It had been a busy weekend so far. Busy week at work, we’d been hosting dinner at our home and Sunday was upon us a lot faster than we ever expected. Secretly wishing we had a duvet day planned, I eventually managed to coax myself away from the covers and get ready for an early morning road trip. Part of me was excited, part of me not so much. Mo and I were off to go SHOPPING.
Yup, that dreaded experience that usually ends in some kind of disagreement. Shopping is never ‘fun’ for me, I treat it more like a necessity. A place to collect things to tick off my list. However, a trip to Meadowhall was something I was looking forward to. Although I’m an honorary Manc, I am technically a Yorkshire lass. My parents are both from West Yorkshire and I was born there (not bred mind). I’ve always been a red rose-r but our visits to Sheffield and Saltburn by the Sea did make us appreciate Yorkshire a lot more over the last few years.
When Meadowhall contacted me to ask Mo and I to visit and check out what they had in store for Eid I was all for it. Not because I wanted to go shopping, but Meadowhall was the very first UK shopping centre I remember visiting back when we used to visit over the summer holidays. My mum recently told me her lasting memory, she had hired a car to take my sister and I there, parked it in one of the parking zones and completely forgotten where she had left it. To top it all off as it was a hire car so she couldn’t even remember what car it was. leading her to try and get into the wrong one, set off the alarm and be approached by police! She did eventually make it out of the car park – it’s a memory thats stayed with her.
That visit was a long, long time ago and since then Meadowhall has celebrated its 25th anniversary as well as being near the end of a £60 million internal refurbishment. It’s definitely evident, as the interiors are super contemporary, clean lines, plenty of new facias and lots of natural light.
We were there to see what they had lined up for Eid, so I was lucky enough to be treated to a luxury goody bag from the management team, which was full of fantastic treats. Fabulous treats – but will probably cost us in the long run as Mo and I are already planning on re-purchasing most of these products!
I had a lot of fun sharing our day on instagram stories, but I did start to lose energy as the day went on. Luckily I’m full of beans today, so I I thought I’d share a bit more detail on some of the things we got up to:
Stepping away from the hustle at L’Occitane
L’Occitane are a brand Mo and I are very familiar with. Having travelled to Provence for Mo’s 30th, the smells and look and feel of L’Occitane stores bring back wonderful memories for us both, especially as there is a section dedicated to the scents of Grasse (where we stayed) and their signature immortelle flowers are my all time favourite floral finds.
The store here in Meadowhall has a beautiful canopy of said immortelle, well organised displays and to the back, a treatment room which is where I headed to test out some of the creams and potions, whilst enjoying a pre-shopping hand and arm massage.
Emma the store manager greeted us with smiles and bounds of enthusiasm, as she did with others who entered the store. Having worked at L’Occitane for many years, she had ample knowledge to share about the products and talked us through some of the newer items such as the Shea intensive hand balm (we ended up buying it) which we hadn’t tried before. With the room nestled towards the back of the store, we were completely separated from the noise and distractions of the chaos in the centre.
We spent at least an hour in L’Occitane, I was in need of skincare advice, so after our time out, Emma talked me through some of the products that might be of use, as we chatted in between about the history of the brand – something I’m always interested in learning about.
Makeup masterclass at Urban Decay
Not quite a masterclass, more an eye opener. And trust me it was a total eye opener. In fact, it was an absolute revelation. I’ve had a makeup lesson before, my sister and I booked an eye shadow appointment at a department store makeup counter once and it wasn’t bad, but it didn’t make me any more confident to give it a go. I’m pretty plain at heart and not great with choosing clothes, let alone trying to figure out how to paint my face.
When I took my seat at the makeup table and Emily tried to establish what knowledge I actually possessed… it turned out the answer was not so much. So she stripped her masterclass back. WAY back. All the way back to basics. I think she was used to dealing with beauty bloggers so when I told her that I ran a blog I think the concept of me not knowing how and when to use a primer or how to apply foundation baffled her. But she persevered and actually pushed me to copy everything she did, to do it for myself whilst introducing me to Urban Decay – as it was a brand I quite wrongfully always thought of as a bit gimmicky.
In fact I am now completely obsessed with them – no word of a lie! There products are cruelty free, 80% are suitable for vegans and they felt fantastic on my skin. Emily understood what I liked, the kind of look I went for and tailored everything she did to my taste. I had never used a liquid foundation before but she matched and found the most perfect one – I didn’t buy it that day and it’s my one huge regret! But I will be purchasing it in the next week. I did buy some of the other products we tried and spent Eid showing them off to my friends and family. There are very few standalone Urban Decay stores in the UK, so it’s lucky for Yorkshire folk that this one is here.
Godiva cafe & chocolate shop
You can’t miss the stunning visual displays on the top floor of Meadowhall, the large screens scrolling through delightful images of chocolate creations and the infamous name Godiva appearing from them. I said this was the first shopping trip Mo and I had been on that didn’t involve any sort of upset, however Godiva very nearly changed all that for us. You see, Mo and I were fasting that day and as we walked up to the store he spotted a menu in the Godiva cafe that read… ‘chocolate afternoon tea.’ Well he was NOT happy. Not happy at all. He threw a right little strop and to diffuse the hanger I promised to not only buy him a chocolate dessert takeaway but to also bring him back to try said afternoon tea.
The store itself was gorgeous: beautiful desserts lined the display cabinets, perfectly arranged gift boxes lined the shelves and chocolate flowed from the taps, reminding us of our favourite cafe find in Barcelona, Cafe Faborit. We were hypnotised by the chocolate skills (check out my instagram stories to see it in action!) and purchased a number of delightful treats. It was so nice to see a Ramadan calendar there too – definitely something we’ll be investing in next year!
Although those were the key stand outs, Mo and I visited a number of shops whilst we were there. Nothing we’ve not seen before… the likes of Primark, Next, Zara etc. And to the shock of both Mo and I, I found myself some clothes. Friends and family who have tried to make me enhance my wardrobe will be pleased to hear that I finally have something new to wear. I found shopping here a breezy experience. Although the centre was busy, it wasn’t too busy. The lines at check out moved swiftly and we encountered fantastic customer service everywhere we went. Reinforcing the friendliness we received the last time we were in Sheffield.
I didn’t envisage us staying all day, we were fasting after all so bound to get tired at some point. But Mo and I were having such a nice time and with over 290 retailers to explore we stayed until the very last store closed, rushing in at the last minute to check out the cool T2 tea shop – giving us a small taste of what we can do next time we’re over.
Before heading home we had a couple of things to take care of. First, we stopped off at the ‘quiet room’ which can be found in the Oasis food court by the management suite. Here, you can catch up your prayers (there was a prayer mat laid out) or simply take a few moments to relax. Although, the one thing I really liked about the centre is the abundance of places to rest your feet! By making the centre lighter and brighter in design, they have also incorporated plenty of seating space throughout the central walkways – not benches either, comfy sofa like chairs. Perfect perches to take the load off in between your visit.
I also found out that the centre has invested £1.8 million in community programmes over the last five years through cash contributions, time volunteering, in-kind donations and fundraising. No small feat and I’m glad centres such as this make the time to contribute to projects in need. After a snoop around all the numerous trophies in the management suite, it was time to pick up some grub for us from the Oasis food court to break fast with when we arrived home. As a Muslim, there are a number of halal restaurant choices on hand for you to pick from: Wrap chic, Handmade Burger Co (chicken only), Barburrito, Las Iguanas (ask for menu) and Pizza Express (chicken only).
As a guest of Meadowhall, Las Iguanas wanted to invite us to eat at their restaurant. But as it was a Sunday, we had work the next day and dinner time wasn’t for another three hours… we asked if we could instead take it home. Now they knew we were fasting and that we had at least a couple of hours of travelling ahead of us. So this next gesture of theirs really touched me actually. The team had been out and purchased some tupperware for us to take our food home in, to keep it warm and ensure it would survive the journey. After all, a regular take out is not going to travel more than 5-10 miles usually – we had a fair bit further to go! We met the manager Lucy and the minute I met her I felt as if I’d met her before. She had such a warm personality the kind that embodied the spirit of Las Iguanas – bright, bubbly, full of colour and life. I know, I’m being strange and thinking far too much into this… but she was incredibly hospitable, so much so Mo and I really felt like we had visited a restaurant that we had been to many times before.
Las Iguanas have just launched their new summer menu, to our horror the best dish ever lamb empanadas had been culled but in its place a number of new dishes had been added. Putting all our trust in Lucy we decided to ask her to recommend us some dishes – we settled on Pli’s prawn pastels, ceviche, cassava fries, chicken burger (Mo was craving it) and completely out of the ordinary Dominican goat curry. I wasn’t really holding out for the goat… but Lucy had mentioned it was developed by one of the Sheffield chefs so it seemed an apt dish to take home with us. A bit of down time and chit chat, we were soon off on our way bags of food (and shopping) in hand.
When it came to iftar, not only did we realise our food was meticulously organised, the chefs had presented each meal beautifully in our funky coloured tupperware. It really did bring a smile to my face and I mentioned on twitter that its not often a restaurant, even a chain one like Las Iguanas, would be happy to send someone home with a takeaway to write a review. Now this blog post is already far too long so all I’m going to say is that the goat curry was DIVINE (but spicy – so don’t order it if you can’t handle chilli) and the ceviche was exquisite – but I will have to explain this all in a more detailed review.
Ok I think I’ve gushed enough no?
I bet you’re all shaking your head in disbelief at my sickly sweet attitude towards a shopping centre. But you have no idea how it feels! To be a person who never ever, EVER wants to buy things for themselves and hates trying on clothes and makeup and all those other things that normal people enjoy. To then spend a day doing all that and having a really, really nice time was bizarre. Poor Mo really does try very hard to convince me to sometimes, just once in a while, spend some money on – me. To indulge, treat myself or at least let him treat me. But I’ve always pushed back. There’s always something else or someone else more worthy. But this time, I did just allow myself to soak up all the attention.
It’s not something I’ll do all the time, it’s not something I want to do all the time but I have decided to do it more often. It’s so easy to get swept up in life. I’ve written so many blog posts on my experiences with stress and the importance of taking time out but I’ve never really discussed how important it is to sometimes allow yourself a bit of luxury. I’m not saying go OTT, I’m a big believer in moderation… but there’s no harm in a few treats here and there.
And I suppose after spending the whole Sunday making it all about me… it’s only fair that Mo and I return and I can repay him with an afternoon all about Mo. Besides, we do have a Godiva chocolate afternoon tea with our name on it.
*** Huge thanks to the team at Meadowhall for inviting Mo and I to visit the centre. Thanks as well to L’Occitane, Urban Decay and Las Iguanas for going out of their way for us. Of course, as always all opinions in this piece are my own. As well as writing this piece, Mo and I have shared our experience with friends and family over the last few weeks, as we were both genuinely impressed with what we saw that day. It won’t be long before we head back! ***
If you’re thinking of taking a trip to Meadowhall, few logistical tips:
It was a fairly easy drive over for us from Manchester, and on a beautiful day like the one we had, the scenery on the drive over was stunning. The M62 route over the Pennines is always a neat reminder of what makes England so beautiful. The vast plains of open countryside, the old stone viaducts and sweeping hills.
When parking, pick a colour code and remember it! There are thousands of free parking spots in Meadowhall, you don’t want to end up getting lost like my mum.
Of course you don’t have to drive, Meadowhall enjoys excellent transport links with the Meadowhall Passenger Transport Interchange (PTI) which has facilities for local and regional bus, train and Supertram services.