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Friday, 14 November 2014

Exploring Gare d'Austerlitz.

When living in a big city like Paris, you find that even though there is always something new to explore and a never ending supply of fascinating places to discover, you get to know certain places fairly well. For example, I use line 10 on the metro everyday, and can now reel off all the stops on the line without even realising that I had adopted this 'talent'!

Whilst I've explored most stops on my line, somewhere I had never been is the dreaded 'end of the line', which for me is Gare d'Austerlitz. I don't know why, but I always imagine that when I come to the end of the line that I'll be in the middle of nowhere, some suburban place so different to the heart of Paris. 

Of course I was mistaken. Even if it is the end of the line, Gare d'Austerlitz does still fall within zone 1 of Paris. 

After visiting an Arabic cafe, and the beautiful 'Jardin des Plantes', some friends and I visited Galerie de palĂ©ontologie et d’anatomie comparĂ©e (Gallery of Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy). 

So this museum is definitely not going to be for everyone, but we thought it was really fascinating! After being confronted by an army of animal skeletons on the bottom floor, we ventured higher and found Dinosaurs, Mammoths and even a Sabre-toothed tiger. 

The area is really beautiful, and definitely worth a visit if you have half a day. From now on I am changing my 'end of the line' perceptions!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Bonjour, Paris. Hej, Ikea.

So I haven't written a post in a long, long time, but I have my excuses- I MOVED TO PARIS!

The city of lights welcomed me at the end of August and since then a lot has happened that I can't wait to share with you all. BUT FIRST, some practicalities.

Whenever I move, the first place I try and locate is an Ikea. I've come to realise that for some people, Ikea is like Marmite, you either love it or you hate it. But if I could, I would move in to one of their little show-homes and live happily ever after. Time and time again, they have saved me from spending a tonne of money on furnishing 'home', which is fantastic when I know I will only be in a certain place for a short-ish amount of time. 

Besides, after living in Sweden back in 2012, I feel a little nostalgic and heaps of excitement when there- especially for the meatballs!! 

Full on nostalga!!

When I first arrived in Paris, I asked a few people how best to get to Ikea, to which they all replied something along the lines of: "It's impossible without a car". Luckily for us, the Ikea at Thiais Village has caught onto this little problem, and now provides a free, yes, gratuite, service from the metro Denfert-Rochereau straight to the store in only 16 minutes!

 All you need to do is take this bus:

From this location:

At these times:

I wasn't sure if I believed that the bus would be as quick as it said, but it really was. And very popular. I've been a couple of times now and the bus has nearly always been full- so I recommend that you get there 10 minutes before the bus is due to leave. 

Now you can eat all the meatballs, crayfish and princess cake (my absolute favourite) that you like!

Sadly, only fries and no mash with the meatballs.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Missing Italy.

Sometimes I just feel like I need to get away from England. My inner explorer speaks up and I'm like a bird, I fly to anywhere that takes my fancy. 

Last year I was lucky enough to find myself in a beautiful town called Lazise, on Lake Garda in Northern Italy. My flights were booked only days before I left, and I spent two months living with a wonderful family who were adamant to make me 'Italian' by the time I left. 

I ate heaps of pasta, partied with the locals and drank way more than my fair share of Prosecco. One of my favourite Italian finds was Aperol spritz, a drink which combines Prosecco (of course) and Aperol. A MUST TRY if you visit Italy.

The area was beautiful, the people were amazing and I miss the short time that I spent there.

If anybody is lucky enough to visit this beautiful area, I highly recommend an agriturismo called Ca Del Sol. The hotel is very chic and boutique, every room has been decorated differently. The hotel uses all home-grown and reared products as much as they can, and the staff are some of the most lively and welcoming people you could wish to meet. Even better, is that on the weekends the pool is used by some locals and the team BBQ, play music and even hire bands to entertain. Not the kind of atmosphere you would want to miss if you enjoy experiencing the local culture! 

The perfect mixture of peace and party.

Sunday, 6 July 2014


So at the moment i'm obsessing over Sia, specifically her new song 'Chandelier' and the video. Check this out:

Just wow.

I've stumbled accross Sia before without even really realising it. A few years ago she released a song called 'Breath Me' which was on repeat on my ipod for months. 

And now she's back with her new album, '1000 Forms of Fear', which was released only 2 days ago. 

For me, the video is just beautiful. In a rare interview that Sia gave to Dazed, she said that her "fantasy basically at the beginning of this process was to marry reality television with Nordic arthouse cinema". The reality television aspect comes from the dancer in the video, 11-year old Maddie Ziegler, who is also featured on the reality TV show 'Dance Moms'. And whilst the piece can definitely be described as artistic work, it is clearly not aimed at a niche market, considering the video already has over 51 mission views on Youtube alone.

"I said I wanted her to be like on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I thought it would be really fucking cool to have this little child imparting this adult experience".

Interestingly, Sia plans to continue dressing people in blonde bobs (her trademark look) to create her visual art for the new album, as she says that she doesn't want to be famous. 

Whether she wants to be famous or not, with the combination of her beautiful voice, gift for songwriting and the creativity she has shown when directing, I don't think that she's going to be an unknown face for long!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Top 10 To-Do Marrakech.

Although I like to keep my travels quite spontaneous, I do tend to have a quick flick through travel guides before I go. Mainly so that I can make sure I make the most of my time away, and don't miss anything spectacular!

Since returning from Marrakech recently, I thought I'd let you all know the highs and the lows, what NOT to miss and some travel tips. So here are my top 10: 

1. Stay in a Riad

A riad is a large traditional Moroccan house built around a courtyard, and there are hundreds of these beautiful houses dotted all around Marrakech. Luckily for us, many of these gorgeous buildings have been turned into hotels! 

So tip #1 is to find yourself a beautiful riad to kickstart your experience. They are usually family run with only a few rooms, which makes for a very cosy and homely atmosphere. If you're looking to get lost in the Marrakech way of life, these are a great starting point. A riad is by far the best way to allow you to immerse yourself in the culture and prepare you for your time away.

We stayed in 'Riad Yamsara' a very reasonably priced riad in a great location. From here we were only 2 minutes from some of the historical sights and about 10 minutes walk away from the Jemaa el fna. The location was safe, as three young girls we did not feel threatened walking anywhere from this location. The family were lovely and the rooms clean. The only downside was breakfast, which was good, but very samey. 

2. Go to a Hammam

A Hammam is a Moroccan bath, and a MUST visit for a little pampering and relaxation during your holiday. Like many things in Marrakech, hammam's come in many different forms. Some are used regularly by the locals, whilst others have been specifically created as spas for tourists, complete with the hefty price tag. We managed to find a mixture of both in 'Hamman Ziani'. The hammam was authentic and clean whilst being well priced.

After drinking mint tea (something you will learn to love whilst away), we were shown to a steam room, washed, scrubbed, massaged and pampered for about 50 minutes. The whole experience cost us around £20, and left our skin feeling soft and us relaxed and ready to take on the craziness of the city.

3. Plan your Evenings!

Djemaa el-Fna, as beautiful as it is, can become a little samey if you're staying a week or longer. The square fills with performers and food stalls during the evening which are all very entertaining and authentic. You will notice many locals enjoying the square as well as other tourists. However, be prepared to be approached constantly with menus and people trying to sell you things. 

If this begins to get to you and you just want to relax on an evening, as we did after the 3rd night, there are plenty of alternatives if you plan ahead a little.

If you fancy a cocktail in a chic location, head over to 'Le Salama' which is just off the Jemaa el-Fna. The restaurant has about 3 floors and a terrace, with the higher floors making a great space to chill with a mojito or cosmo. What could be better than this you ask? 2 for 1 cocktails of course! These are offered during their 'happy hour', which lasted until 10pm when we visited and made drinking very cheap in this otherwise dry country. The cocktails were actually pretty good too.

I didn't visit any, but there are some clubs in Gueliz which are apparently popular on the weekends. Failing that you can also find some shisha bars there too. Not all of these are that trendy, many are meeting places for middle aged Marrakechians, but I had fun there all the same, and the locals were very friendly in teaching me how to shisha like a pro!

One place that I would recommend is 'Bakchich cafe', again just off of the Jemaa el-Fna. Not only is the food delicious, but they had a great group of guys playing reggae and chill music every night. The place definitely had a backpacker feel, this might not be for you, but everyone was very welcoming and there was a wonderfully eclectic mix of people and stories. A great place just to sit, listen and watch. 

4. Got lost in the Souks...or just lost in general!

Some of the best days we experienced in Marrakech started because we got lost. Typically, we would plan to do something in the morning, and from there just wander around (without a map!) and see what we could find. I couldn't even tell you half of the places that we ended up at, but this is the beauty of a city like Marrakech. The whole city has a buzz about it, so wherever you go you will find something to stimulate your senses. There is just an explosion of colour and culture wherever you walk, so discover something new by being adventurous and venturing off of the beaten track. If you get truly lost, the locals will help you find your way back.

If you don't feel like being quite so adventurous, the least you should do is get lost in the Souks. You might be asking yourselves: how can you get lost in shops? We said the same thing. We even said that after we'd seen the souks and spent a few hours shopping. We were so mistaken. After a morning of shopping one day, getting caught up in the sights and smells of the markets, we found ourselves well and truly lost. I think we may have ventured to the other side of Marrakech. We had NO idea where we where or how we'd gotten there, but spent an interesting afternoon discovering the cith on our way back to the riad.


Honestly, you can haggle for everything. I even haggled on 'set' prices, so even if something is labelled up, just ask if there's a chance for a discount. The worst they can say is no. 

Typically, the 'right' price for an item on the Souks is half the price the vendor starts with. Remember, they WILL NOT sell if the price isn't right, so if they let you walk away, then you know the sort of price you should be looking at when you see the item somewhere else.

Taxis. This is a MUST haggle. A lot of drivers will walk away from your offer of money, not because it's too low, but because they know that some tourists are clueless and will pay way over the odds. It may take 3 of 4 tries, but stick to your guns and you will get the price that you want. Even if there is huffing, puffing and arm waving!

6. Get Involved in the Local Way of Life

I believe Marrakech is best experienced through immersion. Sit down and drink mint tea with the vendors of the souks, visit local bars and restaurants, eat cake with the locals at the tea stands in Djemaa el-Fna. Just be friendly and experience something new, most of the locals are extremely friendly and really do want to help you. Although, be wary of people trying to show you the way to certain places, sometimes (especially the children) will try and walk with you as a 'guide' and then expect payment despite you telling them that you don't need their help.

7. Food!

Everyone has different taste buds and preferences when it comes to food, so not going to recommend too much here. I will just say two things though: 

1) If you're feeling brave, try eating on one of the local food stalls that sell sheeps' head and order the 'mixed platter'. If you like meat, you will LOVE this.

2) Don't get ripped off. So many tourists are led away to 'fantastic' restaurants, which may be good, but are most definitely overpriced. Typically, we payed about £7pp a night for food MAXIMUM, which was delicious. Some places we visited offered the same cuisine for upwards of £30.

8. Take a Trip to the Atlas Mountains

One of the best treks I have ever experienced was on a day trip to the 'Ourika Valley' in the Atlas mountains. The beginning of the trip was a typical tourist-excursion-type-scenario. We visited the Berber villages, shops and a garden. None of this was remarkable to be honest. However, the trek to the waterfalls and through the Atlas mountains was definitely worth it. It was just so beautiful. The trek was hard, if you have walking difficulties, a word of caution, we were literally climbing up rocks. But the beautiful views you are rewarded with are truly breathtaking.

9. Head Over to the 'New Town' - Gueliz.

The 'New Town' is a stark contrast to the Medina or the 'Old Town' which is so popular with the tourists. You will find modern restaurants and shops, bars, clubs and a totally different way of life. A lot of the younger Marrakechians spend their time here; it is a lot less traditional and good for a little escapism if the old town all becomes a little too much. 

One word of warning though, after getting used to eating late in the Medina, we thought that the same would apply in Guilez, however we found that restaurants all shut at around 10pm. So if you want to go, I would go earlier in the evening to make the most of the experience.

10. Discover the Finest Historical Gems.

Finally, of course, you must experience some of Marrakech's historical gems. There is a lot of information about these online, as there is once you are in Marrakech. Some of my favourites included:

- Bahia Palace
- El Badi Palace
- Ben Youssef Medersa
- Musee de Marrakech
-Saadian Tombs
- Mussee dar si said

I hope that some of this proves helpful when planning for your travels! Marrakech is a truly unique place and I am sure that you will love it. 

Has anyone else been? What is your #1 travel tip for the city?

Monday, 23 June 2014

7 Day Juice Diet.

A few weeks ago I decided to try a 7 day juice diet. These have become very popular recently as a form of detox, and somewhat of a craze amongst image and health conscious celebrities. 

Detoxing, amongst other things helps you to:

- Remove toxins from the body
- Enhance immune system function
- Lose weight
- Slow premature aging
- Improve skin quality
- Increase energy

Foremost though, the popularity of juice diets revolves around their proven ability to help shift weight rather rapidly.

I was sold!

After initial reading into the diets, I found plans for 5, 7 and 14 days. 14 days without food seemed wayyyy too long for me to realistically withstand, as you will realise as this blog progresses, I. love. Food. 

7 days would have to do.

Breakfasts looked a little like this:

(carrot, apple, ginger)

Whilst lunch and dinner looked a little like this:

(kale, spinach, cucumber, celery, apples, lemon, ginger)

Not bad looking hey? Juices were coloured yellow, orange, red, green and purple. The vibrant colours even look healthy!!

At the end of the week (yes, I did endure) my skin definitely looked a little brighter and healthier, as promised. And despite not having eaten solids for 7 days, I was alert and didn't feel lethargic at all.

I didn't lose any weight though, not even a KG. After some more research, I've learnt that if your body is at its natural functioning weight, then you won't necessarily lose anything when juicing. This is something to take into account when deciding if juicing is for you, if your ultimate goal is weight-loss. My step-mum though, managed to lose 6 pounds, which is impressive in only 7 days compared to other diets I think!?

Over the next few posts, I'll share some of my favorite recipes and a little more information about juicing.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Results day.

I went through it all, pretending it wasn't going to happen, counting days until the dreaded email arrived, complete avoidance of the subject, but today was the day, I finally got my third year results from uni.

To be honest, I did try and take my mind off of the fact that at some point today THAT email would drop into my inbox by going shopping. Sadly I didn't find anything that took my mind off of results for too long; is it just me that thinks shops have just stocked up on junk this summer?

But after all the hard work, late nights, frantic phone calls, nerves and worry I got exactly what I wanted.

There were screams, tears, full on shock (for real, I was shaky and everything) and then I thought i'd reward myself by eating a box of chocolates and drinking a large, large glass of Pimms & lemonade. 

I hope that everyone else got exactly what they wanted, nothing beats the feeling of being rewarded like that after you've worked so hard, so congratulations. And now...PARTY! (or at least for a little while until we have to find jobs or make real life adult decisions)