Home-made Falafel

I know summer is over but we have now entered the time of year when summer bodies are made. I am going to start writing more about my fitness journey/struggles, great meal recipes and tips for achieving your goal in time for summer 2016 while I try to achieve mine. Whether your just trying to be healthier and watch your food intake, trying to cut down processed foods or just attempting to look like Beyonce, the outcome all depends on what you eat. Continue reading “Home-made Falafel”

Santiago de Compostela

Something about Spain never gets old. Wether its the delicious tapas and sangria ( my favourite tapas being the croquettas and calamares), the unique culture or the frequent appearance of the sun, I always enjoy a trip back to España.

This time, we visited a whole new region – Galicia. Our first stop, the quaint and possibly most picturesque city I have yet seen in Spain, Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia. Santiago’s main attraction is the majestic Cathedral which lies in the heart of the city and houses the shrine of one of Jesus’ apostles, St.James. The Cathedral is also the destination for the Camino de Santiago (The way of St.James), an infamous pilgrimage route.         Continue reading “Santiago de Compostela”

I lost my heart in Heidelberg

Most people think of Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne when they talk about traveling to Germany. However, there is so much more to explore in this underrated European country.

Neckar

This 367 kilometer long river Neckar flows undisturbed through many cities and towns in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg and my favourite place in Germany, Heidelberg, lies along its flowing currents. Maybe the cheesy love story of how my dad met my mom here is the reason why I find this town one of the most romantic and characterized. However, the cobbled streets and traditional buildings accompanied by the greenery of the Odenwald (Oden forest), along with the ruined Castle that stands looking onto the river, is reason enough to fall in love with Heidelberg. Even songs have been written about losing your heart in Heidelberg and that it beats by the river bed. Continue reading “I lost my heart in Heidelberg”

Ghost of the Caribbean – Bahamas

Just to help you (and me) get over the wet and gloomy summer we have been gifted with in the UK, I will reminisce about my short-lived trip to the Bahamas 3 years ago. I told myself I would be back soon to float on the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. And now 3 years have flown by and I haven’t come close.

It wasn’t even planned. We were in Miami, partying it up in Play, accidentally walking into the city´s biggest Strip Club – King of Diamonds when we decided to embark on a day trip to the Bahamas with the Ferry from Fort Lauderdale ( FYI – a day trip ended up being more stressful than relaxing so I would recommend spending more time here).

bahamas

We literally had 4 hours to spend in the Bahamas before having to catch our very bumpy ferry ride back for our last night in Miami – Liv on Sundays. So we made the most of it when we arrived at Freeport Grand ; indulged in Caribbean delights, laid on the white, delicate sand and took a boat trip out into the emerald painted sea.

bahamas

We even had enough time to make a new friend:dog bahamas

bahamas boat

We then got introduced to Ghost – who made an appearance in the Pirates of the Caribbean. This semi-wrecked ship is docked here and is sometimes used as a tourist trap, although it makes for good pictures along the way. It also brought me a little closer to Johnny depp and Orlando!

Ghost ship Bahamas

Whilst I loved my trip to Miami and the Bahamas, it was just not long enough! And while I´m staring out the window watching people run across the street getting soaked, I am pretty damn close to booking a flight back.

Is there such thing as too much sun and beach?

On that note, I hope the rest of your Summer (or Winter) stays sunny. And if not, I hope you booked your next holiday!

The journey to the Sahara – Ait Ben Haddou and Todgha Gorge

Its been nearly two months since I returned from Morocco and I cannot emphasize how pleasantly surprised I was at what this beautiful country had to offer.

My main reason for the trip was to visit the Sahara desert, however, our journey to this magical place from Marakkech was just as exciting. Tiring, but bloody exciting! When your in Marakkech there are so many tours that offer to take you to the Sahara ( usually marked as a 3 day 2 night trip to merzouga). There are also tours to Zagora, a smaller  desert with far less majestic sand dunes. So if you want to experience the desert in its full force, book the trip to Merzouga. The journey is bumpier and longer but the size of the dunes make up for it.

The tours are cheaper if you book them directly with the tour company (forget booking it online as it costs twice the price). It costs around 90euros but you can get it down to 60-70euros if you persist!

Atlas Mountains

Another thing to be aware of – the journey is not short, so be prepared to be in a van for hours driving through the winding roads into the Atlas mountains with drops of a few hundred feet. Not everyone’s idea of a pleasant journey but you get some amazing views that make up for it, if you dare to open your eyes.

There are two main attractions you see en-route to the Sahara. The first one, on day 1, is Morocco’s very own Hollywood attraction– Ait Ben Haddou

Ait Ben Haddou The Ksar (a group of modest homes made out of the combination of straw, mud and stones) of Ait Ben Haddou is a popular stop along the way to the Sahara, and rightly so. This old village in the Ourzazate province showcases the architecture of southern Morocco and has also been named a UNESCO Heritage site since 1987.

ait ben haddou IMG_9472

Whilst there use to be around 80 berber families living in this compound, only 4 families remain at present whilst the rest have been moved to more modern buildings across the river bed.

ait ben haddou

Inside the protective walls of Ait Ben Haddou you will stumble into an intricate maze of narrow alleys around the Kasbahs( the more majestic fortresses where locals leaders would live) and Ksar’s. Unfortunately you can only enter the gates of Ait Ben Haddou with a local guide ( the required tip is 20dh per person which is nothing), so getting lost in this charming village was not an option.

Although the colours of the street and walls are of a constant red-brown, my eyes never grew tired or bored. Something so simple left more of an imprint on my mind than the houses of parliament and the Big Ben. I felt like princess Jasmine waiting for her magic carpet to arrive at her feet, ready to see the rest of this alluring country.

I am not the only one who was taken away by this fascinating architecture, many film producers have used this old village and the barren, tranquil landscape that surrounds it as the set of famous films such as The Mummy, Gladiator and the Prince of Persia, just to name a few.

ait ben haddouait ben haddou

After a night in a not so amazing hotel in the Dades region, we made our way to see the next of Morocco’s underestimated natural formation –  The Todgha Gorge.

Todgha Gorge

This canyon is not just a sight for the eyes, but also an attraction for professional rock climbers. These majestic walls were carved by the Todgha and Dades rivers. The clear fresh water stream that runs through the gorge works as a gathering spot for the locals to wash their clothes and cool their hard working donkeys.

Todgha Gorge

The beauty of Morocco lies not just in the vast, majestic landscape but in their people. I always find that the poorest countries are homes to the happiest of people. The Berber people, the indigenous North Africans, are surrounded by so much culture and belief. Many of them call themselves “Amazigh” – the free and noble people and there are 6 major different dialects, with different berber families speaking different dialects.

Berber music is a large piece of their culture with rhythmic drum beats that left my feet tapping while we were being driven in our van, hearts beating with excitement for the next and final stop – The Sahara

I never thought for a second that I would arrive in Morocco and keep all my possessions with me but have my heart stolen and that is exactly what happened.

I will be back!

Hells Mouth – Surfer’s paradise, Sailors worst nightmare

I spent last weekend getting down and dirty with nature, camping in Wales. I have never been to Wales before and I did not have any expectations however, I learnt that the UK has so much to offer and you don’t have to get on a plane to see clear blue water while sitting on soft sand.

However, you probably do have to get on a plane if you want guaranteed scorching heat. That is something this Island cannot promise. We camped in a lovely, clean camping site (http://www.tyn-y-mur.co.uk/) on a hill overlooking Abersoch, a small town also known as Cheshire by the sea due to the many affluent visitors that flock here during the holidays.

The campsite wasn’t just close to the town centre, it also boasted a great view of the undulating landscape with hints of the blue irish sea.

Camping Wales

We had a lot of luck with the sun making its appearance all weekend. The wind, however, caused quite a bit of havoc while setting the tent up. One of our camp neighbours lost their tents to the wind, it literally got blown away. R.I.P

Wales Camping

My favourite part of the weekend was visiting Hells Mouth, known by the locals as Porth Neigwl. This 4 mile long stretch of stoney beach is exposed to the Atlantic and is home to waves which attract surfers from all over the world. There are many tragic fishermen’s tales of Hells Mouth and many ships which have been unfortunate enough to end up in this bay, never made it out.

Hells mouthHells Mouth

Apart from the mysterious bay of Hell’s Mouth, there are a few other things to do in and around Abersoch:

1. Have breakfast or dinner/drinks at Zinc in Abersoch’s town centre. This bar/restaurant has an open terrace that looks out to the dock and is always busy with locals and tourists.

zinc bar abersoch

2. Drive to Whistling Sands – listen to the sand whistle to the beat of your footsteps. This beach on the northern peninsula is popular for its pure, golden sand and clear waters. If it’s your lucky day, you’ll even get to see seals or dolphins. However, sadly it wasn’t my lucky day.

whistling sands

Whistling sands

3. Find the hidden beach of Abersoch and enjoy the privacy: When the tide is low you can venture further down Abersoch beach and follow the rigid bend along the cliff on the right. Behind this cliff is where you find this less-known beach with small, untouched caves. Just be aware that you head back before the tide comes back in or you’ll be featuring in your own Cast Away film.

abersoch caves

4. Climb the steep steps to the Tin Man in Llanbedrog. Beware: the walk is not for the faint at heart and the view of the coast is more impressive than the sculpture.

IMG_9361

Llanbedrog

Diolch (thank you) Wales for the beautiful views and intriguing language

XOXO

Hells MouthAbersoch

Breakfast for the soul – Top 5 ways to start your day in Southeast Asia

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and while I love a full english, it just does not compare to the more greasy, flavoursome breakfast options in Southeast Asia. You think Curry and rice are just for lunch or dinner? Think again. These are a few of my all time favourite dishes to start the day with, and many variations of these dishes can be found across Asia.

Rava ThosaiRava ThosaiRava Dosa

This wholesome meal originates from South India but is also very popular in Sri lanka, Malaysia and Singapore. Rava means semolina, which is one of the main ingredients to this vegetarian dish. Think of this as a version of savoury crepe, just with so much more flavour, as all things in Asia. The dosa is usually accompanied by a mildly spicy vegetable curry and coconut chutney.

Chee Cheong FunChee Cheong fun

This is one of the meals I tend to crave every once in awhile. It is a rice noodle roll, fun meaning rice. It originates from southern China and can also be found in Hongkong, Singapore and Malaysia. “Chee cheong” means pig intestine, however, fear not! The meal contains no intestine of any sort, it just happens to look like one.

Other variations include a piece of pork or shrimp rolled up in the rice noodle. However, Chee cheong fun has no fillings. The timzheong sauce brings the main flavour to this dish, just thinking about it makes me hungry. There is a savoury and sweet version, the one you see below is sweet, covered in the sweet black sauce (similar to hoisin sauce), accompanied by a cold glass of fresh sugar cane juice – bliss.

ApamAppam

This is one of my all time favourites and a known must have at my Grandma´s when I visit. This is a popular Sri Lankan cuisine which can also be found across Singapore (especially in little India or Changi Airport). Appam, also known as hoppers is a, is a crispy pancake with a soft and fluffy centre made of fermented rice.

Whilst, the  “hopper” can be eaten either savoury or sweet, the version I grew up on was sweet, topped of with a lot of coconut milk and sugar while being fried on the specialized pan. The rice centre soaked up the coconut milk, leaving it moist and creamy. What you usually find in shops or street stalls is the plain Appam as seen below served with a bowl of coconut milk and gula melaka ( coconut palm sugar) separately. The difference to these two variations is in the texture of the soft centre.

I can easily have 4 of these for breakfast, however, my heart tends not to agree with this calorific sin. But it is definitely something you have to try!

Tao hueySoya Bean Curd Pudding

This mildly sweet pudding is made of soya bean and is eaten either for breakfast or as a snack. It’s creamy taste and silky texture is the reason this warm pudding is so popular in Singapore and Malaysia, where it is served with a clear syrup and also known as Tau Huay. Other variations of this can be found across Southeast Asia and China with toppings such as peanut and ginger.

Tao Suan Tao Suan

Although Tao Suan is typically a dessert, I justify it as a breakfast dish. This is a green bean starchy sweet soup served with Youtiao (similar to a light fried dumpling). According to the Chinese, this soup helps with indigestion and cools the body. According to me, it soothes the soul. You can find this in most food courts in Singapore by the dessert section.

Now do you still want that english breakfast?

Summer in London – Floating drinks on the Thames

If you love London you’ll love it more in the summer when the sun greets the capital. There are so many atmospheric bars and pubs on every street and alley, you never run out of new places to discover. But for that very same reason, many live in London not knowing what little gems are just around the corner, waiting to be found.

My flatmate brought me to Tamesis Dock, a converted boat bar, after an evening run along the iconic Thames river.   IMG_9038

I fell inlove with this floating bar the minute I stepped on the deck. I was whisked away by the gorgeous view of the houses of parliament and big ben with my cold cider in hand and to top it off, the prices on board are so reasonable!

boat bar vauxhallThe converted dutch barge is tucked away on the side of the Thames about a 15 minute walk from Vauxhall station..or a 8 minute jog if you want a pre-workout, like we did. Although, I do not advise running back on a bloated tummy, like we did.

Apart from the priceless view and spectacular atmosphere, you’ll find that the meals here satisfy your taste buds and wallet too, especially the sharers. I would advise reserving a table as it can get quite busy when the sun makes an appearance. Especially now that summer has FINALLY arrived.

Tamesis DockThe Kopparberg logo resonates across the boat and that is exactly the thirst quencher I needed. On certain days, there is live music playing on board, simply check their facebook page for event details. Although their inner space was understandably empty when we boarded, the quaint decor is hard not to admire.IMG_9032bars london

So since we’re all baking in this heat at the moment, why not pass through this spot instead of your local pub before the sunny spell dies out.

Thank me later

Boat bar London

Sleeping Under The Sahara Desert Night Sky

Sahara Desert
I just got back from a magical week in beautiful Morocco, this country has so much more to offer than I expected. My highlight was our trip to the Sahara desert, although it was a long journey to the Sahara, it was all worth it.
I can finally tick it of my bucket list.
When we arrived in Merzouga, on the far south-eastern part of Morocco, near the Algerian border, the first step was to prepare for the hour and half long camel ride through the impressive sand dunes of Erg Chebbi (a dune field of the Sahara).
Sahara desert
I was told that camel riding isn’t glamorous but no one prepared me for the massive thigh and butt aches that were to follow. I was already dreading the ride back in the morning.
Sahara desert
However, it was hard to stay concentrated on the uncomfortable ride when I was greeted by the perfectly formed dunes with a painted rainbow across the sky.
It was such a peaceful place, stillness all around, except for the occasional camel farts.
After a long, butt aching journey, we made it to our campsite, at the foot of one of the bigger, majestic dunes.
Camping in Sahara
I needed to move my stiff legs, so we attempted to climb the dune ( the picture does not do it justice, believe me it was tough and steep).
Erg Chebbi
Lets just say I made it half way, with my heart beating out of my chest. But it was the perfect spot to take in the panoramic view.
Breathtaking.
 Sahara desert
We were suppose to stay inside the set up tents, however, after a long strategic discussion we came to the conclusion that the chances of getting a good night kiss from a scarab beetle (think Mummy returns) was far higher inside the tent than in the wild since the tent was a bigger attraction to Sahara’s locals. So we decided to move our mattresses out into the open, best decision I made.
Although paranoia first took over, every movement was a snake in my imagination, we actually had no visitors crawling up our legs or into our hair all night. Instead, I had the gentle wind on my face, occasionally bringing sand along with it, welcoming me to the Sahara.
But my favourite part of all was the shimmering night sky. I have never seen such a glow, and we were lucky to see two shooting stars as well. It was the kind of beauty you just cannot capture on camera, literally, I did try. But take my word, it made my heart smile.
 camel riding morocco
After our “sleep”, we got woken up at 4am to start our return back to Merzouga on the camel. This was hard, both me and my camel were not impressed at the early start.
But hey, I saw the most dramatic, spectacular sun rise. Now look at that!
 sunrise sahara
 sunrise sahara
In the words of Tom Hanks;

“The desert, when the sun comes up…I couldn’t tell where heaven stopped and the Earth began.”

Taking in the island of Singapore in 48 hours

Many people stopover in Singapore whilst traveling to their final destination. If you do get the chance to visit the world’s cleanest city, I would recommend at least two days to fully appreciate this beautiful, underrate island(Yes I am a little biased since I grew up here). However, try your best to avoid the weekends as it gets pretty damn busy! Here are some options that will allow you to enjoy the best parts of the city, in a short period of time.

Makansutra

  1. The best thing about this city is the food. The mixture of malay, Indian and Chinese flavours can often leave you wanting more. Although I found a little Malaysian/Singaporean food haven here in London, Roti King, it does not offer 95% of the dishes I so love. I would advice to avoid eating at restaurants when in Singapore and always visit the food courts. These are usually found in most shopping centres either at the very bottom floor or at the very top and you can expect to get a full, authentic meal for 4-6 sing dollars.

I would recommend Makansutra, an outdoor food court with a priceless view of the famous skyline! This is right next to the Esplanade (nearest MRT station). Check out my earlier post on the best dishes in Singapore on what you MUST try.

Makansutra

Singapore skyline

  1. Everything in Singapore is accessible by either public transportation or taxi (it is cheaper to flag one down than to call, and try to avoid rush hour which comes with a ridiculous surcharge) and no journey will ever take more than an hour, even if you are traveling from east to west. Make your way to Bugis for the famous Bugis market, the actual products are overrated but you can get food here and it is also not far from Haji lane, Singapore’s smaller version of London’s Brick Lane. Haji lane attracts a more alternative crowd who enjoy chilled drinks and authentic, unique products. Check out Kolombiana if you get the chance and temporarily visit the colourful culture of Colombia. The products here are nearly as beautiful as Karen, the owner of the shop, and made by the indigenous people of Colombia.

Haji Lane

Kolumbiana

Kolumbiana

  1. If you are craving for some sand and sun, even though the beaches here aren’t the prettiest, head to Sentosa. You can get here either by taxi or with the skytrain from Vivocity (Harbourfront MRT). The best thing here would be the Co+Nut+Ink, Delicious coconut ice cream in a coconut shell with scraped flesh served with fresh, thirst quenching coconut juice. It is almost worth coming to Sentosa just for this.

Co Nut Ink

The next best thing about Sentosa would be Mambo beach bar, where you can enjoy a drink by or in the pool while watching the Sunset and listening to some funky house tunes. The crowd is fun and the drinks aren’t crazy expensive.

Mambo beach bar

Sentosa

  1. If you prefer to stay in the city, check out Ku De Ta. This bar/restaurants sits on the top floor of the world famous Marina Bay Sands hotel, known for it’s over instragramed Infinity Pool. Unfortunately, to gain access to the pool, you have to have a room at the hotel, which in my opinion is overpriced for what it actually is. So to get similar views, head to the bar instead, anyone can. Have one or two drinks here as a pre-drink (I don’t think your bank account would want you to have more) before you head to Clark Quay(easily accessible by the MRT from Marina bay), the main area for hip clubs and bars.

Ku de ta

Singapore

  1. Regardless of what night it is, there is always something going on at Clark Quay. Ladies, Wednesday is your night. All ladies get into most bars and clubs for free along with a complimentary drink or a few. Like many Asian cities, Singapore comes alive at night. And when you have had enough of the alcohol and loud beats and the hunger kicks in, many big food courts are 24/7. Jalan Kayu and Thomson road prata house are my two favourite after party food hangouts. The best way to get here is via taxi, roughly 20 mins from Clark Quay. Leave the kebabs and chip shops behind and leave your taste buds wanting more.

Tooth relic temple

  1. Finally, indulge your senses in Little India and China Town. Visit the biggest Buddhist Temple in Singapore in China Town, situated right next to the “street of death”. Back before Singapore’s success and sovereignty, there were many poor settlers. The Chinese believed it was bad luck for their families if they died in their homes. So when they were ill or dying they would take themselves to this street to die, and take with them the hovering cloud of death. Now the street is constantly busy with tourists visiting the temple and the parallel street, the food market.

China Town

China town food market What are your favourite parts of Singapore?