Travel: 10 Things in Brighton

Oh Brighton. With the exception of Edinburgh (and London of course!) it’s probably my favourite UK city. I mean, gorgeous shops to browse, sea to paddle in AND fish’n’chips to nom on?! There’s not a lot more this gal can ask for!

Now, generally I just spend a few hours. With one of my best friends living close to Brighton, the other in Kent and me in London, our meetups are split over the three locations. It generally means we spend a lot of time catching up (and shopping!) and not a huge amount of time enjoying where we actually are. That said, my main holiday of 2016 was a few days in Brighton – and there’s definitely enough for a short-break…

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1. Go up the British Airways i360

Now, I’m in two minds about this one. We went up a few weeks ago, and whilst the views are stunning – it’s over-priced. At £13.50 for an on-the-day student ticket it was an expensive half-an hour. With no shade in the ‘holding pen’ before you board and it being basically a fish-bowl it was also extremely hot. Perhaps as a date-night (taking advantage of the cocktail bar) or timing it for sunset would be better!

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2. Wander Around The Lanes

Oh, the lanes. My favourite part of Brighton. I’ve enjoyed many hours spent wandering around the jewellery lanes, staring at all the sparkly-pretty things. However it’s the ones further away from the seafront that I love. Cute homeware stores, vintage clothing, mulled wine in winter – it’s my idea of heaven.

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3. Relax on the Beach & Explore the Pier

Obviously I can’t do a post on Brighton and mention either the beach or the pier! I’ve spent many hours on Brighton beach – watching the sunset with W way back in 2012, sunbathing, catching up with my besties and eating far too many fish and chips! If you’re there for the day then I recommend pitching up early to get a good spot (it gets insanely busy in the summer – though walking towards Hove means it’s a lot quieter!). I’d also spend the pennies on some chairs, at only £2.50 for the day they are definitely worth it.

Then there’s the pier. I can never resist a round on the two-penny machines – and whilst the rides are over-priced they can be fun. There will be forever a soft-spot in my heart for my first loop-the-loop rollercoaster!

4. Play Mini-Golf

I do love a bit of mini-golf, and Brighton’s one was a goodie – and not just because I won! I’d recommend avoiding the one half way down the Volk’s Railway as we thought it was horrendously expensive for a game!

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5. Get the Train to the Marina

The Volk’s Railway, just to the east of the pier, is Britain’s oldest electronic railway. Originally built in 1883 it runs from near the pier to the marina – so is a great way to see more of the seafront. Note that it’s currently closed for restoration!

Fun fact: me and W took a picnic up to this end of the beach last year. We were halfway through before we realised we’d stumbled into the nudist area…

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6. Visit The Sealife Centre

Now again this is something that I question is worth the money – but only because I think the other centres are a little better – Brighton’s is a little small and cramped for my liking. That said we enjoyed a turtle feeding demonstration and, as we got in at 9am, it was a relatively quiet way to spend a few hours before the sun came out.

7. Walk Through the South Downs

I confess I’ve never actually done this – but this bit of countryside looks SO pretty from the train (and i360!) that I’ve always wanted to do it. There’s plenty of routes, plus the 100 miles of the South Downs Way to explore. There’s even foodie routes connecting pubs and afternoon-tea rooms! Perhaps that’s a goal to achieve in 2018…

8. Have a Night On the Town

Another one I confess I haven’t done, but Brighton is famous for it’s nights out. If you’re up for a quieter evening, try the alcoholic milkshakes at Burger & Cocktails, or All Bar One for strong cocktails and decent music.

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9. Explore the Museums

Whilst I much prefer to enjoy my time in Brighton outside, there’s a good chance you’ll experience some proper English weather. Whilst not really marketed well, Brighton does have some pretty good museums. I’ve visited and enjoyed both the Booth Museum of Natural History and the Toy & Model Museum. The Booth Museum is not for the faint-hearted (it’s basically full of taxidermy) but it’s free and I personally found it super-interesting.

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10. Eat – Lots!

The key to my heart, if you’ve not already guessed, is food. I’m definitely one of those people who live to eat! Luckily Brighton has a vast array of restaurants to keep all tummies (and budgets) happy. It’s home to some great chain-restaurants (Wahaca and Franco Manca I’m looking at you…) as well as some independents. We’ve loved Wai Kika Moo Kau for vegetarian and vegan food, and there’s enough cake shops in the Lanes to try a new one each visit. We’ve enjoyed afternoon tea, fish’n’chips, and of course there’s Choccywoccydoodah. I’m also desperate to eat at The Salt Room too…

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Have you ever been to Brighton? Any hints and tips for my next visit?

Review: Skosh, York

I left planning York far too late. We booked trains, booked hotels and then pretty much forgot about the holiday until the week before we left. And that caused panic. We’re both massive foodies so arriving somewhere without any real idea of where we’re eating is a nightmare, not to mention I need several days to look at a menu and decide on what I’m ordering. Not to mention it seemed like a lot of places were closed on Sunday/Monday nights! I panic-asked around (a.k.a tweeted…) and got a few recommendations. Including Skosh.

 photo Skosh_zpsv9pzgchb.jpgA quick glance at the menu and we had to visit. The seasonal menu was just full of things we love to eat, all with innotivate little twists, and the price point was so much lower than anywhere similar in London. Problem? The website showed it was fully-booked. I rang anyway (nothing like the lure of delicious food) and secured their Chef’s Table for Sunday lunch. We were sat on high-stools overlooking the cooking and plating area – and actually it was perfect. The stools were comfortable and we could see all the action. I’m definitely doing to be cooking cabbage on a griddle pan in future! But the food. Oh the food…

 photo Skosh York Review 21_zpsfmuscwpc.jpgSkosh is full of ‘snacks’ and ‘small plates’ – the idea is you order 2-3 each (ideally sharing between you!), they are brought out in the most complementary sequence and you can then order more if you fancy. As the menu is (quite rightly!) seasonal a few bits and bobs have changed since we left, and I can’t remember the exact ingredients of some dishes – but there were no duds at all. Absolutely everything was delicious, it was a dining experience I really didn’t want to end! The style of the food is difficult to describe – they’re taking classic British ingredients and giving them a slight Indian and Middle-Eastern twist. Whatever it is, it works!

We started with bread, served with a smooth and creamy butter and gunpowder spice. This was addictively good. Some swear you can tell the quality of the restaurant by it’s bread, and whilst I’m not completely convinced (I’ve had excellent bread and poor food) it did give high hopes. The star here was the gunpowder spice. I couldn’t tell you what was in it, but it was good. So good. Bread and butter hasn’t been the same since.

 photo Skosh York Review 7_zpsdjls1lye.jpg photo Skosh York Review 8_zpsccrwn1bu.jpgOur first ‘plate’ was cured halibut, wild garlic, watermelon and black sesame. This salad was light, fresh, flavorsome and delicious. Despite the sweetness from the melon, it was also intensely savoury. Yum. I’ve only recently been able to stomach cured/raw fish and this is the best example I’ve tried. It was also a stunningly presented plate of food – everything we ate was beautiful, but watching this be plated up, flowers placed on using tweezers, really showcased the care and attention used by the chefs.

 photo Skosh York Review 10_zpsfbhlmxmv.jpg photo Skosh York Review 14_zps5wx4odu6.jpg photo Skosh York Review 15_zpsuouyekub.jpgSecond was another ‘snack’ – Skosh fried chicken with a brown butter hollandaise. The chicken was extremely crispy whilst remaining juicy, and the hollandaise so good I scooped the leftovers up with a spoon. It had been passed through a siphon gun so it was light and fluffy, almost mousse like. Perfectly seasoned and just delicious.

Next up was something else from the fryer – crispy saddleback pork and rhubarb ketchup. The ketchup is switched up throughout the seasons, but I thought the rhubarb we ate was spectacular. It cut through the pork with a really sutble sweet-sharp flavour. The pork also fell apart with the slight press of a fork, it’s outer crispy and it’s inner so soft and melt-in-the-mouth.

 photo Skosh York Review 18_zpsavfjj8by.jpg photo Skosh York Review 17_zps6ekxgpjq.jpgWhat followed was W’s dish of the day – Skosh’s take on kedgeree. Some more cured fish (smoked haddock this time), mixed with radish and samphire, served with a crisp, spiced rice cracker and a cured egg yolk. Light, tasty and just delicious. Unfortunately I don’t think this is on the menu anymore, but it was a definite highlight of the meal.

 photo Skosh York Review 28_zpsh1rn930r.jpg photo Skosh York Review 24_zpsqej1jgs6.jpgNext was my favourite – and one of the two ‘bigger plates’ we ordered (only really differentiated on the menu by their price point, being around £5 more than the smaller plates). Crisp lamb belly, sumac yoghurt, pickled onion and pomegranate were served with a griddled hispi cabbage. The burnt ends of the cabbage had a bitterness than was perfectly tempered by the sweetness of the pomegranate and richness of the lamb. A kind of summery roast dinner, I loved it!

 photo Skosh York Review 34_zpsglygggmv.jpg photo Skosh York Review 32_zpspgdfsqee.jpgWhilst not hungry by this point, we did decide to add in another big plate to our original order – mainly because it sounded so intriguing we didn’t want to miss out. A large piece of cod was served ‘tandoor style’ with grilled pineapple, fresh coconut and a perfect lentil dhal. I was a bit suspicious of the pineapple combo (it’s not a fruit I particularly like as it is!) but it worked so well with the heavy spices and the delicate fish. This is a plate that could have easily been inedible had the balance not been right, so it really shows the skill level of the chefs.

 photo Skosh York Review 39_zpsankof4wh.jpg photo Skosh York Review 35_zpstckjmj2k.jpg photo Skosh York Review 37_zps6quxw582.jpg photo Skosh York Review 40_zpsiolxs57r.jpgAnd then, of course, it was pudding (we were on holiday after all!). We ordered the Peanut Milkshake with Caramel Donut to kick-start out sweet fix. Both perfectly made, though perhaps the less exciting option…

Much more interesting was the white chocolate sphere with roasted banana and yuzu – a balance of textures, temperatures and flavours that got more delicious and more intriguing as you ate. By far and away one of the best puddings I’ve ever eaten.

We stumbled out, slightly over-full and wishing we could have eaten more. Now if only we had something this good, at this price point, in London…

What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever visited?

Lifestyle: A Few Days In York

This little break feels so long ago now. A few days away at the beginning of April, designed to make sure I was relaxed and well-rested ahead of my exam period. We wanted somewhere were we could eat lots and explore – and with cobbled lanes, plenty of museums, interesting little shops, cafes and cosy pubs York fitted the bill perfectly.

 photo A Few Days in York 26_zpszho4rki2.jpg photo A Few Days in York 5_zps4z8i7h5s.jpg photo A Few Days in York 6_zpsikgjsikj.jpgThe train up from London takes around 2 hours, and booking far enough in advance meant it was cheap. Rooms in a Travelodge were also a bargain (top tip: saying you’re travelling for business generally gets you a room on a ‘quiet’ floor which is great for a good nights sleep). This meant we were free to splurge on good food and wine for our trip – after all we were on holiday!

 photo A Few Days in York 1_zpso0fn5at9.jpg photo A Few Days in York 2_zpszqgxnip1.jpg photo A Few Days in York 3_zpsnyh8pzkq.jpg photo A Few Days in York 4_zpsb9mxwx4f.jpgWe kicked off with a meal at York’s up and coming best restaurant, Skosh. They’ve received rave critic reviews despite only opening in 2016 and I can see why. Everything we ate was absolutely delicious, the service fantastic – and we ate at the chef’s table so we could see all the cooking going on. We only managed to get a lunchtime slot as it’s pretty difficult to get a table, but if you can squeeze in it’s well worth it.

The evening we whiled away in Pairings; I would love something like this near me in London. Each order a flight of drink (red wine for me, port for him) and customised our own meat and cheeseboard. Several hours of chatting and giggling later, we both concluded it was the perfect way to spend the first night of our break.

 photo A Few Days in York 18_zpsahcpyiec.jpg photo A Few Days in York 16_zps1iw5r5rq.jpg photo A Few Days in York 15_zpswzu3qhxt.jpg photo A Few Days in York 14_zpsdtxjxfpp.jpg photo A Few Days in York 13_zpsryiettmn.jpg photo A Few Days in York 12_zpstqafbsau.jpg photo A Few Days in York 11_zpsc58rkmam.jpg photo A Few Days in York 10_zpsseskg0zp.jpg photo A Few Days in York 9_zpsojjnfly7.jpg photo 2017-04-03 13.05.05_zpsjkkv0uhg.jpg photo 2017-04-03 11.51.57_zpszcsxhckj.jpg photo A Few Days in York 7_zps6zatirui.jpgAfter a quick brunch in Pig & Pastry, we spent our first morning in the Railway Museum. Far more exciting than it sounds, we could have probably spent longer than the morning in there. However seeing as the sun came out and treated us to a very warm afternoon, lazing about in the Park felt like an amazing use of our time. I also picked up a gorgeous bath-bomb from The Yorkshire Soap Company – I had to make advantage of having access to a bath, even in a Travelodge!

 photo A Few Days in York 28_zpsc62bdu8l.jpg photo A Few Days in York 27_zpsig40e78g.jpg photo A Few Days in York 25_zpsknyl3fxx.jpg photo A Few Days in York 24_zps5cvviu3h.jpg photo A Few Days in York 23_zpsfztpnfai.jpg photo A Few Days in York 21_zps96tnngjt.jpg photo A Few Days in York 20_zps0tuww6ba.jpg photo A Few Days in York 19_zpsf8cga7e4.jpg photo A Few Days in York 31_zpsnxuxylsc.jpg photo A Few Days in York 30_zpsl2sw4odl.jpg photo A Few Days in York 29_zpsiwlfdrue.jpg photo A Few Days in York 33_zpscl5eeann.jpg photo A Few Days in York 35_zpszxxrek8m.jpg photo A Few Days in York 34_zps4asfi3jh.jpgOur final day started in Brew & Brownie, before a walk around the City Walls and a mid-morning nap (the breakfasts were huge). The rest of the day was spent wandering the shops, exploring the Shambles and generally enjoying ourselves. Obviously we hadn’t quite eaten enough food, because we grabbed lunch at Betty’s. We avoided the cliche of afternoon tea but enjoyed their Swiss food. I loved my carb heavy Alpine Macaroni, filled with bacon, potatoes and pasta, whilst W’s Rösti was pretty much perfect.

There was a lot we didn’t manage to do in York. We just missed the reopening of the Viking Centre by a matter of days, and we didn’t manage to go and visit the Minster. We did manage (inadvertently I might add!) to have a little kiss under Heart of Yorkshire stained-glass window – legend says if you do you’ll stay together forever, though he’s stuck with me regardless. I’d have also liked to see a couple of museums, and we both want to explore the Yorkshire Moors – guess we’ll just have to head back up there soon!

Have you ever been to York?

Lifestyle: Different Things to do in London

It’s official, I have fallen completely and utterly in love with London. I was enjoying living down in the Big Smoke, but it took my trip up to the Midlands at Christmas to make me realise just how much I love our capital. And other than waxing lyrical about my love for the city, I’ve decided it’s the perfect timing to pen up some of the underrated areas I’ve found over the last few months.

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A photo posted by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

Wander Around Victoria

During my placement year I spent hours in Victoria Station (as I’m sure many of those who rely on Southern rail have!). I only wish I’d ventured outside and down the road before now, I didn’t realise quite how Instagrammable the streets of Victoria and Pimlico are! Plus it doesn’t hurt that both Peggy Porschen and Dominique Ansel are so close!

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Ride the “Olympic Slide*”

Way back in December I was invited to Stratford to ride the Arcelor Mittal Orbit. At nearly 180m it’s the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide – and when they say it’s tall, it’s bloody tall! It takes around 40 seconds to descend the slide, circling around the ArcelorMittal Orbit 12 times through loops and curves, including a tight corkscrew section that definitely got a few screams out of me!

It’s pretty pricey (full disclosure here – I was invited to slide free of charge, but we picked up a ticket for W using his student discount) at £15 per adult, but the views are pretty good, and the slide both exciting and scary in pretty equal measure. Plus it was an excuse to have a quick wander around the Olympic Park, having only visited way back in 2011 on a Geography field trip when it was still a muddy building site! I only wish it hadn’t been quite so foggy on the day we went up, though I quite like the atmospheric pictures I managed to take.

Oh, and there’s now also the change to abseiling down the structure. I’m hugely tempted!

Indulge in Creme Egg Delights on the Southbank

I got super-excited when I first ventured out of the house on the 27th December – because sat by the tills in Waitrose were the Creme Eggs! I haven’t succumbed to the temptation quite yet, but I guarantee I’ll be getting my fix soon. There’s nothing like feeling sick on the sugar overload that is a Creme Egg!

And even more excitingly – the Cadbury Creme Egg Café is back (with a twist!) and this time it’s touring the UK. The Cadbury Creme Egg Hunting Lodge will include a takeaway with an offering of gooey Creme Egg S’mores to-go, with some extra treats if you’ve got enough time to stop awhile. The Lodge will be visiting London, Bristol, Leeds and Edinburgh – unfortunately tickets have sold out but there’s limited space for walk-ins. I know I’ll be queuing!

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Walk Between Kensington & Knightsbridge

One of my favourite walks goes from Imperial College, through cobbled streets (lined with the prettiest multi-coloured cottages), coming out just down the road from Harrods. I can indulge several passions in one short trip. Taking Instagram shots of houses, window shopping (shoes are my latest obsession – I’m desperately hunting down the perfect wedding shoes) and browsing some of my favourite homeware boutiques.

I’d also highly recommend a trip to the (free!) Design Museum if you’re in the area. Be warned though, it’s quite tight for space around the exhibits and I’ve heard it’s packed at weekends!

Planning on visiting one of my favourite London places of 2016 today – Spitalfields Market. Perfect for a rainy Sunday!

A photo posted by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

Get Spendy in Spitalfields

Another one of my favourite places to spend a Sunday afternoon – particularly if it’s raining as other than the short walk from Liverpool Street you’re pretty much undercover the entire time. It’s full of quirky buys (I’m class it as the ‘grown-up’ Camden – though I love Camden just as much), vintage stalls, leather wares, upcoming fashion designers, beauty boutiques, more homeware stores and glorious smelling food popups.

I took a trip with one of my best friends during January and we had the best time browsing, lusting over bits and bobs for our future houses and hunting down a new coat for me. It does’t help that Kontidor and Cook have their store nearby, they make the best brownies…

These are just a handful of some of my favourite bits and bobs to do in London – there’s so much more I have to see (Portobello Market and Kew Gardens are high on my list!).

What are your favourite things to do in London?

Lifestyle: Notes to my Fellow Commuters

I’ve been doing my daily commute for just under three months now. It’s not a part of the day I particularly enjoy; I pretty much despise the tube, despite having a relatively ‘easy’ journey. But one thing that has made it bearable is the opportunity to people-watch – I’m such a nosy lady! Over the last month or so I’ve been jotting down humorous notes from my commute, purely because I couldn’t bear not to share them on here!

So, ladies and gents, mind the closing doors and welcome to the life of my commute…
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To the Lady with the Earphones

Please be so kind as to NOT run for the train again. For one, you clearly weren’t going to make that train. And two, if your earphone hadn’t gotten caught inside the train, with you on the platform, you wouldn’t have to continue running along the platform attached to the train. If that does happen, please be so kind as to detach your earphones from your phone. You know, the easier option. Rather than wait for someone to hit the emergency stop buttom.

You found your misfortune hilarious that morning. What you don’t seem to understand is that for all those people on that packed train, and the people waiting for the City-bound train behind it, you delayed us all for half an hour. So please, don’t run for the train again.

To the Man Reading an Erotic Novel

Just no. And if it makes 50 Shades look like a fairytale, no, no, no, no, no!

I admit I should probably stop glancing over people’s shoulder to see what they are doing (discreetly, I must add, and only on this particular occasion because I’d left my Kindle on the sofa at home). But what I don’t need to see are a few, ahem, naughty words. What I really don’t need hear after seeing this is your heavy breathing. Please leave it until you’re home.

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To The Tube Network (TFL I guess!)

I honestly don’t mind if there are severe delays, as long as I know about them. Being on the platform for 30 minutes with no tube and no explanation isn’t fun. Being stuck halfway to work, unable to go towards work, unable to go backwards to an alternative route, is even worse. If I know that the District Line isn’t going to get me to work on time, I have plenty of options – including one that gives me this view. Far nicer than a sweat armpit (joys of being short!), I’m sure you’d agree…

To The Tourists at The Barriers/Escalators/Doors

Please refrain from getting your map out and checking it whilst blocking the way for people who do know where they are going. Please don’t stand and have a conversation just outside the ticket barrier. I apologise if I bump into you, but if you stand directly in the way there often isn’t enough room to get around you at rush hour.

To The Teenagers on Halloween Weekend

It was 11.30am. It was cold. You were already drunk, very scantily clad (what’s wrong with a ghost costume?!). I appreciate I sound like a moaning minnie here, and actually I don’t mean to be. I’m just very impressed at their dedication to Halloween.

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To All Those Who Saw Me Struggle & Looked Away

One thing that has really surprised me has been the amount of guys, usually in their twenties/thirties, who will offer a seat to any females before sitting down themselves. Yes, feminists may be outraged, but I kind of like this old-fashioned chivalry.

Now, let me get one thing clear before I start this rant; I don’t expect to be given a seat. I don’t have a disability, I’m certainly not pregnant, there are many people who normally need a seat before I do. I will always offer my seat up if I feel someone needs it more.

But the other day I clearly could have done with a seat, or a hand, or just some extra space. My study materials had been delivered and I was carrying a very heavy (with weight printed on the side of the box), very awkwardly sized box. It was very difficult to hold, being bigger in circumference than my arms could reach. I managed to get a seat straight off and was unbelievably grateful. Then a heavily pregnant women got on. No-one offered her their seat, so I did. She saw the box on my lap and tried to say no. Still no-one offered her a seat. In the end, she took my seat. I have no problem about that, I don’t really have a problem that the other passengers saw me struggle to stand with said box and continued to ignore it. What I took objected to was the man, who saw me give up that seat, dart in and claim it when the pregnant lady left. Thanks mate.

To Cross-Word Man

There’s a guy I see almost every morning who sits and does the crossword in whatever newspaper he picks up each day. By the time he gets off the tube he invariably has finished it – utmost respect to this man from someone who has never finished a crossword yet.

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To The Bum-Squeezers

I’d read a couple of Rachel’s posts about sexual assault on the Tube before, but still had quite a naive attitude towards it. Since September, I’ve had my bum squeezed on no-less than three occasions. I’ve not managed to catch anyone at it yet (they’ll get an earful), but apparently this is acceptable behaviour.

This is one of the reasons why I prefer to get a seat. At least then no-one can grab my ass.

 photo Daily Commute 5_zpsfl9hmy4h.jpgAnd that is just the result of a few short months commuting from Putney to City. I’m sure they will be a lot more over the coming years, as a shorter commute is unlikely to ever be viable (because I like living on the outskirts – I get a seat!). I have to admit it’s nicer that my previous commute from last summer. And hey, at least these amusing moments lighten up the identical journey, day after day…

PS – all of the pictures within this post were shot on my weekday commute – with the exception of the Putney Bridge one. Because trust me, the platform is NEVER that empty on a weekday! And in the week between scheduling this and getting it live – there’s been a guy with a portable DVD player (I’d forgotten they existed!) alongside a stack of 10 DVDs, and the hilarious platform guy usually found in Victoria was working at Monument. He definitely brightened up my journey home!

Do you have a long commute? Any funny stories to tell?

Lifestyle: Playing Tourist in London

Playing tourist in what is now our home town felt a little strange at first; dashing around London sight-seeing. The day was born out of us not having a clue what to do – one of the weirdest things about finishing our LDR and moving in together is not making weekend plans in advance.

 photo Playing Tourist in London 11_zpsjpyqk6dw.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 2_zpsqbehmdkg.jpgI decided that I’ve never seen Big Ben close-up (and also thought I’d get a good Instagram shot, #lifeofablogger). Will wanted to go further down the Thames to take some snaps of the architecture for uni. Taking a riverboat tour was the perfect answer – and despite it being the first chilly day of Autumn, it was a good shout. I’m not going to lie, I couldn’t feel my hands by the time we got off the boat, and a steaming cup of tea was pretty much all I could think about. Moaning aside, I loved the tour we went on. It was the cheapest option we found from Westminster Pier (I’m still a student at heart!) and didn’t include a specific tour guide. What it did include, however, was boat staff who knew the interesting little titbits such as where scenes in Oliver Twist were filmed, and that the Spinx around Cleopatra’s Needle are actually the wrong way round from what was intended.

 photo Playing Tourist in London 13_zpsqyucwb7k.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 14_zpsnd8fesra.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 12_zpsmwlpkbt6.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 10_zpsuktddrbn.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 8_zpszcqsyg6v.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 7_zpsv9v0lrlz.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 6_zpsbieszkcc.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 5_zps2mqj8psk.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 4_zpsggzeoffk.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 9_zpspy3agve2.jpgOne thing I loved about taking a boat along the Thames was the different perspective I got of the city. It was so obvious how London is a mix of old and new, yet that’s something that’s totally overlooked when I’m wandering around on a daily basis. I couldn’t believe how traditional the buildings in the City were at the waterfront, compared to the modern Walkie Talkie and Cheesegrater. I could also see my own office – I wasn’t aware how tall the building was until I saw it from this perspective!

 photo Playing Tourist in London 18_zpsrxgsyu0k.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 20_zpsda3es6pt.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 19_zpsen3srmyc.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 17_zpsmw1ijlhb.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 16_zpshpr70r8w.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 15_zpszukwryii.jpgWe got the boat all the way to Greenwich, where we stopped for a quick picnic underneath our umbrella. I feel in love with the bit of Greenwich I saw, and have popped it high on the list for returning to on my next spare weekend (the food market looked insane!). I can imagine it’s pretty magical in the run-up to Christmas too…

 photo Playing Tourist in London 23_zpsfw6g13ce.jpg photo Playing Tourist in London 28_zpskn4nzbd6.jpgOur tourist-ing continued the following weekend, with us heading to Camden for a spot of shopping and street-food eating. We decided to make the most of the unexpectedly warm and sunny day (seriously, it was NOT forecast, but greatly appreciated!) and walk along the canal from Kings Cross. This is undoubtedly one of my favourite walks in London, especially as it involves walking through the spot where W popped the question.

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Ice-cream Cookie Sandwich anyone…? Cheers @blutopicecream for my new addiction!

A photo posted by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

 photo Playing Tourist in London 27_zpstyzazpj1.jpgWe lunched on Korean Burritos (him) and Fried Chicken & Chips (me) – a decision I did come to regret an hour of so later as my stomach apparently doesn’t love SFC as much as I do. I’m gutted as it meant I couldn’t quite appreciate my Ice-Cream Sandwich as much as I wanted. Guess there’s an excuse to head back…!

I’ve loved playing tourist in London, sure the hoards of actual tourists are annoying (I got jammed against a wall at one point whilst a group were trying to get by, not a highlight of the weekend!), sure there are other European cities that are far prettier. But if definitely made me a bit more appreciative of London, and I’ve now got plenty of other spots on my bucket list to tick off. Kew Gardens is next (thanks Katy for that bit of London based wander-lust!)…

What’s your favourite spot in London?

Lifestyle: A Few Days in the Lake District

A photo-heavy post, this! I originally wasn’t going to blog about my team-building trip to the Lake District. I didn’t take my camera, I was covered in mud the vast majority of the time, hell I didn’t even take any makeup other than mascara! I took a few snaps on my phone, did the obligatory Instagram shots – and then couldn’t not share. Turns out my phone camera can take some pretty good photos when it feels like it!

 photo Lake Windermere 11_zpsmo8exmkq.jpg photo Lake Windermere 8_zpsn8huxbhd.jpg photo Lake Windermere 12_zpsazsowzfg.jpg photo Lake Windermere 7_zpsumylgcoi.jpgWith no information bar “take clothes you don’t mind getting wet and muddy” I did spend a good chunk of summer stressing about it, and the best part of £50 stocking up on Primark jogging bottoms and t-shirts. In the end it wasn’t *too* terrifying. Sure, I freaked out whilst climbing a bloody tall tree, y arms ached from canoeing (across Lake Windermere, no less) for days after. I was sleep-deprived, full of cold, and stuffed far-too-full of delicious food (full fry-ups, hot lunches and three course dinners, plus cheese and biscuits – I’m glad I wasn’t trying to squeeze my ass into a skinny jeans!). But it was a damn good break.

Of course, it helped we were in beautiful, stunning surroundings. We were around 100 yards from the shoreline of the Lake, which was serenly misty in the early mornings. I developed the habit of taking my first cup of tea on a short wander, pre-breakfast, which was when most of the photos were taken. If I’m honest, I’m gutted I didn’t take my phone canoeing (because clumsy). The weather we had that afternoon was perfect, hot, sunny, blue skies. The other side of the Lake was just as picturesque. It’s only a shame my phone didn’t manage so well in low no light situations – we went on a 10pm hike up a ‘mountain’ one evening. The stars were breathtaking – you just don’t get a sight like that in London!

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 photo Lake Windermere 15_zps69fhwrlp.jpg photo Lake Windermere 13_zpsfnwylbgj.jpg photo Lake Windermere 2_zpshl2hky9s.jpgFYI, based on previous attempts, I knew I couldn’t rock climb. I’ve never managed to get much further than a couple of moves up a wall, my upper body strength was nil. So when I saw the very tall tree, complete with rock-climbing bits hammered in, and the bell at the top we had to ring, I said “no way.” For me, knowing I would fail, knowing that a whole group of people would see me fail, I couldn’t do it. A lot of encouragement later, I gave it a go. To my surprise, after a bit of coaching from the instructor, I shot up the first half. I began to realise I COULD rock climb. So I looked down. And realised I had a fear of heights. But I managed to pull myself together, I managed to carry on, I managed to ring that bell – and let me tell you, it was the sweetest sound I’d heard in a while.

 photo Lake Windermere 9_zpsbi0hrsyz.jpgI’ve never quite made up my mind about whether I’m a city girl or a country-bumpkin, and this trip definitely didn’t help to make that decision. I love London, love the hustle and bustle, I’m ‘dazzled by the bright lights of the city.’ But I love the fresh air, the scenery, the quietness of the countryside.

Are you a country-lover or city-person? Have you ever been to the Lake District?

 

Travel: A Wander Through Dovedale

One of my favourite childhood memories involves loading up picnics and dogs into the car and setting off early for a day of walking, picnicing and fresh air. Invariably we’d forget something (the dog leads, on one memorable occasion). Almost always one of the dogs would hare off after some kind of animal. Quite often the same dog would come strolling back, hopelessly pleased with herself, carrying some kind of smelly dead animal. Quite often those day trips involved a trip to Dovedale, on the southern edge of the Peak District.

 photo Dovedale Peak District 2_zpsalhramx3.jpg photo Dovedale Peak District 1_zpshyfawocp.jpg photo Dovedale Peak District 4_zpsl9djzxj6.jpgDog drama aside, it was always one of my favourite places to go. I was slightly gutted upon moving, at the age of 10, to be told that it was now over 2 hours away and infeasible for a day trip. I’ve visited so many places since, but Dovedale stayed with me. And when looking for a place to break up our journey up North, it turned out to be the perfect place.

We didn’t walk as far as I’d hoped, but we got a good three miles in before hunger pangs set in and the clouds got dark. In retrospect, we’re glad we turned back when we did as the rain on our return was rather heavy, and the path was getting a lot busier – it paid to get there early!

 photo Dovedale Peak District 5_zpsjnz8v4ka.jpg photo Dovedale Peak District 6_zpshsvd0zb7.jpg photo Dovedale Peak District 7_zpsfdb9ewss.jpg photo Dovedale Peak District 8_zpsuhu78nij.jpg photo Dovedale Peak District 9_zpsdnyv4ik7.jpg photo Dovedale Peak District 10_zpsrrtwhal8.jpg photo Dovedale Peak District 11_zpsfvbd2b95.jpg photo Dovedale Peak District 13_zpsjgby9exa.jpgIt was as beautiful as I remembered. Rolling hills, calm river, those iconic stepping stones – though they’ve definitely been evened out at some point over the last 12 years! Something about being by water, whether it’s a lake, river or the sea, just makes me feel so much more peaceful. And this was just wonderful. There was hardly anyone around on our outward walk, leaving us to amble in companionable silence or chat quietly. Perfection!

I’d forgotten quite how beautiful the Peak District is. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy a decent walk. I’m now working on a walking holiday next year – how wonderful would a short break be, plenty of exercise, nice B&B’s (no camping here!) and good food? Sounds like a perfect holiday to me…
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Have you ever been to Dovedale or the Peak District? Where’s your favourite spot in the UK?

Travel: A Trip Up North

What seems like rather a long time ago now, way back in August, we took a last little road trip in W’s car (Steve the Seat has now found a new home, sob). We headed up to where his dad’s family is originally from, Bolton, whilst stopping off at one of the favourite place of my childhood (more about that next week), spending some time in Manchester and generally just exploring the North.

 photo A Trip Up North 8_zps1alyyh0f.jpgIt’s strange, whilst away at uni I actually classed myself as a Northern girl. I said ‘bath’ rather than ‘b-arth’ (I hate people adding the “r” in once you get south of Leicester, my sister had trouble learning how to spell in primary school due to it!). I liked proper Yorkshire tea. I enjoy chip butties. And all my friends where very definitely from the South. Yet actually, I’ve seen very little of the North at all. I mean, I adore Edinburgh, I’ve visited and loved Northumberland, and the Lake Disrict always made for a good (if slightly wet) family holiday with the dogs. But other than that, my experience remains very firmly in the Midlands. This visit definitely persuaded me to try and change that though!

 photo A Trip Up North 2_zpsokiiwdky.jpgThe countryside around Bolton was stunning; if I’m honest not at all what I expected. Rolling hills, gorgeous views, open countryside, plenty of green. Give me a good hill over a flat landscape any day! Bolton was also a pleasant surprise – a decent museum to escape the rain in, a rather enviable new shopping centre in the old market place. And pasties. The Carrs Pasty is something I’ve only ad when W’s dad visited and brought them back for the freezer. And they’re delicious. We made a point to visit for lunch on our first day, then return before starting our journey home to stock up. Crisp buttery pastry, and a mash’n’mince filling that’s intensely savoury. So very different from my beloved Cornish pasty, but so very good.

Manchester, however, is a city I fell suddenly and unexpectedly in love with. I loved the hustle and bustle (that lacked the franticness of London). The Arndale had every shop I could want. There were so many restaurants I wanted to try. But most of all I adored the stark contrasts between the old and the new. Sparkly new offices being built next to the stunning cathedral. I wish I could have stayed longer, explored the city more. I only had a few hours; it definitely wasn’t enough.

 photo A Trip Up North 4_zpscwe6cxek.jpg photo A Trip Up North 7_zpsvxoaj01g.jpg photo A Trip Up North 5_zpspqmgfio6.jpg photo A Trip Up North 6_zpslqpn2osh.jpg photo A Trip Up North 3_zpstisbntcv.jpgIn need to (again) escape the rain we found what is perhaps the most Instarammable teashop I’ve ever been in. Enviable tiles, distressed wood, hanging light-bulbs. But most importantly, the tea was damn good. Everything was loose-lead, provided with an ‘egg timer’ to allow it to brew correctly. My standard English Breakfast was delicious. W’s Hibiscus was sweet and fruity, vivid in colour and so refreshing. The cakes looked gorgeous, but with an evening of Italian food ahead we didn’t indulge. Guess I’ll have to go back soon!

We spent our last morning being all cultural. We visited Salford Quays, had a wander around Media City (including a really rather yummy mac’n’cheese lunch at Pret), and viewed the Lowry Gallery. One of my favourite artists, I really enjoyed the chance to see much more of his work. Plus I couldn’t resist a quick browse in the outlet stores. Finally picking up a pair of heeled brogues I’d been coverting for years for an absolute bargain ended our little trip perfectly!

 photo A Trip Up North 1_zpsln7vjlp3.jpgA gorgeous (though a little chilly) few days. I even got my chip butty!

Have you explored much of North UK? Anywhere you’d recommend?

Travel: Summer Getaway in Brighton

Remember the “heatwave” of July? It might seem like a while ago now, but that week of rather warm whether than had everyone moaning they were too hot, rail tracks buckling, cars overheating? By some rather random (and greatly appreciated) stroke of luck, it coincided exactly with the holiday myself and W booked to Brighton.

 photo Brighton_zpsw5gnjwsu.jpgWe’d originally planned a road-trip around Scotland, but with myself not having learnt to drive, wanting to sell the car and limited funds, we decided a quick getaway to one of our favourite UK places would do the job. We hoped for good weather, we made rainy-day plans. And we lucked out! The weather was perfect right up until five minutes after we got on the train on our journey home; swelteringly hot, bright blue skies. Just right for a seaside break.

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Staying at The Kelvin (clean, comfortable, if nothing to right home about – other than it was relatively cheap for our dates!) we were virtually on the beachfront, a few minutes walk away from the Sea Life Centre. It made for an excellent base; we could trot to the beach in the mornings, we were close to a couple of decent-sized supermarkets for picking up snacky lunches. It was only a short stroll to the Pavillions and the restaurants nearby. I discovered the joy that is Franco Manca – I ate their tomato-free courgette pizza twice in four days. It’s unbelievably good! And best of all? A gorgeous Italian Gelato shop on the corner. It brought back memories of Rome, with the ice-cream being some of the best I’ve had in the UK. I had several combos (chocolate & hazelnut, chocolate & orange, blueberry & raspberry) and quite honestly wouldn’t be able to pick a favourite. The Kitkat flavour looked pretty awesome though!

 photo Brighton July 2016 19_zpsogb4ns6f.jpg photo Brighton July 2016 3_zpsedqkys3j.jpg photo Brighton July 2016 2_zpsk5wuwxcz.jpgWe spent a day lazing on the beach. I read a whole book and had a good nap. We snacked on a rotisserie chicken and tzatziki. Hired a couple of beach chairs and a parasol. Chased the parasol down the beach following a sudden gust of wind. Got a hand full of splinters from said deckchairs (me). Paddled in the sea. An highly successful beach day, all washed down with a good old Fish’n’Chips, and a rather strong Espresso Martini.

 photo Brighton July 2016 12_zpsxh0dblrb.jpg photo Brighton July 2016 11_zps6t0wezxa.jpg photo Brighton July 2016 10_zpsva20wn6o.jpg photo Brighton July 2016 9_zpsz4sbva5x.jpg photo Brighton July 2016 8_zpsumtbyjgq.jpg photo Brighton July 2016 5_zps6nabonu1.jpg photo Brighton July 2016 4_zpsvk2bgpcn.jpgAnother day was spent being a bit more active. We strolled round the Sea Life Centre in the morning (finding Nemo and Dory in the process), before getting the mini electric train up to the marina for a quieter beach picnic – we’d eaten most of it before realising we were perhaps a tad overdressed for the section of the beach we were on. Oops! We took the train back, I triumphed at mini-golf despite a shaky start, and ate ice-cream. We then perhaps overindulged with burgers, onion rings, mac’n’cheese and alcoholic milkshakes. No regrets!

Our final full day was shopping day. I spent an embarrassingly long few hours underwear shopping, getting remeasured at Bravissimo then hunting down a rather difficult new size in Debenhams, Ann Summers, Boux Avenue and every bra-selling shop I could find. Making it up to a rather grumpy W, we snacked on sausage rolls, ate more ice-cream and wandered the lanes. There were so many cute and quirky house bits I was desperate to buy, but with no flat sorted at the time I just couldn’t justify it. There’s the excuse to head back for another trip…

 photo Brighton July 2016 16_zpsajs7n4g1.jpg photo Brighton July 2016 18_zpsir446ahw.jpgWe spent our final morning squeezing in another sunbathe, another stroll down the pier, another play on the two-penny slots. Then it was back to reality with a bang, back to trying to find flats to rent, work clothes, back to adulting. Safe to say, we need another holiday already!

Where did you holiday this year? Where in the UK do you recommend for a short break?