Countdown to 100 countries

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

What to buy a traveller? The ULTIMATE gift list

Is your friend/family member/boyfriend/girlfriend going away on a trip and are you completely stuck on what to get them? Yep, happened to me too. It's difficult to walk that line between giving them something useful and taking up valuable backpack space - but I'm confident these gifts will be appreciated. You could just buy them for yourself though, no judgement. None of this is sponsored; these are just things I like and the photos are all from the website where the item is sold (because sadly I don't own them all yet and yes I am sad about my hammock-less-life).

Ultimate gift list:


A purifying water bottle for someone who gets ill easily or is really going to the middle of no where. These are amazing and I recommend them to everyone going away. I usually just drink the local water, providing it's safe but if you're only away for a short while or not sure about the water then why risk ruining some of the trip? Nobody wants to have to stay in the hostel feeling sick while everyone else is exploring some tropical waterfalls. The bottle has this filter in that removes bacteria, viruses and pathogens; read more about exactly what it does here. I think it would make a really thoughtful gift for someone.


A hidden pocket scarf for trips where you need to keep valuables extra secure. Of course wherever you go it's important to keep valuables concealed but this scarf goes that step further. I think this is a really good idea; especially if your friend is going to an area renown for petty theft. Scarves are really great for on the plane and for covering yourself up if you need to so I'd say definitely take one. You can get them here. If I ever make it to Brazil this is going to be the first thing I buy after my plane tickets haha.


A personalised passport wallet/travel tag. Obviously not essential but they are so fun and would make a very sweet gift. This one is cute but you can obviously get them on ebay for basically peanuts.



A travel wallet. So I'm not sure if anyone
finds these particularly useful because
I personally don't...but obviously I have
one because they look pretty and I am terrible with saving...swiftly
moving on...

Disaster designs/sass&bide/vintage-y
shops usually have nice ones like this,
or this.

I have this one. It's very pretty but I wish
I'd got the cactus one now. Mine doesn't have that many compartments and is slightly too big and not as long as I'd like so it's can be hard to fit travel tickets in without bending them.

A slightly more practical purchase could be a microfibre fold up towel. I know this is not the funnest.thing.ever but if they're going anywhere humid these are great. You can get one here.

After that boring suggestion I've got something so fun. A hammock! Not cheap but honestly wow these are so cool! You get to pick all your colours and clips (tree-friendly straps); plus the bag looks like a little moon. I think these are amazing. I'm just going to add one to my basket hehe. There's another ticket to the moon website and I'm not sure if it's the same site or not (I don't think it is) so I'm just going to link it here as well.

If you're broke and want to buy something cheap for someone; there's always travel plugs and extension cords. Not particularly exciting but at least you'll be giving them something useful.

For people who are island hopping or going to a few places it might be nicer to get them a gift when they get back. If that's the situation you're in then here are my suggestions:


A pin-map on a mini world so they can mark out all of the places they've been. This one is from here. I bought this for my sister at Christmas and it looks so cool.
Or, again in a similar vein what about one of those scratch maps of the world. They have the large sizes but also these small travel sized ones which could be really fun. I have one of these and I really like it.






If they collect all their tickets and keep their stubs then this would be really lovely. A box for them to stash everything!


They post all of the tickets through the little lettebox opening and I think it would make a lovely keepsake.









How about a giant pin map? I'm not going to link to a pre-made one because honestly, they are ridiculously expensive. I bought a large cork board online for about a fiver, a large map and hundreds of pins. All in all at least half the price, if not more, than buying one pre-done. So please please please just do it yourself and put the money you save into a flight fund!


Or if you fancy splashing out then this bar is the coolest thing ever. I'm not kidding when I say that all my family have one of these now haha.

I hope this helps you in some way because I am definitely going to be broke until payday now haha.

X


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Friday, 17 February 2017

No place like home

A short and sweet post today on home comforts.

I love travelling more than anything but coming back home is also a lovely feeling. I've been away this week with work so I thought I'd share my favourite things about coming home.

Food: The first thing I did when I came back from the US was have fish and chips with a gin and tonic; I'm pretty sure its the unofficial dinner of England and I love it because it's so nostalgic but mainly because of the chips haha. Trying world foods is one of my favourite things about travelling but it is so nice to reset with home comforts when I'm back; roasts, pasta dinners, anything cheesy - all the healthy things haha.


Bed: As lame as it sounds I properly miss my bed when I'm away. Coming back, getting into pyjamas and watching netflix in bed if just the best. I find travelling quite stressful and I hate how busy and hectic airports and train stations can be so it's so nice just to recoup at home. I'm one of those people that tries to fit everything in, burns the wick at both ends and then wonders why they're tired. I definitely need that time to relax and unwind. I've been loving the Santa Clarita diet on Netflix and also the BBC drama Clique; both really addictive so far. If you have recommendations let me know.


Friends & Family: Seeing my family and friends is so nice when I come back; I love being able to catch up on anything I've missed whilst away. One of my friends has just had her baby so I'm really looking forward to seeing her. It's a little scary when I think of people my age actively planning for babies but I am looking forward to seeing them.

Pampering: Being able to relax surrounded by things you like is a great feeling. Depending on how run down I'm feeling (if it's been a busy trip I usually feel pretty terrible) I like to sit and pamper myself. At the moment I'm trying out this hair-zapper-thingy that's supposed to stop hair from growing back so I'll let you know how it goes - it cost me a bloody fortune so I'm hoping for good results.



And of course; when the feeling wears off - what better time to plan for the next trip? I'm on my way to Russia very soon, then will be travelling around Scandinavia before a hot weekend break in Nice.

X

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Saturday, 11 February 2017

Exploring Prague: The ultimate city-break weekend

Prague is my new favourite city.



I went to Prague as country number 25. I'm trying to visit 100 countries whilst still working full time so I only really booked the trip to cross off another one but it really blew me away. It is so pretty and it has everything you could want in a city break: history, nightlife, beautiful architecture, friendly locals, great food, good weather and it's cheap. Every box was ticked.

I loved my whole trip here; the place is just amazing and I honestly could live here. My friend and I have this running joke that we only stay in honeymoon destinations; all stemming from a trip away where every sight we visited, every hotel we stayed at and every excursion we went on turned out to massively romantic. At one point we went to a restaurant some friends had recommended and, as luck would have it someone had just got married there. So really it was fate that Prague turned out to be really romantic haha.

We caught a late night flight and the first thing we did after dropping our bags was go for a riverside walk. The whole of the old town was lit up in the evening and reflected in the water. It looked beautiful. It was cold but fine to walk around in; I feel the cold quite badly but I was fine and we walked about for hours just stopping every now and then for the really cheap beer before turning in for the night,


Ridiculously romantic, isn't it? Instead of the usual influx of pigeons in most cities, Prague has swans on the river haha - you couldn't make this stuff up!


In the morning we wandered down to the river; there are quite a few places in the town where you can get close to it. We headed into my favourite part of Prague next, the old town. The old town is home to the beautiful architecture Prague is known for and the best way to get there is over Charles bridge. The bridge is gothic-looking, built of dark stone and has imposing and ornately carved statues all the way across.

Charles Bridge by night...


and by day...



We walked everywhere and because all the historic buildings are close together it was fine. We did obviously have a lot of breaks though to try all the dishes. We had the  national dish of fried cheese, fries and tartar sauce which is pretty much my new favourite dinner haha. I don't have any photos of it because it didn't look particularly pretty but trust me it's amazing. We tried the other native dishes as well: goulash, pastry cones piped full of cream and sweet sesame potato dumplings. I felt like a massive tit taking a photo of this food so please enjoy this rare occasion, haha.



After stuffing our faces there was so much left to see so we headed up to the palace. It even started snowing while we explored which made the city look even nicer.

The art gallery close to the palace was one of the most beautiful buildings I've seen, ever.


Of course not every part of Prague was wonderful. We came across some men pissing on the street right in front of us...which unnervingly are statues but every part of them moves haha.


Then he headed back to the centre to see the incredible astronomical clock that Prague is so famous for. It's absolutely worth visiting Prague purely to see this. It is so intricately detailed and beautiful. The light was falling on it so it was shining bright gold and honestly, it was amazing. Incidentally if anyone knows where I can get a watch that looks like this then please let me know - I love it!


The local people we met were so friendly and kind towards us. Maybe it's because they are living in such a wonderful place that they wake up happier, who knows?! Prague is just fantastic.

If you haven't been yet, don't wait as long as I did - GO!

X
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Thursday, 9 February 2017

Power berry breakfast smoothies

It's Thursday night. The weekend is so close! Towards the end of the week if it has been especially busy or a bit stressful I can feel a bit run down. Not ill but just not at my best, if you know what I mean? When I feel this way I try to desperately cram as many vitamins in me as possible to stave off cold sores and colds, sort of like an emergency mitigation plan to try avoid getting ill. These smoothies are a great start and full of the good stuff.


These very berry smoothies are quick and CHEAP to make. I'm quite a frugal person because then it means I can afford to travel more so I have a knock off of the nutri-blender from Aldi/Lidl (I can't remember which) and I'd really recommend it. If I had to make this in a regular blender I'm not sure I could motivate myself because cleaning them can be such a faff but the bullet blenders are really quick to clean.

So first thing's first. We're going to use about half a portion of oats. For a rough guide it should be around a quarter of a mug:


Now put that in the blender while you measure out an equal amount of probiotic plain yoghurt. Make sure you get the probiotic kind because we want as much goodness in the smoothie as possible. Also probiotic yoghurt can help you lose weight by helping your body break down food so I use this type above regular yoghurt as much as I can. I suppose you could use a flavoured one but plain works just fine.


We want to add a similar amount again of frozen mixed berries. Buy them frozen because it's so much cheaper. I got mine from the supermarket and bulk buying is absolutely the way forward. It only cost a few pounds and I've been making these smoothies a lot recently. Add them in along with a bit of the melted berry juice in the bag:


Delicious! I went for mixed raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, red currants and blueberries in mine but of course go for whatever you fancy.

Scrape that all into the blender and add a good squeeze of honey (about 1 tablespoon).

My blender has a mark on for 350ml which is essentially a glass full so I add a little bit of milk, water or orange juice if I need a bit more to get it up to that mark.

Blitz:


Beautiful, pink and glossy.  I like to have bits in mine so I don't blend it for that long. It makes me feel a little healthier if I can tell there are fruit chunks in there. The frozen fruit chills the smoothie so it's perfect to have right away. Usually I drizzle a bit of berry juice on top because it just makes it look a bit more interesting and instagram-worthy haha.

One of the best bits about this is now you can swan about for the rest of the day feeling all zen and healthy. You could always put it in a to-go cup for breakfast on the way to work.


Now you've been so well behaved it means at the weekend you can chow down on things like this...


or...my beetroot brownies...


X
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Sunday, 5 February 2017

11 things I wish I'd known about India BEFORE I went



I love India. The country is so beautiful, the buildings are intricate and it's just all round incredible. BUT, having said that, there are some things it would've been really helpful for me to know about before I got there. I research places before I go but I still had no idea what to wear and in fear of being culturally inappropriate I ended up taking loads of clothes and having to lug my backpack around everywhere with aching shoulders. I thought it would be useful to put together a list of things I'd wish I'd known before I went for anyone who is planning to go.


1) What to wear in India
If you are a man you can basically wear what you want provided you cover your shoulders. I think it's a good idea to wear knee length-ish shorts but essentially you can do what you want. If you're a female you should cover up completely; cover your chest, your arms, your shoulders and your legs. You might not NEED to cover up to that extent for getting into temples but I felt pretty uncomfortable anytime I didn't wrap up completely. The best thing I wore was loose trousers (seersucker type), a loose vest and a lightweight shawl wrapped around my chest and shoulders. It was comfortable and I fit in with what most other people were wearing. If you're travelling on your own as a female make sure the shawl is quite long- it can be nice to wrap it over your hair to draw less attention to yourself, especially if you're blonde like me! At the time I was in India a governor spoke in the papers about how females shouldn't wear skirts or dresses or walk alone at night; I wore long skirts and had no issues but it was pretty concerning to hear at the time.


2) You will be stared at
This is definitely going to happen if you look like a tourist. It's really awkward but just ignore people who stare at you. I know that sounds rude but if you are polite and make any conversation, even if you are asking to be left alone it makes it worse. This isn't true for places that are more out of the way but for Delhi and Agra just be prepared.

3) The people are lovely
Okay so having said all the above I just want to put a little disclaimer in here. The people are so lovely when you get to know them. I think there's so much poverty that sellers are just desperate and that's why things can be a little stressful. You will get approached by beggars, children and sellers all the time. Remember they are people too so even if they are being a little aggressive, don't be rude.

4) It might be stressful
India is one of the most stressful places I've ever been but it was 100% worth it. The difference between poverty stricken areas and the amazing temples and hotels you see is insane. It can be quite hard to get your head around what you might see so prepare yourself. If you have been to China, Thailand, Egypt etc. then India is a little like those places but more extreme.

5) You will need malaria tablets
This is dependant on where you go but I went to the golden triangle (Delhi, Jaipur and Agra) as well as Goa and I needed them. If you have left it too late to get them from a doctor like I did then you can get them online. Make sure you remember to take them after you've left the area until the course is finished. I know I sound like such a grandma saying this but I worked with someone who had malaria once and it was really bad- they were in hospital for a long time, lucky not to pass away, incredible weak during their long recovery and were on a ridiculously strict diet for ages afterwards. It's just not worth potentially ruining the rest of your trip for the sake of some tablets.


6) Haggling is key
Haggle. You have to haggle for almost everything so be as confident as you can and be prepared to walk away. It will feel a little bit like you are seen as a walking ATM and you're bound to pay more than you should but if you haggle at least it wont be as excessive. The government run market in Delhi is fantastic for being less hassle-y than other markets so if you're finding India a little full on, but want to buy some souvenirs then this is the perfect place.

7) If you're travelling with a man you will probably be ignored
I found I essentially got ignored by people greeting us or speaking with us when I was with my boyfriend; Apart from in Goa, where I was addressed before him. This was pretty irritating but at some points was kind of nice because there were just so much hassle all the time it was good at times not to have it directed at me as selfish as that sounds.

8) People will ask you for photos
I actually loved this. Taking photos with families and with their babies was the cutest thing ever, the people are so lovely. It was so sweet.

9) It's going to be amazing
I was actually scared before I went, especially as a female. Keep your wits about you and be careful but you will be fine. More than fine, in fact. You're going to absolutely fall in love with it. Don't let horror stories put you off. Remember that you will not be the first or last traveller on your own in a different country. You can do it!


10) There are cows everywhere. You'll be walking down the street and see them, it's quite fun. At one point we were feeding some monkeys bananas, turned around and there was a cow there waiting for some banana haha.

11) Get to the Taj Mahal as early as you possible can. I mean it. Get up at silly o'clock and force yourself out of bed. It will already be busy waiting in line for the temple to open, but if you're towards the front of the queue it will feel like you have the place to yourselves. I've got some fun photos I will dig out soon where it looks completely empty!



Have fun.

p.s. If you have any questions, you can message me and I will try to fill you in,

X


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Thursday, 2 February 2017

Beetroot Brownies


Check out these bitchin' beetroot brownies.

They're gooey, chocolatey, rich, squidgy and delicious...but crucially two pieces of brownie = one piece of veg. So you are basically eating a chocolatey salad. You're welcome.

If you want to make these, it's really easy. I can't stand measuring things out so I tend to just use a mug and keep my measurements quite rough. Don't panic if you like to weigh everything out, it will be fine and I've got some tips on what to do if your mix isn't the same as mine.

I basically glossed over this recipe but then didn't measure anything or follow it. I just like to check I've not missed out any major ingredients before I start cooking (like sugar...or anything else really obvious which might sound thick but it's happened on bake off before so don't judge me haha).

So first things first. Chocolate.
Buy two bars of the best dark chocolate you can find. You want at least 70% cocoa but if you can find higher then go for it. Break all the chocolate up into chunks and then melt 2/3rds of it in a bowl with a little coconut oil.


I'm just going to put it out there that if you've salivating I promise not to judge, melted chocolate always looks so good, doesn't it?

Once your mixture has cooled a little add three eggs and beat them in. It's important not to do this when the chocolate is hot, or bad scrambled-eggy type things will happen. Scrambled eggs are delicious but not in brownies.

Next it's the beetroot. I buy them vacuum packed because I don't want to have the juice dying my hands for days after I've used it.


I sort of squidged the beetroot up with my hands while it was still in the packet and then blended it.

Then it's time for the dry ingredients. Put a pinch of salt in a bowl with one mug of (sieved) self-raising flour and some chocolate chips. Then add in another mug of granulated sugar. I also added a chopped handful of pistachio nuts at this stage because I fancied having brownies with a bit of bite to them, but feel free to use whatever you fancy. Add a giant heaped tablespoon of good quality cocoa and mix.

Now add this to the chocolate and beetroot mixture. Have a bit of arm work-out, get everything all combined. You will have a pinky-red glossy gooey mixture. If you have this, it's good. If not don't panic. Too wet? Add a little more sieved flour in. Too dry? A splash of milk.

It should look a little something like this:


The next step is the oven. Get a baking tin lined with greaseproof paper in and pour the gooeyness in. I find it useful to do the corners first so the weight of the mixture keeps the greaseproof paper in one place.

Put it in the oven at about 200 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Keep checking it after 20 minutes. You want the mixture to be gooey and remember that it hardens up a little once it's been sitting out of the oven. Take the brownies out when they are still glossy looking but set on top.

While the delicious brownies are cooking, prepare the topping. Use the residue from the beetroot blender by adding few teaspoons of water and a few tablespoons of icing sugar. Then blitz again until you have this:


After the brownies are cooked try to leave them alone for as long as you can to cool down (I managed about 3 minutes, (but that's fine because we're not judging, right?) before drizzling the beetroot juice over.


So good.

Let the whole thing cool for a while. If you can. I don't have that type of self-restraint so if you do know that I'm in awe of your patience.

Cut into pieces and serve yourself a big slab with a glass of cold milk:


It keeps well in the fridge- if anything it gets a little gooier. I'd say they're good until day 3.

Let me know how you get on!

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