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Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The 10 rules of Hostel-etiquette

Usually the majority of backpackers in hostels are happy campers. However, there are occasions where I've found myself sharing a dorm with a nightmare roomie. I personally prefer hotels for short trips and hostels for longer trips but sometimes the budget is the deciding factor.


I thought I'd write a little survival guide for fresh backpackers to make sure you don't rub anyone up the wrong way. I would love it if the girl in my mixed dorm at the moment read this haha!

The unbreakable rules:
1) Do not take long showers when there is one cubicle, limited hot water and a queue - you'll not do yourself any favours. For me, the worst part of staying in a hostel is having to wait for the bathroom when someone is showering because some people take aggggeeesss.

2) If you are a loud snorer, or suffer from night terrors, get a private dorm. Messing with people's sleep is the sure fire way to annoy everyone. I luckily haven't shared a room with anyone who had night terrors but my friend did and he said he woke up terrified thinking someone was being attacked and tried to help them before they just causally mentioned 'oh yeah, sometimes I scream in complete terror at night'....it does sound really horrible and I do empathise but if you have them just get a room on your own.

3) Don't talk badly about other people's travels plans. The amount of times I've had this is unbelievable. Just don't do it. I actually had somebody do this today suggesting that if I was away for less than 3 weeks then why was I bothering...ummm...because 3 weeks is my entire leave for the year so....hello?!

4) Respect other people's space and things. You wouldn't want people to mess with your things, don't do it with theirs. There's something about the thought of having other people go through my stuff that just makes my skin crawl.

5) Accept that some of your food is going to get stolen even when it's written on. Just deal with it. Don't be the person marking notches on what you've used - it's not worth it and it will still be 'borrowed' so save yourself the aggravation.

6) Lock up your valuables. I'm serious. Every hostel I've been to has lockers - use them. Or if you've hired a car and are in a safe area put things in the glove compartment if you don't have a lock. I annoyingly had a broken lock so I ended up having to carry things round with me all the time. It was a pain, but better than losing my passport.

7) Do not leave your toothbrush in the bathroom. I really can't understand this one. I've seen it a handful of times and I'm hopeful it's an accident but come on. So disgusting. Keep it with you or it is going to be used by a lot of forgetful people (shudders).

8) Take cards with you. It'll help you break the ice. Cards against humanity is great but pretty big so how about exploding kittens or just regular cards to save space?

9) Don't forget to have fun. Chances are you'll make a lot of friends and have a great time. Don't sweat the small stuff because that's exactly what it is.

10) Leave your comfort zone at the door. Be gutsy. It can be scary to walk into a room of people who have already met. Although some of them may have come travelling together, the whole group will have been strangers once. Introduce yourself. Smile. Be talkative. It can be difficult sometimes to force yourself to interact with people and it can be a little awkward at first but once you've done it you'll think, 'why was I worried about that?'

Until next time,

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Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Bulgarian Break

If you follow me on Instagram....I asked what trip people wanted to hear about most and the thing that came up was Bulgaria.

I spent a long weekend here last year and it was so beautiful.


We stayed in Sofia. There's so much to see because it's full of soviet buildings built on Bulgarian ruins, on top of ruins from the Ottoman Empire on top of Roman ruins... it's definitely a place to add to your list if you love history. I especially like Roman history and this used to be a town called Serdica so in the main centre you'll just be walking down a street and bam- there's loads of excavated Roman ruins in the middle. It's amazing really. It's a great place to sort of aimlessly wander about because down the little alleys we found old churches, ruins, museums...there was just stuff everywhere! Pottering about and not really trying to get to anywhere in particular is one of the best things about being on holiday and Sofia is so good for that. There's also a lot of museums so if you like more of a historical break then absolutely add Bulgaria to your list.

One of the best things we did is go on a night walking tour. I would massively recommend it because we ended up seeing so so much more than we would have done otherwise. No surprises here...we saw more ruins haha.


We stayed opposite Parliament Square in the Radisson with amazing views of the parliament, the top of the Alexander Nevsky building and Russian monument. It was really cheap and very nice - our room was massive and the front was a massive glass panel we could look out of. Most importantly, there's a cocktail place next door that serves everything in a really OTT way - glasses that look like pineapples, chinese take away boxes etc. and like everything else in Bulgaria, it's cheap and amazing.


Also can we just take a moment to appreciate this neon sign in the hotel. I've given neon sign making a go before and you would not believe how hard it is to even make a squiggle on purpose - I thought it was so incredible to make so many small letters like this. I tried to get a photo with it but I was having one of those days where in every photo you take you look like a potato with legs so it was just upsetting haha.


One day we headed to the mountains to go visit a monastery. It doesn't look that freezing in the photo but believe me, it was! It was actually freezing bitter winds outside of the main centre and they were so strong that we had planned to go skiing on Vitoshi mountain but never made it because the cable cars were continually shut. Instead we took a taxi to the Dragalevtsi Monastery - we really enjoyed it because we also went for a long snowy walk and played in the snow for ages but if it's not snowy I'd say go to another monastery instead because there are bigger ones to visit. 


In the centre we had a great time looking around all the historical buildings. We went to the National Institute of Archaeology, the amphitheatre of Serdica and the Rotunda of St, George Our favourite was the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral; Ridiculously good looking isn't it?! It's named after a Russian prince and built for the soldiers who died liberating Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire.


There's an amazing crypt underneath filled with art. I'd recommend it, especially because it was ridiculously cheap and well worth the money. I think it was about 10 Leve or something (Leve is the currency and it means Lion in Bulgarian, which I thought was the coolest thing ever). Some places will take euros as well as Leve but they charge the same amount and Leve is cheaper so don't be tempted.

We had such a great time wandering around the city and the buildings actually inspired us to go to Russia; the Orthodox churches are so beautiful particular this one, the Saint Nikolas Russian Church.


Sofia is just a wonderful place to see so much history, but if it's really not your thing then I suppose you could always do this instead haha.


If you see any cheap flights I would definitely encourage you to go! Also - eat at The Happy Pig, which was so delicious that we kept going back. The cocktails are great there, the food is amazing and it's just beautiful. Just make sure to book in advance because it is so popular with the locals that you might not get a table if you just turn up.

Another things to be aware of is that the Taxi's are not safe. Everyone told us about them before we went and even when we landed. The hotel was great and would call specific taxis for us before going out and speaking with them. We also organised a direct transfer from and to the airport which I would definitely recommend. We had a great time and thought Bulgaria was really safe but please just be aware the Taxis are a different story!





For ideas of things to take back - Sofia is famous for rose oil so if you like skincare products stock up for next to nothing, or you can take rosehip tea or turkish delight flavoured with rose. Just make sure to take as much as you can to keep you going until you come back!

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Monday, 18 December 2017

Whats in my bag: Long-haul essentials

As a naturally nosy person I love reading these what's in your bag posts...and since I'm packing mine for my flight to San Francisco on Thursday I thought I would show you what I've got.


I think long-haul travelling in economy can be quite nice so long as you are prepped. I don't bother wearing make up to the airport but I like to take some with me to put on when I land and I also take out my contacts as soon as I'm on the plane because otherwise the air conditioning makes my eyes feel so uncomfortable.

I've got:



Super-comfy polar bear travel pillow. I picked mine up from TK Maxx.


This beautiful travel organiser with sections for tickets, currency and your passport

Dry-shampoo from LUSH. I love the batiste one as well but this last for ages, plus it's aeroplane-friendly. I put mine in a smaller bottle since you only need the tiniest amount.


A watch for better timekeeping and so you don't have to keep looking at the boards every 5-minutes. Similar one available here.

The passport! And EHIC card (and insurance)

Contact Lenses - I wear Acuvue moist and they are hands down worth the extra money because they stop my eyes from getting irritated. I also love the Oasys ones which are also really refreshing compared to regular soft lenses.

NYX Concealer - I have the green one which when you initially look at it seems alarming but it is so great at getting rid of the inevitable purple eye circles because it neutralises them. I love the consistency and it stays all day so I'd really recommend it. I just press some light powder on top and then I'm set to go.


Benefit Posie-tint (in minature since the full size one lasts me genuinely over a year of daily use)

Benefit they're real double the lip lipstick & liner 2 in 1. I have this in 'flame game' and although I wouldn't normally be quite so put together on landing I am meeting my best-friend when I land and will probably be going out somewhere very shortly after haha so at least this will stand me in good stead.

Scarf (since it gets so freezing on the plane!)

Anti bacterial gel - an absolute essential. I worry about getting ill since airports are full of hundreds of thousands of people every day. Pick it up for less than £1.


Travel adaptor cable. This one works all across the world but definitely buy yours in advance because it is always a silly price at the airport.

Earphones - these one's are great for drowning out noise in case of a snorer or upset baby in close proximity! 


I have audio-technica one's and they're so nice but my ones are no longer in stock - these are the most similar ones I could find.

Tablet (and I pre-download lots of Netflix episodes to make the time go faster). I've had mine for years now and it is such a good travel companion. I've got Doctor Foster and Harry Potter for the plane.

Kindle. I have a paperwhite and it is great because it has a backlight that wont disturb others but means you can still read easily when the cabin lights are off. I got one of my favourite photos from travelling on there but you can get a similar kindle cover here with your own photo on. If you're after something new to read Phillip Pullman's just got a new one out - looking forward to reading it.

Card holder, mine isn't in stock anymore but I've got my eyes on this unicorn one.

Fluffy bed-socks to keep your feet warm when the freezing air is circulated around.


Fit-flops; I always wear these travelling because they are unbelievable comfy and perfect for spending hours wandering around airports searching for gates/food. Annoyingly these have reduced a lot since I got them!!!


p.s. My bag is from H&M. 

The first thing I do when I get through security is buy the biggest bottle of water, grab some food and a coffee and people-watch until my flight is ready. I've seen some people take empty water bottles through which is a really good idea I just can never remember; if you're one of those people then this is definitely the best water bottle in the world.


If my flight has a lot of stops then I take pj's and underwear in case they lose my bag but if it's just one then I tend not to bother.


What are your essentials?

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Saturday, 16 December 2017

The Bushwick Collective


I'm so close to my next US trip and was flicking through pictures from my trip this year to NYC when I realised I'd forgotten to share one of the best things about my trip;  a tour of the amazing street-art in Bushwick. I took the walking tour with unplugged tours and I'd definitely recommend it because we got to see so much, but but there are free tours available here. You could also just go yourself and walk around the murals but it was nice being on a tour because I would've missed a lot if I'd tried to DIY it. Our tour guide was quite odd and overly-serious but very knowledgeable. Since I'd gone alone it was nice to be with other people for a bit of my trip!

This is really just photos but I've got some proper posts coming soon. I am just feeling a bit under the weather so can't face writing a big one right now (perhaps too much mulled wine? hic hic)


The art is so colourful and fun and you absolutely have to go see it in person.


<3



One of my favourites - she is just so beautiful!



Very like Bansky don't you think...but apparantly this guy was doing it first #spillthetea


My favourite - I can't believe how realistic this is!







Trump or a potato?







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Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Super-easy asian-spiced gyoza

Now the snow is really falling here there's only one thing that can help stave off the sniffles - spicy food and lots of it. I love gyoza and, as I've said approx 345 times on this blog, if it wasn't easy I wouldn't make them haha. These are filled with asian spiced pork and surrounded with a crispy skin. We dip ours in soy sauce and they are so delicious that even though we eat them often we have never, ever, ever, in the history of gyoza making, made it to the table. We just stand by the kitchen counter and stuff our mouths! Lazy but true!



I bought the dumpling wrappers which I would describe as an absolutely essential item. I have made the wrappers before and it's not that difficult but it takes absolutely ages, plus since you have to go to a specialist shop anyway for the flour...why not just buy the wrappers and be done with it? Anyway if you are determined to make them and have several hours free then you need to create a mixture of half flour and half water rolled into small circles. You will need to buy dumpling flour which is more finely ground than regular.


If you want to make these you will need:

For the gyoza:
500 grams lean pork mince (beef mince will not taste as good here). I tend to make a meat version for my boyfriend and a vege based one for myself - if you use quorn it's the exact same steps apart from you don't need to marinate the meat and it also wont form as smooth a paste, but it does work!
1 tbsp of garlic (finely chopped or ground)
1 tbsp of fresh grated ginger (take off the skin with the back of a hot teaspoon before grating)
3 tbsp of soy sauce
1 hot finely chopped chilli
1 finely chopped spring onion
1 egg
1 packet of dumpling wrappers

For the dipping sauce:
1 chilli (finely chopped)
Drizzle of sesame oil
Soy sauce (I use reduced salt because I have this alot but it's up to you)
1 spring onion (finely chopped)

This feeds about 5 people or 2 hungry people for 2 days. I find 6-8 gyoza reaches that sweet spot between light meal and food coma haha.

To make the filling, combine the garlic, ginger, soy, chilli, onion, egg and mince until you have a smooth paste. Leave it to marinate overnight if you can but as a minimum for an hour. I never used to marinate meat at all because I didn't think it would make that much of a difference but it really does so please give it a go.


When you are ready to assemble lay out your dumpling wrappers. Then use two teaspoons to collect and compact down the meat and put it down slightly off centre from the middle of the wrapper. It's best to lay out all the meat first before you seal them up. 


Sealing is simple but it's a knack. Using your fingers brush half of the wrapper with water and then concertina it up - they should look slightly curved on one side when your done but don't sweat it if yours are not perfect because they will still be delicious. 





Once you've finished, boil a kettle and fill a large frying pan with enough water to reach half the gyoza's height. Put the heat on full so the water is boiling and gently lay the gyoza in. They will expand so don't put them too close together. If like me, you've make about 40 just keep them moving around and they wont stick. Cover the pan and let the water boil away - this should take about 10 minutes. 



While the gyoza are cooking away it's time to make the dipping sauce. Add the finely chopped chilli, spring onion, sesame oil and soy sauce together. Done!


Back to the gyoza. Once the water is gone add oil so the gyoza get crispy. Turn on the side so you have two crispy sides and one soft - this makes them so much tastier and only takes a few extra minutes. 


Lay them out on a plate by the dipping sauce and provide chop sticks (or spoons for those who can't handle them!)

I usually bite a bit off the end of the gyoza and then fill it with the dipping sauce. Spicy, delicious and perfect for cold nights!



I think they go best with prosecco for a fancy meal in but since red wine is what I've got in that's what I've had them with and it works!

Enjoy,

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