City Guide: Vienna 

We got to Vienna via night train from Kraków Glowny Station. We had a 2 person sleeper cabin which was very private. We slept fairly well except for the train jerking to a holt at every stop through the night and waking us. The train goes through the Czech Republic to reach Austria and takes approx 9 hours. 

We dropped our bags at our hotel and went exploring. It was actually such a treat to see Vienna at such a quiet time of day (7.30am) but a coffee break (or three) were definitely needed. 


We visited one of Vienna’s coffee houses (something they are known for, apparently) and the coffee was indeed one of the best I have had. On the other hand, the service was the worst I had ever seen. The waiter barked the menu items at us and upon paying the bill he threw the change down on to the table and then said ‘the service is not included’… Well you’re too rude to benefit from a tip anyway Mr. 

We explored the Hofburg and went inside the Kaiserappartments of Emporor Franz Josef and Empress Elizabeth. I usually don’t enjoy this sort of history as much as more modern history but this I found surprisingly interesting and would recommend to anyone visiting Vienna. This was as an alternative to the very popular horse training that occurs at certain times each day. After seeing a video clip of this we decided it actually appeared more cruel than entertaining. 

On our second day in Vienna we had exhausted all of the central monuments bar one so we payed the obligatory visit to Stephansdom and went to the top of the bell to see the view of the city. This was really lovely but I realised I am growing increasingly unnerved by heights. 

The Stephansdom was crawling with tourists, almost uncomfortably so, so we got the Metro to the Naschmarkt. The Naschmarkt is on the other side of the city and is a market selling fresh food and fruit and veg. We picked up chorizo, cheese, rolls, olives, and other antipasti and headed to a nice park I had seen on the map which had a long thin offshoot of the Danube running in to it.

When we found this we realised it was mostly dry except for a few swans desperately trying to have a swim and a drink in the hot Vienna sun. 

That evening we ate at Vapiano, a chain restaurant but nonetheless a great one. It is a new concept (for me anyway) whereby you choose a pasta type and a sauce and they prepare it all fresh in front of you. It was really cool and the food tasted great.


We went on for drinks at Phil, a really quirky coffee shop/bookshop/record store/bar. After one too many gin and elderflower sodas it was time for me to retreat. 

Vienna was definitely one of the best cities I have visited in Europe. 

A x

City Guide: Kraków

From Warsaw we got a 2 hour train to the city of Kraków, with a significantly more dense tourist population and lots more things to do and see. 
The day we arrived in Krakow there was some sort of dragon parade through the streets so it was the busiest old town square I had ever seen. We literally waited 40 minutes for an ice cream, but damn it was a good one. Our hostel literally overlooked the square which was lovely and so convenient.        

On our first afternoon we went to visit the Royal Wawel Castle which sits on a hill overlooking the Vistula River. Unfortunately it started raining so we dashed for cover. 

We went back to our room and chilled out for a bit before going out for dinner. Many of the old town restaurants, as you could probably guess, have only tourists in mind. Though we are this, we really like to dine with locals, like locals. For this reason we opted for the cheap and cheerful Polish takeaway a Zapiekanka(?). To describe this for anyone that hasn’t had one I would say a toasted half of a long flat baguette with mushrooms, melted cheese and fried onions on top, with a bit of bbq sauce for good measure (you can see this below). It was actually really tasted and we got 2 for the equivalent of about £4 gbp.


 Due to our immense bargain at dinner we went to a posh ice cream/dessert restaurant outside our hostel which was linked to the Hotel Wentzl (our hostel’s slightly more classy neighbour). They did the best Aperol spritz I have ever had, and great desserts too. 

Pancakes with a Cointreau sauce and a walnut cake at Slodkie Wentzl, Kraków old town.

On our second day in Kraków we paid the obligatory visit to Auschwitz with a guided tour. The tour was essential to not walking around like a lost soul in this horrifically huge and terrifying place. Our tour guide was also more knowledgeable about Auschwitz than most Professors I have met are about their own chosen subject. You spend an hour and a bit at Auschwitz 1 where they talk to you about how Auschwitz came to be, and an equal amount of time at Birkenau, the staggeringly huge overflow camp built purely for extermination purposes. At Birkenau you can see the bunks where 7 women would lay at a time, without clothes, hair or a toilet. It is really a disturbing day but one that shouldn’t be missed. I don’t have any photos of Auschwitz as I don’t personally think it is something you need photographic evidence of to convey the horror of it. It is something which should be experienced for oneself first hand.

We had a third day in Kraków due to the fact we were catching the night train to Vienna that evening so we spent the day in the Jewish Quarter and visiting Oskar Schindlers factory. The Jewish quarter is lovely but the actual district of Kazimierz has turned in to the more bars/pubs vibe and seemed to therefore have a younger demographic of visitors than the aptly named old town. 

Schindlers Factory was a great museum about the invasion of Poland with some hands on stuff to do too. 


Getting there also involves going over the Vistula River which runs through Kraków which is a fun adventure in itself and definitely better than getting one of the modern day Tuk Tuks which are amass in the city. 


Great view of Wawel Castle on the way to the Jewish Quarter!! 

I would 100% recommend a visit to Kraków and about 3-4 days is needed to truly soak it up and do everything there is to do. 

A x

City Guide: Warsaw 


My next few blog posts are going to be about the cities of Europe that we are visiting on our Interrailing journey! I will probably do them in the order we visit them which is: Warsaw, Kraków, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Belgrade, Zagreb, Sarajevo, Split, Ljubljana. 

Our interrailing journey began in Warsaw, Poland. Despite reading and being told that there wasn’t much to do there we had booked 3 nights to get us settled in to the trip. We stayed at Chmielna 5 hostel which was in a great location and surrounded by bars and restaurants. 

As there isn’t much by way of tourist attractions in Warsaw it is a really great way to see Poland through local eyes. It is a bustling capital city with a big university and an old town but most people seem to live and work in the area. This meant that everyone was really chilled and there was a nice vibe in the area we were in. One night we had drinks in a pop up bar behind our hostel on deck chairs which was really fun. 

The old town is just that, and very typical of a European city, lots of al fresco dining and old buildings and there is a viewing tower which had great sights of the whole city and further! At the old town we tried Pierogis which are traditional Polish dumplings filled with meat or cheese/potato. They are so so tasty and a must try for anyone going to Poland. 

Along Chmielna (the road we stayed on) there was an ice cream parlour serving ice cream which is frozen with nitrogen. I thought this was a great idea and it works similar to ‘Snog’ in the UK. You pick your ingredients  and they chuck it in and blend it up for you. 

On our final day we went to a big park to have a picnic which was really good fun and we stumbled upon a march of soldiers and firemen which, to this day, we are completely baffled as to what it was. 

Warsaw was a great city to start this journey in, with good food, good drinks and good atmosphere. With hindsight I would probably only stay for two nights but it was great fun nonetheless. 

Up next: Kraków! 
A x

London food find: Polpo, Soho 

  
I stumbled upon this hidden gem while trawling the streets of Soho looking for somewhere to eat. With Asian cafes and chain restaurants in, what seems like, their hundreds, I was pleased to pass by this little diamond.

Drawn in by the sight of meatballs on the menu and the buzz of customers chatting inside we were taken to our seats. A really friendly vibe of people sitting at the bar having chats, combined with families enjoying a Sunday meal. 

The menu turned out to be a tapas sort of affair, in which they advise you to buy lots and share. With very differing tastebuds, my friends and I opted to buy 2-3 dishes of our own each. 

The picture above is a ‘pizzette’ that I ordered with salami and ricotta on top. It was absolutely fab!! Small and crusty base meant minimal bloating and the toppings complimented each other very well.

I was more disappointed by the Arancini I ordered which were no more than 3cm diameter and came as a portion of two balls for £4. Previously I have had great experiences of arancini, usually with a ragu or cheesy filling. These had risotto and mozarella…. But nothing else. They were tasteless and uninspiring to say the least. 

All in all our meal was fabulous and the aforementioned meatballs that my friend ordered were great! (I think they are the house special). 

I would recommend to anyone who fancies great Italian food without the gluten overload.

Click here to check out more!

A x

Pre Menstrual Tension Is Taking Over My Life.

Apologies for blogging absence, my life has been one huge whirlwind for the past few weeks. I want to share this now in case there are any other women going through similar experiences or who may be seeking advice. If you are uptight or cringed out by woman stuff, stop reading now.

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If you decided to carry on reading, this is the story.

I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome when I was 16. Fundamentally, this means that the follicles inside the ovaries don’t mature enough to regularly release an egg and it causes irregular periods among other symptoms such as; acne, hirsutism (hair growth), insulin resistance, and potential infertility. At 16, although being infertile was a worry for me, I was more concerned with getting rid of my spots and regulating my periods (which used to come around once in 3 months). I went on Microgynon and was on it quite happily for 4 years when I decided to switch things up a bit and try out the Mirena coil as being at university had caused me to have a disrupted schedule which meant I was often missing pills.

On the Mirena coil I did not have a period for over a year that I had it, but I knew this was quite normal with that type of contraception so I didn’t worry. It did, however, begin to cause me significant abdominal discomfort and so back I went to the GUM clinic and went back on the pill.

I have been back on the pill since around May last year and I have had minimal to no withdrawal bleeding during my pill free week. This, to me, was quite concerning so my GP advised me to stop taking the pill and use hormone free contraception (condoms, eww) for a while to see if my natural cycle will work itself out, or if I am going to need further hormone tests.

I have now been pill free for almost a month, and according to “My Days” cycle app, I am due on this week.

Having read blogs of women who came off the pill after many years and did not regain their periods for over a year (This Is Life Blood), I am intrigued to see what will happen. All I know for certain is that, if a period is to come or not, the pre-menstrual tension (PMT) is off the scale this weekend.

It is supposed to be the International Day of Happiness today, yet I have spent most of the day crying. I also spent a lot of yesterday crying, and all of Friday night. My family tell me I am irrational, and I know I am, but the feeling is just beyond overwhelming. Having had synthetically regulated hormones pumped in to my body for 6 years meant that I had forgotten what this feels like, and F*** me it’s shit.

For every woman that has to suffer PMT every month, let the tears flow, for every man that has to suffer their girlfriend or wife every month, please be understanding! It is so easy to look for someone to blame when you feel like everything is going wrong, and so often I have blamed my boyfriend when actually it is just my shitty hormones.

Then I sit back and realise that if it weren’t for these hormones, then I wouldn’t be having a cycle and might not be having my first natural period in six years this week!!

 

Woes and Worries of a Graduate Without a Future…

I usually try to keep my blog posts upbeat and positive, but tonight I need to get this off my chest.

I graduated from one of the UK’s top universities in July of last year. Since then, I have attended 5 gruelling interviews for entry level jobs and been offered one conditional offer to train as a teacher as of September this year (conditional on the basis that I pass maths and english tests, despite having got an A and a B in these at GCSE). The job I am currently doing is a 0 hours contract which I didn’t even need to do an interview for and it could very well be over in a matter of months. So this leads to the question of: what was the £27,000 for?

It is really quite depressing to think that I am in debt up to my eyeballs thanks to the increase in university fees happening at a time when, for me, it was too late to choose a different route. I was academic, I enjoyed studying, and I wanted to move away and get some independence. I didn’t have time to think of a contingency plan when Nick Clegg and David Cameron decided to triple the cost of getting a degree in this Godforsaken country. Not only this, but I am also unable to find a job that stimulates and motivates my mind. I come home from work every day bored half to death wishing that there was a change I could make. Even to be a “Spa Receptionist” you need to have experience in a “Spa Background”. I mean, what bullshit is that. I know the difference between a massage and a facial, between nail polish and body oil, and I know how to smile and say hello… What more experience could you possibly need to do that job? It is virtually impossible to find a job that doesn’t require you to have X number of years of relevant experience. To get in to marketing, you have to have a marketing degree, to get in to HR, you have to have an HR degree, I mean, it is just ridiculous.

What infuriates me the most is that I constantly see “Get Into Teaching” sponsored advertisements all over social media. People are leaving this industry in droves due to low wage and high stress levels, but it is actually something that I would love to do. HOWEVER, they are charging a further £9,000 to train as a teacher, with a measly £15,000 bursary. That equates to a total yearly earning of £6,000. WHERE IS THE LOGIC IN THIS? I have the passion, the dedication and am willing to do it regardless (I think), but I can’t help but think that the money they are wasting advertising the job to thousands of people on Facebook and Instagram who would never dream of going in to teaching, could be better spent funding placements for high achieving grads and passionate peeps so that people would have a greater incentive to try it out. The prospect of a yearly take home of £6,000 is not going to encourage many people to “GetIntoTeaching”, that’s for sure.

I wish I had known better at school, or been given more options than “Go to uni, or get a job”. Now that I am older and wiser, I see that there are great school leaver programmes and apprenticeships that I would have loved to do at 18. I may not be down £27,000 if I had known.

Apols for this miserable post and please comment if you have any advice as to what I should do next!

A x

Himalayan Salt – Fab or Fad?

My Mum has had himalayan pink rock salt in her spice cupboard for quite some time now; it’s use I was never sure of, she just told me it was good for me… More and more I saw the seemingly new buzz words “himalayan salt” before a couple of household items. Himalayan salt is now being carved in to lamps, and blended with oils to create body scrubs, just to name a few.

  

The theory behind the salt lamp madness is that the lighting of the lamp releases negative ions in to the air. Now if, like me, you zoned out of secondary school science class you will likely not have a clue what any of this ion nonsense means. I did some more research and managed to translate this in to some sort of positive energy creation. The term negative sort of seems quite conflicting in that sense but it is suggested that positive ions are released by electrical items and can exacerbate negative feelings in the home. Negative ions are more often found in nature (apparently) and therefore create a strange sense of wellbeing. I got sucked in by all this talk and this is where my question comes in as to whether the theory is fab or a fad? I am all for negative ions and completely believe that when you are immersed in nature; visiting waterfalls, rivers, chilling at the beach, you feel alive and the air feels clean and fresh and fills your lungs with the purest of the pure oxygen. I also believe that being around electricity all day can make you feel like pure CRAP (9-5 office job hater) and so maybe there is some method in the madness. I haven’t used my salt lamp enough yet to really give an opinion but I do find it peaceful and calming to have on at night.

I have also used himalayan rock salt as a bath salt/bath scrub and have found it amazing!

    
On the whole, I would recommend Himalayan rock salt on all its forms. In terms of body products it can be a great alternative to overly perfumed and chemically enhanced scrubs. In terms of lights, it prevents you from filling your bedroom with LEDs or fluorescent bulbs which ruin sleep and can give you headaches. 

A x 

A night of excess calls for a morning of all things green! 

  
Excuse my morning face. This morning’s green adventure was inspired by the incredible Deliciously Ella. I created a twist on her ‘favourite green smoothie’ by exchanging the hemp protein for pea protein and adding some honey to soothe my sweet tooth. 

I find spinach the best leafy green to use when blending because the leaves are softer and leave less bits in the drink than kale does. It also has no taste so doesn’t make it taste leafy at all.

For me, avocado gives smoothies a foamier texture, I think due to their lack of juiciness, but it’s a great way to get in some good fats and keeps you feeling full. 

Recipe

1/2 Braeburn Apple

1/2 ripe avocado 

1 frozen banana

2 cups spinach

1 tbsp honey

100ml coconut water 

100ml almond milk

1 heaped tbsp pea protein 

I certainly needed the energy boost. A great nutrient filled morning after a night of eating and drinking at (my favourite) Bills Restaurant.

A x

5 Tips To Keep Yourself Motivated Through The Year

February has arrived and the New Year, New Me resolutioners are slowly diminishing from the gym and generally all around. It is at this vital point that we must try and sustain the motivation to keep going and actually make some positive long-lasting changes in 2016.

Today was a big day for me, I finally submitted my application for teacher training and so there is already one thing going right in February and something that will keep me on track.

TIP 1: It is vital to set goals when trying to stay motivated and one of my goals is to be on a training scheme by the end of 2016. Sending off the application was just the first step in this massive journey for me. It could potentially be the beginning of the rest of my life, a new career path and something that could open so many doors for me in the future.

TIP 2: Changing up your exercise routine (or creating one) is another way to stay on top. To do this I am constantly changing my goal weights. At the moment, I am squatting 60kg for 8 reps but I previously reached a 1 rep max of 70kg and this is therefore my current aim. Once I reach that, I will increase it to something else and therefore the motivation train never ends (or so I hope, at least). My current exercise plan consists of one day working on chest and triceps, one on back and biceps, one legs and glutes and one on shoulders and abs. This means I never get bored in the gym and I feel extra bad if I miss a session due to the structure of the weekly routine! I have created the individual workout plans myself so I know that I am doing the exercises I enjoy, and those that are manageable, quick and easily facilitated in my gym environment.

TIP 3: PLAN PLAN PLAN! Over the coming months I am planning to increase the amount of cardio I do each week, with the help of my FitBit, so this is another way that I am managing to force myself to get active despite the biting cold and dark evenings! Having a plan is essential for me if I want to see any kind of success, whether you plan through lists, mind maps, setting deadlines or simply having a goal in your head and the route by which you aim to get there, this can help prevent running wildly to reach goals that are unobtainable.

 

TIP 4: Look forward to something: Having something to look forward to keeps your mind happy and forward-thinking. This is a great way to stay motivated all the way through the year as it keeps you looking to the future. This month, I am looking forward to; seeing the Danish Girl at the cinema, seeing my cousins for a birthday celebration, going to Newcastle to visit school friends and spending Valentine’s Day with my favourite person. I aim to have an average of one thing to look forward to each week/weekend and this is what I use to get me through boring days at work. I happen to have quite a busy schedule this month, but at other times the social calendar dries and I have to dig deep to find things I can look forward to. I am not someone who plans things months in advance but I can always find simple ways to keep myself excited for the future. It can be anything from a day out in London, a walk round the local park with my camera, or just a day in bed watching Netflix. If you think about something enough before it happens you can find a way to look forward to it and these (sort of) rewards will help you to challenge yourself and reach the goals you have in your mind.

TIP 5: Don’t let other people prevent you from getting where you want to be! This one is vital! As I mentioned in a previous post, having support around you is a great way to ensure success when starting a new gym routine/diet/career etc etc.. but fundamentally, you have to want to succeed for yourself. If your 2016 goal was to quit smoking, but your significant other can’t cut the habit, don’t let that be your excuse to give up. Your success could encourage someone else, so be the change you want to see! It is difficult to diet if you are the only person in your family with weight to lose, seeing others tucking in to cakes and burgers and whatever else takes their fancy may be torture when you feel that all you can look forward to is a piece of fish and some boiled veg but if you let your surroundings take control you will lose the inner-focus you previously had.

Comment below for any workout tips, I may not be a qualified personal trainer but I sure know my way round a gym!

A x

 

My own ‘healthy’ take on the traditional Indian Lassi 

 A lassi is a drink traditionally from India which consists of mostly yoghurt, water and spices, but sometimes fruit. Whilst I was in Asia travelling I ordered a mango lassi anywhere I could find one and so upon my return I was sure to find a recipe I could make at home. 

This recipe is dairy free and so is great for anyone trying to reduce their intake (like me) or who is intolerant to lactose (like my boyfriend). 

Enjoy! 

A

 
Raspberry and Mango Lassi

50-100g raspberries 

1 mango, peeled and hulled

2tbsp coconut water, but you can add as much as you like depending on consistency preferences

150ml almond milk (as said before you can mix and match coconut water and almond milk, it’s just to get the right amount of liquid in)

2 tbsp coconut Soya yoghurt

Happy blending! 

Edit: on reflection, my mum and boyfriend have told me this drink has quite a sharp taste and so to indulge a sweet tooth it maybe appropriate to add some honey and/or swap the raspberries for honey!