Going vegan: Week one

I’ve been vegetarian for around 12-13 years, since I bought a Goldfinger album which contained some brutal information about slaughterhouses in the sleeve, and heard their songs with animal rights messages like Open Your Eyes and Behind The Mask. I declared to my parents as I returned home from that same shopping trip, having read the album booklet on the way back, that I was now vegetarian. (They were fine with it, except my dad was understandably mildly irritated that he had just been to Sainsbury’s and now had to go back out so I had food to eat!)

For years I’ve been a very happy and content vegetarian. I haven’t missed meat at all; in fact, I barely liked it anyway (I practically only ate chicken) and so it was an unusually easy transition for me. Throughout my vegetarian years I’ve found it easy to be quite strict, eschewing fish, gelatine and non-vegetarian parmesan. But I always held off from taking the next step to veganism, thinking about how much I love cheese and chocolate snacks like Minstrels and Maltesers.

Suddenly, though, practically out of nowhere, I’ve been filled with a new resolve. It partially came from watching Cowspiracy and What The Health last week, the former helping to remind me of the environmental impacts of dairy as part of the wider animal agriculture industry. I felt that not eating meat or dairy is the simplest thing I could do to help the environment. Plus I’ve always been aware in the back of my mind that dairy farming is just as cruel and often inhumane as farming for meat, but now I feel less inclined to ignore it. Continue reading

Photos: The truly Magical Lantern Festival at Chiswick House

The UK’s first event of its kind, a mighty impressive Magical Lantern Festival has landed at Chiswick House and Gardens in west London to celebrate Chinese New Year.

As it’s just down the road from me- and I actually saw the lanterns being set up during a weekend ramble in January- I could hardly not go, so I took my parents on what felt like the iciest, coldest night of winter so far.

Luckily putting up with weather was worth it- wandering around the gardens, which are beautiful enough normally, and admiring a whole zoo of Chinese lanterns was a great way to while away an hour and a half.

My highlight, and seemingly everyone’s favourite part, was the 66-metre long dragon centrepiece which is first viewed across the lake, making for some fantastic photos. Hearing young children get excited about seeing the dragon was sweet, but the adults were certainly keen too!

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Vienna – tourist sights, the great musicians and more

As a long-time Mozart fan who studied music at university, I’ve always wanted to visit Vienna and experience the city historically known as the European capital of music. Equipped with one friend, with the destination of another’s lovely, book-filled apartment, I set off for a long weekend in this beautiful city.

First off, if you’re used to London as I am, Vienna is so quiet. The only places I experienced that had the hustle and bustle of London were a couple of key tourist streets. But this made a nice change of pace and gave us the opportunity to admire the oft-beautiful architecture and feel extremely safe on the roads despite the novelty of the trams (which were way too exciting).

One busy landmark was Schönbrunn Palace, a spectacular imperial residence built in the 1740s-50s. You don’t even need to go inside if you don’t want to because the huge gardens and the magnificent view over the city from the Gloriette are well worth a trip themselves. And that’s before you even get to the fun mazes…

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Fun in London – May and June – afternoon teas, tourist lates, The Shard

I try and get out and about in London when I can – especially as I work in Surrey, which means London is an exciting change of scene and pace at the weekends. Here are a few of the things I can recommend from the last two months.

Afternoon tea at 108 Brasserie
Afternoon tea at 108 Brasserie
Afternoon tea at the Richmond Hill Hotel
Afternoon tea at the Richmond Hill Hotel

I went to 108 Brasserie at The Marylebone Hotel with family for afternoon tea to celebrate my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary – a fantastic achievement and one that deserved some prosecco and scrumptious food. If you are gluten intolerant or coeliac, this is definitely somewhere to try as the grand tiers of the ‘healthy option’ were barely distinguishable from the ‘classic’. But although we weren’t sold on all the desserts, the sandwiches were exactly what you would wish for in this genteel English treat and the scones were possibly the best I’ve ever had.

Another afternoon tea, this time for my birthday, was enjoyed at the Richmond Hill Hotel, not far from home. It felt very sophisticated and the scones were deliciously warm, the puddings probably better and the sandwiches also pretty good. Combine with a visit to Richmond Park or a stroll along the Thames for the perfect Sunday afternoon.

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London’s first cat cafe

2014-04-07 15.10.00Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, located on Bethnal Green Road in East London, is the city’s first cat cafe. A sensation that first got huge in Taiwan and Japan, the idea is that diners can enjoy some food and drink with the extra joy of being surrounded by cats who are relaxed in their environment.

Sounds perfect, right? Thankfully, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium actually lives up to the hype that has built since its Kick Starting.

On both first and lasting impressions, the cafe’s design and layout is inspired. It is simplistic, with a small shop at the entrance, a buffering zone and then two floors for both cats and diners to spread out and wander over. But it is also interesting, with some genius cat hidey-holes, stairs and platforms made of shelves, hammocks, a giant cat wheel, and a mish mash of sofas, stools and chairs. It even mixes traditional and minimalistic styles, with antique chairs downstairs and a white, modernistic vibe upstairs.

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The Results Of My Isle Of Wight Bucket List: Part Two

As one of my most viewed posts so far in a short space of time, my Isle of Wight Summer Bucket List: Top Ten clearly struck a chord with many; therefore, I have returned from my mission to tell you about what I got up to from the list! Here’s part two – part one is here.

5. Robin Hill

Unfortunately, this is the big thing on the list I majorly failed at doing this summer! I’m very disappointed in myself, but I just kept overlooking it. There’s no point writing anything else, so I’ll just refer you back to what I wrote about it in July here.

4. The Needles

The chairlift down to the beach is as fun as ever (it feels much more perilous than it is!), although it’s worth making sure you go on a nice clear day to make the most of the view, which is absolutely fantastic.

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The Results Of My Isle Of Wight Bucket List: Part One

As one of my most viewed posts so far in a short space of time, my Isle of Wight Summer Bucket List: Top Ten clearly struck a chord with many; therefore, I have returned from my mission to tell you about what I got up to from the list! Here’s part one.

10. Blackgang Chine

P1030098I’ll come straight out with it: this place is definitely better as a family. However, there’s nothing to stop anyone having a fun-filled day!

I went back for the first time in years this August with a group of friends, of whom all but one had been before, years ago, since we’d all grown up on the Island (Frazer got dragged into it as he was visiting at the wrong time and so ended up spending the whole day in disbelief at our nostalgic excitement over this slightly shabby, strange theme park).

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An Isle Of Wight Road Trip

(This is number nine on my Isle Of Wight Summer Bucket List but I made it into a separate post as I had too much to say!)

Four friends and I completed number nine on my IOW list by taking a day in early August to have our own little “road trip” around the Island, which fulfilled the criteria I laid out including eating lunch in a pretty place, driving along Military Road and doing some exploring.

After meeting in Newport and gathering supplies in Sainsbury’s, we headed over to West Wight without a certain aim in mind, just wanting to drive places we didn’t normally go. We first tried to stop at Colwell Bay but it was absolutely packed with no parking spaces left whatsoever, so we moved down the coast a little to Totland Bay instead.

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Legoland For Adults

Legoland Windsor: easily the best, biggest and most all-round successful theme park aimed at children. With such a global brand as Lego, there is a lot you can do with it whilst never feeling gimmicky or over the top. If anything, I’d welcome even more Lego around the park!

I recently visited Legoland with my boyfriend; both of us are twenty one and at times it felt wrong that we weren’t there with children, but I did notice we weren’t the only ones! We had gained a couple of vouchers from his habit of eating the most boring cereal around (cornflakes) and it gave us the option of many theme parks or attractions to get one adult entry for free. Frazer hates big rollercoasters but loves toys so we settled quickly on Legoland (although I also would have been happy with Thorpe Park or somewhere bigger like that!) Here is an account of the day, and what Legoland is like if you dare enter without children…

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