After Copenhagen, it felt like such a long time to wait until our next holiday but it soon rolled around and we were heading off to Vienna in Austria.
I won't lie, the journey there was pretty awful. Our flight was at 9am from London Stansted, so we got a coach from Birmingham to the airport at about 2am. Being up at 6am the previous morning, doing a full day at work and then staying up until 2am was tough, to say the least. I managed to get a bit of sleep on the coach but by the time we got to the airport, I felt horrendous and couldn't even stomach my breakfast. Thankfully, the flight was smooth and I got a bit more sleep, but when we got to the hotel at around 2:30pm, I had a migraine setting in and had to have another sleep before I was well enough to explore the city.
In short, Vienna is lovely, it's such a pretty city and we felt comfortable there straight away.
The first evening there we set off from our hotel into town and had a long stroll around before grabbing dinner at Swing Kitchen and drinks at an Irish bar called Molly Darcy's.
We were lucky with the weather throughout the whole trip, so that meant the next few days consisted of exploring Vienna, popping into and seeing a few attractions. We visited Hundertwasser House, which is an apartment block and apparently, one of Vienna's most visited buildings. Votivkirche, a pretty impressive looking church. Stephansplatz, home to a cathedral, plenty of shops and lots of interesting architecture. Volksgarten, a lovely park with plenty of dogs running around. Opera Wiener, an Austrian Opera House, and Naschmarkt, Vienna's biggest food market. We didn't actually end up eating there because it was a bit early for lunch but there was plenty of things to browse.
Personally, the highlights for me were the Museum of Contraception and Abortion which was incredibly interesting and well worth a visit – albeit not the easiest place to locate. We went into the park and stumbled upon a little music performance which was put on for after a march/protest and we saw George Ezra live at Stadthalle, which was the initial reason for our trip although Vienna was somewhere I'd wanted to visit for ages. We have both seen him perform once before in Birmingham but seeing him in Vienna was incredible. He put on such a great show and just seems like an all-around nice guy. The gig was followed by a visit to another Irish bar, this time it was one called the Golden Harp. It was next door to the Swing Kitchen and we actually ended up going there a couple of times. Basically, we pretty much spend all of our evenings when we're away in Irish bars.
We ate plenty of delicious vegan food which I'll be writing a separate post about, drank some pretty good beers which says a lot when you consider I'm usually just a shandy or radler gal, and overall, had a really nice weekend seeing a new city. We were definitely sad to leave, but it just made me even more excited for our next trip away.
The journey back was a tough one again with a plane back to London and a 3 and a half hour train journey to Birmingham. Getting in at midnight when you have to be up at 6am for work is no fun but it was well worth it and I would recommend Vienna to anyone.
At this point, I'm basically on a mission to eat all the vegan food in Birmingham city centre.
I don't go on wild nights out and I only buy the clothes, cosmetics and toiletries that I need, so where does the rest of my money go? Well, when I'm not booking or on a previously booked holiday, you can probably find me eating in one of the vegan-friendly restaurants in Birmingham. It's just what I do.
Medicine Bakery and Gallery is a place that I stumbled upon by chance. I hadn't seen anyone talking about it online and it wouldn't be hard to miss was it not for the loaves of bread and rows of doughnuts surrounding the front door.
During one of my many wanders around town, I spotted Medicine Bakery out the corner of my eye and the words 'vegan breakfast' grabbed my attention. Tucked between a bank and what has recently become Nando's, even at first glance I knew I wanted to pay a visit.
So, on the bank holiday weekend just gone, J and I ventured back into town and made our way past the crowds of people celebrating Pride and those who were probably there to visit Primark and headed to Medicine Bakery.
After getting stuck in a little queue behind people snapping photos of the front display (I'm not guilty of this, I waited until there was no one around to take my photos, just saying) we went up the stairs to find even more baked goods on display before entering the cafe area.
So much bigger than I expected, there were large tables which can seat a number of different groups of people, and a few smaller ones for a more intimate experience. The style and decor were lovely, very monochrome with plenty of greenery (read: very Instagrammable).
We sat at a small table near the entrance and till area and got busy reading the menu. There was a number of different vegan options from avocado and chilli on sourdough bread and a chia seed bowl to a falafel breakfast sandwich and a chickpea and lentil curry. I went for the vegan cooked breakfast, mainly because I think I was one of the only vegans in the world that hadn't tried scrambled tofu at that point and I wanted to change it. J went for the classic breakfast but this is a vegan blog, so we won't speak about that.
Sipping a coffee while we waited for our food, I did notice that it was pretty hectic and the staff seemingly a bit too busy. Our table hadn't been cleaned properly, there was a line of people just opposite our table which made the area quite busy and thinking back, it did take a while for me to get my coffee. No shade whatsoever, I understand that restaurants get busy and the staff simply do not have the time to do everything. My only suggestion would be to not go midday/afternoon if you're in any kind of a rush.
Now the most important part, the food. I won't lie, it did take quite a while to get our food, maybe half an hour or so, but again they were busy and the coffee was nice so I wasn't too annoyed. Again, it's just something to note if you're thinking of going there on a Saturday afternoon.
The breakfast came with half an avocado, mushrooms, spinach, scrambled tofu, a piece of falafel, tomatoes, two slices of toast and a pot of beans. It sounds like quite a lot but for me, the portion size was spot on. Any more and I couldn't have finished it. I appreciated the beans being kept separate from the rest of the food because the bread was so good as it was, I would have hated for it to have been ruined and made soggy by bean juice.
Moment of truth now...I am officially a scrambled tofu fan and will hopefully be trying to recreate it at home at some point in time. Whether it is a success remains to be seen.
Unfortunately but understandably so, it was quite busy around the baked goods after we finished our food and I couldn't spot any labelled vegan so we left empty-handed. But, there's always next time.
If you're in Birmingham, I would highly recommend Medicine Bakery and Gallery. It's something a bit different from the other restaurants and cafes in the city centre at the moment. It's reasonably priced, my breakfast was £12 which you can't complain about for such a filling and tasty meal and the coffee was pretty good as well. I plan on visiting again in the near future because there is a chickpea and lentil curry calling my name.
Pampering can be and is a big part of self-care, whether that's getting a manicure, putting on a face mask or having your hair done.
*I was sent this product to review, nonetheless my opinions remain 100% honest.
Personally, I don't really do any of the above. My nails chip a minute after they've been painted, face masks tend to spark a bad skin reaction and I only get my hair done when it absolutely needs a trim. Instead, a big part of my pampering self-care is fake tanning. Thanks to my Irish heritage, I have ghostly white skin, which while it isn't necessarily a bad thing, I do feel I look a lot healthier with a bit of a glow and a tan makes me feel more confident.
When Bondi Sands got in touch with me about trying out one of their products, I jumped at the chance. With the summer months getting ever closer - meaning more skin on show - a good fake tanning product was just what I needed.
I opted for the everyday gradual tanning milk, a daily moisturiser with a touch of tan. I find these kinds of tanners a lot less hassle. There isn't much of a risk of them resulting in a streaky tan and of course, they keep my skin moisturised. The one I chose also boasts SPF 15, aloe vera and vitamin E.
The Bondi Sands tanning mitt - which is the best quality mitt I've ever used - made applying the tanning milk incredibly easy so it took no time at all. The tanning milk also lacks that typical biscuit smell that usually comes with other fake tans and instead has a nice cocoa butter scent, so that's also another pro.
I noticed a subtle tan after just one application and was able to build up the colour over a few days. As I said, having a tan helps me to feel more confident and as we've been fairly lucky with the weather here in the UK recently, Bondi Sands has definitely come in handy.
Using the tanning milk on a regular basis over the last month or so, I'm about halfway through the bottle so a little goes a long way making it great value for money.
Bondi Sands Gradual Tanning Milk is available on their website for £11.99. Also available in Superdrug and Boots, I will 100% be picking up this product again once I've used up my current bottle.
Packing for a holiday doesn't have to be stressful nor take up too much of your time.
I'm lucky enough that I can afford to go away on holiday multiple times a year. They're not big or extravagant holidays though, just long weekends away for which I've found the cheapest flights possible and I stay in basic hotels or hostels. Nevertheless, I do it quite often, so much so that I've become quite a pro when it comes to packing for trips.
I only really take a backpack and a small cross-body bag with me when I go away because I can not be bothered with checking in luggage/lugging a case from home to hotel and back.
With that in mind, I thought I'd help anyone else out who is off on their holidays but unsure what to pack.
I present to you, my holiday packing checklist.
ESSENTIALS & ELECTRICALS ☑☒ Passport ☑☒ Currency ☑☒ Boarding Pass - I usually have mine on my phone. ☑☒ Travel Adapter ☑☒ Phone Charger ☑☒ Portable Charger ☑☒ Hair Styling Tools
CLOTHING & SHOES - Weather Dependent ☑☒ Boots - I tend to wear my doc martens to travel in ☑☒ Trainers - For days when it's a bit warmer. ☑☒ Coat/Jacket ☑☒ Jeans/Trousers ☑☒ Tops ☑☒ Jumpers ☑☒ Underwear ☑☒ Jewellery ☑☒ Beanie Hat - Handy when it's raining and/or windy. ☑☒ Gloves & Scarf - If necessary.
☑☒ Make-Up Remover
☑☒ Sanitary Products
☑☒ Anti-Bac Gel
☑☒ Nail Kit
☑☒ Water Bottle
☑☒ Day Bag
Hope this helps, let me know what your essentials are!
We had originally planned to head to Worcester for the day, but due to getting up too late and the fact it would take over an hour and a half to get there, we decided to spend the day in Birmingham instead. I spend a lot of my weekends in my home city but as the weather was nicer than usual, it all looked a lot prettier and was much more pleasant to wander around.
We headed in and got into town early enough that it felt acceptable to grab brunch so we headed to Cherry Reds.
I got a soy latte to sip while we waited for the food and sat upstairs by the window to make the most of the sun while it was shining. It's also a great little spot to people watch from.
I've had the vegan breakfast at Cherry Reds before and it was both delicious and cheaper than similar meals at other restaurants, so I knew what I was getting without looking at the menu. It consisted of tofu, a Linda sausage, mushrooms, beans, a hash brown, cherry tomatoes, spinach and toast, so for £6.90 you get a lot for your money.
As expected the food was perfect. Despite being quite a big portion, it wasn't too heavy and I was able to polish it all off without feeling overly full afterwards.
I also snapped a few photos from around Cherry Reds. The decor is quite vintage in its style and eclectic so there's plenty to look at and even though I generally prefer a more minimalist style, I think it works really well in a restaurant and helps to make it feel more comfortable and relaxing.
A lovely little independent place, Cherry Reds is just around the corner from New Street Station. It serves meat, veggie and vegan dishes so it's really handy if you're looking for somewhere to eat that will suit a range of diets and lifestyles. They also do a huge range of drinks from smoothies and coffees to spirits and pints as well as desserts. The desserts aren't listed on the menu as I think they change them up a lot so just have a look what's on display next to the bar.
After we'd eaten, we headed out into a suddenly very windy Birmingham and had a wander around a few shops before heading to a bar on the canal for a pint and to make the most of the quickly disappearing sun.
In the UK, when you’re coming up to the age of 25, you’ll receive a letter from your GP/doctor’s surgery inviting you in for a smear test - also known as a cervical screening.
If you’re not entirely sure what this is, a smear test is a test performed to check for abnormal cells on the cervix. According to the NHS website, ‘detecting and removing abnormal cells can prevent cervical cancer’.
When I was in secondary school, I think when I was in year eight or nine, I received the HPV vaccine/cervical cancer jab. At the time, I didn’t totally understand what it was for – I don’t remember it being explained to us fully if I’m totally honest – I just remember having a sore arm after the jab and some lads in the school going around hitting us in the arm because clearly, they lacked any kind of maturity. Again, according to the NHS website, ‘the HPV vaccine is effective at stopping girls getting the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancer, and some other anal and genital cancers and cancers of the head and neck’.
At this point, I would like to stress that even if you had the HPV vaccine, it is still incredibly important to go for regular smear tests. Even though the vaccine can protect against some strains of HPV, there are still other strains that can be found through a smear test and as we all know, the sooner you catch things like that, the sooner they can be taken care of.
Personally, I wasn’t worried about getting a smear test. When the letter came through the post just before Christmas to remind me to book in for one – and at the same time reminding me that I’m almost a quarter of a century old, cry – I planned to book one after the new year and I did just that. Unfortunately, the day before my appointment I came on my period. While you can have your test done during that time of the month, it is best not to. Ideally, you want to have your smear test in the middle of your cycle, 14 days after the start of your last period so that a better sample of cells can be taken.
Now that I’ve got the medical side of things out the way, I thought I’d share my experience with you all. As I said, I booked mine and then came on my period so I very easily rescheduled for a week or so later.
The time taken from my name being called to go into the nurse’s room to me leaving the doctors surgery was pretty much exactly five minutes. Yes, it was that quick. I sat down in a chair while I was asked a few questions (when was my last period, am I on any birth control, etc.). The nurse then assured me that it wouldn’t hurt and would be over before I knew it.
During your appointment, you will be asked to lay on a bed undressed from the waist down. A speculum is inserted and a small brush is used to collect some cells from your cervix. In my own experience, there was no pain whatsoever – I’ve had more discomfort dealing with tampons. And that was it. I redressed, was told to expect my results within the next two weeks* and I was on my way.
I understand that everyone will have a slightly different experience but I implore you not to let the fear of pain or the potential results put you off having a smear test. A few moments of discomfort is 100% worth it for the peace of mind of no abnormal cells or the early detection of abnormal cells.
*It did end up taking more than two weeks for my results to arrive. In fact, I think it was around a month to six weeks before I got them, so don't be concerned if you haven't been contacted within two weeks.
Can you tell I didn't really have a photo to go with this blog post?
For those of you who didn’t read my previous post, a few months ago I stopped taking oral contraceptives, something I had been taking for ten years and I've decided to document/note the changes, if any, over the first few months post-pill.
You can read the full post going into why I've come off the pill here. As of now, I’ve been off it for about three months and thought I’d share how I’ve been getting on. If you’re considering coming of your birth control, maybe my experience will help you decide.
Two weeks after my last withdrawal bleed, I got my period, again. Not a total surprise as before I went on the pill, two weeks off – one week on was my regular cycle, but it was a bit annoying - I thought my body may have figured out a 4-week cycle by now. Three months on and it still hasn't settled down. Basically, things are slightly erratic but not terrible. While I'm not sure when to expect my next period, when it does come, it lasts a day or two less than previously so there's a silver lining at least.
I have noticed that cramps have been a bit more intense than they were while I was on the pill. I can deal with them and still get through my standard working day, but the pain has definitely gone up a notch.
I’m not entirely sure with this one to be totally honest. I started working out regularly about four months before I decided to ditch the pill so I can’t for definite say that coming off the pill has helped me drop a few extra kilos as that may just be because I now go to the gym somewhat regularly. Nevertheless, I’ve lost around four kilos since August so whether that’s pill related or not, I’m happy with it.
Something I’ve struggled with massively over the years is migraines and headaches. I used to find that during my week off the pill I would pretty much always end up with a migraine and I didn’t know whether that was caused by pill-induced hormone changes or what, but – touch wood – I haven’t had a migraine since I stopped taking the pill.
One noticeable negative about post-oral contraceptive life is that my skin seems to have got worse, particularly around the time of my periods. There’s definitely a few more spots on the go than usual, but providing I can cover them up with make-up I'm not too bothered about them. I did have a moment where my skin was so bad that I was tempted to go back on the pill purely to try and clear it up, but I didn't and it seems to have got a little better for now.
I'd say my experience coming off the pill has been pretty positive. Things haven't been and still aren't perfect but I'll take a few extra spots over monthly migraines. As everyone is different, I’d love to hear your experience with oral birth control, post-pill or whether you’ve considering going on or off the pill and why.
Eating vegan in Copenhagen, from the good to the downright outrageous - I may be being a little dramatic here.
The Organic Boho - Not long after landing in Copenhagen, we headed out in search of lunch. After a quick Google, we found The Organic Boho. 30 minutes of walking later, we arrived to find there were no spare seats. I at this point was pretty damn hungry and not in the best mood. We located another vegan place not far away but when we got there, the menu was pretty rubbish so we crossed our fingers and went back to The Organic Boho. I'm so glad we gave it another go because not only were there seats, but a gorgeous menu of food as well. We both went for a burger, a falafel one of me and a fried cauliflower for J and they were divine. I've also never seen a more beautifully presented burger either.
Momo - After a few pints on our first night, we were pretty peckish and you just can't say no to noodles. The set up was pretty similar to Wok to Walk which I've had in Amsterdam and Berlin. You choose your base - noodles or rice, protein, veggies, and sauce. We picked up a box each - I had udon noodles, broccoli, spring onion, mushroom and I think Peking sauce? - and headed straight back to the hotel to sit in bed and eat. Such a handy meal when you want something quick and easy.
Cafe Bla - Cafe Bla was just around the corner from our hotel and the menu looked perfect for breakfast. We timed it just right as the heaven's opened just before we arrived so we were able to take shelter there. With the best freshly squeezed orange juice either of us has ever had, I had chia porridge and J had the same but with the addition of waffles. It was so good that we decided to go back for dinner another night. A portabello burger for J and an avocado sandwich for me, they were both filled with plenty of salads and veggies so we left comfortably full and ready to head off in search for another Irish bar.
Sticks'n'Sushi - I've recently discovered a love for sushi so I was pretty excited about how many sushi places were in Copenhagen. Sticks'n'Sushi was the closest one to where we were at the time so we headed there. The sushi was delicious and the service was brilliant but the price was a bit much in my opinion. We had a side of edamame, avocado and cucumber maki, mamma mia roll - and two meat-based ones for J that I don't remember the names of - with is coming up to over £70. If we had ordered our meal in the UK, it would have cost around £40/50. I understand Copenhagen is known for being an expensive city but did they really have to charge us over £5 for a jug of water?
Torvehallerne Food Market - I can't remember the name of the stall we ate at in Torvehallerne which is really annoying but we had the perfect brunch of avocado, tomato, spinach and hummus paninis there. Word of warning for the vegans among you, there is a lot of meat and cheese stalls about so just avert your eyes if possible.
SimpleRAW - On our final morning in Copenhagen, we went to SimpleRAW for breakfast/brunch. The interior of the place was my dream as was the menu. I felt it was a bit too early for a burger so I had the Acai Bowl instead. After the chia pudding at Cafe Bla and then this Acai bowl, I have vowed to start making breakfasts like this now I'm home because they're just so good. J did go for the burger which was a mungbean and quinoa patty with cheese and it got a thumbs up from him.
Retreat, Copenhagen Airport - Finding somewhere to eat at the airport wasn't the easiest task I've ever had. We walked up and down the terminal a good two or three times looking in each place for vegan options to no avail. At this point, I'd accepted that I was going to be having a trek flapjack for lunch that I had packed in my bag but luckily, I spotted Retreat and thank the lord, they had something. The super vegan sourdough sandwich which was made up of hummus, pesto, tomatoes, red onion and seeds. It was a pretty hefty sandwich as well so I was full until after we landed back in Manchester.
Despite being brutally cold, Copenhagen still managed to be incredibly beautiful.
"2019: we're hydrated, having good sex with people who deserve us, eating veggies, hiking, leaving behind toxic relationships, communicating our feelings, saying no, respecting the planet & the animals on it, spoiling ourselves with love and smashing the patriarchy".
Apart from what I had seen in pictures, I wasn't really sure what to expect from Copenhagen. But just like with Berlin, it was a place I'd wanted to visit for a long time. So, thanks to both my generosity and selfishness, as my boyfriend's Xmas present, I booked him and I a trip there for mid-February. Did I mention how cold it was? Yes, it was even colder than I expected and I ended up wearing a thermal top under my clothes and rarely taking the hat from my head. Word of advice, visiting Scandinavia during the winter requires more than plenty of layers - as if that isn't already obvious.
We weren't very lucky with the weather, to begin with. Both our first and second day in the city was spent soggy from the rain. Regardless, we battled the elements to see both The Little Mermaid and The Genetically Modified Little Mermaid, ended up by St.Albans Church and without realising it at the time, on our way to all of that, we had passed by Nyboder - former naval barracks in the city. Of course, it wouldn't be a trip to Copenhagen without visiting Nyhavn and we stopped off in the city centre pub The Dubliner, for more than a few pints over the course of our trip as well as watching England Vs. France in The Globe. Seriously, I will find and spend a lot of my time in Irish pubs no matter what county I'm in.
With luck on our side, for the next two days, the sun shone. We headed back to Nyhavn to see it in all its glory and walked around the city centre countless times taking it all in. We accidentally happened upon Freetown Christiania whilst we killed time before going for lunch one of the days, and on our penultimate day in Copenhagen, we stopped by Torvehallerne food market for brunch. I'm going to write up a separate post about where we ate so keep an eye out for that.
For anyone wondering, we stayed in Cabinn Scandinavia. Not the fanciest hotel in the world and the rooms are pretty small, but it was perfect for our trip as we didn't spend much time in the hotel anyway. It was just a twenty-minute walk from the city centre and a five-minute walk from the metro stop.
In summary, Copenhagen, you were beautiful - even if you were freezing cold and a little bit expensive at times.