Hey, so it's been a while... This last month I've been busy at work and hitting the gym pretty hard, plus planning some exciting things for June. Instead of trying to push myself to write content, I took a break, I've been exhausted for a few weeks and just wanted to focus on myself. However, I've got lots to share! I've been busy planning an action packed birthday month, starting with Birmingham Coffee Festival, I'm doing Rough Runner 15K next weekend, followed by a week in Barcelona (lots of content from that trip I promise, including some video stuff because I've been practicing my editing) and finally a weekend in Manchester with Danny (on my actual birthday). We'll be staying at the Cow Hollow Hotel, I've been so excited for this month to start and it's finally here!
BACK TO BIRMINGHAM
It's been 18 months since my last visit to Birmingham, I had a friend that used to live here so I visited fairly regularly. It had definitely been too long and what better excuse for my return than a Coffee Festival at the Custard Factory. After possibly too many cups of coffee (is there such a thing?) and a couple of vegan cakes, I hit some of my favourite spaces, camera in hand. (Read about my previous Birmingham trips here).
A BULL IN A COFFEE SHOP
I caught the train down from Crewe a little after 7AM (booking this earlier in the month meant it cost me just £14 return), the Coffee Festival didn't open until 10am, but this meant I could wander around an empty Birmingham city centre. I've never seen the place quiet before, when I've been around on the weekends it's usually buzzing with people. It was beautiful to wander around without the stress of bumping into anyone. Once I had finished awkwardly trying to film my very first ever vlog intro, something to look forward to seeing, I headed straight for the Custard Factory. Getting there early gave me time to photograph the Custard Factory and its amazingly quirky creative vibe. It's a collaboration of street art, graffiti, sculptures... seriously though, if you are into that sort of thing you need to check this place out! Not to mention the independent retailers and the people who run them, it was great to talk to individuals who make up this creative hub, whether they're making coffee, cakes or craft beer.
When the doors opened at 10am I quickly joined the queue, this was made up of more casual coffee fanatics (like myself), professional bloggers and writers, and people who ran other independent coffee shops. I love taking trips like this on my own because it allows me to people watch (unapologetically), and slip in and out of other peoples conversations unnoticed (Danny was working so he couldn't come with anyway). It also helped me to get some of the best photos I have in a long time. When I'm on my own I constantly have my camera on, because I don't have to be conscious of neglecting whoever I'm with. I've found recently I'm much happier behind the camera, as my confidence has grown I've learnt to embrace other peoples gazes. It usually leads to people asking me what I'm doing and that's a great way to meet new people and network.
Having worked as a barista over almost 5 years for 3 different coffee shops, I can certainly say I felt right at home. The smell of coffee brewing just takes me to my happy place. It's funny how a shared love for something makes connecting with people so much easier. I chatted to a few people, both those attending and those who were showcasing their products. One woman compared it to Amsterdam Coffee Festival, a few artsy looking types also had their faces hidden behind different sized camera lenses, another guy was doing some market research and I overheard a group of guys discussing the latest Doctor Who whilst casually sipping there cold brew. It was clear their was an exciting mix of people that you wouldn't normally all see together.
Over the last few years my taste has dramatically changed. I've gone from drinking black coffee (especially when dieting), to lattes. From semi-skimmed milk to coconut or soy, I've also quit adding any sugars (apart from the occasional shot of vanilla). The event catered to all tastes, but I found myself at the Alpro stand first. Sampling a golden soy latte (turmeric in case you were wondering) and a coconut cinnamon chocolate, both undeniably delicious. I followed those up with a stop at 200 Degrees, for a flat white with their blend described by the barista as 'strawberry shortcake'. It was strong, dark and definitely fruity. Next, living up to my expectations was the oat-some latte, oat milk is such a great alternative that works for me because I find dairy a little too sickly.
After an hour, I was practically buzzing so I switched it up with some cold brew coffee, and began collecting business cards and printouts for my desk at work. Living the life of a designer does mean I'm particularly sensitive to printouts, but thankfully there wasn't a poorly kerned logo in sight. In fact I was pretty impressed with the packaging for a lot of the products. I was starting to get hungry so I decided to look for a sweet fix, Big Fat Slab was the stall I ended up choosing. They had doorstop sized cakes that were all vegan! I treated myself to a dark chocolate flapjack, a dark brownie and the most delicious carrot cake I've ever eaten. It's safe to say there are none left now as I am writing this. OMBAR also caught my eye, with their offering of chocolate. The organic dark chocolate bars were beautifully packaged, with flavours ranging from lemon & green tea to 90% cocoa. I even got a handy tote bag which came in handy the rest of the day.
My last few stops included a latte art stand, where a very skilled barista was creating colourful patterns (clearly too pretty to drink). I observed the mini masterclass, it's something that I never quite perfected as a barista myself. The more I walked around the venue, I found coffee infused cocktails, offerings of homemade flavoured fudge and even reusable cups. From Cakesmiths to Hundred House Coffee, it's a good job the samples were small. After exceeding my usual daily dosage by about quadruple, I ventured back into the city centre.
24 CUPS OF COFFEE LATER
The IKON gallery is a must see for me (it's free), I'm always interested in seeing what is considered modern art at their latest exhibits. It's a fair walk from The Custard Factory (I covered 9 miles in total over the day), but you do walk through the city centre, so there's plenty of stops you can make along the way. I passed street performers, bikers, dinosaur hedge sculptures and oddly enough a bunch of people kayaking (or canoeing, I'm not sure of the difference), in the river along side the longboats. The IKON had a digital themed exhibition on which was right up my street, it's always hard to describe things like this as every one will have a different opinion, but there are usually a couple of different exhibits on, so maybe one will take your fancy. I liked it, especially the first floor artwork by Langlands & Bell, titled Internet Giants: Masters of the Universe, which included pixelated typography and photography. It was a little abstract but I liked that it challenged your mind to make sense of what appeared illegible at first, my favourite piece read 'Your thoughts construct patterns like scaffolding in your mind'.
I stopped by the Bullring shopping centre for lunch and a little retail therapy. I prefer shopping alone because I'm definitely a browser, I love to take my time and try things on, which can be a time consuming process. With just a couple of hours until the train back I grabbed a quick milkshake from Eds (seriously yum), then hit some shops. There's no end to the options, whether you're looking for clothing, tech, a good book or a sweet treat, they've got you covered. I couldn't resist a stop in Victoria Secret, especially as there was a SALE on. I also have a mix of vinyl at home that I've picked up from Camden market (Queen - Don't Stop Me Now), Manchester record stores (The Stranglers) and occasionally HMV, who I bought Chvrches new album from just last week. The HMV here had such a large stock, I'm surprised I managed to just leave with Lorde - Pure Heroine. The Game of Thrones and Baby Driver soundtracks were very tempting indeed.
Reluctantly, I headed back to New Street Station with less than an hour to kill until my train back up north departed. A hot chocolate in Pret tied me over, while I updated Instagram stories and looked through my camera roll. The footage I'm happy with but it isn't until I start editing, that I know what works and what doesn't. There's usually a few standout clips but that's why it's important to film as much as possible. That way you can cut out the bits that don't cut it. It definitely was worth the trip and knowing now that it's pretty much like getting on the train to Manchester (an hour is easy to do), I will be planning more day trips into Birmingham. Maybe a weekend to Leeds and Sheffield too, because I just haven't seen enough cities in the UK. It's such a creative hub, with some great food spots and bars that I'm sure Danny would be happy to come check out with me (as long as I supply him with regular coffee).
I'm going to keep an eye out for future events at the Custard Factory. They do film screenings and artsy events, or even the christmas markets would be a treat to experience. Plus I've been meaning to check out the record festivals at The Custard Factory for ages and now I think the next one I will definitely be popping down for, but until then Birmingham...
Video Update Coming Soon.
🍑 A B Y
With the whole Australia hold up thanks to Chewies mishap (he's doing fine now), I was feeling a little blue. For me travelling plans are something I always have in place whether its 8 days, weeks or months in advance, I love having an adventure to plan for. I'm already making them for the next 12 months, Australia & Trek America 2019 are officially happening!! However, after the delay for my Australia adventure (October will be here before I know it), I couldn't help thinking my summer calendar was a little sad. This simply wouldn't do, especially with my Birthday being bang in the middle of the year, I figured I needed a new plan.
My sister who I travelled to Amsterdam with felt the same and so we agreed we both needed some sun. This led to a back and forth of where we both wanted to go, she wants beaches, I want cities, she wants sunshine & shopping, I want culture & sightseeing...
Eventually we came to a conclusion - BARCELONA!!!
We've just booked our next destination, and we're staying in a gorgeous 4 star hotel for the week (which I am majorly excited to shoot in). I couldn't be more excited, or more gym motivated! I'll be taking all my new kit including the camera and tripod. With a rooftop pool to check out, I'm bound to be shooting some sunsets poolside not to mention a timelapse of the city. There's some beautiful hidden spots a few of the bloggers I follow have kindly shared which will be the perfect escape from the crowds.
The city is a haven for architecture, history and culture, I can't wait to get on that plane in just 9 weeks time! It also gives me an excuse to do some holiday shopping, get some serious gym workouts in (Barcelona body in the making) and I've been looking on GetYourGuide.com at the activities we can start booking. The summer is looking seriously exciting, I will be turning 25 after we get back but I'm planning a little weekend escape closer to home for that. I don't think you can ever have too many plans, at least that's the way I like to live my life. Planning one adventure at a time...
🍑 A B Y
After the most incredible 9 days I'm finally back home, feeling a little jet lagged. I'd been planning this Trek America trip since January, when a break up pushed me to step outside my comfort zone, I'd never been abroad on my own before but impulsively booked to do a road trip around the west coast. I can honestly say that it's been the best experience of my life and I intend on booking another similar trip for next summer (still undecided on the destination). Travelling solo was eye opening and gave me a huge boost of independence. I was excited at the prospect of meeting new people, exploring new places and the memories will last a lifetime.
My Trek began at Manchester Airport, heading to JFK and then on to San Francisco. I spent the night before in the Red Roof Inn, we were meeting as a group in the lobby at 7.30am. At 6am I headed to the diner just next door for a classic american breakfast, bacon and blueberry pancakes obviously, to ensure I was fuelled for the start of what was going to be an epic adventure. It soon became clear who our group members were, we were the bunch with huge backpacks and hiking boots on. In total there were 11 members, plus our tour leader Andrew, the majority coming from all over Australia, with a couple of europeans and brits mixed in. We did a few ice breakers, filled out some forms and through our suitcases into the back of the van before setting off.
It was a stunning week for weather, San Francisco is well known for it's misty fog on the Golden Gate Bridge but we got a crystal clear view of the city. It felt like being in a movie, you start the Trek with a walk across the bridge and it's hard not to be taken back by the views. The walk itself was longer than I anticipated, you realise seeing these things in real life puts them into perspective (the scale of the Grand Canyon was something I certainly couldn't have grasped without seeing it in person). I'm a fitness fanatic about 70% of the time so I thoroughly enjoyed being out in the sunshine, with my camera for company. This is also were I picked up my first patch! I wanted to get a unique souvenir from each place originally, but in our van they had patches stuck to the interior walls and so I decided to collect one from each place (to then stitch onto a denim jacket back home).
We stopped off for drinks, snacks and were given chance to wander around for a bit before our first part of the driving began, heading to Yosemite. Now a big part of these trips is the driving, it gives you chance to see the parts of America that you wouldn't otherwise get to experience. I also chose a camping holiday because we spent more time as a group, food shopping in Walmart, cooking in teams on a night back in camp, taking it in turns to make breakfast and wash dishes, pulling up roadside and getting out the makeshift table from the van to build a sandwich lunch station, this made it all the more memorable. It was a holiday that I would choose over sunbathing on the beach any day of the week.
Into the Wild
As we pulled further away from San Francisco, the forest grew and I found myself in a place that felt more familiar, the wilderness. Having read books like 'Into the Wild', climbed the 3 peaks in the UK and watched documentaries like 'Valley Uprising', Yosemite felt like home to me. Driving through the mountain hills whilst gazing into the valleys below I couldn't help but feel like I belonged here. It's mad but from the minute we stopped by the campsite and set up our tents, I knew I didn't want to leave. The first night was spent eating s'mores, playing games around the campfire and getting to know the people we were going to be spending a lot of time with. A few bottles of beer helped to get the conversations going and soon we all settled in.
Our first full day in Yosemite, we were given a few options for hikes and trails to follow over breakfast. A cup of camp coffee and a blueberry bagel, covered in crunchy peanut butter (how much more american could I be) was the perfect morning pick me up. We made ourselves lunch from our Walmart haul, grabbed a few protein bars and headed back deeper into the national park. We stopped off at the village were we would all meet again later, and set off in different groups as we had people of different abilities so we chose different hiking routes. The majority of our group went for the 7 mile waterfall hike, in hindsight we didn't know the elevation was 5910ft, it was intense and challenging. However, the views from the top made it totally worth it! I've never seen a place so beautiful in my entire life and I would have loved to have camped up top to appreciate the view for longer.
We had made it up in two separate groups, but all joined together at the top for a spot of lunch and to make our way back down and back to the village to meet up with the group in time. The hike was rather quiet, being outside of peak season and I think this made it even more stunning. The lower part of the routes were busier but as the incline increased people appeared to be turning back, especially families and older walkers. There was plenty of wildlife on our hike too, deer, elks, birds and squirrels (unfortunately no bears though). The photos below do it more justice than I can, the experience was unbelievable. Once back at the village I stopped for my Yosemite patch, and a hoody which I admittedly had on my shopping list from the moment I booked the trip. I stuffed in some sweets and chips and our tour leader picked us up to head back to camp. We spent the remainder of our nights cooking more s'mores, playing music and exploring the local area. I could happily have spent the whole 9 days here but there was more to see.
The night after the hike I did sleep pretty well, in fact passed out would be more accurate. The heat and lack of food probably contributed, it also didn't help that because of all my camera equipment I was the only person carrying a back pack. This definitely made my hike a little more brutal than the rest of the group but we were a persistent bunch, I'm often stubborn in these situations so it doesn't matter how difficult it gets and even though I was feeling not 100%, once I put my mind to it I won't turn back. I am glad though because the hike was the highlight of the entire trip for me, it stands out as the biggest challenge for me to date (especially since its 300m higher than Ben Nevis, which was the highest climb I had done).
The Mafia Gang (from left to right): Kelsey, Craig, Gareth, Lissa, Rebecca, Alyce, Jess, Anette, Rob, Me and Louisa.
We got up the next morning, and drove to a lake for a dip. The crisp morning air meant that we weren't quite brave enough to get into our swimwear but it did make for a beautiful little photoshoot and filming area. We spent a lot of time in Yosemite over the 3 days, but theres so much more to explore, I would love to go back and climb more of the mountains. It was time to leave and head towards Nevada for the next part of our journey but I could never forget the beauty of ancient sequoia trees and granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome. Hopefully we will meet again Yosemite...
🍑 A B Y
It's a lazy Sunday afternoon and I'm finally getting chance to write this post after editing all morning. On Friday, I took a 5am train down South with Danny to start our weekend. It's no secret that I absolutely adore London and miss it often, but trips like this make me appreciate it's uniqueness so much more. The day began with a 4am wake up call and all of the coffee (can't say Danny was too impressed by this), before heading to the station to catch a 2 hour train ride into Euston. We arrived just after 8am and we'd certainly picked the perfect weekend, the sun was shining and I was buzzing to start the day.
What About Second Breakfast?
First stop Farm Girl Cafe, we jumped on the underground heading to Tottenham Court Road and then towards Marble Arch. I'd heard a lot about this place and seen some interesting Instagram posts, rainbow lattes and healthy brunch options that made me excited to check it out myself.
The walk there consisted of multiple balamory-esque houses I'd dream about, wondering what the insides must look like and deciding which I'd buy (if only I could afford one). Finally we reached the cafe after walking straight past it once. You go through a little white doorway and enter a small courtyard area which could be set abroad, the white walls stand tall on all sides decorated with ornate windows. We decided it was such a stunning morning that it only seemed fair to be seated outside, I opted for the Butterfly Matcha (Organic blue matcha powder with almond milk) it was a difficult decision as I was drawn to the Charcoal Latte but the black colour I found even more bizarre than my blue beverage. Danny had a lemonade and wasn't hungry (he had eaten on the train), but I couldn't resist the Berry Pancakes a buckwheat mix with amber maple syrup, peppermint, fresh strawberries and sprinkling of coconut.
After our second breakfast we had planned to walk to the Natural History Museum, just 30 mins away. This gave me the chance to have a little photoshoot along the way in Kensington (outside of more dreamy apartments, I'm pretty certain I couldn't afford without a lottery win). I'd worn tights which turned out to be a mistake, but the temperature had been a lot lower at 5am. Pairing my black converse with a red corduroy skirt I bought in the Topshop SALE last year and a River Island bardot style oversized red check shirt, I picked up with a gift card a few weeks ago. The windows were dressed with beautiful blooming flower boxes and the more we travelled around London (30,000 steps approximately) the more stunning bouquets we came across.
Time for a History Lesson
Eventually we found our way into the museum (there were some works going on so we there was a little confusion on how exactly you got inside) the building itself was breathtaking. It's funny I've been around Kensington and Knightsbridge before exploring Harrods and the V&A, but somehow missed the museum. I didn't take many pictures inside because it's something you should really see for yourself, ENTRY is free (apart from some special exhibitions). We went for the dinosaurs (nerdy I know) but theres a lot of other cool exhibits and cafes, you could easily lose yourself in here for a couple of hours, I'd recommend you do.
Next we decided as time was getting on and our phones had died, we should probably go grab coffee and lunch (also giving us some time to recharge). I decided to take Danny (a pizza lover) to my favourite pizzeria, Pizza Pilgrims in Kingly Court on Carnaby Street. My name is Aby and so it's quite fitting that I love Carn-Aby so much. The colourful courtyard, festival of food on offer and vibrant window displays never disappoint. It's a beautiful little escape from Oxford Street which I personally find a bit too busy, the atmosphere here is more creative and unique. After refuelling with some delicious carbs we headed off.
Whilst we were here, I figured shooting a time lapse on the river Thames could be cool (my little adventure camera certainly got a lot of use), so we strolled down to the bridge to test it out. The footage came out pretty great actually and I'll be linking the video below. The walking certainly helped to burn off the several coffees, pizza and pancakes from the day so far.
Now I never head down to London without walking through Covent Garden, there's always some beautiful display, artwork or street performers on. There were some vintage shops I wanted to check out nearby so I figured why not. I am so happy that we did because they had the most gorgeous floral swing seats set up all around, with huge flower carts and bouquets dotted throughout the market place. Naturally, I took this as an opportunity to get a new profile picture (who wouldn't, if only the people in the background had been a bit more camera shy).
We didn't have much planned for the rest of the Friday afternoon and so wandered, which is usually best because I always find myself in parts of the city I have never explored before. I've walked around the Soho area before but this time I found a little vintage shop called Rockit and an insanely good Gelato place! I opted for a hazelnut double scoop and Danny had strawberry perfect in the summer sun. After a bit of window shopping (saving at the moment so I was kind of on a budget) in some more stores I'd never heard of, we decided to end our day in Hyde Park. Off we strolled down towards Marble Arch.
With a cup more of ice cream (mint chocolate chip this time) we parked ourselves in some deck chairs (until we were asked to move, turns out they weren't free) put our feet up and watched the sun begin to set. Families, friends and couples all celebrating the end of their working week with a kick about or a cold one, it was a perfect evening.
Every time I take a trip down South I discover something new in London, it's a city that never gets boring. I have my favourite stops, as I'm sure everyone does but I always try and check out at least one new cafe, shop or bar. It's a good idea to walk as well, not just jump on the underground for every stop because this is how I find myself stumbling onto the cities hidden gems. (I'd highly recommend a weekday visit or for a weekend going on the Friday because it can be pretty chaotic on the Saturday or Sunday so I try and avoid the very centre of the city).
I've had such a beautiful weekend and got some pretty picture perfect moments (especially thanks to my instax mini 8 camera, the polaroids are always a great little souvenir). I can't wait to plan my next trip but until then I'll be staying in the North, Winter is Coming after all.
🍑 A B Y
I've been pretty quiet on the blog this week. Instead of posting twice last week, I thought I'd wait as I had something exciting planned! A week ago, I got my very first adventure camera. I've been working a lot this week (two jobs take up a lot of hours) and researching for my next project, vlogging. It's something I have always wanted to do but just figured I couldn't, or wouldn't be any good at. This year I seem to be pushing myself more than ever, so I figured there's no better time to give it a go.
To give it a proper test meant I needed to go exploring. This year I have conquered both Ben Nevis and Snowdon, so I decided to complete the three peaks (individually), by scaling Scafell on Sunday 20th August. Accompanied by two friends, Amy and Yasmine, who have there own youtube channel. They've vlogged there own travels, spending several months exploring Asia last year (A2Y Travellers, if you're interested). They know a lot more than me in this area, so I figured it was a good idea to ask questions and absorb some of their knowledge. I've had some experience with editing but never usually supply the footage, I'm pretty camera shy normally and want that to change!
The climb itself was stunning! We got a cloudy, but dry day which was a huge bonus. The video I put together doesn't have any conversation/ speaking in it just yet, I'm saving that for my next video. A little introduction seems like a good idea but I had no idea what to say, so we are strictly calling this a test run. I'm going to be featuring more in my next video, and saying hello to anyone who's watching. This weekend was all about me getting hands on experience, getting comfortable documenting the adventure as we moved along. Remembering to film, and think about the kind of shots that I wanted to capture whilst at the same time dealing with the physical challenge.
Amy and Yasmine brought along there drone (which is yet to be officially named). I can only imagine how ace that footage for their video will be, I'll definitely be sharing it once it goes live. I'm still an intern and excited to just get to see it at work, be a part of the process.
For me I love the mountains more than I can explain (funny that I hadn't even climbed a single one 12 months ago), I start quoting 'Lord of the Rings' or 'Game of Thrones' whilst out in the wilderness (well the lake district). It does make feel like an escape, just like the movies, it's a world away from my usual day to day routine. We passed quite a few people as we reached the summit but the majority of the walk up was peaceful.
I found filming to be pretty easy, although I definitely need some more attachments and something to stabilise the camera. The footage wasn't too shaky but it would be nice to get a tripod, both for balance and to set up time-lapse sequences, whilst I do other things. My Trek America is going to be a lot of moving around, so it's pretty key I know what works and what doesn't for me with the action camera. I've already started thinking about shots, a time-lapse of the sunrise at The Grand Canyon, as well as filming from the camper van windows as we drive down Route 66. This will help me plan what filming stuff to take for the trip so I can capture the best bits!
I also took my camera, as I can't help but take photos (as you can see on this post). The camera didn't get in the way or slow me down, a bonus of it being so small and compact. I kept it out most of the hike and was able to slot it into my backpack pretty easily, when I needed to use my hands for three points of contact climbing. One bit of advice I got (thanks Yasmine), was to film as much as you can because you might only like small bits of footage, that means the more you have to cut from the better. I found that to be true when editing, even though I just wanted a short test it was difficult finding clips I thought were good. I'm definitely still more of a photography person, but I wanted to challenge myself and capture these challenges from a different perspective. I always post photos and tell people about it but a video helps show more.
The time aspect is another thing to consider, it takes a lot longer to climb up and down a mountain when you're taking regular breaks to film, or take photographs. I had a blast as always and don't need to talk to much about Scafell Pike, the climb itself it was pretty gradual but there were some steep sections, especially as we neared the rocky summit. I got to use my thermometer and take bearings, knew which direction we were walking with my handy travel whistle/ compass. Usually I'm following someone else but in my recent climbs I've been able to take more lead.
I'm going to be getting my camera out on the regular now, hoping to start doing fortnightly vlogs, this should help push me to do more challenges. Whether that be climbs, travel or something different who knows yet. The next video will be of a trip down to London next week with Danny, so that will be a completely different subject and I'm excited to film in front of people, because thats the biggest hurdle for me. I want to talk about the city and show you around, not hiding behind the camera the entire time. Whereas Scafell Pike didn't really need much explaining, it's more visual.
Right now, I'm tinkering in Adobe Premiere to try and learn a lot more about editing. I'm looking forward to getting a bit more confident in front of the camera and preparing for my Trek America, the main reason I'm doing any of this in the first place. I'll be stateside in less than 60 days!!! I want to produce something great from that, that I am proud to share and it will give my family and friends an insight into the experience.
🍑 A B Y
I AM HAPPY.
Last Saturday I woke up at 7am, arrived at my local coffee shop a little after 8 to grab myself some early morning fuel (caffeine fixes everything) and meet up with two friends. Where were we going? To take part in 'The Happiest 5K On The Planet'. The day was all about having fun and exercise.
The Color Run is a fun run raising money for the NSPCC. What makes it unique is as you make your way around the course, you run through color zones. These sections are filled with volunteers who proceed to throw powdered paint all over you! If that wasn't enough they've also included a foam party section. You arrive in a crisp white tee, this comes in the running pack you receive a couple of weeks before the race along with your runner number & pins to attach it to your shirt. There was also a headband, little typography tattoo transfer reading 'HAPPY' in gold and few other bits and pieces.
But as you can see from the photos the tee doesn't stay white for long...
It all started with a warm up session, that alternated between having tons of 'swag' thrown into the crowd including sunglasses, socks and wristbands. Who doesn't love a bit of free merchandise? To the Townsend twins taking the stage, getting us all moving to the music, all whilst being cheered on by a guy in a unconventional unicorn costume. After an hour and a half of dancing about, it was time to get to the starting line. The waves were about to begin.
I AM HEALTHY.
There are a lot of people, and I mean a lot. They let you go in waves and we were in the third lot of people to set off round the course which was located around the Etihad Stadium in Manchester. Passing people of all ages and sizes, we started with Green, then Pink, Orange, Yellow, Red and a massive mountain of foam!
If you watch the video (I've linked below, shot by Yasmin & Amy, also known as A2Y Travellers), you will witness the fun in it's all it's chaotic, colourful glory. Including the soaking I got from the foam cannons. It's a pretty easy race, I personally run quite a few times a week usually around 6.5k so it wasn't very challenging but more just about having fun.
Approaching the finish line we were welcomed with bottles of water and a whole selection of food stalls from Coffee & Candyfloss to New York Bagels. We headed over to the stage where everyone was partying, dancing and celebrating after completing 'My Happiest 5K!' I don't think I have ever seen so much colour in one crowd. They handed out packets of the powdered paint & every so often started a colour countdown. This would lead to a massive rainbow being released, as people threw the powders into the air. As you can see underneath this turned the perfect blue sky into a canvas.
I AM ME.
The Color Run was without a doubt one of the most fun events, I have ever been involved in. The atmosphere was electric & more importantly it is an event that families, friends and even kids can do! You can walk, skip, dance or run your way to the finish line but one thing is for sure you wont leave without a massive smile on your face.
I already intend to sign up again next year & I'm considering the September one located in Bristol. I love anything fitness related but the messages being spread really resonated with me at this event. After the recent terror attacks, particularly in Manchester, it is heartwarming to see people all joining together & still getting involved in events just like this. Not being put off by the crowds of people but instead rallying together in the face of terror. Refusing to not go out & just enjoy being who we are, being happy!
Just like the posers we are, here is our action shot at the finish. If anyone is wondering whether to sign up or thinks they cant do it I promise you, you won't regret it this race is for EVERYONE. Not only that but rain or shine you can't help but enjoy yourself. It's important to enjoy the little moments.
🍑 A B Y
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...
🍑 A B Y
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!
🍑 A B Y
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
🍑 A B Y
Aby, 24. Northerner.