Tuesday 25 August 2015

Barcelona! Barcelona! Barcelona!

Exploring the park behind the National Art Museum of Catalonia 
Inside Sagrada Família 

During the incredibly stressful final year exam period of university, my friends and I decided to book an end of term holiday so we had something to look forward to! After tossing around destination ideas, from Budapest to Magaluf (thank god we didn't settle on that one), we agreed on Barcelona.

Less than 24 hours after receiving my results, I had squeezed my clothes into a tiny suitcase and headed to the airport. Although we arrived fairly late in the evening, we realised in the taxi ride from the airport to the apartment that, no matter what the time was, Barcelona was always lively. We had found a really beautiful apartment on airbnb, which was right between the beach and the Gothic Quarter and super close to La Rambla. Prime location! After dumping our stuff, we headed out onto the still bustling streets and explored the many, many bars lining the little cobbled streets of the Gothic Quarter. It was a really beautiful area, but very pricey - be warned!

Inside Sagrada Família
National Art Museum of Catalonia
Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria

Our trip was only a few days long so we made sure to cram in as much as possible! My feet were a wreck by the time we got home. Though rather touristy, La Rambla was lovely to walk up, and the market just off the street was amazing! So much fresh food and plenty of fruit stall brimming with colour. There were smoothies and juices on sale everywhere, which was a lovely way to keep hydrated! We also spent a day trekking up to the famous Park Güell, which was really cool, but I much preferred walking around the quieter gardens behind the National Art Museum of Catalonia. My favourite sight was, unsurprisingly, Gaudi's (still incomplete) Sagrada Família. We spent hours there taking in the really unusual, but beautiful architecture.

The trip also coincided with the gay pride parade, which was really fun and ended with a huge street party and concert in front of the Art Museum! I would absolutely recommend Barcelona as a city break! You definitely don't need any longer than a week to see all the sights (and revisit some!) and I would love love love to go back! I'd probably take more sensible footwear next time though. Lesson learned.

Lizzie is heading there in just a few days, so hopefully this post will give her plenty of ideas and I'm super excited to see what she thinks of the city! If you have any recommendations for sights/restaurants/etc for her to visit, then please comment below!


Friday 21 August 2015

That's What She Read: July

A Million Little Pieces - James Frey:
This book is one of the most honest, harrowing stories I've ever read. I was absolutely gripped by the stream of consciousness narrative, I could just feel the journey he was on when reading it. The novel tells the story of James who is battling with addiction in a 'twelve step' rehabilitation centre. Honestly I don't even want to give too much away about this novel, it's so harsh and unlike everything I've read before. His relationship with drugs and therefore the people around him was explored in such a unique way, it was so interesting to read about. Despite being a really dark novel, tiny glimmers of light come through, peaking under door frames and through cracks in the pavement, making it a weirdly uplifting novel to reach the end of.
A little warning for those with anxiety, this book was pretty triggering for me and it did take me a while to get through it, if you're not in a good place then maybe give this one a miss! Keep your head happy folks xx

East of Eden - John Steinbeck:
I've had this book on my shelf for a long time, and on the urging of my lovely friend Elliot I decided it was time give it a go. I was instantly hooked. The novel is an absolute masterpiece, probably one my favourite things I've ever read. It spans an entire generation, following Adam Trask from a young child to old age, and the interwoven lives of the Trask and Hamilton families. There are a lot of biblical parallels, and the underlying foundations of the novel are the stories of Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel. A key theme of the book is the dichotomy of good and evil, but what I found more compelling was the struggle between fate and free will. It's such an epic novel, so rich in detail, and the characters are so beautifully human.  As soon as I finished it I immediately read it again. For me, this is one of those books that changes your life.

Friday 14 August 2015

Recipe: Chocolate Oat Biscuits.

It's that time of year again, Bake Off is back. We literally can't watch GBBO without wanting baked goods to eat alongside it, so we thought we'd follow this weeks theme and made some biscuits to munch whilst we watched! Not going to lie, these super more-ish biscuits are pretty showstopping, they have a good snap and the chocolate on top gives them a perfect finish!

140g caster sugar
140g butter
140g self raising flour
110g oats
1 tbsp milk
2 tsp golden syrup
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g milk chocolate

Preheat the oven to 150C.
Line a baking tray (or 2) with baking paper.

Cream the butter and caster sugar together until fluffy. Beat in the milk, bicarbonate of soda, and golden syrup until mixed well.

Fold in the flour and oats making sure everything is well incorporated.

Roll the mixture into small balls - there should be about 16 - 20 depending on how big you want your biscuits!

Place the balls on the baking sheet. Make sure they are well spread out, as they will expand!

Bake in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes. They should be a nice golden brown colour.

Leave the biscuits to cool on a wire rack.

Now it's time to melt your chocolate! Break your chocolate into small pieces and place in a glass bowl. Put the bowl over a pan of simmering water.
Stir the chocolate as it melts to ensure it doesn't burn or clump.

Once all the pieces have fully melted, turn off the heat and take your bowl off the pan.
While the chocolate is still liquid, dip each of your biscuits into the chocolate. Make sure you get a nice thick coating on the bottom! Place the chocolate dipped biscuits on a plate and put in the fridge so the chocolate sets quickly.

Once the chocolate is set, they're ready to go.
They're perfect to have with a cup of tea, and are so easy to get through while watching GBBO!

Thursday 13 August 2015

Sophie travels - Laos Roundup Part 1

I'm finally back from my travels, and sadly it feels like I never left. I enjoyed those 4 months so much, and had my bank balance allowed it, I'm sure I'd still be on the move. I didn't get chance to keep up with regular travel updates as I originally intended, so instead I'm just going to do a series of posts over the next few weeks on the highlights of my trip. This should force me to dig out all my memory cards from amongst the unorganised chaos that is my bedroom floor and properly organise my photos.

I thought I'd kick things off with a round up of my time in Laos. We did a bus (and boat) tour through Laos and ended up spending about 3 weeks there, although a good amount of that time was probably spent sleeping on a bus. We crossed the border from Thailand and stopped at a tiny village called Huay Xia where we were boarded a slow boat down the Mekong to Luang Prabang. The slow boat really lived up to it's name; we spent about 8 hours on there for the first day. We stopped overnight at a little village where we stayed in a family's home. It was an eye-opening experience. We played with the local children (or at least the ones who weren't terrified of us) all afternoon, then in the evening a welcomign ceremony was held for us, where each member of the village tied pieces of string around our wrists and said a blessing. We had to eat food offerings; a banana and sticky rice, and then drink shots of the local whisky, Lao Lao. I think the years of shotting the cheap value vodka at uni really prepared me for that. It was such an interesting experience, and the people there were so kind and welcoming. Also, the family we were staying with had just had a litter of puppies which provided me with hours of entertainment. 
By far my favourite place in Laos was Luang Prabang, our final stop on our slow boat journey. The little town is right on the river and a jumble of old French architecture and beautiful temples. I especially loved it by night when the night markets would start and  we would wander along the main road and spend hours looking at each stall. These were probably my favourite night markets of the whole trip - I left Luang Prabang with my backpack considerably heavier, filled with lanterns, patchwork make-up bags, comfy trousers, and bracelets. While in Luang Prabang, we took a day trip out to visit the stunning Kuang Si Falls. At the entrance to the falls is a Bear Sanctuary, where we spent ages watching the rescued bears playing and rolling round the huge enclosure. They were so beautiful and some of them were huge - I would not have wanted to get any closer! We trekked up through the jungle to the main fall, watching the water cascade from pool to pool. The water is such a lovely colour and the pools are perfect for a swim to cool off in the hot weather.

From Luang Prabang we journeyed to Vang Vieng - this bus ride consisted of hours and hours of winding roads up through the luscious green mountains. We'd heard so much about how stunning the views were, but unfortunately there was a huge storm as we drove through so our views were mainly of torrential rain and heavy mist. Typical, eh? There were definitely some scary stunning moments though, when the lightning would crash around us and light up the whole area.

We did arrively safely in Vang Vieng though, and once the weather cleared up, we could really appreciate our surroundings. Vang Vieng definitely has a rep for being a party town (ahem, tubing) which we weren't particularly down for. So while everyone else grabbed a rubber ring and went to get drunk along the river, we booked ourself a hot air balloon ride! The views were absolutely amazing - I could have stayed up there for hours. 





From Vang Vieng we head to the capital, Vientiane. Here learnt about Laos's history and how it was affected by the Vietnam war. Some of the museum trips were quite upsetting, but important to see. I loved that Vientaine has it's very own Arc du Triomphe, although it looks slightly different to the one in Paris. The Patuxai was built when America gave Laos funds to build a new airport, which the American's intended to use to access Vietnam. My school history lessons had never really gone beyond Western Europe and the USA, so I found it super interesting to learn all this history about completely new places.

The next half of my Laos journey will be up soon!

Thursday 6 August 2015


Hello! We know we've been absent for a while, so we thought we'd do a little round up post on what we've been up to in the last few months. Things just got super busy for us both, but we're hoping to get back into a regular blogging routine again - expect some new posts soon!

It's been a busy few months for me! Between February and July I travelled round Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, then spent a week in Bali, two weeks volunteering at an Elephant rescue centre, and a fortnight with family in Australia! Some highlights are pictured above: the sky bar in Bangkok , the lantern lit markets in Hoi An (blog post to come soon!), and the stunning Mount Batur. I got back just over a month ago and have had plenty on since then. The day after I got back from my travels, I visited my lovely friend Elliot at uni, a trip which included Fleetwood Mac, countryside walks, and lots of coffee and cake. I've also had a few days out with Lizzie, and spent lots of time with family and pets. In just over a week I'm off again, this time with Lizzie and our friend Louise for a trip to Paris! After that though the job hunt will officially be on. I've probably avoided the real world for long enough now!

Well, a lot has changed in the last five months! My time has mainly been spent applying to be a teacher and making a hell of a lot of coffee. I'm excited to tell (literally) everyone that I am starting my PGCE at the University of Durham in September!! It's crazy to think that this time next year I could be teaching English in a secondary school somewhere, I literally feel like the world is at my feet at the moment, it's such an exciting (and a little daunting) time for me!! I'm pretty sad to say goodbye to my little Costa family though, it's been such a great experience over the last year being back in Yorkshire. I've also been doing a lot of good eating with the boyfriend, couldn't do a round up post of the last few months without including the best burger and fries of my life.. (bottom right!) The next few weeks are pretty busy for me, going to Paris for the first time with Sophie and Louise, my uncle's wedding (and i'm a bridesmaid!) then heading off to Barcelona with my boyfriend, then moving to a whole new place!