• THINGS TO DO IN MARRAKECH

    This post has been a long time coming. It’s been quite a while since I was actually in Marrakech but I still wanted to share because I love these pictures. I went with my friend and his cousin, and we had a great time! It was particularly helpful that my friend’s cousin is fluent in French (sidenote: I would definitely recommend picking up a few French phrases in preparation for heading to Marrakech). It was an incredibly interesting city, so different from anywhere I’d been before.

    Here is an overview of my favourite things that we got up to:

    JARDIN MAJORELLE

    This is probably one of the most iconic places in Marrakech. Well, it’s definitely one of the most iconic on Instagram anyway. It’s where the designer Yves Saint Laurent lived for years and there’s a memorial for him and his partner in the garden. The gardens are simply beautiful. They were very busy but there was still an element of calmness and serenity as soon as you walk in. There’s a large variety of flora and fauna, and the blue house is truly striking.

    QUAD BIKING

    This was hands down my favourite thing I did while in Marrakech. There are a bunch of different companies that do quad biking but we went with Dunes & Desert. They were absolutely great and I would highly recommend them, they were just really friendly and just made us feel so safe. We were picked up from near our hostel and taken out into the desert. We were given a safety talk, suited up and started practicing on the bikes. We then had a photoshoot (you could buy the photos after if you wanted, they were pretty cool so we did end up purchasing them), and then we headed out on our adventure. One of the staff members led up in a line, with another staff member at the back. We stopped twice, once was just a quick break to take a few pictures, and the second time we were given tea and bread. It was so much fun and a really cool experience, I would definitely suggest it to anyone heading to Marrakech.

    SOUKS

    The souks are the markets. They are probably what Marrakech is most known for and they are insane. They seem to just keep going and there is a constant hustle and bustle. I’m not really a haggler so I found the experience very overwhelming but it was very interesting to see. I would definitely recommend going further into the markets, as the ones at the front are very touristy, more expensive and I found the people were pushier. I would also suggest having a bit of a google to see roughly what prices you should be paying for things and tips on how to haggle.

    LE JARDIN SECRET

    This wasn’t a place I had heard a lot about but my friend and I had a few hours to kill and wanted something that was relatively close and relaxed. We did a bit of a google search and ended up at Le Jardin Secret. It’s easy to pass and not even realise it’s there, being near the centre of the city and with the entrance along a narrow street. You can’t tell from the outside that there is a hidden oasis of calm just behind the door. We walked around for a bit and then just sat and enjoyed the scenery and the serenity. It’s smaller than Jardin Majorelle, but it was a lot less busy when we were there. There is a cafe/bar and a tower you can go up (for an additional cost) to see an amazing view of the city. It’s not the most impressive place I’ve ever been but something about it made me fall in love. I would definitely recommend a visit if you’re looking for somewhere to escape the chaos of the city and just breathe for a few minutes.

    WHAT TO WEAR?

    I wanted to finish up with a quick note on what to wear if you’re a woman, as it’s something I struggled with before going. It’s going to be quite hot so keep that in mind, but I did find that I was more comfortable when I was more covered up than I normally would be in a hotter climate. It’s really annoying to have to do it, and honestly I didn’t do it out of respect for the culture; if I was going into a place of worship or something like that, I would understand having to cover up and abide by their rules if I chose to enter, but on the streets, sorry no, I don’t care; it should be my choice what I wear. HOWEVER, I personally felt it made me feel safer and more comfortable to be a bit covered for a number of reasons. I didn’t feel like there were boundaries when it came to my body, if I’m honest. On the first night, we were out quite late getting food since we had gotten in late and a guy came right up behind me and properly grabbed my ass. As you can imagine, after that I was a bit on edge. Because of how people are dressed around you, you draw more attention to yourself the more skin you show. And there are people waiting to take advantage of tourists; some of the guys there do this trick where they act as if they’re helping you and then, regardless of whether or not you even accepted their help, they ask for money. Once we refused and the guy tried to start a fight with my male friend. Thankfully some local woman stepped in and helped us. We genuinely did met a ton of nice helpful people, but there are also a small number of shitheads who are just looking for their next victims, so it’s best to try and stay off the radar as much as possible.

    So, having said of that, what did I actually wear? I didn’t show my legs, I had some very light linen trousers and a flowy midi skirt. I then wore either a t-shirt or a tank top with a scarf (that I bought in the market). When we were inside the tourist areas and restaurants, I felt okay with my shoulders out. And I did wear shorts when we went quad biking because I knew we were going to be with tourists and people who are used to tourists the whole time. I did get told to put on a jacket by a random man in the souks when I was wearing a high neck tank top with a scarf over my shoulders. I definitely saw people wearing less clothing on the streets and in the souks then me, and they seemed fine, but I just didn’t want to have to deal with the additional attention. It’s frustrating but it’s a personal choice, I guess.

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    Marrakesh was a crazy place. It was such a different culture and honestly I think it took me a few days to adjust. I did start to love it though once I had gotten my bearings. I think my main tip would be to do lots of research when you’re looking for a place to stay and consider paying a bit more for somewhere nice. I didn’t like where we stayed and I think that impacted how I felt mentally, not having a place I felt safe and relaxed to come back to after the chaos of the city. Also, I would suggest going in a group, even if it’s small. I would not have felt safe on my own (and I travel by myself a good bit). Other than that, I would definitely recommend visiting Marrakesh and I would like to go back some day.

    Jane x

  • VISITING COPENHAGEN

    Towards the end of last year, I visited Copenhagen for the first time and fell completely in love. One of my friends from my masters course is from a town about 45 minutes away and she came into the city to be my personal tour guide for the weekend, which was absolutely amazing. It’s a very walkable city and my favourite part was just wandering streets and taking in all the pretty building and incredible street style.

    NYHAVEN

    Nyhaven is the area surrounding the canals where you will find those colourful old houses that Copenhagen is famous for. There is a great buzz to soak in around this part of the city; when I was there the canal was lined with Christmas markets but I imagine it’s also great in the spring/summer with people hanging out in all the restaurants and cafes.

    CHRISTIANIA

    Freetown Christina is a commune that is open to visitors. There’s some shops and galleries in there, along with Pusher Street, which is exactly what it sounds like. There’s no hard drugs, but weed is freely available. It should be noted you’re not supposed to take pictures, particularly near Pusher Street (we did get in trouble for taking the picture above) but it’s a super cool place that has an interesting history and ethos. I had heard about it because Lukas Graham is from Christina and it does seem to be a fairly popular spot. It is safe but probably best to visit during the day.

    THE KING’S GARDEN

    The King’s Garden, also called Rosenborg Castle Gardens, is the oldest park in central Copenhagen. We didn’t actually go into the castle but we had a wonder around the garden (which is free). The Palace is beautiful and even in winter it was so nice to stroll around the garden and stare at the pretty building.

    TIVOLI GARDENS

    Tivoli Gardens is an amusement park that is beautifully lit up at night. I was there at the end of November so they also had Christmas markets set up. Unfortunately my friends weren’t up for going on the rides so I can’t tell you how they are, but I loved walking around and seeing the different displays.

    THE ROUND TOWER

    We decided to do the Round Tower because it wasn’t that expensive, and I thought it was great. You do have to walk all the way up, most of it is sloped hill with some stairs at the end; but the view is worth it!

    Right beside the Round Tower, you will find a hotdog stand and oh my! They have a vegan dog and it was SO GOOD. I got the French bun (which is circular) with ketchup, and while it looks interesting, it was actually delicious. And so genius! I’ve never had a bun that went the whole way around. It was perfect for someone like me who doesn’t like toppings, just give me plenty of ketchup and I’m a happy bunny.

    I absolutely LOVED Copenhagen. The people where all so nice and the street style is so inspiring. It was genuinely one of my favourite cities I’ve ever been to and I would highly recommend it. It was so nice just wondering around and I would love to live there for awhile at some point in the future.

    Jane x

    Check out these other travel related posts:

    THE PERFECT 48 HOURS IN BARCELONA

    AMSTERDAM TRAVEL GUIDE

    THINGS TO DO IN LONDON: UP AT THE 02 REVIEW


  • AFTERNOON TEA AT SKETCH

    For my birthday last year, my best friend Aoife treated me to afternoon tea at sketch. Anyone vaguely familiar with sketch will know it is the Mecca of Instagram, the social-media-influencer’s millennial pink field of dreams. And it’s easy to see why, the aesthetics are really dreamy. The setup is classic, yet edgy, with art by David Shrigley’s lining the walls. And let’s no forgot the dome ceiling and those geometric floor tiles *drools*.

    I went with the vegan option and was pleasantly surprised with how everything tasted. Not that I expected it to be bad, but you just never know when people create vegan versions of things (I usually prefer to stick with things that were made to be vegan from the beginning). You start with caviar (or cauliflower “caviar” if you’re veggie), brought by the Caviar Man. Yes, that is how he introduced himself to us and my understanding is his sole job is to bring people caviar. He was wearing a delightful pink suit. Then they bring you sandwiches and cake (you can ask for more sandwiches if you want, which we did, of course). After all that, they bring you a scone with jam. And then some chocolate torte to finish things up. The only thing that wasn’t so great was the vegan scone, it was just super dry. But everything else was delicious and I felt they had put thought into the vegan alternatives.

    You also get to choose what tea you want. I went with lemon and ginger and it so good. I also LOVED the teapot and cup. Even though the vibe cool, but it is a definitely a fancy place; I mean, there was even some people playing violins in the corner. And did I mention there is a Caviar Man? There isn’t a dress code but I would suggest dressing up a little, nothing over the top, just not something super casual. I will also note that the staff were super nice to us, which I’ve found isn’t always the case in fancy places.

    I don’t know if it’s weird to include a picture of the bathrooms but they are INSANE. The toilets are in these pods and it’s all very trippy. The ceiling is stained glass so all this colourful light bounces around the place as you wondering through the pods trying to figure out which ones are empty and how to get into them.

    All in all, it was a great experience. I know it’s pricy (£59 per person for the classic afternoon tea), but I do think it’s worth it if you have the money and love some Instagram interiors. I would love to do it again next time I’m in London! 

    Jane x

    Other posts to check out: 

    EATING VEGAN IN LONDON

    THINGS TO DO IN LONDON: UP AT THE 02 REVIEW

    HOW TO PACK EVERYTHING YOU NEED (AND STILL HAVE SPACE)

    THE COOLEST BAR IN LONDON – COMING SOON!

  • EATING VEGAN IN LONDON

    It’s been a quite a while since I’ve posted on this blog but I’m not going to waste time explaining why; there’s no point, it’s simply just boring life stuff. Instead, I’m going to begin posting everything I’ve started working on in the last 8 months but never got around to pushing live. Last summer, I went to London with my best friend and since London is one of my favourite cities, I’ve created quite a bit of content from our trip. I’m starting with the most important thing: food. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve been eating mostly vegan for a while now, meaning I eat vegan as much as I possibly can but I’m not 100% strict about it. I was prepared to have to eat less vegan than I usually do while I was in London but it ended up being quite easy. I did a bit of research before we went and we had a list of restaurants that had veggie options that I wanted to try; that was all we needed. None of the places we went to were all vegan, but I loved the vegan options they offered.

    The Diner (Strand)

    The Diner is a chain restaurant that has multiple locations in London, with The Strand, Dalston, Spitalfields and Islington spots offering a separate vegetarian and vegan menu. I was planning on getting some pancakes, but when we got there I was swayed by the Vegan Philly Cheese Steak. It had seitan steak, roasted peppers, slaw and Diner “cheese” sauce on a hotdog bun, and of course I had to get fries. I really enjoyed the sandwich, although I will say the seitan was VERY burnt in places (and I like burnt things). I still really liked it though and would definitely love to go back and try more of their menu!

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    The Real Greek

    My parents are a big fan of the Real Greek and since they have vegan options, we stopped by there before heading to a concert. We got a bunch of different dishes to share, including the falafel and hummus. We weren’t super hungry so this worked out perfectly. They actually have a TON of vegan options you can share, with a separate menu so it’s easy to know what you’re options are.

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    Bokit’la

    This one was suggested by the YouTuber Estlee Lalonde. In so many vlogs, she raved about the Bokit, and having never heard of them, I was intrigued. On Saturday, we headed to the Oval Farmer’s market to try it out (you can find details on their locations on their website ).

    I was nervous that the bokit (a type of Caribbean fried sandwich) wasn’t going to live up to the hype but I was not disappointed. I got the vegan option (which contains aubergine), with medium spice sauce and avocado. Their website details the different options they have available. While the aubergine one is the only vegan option (they also have chicken and fish), you can choose from multiple spice levels for the sauce (which are all vegan) and add extra topping,  avocado, salad or more aubergines. They are also available in small, medium and large. We got medium, but I kinda wish I’d gone for the large one because it was so delicious.

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    Roxy Rara Cakes

    While we were wondering around we stumbled upon a vegan cupcake stand in Camden Market. We weren’t particularly hungry but they looked so good, I had to try one. We split the Lotus Biscoff cupcake and it was SO GOOD. They have a bunch of different options and I’d love to work my way through all of them lol.

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    Dishoom

    I’ve heard about Dishoom from a few Youtubers and when I found out they have vegan options, I definitely wanted to check it. They don’t take reservations and I was a bit nervous about the queue, but we didn’t have to wait long. When we got there, they asked how many people were in our party. After that, they came along the queue and gave everyone free lemonade. We were only waiting for 10 minutes, then they took us down to the bar area. It took us a while to decide what we wanted so our table was actually ready before we got them. A staff member came to get us and organised that our drinks were taken to our table. You have to ask for it, but they actually have a separate vegan menu. I absolutely loved the food, it was amazing, full of fresh and rich flavours. The only thing I’m not sure about was the dessert; it’s called Kala Khatta Gola Ice and it’s described as “fluffy ice flakes steeped in kokum fruit syrup, blueberries, chilli, lime, white and black salt. The first spoonful tastes bizarre. The second is captivating”. I didn’t hate it, but the taste was very confusing. It was interesting but I don’t think I would order it again. I would definitely go back to Dishoom though, I’d love to try some of their other vegan dishes, particularly from their breakfast menu.

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    Pret

    God do I wish we had Pret in Ireland. We have Cafe Nero and Starbucks and Costo, but none of them as as good as Pret. They have so many vegetarian and vegan options, it’s a great place to pop into if you’re stuck and need a snack (we grabbed their apple slices with almond butter at one point and it was so nice). We actually saw a Veggie Pret at one point, which was exclusively vegetarian. However, the best thing about Pret is the double chocolate cookies. They are AMAZING, regardless of whether you’re vegan or not. Whenever I’m in the UK, I buy multiples. They’re just so good. If you haven’t tried them and you’re near a Pret, go try them as soon as possible.

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    And that’s it! I really enjoyed all the food we tried and like I said, I really didn’t find it that difficult to be vegan in London. If you do a bit of research, there’s quite a few places that have vegan options. I suggest making a list and being vaguely familiar with the names of places, then it’s easy to look at google maps and see what’s near you when you get hungry!

    Jane x

    Other posts to check out:

    THINGS TO DO IN LONDON: UP AT THE 02 REVIEW

    HOW TO PACK EVERYTHING YOU NEED (AND STILL HAVE SPACE)

    AFTERNOON TEA AT SKETCH – COMING SOON!

    THE COOLEST BAR IN LONDON – COMING SOON!

  • THE BEST (VEGAN) FOOD IN BARCELONA

    I’ve been making a conscious effort to eat more and more vegan recently. I’ve been pescatarian for over 2 years, and about 4 months ago, I decided to try and cut out dairy. I would say I eat vegan about 80% of the time, but one thing I struggle with is eating out, particularly in Ireland. Dublin has a few great places that have vegan options but it’s not a common thing. I find it especially hard when eating out with other people who aren’t vegan or even vegetarian. When I went to Barcelona on a solo trip back in November, I decided to do some research to see if there was good vegan food to be had there. And it turns out there are quite a few great options, so I gave a few of them a try and found one of my favourite restaurants I’ve ever been too! I think people think eating vegan is the hardest thing in the world, and I’ll admit it can be tricky sometimes, but often it just requires a quick Google search (or a look on the Happy Cow website) and you might end up finding some pretty amazing food!

    La Trocadero

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    This restaurant has really good reviews and was located in a really convent place, very close to La Sagrada Familia. I really like the decor and vibe of the place, but I wasn’t overly impressed with the food. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, just not great. I do think the main problem was I ordered badly. There were so many options that sounded good, so I went with the classic. It included vegan bacon, and I’m just not the biggest fan of most fake meat. I also learnt I don’t like vegan mayo, just as much as I don’t like standard mayo. Which is quite a lot. I mean, I hate it. I really hate it. However, the wedges were good and I would definitely go back and try one of their other burgers. I did also get a vegan cookie and it was INCREDIBLE, so I would go back just for that!

    Veggie Garden

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    I have mixed feelings about this place. They have a HUGE menu, so if you have a big group of people who have different tastes, this would be a good place to go! I got a bit overwhelmed so I went for their menu deal, which limited my options. I went for hummus as a start, their silver tray main course and then chocolate mouse for desert (all vegan). They brought me out a bowl of hummus to begin it. That was it, just hummus. I wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to do with it. I adore hummus but I’ve never eaten it with a spoon. Is that a thing? Am I missing something? Anyway, moving on, the main course was delicious. I’ve gotten this India dish before in a restaurant here in Dublin and I like getting some samples of multiple dishes. I think its just a cool idea. Plus they give it to you on a silver tray. The chocolate moose was good, but honestly I was so full from the main course, I couldn’t finish!

    BarCeloneta Sangria Bar

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    SPOILER ALERT: THIS WAS SOME OF THE BEST FOOD I HAVE EVER HAD!

    Honestly, vegan or not, this food was amazing by any standards. I got their vegan “squid” rings, and they so SO good. I think about them all the time and would be back to Barcelona just to eat them again. I also got the garlic mushrooms and bread, and it was all so fresh and delicious. Of course I had to try their sangria, I went with the Monalisa, which has a combination of cava, lime and mint, passion fruit and elderflower. I’m not a big cava person but it was really well presented and tasted so good. I want to go back and sample every one of their sangria’s. Finally, I got their raw brownie for desert and it was pretty good. Not the best I’ve ever had, but considering it was healthy, it was a nice desert.

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    There was one day were I caved and bought a pizza because I was starving but honestly, it wasn’t that great so it wasn’t worth including besides the fact that it was most definitely not vegan. I thought Barcelona had a lot of great options when it came to vegan food and honestly, if you put in a tiny bit of research, it’s not that hard to find copious places you can eat and if all else fails, just eat every meal at BarCeloneta Sangria Bar, because that’s what I plan on doing when I go back to Barcelona!

    If you want to see what I got up to, where I stayed and how I got around in Barcelona, click here!

    Love Jane x

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  • THE PERFECT 48 HOURS IN BARCELONA

    I started this post back in November after I spent 48 hours in Barcelona at the end of October. However, November and December ended up being some very rough months for me for a number of different reasons and it’s only now that I’m getting back to blogging. I still wanted to share some posts from my trip because I had such a good time. its actually quite nice to look back on it now and remember everything that I did. I know people can be a bit scared of travelling alone but if you’re going through a hard time or just need a break to give yourself more space and time to think, I would highly recommend it. I did a bit of research before I went and lined up a few things I knew wanted to do but I also gave myself a lot of time to just wander and explore the city. This post runs through all the spots I visited, as well as where I stayed and how I got around.

    DAY 1

    Park Güell

    This was my first stop in Barcelona and honestly I could spend so much time wondering around this park. It’s a public park composed of gardens and architecture elements designed by Antoni Gaudí. There are free parts you can look around, as well as a part where you need a ticket to get in. I would highly recommend buying a ticket so you can see it all. I decided to do the English guided tour and I’m glad I did. My tour guide was great and it was interesting to hear the history of the park. There was also some other solo travellers in my group so it was a great way to meet people and make friends. There’s just so many interesting pieces and bits of architecture and design, topped off with an amazing view of Barcelona. I think this is a must-see for anyone visiting Barcelona. I would highly recommend getting a taxi or a public bus to the park as it’s at the top of a pretty steep high (I took a bus and was very glad I did!).

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    Magic Fountain of Montjuïc

    After wondering around the park for hours, I walked back down to the city and found somewhere to eat. Then I headed towards the Magic Fountain. This was truly one of the most magical things I’ve ever seen. It’s a water fountain display, where the water moves in different ways with different colours and music. The show lasts for an hour and they go through multiple different types of musical; pop, rock, classical, jazz etc. I stood there for the whole hour and watched every single moment. It’s just so cool!

    Something to note: the show happens on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and has a different start time depending on the season. They also add an additional night during the summer, but you can check out all of that here if you’re interested!

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    DAY 2

    Casa Batlló

    For day 2, I started at Casa Batlló, a house that was redesigned by Antoni Gaudí in 1904 and it was a pretty cool building to wonder around. I haven’t been to the other Gaudí designed houses in Barcelona so I can’t compare them, but I really enjoyed my time at this attraction. Barcelona is filled with Gaudi architecture, and it was cool to see how his style translated to interior decor. It’s a self guided tour, so they give you a phone and headphones, and there’s different numbers around the house which correspond with numbers on the phone, explaining the history of the house, as well as how different rooms where used or other bits of information. You can actually hold the phone up as you walk around and it shows you what the rooms would have looked like furnished. I didn’t really use this that much, as I found the design of the rooms interesting enough without any extras but it’s a cool feature.

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    La Rambla, Mercado de La Boqueria and The Gothic Quarter 

    After looking around Casa Battlo, I walked down to La Rambla and I would highly recommend doing that. It took about 20-30 minutes, but the Barcelona streets were made to wonder. La Rambia was very packed so I quickly made my way to the food market called Mercado de La Boqueria. It’s such a cool place to walk around and find something delicious. They have an amazing section of juice, smoothies, fruit, chocolates and so much more. But the juice. Oh the juice. It was SO GOOD.  I bought some and continued walking and strolling into the Gothic Quarter, which is a bunch of narrow streets full of random shops

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    The Marina and Beach

    When I needed a break from all the walking, I headed down to Barcelona beach and just chilled out on the sand. It was really nice and relaxing (except for the multiple people coming up to me asking if I wanted a drink, a massage, a towel etc). I love people watching so sitting there with the waves and watching (aka creeping on) everyone was right up my alley. I then got something to eat (food post coming soon!) and wandered along the marina as the sun was setting. I continued to walk towards my hotel and stumbled upon a wine festival. I think that’s the great thing about walking around European cities, you never know what you’ll find!

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    HOW I GOT AROUND

    To get around, I used a combination of walking and public transport (and if i’m totally honest, I did take a couple of taxis when I was just too tired to get home any other way after walking all day). But other than getting tired, I didn’t have any issues walking. The streets are just so beautiful, and it was so nice strolling around. When I was trying to get somewhere a bit further away, I used the public buses. To figure out what buses I needed to take, I simply used google maps. I bought a 2 day unlimited trips ticket for €15 at the machine at the airport station (this included my trip from the airport into the city). This made life easy because I could jump on the bus as much as I wanted and all I didn’t have to worry about anything.

    WHERE I STAYED

    I booked the BarcelonaBB B&B through booking.com and I loved it. The decor was so interesting and the couple who owned the place were very friendly and helpful. They gave me recommendations and booked a taxi to take me to the airport. The breakfast selection was nice, but very limited for a vegetarian/vegan. However, my final morning I left too early for breakfast so they made me a bag with breakfast to-go to take with me and left it on my bed the day before, which I thought was such a lovely touch. I had to share a bathroom with another room, but that wasn’t too much of an issue for me, and I thought the location was great.

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    That’s about it! I would recommend everything that I saw, as well as where I stayed. It really was a great 48 hours. I fell in love with Barcelona and can’t wait to go back. It’s such a beautiful and colourful place.  One of the things I didn’t get to do was take the cable car from the marina up to Montjuïc Castle, so that will be top of my list next time. I will also be heading straight back to the Mercado de La Boqueria for some juiceMy next post I’m going to talk through where I ate while I was there, including some of the best food I’ve ever tasted, so check back for that!

    Jane xx

     

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  • A DAY IN BRIGHTON AND HOVE (AND WHERE TO FIND THE COLOURFUL BEACH HUTS)

    When I was in London back in July, my mum and I decided to take a day trip down to Brighton. I’d never been before but I feel like I hear about it all time since a lot of YouTubes and bloggers live there (including two of faves, Lily Melrose and The Anna Edit). We took the train down from Victoria station and it was super easy; we bought tickets at the station and an hour later, we were in Brighton!

    LUNCH

    We started with lunch because food is the most important thing, isn’t it? I googled vegetarian food in Brighton on the train down and made a booking at Food for Friends. It was Sunday so they had a special vegetarian roast on the menu and it was AMAZING! That weekend the special was a filo parcel stuffed with paprika spiced aubergine, smoked ricotta, shredded carrot, cashew nuts and chia, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, served with rosemary roasted potatoes, carrots, parsnips, fine green beans, beetroot puree, Yorkshire pudding and gravy (there was a vegan option available). I mean, does that not just sound like the most incredible vegetarian meal? I would highly recommend this restaurant, I loved everything about it and I definitely want to go back to try some of the stuff on their regular menu. I also got the fire-cracker cocktail and it was so good.

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    THE ROYAL PAVILION

    After lunch, we wondered around and found the Royal Pavilion. Honestly I had never heard of this building before but it was beautiful. It was built as a seaside palace for King George IV in 1787 and incorporates the visual style of India and China. We didn’t go inside but the gardens were gorgeous and there were a lot of people sitting around relaxing. There was a great atmosphere, with lots of geogorous flowers and people playing music.

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    THE LANES

    The Lanes are probably one of the most famous areas of Brighton, after the pier, but if you haven’t heard of them, they’re basically an intricate maze of alleyways with a random mix of shops, including interior design, rubber ducks and cake. They are really cute and it was so fun wondering round them. There were A LOT of jewellery shops, which didn’t really interest me as they were more on the expensive side, but there were also some really nice independent shops and plenty of cafes where you can sit and relax.

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    THE BEACH AND PIER

    The beach and the pier were nice but SO PACKED! It was a good day in the middle of summer, so that was to be expected. Brighton Palace Pier is free to wonder down and it’s full of cool arcade and fun-fair games. If you stroll further along the seafront, you can see the West pier (pictured at the beginning of this post). It has fallen into disrepair and has gone through several fires, but I think it looks really cool. I think I just like how the dark sharp structure contrasts the blue waves. Also, from now on every time I hear seagulls I will always be automatically transported back to Brighton; they are definitely the soundtrack of the town but I found it quite soothing to be honest.

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    HOVE

    One of the things I wanted to see was while I was in Brighton was the colourful beach-huts. I had seen them on multiple Youtubers videos but when I got to Brighton, there were nowhere to be seen. I just expected them to be near the beach but we couldn’t find them ANYWHERE. I googled a bit and eventually found out that Brighton city is actually Brighton and Hove city and the beach-huts are in the Hove part. I still don’t fully understand how it works, but it seems the two places go together even though they’re about a 30 minutes walk from each other (I think they’re two towns that make up a city, but I could be completely wrong about that). Regardless, we decided to hop on a bus to Hove in search of the colourful beach huts. Taking the bus was really easy and I’m so happy we decided to go on that little adventure. Hove is full of gorgeous buildings and was a lot more relaxing; it was a much needed break from the craziness in Brighton.

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    DINNER

    For dinner, we got pizza at Fato a Mano. This place is great is you have dietary restrictions, as they offer vegan cheese and a gluten free base (I don’t know if they cook the gluten free pizza separately to avoid cross-contamination but it would definitely be worth investigating if you are coeliac or have problems with gluten). I tend to like things other people would consider weird and they had no problem with my numerous topping customisations, which I appreciated; I went with black olives, capers, mushrooms and mozzarella, and it was just so so good. I love a good stone baked pizza and this did not disappoint. We got there quite early so we had no problem getting a table but they did get pretty busy and people seemed to be quite a wait for a table when we left so that’s something to keep in mind.

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    THE COLOURFUL BEACHHUTS

    After dinner, we headed towards the beach and we finally found the colourful beach huts! I was so excited. It was so pretty and calm, and it was nice to stroll along the seafront in the less busy Hove. We actually walked back all the way back to Brighton along the seafront and it was beautiful.

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    All in all, I really enjoyed Brighton and Hove. We got some great food and there was a lovely atmosphere around the place. However, I wish I would have known about Hove before going; I would definitely like to go back and explore that part of the city a bit more. I think that’s more my vibe, Brighton was just a little too packed for me. But I would still recommend taking a trip down if you’re in London or nearby!

    Love Jane x

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  • HOW TO PACK EVERYTHING YOU NEED (AND STILL HAVE SPACE)

    I love packing. Like, I really love packing. Is that weird? I’m pretty sure that’s weird. I could watch endless ‘What’s in my Suitcase’ and ‘Pack with Me’ videos on Youtube. I just love organising and planning, and packing is one of the ultimate organising and planning experience.  And I’m pretty good at it. I’ve even had the security people at the airport compliment me on my packing skills. Now I’m not saying that was the proudest moment of life, but ya know, it’s up there (coincidentally it was followed by one of the weirdest moments of my life when a man stopped me on the escalator to tell me I didn’t have to answer the security people’s questions and that I really shouldn’t talk to them at all… yeah okay thanks pal).

    Anyway, I do realise that this isn’t a normal reaction to packing and that most people don’t really enjoy it. In fact, a lot of people seem to loathe it. I must admit that even I find it to be over-whelming and stressful at times. You want to consise and precise, but you also want to have options and not forget anything. So to make things easier, I’ve listed some of my top tips below, as well as going through what I packed when I went to London for 5 days and how I packed everything, so you can use it a guide for your next trip!

    KEY TIPS

    1. I’m a big fan of making lists. I always make a list of everything I’m going to take with me at least a week before I go, this helps me make sure everything is clean when I go to actually put it in my suitcase and that I don’t forget anything (sidenote: this is also important if the airline loses your suitcase because when you claim from them, they ask you exactly what was in your suitcase and that can be harder than you would think to remember!)
    2. Pay attention to what you use on a daily basis in the days before you leave (make-up, skin care etc) to make sure you’re not forgetting anything super important. I sometimes pack these things a few days early so I know if I’ve forgotten something if I have to reach for anything that’s not in the bag!
    3. Check the weather. It’s a simple one but important. I know weather forecasts can’t always to trusted but it’ll give you an idea of why to expect.
    4. Versatility is key, you want to think about clothes you can wear during the day but also at night if you go out for a nice meal. Think smart casual (I hate that term because it’s so vague, but it does invoke the kind of clothing I’m trying to describe).
    5. Packing cubes are your best friend. If you’ve never used them, I would highly recommend investing in some. Mine are from Muji and Eagle Creek but you can find them in lots of different places, like Amazon, for a variety of different prices.

    Here’s how I put those tips into action when packing for 5 days in London:

    SMALL SUITCASE

    For both hand-luggage and checked luggage, I always use packing cubes and bags to organise my stuff. It just means that everything has a place and you can fit everything in more efficiently. It basically just becomes like a big version of Tetris, and who doesn’t love Tetris? For this trip, I put my clothes in packing cubes from Eagle Creek; they are actually their compression cubes so they help to condense everything and take up as little space as possible. I put my handbag in the dust bag it came in, but I just used a shoe bag from Primark for my sandals, so you don’t have to get super fancy with this. I travel a lot, and as previously discussed I love packing, so I’ve invested in a lot of my packing accessories, but you definitely don’t need to do that! Just use whatever bags you have on hand or buy some cheap ones, you’ll get the exact same effect.

    Here’s everything I had in my small suitcase:

    1. Underwear – pretty self explanatory but important. Maybe the most important.
    2. Make-up – In here I put any makeup that isn’t a liquid, along with a shower cap and an exfoliating glove. I would just recommend having a place to put miscellaneous beauty things you need to bring. This case is from MUJI; I’ve had to for years and I love it!
    3. Sunglasses – This will depend on where you’re going but, since I have light sensitive eyes, I think they’re always a good idea to throw into the suitcase (in a case of course, please don’t be one of those people who throws their sunglasses into bags without a case, the anxiety that stirs within me is far too real!)
    4. Straighteners and hairbrushes – some people may not need to bring any hair styling tools, or may need to bring something different, but I always bring my GHD straightener because I use it most days to style my hair.
    5. Chargers – I just needed chargers for my camera and phone but obviously if you bring a laptop or tablet, you would need a changer for those too.
    6. Clothes – 2 dresses that would work for day and night, a cardigan that goes with everything, a causal top and a nicer top. I wore jeans on the plane (see my outfit here) that looked good with both tops.
    7. PJs/comfy clothes – I brought pjs and leggings (to wear when I’m relaxing or on the plane home)
    8. Handbag – I like to wear a little backpack on the plane, so in my luggage I have a small cross body bag that can also be worn as a clutch in case I go out at night or just don’t want to use my backpack. I make sure this bad goes with all the outfits I’m bringing.
    9. Sandals – I wore shoes on the plane, so in my suitcase I have a pair of birkenstock. I live in birkenstocks in warm weather but if you wanted to bring something a bit dressier, that would work too.

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    SMALL BACKPACK

    I keep anything valuable or sentimental in my small backpack because on smaller planes, they can take your suitcase from you and I want to make sure I keep the most important things with me. I also try to keep anything I will need to put my hand on when I’m travelling in my backpack (my passport, phone, money, liquids etc.) just to make life easier for myself. The flight to London is so quick that I just listened to music and played games on my phone, but I also make sure I have anything I need to keep myself entertained on the plane in this bag.

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    Here’s everything I kept in my small backpack:

    1. Jewellery – again, I keep anything valuable or sentimental in my smaller bag, just in case!
    2. Reusable tote – always comes in handy!
    3. Passport – obviously very important. Don’t forget any tickets or other important documents.
    4. Money- I tend to bring 2 purses if they have a different currency where I’m going.
    5. iPhone – or whatever phone you own…
    6. Camera – if you have a good camera on your phone, this is really necessary but I like to take my actual camera with me too.
    7. Snacks – probably the most important thing to be honest…
    8. Face-powder – I have oily skin so this is a must.
    9. Headphones – pretty self-expaliniorty.
    10. Reusable bottle – this is good if you’re trying to reduce the amount of plastic you dispose of on a daily basis. A lot of airports have fountains where you can fill your bottles up, or restaurants and cafe usually don’t have an issue filling them up if you ask nicely.
    11. Misc. – pain killers, ginger tablets (for travel sickness), tweezers, deodorant wipes… basically just random things that don’t have a place.
    12. Liquids – so I’m sure most people know this, but all the liquids you bring onto the plane in your hand-luggage must fit in a 1 litre capacity clear plastic bag and each container can’t be more than 100ml. I have a re-usable bag from Muji; I know people have had issues going through security with re-useable bags not being the correct size but I’ve never had an problem. If you travel a lot, I would definitely recommend buying one!

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    And that’s it! I think people can let packing over-whelm them, but it doesn’t have to be so stressful. Planning is so important, start thinking about things at least a week before you go and make a list. You don’t have to pack in advance, but if you have a list that you can refer to, and even add things as you remember them, that is honestly invaluable. It’ll really take the stress out of it. To use the space efficiently, use bags or packing cubes to organise things. This is also so helpful when you get where you’re going or need to find something in a hurry. Those really are the secrets to packing well. I hoped this helped if you have a trip coming up or if you just love packing as much as I do.

     

    Love Jane x

    P.S. Click here to see my non-packing related pre-travel tips!

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  • THINGS TO DO IN LONDON: UP AT THE 02 REVIEW

    I’ve been to London a lot throughout my life. My parents love the city and took me there quite often when I was younger. They passed the love on, and I’ve gone over by myself and with friends multiple times in the past few years. Back in July, I went over again with my parents and I convinced my mum to climb over the 02 Arena with me. It’s sounds a bit insane but it is actually a tourist attraction that is safely run by professionals, we’re not just crazy daredevils with a death wish. I thought I’d done most of the tourist things there are to do in London, but this was a new experience for the two of us and we honestly hadn’t heard that much about it. I thought the idea was so cool, though I’m going to be honest I was a bit nervous. However, my nerves proved unnecessary and (spoiler alert) I thought the experience was brilliant!

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    BEFORE GOING UP

    Okay, so I hate starting on a negative note, but the O2 website was awful. I tried to book tickets online and just gave up. That was back in July though, and in doing a bit of research for this post, it looks like they’ve improved things now. Thankfully, we went on a Tuesday and it wasn’t too busy so we were able to buy at the box office, but I would suggest booking ahead if you were going during peak times so there is a limit to how many people they take up on each climb and the slots can fill up quickly. Tours go everyday (weather dependent) and although their times vary throughout the year, it seems like they go once an hour at the very least.

    When you arrive for your climb, they make you fill out a bunch of forms and watch a video. They give you all the equipment you need and talk you through how to put it on. We only had 6 other people in our group, which felt like a good size, and our tour guide was extremely nice and helpful. He made us all feel at ease. You’re only allowed to take your phone and/or camera up, and they have to fit in the pockets of the gilet they gave you, but they provide everyone with a secure container to put the rest of your stuff in to keep them safe. Once everyone was ready, they took us all outside and up a couple of flights of stairs to a platform you can see in the picture above. They then take a couple of pictures of you that you can purchase later and you start your climb!

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    WALKING UP AND OVER

    Honestly the thing I was most afraid of was that I wouldn’t be fit enough for the climb up (I really need to work on that) but thankfully, while it’s a bit heavy going at the beginning, I didn’t find it terribly exhausting. You’re clipped on while you climbing up and down, and you have to moanvouvure you’re clip over multiple joints as you go. They explain how to do it, and help you if you need it so it’s not something you have to worry about. When you get to the viewing platform at  the top, you’re free to walk around, and our guide had water if anyone needed it!

    The view from the top was cool but to be fair, there are definitely better views of London. However, I personally loved the experience. If you’re looking for something a bit different and exciting to do, this is it. You get a bit of adrenaline pumping but it’s definitely not too hardcore and most people will be more than capable of doing it. I’m not particularly afraid of heights but I always felt safe and our guide was always there to help anyone who needed it and point out things of interest along the way.

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    GOOD THINGS TO KNOW

    During the colder months, they give you a full suit to wear. When we were there, they just gave us the harness which goes between your legs since the weather was nice. I had shorts on under my dress, and they did offer my mum bottoms to put on since she was also wearing a dress but she was fine without them. None the less, it might be a good idea to wear shorts, or leggings during the colder months, just to make things more comfortable.

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    All in all, we had a great time. It’s a unique experience and I would definitely recommend it to anyone headed to London who is looking for something fun and a bit different to do. When we were finished, we took the ferry to Greenwich Market which I would also recommend. It brings you around The O2 along the Thames and you can spend the afternoon wondering around the market or the park. If that’s not your thing, you can also hop on the Emirates cable car at the O2 and see some more London views.

     

    Love Jane x

    P.S. You can book tickets and learn more at Up at the O2 website here!

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  • AMSTERDAM TRAVEL GUIDE

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    The Royal Palace

    As I mentioned in my last post about the amazing found we found in the city, I recently spent the weekend in Amsterdam. Today I’m talking through all my thoughts about my visit, where we stayed and things we did.  I went with 12 of my friends and it was such a great 48 hours. When researching the city, I read that the canals soothe rather than imprison the city, that “they provide its order, its calm”. And I agree. I admit that I found it hard to get orintated and I never felt like I gained a general sense of where things were in relation to each other because of how the city is set-up. But I didn’t mind, I never felt lost because the water was always there. The canals are lined with beautiful and intriguing builds and you never know what cute street you’re going to see when you turn a corner.

    However, I do have to be honest, and say that the serene image painted by the canals is slightly smudged by the bikes. Bikes run this city. They appear everywhere in full force. I do think this is kind of amazing and it is definitely something to be applauded. But being a pedestrian who isn’t used to the sure quantity of people peddling everywhere, you need to be on your guard at all times. And you also need to watch out for cars coming from the opposite direction that you’re used to, and trams. Don’t forget about the trams.

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    Bikes and canals everywhere!

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    Our hostel boat (right).

    INTERSAIL HOSTEL BOAT

    Like I said, I was in Amsterdam with 12 friends and honestly I wasn’t very involved in the planning process. I definitely wasn’t very involved in choosing to stay on a hostel boat. I get sea sick, and honestly I was a bit nervous about it. We were warned the rooms were small. And wow were they small. But I actually ended up really enjoying my stay. Thankfully my friends were okay with me taking a top bunk, the thought of the bottom bunk still makes my chest tight with claustrophobia, and we did have to take it in turns to get ready because there wasn’t room for all us to do it at the same time, but other than that, it was a lot of fun. The guy who runs the place was amazing, super friendly and helpful. The location was great, it was only about a 10 minute walk from the central station on one side and the city on the other side. It was definitely an experience.

    THE FLOWER MARKET and REGULIERSDWARSSTRAAT

    I was a little disappointed by the flower market, though we weren’t there during tulip season so maybe that had something to do with it. I felt like it was just a street of touristy shops. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like a good tourist shop but I was just expecting more flowers. None the less, there were some pretty things to look at and a cheese shop that was amazing.

    We had dinner one street over from the flower market, on Reguliersdwarsstraat, and it is such a cute spot at night. The restaurant we went to wasn’t my favourite (though that was mainly because of bad ordering) but after the meal we found a bar a couple of doors down and had a few drinks outside. It’s one of my favourite memories, the drinks were great and there was such a fantastic buzz to the city. I would highly recommend taking a stroll around this area at night to see what’s happening.

    VONDELPARK

    I loved this park. The weather was hot and sunny so we just sat in the shade and chilled out for a bit. Despite the fact that there were lots of people, it was really relaxing. Everyone was just out enjoying themselves and there was a great vide. They also have water fountains where you can fill up a bottle at the entrance which is great when it’s million degrees outside.

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    The view of the 7 Bridges on the canal tour.

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    View of the city on the canal tour.

    CANAL TOUR

    This was my favourite thing we did in Amsterdam. There are lots of different companies that run them, but we went with Friendship Amsterdam because we wanted to go on an open-top boat. There wasn’t a recording telling you the history of Amsterdam, the skipper just pointed out things of interest as we went along. I don’t feel like I learned a lot about the city but it was so relaxing and an amazing way to see everything. You can purchase drinks on the boat and they have cushions so you can just sit back and enjoy the sites as they go by. It lasted an hour and cost €15.

    THE 9 STREETS

    A few of my friends and I spent a couple of hours wondering around The 9 Streets area; a collection of quaint and quirky streets that straddle the canals. They are packed with designer shops and little boutiques. We didn’t buy anything but it was just nice to wonder the photogenic little streets and experience the city. We also stopped into the Litertine Cafe, where I got the most amazing mozzarella and tomato crostini that I’m still dreaming about (learn more about that here).

    RED LIGHT DISTRICT

    I felt like I had to mention the red light district as it is one of the main things that comes to mind when thinking about Amsterdam. We didn’t spend a lot of time there but we did walk through it at night. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about, it’s a weird thing to write about. I did find it upsetting being there, but for me, that was not a reason to avoid it. I wanted to force myself to see it. I guess that’s why I’m mentioning it, I think that even if its something that you’re disturbed by, it’s not something anyone can ignore. I’m hesitant to say too much because I think sex work is extremely complicated. A lot of the discussion around it, even when people are trying to help, tends to take agency away from the girls actually doing the work. I have never talked to anyone who is a sex worker and I just don’t know enough about it. I will say walking through it, I was extremely creeped out by the men. Nobody said anything to us or did anything untoward, but the vibe wasn’t good…

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    Beautiful building facades everywhere you look.

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    Interesting building line all the canals.

    COFFEE SHOPS

    Last but not least, I had to mention the coffee shops, not to be confused with innocent cafes. Coffee shops are where you can legally buy weed, both in bud and brownie form. While I do recommend trying them out if that’s something you’re interested in, I sadly don’t have any recommendations. We went to one and I don’t know what the name of it was, and frankly I wasn’t that impressed by it anyway. Maybe I just should have done more research but I expected coffee shops to be super chill and relaxing. And while that type of place might exist, a lot of them seem to be more like bars. I will say though, if you’re someone who doesn’t normally smoke, take things very slowing and remember the brownies can take a couple of hours to kick in so don’t keep eating more just because you don’t feel it at first (that’s not something I personally experienced but I was warned about it so many times that I feel the need to pass on the message).

    So that’s it, all my thoughts on Amsterdam. What I liked and what I didn’t like after spending 2 days in the city. Overall, I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t my favourite city in the world but it did grow on me, and I feel like I would get to love it more the more time I spent there.

    Jane x