What LIVING IN FRANCE Taught Me About FOOD

So as you probably already know, in July I was lucky enough to live in France for the month where I did an intensive language course whilst getting the unique opportunity to live with a host family (you can read about my experiences in La Rochelle here). And thanks to this program and this opportunity, not only has my French improved tenfold, but I think the French perspective towards food has rubbed off on me a little.

Luckily for me, Delphine, the incredibly French woman I was living with, is an amazing cook with a passion for food and French cuisine. At the time of course I was grateful to eat such incredible food, but I think it’s only now that I’m truly coming to realise just how much living in France changed my perspective towards food. And here’s how I think it’s changed…

*note to the hungry* maybe go grab a snack and then read…. because some of these pictures might inspire tummy grumbling!

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Eating 1.5kg of moules caught that morning!

Freshness is key

To cook good food, you need to start with quality products. And that means fresh. After you eat truly fresh food, it will make frozen food or week old food taste like flour. I’ll never forget the time that Delphine bought 3kgs of mussels (moules in French) that had been caught that very morning. They were so fresh that they even had tiny little crabs in some of them!

And as for your bread and baguettes, if you have ever had a crispy warm baguette that’s just come out of the oven…. you will understand. If not, you are missing out and must embark to your local bakery immediately to change this.

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One of our favourite restaurants in La Rochelle. The Cave! Unlimited bread and the best rosé around!

Local

Unfortunately you generally can’t buy super fresh food from large chain supermarkets. If you want the freshest, juiciest, plumpest, ripest, most colourful produce, you need to buy local! Buying local means that the food hasn’t travelled as far, meaning less energy required to transport it. Buying local means you’re also supporting local businesses, people and their families.

This also applies to getting your morning coffee. I try to avoid going to Starbucks, Tim Hortons and Gloria Jeans. These huge companies already make enough money as it is. And this whole fair trade thing they advertise… I just don’t buy it. Instead, I’ll opt for a little cafe or street vendor. They’re usually cheaper, nicer, give better service and is all round a better experience.

Keep it simple

I think a lot of the meals I used to make in Australia were very ‘busy.’ I’d make pasta and need to put everything in it, I’d make pizza and need to put everything on it. I think it’s in our culture that we’re taught to believe that no meal is complete without meat, vegetables, potatoes. Or something along those lines.

In France, our meals would be very ‘deconstructed.’ And I mean that in a good way. We would have a bowl of tomatoes, a bowl of lettuce, a plate of steaks, goats cheese and of course some bread. I found that these meals were the most delicious! It purely relied on the quality of the produce and the flavours just did their thing on your tastebuds.

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Macaroons are a must. They’re little and filled with flavour. The perfect treat yourself treat!

Quality not quantity

In France, it’s all about quality. Our meals that we ate generally weren’t huge and didn’t leave you feeling full. But I hate that feeling anyway. Where you’re so full that it hurts to move. The meals we had were all about the quality and you were left feeling so satisfied that it didn’t matter that you weren’t full. And if you felt a bit peckish later, we would have a piece of fruit or some strawberries with mint and yoghurt!

It’s an experience

The whole journey of preparing a meal, from buying the produce, pairing it with some wine, preparation, serving and eating is a beautiful experience. It also made me realise the importance of sharing these meals with special people. Some of the best nights were spent at our dinner table sipping wine, talking about life’s problems and devouring a whole block of goats cheese (I’m looking at you Laura 😉 ).

Oh – And there’s always room for Ice Cream! (Inspired by Elly)

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Ice cream is essential!

The cons however are…

That every baguette you ever have after France is merde! 

I’m trying to carry this perspective with me. That you need to have a healthy relationship with food. Food is there to bring people together, bring pleasure, experiences, happiness and health. We need to put the best food into our bodies so we can get the most out of us! If anyone knows me, they know how much I love food and I’m a strong believer in balance. Because in a balanced diet, there’s room for icecream and macaroons… and who doesn’t want that?

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The epitome of Frenchness – baguette under arm and no care in the world

 

 

 

À Bientôt La Rochelle

So I can’t believe that it’s our last week already?! Just when you’re getting into the swing of things, finding a good coffee spot, riding your bike to class every morning, learning more and more phrases… it’s time to pack up and go. But before we get to that, let’s recap on my last week in beautiful La Rochelle.

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Class

Monday was quite different because a group of American students (the ones I went to Paris with) had returned home which left us 8 of us in the class. Monday morning we had our 20minute presentations as well! It was quite daunting because initially I thought (how am I supposed to speak for 20minutes in French?) however I chose to do my presentation on François Mitterand who was a charasmatic French President. So it was pretty cool learning about someone who made such a positive impact on the France that we know today! For those of you who didn’t know (like me) he commissioned the glass Pyramid at the Lourve! Pretty cool!

On Wednesday we got our exams back and I could immediately tell how much my French really has improved. Whilst I still have a long way to go, this program really has given me the immersion into French culture and language and has really inspired me to continue to expand my knowledge.

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The best meal I had in France! Freshly caught mussels home cooked!

Activities

As always, another busy week with our after school activities. We went to Musée du Nouveau Monde, (the  Museum of the New World) where we wandered through a stunning old building learning about the discovering of Montréal and Quebec.

On Wednesday afternoon we went to an Oyster and Mussels farm… and anyone who knows me, knows how much I LOVE seafood. We learnt about their family tradition of farming oysters and mussels and then she leant down into the water, grabbed an oyster, cut the top off, squeezed some lemon on top and handed it to me. I think my idea of ‘fresh seafood’ has forever been altered.

Friday was our last day of class… (sad face) and our teachers treated us to a little scavenger hunt/questionnaire around the city. Whilst we tried our hardest to answer all of the questions, for some reason all of these beautiful little boutiques, cafes and patisseries kept getting in our way. It was a great end to our 4 weeks of intense classes. When we returned, we received our certificate of completion and our marks. I passed everything, and scored 17/20 for my oral skills! I’m definitely very proud that my speaking skills are my strongest and most improved!

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After the program

Unlike the other girls on the program who have to return to Australia as soon as possible to start university, I’m actually going on exchange for a semester in Montreal. And because university doesn’t start there until September, I’ve got some time to kill which means… TRAVEL. And luckily for me, my Dad is joining me for 3 weeks as we venture around France, Spain and Iceland!

So on Thursday afternoon my Dad arrived in La Rochelle! It was so surreal and special for him to see the place I’ve called home for the past month. On Friday is was his birthday and Dad, along with my host mum Delphine went out for a beautiful dinner! Later on the Australian girls joined us and we drank lots of beautiful red wine and ate way too much cheese!

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Delphine, me and my Dad

Saying Goodbye

Saying goodbye to the people I’ve met here has definitely been one of the hardest things I’ve done. The Australian girls became my sisters, the American students, some of my best friends and Delphine, one of the most inspirational women I’ve ever met. Let’s just say that I had to wear my sunglasses all day to hide my eyes. The most special part is that I will always have these incredible memories with the most incredible people. Maybe one day I’ll return to La Rochelle, or maybe I’ll see my friends in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Paris, London, D.C or Sydney. Wherever it is, these memories will definitely last a lifetime and I’m extremely grateful for being given such an amazing opportunity.

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Saying goodbye to these girls was incredibly hard

Merci et à bientôt!

Paris Is ALWAYS A Good Idea

Ooh la la… I think this week has been my favourite so far! It’s hard to believe that so many incredible experiences can even squeeze into just 7 days?!

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Saint-Martin on Île de Ré

Mon anniversaire! (My birthday)

Yay! It’s my birthday! And how lucky I am to get the chance to spend my 22nd birthday in beautiful La Rochelle! And I think that all of my stars aligned because scheduled for the date of my birthday, was a day trip to Île de Ré (meaning no class, and wonderful exploration times around a beautiful island). We all met at the station and hopped on a bus to Saint-Martin, one of the most picturesque and renowned towns on Île de Ré . We met our tour guide, Frédérique, for the day in Saint Martin before we started our little scavenger hunt. Between answering questions and taking photos… the first hour flew by. Then we went to le marché (the markets) to buy some food for lunch. Everything there is fresh and local produce and I had some of the best salmon I’ve ever had. We had a cute little picnic under a shady tree just relaxing and enjoying some sunshine. Actually, it was 34 degrees so A LOT of sunshine! After lunch we got on a tuk tuk (yay) and were chauffeured around to three interesting places, a soap making warehouse, a salt flat where they make salt and la piece de resistance… a chocolate factory! That one was definitely my favourite! After our long hot day, we spent the afternoon cooling down at a very cold yet beautiful beach.

After a quick shower and an espresso for some energy… we headed into La Rochelle for some dinner. It was really special to spend my birthday with my new friends at a beautiful restaurant in a beautiful part of the world.

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The view from my window watching the sun rise.

 

 

Cooking Class

As part of our gastronomy programme, we had two cooking classes in a local restaurant. Now I’m definitely not the best chef around, but the chef who guided us through the recipes that she created was very patient and provided a lot of guidance. The best part was when we got to eat what we created! And it was magnifique!  Then we had Joel from our Oneologie class join us to assist us match wine with the food we had created. As you could imagine, the best food with the best wine made for a match made in heaven!

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Aubergine tarte and chocolate cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting a French Blogger

Because my host mother – Delphine – is the coolest person in La Rochelle, she set up a dinner date with one of her friends, Anne-Laure who is a travel blogger for her website Nana Voyage. Not only was Anne-Laure incredibly friendly, interesting and gorgeous, but we talked in French the entire time! I’m so glad that I got to meet someone as lovely as Anne-Laure!

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Paris

For the weekend, I decided to go to Paris with my American friends from class. Sadly, they were flying out on Sunday afternoon so it was great that I got to spend as much time with them as possible before they flew out. After finding a cheap hotel and train ticket, I thought… paris is always a good idea. My weekend in Paris was one of the best weekends of my life! The five of us went on a bateau mouche which was a 1 hour river cruise down the Seine at sunset. I felt extremely blessed to be able to spend such a beautiful evening with my friends. We wandered around Montmartre and even went to see the end of the Tour de France on the Champs Elysée. It was a pretty memorable experience.

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The Sacre Cœur has my heart 

I can’t believe that time has flown by so fast and that I’ve only got one week left! This week truly has been so special and I’m so grateful for all of the people who have helped make it that way!

This is a little teaser from my time in Paris…

 

Boats, Biscuits and Bordeaux

They say that time flies when you’re having fun. And if that’s the case then I think I’m having the absolute time of my life because the days are absolutely flying by! Week 2 held some pretty awesome things in store for us, leaving us with a jam packed week and scratching our heads on Sunday afternoon thinking where the week had disappeared to?

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Loving the streets of Bordeaux.

Class

This week has been pretty intense with coursework but it’s been extremely rewarding. I did a 10 minute presentation about a town in the South of France, and not only did I learn a lot about the cute little town of Cassis (it’s on the bucket list) but I spoke for 10 solid minutes in French?! How did that happen? I’m definitely feeling my French improve every single day and I’m extremely lucky that Delphine is so supportive and understanding when it comes to my French at home. I even gave directions to someone about how to get to a certain street in La Rochelle… in French… that was a pretty big accomplishment!

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Picturesque La Rochelle

BASTILLE DAY

I was so excited to be spending BASTILLE DAY (or Quatorze Juillet as they say in France) in FRANCE! It’s La fête nationale (national holiday) so of course we had the day off of class and went to Île de Ré to soak up the sunshine. A big group of us from my class went and we ate bread, cheese and wine on the beautiful sandy beach. Pretty much paradise! That night we all met up in the centre and La Rochelle was absolutely buzzing! There were markets, street performers and people everywhere! I watched the fireworks with a friend and it was pretty spectacular to see them explode above the iconic towers.

Sadly, that was the night that the Nice terrorist attacks happened. Luckily, there was nothing but celebrations and good times in La Rochelle however my phone quickly became flooded with concerned messages. AIM also quickly contacted us to ensure that we were safe and to reassure us that if we needed anything, they were there for us. As tragic as this event was, it really reaffirmed the belief of needing to travel and learn as much as possible about other people, culture and language so that we can unite together instead of being divided and turned against each other.

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My friends and I enjoying Bastille Day

Activities

This week was activity central! On Monday after class we went to the Maritime Museum. Now I’m not usually one for museums of the maritime type, but this was actually quite impressive.

Then on Tuesday afternoon we had a tour of the tours. La Rochelle is pretty impressive because of it’s complex and interesting history. One of the most defining features of La Rochelle is Tour Saint Nicholas. We were lucky enough that we had Emilie from Soupe De Co come with us. If you ever got to La Rochelle I would 110% recommend going up the top of Tour Saint Nicholas. Not only is the history fascinating, but the views are spectacular! And let’s be honest, your Instagram will love you for it.

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The beautiful view from Tour Saint Nicholas

We also had our other Oneologie class where we tasted cognac and worked on our smelling skills by trying to identify different types of flavours used in wines. Joel, who facilitates these little classes asked us about wine in Australia and we attempted to draw a map and explain the different wine regions. It was actually really interesting to put our taste buds and noses to the test to see how well we could differentiate smells. It seems that I still have some improving to do on that one!

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FRANCE 1

Weekend

And speaking of wine,  four of us organised a little getaway to Bordeaux. And lucky for us, we were able to score super cheap train tickets along with an awesome Airbnb! So Saturday morning we headed off to the station in La Rochelle and two hours later we were working out the tram system in Bordeaux! What an awesome city! We only spent two days there so it’s definitely somewhere I’d love to go back to one day!  I describe it as a ‘petit Paris.’ The apartment we stayed in was right in the city, close to a tram stop and just streets away from restaurant upon restaurant! We had a picnic by the cathedral and just wandered about the city. It was about 33degrees the whole weekend so it made the XXX fountain by the river that extra bit more special!

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A beautiful brasserie in BORDEAUX

Next week is also going to be a busy one so make sure to stay tuned to see what next week has in store!

 

 

 

LONDON // LEEDS // YARM

OK so this vlog is super random because I kept forgetting to vlog! But I really wanted to make it because it showcases some truly amazing people I’m lucky to have in my life.

I want to give a massive shout out to everyone who put me up in the UK. Your hospitality, tour guide skills, food and company was so special. You know that when you’re in Australia next, you have somewhere to go.

You can check out my YOUTUBE CHANNEL HERE

Bienvenue à La Rochelle

The time is finally here! I’m fulfilling a life long dream of spending Summer in France! So let’s rewind a tiny bit… I just finished my French minor at university, and whilst studying French for two years was of course useful, I found it really difficult when it came to speaking with French people. After talking to some friends and doing my research, I realised that the only way to really improve my French skills is to go to France myself and fully immerse myself in the language, culture and lifestyle.

And that’s where AIM Overseas comes in. They are an organisation that provide unique study abroad opportunities for students to gain academic credit in their field of study in amazing parts of the world. And whilst scrolling away, I came across an intensive French program in a seaside town in La Rochelle. I first thought, where the heck is La Rochelle? And secondly, where do I sign up? This all happened in December, 2015. Fast forward to the 3rd of July 2016 and I was touching down in the beautiful town of La Rochelle. 

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Le port de La Rochelle

ARRIVING

I managed to get a super cheap flight from London to La Rochelle and it was a huge piece of mind knowing that my host-mother would be there to pick me up. Through this program, we have the unique experience of living with a host family (a way to really put our French skills to the test). My host family consists of Delphine, my host mother, and Laura (but more about her later). There was absolutely no messing around when it came to speaking French. I could basically hear the cogs in my brain frantically churn as I tried to remember conjugation, vocab and expressions. Ooh la la…

We threw my huge suitcase in the car and were off to her apartment, located in the centre of La Rochelle. I have my own beautiful room, in a beautiful apartment, with beautiful flowers, beautiful photos and two beautiful cats. Basically, I spent the whole evening saying ‘c’est beau!’ Delphine and I get along really well! Not only has she lived an extremely interesting life, but she’s super helpful, patient and encouraging when it comes to my French. That evening she showed me where to catch the bus from and around the port. I’m so grateful that Delphine showed me around and made me feel so welcome on my first day because the first day is hard, I’m not going to lie. There’s so many words and thoughts running around your head, but it’s reassuring to know that your host family is there for you!

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Le pain et un grand sourire

CLASSES

Before you start classes, we took a little test so that we were put in the class that corresponded with our level of French. I’m glad we did have that exam because I was worried I would struggle with the content. In my class, there are students from Virginia and Washington DC, China and Oklahoma. I’m the only Australian, but it’s great because I get to meet people from all over! Classes start at 8:30am and go until 12:45pm (with a 20 minute coffee break in the middle). Our teacher is also very patient and supportive. In class the activities we do vary from grammar, reading, listening, watching news clips, doing small presentations or playing hangman.

LUNCH

Probably the most important part of the day is LUNCH! This week varied from buying crepes by the port, to making sandwiches at home, to hitting up the supermarchés and buying food for a little picnic. We get about 2 hours for lunch which is a perfect amount of time to enjoy some to die for food and soak up some sun.

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Les autres étudientes australiennes 

ACTIVITIES

The best thing (so far) about this program is that it’s not just all about learning the language. It’s about the culture, history, food and people as well. On our first afternoon, we toured the university to get our bearings. Then we had an early mark and went on a mission to find ice cream! (The ice cream here is amazing!)

On day two we had a guided tour of La Rochelle – all in French. The best part is when you actually understand what the guide is saying… it’s how you know that you’re already starting to get the hang of it. It was great to learn about this complicated and fascinating history of this place! And even better to snap lots of photos!

Throughout the week I also watched France beat Germany in the Euro 16 and saw just how much France LOVE their football, spent every afternoon at the beach, ate at least 3 baguettes, hired a bike for the month, ate 1 more baguette, went exploring the town and improved my French tenfold!

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Mon vélo pour le mois

GASTRONOMY

So when I said this program is also about the culture, history, food and people…. I mainly meant food. Another girl in the AIM program and I are taking the ‘gastronomy’ course, where we learn about the art of French cuisine, wine, cognac, cooking….. do I need to say more? It’s all centred around food. We had a bit of an introduction to our Gastronomy class this week where we talked about ‘the art of setting a table’ and also discussed various regions in France and their famous products. We then got to taste Galette, which is a simple yet delicious cake like dessert which is special to the region of La Rochelle! If I return to Australia 10kgs heavier, I will have no regrets because everything here is DELICIEUX!

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Le centre ville

OTHER EVENTS

On Sunday, Delphine took me on a cute little picnic to Île de Ré, a quaint island about 20 minutes from La Rochelle, connected to the mainland by a huge bridge! We went swimming at two beautiful beaches, went exploring a little village called Ars-en-Ré, and the markets there. We then had a magnificent picnic on the beach complete with 2 different types of baguettes, 2 types of cheese, melon and hot coffee.

That evening Laura arrived, (remember the girl I was talking about earlier?). She’s from Columbia and she’s studying French at another place in La Rochelle. She will be living with Delphine for 2 months so I’m excited to get to know her over the next month while I’m still here! And maybe learn some Spanish!

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Delphine et moi allons mangé une pique-nique

This first week has absolutely flown by! My mind is exploding with French but I feel myself improving bit by bit and day by day. I make lots of mistakes but my confidence is growing and that’s the most important thing! Can’t wait to see what this week holds!

My 5 GOLDEN RULES for travelling on the London Underground

London is a big one on a lot of people’s bucket lists. And I must admit, there’s nothing quite like descending over the city and being able to spot buildings from your window seat. You’re not sure if it’s because you’ve been seated for 14+ hours or your excitement, and your legs are shaking away. You may have heard about Heathrow’s long queues to get through customs, but you may not of heard of another very important aspect of landing at Heathrow, and that’s getting the tube to your destination.

Ah the tube. At first it’s comically exciting. And then you realise you need to manoeuvre your suitcase up and down stairs, on and off trains and in between thousands of people.

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Make sure you can carry your stuff

There’s nothing worse than literally not being able to carry your belongings. You’re trying to wheel your suitcase, your’ve got your backpack on your bag, handbag over your shoulder, shopping bag in one hand, reaching for your Oyster card in the other… It’s a nightmare. If it helps, have a little practice at home before you tackle the tube. What’s easiest and most comfortable for you? Figure it out as soon as possible so you can get your sh*t together and get from A to B easily.

Take your time

Sure the tube makes you feel like life is moving at hyper speed… but there’s no need to rush. When there’s so many people rushing around you, it’s easy to feel like you’re being the biggest pain ever and in everyone’s way. But everyone’s been there. They probably feel sorry for you that you have to lift that huge thing. around everywhere. In fact, a lot of people will offer to help carry your bag up stairs. Just take a deep breath and take your time. You’ll get there. Everyone else can just shover around you. After all, you’re the one with the massive suitcase, no one’s going to mess with that!

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Try to avoid peak hours

Peak hours on the tube vary between 6:30am-9:30am and 4:30pm-7:30pm. If at all possible, I would strongly recommend avoiding travelling with lots of luggage during these times. It’s hard enough with a small handbag, let alone everything you belong. However, if you unfortunately find yourself in that position, just make sure to take extra care so you don’t hurt yourself or someone else.

Stand up

It’s going to be much easier for you and other passengers if you put your luggage against the tube doors once they close, or against the panel. This will firstly make sure you’re not taking up too much room, it will secure your luggage, and you can lean against it for comfort and security. Trust me on this one, there’s nothing worse than someone sitting down on one of the seats, with their bag stopping someone else from sitting down. You will receive the death stare from many people.

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Smile and apologise

If you do find yourself in someone’s way (which is most definitely going to happen) just smile and say sorry. They’ll appreciate the notion and be on their way. If you get frustrated, flustered or rude, there’s no way someone’s going to offer to help you and again, the death stares will occur.

FINAL NOTES

At the end of the day, the tube is a very strange type of ecosystem with it’s own rules and laws. You never quite know if it’s safe to look someone in the eye or smile at someone… but hey, you’ll be getting off in a few stops and most likely never see them again.

Iceland: Why It’s The Most Magical Place on Earth

Iceland. The name is somewhat deceiving, because there’s so much more than ice to this wonderful country offers. With waterfalls geysirs, volcanoes, lakes, mountains, elves… it should probably be renamed Magicland or maybe even Narnia. I was lucky enough to go there in January of 2014 for a few short days (literally, there was only 3.5 hours of sunlight a day), and it’s somewhere I hope to revisit next year in Summer. After some positive procrastination of searching through some of my favourite travel blogs and personal photos, and engaging in some more procrastination now, here’s some of the most incredible things about Iceland, and why it will leave you coming back for more.

The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon. Where it can be 0-2degrees outside and a balmy 30-35degrees in the water. Whilst it is a little bit expensive, it’s totally worth it to be surrounded by snow capped mountains, in the warmth, it’s an absolute MUST! I’d recommend going either as soon as you arrive in Iceland or before you leave because The Blue Lagoon is half way between Reykjavik and the airport and that way, you won’t waste a whole day getting there and back.

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Chasing Waterfalls. I went to Gullfoss when it was half frozen and my bones were completely frozen. However there’s so many other beautiful waterfalls in Iceland that I cannot wait to go back and visit!

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It was so cold and windy that I had to hold my beanie on
Selijalandsfoss, source
Selijalandsfoss, source

Geysirs and Volcanos. The land of Iceland is extremely active and versatile. Everywhere you look, there’s a something different to capture that you’ve never seen before and may never get the chance to see again.IMG_7020Reykjavík, the people and the culture. Reykavik is a unique city (or more like a big town) homed to a lot of great little bars and restaurants, with a niche little culture. The Icelandic people I met are ridiculously nice and sweet, welcoming, helpful, and the men can definitely rock a beard. With unique history, fun facts and the world’s only penis museum, Reykjavík is a gorgeously unique place.

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View of Reykjavik from the Church –  Source
Hallgrímskirkja
Hallgrímskirkja

The VIKINGS. Enough said really.

The Sun Voyager
The Sun Voyager

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The Mountains, the landscape, the sky and the land. Iceland is like anything I’ve ever seen on earth. And I can’t wait to go back again (hopefully in Summer) and do and see even more!

And here’s my bucketlist for next time I hit up Iceland!

Ride Icelandic Ponies

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Go Snorkelling at Silfra-  the Eurasian and North American continental plates

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And see the Northern Lights!

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Do you have any other recommendations for when I go back to Iceland? Do you have any favourite photos to share? Let me know in the comments below!

xxx A

An Essential Guide To London

Lately I’ve been asked a lot from my lucky jet setter friends, ‘what are the essential things to do and see in London?’ I usually reply with ‘depends if you want to see the touristy London, or the real London?’ And whilst I only lived in London for a year and am still no expert on the real London, here’s my list of awesome things that you must see and do in the fabulous city of history and culture, LONDON!

Don't be afraid to do some sight seeing at night! You get a beautiful different perspective on things minus all the tourists.
Don’t be afraid to do some sight seeing at night! You get a beautiful different perspective on things minus all the tourists.

Photo Ops

1. Big Ben. Of course.

2. The Red Telephone Box. Again. Of course. And don’t worry, they’re EVERYWHERE!

'Ello Govna
‘Ello Govna

3. Piccadilly Circus TDK neon signs. Kind of unmissable if you venture into the city.

4. Tower Bridge. So much history and beauty. Get a good shot from the Southbank.

996021_731518820196469_1823809950_n 5. Buckingham Palace. Obviously.

Culture

1. Camden (Markets). Pretty much one of my favourite parts of London. You can walk around aimlessly for hours and find a good feed and bargain along the way. With music, buskers and weird and wonderful things everywhere, it’s a must see. Plus an amazing music scene! Amy Winehouse ring any bells? This was her territory.

Camden with my girl
Camden with my girl

2. Brick Lane. Possibly one of the coolest places ever. Located in East London and just a short walk from Liverpool Street, Brick Lane is a hipsters paradise. Amazing pop up food stalls, underground vintage markets (I bought my pair of Converse from there for 20pounds), street performers and AMAZING Indian cuisine. If you want cheap and authentic Indian then this it the place to go. Hidden between the high rises of Liverpool Street, it really is a hidden gem.

3. Covent Garden. Beautiful restaurants and a few little markets hidden around, conveniently located right in the middle of the city.

Food

1. Carnaby Street. Lots of cute little restaurants and bars scattered along the street it’s a great find and a lot of fun.

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2. Any markets. Camden, Brick Lane, Southbank, Notting Hill, Borough Markets…

3. Browns for High Tea. If you’re in London then you must indulge and have a high tea experience. I was fortunate enough to go with some family members and it was a simply divine dining experience.

Expensive but beautiful little cakes
Expensive but beautiful little cakes

Galleries and Museums

1. The British Museum. I went here about 4 or 5 times and still didn’t see everything! Make sure you don’t miss Cleopatras Mummy or the Rosetta Stone.

2. The National Gallery. Prime location, overlooking Trafalgar Square. Again, a day simply is not enough but my (biased) recommendation is checking out the Romantic’s artwork.

3. The National Portrait Gallery. Adjacent to the National Gallery, it’s worth the detour to spend an hour or two here. When I visited, there was an exhibition on Miss Marilyn Monroe and I was in love.

Chillin in Trafalgar Square
Chillin in Trafalgar Square

History

1. The Tower of London. If you want to dive deep into 13th Century London, this is the place to do it!

2. Shakespeare’s Globe. If you’re a poetry/literature nut like me then you’ll probably swoon when you see it. If you’re not too keen on paying super high prices, every now and again they have deals on tickets.

3. John Keats House in Hamstead Heath. Again, if you’re an English Romantic Literature fan… you CANNOT miss this. I studied John Keats in English at high school and have since had a fascination of him and his work. Being at his actual house and in the surrounding neighbourhood was so inspiring and overwhelming, I may have shed a tear or two.

Swooning over Mr Keats
Swooning over Mr Keats

A Little Something Extra

1. The Heron Tower. Located just near Liverpool Street tube station is this fabulous 40 floor tower. If you dress up pretty nicely and say to the guy at the door ‘I’m just going up for drinks’ then he’ll let you past. Press number 38 and you’ll shoot up in a glass elevator. Up the top of the building is something spectacular. An amazing 5star bar, a sushi restaurant and a fantastic view (which is free). I’ve been up there a few time and not purchased anything, just to check out the view and it’s splendid every time. If you feel like splurging, why not enjoy a glass of wine whilst overlooking the spectacular city.

Some of the view from the Herron Tower
Some of the view from the Herron Tower

Things to give a miss

1. The Tate Modern. OK if you love modern art… go for it. Even with my open mind, I still didn’t get it. Any of it.

2. The London Eye. Look at it from a distance. It’s not worth wasting the time in the huge line or money.

3. Changing of the Guard. I never went and I’m glad I saved myself a few painful hours. There’s waaaaaay too many people, you can’t really see anything and it’s all rather uneventful.

Do you have any recommendations?

xxx A