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Excerpts from my Travel Diary: UK

Date: 2nd December 2013
The plans for the day: Arrive in Paris and go to London

Landed in London an hour late due to the train delays. It was reezing cold! We went to Trafalgar Square, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey followed by Buckingham Palace.
...

As soon as I went to the hostel, I started to miss everybody. It hit me so hard and I couldn't stop crying. An old lady in the 6 person room we were sharing had an argument with my travel buddy. I went to the common room and there was a guy talking to his friend about smoking hash while his friend on facetime was showing him how to make it. YHA is a great place -- not!!
...

I talked to the family and by crying I know I disappointed them all. Sanju mamu called and told me to come to Stoke on Trent tomorrow to spend a few days with him and his family. I'm taking the easy way out. I know.
Date: 3rd December 2013
Plans for the day: Tower of London, St Pauls and Leave for Stoke on Trent

I didn't get much sleep, waking up every hour.
...

We took the wrong bus to St Pauls. As usual, I did all the talking and what was meant to be a 15 mins journey became 1.5 hours in rush hour London. St Paul's was beautiful but no photography was allowed.
...

Arrived in Stoke on Trent and mamu made me try all sorts of liquor at his restaurant. He also served us so much food.
Date: 4th December 2013
Plans for the day: Countryside

The buildings and houses looked like something out of a Jane Austen movie.
...

After I came home my tummy was very upset. I tried to vomit but no luck. I'm thinking a UTI from the hostel. f-my-fing-life.
Date: 5th December 2013
Plans for the day: Leave for Paris from Manchester

Today the flight from Manchester got delayed by 2 hours. We were just waiting in the plane for the high winds to die down.

 

 

 

 

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Excerpts from my Travel Diary: Dubai, UAE

Date: 16th December 2013
The plans for the day: 

We landed in Dubai at 5:30am and checked in early at 10am. The journey to the hotel was interesting as we went in completely the wrong direction. There I was with my 23 kg bag, and three other handbags, in the sticky humid Dubai weather in my winter boots with a full-sleeve shirt. It was not pleasant to say the least. 
Date: 17th December 2013
The plans for the day: Burj Khalifa 

"I had kadai chicken and tandoori naan with chai at the cheap side restaurant I found yesterday. The most amazing food all for 13AED! My tummy didn't feel too well though, I ate too much and got gas! It wasn't too good going up the Burj Khalifa either. The view although amazing didn't excite me too much with my Dubai belly.
Date:18th December 2013
The plans for the day: Burj Arab

"At this point I'm bored of Dubai and all that it has."
...

"On the way back to pack our luggage we stopped at my now favourite restraurant. I had chicken tikka with naan. I asked the owner in Hindi weather there would be someone who could help me carry my bags up the set of stairs to get to the train station and he said he'll find someone for me. I ended up giving the guy who carried my luggage 15AED as I felt thankful and pitiful at the same time"

...

"Now I'm on the flight. I got pretty excited for a while since the three seats next to me were all empty but then an Arab family came and spoilt it all."

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Excerpts from my Travel Diary: Paris, France

Today, I decided to open up my Travel Diary that I took with me on my graduation trip at the end of 2013. All the memories came flooding back, alongside all the entrance tickets and souvenirs – mainly coins you get from attractions, that I had collected from every place I went to.

I never did end up writing a detailed blog about my adventures (promises were made, promises were broken). To make up for it – a picture speaks a thousand words, and I’ve got a lot of pictures! To top it all of I thought I would give you a glimpse into my travel diary.

In hindsight, it really is a very mundane piece of travel writing, so I don’t think this ‘Excerpts from my Travel Diary’ will go on much longer… but till then, enjoy!

8th December 2013
The plans for the day: Roland Garros, Sacre Coeur and Lovers Bridge
I'm backdating this two days but  I can still remember the day so clearly. It was the best day on the European trip. One where I learnt, discovered and 'saw' the most.

The day started at 10am when I got the train to Rolland Garros. Once I got off the station, I had to ask for directions at least two times. The stadium was so isolated. I went into the shop and asked if I could please join the tour. The tour was myself and an Argentinian couple. We went everywhere - courts, lockers, interview and press rooms. It was amazing. Then I found my way to Sacre Coeur which was the most crowded attraction thus far. An Indian offered to take my photo, I was hesitant but accepted. The inside was great with a large Jesus stature. I then climbed about 300 stairs to the top The view although good wasn't worth the €6. I had trouble finding my way back to the train station but asked and my old ticket still seemed to work everywhere.

I got off at Notre Dame and asked for another photo. Then found a caricature artist who did a great portrait of me. Lovers Bridge was busier than the day, and as I locked my lock I tried to take photos. A lady asked if I wanted any photos - and took a few for me. Then another artist insisted that I get a caricature and take it for free if I didn't like it. It wasn't good at all so I told him to keep the caricature to display it for other customers and gave him €10. He insisted that I take the drawing and gave me a kiss on the cheek. His gratitude made my day. I then went back to my hotel to charge things and had a crepe thanks to a guy who translated for me.

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Solo Trip: Bali Bliss

I have caught the traveling bug and while some may say it’s an expensive addiction, I think it’s priceless. Without travel, you can’t really know and appreciate the place you’ve come from. That may seem like a weird concept to someone who hasn’t travelled but it’ll hit home once you see a few different countries. It makes you appreciative of the life that you’re fortunate enough to have. Traveling opens your eyes, it broadens your horizons and more importantly it’s empowering.

I have mentioned before that I’ve been fortunate enough to get a position this year which allows me to travel from time to time. Later this month, I’ve got an opportunity to do some trials out in the middle of nowhere in Western Australia. We’re going to be there for a week with no internet, phone reception, or civilisation. What are we doing there? Blowing things up! Okay, so that makes the no connection to the outside world shock a little easier to bare. I’m quite excited for this because it’s not an opportunity a lot of others would ever get, and one thing I’ve learnt in the past few months is to cease every single opportunity you can get. You’ll learn something from every experience and it’ll make for a good story if things go pear shaped. I have been told that all you can see is a red horizon and a clear night sky free from the city smog.

The advantage of working straight for two weeks is getting a long time off work right after. This is where my next bit of news comes in: I’m going to Bali for a short vacation. Oh, and I’m going alone.

I’ve never been one to shy away from a quiet night in. I love me-time, but it’s completely different when you’re in public surrounded by groups of tourists who are either with their significant other, family, friends or someone of importance in their life. Being alone in public is probably one of my biggest fears, and possibly our generations. Who doesn’t freak out at the thought of people thinking they are a loner? And so we hurriedly grab our phone and start typing a message to a particular no one. This is one of the reasons behind why I decided to challenge myself and travel somewhere alone. 

Those of you who know me, or have been following my posts know that I like to quote Elizabeth Gilbert a lot. I found her journey of self-discovery inspirational and one I think is important for everyone to experience. You could almost say that I’m amongst the thousands of women that are following in her footsteps and taking the plunge. I have already explored my fair share of India being brought up there, I’ve eaten my weight in carbs in Italy and now I’m venturing out to enjoy some solo Bali bliss. Honestly speaking, I never planned to do a trip alone, I never planned for it to be Bali, it just all fell into place thanks to some circumstances.

I think this trip is important for me because I want it to be a journey of self-discovery. I want to be able to feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations. I have never really had a problem in asking for directions, or being proactive whilst traveling, and for these reason a solo trip is easier for me than for some others. I love engaging with locals and letting the journey unfold so the physical discovery of Bali and in particular Ubud is what excites me. What terrifies me is what will be waiting for me: feelings of loneliness and awkwardness. I almost want to embrace these feelings and let them bring me back to centre. I’ll have no one to rely on, but on the other hand I can do exactly as I please on my trip, because that’s exactly what it is – my trip.

Romeo

I’m going to take on the controversial topic of love today. Controversial, because everyone seems to have their own meaning, one that they’ve devised to justify to themselves their current state and make it more socially acceptable – or at least in their minds. So why shouldn’t I have a crack at this?

Elizabeth Gilbert’s opinion on a soul mate is one that I empathise with. “People think a soul mate is your perfect match, and that’s what everyone wants. But, a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back. They tear apart your ego a little bit and show you your obstacles and addictions. A true soul mate is probably the most important person.” She goes on to say that it’s too painful to live with your soul mate forever, but I’m not in the business of denying myself simple pleasures like love.

Julio Cortazar hits the nail on the head. “What most people call love consists of picking out a woman and marrying her. They pick her out, I swear, I’ve seen them. As if you could pick in love, as if it were a lightning bolt that splits your bones and leaves you stalked out in the middle of the courtyard. They probably say they pick her out because they love her, I think it’s just the opposite. Beatrice wasn’t picked out. Juliet wasn’t picked out. You don’t pick out the rain that soaks you to a skin when you come out of a concert.”

Love isn’t something we choose to do. It just happens. As crazy and stupid as that sounds it happens, and love is blind and love is painful but it’s also probably the most wanted feeling in the world. So why shouldn’t we spend as long as we can with our soul mates? Sure, it’s painful, but if all we did was toss our soul mate out after we had gotten what we needed from them, doesn’t that make us selfish? Was it even love then? Or are soul mates and love two completely different entities?

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Italy: Life Is A Combination Of Magic And Pasta

I cannot stand people who do not take food seriously.

Thank you Oscar. Thank you for understanding me.  Thank you for letting me brag about the exquisite food I witnessed in Italy by standing behind your quote. But,  in all honesty – If you’re not  a fan of food, we cannot be friends.

In the week and a bit that I spent in Italy, I cannot think of one day where I had just three meals. I was constantly eating and I didn’t put on a pound. Sounds like the dream doesn’t it? It pretty much was. The stagnant weight was most probably because I was walking everywhere, so don’t get too jealous.

Rather than sharing the photos of the beautiful gondolas in Venice, or the Duomo in Milan, or the Trevi Fountain, Colosseum or Vatican in Rome, or the Leaning Tower in Pisa. I thought I would share with you my food journey in Italy. You can google photos of Italy and find thousands of photographs of the landscape, and from real photographers too. I thought it would be more interesting to share with you my thoughts on the food I witnessed, because those will be unique to just me.

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This is a Sachar Torte. An Austrian cake by name but one that can be found in Italian menus. I couldn't have more than two forkfuls without feeling somewhat ill. It is a beautiful, dense and just so chocolatey. I think a dollop of cream would've really helped one eat it all, but then again I had just had a big dish of pasta before diving into this.
 1891472_10152055731631234_582135800_oTruffle Fettuccine. This  was wonderful - creamy and full of flavour in a small restaurant a few streets away from the Colosseum.  I couldn't figure out what that taste was and had to translate the Italian to find out that it was Truffle. Once I did, I felt so high-class. Only the food snobs seem to be able to afford Truffle anything in New Zealand!
 10006027_10152055736071234_1863501577_oA beautifully light Buffacchitto. Now, I've googled this and it doesn't really exist - but I swear that is what it was called on the menu at Rosso Pomodararadi in Naples.
 1064489_10152055736466234_1991670114_oPizza Vera Napoletana. Thank you Liz from Eat, Pray, Love. Thank you for telling me about Naples, thank you for telling me that the pizzas are to die for. Because you know what?  It is the best pizza I will ever have in my life.
  1658722_10152055739096234_50740220_oThis is a dessert called Sfogliatelle. A pastry filled with passion and love, and also ricotta. It is my favourite Italian dessert because that cheese really helps balance the sweetness. This pastry is native to Naples so I'm very glad I did my research and tried my very first one in Naples. I tried another one at the train station in Rome and it really let me down, so if you're ever going to try one - please do it in Naples.
1973369_10152055752086234_916345335_oQuick Coffee Gelato stop next to the Vatican - only 2 Euros!
1960863_10152055752301234_1496332646_oMinestrone Soup and Pasta at a restaurant opposite my hotel in Rome. I ordered too much - but I finished it all, because you're in Italy so why the hell wouldn't you?
 1669865_10152055752351234_1332364064_oA selection of desserts from a local shop in Pisa. They were all very disappointing. Pisa was just not a good food stop. Mediocre, Mediocre, Mediocre - but then again I had been having amazing Italian for the past few days so by normal Western standards this was still pretty great.
 1275523_10152055754251234_2034061440_oMy gelato from a local shop by my hotel in Venice. It was my first gelato in Italy and I couldn't stop smiling. I was also alone, so it was a tad creepy.
 1966257_10152055730826234_851601962_oMy very first dome pizza opposite our hotel in Milan. They did not speak much English but they kept the restaurant open late just for me.
1796869_10152055736531234_1698813958_oRavioli in Milan. I would pay $50 for this but it was only 10 Euros. Here's a tip, go to a crowded restaurant where no one speaks English, that is how you will find authentic cuisine. 
10001020_10152055737696234_243989518_oNutella Burger. Don't think it needs an explanation.
1974167_10152055738231234_2019935283_oThe coffee cost me €1, the chocolate croissant €1.50. They were both delightful in a small cafe in the streets of Milan.

 

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Dark Chocolate Adventures

I’ve been quite the dare devil in the kitchen lately, alongside trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I think it’s imperative that we do our absolute best to eat well and develop good habits. I’ve tried to cut out processed foods, takeaways and refined sugars. Count chemicals not calories is what I’m striving for. I’ve always been an advocate of juicing but cooking with natural ingredients, incorporating more vegetables and less processed and refined foods is something I’ve just recently adopted. This doesn’t mean I don’t eat any junk food, I’m human after all and do give in to my cravings! However, it does mean I’m making  a conscious effort to eat clean. I’m not a huge fan of dessert but lately have been having quite a few sweet cravings. I thought I would share a few dessert recipes containing dark chocolate with you.

Bliss Balls

photo 1Ingredients: 
Rolled Oats
Almonds
Sunflower Seeds
Pumpkin Seeds
Dark Chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)

Method:

1. Fill a large pot with water and place a smaller heatproof bowl inside. Bring the water to a simmer. 

2. Break your chocolate block into smaller portions and place in the bowl.

3. Adjust the heat as needed to ensure that the dark chocolate melts. Use a metal spoon to stir the chocolate.

4. Once melted, remove from heat and add rolled oats, almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds to the bowl. 

5. Give it a good mix and then use two spoons to form bliss balls. Do this step fast as the chocolate hardens quickly!

Note: You can use your hands like I did but make sure you keep them moist with water so the chocolate doesn't stick. I don't recommend this because the chocolate is very hot and not everyone's hands are as insensitive to heat as mine. 

Dark Chocolate Homemade Bounty Bars

photo 2Ingredients:
Shredded Dried Coconut 
Dark Chocolate
Honey 
Coconut Cream (Coconut Milk)
Method:
1. Add two teaspoons of coconut cream to a saucepan and bring to simmer. 

2. Add one cup of shredded dry coconut to the saucepan and stir. 

3. Ensure that the consistency of the mixture is not runny and that it's just soggy. 

4. Take off the heat and add honey to taste to the coconut mixture. 

5. Line a one inch deep baking pan with cooking paper and compress the coconut mixture into it. 

6. Leave in the freezer for 30-40minutes. If you prefer you can leave it in the fridge for a longer period. 

7. Once the coconut mixture is cooled but not set, remove the whole lot from the pan with the cooking paper. 

8. Using a sharp knife cut rectangular bite size shapes. If they fall part just use your hands with a bit of water to pat them into shape - they will become a little rounded but that's fine!

9. Place them back in the fridge or freezer to set till they're cool. 

10. Using the method mentioned above, melt dark chocolate in a bowl. 

11. Remove the bars from the fridge/freezer, dip in the melted dark chocolate and place on a baking paper lined tray. 
Note: It's important to ensure that the tray is lined otherwise once it sets, the bar doesn't come out clean and breaks. 

12. Leave in the fridge to cool and set.

Peanut Butter Fudgephoto 4

Ingredients:
Shredded Dried Coconut 
Dark Chocolate
Rolled Oats
Cashews
Almonds
Peanut Butter - crunchy or smooth
Sunflower Seeds
Pumpkin Seeds
Butter
Milk
Method:
1.Take a muffin tray and line it with baking cups. 
Note: It's just as easy to use a baking pan for this and line it with cooking paper. 

2. Melt the dark chocolate as mentioned previously. 

3. Once the dark chocolate is melting away in the bowl, add half a cup of milk and one tablespoon of butter. Allow this to mix properly by stirring constantly. The mixture should be of a creamy consistency. 

4. Take this off the heat and bring it to your working bench, closer to the ingredients. 

5. Using a spoon, add a tablespoon of chocolate to each baking cup. I made six muffin sized fudge out of 600g of dark chocolate. This forms a flat base for your fudge. 

6. Using a different spoon, spoon some peanut butter into random spots. 

7. Add the rolled oats and dried coconut into your remaining melted dark chocolate. 

8. Spoon the dark chocolate mixture into the baking cups. 

9. Sprinkle almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds when you desire. 

10. Top off with another layer of the dark chocolate mixture. 

11. Add spoonfuls of peanut butter in random places in the baking cups, as well as the nuts and seeds. 

12. Finish off the dark chocolate mixture by covering all of the baking cups with a generous amount of dark chocolate. 

13. Sprinkle the top with any remaining nuts or seeds.

14. Place the muffin tray in the fridge for 2-3 hour to set a little. 

15. Remove the tray and peel the baking paper of the chocolate cups. 

16. Using a sharp knife, cut the muffin shaped fudge into fourths.

17. Place back in the fridge to set for an hour or two and ta-da!

and perhaps happiness…

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