5 best places in London for a hangover brunch...

October 04, 2014

When I came back to London I realised what had been missing whilst I was away; brunch. It's the easiest thing in the world to pop out for brunch in the city, but it's something I just never really do at home. Whether I'm hungover, have no food in, or just really hungry when I wake up in the morning, its totally acceptable here - and I LOVE it.

Foxcroft & Ginger

Whilst my mother might not approve of it's "rustic" decor, Foxcroft is one of my favourite places for brunch. When I first saw it on the way back from uni last year, I had to do a double take - there aren't many yummy places for brunch, coffee and cakes on the Mile End Road. Nestled between Tesco Express and Sports Direct, it seems an unlikely brunch spot. However, if you're a fan of french toast, eggs benedict or salmon and avocado, this is the perfect place. My favourite is the french toast with bacon, maple syrup, banana and walnuts... heaven on a plate!


Eat, Pray, Love in Morocco

September 14, 2014

Every woman has that "thing". The thing that they can't resist buying. Obviously the most common of these are designer shoes, handbags, Chanel make-up... but I've always thought I was free of this particular vice (although those who've seen my lipstick collection may beg to differ).
However, over the past year it's dawned on my that, just like every other woman, I too have a "thing". Travel. There's something about the Skyscanner website I just can't resist. For someone who is usually incredibly cautious with money, I have absolutely no restraint when it comes to planes, trains and hotels. 
But this time, it was really my friend Saf's fault. She's one of those people that make everything seem like an amazing idea; in February she nearly convinced me to cycle from London to Brighton instead of getting the train - luckily I remembered just in time that A) it's a bloody long way and B) I actually don't like cycling. But this incredible enthusiasm is how, back in March, an innocent cup of tea at hers somehow turned into booking Yet Another Holiday. 
At the beginning of Spring, September seemed a really long way away. But then revision came around, and then exams, then travelling for a month, and August came and went and suddenly I had to pay the balance of the Surf and Yoga holiday to Morocco that I had spontaneously (and a little foolishly) booked half a year ago. But secretly, I was really looking forward to it. A month was quite enough time to recover from my last little trip and I was really itching to get going again...








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Thai Adventures - Part Three

July 26, 2014

I've never really thought of myself as a person prone to exaggeration, but the last couple of weeks have proved how wrong I am. I seem to have exclaimed that "this is the best day ever!" at least once a day, which has become something of a running joke; last night, it was for something as simple as treating myself to my first glass of wine in three weeks. For anyone who knows me, going three weeks without my favourite drink is pretty impressive. Admittedly, we are in Thailand and the wine list was not extensive; I had a choice between a nice generic "Mont Clair White Wine" and, a small step up from that, Jacob's Creek Chardonnay. I can't remember what I went for but after drinking nothing but Chang beer and bucket cocktails it tasted like heaven.

Anyway, my point is that in the grand scheme of the holiday, the glass of wine probably not "the best day ever". The best day was, hands down, the day we spent on Monday at the elephant camp. Whilst I was looking forward to it, I was nowhere near as excited as Karis, who seemed to have only tagged along for the rest of the trip for this one day with the elephants. 

To begin with, they're pretty fucking terrifying and I was beginning to wonder what the fuss was about. For those who haven't seen an elephant up close, to say they're not exactly pretty is an understatement; they're huge, lumpy, have very hard skin and their trunks are very capable of crushing a human being. Just some initial thoughts. 



What was immediately noticeable is how nice the camp was. Many of the tourist elephants camps in Thailand chain up the elephants, and use heavy saddles and hooks and sticks to control them; a group of people we met refused to ride the elephants where they went as the conditions were so bad. Here they were  roaming around the countryside, and we rode them bareback...

Getting on was a source of hilarity, especially after we all had to try climbing up their trunks - mainly, I think, to give all the men helping us a good laugh. They also taught us Thai words in order to make the elephants move forward, left, right and so on... And then laughed at us saying it with such an English accent that the elephants did the exact opposite. 

Once we got on, the 'easy trek' proceeded to go up a sheer, mountainous, muddy hill, which only got muddier and more slippery in the monsoon rain shower. Covered in mud, we began to be very grateful for the delightful baggy trousers and rug-like top they gave us to wear.

After we were all suitably dirty, we rose the elephants into a pond and bathed them, quickly jumping off when they decided to roll over or, in our case, give us a shower from their trunks. It was quite possibly the cutest. thing. ever. No exaggeration this time.

After deciding not to to Cambodia because of a lack of time (ahem, money...) we instead went further north to Pai. Which we just loved. 



The waterfalls were incredible, and for some reason we felt it an appropriate place to copy our friend and get arty with the photos. This ones for you Amy! 


The mini Grand Canyon was pretty cool too...


... And we provided some Chinese tourists with some more risqué pictures than they perhaps would have liked... 


We also found a waterfall with a natural slide. After some involuntary slipping, we decided to give it a go anyway... 


Pai is a really cute place with so many lovely bars for the evening. We already loved this Western themed restaurant when, in an odd turn of events, we were suddenly given cowboy hats and made to do a barn dance, in the middle of the restaurant, with the staff. Much hilarity. 


Can't believe we only have one week of our adventure left! Much cry. Very sad. 

Thai Adventures: Part Two

July 19, 2014


I love a good quote. Whilst I've never gone as far as putting a heartfelt one liner as a caption to a Facebook photo, even in my angsty pre-teen years, I have been known to google some wise words when I'm feeling down. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to find this gem in the excitement leading up to my travels:

"It's not about the destination, it's the getting there that's the good part"

Well, I can only imagine that the person who said this has not attempted to take three planes, three buses, four ferries and countless taxi journeys in the space of two weeks. Because good isn't the word I'd use. It's boring, stressful and exhausting - although that may have been down to the suspicious looking Thai travel sickness tablets I bought over the counter which make me feel far weirder than some of the less legal drugs I've encountered...

However, it's a pretty small price to pay for some of the places we've seen since we arrived. As I mentioned before, I was somewhat underwhelmed by the island experience so far - even the Full Moon party, whilst a fun night out, is overrated. So when we left Koh Phangnan I had no particular expectations - until we arrived at what is now one of my favourite places in the world, Koh Phi Phi...



Even from the ferry, it's immediately  much more picturesque than the other islands we visited. As Chloe mentioned several times, it's pretty much the only reason she came to Thailand as it's where The Beach was filmed - cue us all being completely overexcited at 'stepping where Leo stepped', 'swimming where Leo swam' and 'eating where Leo ate'. In fact, we mentioned his name so often and so casually that the Canadians on our boat trip just thought Leo was a very adventurous and well travelled friend of ours. If only. 



Fortunately, it turned out that Karis knew a guy from back home who now works out here, so the next day we got on a cheap boat trip. 

This started off promisingly, apart from the minor cuts and bruises sustained from climbing up a cliff face with just the aid of some old rubber shoes and a piece of rope. The trouble really started at the top of the cliff, however, when Karis realised that being both scared of heights and deep water was not a winning combination for cliff jumping. Unfortunately, it soon occurred to her there was no other way down, and she had to bite the bullet and just jump...




She was rewarded with a free Chang, so it was all worth it. 

The boat then went to Maya bay, where the famous Beach scene was filmed. It is the most beautiful place in the world, and only apparently only reachable by swimming over sharp rocks in jellyfish infested water, being thrown against said rocks by the tide, and climbing up another rope. (Health and Safety doesn't appear to exist here.)


We immediately had to go straight into our Beach Jump photo... 


If you haven't seen The Beach, please watch it. If nothing else, it's 2.5 hours of young Leonardo Di Caprio. You can't really go wrong. 

We had also been told to, even if we did nothing else, visit the Phi Phi viewpoint. So, after a long day of sunbathing the next day, we attempted just that. The expectation of a short walk up some stairs quickly evaporated when, 30 minutes into a steep hillside trek, we still weren't there. Smug Thai men on mopeds passed us frequently, no doubt highly amused by the sight of three girls in swimwear, burnt and sweating, flip flopping up a mountain path. After being chased by a mountain goat, we eventually arrived and, thank god, it was worth it... 





Koh Phi Phi is one of the most stunning places I have ever been, and it completely made the island hopping worth it for me.

We're now in Chiang Mai, which I was looking forward to so that we could actually soak up some culture. Today, we cracked and ate dinner at McDonalds, so I guess that's something we have still yet to accomplish. However, we also skipped excitedly round the night bazaar and picked up some amazing handmade goodies for my new house... 





(The pictures don't do that bag justice. It's far less hideous in real life, honest.) 

I spent so much that I came home and quite literally cried into my few remaining bank notes. I'm not sure how I plan on surviving the next two weeks...






Thai Adventures Part 1 - Much Travel and an Unpopular Opinion

July 12, 2014


It's very hard to believe I've only been in Asia for a week. I'm getting pretty used to sharing a room with seven others, wearing the same clothes more times than I'd like to count and DYING for a proper mug of tea. The flight I was dreading turned out to be quite delightful - thank you Emirates - what's not to love about thousands of movies, unlimited G&Ts and above-par airline food? Admittedly the nine hour layover in Dubai was a low point so far - even when you're sleep deprived it's surprisingly difficult to sleep on a stone cold marble floor. However, 30 hours after we left Suffolk, we made it to Bangkok. 

Which I loved. I've always been a bit of a city girl and much prefer a city break to anything else, and Bangkok was no exception. It's hot, stuffy and so hectic it took us about half an hour to cross the road every time we needed to, but also very exciting. After debating whether to spend £10 (a fortune in Thailand!) on visiting the Grand Palace, we were SO glad we did - much glitter, much gold, much Buddha, very gorgeous. Many photo opportunity...





That afternoon we booked the night bus down to the islands for that evening - after hearing many stories about the dubious safety of these buses, Karis (quickly nicknamed Cautious Callum) threatened not to join us on this particular journey. However, after an hour of coaxing and harassing the booking man with questions about its safety, she finally agreed to join us... 

The next morning after an awful ferry journey that led to my first ever bout of seasickness (the memory is still too painful to talk about), we arrived at our first island - Koh Tao. And it was raining.

As Karis quite unnecessarily stated, the beaches did not look like the pictures. In fact, it looked like we had travelled about 6000 miles and ended up on Bournemouth beach. Not a great start.




It continued to rain for most of our two day visit to what is most people's favourite island. During the breaks in the cloud, I can say that the beaches were beautiful in the sunlight - and the nightlife was great. There's nowhere at home that I can limbo under a limbo stick that's been set on fire...

A few days later we arrived at Koh Phangan, where we are now, for the famous full moon party. The sun was finally shining and it was very hot - so hot, in fact, that during Karis and Chloe's first day of sunbathing they obtained what I can only describe as third degree burns. The alcohol is even cheaper and it's much busier than Koh Tao - under the influence of two Thai buckets of vodka the pool party we went to on Friday night was definitely the best night so far! 
(Although I then spent the next day in bed, hideously sick from Thai vodka poisoning, my mum and Cautious Callum's warnings echoing in my ears - not so great) 




So, this is where the unpopular opinion comes in. I don't think the islands are that great. Yes, they're fun for drinking and sunbathing, but so is Malia, Magaluf and Kavos and I needn't have saved since December to go there. I came to Asia for an adventure and drinking vodka, eating burgers and spending a lot of my morning sleeping doesn't quite qualify for that. So whilst I'm very excited about Full Moon tonight, which is going to be amazing, our next stop after another island is Chaing Mai in the North, and I'm itching to get to now!  

P.S forgot to mention the Ladyboy show. Very odd experience that had to be documented. Also not great for the self esteem as most of them were hotter than me.... 



Marina Abramovic @ The Serpentine Gallery

June 17, 2014


I am very sceptical of anything classed as modern art. White blank canvases, videos of people chopping off their genitals, installation pieces... call me uncultured, but I just don't get it. The Tate Modern is one of my least favourite places in the world - give me a Degas or a Monet any day. 

So naturally, when Katherine suggested going to Marina Abramovic's exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, I knew absolutely nothing about it. To avoid looking completely unintelligent, I had a quick google - her Wikipedia page says this: "Her work explores the relationship between performer and audience, the limits of the body, and the possibilities of the mind." Sounds like modern art nonsense to me. However, the exhibition is free and I love any excuse for a trip to Hyde Park, so I decided to give it a go. 

Further research found that the 67 year old Serbian artist's previous work included recording her stabbing herself with a knife, rewatching it and trying to do it again; inhaling smoke so she lost consciousness; and encouraging the audience to do whatever they wished to her with a variety of weapons that she had laid out for them. Luckily, the new exhibition, 512 Hours, was a little more tame. 

There is very little information given to you before you go in, which is precisely how Abramovic designed it, and having heard stories of people being reduced to tears, or even fainting in the queue in anticipation, we were a little nervous as to what the exhibition would entail. After a half an hour queue (probably best to go on a weekday) we were ushered through to the locker room, where we were required to leave all coats, bags, electrical items and watches. From there, we were free to wander in. 

Essentially, its a big, white, silent room. That's all. The audience are really the exhibition, and at first glance there are people everywhere who all seem to be taking part. Some are walking backwards holding mirrors, some are staring in silence at a blank wall and some are, oddly, sat in chairs and swathed in a variety of multi coloured blankets. All very bizarre.

After about 3 minutes of looking very confused, bemused and, in my case, sceptical, a woman in black approached me and handed me a mirror, whispering the words: "Reality is an illusion", and told me to walk backwards and hold it. I felt like I had very little choice but to do just that, and, feeling like a bit of an idiot, I did. 

Marina herself wanders round, like a sort of ethereal old relative that you've always been a little scared of, quietly telling people what to do. She gently takes the hands of some, pulling them into a side room and demonstrating that they must walk very slowly. Soon, the entire room is full of couples holding hands and walking at a snails pace, in silence. 
Others (including me, once I had got bored of walking backwards - which was surprisingly quickly after a few near misses with people out of my line of vision) are taking to a room full of chairs, where they are guided to sit down, wrapped in a blanket and given what I can only describe as a mildly comforting shoulder massage. 

I'm still not entirely sure what the point of it was. When we left, after about 45 minutes, I had an intense headache, my contact lenses had dried up from all the staring and I had nearly fallen asleep about three times. However, although surreal, it was oddly calming. After the initial awkwardness at the strangeness of the situation had passed, there is something very peaceful about being a room full of strangers, and all being part of the performance. Would I pay for it? Probably not. Would I want to go again? I doubt it; however, if you're stuck for something cheap and cultural to do in London, go for it. It is quite the experience. 

The exhibition runs Tuesday - Sunday until the 25th August. 
Full link here: http://www.serpentinegalleries.org/exhibitions-events/marina-abramovic-512-hours



Dear Daddy...

June 15, 2014



I have to confess that today, I've not been a great daughter. Father's Day seems to have got lost somewhere between juggling three jobs, packing up my room and moving home and binge watching the second season of Orange is the New Black. I haven't managed to pick up a card (and even if I had, I couldn't afford to post it) and I haven't managed to make it home to cook him dinner - sorry about that, Dad. 


However, today doesn't deserve to go unnoticed - what would I do without the man who managed to infuriate me by waking me up for school with two sharp knocks on my bedroom door and the words "time to make a move-y" every morning without fail? Or ask me every night after dinner if I want a drink, only to tell me to make it myself? 


From building sandcastles on Bournemouth beach as a child, learning to ride a bike (which took two consecutive years, after I gave up the first time) and later, learning to drive, I can firmly say that Dad has taught me most of what I know. How to roll up a sleeping bag and fit it in the tiny bag it comes with? No problem. Putting up a tent? Easy. Make the perfect scrambled eggs? Check. 


Patient, easy-going and calm are three things you probably had to be to raise me, and Dad's got them down to the ground. The time I parked my little Polly the Polo so badly on a step that its chassis got wedged onto the concrete and its back wheels were hanging in the air was resolved easily, with only a slightly exasperated look over at me afterwards, shaking and convinced I'd broken my car. 
Similarly, there can't be many fathers who would pick their very drunk 16 year old daughters up at 1am from a house party, have them throw up all down the side of the car on the motorway, and move on without a word of admonition. I can only assume he felt the hangover was punishment enough - he was right. I haven't drunk two bottles of wine in a row through a straw since. I'm not sure I ever really thanked him for that - so, thanks Dad. And thanks for your patience when teaching me to drive (and footing the bill when I failed the first two tests), teaching me the difference between a good wine and a bad one and indulging in my various failed attempts at having a hobby (remember the clarinet? And the bass guitar? Or that time I took up fencing?) 


But mostly, for your words of encouragement. This first year at uni hasn't been as easy as I hoped - as it turns out, I should have listened to you when you told me not to do Law in the first place. (Why is it you always know best?) 
Talking it through with you has always put it back in perspective when I felt like giving up - and when that didn't work, taking me for expensive wine and a Brick Lane curry on your occasional trips to London usually did the trick! 


So, as irritating as I find you jogging my chair when I'm leaning back, using "that's bright" as a compliment for every new piece of clothing I buy, or telling my that my hair looks exactly the same after spending four hours in the hairdressers, fanks Dad.



Happy Father's Day - see you later, Alligator. 







Bologna

April 03, 2014

So apart from the small matter of exams, I have officially finished my first year at uni. The only thing I was really sure about before I went was that I was going to love living in the city - and on that point, I was entirely right. There's just nowhere like London. The rest of my Fresher experience, however, has been a little harder than expected - but I've met lots of lovely people, consumed a LOT of alcohol and missed my fair share of lectures so at least I've done it properly!

Anyway, now I'm settled in London, I'm starting to think about the next uni-related adventure - my year abroad. My linguistic incompetence means I'm fairly limited in the places I can go, and after swiftly cutting out the boring options, I am pretty much left with just Copenhagen and Bologna. 
I was almost entirely set on Denmark (if you don't already know how much I love the Danes, my Copenhagen post should make it clear) but when I mentioned this to my my mum, it was clear that was not a choice she approved of. I know from previous family holidays, and my parents' choice of honeymoon, that Italy is one of mum's favourite places - having the chance to visit me there was not an opportunity she was willing to pass up. In fact, so determined was she for me to choose Bologna, she immediately booked a weekend away in an attempt to prove it really would be the best place for a year abroad. Which was how, straight after the end of term, I ended up on yet another Ryanair flight - this time to Italy. 


Copenhagen

March 05, 2014

So I guess this post should start with my love for Borgen, and Birgitte Nyborg imparticular. 
If you don't recognise either of these names, then I'm flattered because you are clearly a stranger taking the time to read my blog. I have tried to force pretty much everyone in my life to watch Borgen, the Danish TV show that combines two of my favourite geeky things - politics and women in power, and centres around the life of the gorgeous Birgitte Nyborg and her rise to power as the first female Prime Minister of Denmark. Anyway, it instilled in me a love for all things Scandinavian - and I have been dying to go to Copenhagen ever since. 

So, despite the fact that my bank balance is very firmly in the red after my last two little trips, when Maddy got an audition for the Danish Royal Ballet I immediately leapt at the idea of being a groupie and going with her. Which is how on Saturday Maddy, Karis and I ended up getting up at 3am, still a little drunk from excessive wine drinking for Chloe's birthday the night before, and heading to Stansted Airport...


So, great things about Copenhagen.

1. The Danish pastries. I think a picture speaks 1000 words on this one. 
os



Just pure heaven really. 

2. Food in general. 

Because two Danish pastries just wasn't enough sugar for one day, for lunch we were tempted into Bertel by the amazing array of cheesecakes in the window... 




We quickly discovered that 'English Breakfast Tea' just isn't a thing in Denmark, which is a bit of a problem for someone who is as suspicious of flavoured teas as I am. Anyway, it turned out to be a good thing because I have completely fallen in love with Danish Cream tea - although that they don't seem to sell it next to the PG Tips in my local Tesco Metro, so it was a pretty brief love affair...

Oh, and Flodderbollers. The Danish teacake. Also heaven in a food form.

3. Bicycles. Everywhere.

The Danes cycle absolutely everywhere, and whilst it's annoying and downright dangerous in London, in Copenhagen they have their own special roads for cyclists and I am 100% sure this contributes to Danes being the happiest nation in the world. It's just impossible to be sad when you're riding a little bike with a basket on the front. 


4. Architecture

Copenhagen is just beautiful! Again, no words needed... 







5. Scandi fashion

I think Copenhagen might actually be my favourite place for shopping. Scandinavian fashion is so understated and simple yet on trend - I'm not sure I saw any shops I didn't like. The two department stores are Illum, the Danish equivalent of Harvey Nichols, and Magasin du Nord, which I preferred for its more down to earth style and the woman who gave us free Flodderbollers in the food court. 

Anyway, Karis and I spent a good few hours in the home department at Magasin du Nord picking items for our future fantasy house. Miss Etoile was a highlight...






And another good few hours on women's fashion. If I had a credit card I would have bought everything - fortunately my bank doesn't trust me (I wonder why?) and I made do with window shopping. As soon as I came home I went straight on the website to see if I could order my fave Scandi brands after payday, a couple of highlights listed below...

& Other Stories

Since I can never be bothered to actually shop on Oxford Street, I've never been to the older sister of H&M's store in London. After going in the one in Copenhagen, I think I'll be living there.



   








Won Hundred




Acne

Although I've always been a fan of Acne, mainly for the jeans and the spring knits, I fell in love with it all over again in Denmark..




Tiger of Sweden




 6. The People

Everyone is beautiful. As I discovered the moment I went through passport control and was met by a God who looked like a more chiselled Daniel Craig. In uniform. (Who was also old enough to be my dad, but age is just a number right...)

And, downsides. Just one - the price. Everything was absolutely extortionate - this coming from a student living in London. 

Other than that, perfect weekend! 

Oh, here's a pic of me fangirling over Christianborg Palace from Borgen...


Takk for reading!