Chick Chicka Chicka...
Ferris Buellers Day Off is one of my favourite films of all time! So you can imagine how excited I was when I got the chance to go to Chicago with work for a few days. Unfortunately, I didn't get to show my stuff on top of a parade float, but I did get to lean out over the Chicago skyline. I'd only been to America once before, to New York with my friend around 4 years ago now. This was such an exciting prospect, I love the states! The sheer scale of the cities really takes my breath away, plus you can't complain about the food!
On day one, we arrived late afternoon but that didn't stop me from throwing my stuff into the hotel room & heading out to explore. They don't call it the windy city for nothing, it was absolutely freezing, despite the glorious sunshine. We were lucky that the hotel we were staying in was right around the corner from Cloud Gate, a very unique reflective sculpture in Millennium Park. Naturally, I headed straight over for a look! After a half an hour stroll I went back to meet up with the guys from work.
As it was our first night, Chicago town deep dish pizza was a no brainer! May I just say whilst in Chicago I ate a lot and I mean a lot. American portions are so much bigger that I often struggled to finish a whole meal and the pizza was insane. We found this adorable little diner round the corner as we didn't want to travel too far. We asked the waiter if he thought two large pizzas would be enough for the four of us, his advice was to get one. We decided to take his advice opting for one large and one small in the end, it's a good job we did because we were still shamelessly defeated.
The pizza itself was sensational! It was bizarre as it came in more of a pie tin, the crust is topped with quite a generous layer of cheese and then the sauce is spread on top. If you are ever in Chicago, don't leave without trying the deep dish it was definitely the best meal we had on the whole trip. Totally exhausted from the travel and food we headed straight to bed.
The Sausage King of Chicago
The second day we were meeting in the lobby at around 10am. Thanks to the jet lag, I woke around 6 so decided to put my trainers on and head out. The city was quiet, beautiful and crisp, so I walked down to the harbour in time to catch the sun coming up, it did not disappoint. The breeze was certainly a wake up call. As everywhere was pretty much closed I strolled around the city for 3 hours, taking in the sights, it was peaceful and a definite contrast from the bustle of the night before. A quick stop off at Starbucks for my morning coffee fix then it was time for breakfast. After soaking in as much of the cities streets, sounds and smells, I figured the miles had earned me the staple of American breakfasts, pancakes and bacon!
The day was filled with work stuff for a conference, but an early finish meant I got to go live out a bit of a Ferris Bueller moment up at the top of Willis Tower, also referred to as Sears Tower. Similar to the Empire State Building, the tourist attraction gives you a perfect view across the skyline with large glass windows. You can really see for miles and in true spirit of the film, I climbed up on the barrier, leant onto the glass and peered down to the city below. A cool feature is the opportunity to stand on a glass floor, now I am not afraid of heights at all but the first step did make me feel a little on edge. It was an odd sensation being 1,353 feet suspended in the air. I imagine going up on an evening would be indescribable, I did that in New York & couldn't quite put into words the view. A quick trip down to the gift shop and one 'Sausage King of Chicago' fridge magnet later, we were back out on the street.
A Person Should Not Believe in an ism
The next few days mostly consisted of work and spending the evenings socialising or at events. In the mornings I continued my habit of getting up extra early, so I could grab a coffee and stretch my legs. I never know if I will get to go back to a place once I have seen it so I try my best to just breathe it in for however long I am there.
With so many nights out, I tried my first ever sidecar. Anyone who knows me will know I love a good cocktail, this was no exception and the sugar dusted rim added an extra level of sweetness. Another night involved a Hard Rock Cafe visit, where plenty of mojitos were consumed. We began the night by ordering the largest plate of nachos I have ever seen in my life, and that was just the starter. That was followed by classic burger & fries for me with a mexican twist, it certainly went down a treat! I find no matter which Hard Rock you go to the food is really good and the interior of each inspires me. They have this vintage diner from Grease kind of appeal, with music memorabilia consuming the interior walls, throw in an added modern twist & that sums up the Hard Rock Cafe. It has to be said this was the fourth one I have visited (London, New York, Dublin) and the staff are an absolute delight, never failing to have a laugh with you.
A couple of nights we went to Miller's Pub right down the road from our hotel, because the food was fantastic and they served this sweet sour cherry beer that I need to find now I'm back home. Meals there included a 'Blue Cheese Burger' and 'Pastrami on Rye', I am glad I did all the early morning walking because it helped me feel less guilty about the overload of carbs! This pub also served the best peanut butter cheesecake I will ever have in my life, we shared it between three of us but I think I could have easily eaten the whole thing! My best judgement told me that the calories probably wouldn't be appreciated the morning after though.
*I am starting this blog after my trip so in the future I am going to take a lot more photos and notes of place names, as well as tips for travelling.
Life Moves Pretty Fast
It feels strange to say but I think a part of me preferred Chicago to New York. For a big city it felt quite cosy, I loved the culture, music and atmosphere. There is a lot less of the touristy stuff so you can focus on actually living and breathing the city. With every street you turn being full of exciting restaurants and bars, I could only dream about living somewhere like this. I always make sure to fill my bag with american candy for the family before coming home, the best finds this time were Nutter Butters and Coffee M&Ms, they don't last very long.
Whenever I go on trips I always want a souvenir, ideally something that isn't tacky, is original and if possible free. One of the events we went to had artists dotted around the room doing caricatures in multiple styles, being a designer myself I couldn't quite contain my excitement. I sat for two one which was the more comical interpretation but the second was a fashion illustration, very vogue. (These are now proudly framed on my photo wall at home). My next trip to the states is for Trek America in October, I'm already planning my kit list and want to get a memento for every place I visit.
Next stop San Francisco...
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Cocktails & Carbs
As an early birthday treat, I went into Manchester after seeing on Instagram a restaurant called 'The Laundrette' with the most amazing cocktails! So, I made a reservation & dragged Danny with me to go and give it a try.
We headed into Manchester around 5pm as the booking was at 7. Walking from Piccadilly station towards the O2 Ritz, you turn left at the top of the road, just past Dog Bowl on your left, and go under the bridge to find yourself in a very modern looking built up area filled with lots of food and bar choices.
We arrived a little early but got seated straight away, it wasn't busy for a Saturday night but picked up as the night went on. Sat in a little booth, next too some girls hen or birthday party down the far end (I couldn't be sure which but they were certainly having a good time, by the number of empty cocktail glasses across the table), and what we assumed was a first date right to the left of me by the number of awkward silences, and pieces of small talk we were able to hear.
Obviously, I started with the cocktail menu as this was the main reason I booked it! Instantly I was drawn to the Raspberry Flossi, a pink creamy cocktail that came in a jam jar style glass and a massive ball of vanilla candyfloss sat precariously on top. For presentation this place gets a 10 and the service was really efficient, the first drink arrived and we then moved onto food.
We both went with pizza, avoiding starters to ensure we had room for dessert. Mine had spicy sausage, nduja, salami and mozzarella on it, (Danny went for a classic mozzarella and basil) the side of fries was perfectly sized for us to share and it arrived piping hot withing 15 minutes of us ordering. The food itself was such good quality, I love a fresh made pizza and you could really taste that. It was doughy, thin and similar to my favourite pizza place 'Pizza Pilgrims' in London, this came a pretty close second.
By this point I had finished my first cocktail and moved onto the Blueberry Gin Mojito. The colour of this was mesmerizing it looked incredible, tasted it too. A very refreshing blend, I love mojitos and will try every combination I can get my hands on. This one almost beat out the strawberry ones I had whilst on holiday in the Gran Canaria a few years ago.
Dessert next, I was determined to attempt one as I don't know when I will get to visit again. Torn, I went with the Peanut Butter Popcorn Cheesecake, over the Hot Coffee Pudding, not realizing it would be a ball of popcorn stuck on top with pure smooth peanut butter. Nonetheless, it was delicious but a little too heavy for me and the slice was way too big! As you can see Danny was sensible with his choice of vanilla ice cream and so helped me out a bit with the monster cheesecake.
Finally I wanted a surprise, so got a random third and final cocktail, this one was called the 'I Scream For Ice Cream' a smooth blend of cola and amaretto topped with salted caramel ice cream. Now I absolutely love salted caramel and ice cream floats are very strange but so satisfying. This was like another dessert and definitely a struggle to finish but that may had had something to do with all the food!
All in all I was really impressed it is somewhere I plan to take my mum and sister next. The pricing was really reasonable, cocktails being about £8 each and the pizza was only £10 so I think if you're looking for a great evening in Manchester maybe before a gig at the Apollo check it out!
I am loving this blog as an excuse to go try more food places!! Next stop Black Milk Cereal.
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Bring On Ben (Nevis)
In April/ May of this year I took on my biggest challenge yet, Ben Nevis. Now, from my blog you will know I am a very outdoorsy person. If I am not running, I am hiking, climbing or just enjoying the great outdoors. None of the Tough Mudder training or mountains I had previously climbed could have quite prepared me for this. We drove up to Scotland on the Friday afternoon arriving pretty late, (the 6 hour drive definitely wasn't my idea of fun). The views did make up for the hours in the car, especially once we passed Glasgow and the buildings turned into towering forests and peaks. We set up our tents in the dark with torches, had a drink and before I knew it I was out like a light (the drive had obviously taken it out of me).
Rise and shine was at 7am, my camping breakfast consisted off a hot cup of tea and some protein flapjack bars to fuel me for the day ahead. Two of us didn't have appropriate footwear (go figure) so chose to rent it from the local shop, this climb required ice axes and crampons you see because rather than walk the path, we climbed up through the snow of gully four (I didn't actually realise this was the route before we got there, which explains my lack of appropriate footwear). I believe the guy in the shop said watch out for the skiers, so that should hopefully give you an idea of the slope we were going to attempt to climb.
Once we were all set up with our rented boots we rejoined the group back at camp and set off into the forest. After not very long, Ben was in our sights and what a sight it is indeed, the looming figure got closer and it suddenly dawned on me what I had gotten myself into. The hike slowly began to elevate, as it did the views got more beautiful. The path got quieter as we became cut off from the noise of towns and the people back at camp. With Ben Nevis standing right in front of us, we unfortunately lost a member of our team who had a previous injury flair up, so he had to turn back.
But after a 6 hour drive, 350 miles and 4 hours sleep I refused to not tackle this challenge! It was now or never...
Winter Is Coming
The hike suddenly got more difficult, as the route began to ascend. As you can see the landscape went from a green thriving forest to an icy wasteland. It was once we hit the snow that we had some safety training, sporting a very sexy pair of waterproof pants it was time for some fun.
When climbing in the snow, if you slip and fall there is a good chance you will slide quite a fair distance so we learnt about seal manoeuvres. If you fall you are too hold your axe against your chest with the pick facing away, arching your back like a seal. Before, then digging into the snow to help slow you down. It is important to be on your front and hard to explain here in the text, but after a lot of rolling around it was time to get going (Funnily enough later once we reached quite some height turns out we would need more than the manoeuvres to save us).
The crampons went on my boots and I realised the important part they were going to play, kicking in little steps to follow up the snow as we zig zagged up the gully. It really takes its toll on your toes and legs as a whole, the climb was much slower than expected and this had a huge impact on energy levels. The higher we got, the more aware I became we were on a mountain. Now, I am not a person who is scared of heights and happily will walk a knifes edge ridge but in the snow the danger level is raised. I felt like I was really climbing a mountain, whereas in the past I would say they were more of a hike. As we approached the very top a vertical ladder in snow was our last hurdle. Holding my breath I scrambled over the top and was relieved to be back on more level ground, even if it was on the top of a mountain.
That wasn't our summit though, oh no. We still had a fair few metres to climb on a slow slope that raised into the mist (above left), with the wind pounding my face I pushed on. In the picture above you can see we made it to the summit (never missing a photo opportunity). Seeing is believing, not that the view was much to look at from this point. It is an amazing sense of achievement that washes over you when you finally reach these summits, there's also a relief which lasts a few minutes before the realisation I have to climb back down. My body is so much stronger than I often give it credit for, in those moments you focus so much on the challenge in front of you that you forget about the little things. It is incredible not just where you are but who you are, what you can do, I always find myself at my most reflective whilst climbing a mountain.
'Danger Of Death'
The original plan was to drive back the night after, but I found the climb back down Nevis resulted in swollen feet and as I was struggling to keep my eyes open I decided against it. Gareth, who I had driven up, and I decided to stay another night. This meant that the next day we decided to squeeze in a much smaller hike, to see Steall waterfall which is situated in Glen Nevis near Fort William. It is Scotland's second highest waterfall with a single drop of 120 metres. Fun fact for you, it featured in Harry Potter. The title of this section is in reference to the sign at the beginning of the trail 'Danger of Death', that's good to know.
The trek involved a rope bridge that we had way to much fun on. I am not going to lie the morning after Nevis my whole body was in some discomfort, my knees and shoulders especially so the couple of miles we walked to the waterfall was certainly not easy. On a normal day I would probably not have really noticed the miles, but in my weakened condition it felt longer than expected. We headed back to the car after a few photos were taken. To begin the 350 mile journey home. Let's just say the drive back was not as fun as the drive up.
It was also my first time in Scotland, and I was in awe of the natural beauty. I consider myself a northerner, but this was the furthest north I had ever been! This place is so full of adventure that I can't wait to come back and see more of what it has to offer. Not just in the hiking area but visiting Glasgow and Edinburgh is something I hope to fit in next year!
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A couple of days after successfully climbing Helvellyn (on our second attempt), I somehow let myself get talked into heading to the Peak District to climb to the top of Kinder Scout. Full of a cold and feeling pretty run down after the weeks earlier trek, I couldn't quite believe I was considering it. Never one to turn down a challenge I loaded up of cups of coffee (a lot of coffee) and headed to meet the guys for a 5am start!
As I wasn't driving that at least allowed me to relax on the hour and a half drive over. The Lake District climb had taken around 9 hours in total a couple of days previous, so I was hoping this wouldn't be quite as tough. I was wrong. After being led to believe this wouldn't be anywhere near as long, I soon came to the realisation I had been lied to.
The Peak District was very gloomy in the early hours, the hills shadowed over as we entered the valleys, on all sides it became quite a eery looking destination. Matching my mood funnily enough, I wasn't quite as enthusiastic about this hike as I had been for others. We parked up beneath the misty mountains and a crisp breeze surrounded me once I stepped out of the cars warmth. It was reminiscent to me of the town from Twin Peaks.... and I suddenly realised 'we're going to need some more coffee.'
What about Second Breakfast?
The ascent began with a welcome walk through the woodland, until the trail up the hill came clear into view and gradually it steepened. This continued for quite some way until we hit a wall of rocks, my breathing was heavy by this point (I wouldn't recommend hiking with a cold). There was a steep path up to the right, but we decided to make our own, continuing to scramble up the wall of rocks. Bobbing in and out between the faces like meerkats, I prefer scrambling to walking up a steep incline as you get your whole body involved, this means that it doesn't feel as hard on your joints and legs in particular. If anything it is a more fun experience and requires focus, keeping three points of contact to move swiftly and safely.
The top of the ridge turned into something from Lord of the Rings, when Gollum is leading them to Mount Doom. It transformed into a wasteland quite suddenly and without any other people for miles around, it felt apocalyptic. As you can see in the photos there wasn't much of a view for most of the day, until later when we headed towards the summit. Around midday the clouds began to roll out, this made me realise why it had been worthwhile, I started feeling more optimistic than when we originally set off. This particular climb wasn't just a straight forward walk to the summit, we also took a detour to see the 'Mad Woman's Stones'. Stopping here for a spot of lunch. Whenever I go climbing I take plenty of water, usually a bag of sweets for some energy and good fuel carbs like flapjacks or protein bars too! In case anyone was wondering, it is important to take enough to match the energy you are burning on climbs.
The terrain was really hard on my ankles in particular because the boggy sponge areas made it hard to judge the impact when stepping down or jumping over streams. Having broken my right ankle before, I really felt it. It made the journey more difficult, but also less enjoyable in parts because I found myself uncomfortable for a lot of parts. This was a great thinking mountain for me, I had a lot on my mind over Christmas, I find hiking helps me to really get some distance from my own head. The physical distraction can really clear your head, I find this true with pretty much anything active that I do. I used to go to the gym to run as it had the same impact, if I was particularly stressed out but the added views are a welcome perk of being outdoors.
The strangest thing happened as we climbed Kinder Scout, my cold seemed to disappear! I'm sure it had something to do with breathing such fresh, clean air but unfortunately the descent back down meant the return of my illness, with quite a vengeance. After this climb I had to take a good few weeks to let my body recover, I had well and truly pushed myself a little too far. So sticking strictly to the gym seemed like the sensible thing to do, at least for a few weeks before Tryfan. I am hoping to go back to the peaks this year and explore Thors Cave as I have heard that's a pretty fun hike, maybe I will bump into Chris Hemsworth if I'm lucky!
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Last year I spent a lot of time in Birmingham. Whilst down there I was shown around a lot of really cool, interesting places that I thought I would share with you. My visits mostly were over the weekends and included food, drink, culture and a beautiful park known as Lickey Hills.
I will start my post with a place that to me resembled the character of the Northern quarter in Manchester. With quirky pop ups shops, festivals and events - The Custard Factory is a must see. If not for the shopping definitely for the street art. The place is a canvas for colourful illustrative graffiti that brings the dull brickwork to life. I have included just a few of my favourite pieces i have found but I wouldn't want to ruin the experience so will leave you to discover them for yourselves. Inside of The Custard Factory you will find brightly coloured buildings not a million miles away from Balamory, with strings of lights flowing between them. There is also a massive looming sculpture of a tree like figure, anyone who has seen Guardians of the Galaxy might be reminded of a certain someone.
My first visit included a pop up vinyl shop, I'm an avid collector of vinyl and anything retro so I couldn't resist a little browse. The next time I went down they had left so I will note that if you see something you want get it, some of the places might not be stopping around for long. Next I discovered a craft beer shop called 'Clink' these guys have an amazing selection including limited edition bottles. Here in Knutsford we have one called 'Dexter and Jones', I am sucker for craft beer not just the flavours but the bottles.
My designer background makes me a little obsessed with packaging especially when its something so creative. I have been know to make the 200 mile round trip to pick myself up a couple of bottles! An American alternative metal band called Deftones released a beer with Belching Beaver Brewery in San Diego. I spent ages trying to get a bottle for the guy I was seeing at the time (they're his favourite band), but sourcing them in the UK was a nightmare. Then earlier this year they posted on Instagram that some had arrived in store, so I messaged them to reserve me a couple of bottles and drove over. They didn't disappoint! I drank one before seeing the band live in Manchester not long ago, it was delicious, and the other is proudly on display in my flat!
My last trip I stopped by the most recent addition was a bicycle themed cafe that I have forgotten the name of. Inside they sold tons of art and nerdy items including movie prints, mugs and other collectables. The cakes and coffees are top notch, quick service as well as a relaxed atmosphere and a pick and mix of tables and chairs gives the place a charming appearance. If you are looking for good food and drink though I would recommend 'The Mockingbird' it serves craft beers, wine, spirits and offers delightful bistro food. They hold a lot of events because it also has a 101 seat cinema. I really want to attend one of the classic film screenings, or movie marathons they have, in the past I have missed a couple of opportunities. I'm considering a trip over summer maybe early August, better keep an eye on tickets!
Our second stop is further out, Lickey Hills is one of Birmingham’s most varied and treasured parks. It covers 524 acres and is located just 10 miles south west of Birmingham. The place is perfect for an afternoon run, jog, walk with the kids, dogs or even a romantic stroll. I've been here several times and I'm such a nature lover that I could happily walk around for hours. Take a picnic with you on a summer day and just get lost, there are plenty of kids play areas but for the more adult of you I would recommend just going a little off path and heading deeper into the woodland.
Heading up these hills gives you some incredible views and a clear shot over all of Birmingham. Having been taken up here on late nights, it's a pretty beautiful sight when the city is all lit up. Very romantic and peaceful. You really can't beat hideaways like this, I love Delamere forest for the same reason and trips to the Lake District or Wales so it is amazing to find one so close to the city.
My final stop is in Birmingham city centre, now the national gallery is stunning if thats your thing, stocked full of oil canvas paintings and chocked full of history. But if a more modern style is what you're into a great little find is the IKON gallery, they change it up every so often and you don't quite know what you will get. It is set over just a few floors usually holding 2 or 3 exhibits of work. Personally, any gallery to me is interesting because you can get such weird and wonderful pieces in modern art places. As you can see in the photos its quite a cold building with stone floors and walls, giving it an industrial feel.
Now there is plenty on offer in the way of food from all your mainstream restaurant chains to pubs and bars. Walk down the canal and you will find a buzzing nightlife especially on a Saturday afternoon. Take in all the boats floating on the water, passing some delightful pubs and theres a lovely little restaurant quarter over the bridge, I really need to return here and tick a few off my list! The Bullring shopping centre is perfect if you want to do some retail therapy, its massive but I prefer to avoid the big hustle and bustle of shopping centres for a more unique experience of the city.
If you plan on going for a weekend I hope the recommendations help, it's a pretty awesome place and I find with any city I have every been too just walking around and getting lost you usually find the best places. Hopefully my next visit will include some new hotspots to show you as I am planning on going to one of The Custard Factory's record festivals very soon!
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Dining in Dublin
Just to clarify this isn't a London based blog post, but actually about a place called 'The Camden Exchange' in Dublin! I spent New Year 2016 in Dublin and one of the highlights was the food! Throughout the trip we ate at some amazing restaurants (including this Rabbit Ragu dish I had in one place that was incredible), but this spot wins the top spot! New Years Eve in particular, was already going to be a very memorable night, but I had been looking for somewhere to go eat when I stumbled across 'The Camden Exchange' on Instagram. After a quick google search I found it wasn't too far a walk from Temple Bar and the main drinking streets, so we figured we'd give it a try.
This place did not disappoint! I was drawn in initially by the arty interior, they have a kind of street festival style decor with a food van parked inside (this has been fashioned into the bars kitchen, neat). You can see from the photos it felt really rustic with the tin panelled roofing and exposed wooden beams, I love the lighting fixtures attached to old pieces of pipe. They specialise in street style food but we were instantly drawn to the cocktail menu...(girls will be girls)
Underneath on the right I'm sure you can see our amazing drinks, enhanced by the mood lighting of the bar. The pink one was Tori's she went for a Marshmallow & Vanilla Vodka Infusion, fresh lemon and sugar syrup concoction. I went for the Granny Smiths Spiced Apple, which was a green apple and cinnamon gin infusion, with elderflower ginger liquor and fresh apple juice, pretty SWEET! (and a little sour). Definitely refreshing, these made the perfect first impression and it only got better from there.
I have a major sweet tooth and the cocktails really hit the spot for that but I couldn't wait for my main course. The service was a little slow but it was pretty empty and I think the kitchen was still warming up for a busy night ahead. Once were finished with them, the food arrived in style and it was glorious! Tori went for the 'Share & Graze' menu so she got to pick 3 dishes which were smaller (not by much). Her choices were the Camden Exchange Van sausage roll served with apple sauce, a selection of pate and some kind of bread (not really my thing) and these incredible cheesy bites that came with a spicy tomato relish in a Doritos crust (I may have pinched one or two). My choice was just the one dish, 'Cow in a Bowl' a hot beef brisket covered in crispy onions, in a smoked chilli sauce, that came with celeriac, salad and this truffle blue cheese dip. I had never tried brisket but this was a great introduction. I felt so full by the time I had finished it, leaving as little as possible. At the same time the food was such good quality so I didn't feel bloated or fat, unlike with normal street food which can be greasy. I'm hungry just writing this post.
The bathroom stalls funnily enough were a highlight of the venue, they had incredible illustrations on the doors and beautiful floral wallpaper, each painting was delicate and detailed. I couldn't help but sneak a quick picture, it was very arty graffiti I suppose, definitely fitting in with overall aesthetic. Before heading back out into the raining Dublin darkness, we ordered another round of cocktails. Tori opting for another Marshmallow mix, while my second choice (Cherry & Ginger Crunch) wasn't available and so I ended up with the 'Zacapa & Amaretto Sour' that was still pretty tasty. Once we finished our second cocktails it was time to get into the New Years spirit, I could have sat here all night had it been a different day of the trip. We couldn't miss out bringing in the New Year on the south bank of the River Liffey.
I plan to write a post with a bit more about Dublin, because the whole trip was such an experience but I felt this place deserved it's own mini mention. The New Year was certainly memorable, from Temple Bar sing a longs to the Science gallery. We had such an ace time exploring in just a few days. I'd love to return to Ireland in the future and do a little more exploring, not just of the city but I hear there are a few Game of Thrones locations dotted around.
I don't have any New Year plans for 2018...
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Tryfan the Terrible
Another day, another mountain. This time we were headed to Wales to climb Tryfan which is much more of a scramble than my previous hiking experiences. Not too far from Snowdon, we arrived in the early hours and began our ascent just as the sun was rising.
The first part of our hike was a very steep staircase, then as we began to climb the clearly set out path soon disintegrated and we were left to navigate ourselves. This is not for the faint hearted, unlike a lot of my hikes there are a lot more drops and you are quite exposed on most sides. I am comfortable with this but it can get a bit nerve wracking in places. The climb itself was so much fun! We started on the side without any sun so it was pretty cold but as we started to move more using arms and legs to clamber over rocks and edges, I warmed up in no time! On Tryfan there are a couple of challenges to tackle, about two thirds of the way up just a little of the route you can find The Cannon Stone. It does look like a cannon facing out over the drop below, we did stop to take photos and even climb along the fallen pillar sitting on the edge.
After this the climb got even more rocky and exposed. This is the best part! I did some rock climbing walls as a child and find that this results in you focusing more on your movements and often you forget about how much work the climb actually is. You also progress a lot faster than when you're taking a steep slope because you move in a more horizontal direction. The views from the top were absolutely phenomenal, on one side it looked like a sea of mountains. The mist was blue, summits looked more like soft waves than stony peaks and the sun was gloriously rising just behind. It was definitely a moment to stop and just admire the beauty of nature at its finest.
Adam & Eve
Once at the summit two prominent pillar like boulders, known as Adam & Eve, stand some 3 metres high off the top and people often jump the gap between the two. Those who tackle the "step" between the two rocks are said to gain the "Freedom of Tryfan". While the guys did tackle this I wasn't quite brave enough, especially being the shortest in the bunch. Next time for sure! We stopped to have some lunch (I'd made brownies, which I try to do every time I go climbing as they're a well earned treat for the top). Half an hour later we began our descent and planned to go up onto the Glyders next but the day suddenly took an eventful turn.
Initially heading up we were a group of four. However, one of the more experienced climbers wasn't great with the exposure as we neared the summit and came to the decision to head down. He was meant to meet us near the ridge between Tryfan and the Glyders but as we approached it there was no sign of him. This teaches an important lesson of sticking together if you're in a group on the mountain, no matter how experienced an individual is. After some failed attempts due to the lack of cell service, we finally managed to get in contact. James had slipped losing his backpack a few feet and following after, he was frozen on an exposed ridge and so we had to race back round to find him.
The feet wasn't easy, we ascended the mountain at a much faster pace than previous, I took a few bumps and bruises to the legs. When we eventually located him, the route he had taken was a lot more precarious that it had previously appeared. Getting some food and water into him, helping him warm up and getting a confidence rope/ harness onto him were our priorities.
The complications came later, climbing down a route we didn't actually know or have mapped out and it was more of a Grade 2 scramble. This means it leaned a bit towards rock climbing and more protection would ideally have been needed but we worked with what we had. Luckily it wasn't the first time climbing for any of us. We spotted each other, one of the guys led the way feeling out a route, James then followed whilst roped in & being guided down. Andy and I would them continue down after, it required trust in each other because at times we couldn't see the steps or foot holes and so had to take the word of those below.
Back On Solid Ground
Once we were back down on flatter ground, we relaxed and began to laugh about the events that had unfolded. It had certainly become more of a rescue mission and we had all stepped up to the challenge in front of us. Of all my climbing experience this might have been the most teachable, you don't think of the dangers too much until faced with them and it goes to show that you need to know how to respond in those situations. I learnt that it costs thousands of pounds for the volunteers who partake in mountain rescue to come out and help. Which as it is a charity its even more important that they're only called when absolutely necessary!
I am planning to return to Tryfan later this year, possibly solo so I can finish what we started along Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach. On a clear day of course so I can make the most of those stunning views across Wales. As I'm writing this I am already looking for camping gear for my next trek. I'm off to buy more hiking boots...
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In one of my previous posts I mentioned my first mountain, Helvellyn. When we visited in November the place was covered in so much snow that it was impossible to summit. In December (you would think that would be worse wouldn't you?), the day after Boxing Day, we went back to try again. The landscape was completely different! Arriving a little after 7am we began our ascent along with the rising sun and it was going to be a glorious hike. The air was seriously crisp but the sun was shining and the skies were the bluest I'd seen in a long time. It was a complete transition from the previous visit, the landscape was barely recognisable.
The climb up begins pretty steep but over mostly grassy hills until you hit Striding Edge, a knifes edge route. The rocky path (Below Left) has sheer drops either side, so isn't for those afraid of heights. This involves a lot of scrambling and it's a good idea to keep three points of contact when tackling it. The frost did make it slightly slippery in places but it wasn't anything we couldn't handle. If anything this was my favourite part, I felt exposed and that makes it all the more exciting (plus it was a pretty flat bit of the route so I was happy to not be climbing up). At the end you come to the final summit climb, this too is quite a scramble. It is pretty easy to find foot holes along the route, it's built in I think when you're a younger, climbing on everything as a kid from climbing frames to furniture. The higher we ascended the more frost began to appear and the wind began to really beat against my face, it was quite a drop in temperature, but the views were unbelievable.
They were really something. On the one side the route we had just climbed looked full of life, with the lake peaking out beneath the clouds. But then turn 180 degrees and I was met with something entirely different. Not completely difficult to believe I was stood on another planet, the clouds stretched as far as I could see, with the peaks of lower summits peeping through. It was cold, standing still I had begun to feel the impact of being this high up. The wind began to redden my cheeks and my hair had frosty ends. Not keen on spending too long taking in the view, a little bag of Haribo & a sandwich later, we carried on down and around the horseshoe route Andy had mapped out for us. The route we took meant we weren't retracing our steps back down, but this also required some more climbing as we descended into a valley, before heading back up onto the next ridge.
Are We There Yet?
The road was long, coming down and then rising back up quite a few times. A lot of false summits and I did begin to struggle in the 7th hour, not quite giving up though. Our quest wasn't quite over but the pace had slowed with a final push, we headed up what was the finally ascent and I was relieved. My body was struggling, I hadn't intended to be subjected to this physical challenge for quite so long, it was only my second time climbing. Rising up onto a peak that was rocky but green and looking across the Lake District in all its glory (below). A lot of the route was very much hilly, with barely any frost or snow. Instead the nature was thriving and we saw a lot more people along our route than we had previously on our climb last time (they obviously had more sense to not attempt hiking in the snow). Despite the difficulty, it is hard not to appreciate the hiking, I'd do it again in a heartbeat and I say think that everytime I finish one.
By the time we got back to the car it was around 5pm. It had been a gruelling day and my legs were definitely feeling it! The stairway down the last couple of 100m, every one was a push. The climb down I always find more difficult that the climb up because you've spent a lot of your energy. Plus descending is particularly hard on your joints, so I often find my knees suffer and with my feet knocking against the fronts of my boots, it isn't fun.
The lake district I explored quite a bit last year and I don't know how I haven't done it sooner. With two week trips, staying in a farmhouse with friends, I have been able to enjoy so much of what it has to offer and barely scratched the surface. There's plenty more hills to hike and challenges to find. I would move here if I could, Ullswater is such a stunning little town with a picture postcard setting, it feels peaceful. I'm sure I will be back to the Lakes soon with it only being a couple of hours away but until then I have to settle for Delamere Forest.
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I Smell Snow...
Back in November of last year, whilst staying in the Yorkshire Dales the guy I was seeing at the time was into hiking & loved physical challenges. He suggested we go climb a mountain. with the assistance of our leader Andy, who was training in mountaineering. We set off on a cold Thursday morning in the very early hours. Where was our destination? We were headed towards Ullswater to tackle Helvellyn.
Now being a complete novice I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I go to the gym regularly & go running a lot so I wasn't exactly out of shape, but the closer we got the more white the landscape became. The temperature was pretty low & I learnt that for every 100m you climb the temperature drops a degree, every days a school day! With my multiple layers of clothing, I was confident I would stay warm but I hadn't actually purchased any proper hiking kit (rookie mistake, I now have a whole bunch of camping and hiking equipment). As we began to climb up it became evident I was out of my depth, literally, as the snow slowly rose to over halfway up my thighs. The climb itself was intense & a completely new type of challenging experience that suprisingly excited me. I must admit I much preferred it to being stuck in the gym not going anywhere, but at least the gym has heating.
My very first summit was Birkhouse Moore at 718m, Andy will be proud of me for remembering that. Unfortunately, the sheer amount of snow as we travelled a little further, hindered us from progressing much further along striding edge and up to the summit of Helvellyn. We descended into the valley heading back towards the car park. A different route to the one we took up, the place was stunning, silent and scenic. I remember being cold, to the point where by body was shaking and I couldn't stop it. It was disappointing to have my first climb cut short, the place was so postcard perfect I couldn't help but be in awe with it. This experience definitely started my outdoors obsession.
Not to worry though, I did return in December with the guys for a gruelling 9 hour hike along the mountain. Even in much more friendly conditions, that took its toll on me physically. It is funny how an incline can make even the smoothest of routes, 10x more difficult. My calves didn't thank me for it but `I will go into that with much more detail in a later post.
I have never felt so distant from the world, the mountain was pretty desolate apart from a handful of people we passed on the way back down. The snow had coated everything as far as I could see and it felt like I was in Narnia. The whiteout prevented me from seeing too far beyond the hills but it added to the magic of the photographs I was able to capture. My phone got so cold at points it wouldn't turn on, a handy trick is too place it up against your body as this warmed it back up in no time. If anyone has scene 'The Day After Tomorrow' it certainly felt like the world had ended for the most part, as if we were all that was left of humanity. I half expected to see a white walker when we reached the stone wall running along the edge of our route.
It was a good 6 hours of walking, if memory serves, through the snow. It really took it out of the group, once we got back to our little holiday home we'd rented for the week the rest of the guys all took a power nap while I had a hot bath & returned to a normal body temperature. I had baked a batch of brownies the night before ready for our return to the cottage, that definitely motivated us to get home quickly!
I genuinely have found something that really excites me, I can't quite describe how or why but since this very first climb I have been up several more mountains including Ben Nevis and Snowdon taking routes less travelled, explored Wales, The Peak District, been camping & intend on having a lot more adventures around the UK. Not many people share that enthusiasm, the challenge is both physical and mental which I thrive on & I've surprised myself with the strength I have found that it gives me. It is the one thing I have to be thankful for from that relationship., I am extremely passionate about nature which I suppose has always been there, I just never really explored it until now, and plan to pursue bigger challenges in the future. China, Peru, Yosemite & The Dolomites to name just a few places on my bucket list.
If I don't post again I'm probably busy getting lost on some mountain, taking lots of photos. I would honestly recommend to everyone to give it a go, even if its walking fells not so much mountains. Taking a waterfall trail can be a beautifully relaxing day out. You really find yourself in those moments you're out in the world, it's kind of therapeutic to be focusing on something other than your own problems. When you test yourself you learn a lot about what you can achieve.
'If your Nerve, deny you. Go above your Nerve.' - Emily Dickinson
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What do you carry around in that bag? Now it's summer I have brought back my Kate Spade pink beau bag, I got this for my 21st birthday & it is such a statement piece. It's a lot bigger than my other purses so people usually ask me what I have in it. I'm going to share that with you in this little post today. Whenever I take it out someone always comments on it's design, which I think has something to do with the highlighter shade of coral pink.
Now on a daily basis I can carry around quite a lot of stuff, most of which is practical & a few extra bits in case I find myself needing them (you never know what the day may bring). The first thing in my bag is of course my purse, this one I got from TK MAXX and it is by Fossil they can be expensive in the shop and I think I paid £15 for it when it should have been around £30. The size is perfect! I prefer a bigger purse because I have a ridiculous amount of cards, most being loyalty store ones. Then I use the little zip pocket on the back for mementos, which some people may find a little odd. It has a One Dollar Bill from my first trip to America, a Drinks Token from the Birmingham christmas markets where I went on a date, a Paper Ticket from the Ingleton Waterfall trail I did last summer in the lake district & other wacky little bits. I'm quite a sentimental person so I really enjoy collecting these things, I do the same whenever I go travelling or want to remember an event.
The next thing in my bag is my mobile phone, an iPhone SE in 64GB because I take an awful lot of photos & download a lot of music for my work playlists, so I need the storage. I have the phone in white with the rose gold back & it currently resides in a Skinny-Dip case. I absolutely adore there stuff, they are quirky and bold in their design choices. For example my case is adorned with the peach emoji. 🍑 My friend refers to me as Princess Peach so it seemed quite fitting, although a lot of people will likely take the more emoji savvy reference to the bum. This phone is perfect because it also has a 12mp camera & I often find it easier to get my phone out to take snaps than my camera, so it's good to know the quality will still be decent.
Now, every girl needs to carry round emergency makeup in her bag and I am no exception! This little raspberry leopard print makeup bag I actually got recently on sale in TOPSHOP for just £5! It is the perfect size, here is a rundown of my everyday essentials...
Palmers Cocoa Butter Lip Balm in Dark Chocolate & Mint
Soap & Glory Speed Plump All-Day Super Moisture Marvel
Maybelline New York Great Lash in BIG
Maybelline Fit me! Foundation in 110 Porcelain
SkinnyDip Pink Marbled Make Up Sponge
Revlon Colorstay Brow Pencil 205 Blonde
Revlon Colorstay Creme Eye Shadow 730
Maybelline Master Strobing Stick 100 Light
Revlon Photoready Concealer Light/ Pale 002
Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Cappuccino
Mac Lipstick in Viva Glam
Maybelline Master Precise Liquid Eyeliner
My daily makeup is pretty natural looking, as I'm pretty active so don't get chance to be the most adventurous in beauty. I do love to try a range of items & never stick to one brand. I recently started experimenting more with colour, eyeliner and a little bit of shimmer for my summer style. (I'm sure i will do some sort of look book on here soon!) I mix this selection up pretty regularly, every couple of months, and my weekend beauty bag definitely has a few more wild cards in there (including a barbie pink mac lipstick). This post should include a Tangle Teezer but my sister lost my last one, I have yet to replace it, the perks of having sisters I suppose.
Next up we have my sunglasses, just incase the british weather acknowledges the fact it is summertime. These again were on sale from ASOS for £5 but are originally from New Look. They're very 90's retro, with big round frames in tortoiseshell & bold blue green reflective lenses. I absolutely love the contrast because they add a pop of colour to my porcelain (in laments terms really pale) face. My polaroid camera also features here, the Instax Mini in baby blue, which is one of the best things I have ever purchased! It comes everywhere with me because I love photography. The prints really add that vintage filter to whatever I choose to capture, which means on trips or holidays I can take instant photos and in those moments they make perfect souvenirs.
Now the more random/ boring items. Obviously we have house keys & car keys, I used to have a huge fluffy pom pom on my car keys but my sisters puppy destroyed that so I am on the lookout for another one. Then we have the womanly essentials for that time of the month, my favourite Molten Brown Hand Cream (the yellow one, I forget what scent that is), I got this one last christmas & I am now obsessed with it. At the bottom of the bag we have a bottle of water (important to stay hydrated), apple headphones, some Bepanthen Nappy Care Cream which I use for my tattoo aftercare, my passport (always secretly hoping for a spontaneous trip somewhere far away) and last but not least, a couple of bottles of whatever nail varnish I'm wearing in case I accidentally chip mine and need a top up. The colours I am wearing this week are Nails Inc Magnetic Polish in 'Houses of Parliament' which is a gorgeous deep purple shade, topped with OPI 'Comet in the Sky' to give it that galaxy finish. This is a hexagon glitter in black, greens and golds that compliments the magnetic shades so well because they have a metallic shine to the glitter pieces.
That's all folks! Sometimes I will take out my digital camera if I am going somewhere and I want to take really good quality photographs. My iPhones camera does usually do the trick though so I find that for the purposes of Instagram and social media it takes perfectly good photos. Hope you enjoyed routing through my belongings.
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Aby, 24. Northerner.