR conversion rate. They have a number of standalone stores throughout the EU, too, plus various online stockists shipping worldwide. Kiwis, you can find it in Kit Cosmetics and Mecca Maxima in Australia; I couldn't find any that shipped directly to NZ. 

If you've tried the range before, what did you think?

Keep Calm, Carry On: What I Packed for Greece (Skincare, Makeup, Packing List)

Bangkok, around seven years ago: Will and I were about to head to the airport to go home. We struck up conversation with another Kiwi (who knew someone I knew, funnily enough - two degrees, etc) and went on to share a taxi.

I was impressed by how lightly she packed -- an everyday sized backpack and a tote bag, from memory, whereas I had been lugging around one of those big 60L backpacking monstrosities for three weeks around Tokyo and Thailand. Those packs have their place (tramping, festivals, or transporting your favourite possessions when moving across the world, like I did last year), but I couldn't help thinking how I would have been a much happier traveller had I not had to constantly schlep around a good fifteen kilos on my back.

Ever since then I've tried to pack light, with varying levels of success. For this trip, a week-long Greek sailing holiday, I went as minimal as I could. It helps that it was hot, and that we pretty much only fly with the budget airlines where you have to pay extra for checked luggage. This is SO NERDY, but here's what I packed, for anyone out there who obsesses over this stuff like I do:

 Sunset in Aegina: the black &amp; Other Stories maxi is a little boobilicious at times. Wearing the Soap and Glory Motherpucker in Super Nude over Marc Jacobs Nude(ist) Lip Pencil.

Sunset in Aegina: the black & Other Stories maxi is a little boobilicious at times. Wearing the Soap and Glory Motherpucker in Super Nude over Marc Jacobs Nude(ist) Lip Pencil.

  • Three dresses -- a long black maxi (similar to this one, but in stretch cotton) and a short racerback tank dress (similar to this one, but with a twisted back), both from & Other Stories, plus a white linen sundress with crochet panels from Country Road several years ago (second from left in this pin).
  • Soft white button up shirt from Miss Selfridges, similar to this, and denim shorts from H&M - I probably could have done without both of these.
  • Two pairs of shoes -- jandals from Muji and plain black chunky sandals (£10 from a local department store).
 Same day I threw up my breakfast Greek yoghurt and figs over the bow of the boat.

Same day I threw up my breakfast Greek yoghurt and figs over the bow of the boat.

  • Two pairs of togs -- a one-piece and a bikini. Next time: two bikinis, which would double as bras.
  • Undies! And two bras.
  • Blue cotton towel from Sicily -- chartering the boat included towels but I used this as a sarong as well.
  • Two plain black singlets (H&M) and a pair of soft black shorts (Trenery) for sleeping.
 Calzedonia bikini top and a blue cotton towel from Sicily.

Calzedonia bikini top and a blue cotton towel from Sicily.

  • My beloved Saben Tilly's Big Sister handbag for going onshore, and a backpack from H&M (similar to this) as my carry on "personal item" for stuff like my diary, camera, notebook, phone, and travel documents. The challenge for next time is a smaller personal item. 
  • Sunglasses, an aviator style. I dropped them in a dirty toilet just before we left for the airport BAHAHAHAHAH. Luckily they were $5 from Cotton On.
 Evening in Hydra. Wearing the makeup in the next shot, applied on-deck! Mostly piled on the Korres Zea Mays Blush in Orange.

Evening in Hydra. Wearing the makeup in the next shot, applied on-deck! Mostly piled on the Korres Zea Mays Blush in Orange.

Cosmetics-wise, I tried to fit everything into this Muji case and the regulation-sized ziplock bag (although I cheated and put some stuff in Will's). It's a mixture of favourites and a few new things I've been playing with:

 Muji travel case with everything shoved in it. Applying makeup on-deck while moored up in Hydra: Real Techniques Duo Fibre Face Brush, EcoTools Tapered Blush Brush, Estee Lauder Doublewear Eyeliner, Korres Wild Rose and Vitamin C Treatment, Korres Zea Mays Blush in Orange, Muji eyelash curler, ArtDeco Bronzing Glow Blusher.

Muji travel case with everything shoved in it. Applying makeup on-deck while moored up in Hydra: Real Techniques Duo Fibre Face Brush, EcoTools Tapered Blush Brush, Estee Lauder Doublewear Eyeliner, Korres Wild Rose and Vitamin C Treatment, Korres Zea Mays Blush in Orange, Muji eyelash curler, ArtDeco Bronzing Glow Blusher.

 Maybelline Powder, Coppertone Facial sunscreen, Muji eyelash curler, ArtDeco Bronzing Glow Blusher in Queen of the Jungle.

Maybelline Powder, Coppertone Facial sunscreen, Muji eyelash curler, ArtDeco Bronzing Glow Blusher in Queen of the Jungle.

 Soap &amp; Glory Motherpucker in Super Nude, Sephora Rouge Infusion in Peony, MAC Mattene in Eden Rouge.

Soap & Glory Motherpucker in Super Nude, Sephora Rouge Infusion in Peony, MAC Mattene in Eden Rouge.

  • Maybelline Clear Smooth All In One Shine Free Cake Powder SPF25PA++ (£1 at the local pound store! I think this is an Asia-only release), applied using the Real Techniques Duo Fibre Face Brush (from the duo fiber collection). I know from past experience that liquids and BB creams would simply melt off my face in the 30+ degree heat, so I just used the powder over the top of sunscreen if I felt like a bit of coverage.
  • ArtDeco Queen of the Jungle Bronzing Glow Blusher (limited edition from a couple of years ago, but still available here and they seem to do a variation on the theme every now and then), applied with the EcoTools Tapered Blush Brush
  • Estee Lauder Doublewear dual ended eyeliner in Onyx and Coffee (I think this was a limited edition release; the full sized version has a smudger on the other end), smudged out with the Real Techniques Shading Brush, and the Makeup Revolution Awesome Double Flick Liquid Eyeliner. I probably could have done with leaving one of the liner options behind.
 EcoTools Tapered Blush Brush, Makeup Revolution liquid eyeliner, Marc Jacobs Lip Pencil in Nude(ist), Real Techniques Shading Brush, L'oreal False Lash Telescopic mascara, Estee Lauder Doublewear eyeliner, Real Techniques Duo Fibre Face Brush

EcoTools Tapered Blush Brush, Makeup Revolution liquid eyeliner, Marc Jacobs Lip Pencil in Nude(ist), Real Techniques Shading Brush, L'oreal False Lash Telescopic mascara, Estee Lauder Doublewear eyeliner, Real Techniques Duo Fibre Face Brush

 Soap &amp; Glory Motherpucker in Super Nude, Sephora Rouge Infusion in Peony, Lush Solid Perfume in Karma, MAC Mattene in Eden Rouge.

Soap & Glory Motherpucker in Super Nude, Sephora Rouge Infusion in Peony, Lush Solid Perfume in Karma, MAC Mattene in Eden Rouge.

  • Coppertone facial and body sunscreens (these were three for £1 at the local pound shop; another Asia-only release I think), contact lens solution (FYI: no one seemed to sell solutions for RGPs in Greece, and mine got confiscated at customs because it was 120 mLs... woe), and mini shampoo and conditioner (I got the Charles Worthington Sunshine Protector range from Boots).
  • Collistar Glycolic Acid, previously reviewed here.
  • A freebie pack of Simple Face Wipes (although I've bought them in the past) to remove makeup and sunscreen, and then I would do a second cleanse with the (shock horror) freebie soap on board.
  • Lush solid perfume in Karma, in the old push up packaging -- such a gorgeous scent! It's an orange and patchouli blend, and almost smells fizzy, if that makes sense.
  • Skinny cotton buds from Muji, a few cotton pads, tweezers, and hair ties.

Looking back, I could definitely have gone lighter, but hey... [insert something about minimalism being a journey, not a destination]. What about you -- what can't you travel without? How many lip options would you be happy with? And would you mind if I write more travel posts? I've got a lot more to say about Greece!

 Ahhhhhhhhh take me back.

Ahhhhhhhhh take me back.

Extras for experts: How to Pack Like Joan Didion (Into The Gloss).

Travel: Scent Memories and Zagara di Sicilia Colonia perfume

I like doing the mundane when I'm travelling. Because it's not really mundane then, is it? Grocery shopping became a scavenger hunt when navigating a supermarket with scraps of Italian. Deciding which of dozens of cheeses to take on a beach trip in Spain was an exercise in restraint. Even buying mouth ulcer gel in French was an experience.

Supposedly, people are happier in the long run spending money on experiences, not things. It makes sense! We all have different priorities, but for now I'm putting a lot of my money towards travel. I don't think it needs to be a zero-sum game, though -- I've made a point of saving up for beauty-related purchases on my travels this past year, and subsequently have enjoyed using those products in my every day life.

 Looks as good as it smells.

Looks as good as it smells.

Scent always plays a bit part in my travel memories (related: food). Our accommodation hosts in Sicily welcomed us with pastries in the fridge, and a plate of home-grown lemons on the patio table. There were still blossoms attached to the stems, and that, combined with the zagara (orange blossom) trees surrounding the property and dotted around the landscape, will stick with me for a long time to come. 

 Zagara di Sicilia Colonia by Profumi Zuma

Zagara di Sicilia Colonia by Profumi Zuma

Along very similar lines is the Zagara di Sicilia perfume by Profumi Zuma, found in a shabby chic-style souvenir shop in Scopello, a town quite close to where we were staying. This has the slightly bitter opening note of neroli -- a bit like when you squeeze a lemon and the essential oils burst out from the skin -- and mellows out to the sweet, heady combination of orange blossom and something warm (I can't find a list of scent notes anywhere, and I'm crap with them anyway, but I think it might be amber).

I can't be the only one who makes a point of shopping for beauty products when travelling, so tell me: what's your favourite beauty-related souvenir?

This is part of the Brunch Club #BlogGreatness link-up -- this week's theme is travel. Read other bloggers' posts here!