Saturday, 8 December 2018

ROVANIEMI | FINLAND: 10 THINGS I LEARNED IN FINLAND


1. Their melting horseshoe tradition: So, on our first night in Finland, we went on an excursion to hunt for the Northern lights a few hours away from the city. Around the camp fire, we were told about a Finish tradition where they melt a metal horse shoe on a spoon over the fire (they used lead up to this year). Then you must drop the melted horseshoe from the spoon into a bucket of water. Whatever shape is made in the water, is personal to the person who made it and is said to tell your future. 

If there are dusty, crumbling bits then it is said to mean that you will make good money. If there are sharp peaks, then you will make your important dreams in the year to come and if there's a smooth surface on it then you will be lucky in love. I got all three, not everyone did, but I was still thinking 'yeah, yeah, sure thing, this is just silly'. Then, they said we had to shine a light on our piece and the shadow will mean something to each person. Sure enough, mine was an opera mask (see Instagram). I burst into tears, because this actually means more than anything in the world to me. My late father was absolutely obsessed with Phantom of the Opera and it is something that we have shared many precious memories and messages over. So, I learned about the tradition and I learned that there could indeed be some truth in it after all! 

2. On our second night, we went Ice floating and I learned that ice floating is actually amazing. They put you in these baggy wet suits and you float around in an icy lake. The suits were originally designed as safety suits for sailors and are designed to keep you warm for at least twelve hours, so they literally prevent you from freezing to death. It doesn't mean your toes and fingers don't get freezing though, so don't expect complete cosiness! Floating along in the pitch black in a random lake in Finland was definitely a liberating feeling. I found peace in those moments and really just took a moment to enjoy the randomness and madness of what we were doing. I would 100% do ice floating again in a heartbreak and I recommend it if you haven't tried it yet!

3. Did you know that Firefox - as in the internet browser - was named after the Northern lights? - Well you do now. It was founded in Finland and they called it Firefox because, throughout history in Finland, women have worn Fox's fur scarves and clothes to keep warm, and apparently whenever the Northern lights would show, the fur would go static. Apparently, people said the Northern lights looked like a fox's tail across the sky, a fire one at that, and thought that the angry fire fox had returned to take back it's fur...

4. Another valid life lesson I learned in Finland was that meeting Santa Claus as an adult is awkward AF. Honestly, it was the weirdest moment of my life to date. Apparently, when I was younger I hated Santa and refused to go and see him. Whenever I was dragged along, I would just cry until we had to leave. So, maybe I just took some old feelings from my childhood with me, but seriously, it was just strange. We had to take a picture with him, and he put his hand on my shoulder and even though I am a twenty-seven year old woman, I still had the passing thought of 'per-vert' (Vicky Pollard voice). He then tried to make conversation with us about what we wanted for Christmas - to which I should have answered 'nothing because I'm not a consumerist freak who buys into this bullshit', but I instead said 'A nice Christmas for my Nieces & Nephews' - which is actually the truth. However, my heart felt response made me cringe even more, because I was talking to Santa and saying it like he would be able to sort it? Then he took that as an opportunity to tell me what biscuits to buy and leave out for him? Okay then Santa. Yeah, unless you're five or you have a child to bring along - don't visit Santa. 

5. It's the people you go with that make a trip. I learned this the hard way on the Trans-Siberian Express a few months ago, but my theory was reconfirmed in Finland. I went on the trip with a lovely friend from my current university course. She was kind, laid back and funny. She made me laugh a lot about things I should and shouldn't laugh at and she genuinely made the trip what it was. It was so nice to be travelling with such an open-minded, kindhearted and quick-witted girlie. This trip most definitely solidified our ever-growing friendship and gave us both some beautiful memories to cherish. 

6. Finland is amazing for vegans. When I say amazing, I mean amazing. The McDonald's there even has a McVegan burger, which I tried. Demand and Supply my friends. If a huge multinational company has something vegan on their menu, then it is really spreading the word of veganism and can only be a positive. If we're not making these companies produce more, they will continue to make what they already do and some of their loyal customers may not even hear of the vegan concept... just saying. 
Anyway, the supermarket had so many vegan products - from cheese, to meat substitutes, to plant milk alternatives... It was a vegan heaven. We ate out a few times too and in Santa's office they had a vegan cheese sandwich. We went to called 'Ravintola Roka' a few streets away from the main square, and they had a few vegan options. I got the sandwich, which was kind of like a BLT, but made with tofu instead. 

I did expect this of Finland because, I have travelled all of the Nordic/ Scandinavian countries and they have all been the same. They were all so forward thinking about veganism years ago, before half of the English population even knew what vegan meant! 

7. This trip taught me to check the weather before you book a Northern lights tour. They're expensive and if it's cloudy, you will not see a thing. I didn't mind that I didn't see the lights so much, because I have seen them twice before. However, I would have loved to have had the belly flips and seen the beautiful display again. I would have also loved to have saved myself £90.00 too. Check that the weather is looking promising before parting with too much of your hard earned cash to not see anything!

8. Glogg is super yummy. I think you can get an alcohol version of this, but of course I had the alcohol free one. It is kind of like mulled wine. So, it was red grape juice, cinnamon, spices, almonds and grapes all heated up together to create the yummiest, warming drink. I want to recreate this again at Christmas and share it with my loved ones - it was that good!

9. You can sleep, swim, sail, fish or forage anywhere you like in Finland (like in most Scandinavian counties as there's freedom of movement). We met a guy who had been hiking for a few weeks in a huge nature park. He hadn't spent a penny, he just stayed in the little huts with free fires and cooked the food he had brought with him. He said it was an amazing experience and that he had been walking alongside wild moose, buffalo and reindeer. How amazing does that sound? This and El Camino de Santiago are two walking trips on my list now! 

10. Siberian huskies run best in -75 degrees. The colder, the better for huskies, which makes sense because Siberia is very cold (they were brought to Finland in the gold rush), however I did not know they liked it THAT cold. Apparently minus 20-30 still feels like Summer to them and they have been known to casually lay outside or on the roof at temperatures of as low as -75. They are truly beautiful amazing animals, but you won't find me anywhere near them in that kind of climate. I despise the cold, so huskies are definitely not my spirit animal after all!

I hope you liked the little things I found out in Finland, it was a truly wonderful trip to a truly wonderful country. Once I am done with my degree here in London, I am definitely considering moving to this part of the world or another country in Scandinavia. They know how to do things properly, with education, salaries, lifestyle, customs, traditions and so much more. They're such a forward-thinking country and although cold, you never feel like you're being given the cold shoulder. Everything about the place is warm, welcoming and cosy - just how I like it!

Peace Out Potatoes! xo




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BEIJING | CHINA


By the time we got to China, I was ready to go home to my cushty little life in London for various reasons (read my Mongolia post here), but I still enjoyed it none the less.

I had the funniest day out with seven older people. I laughed the whole way. A tuc-tuc took us down the road the wrong way, one of the ladies tipped one up, we found a random guide on the street who walked us to each end of Beijing with no structure and we cracked up at the disorganised chaos we found ourselves amongst. 

We climbed the great Wall of China... That was a true highlight. I feel like I accomplished something by walking it instead of taking the cable car and being lazy. It also meant I was 100% deserving of the slide down, which was so much fun! I love those slides where you're in charge of your own breaking and accelerating! 

Then I flew back to my beautiful little life in England.... If I  do return to China, I will not return here or another city because they're too polluted and over populated for me. However, I am interested in going back to see a more traditional side of China (specifically the nutrition and medicinal traditions of China) and also to be in it's nature. I would love to return either alone or with a loved one from home. I do have a two year visa to do so, so watch this space...

You can check out lots more videos & photos over on my Instagram if you're particularly interested in China! 

Peace Out Potatoes! xo


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ULAANBAATAR | MONGOLIA


I can't lie to you, I really loved Mongolia and intend on returning, but I went on a tour and my experience was really tainted on this trip. By the time I reached Beijing, I was truly ready to go home and I have never felt like that on a trip before...

Things I loved about my time in Mongolia:
* Hiking! Oh my goodness, on our second day in Mongolia, we drove out from Ulaanbaatar to a national park with lots of beautiful nature and many a hill to hike. Myself and a few of the other tour members went on a nice four hour hike through the foothills of the park and climbed up to the most beautiful Monastery. Up until this point, a lot of the activities on the trip had involved food or alcohol, and as you may or may not know, I don't eat animals, or their secretions and I do not drink alcohol, so it was really nice to be able to partake in an activity with the group. Specifically one that was good for all our well-beings. I got to speak to some really interesting people that I hadn't previously had the chance to, which was lovely. A lovely chap from Ireland and a few Scotsmen. Myself and one of the Scotsmen spoke for nearly three hours about conspiracies, diet, love, disease and all the meaty topics I like wrapping my brain around (I'm not a small talk kind of girl ya see). It was a truly beautiful walk and gave me the break I needed at that point in time. 
* I LOVED Staying in a yurt and I would actually live in one. I'm not even joking, they are so cosy and practical. The Mongolian people actually move out of houses into yurts in the winter time because the weather reaches lows of -45. They're actually a lot warmer than the houses thanks to the beautiful fires in the middle! I love how the yurts are built and we saw some really beautifully decorated ones, they also go quite nicely with the whole minimalism life I find myself partaking in. 
* The fire was epic, I LOVE being by an open fire. In Mongolian culture, the fire is considered to be a spirit of it's own so you cannot add things like newspaper out of respect - just wood or coal. I love the feeling a fire gives you, it's so much more wholesome than the feeling of central heating. When I actually buy my own house, a wood burning fire is going to be an absolute necessity.
* In Ulaanbaatar itself. we found some great vegan finds. There's a loving hut that I visited four times in two days because everything was so good. The food in Mongolia was 100% better than that in Russia for me. There were alternative cheeses and meats in the supermarket. There were vegan restaurants and the fruit and vegetable selection was amazing. If you're vegan and travelling to Ulaanbaatar, then you need not worry! 
* We visited the Blue Sky Rooftop Bar one evening and it had views to die for. It was seriously beautiful seeing all the lights from that high above. At first, myself and a beautiful soul from Germany were the only ones there. So, we had a long heart to heart and lot's of giggles about how ridiculously huge the table was. We spoke about life, death and energies. When you're travelling, it's the kind souls like these that make you feel right at home. It's the ease and comfort you feel with one another that you that you're exactly where you want and need to be at that exact time. 
* The people of Mongolia are beautiful. Lots of little children came up to us in the street just to practice their English. Adults spoke to us in the street too, which was such a welcoming difference to Russia. Everyone seemed to smile and greet you with kindness and I really can't wait to return to Mongolia based on the population I came across alone. 

Things I didn't like so much and why I want to go back with a loved one instead:
I would never usually speak about the negatives of the trip, and in all honesty, in all my years of travel, there usually aren't any, but unfortunately this time I found myself in a shit show of negativity at points in this trip and I'd be completely fake to not mention it.
* Having to share a train carriage and tent with a bitchy woman who behaved like a school girl and said several comments about my eyes (I have a congenital eye condition) really put a dampener on my trip because she was so incredibly nasty and I have never come across nastiness like it - even in primary school. So, I didn't know how to handle it and it really made me withdraw from the group as I overheard this particular person bad mouthing me to more than one person. Negativity, constant moaning, snide comments and attacks on my physical appearance aside I had a nice time overall and I hope that person finds something to be positive and happy about in their own life.
* Seeing and hearing people talk about 'food' like Sheep's heads actually sickened me. The constant jokes about animals dying for dinner drained me. Seeing captive animals for tourist's entertainment saddened me and jokes about shooting a cow when practising archery got pretty boring. Luckily for me, since returning from this tour - I have been approached by a company that want to take me on one of their VEGAN tours, which I am actually ecstatic about. There is nothing like being with like-minded, fully conscious souls and I won't ever feel what I felt on this trip ever again.

The negative aspects of this trip only made me realise how lucky i actually am at home. My partner, and best friends are all vegan or vegetarian so I really do live in some happy lifestyle bubble. My friends that aren't vegan or veggie don't stare at me at meal times, don't make constant unfunny jokes and are completely open-minded, which is wonderful. Every one in my life is a peaceful soul and happy within themselves so I rarely face bitchiness, if at all in my life. My home is lovely, my dog is beautiful, I have a beautiful career, and I am genuinely just so happy I have the life I do. It really does take a bit of darkness to help you see the light and this trip made me realise that I have built a life I do not need a vacation from, and that, was the goal all along. 

Peace Out Potatoes! xo




















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Friday, 12 October 2018

EATING VEGAN IN MOSCOW | RUSSIA


Hotel Vega
I stayed in a hotel called Izmailovo Vega for three days in Russia. When i arrived I was knack knack, so I really just wanted room service. Needless to say, the room service options were very limited as the only option was french fries. So, I got the french fries - haha! The Breakfast options were much more varied and an actual dream for vegans, from hot foods to dried. They had all the fruits and vegetables with a huge salad bar. There was lots to choose from and I certainly didn't go hungry the days in which I had breakfast there. It made me think as well, had I had not been vegan, I would have been eaten all of their sugary cakes and biscuits for breakfasts instead. Sometimes you forget how healthy you're being simply by cutting out all of the crap veganism just doesn't have. Anyway, I digress, on the first night, we were all rather tired, so we ate in the hotel restaurant downstairs on the first floor. My, my - the mushroom dumplings were divine as was their potato stir fry dish. I washed it all down with a virgin apple mojito and loved life a bit.




The following day, whole exploring the city centre, we went to a little cafe at the bottom of the ''Oknothy Riad' shopping centre - it's the one that is underground right underneath the Kremlin Museum and opposite the red square. They didn't have many vegan options and were rather confused as I 'moo-d' and did impressions of eggs alongside google translate in order to tell them I didn't eat any animal products... but this was their vegan option entitled 'the green roll'. Now, my expectations were low, I can't lie to you, but I was wrong to doubt them, very wrong. The green roll is in fact one of the best lunches I had eaten in a very long time. It was a chickpea and vegetable mild and sweet curry in a beautiful spinach wrap. I adored it and could have eaten ten, but I managed to refrain.


Forgive me, as I cannot remember the name or location of the place in which I ate this, but I am sure you can find it in more than one place as it's the Russian traditional soup 'Borscht' - veganised of course. It's usually cooked with an animal's body, however for me they made it with boiled pear, which was strange to say the least. I didn't know how I felt about boiled pear, and for a while, I thought it must have been a translation error and just agreed after finding out it was definitely vegan (my students always struggle with the word pear lol), but I was so pleasantly surprised. Boiled pear loses it's sweetness and becomes a little more chewy. Now that I am writing this, I wonder if they used boiled pear to take the piss, but they did me a favour haha... so the jokes on them for giving me free advice if so! =) It was lush and I might actually use them in my own cooking now! 


The Supermarkets:
I went to a few supermarkets and they all had a selection of vegan milk alternatives, which I was happy about. They had oat, soya, almond, coconut and rice mylk in the places I visited. There were lots of pickled goods, which of course are great for your gut. One of the days I made a tomato, gherkin and olive sandwich and it was delicious. They sold houmous, which I was so happy about. There were of course lots of fruits and veggies. They sold your standard abroad *definitely-vegan* staples such as oreas and pringles. None of the noodles were vegan friendly, but I bought a sauce and didn't put the packets into the noodle mix. Also, at the hotel, there wasn't any cooking facilities, however, if there would have been, then there would have been plenty of options for dinners. 

Before you go to Russia: Moloko (молоко) is milk, yaytso (яйцо) is egg, Myasa (мясо) is meat, syr (мясо) is cheese, krem (крем) is cream, med (мед) is honey, ryba (рыба) is fish, ne (He) is not and finally 'I am vegan' is ya vegan (я веган).

Peace Out Potatoes! xo
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MOSCOW | RUSSIA


I arrived to Russia very tired as I had slept in Riga airport the night before. When I first arrived, I got a taxi from the airport to the hotel with a taxi driver who couldn't speak any English, it was awkward to say the least but he taught me hello and thank you in Russian and played lots of good songs I had to Shazam up. The hotel offered me champagne on arrival and was the biggest hotel I have ever been to in my life. It was called hotel Vega, styled on a Las Vegas Casino. It was super opulent and by far the biggest hotel I have ever stayed in, especially in a city! Once I arrived at my hotel, I checked in, showered and bought some fries as they were the only vegan option on the room service menu. After I had spruced up, I went for a stroll around the flee market close to the hotel. Wow, just wow, the architecture in Russia is like nothing I have ever seen before. The colours and mix of designs mesmerised me. I spent hours marvelling at the pretty cartoon-esk buildings all around the city.

The second day in Russia was spent walking around the Kremlin and city centre. Unfortunately, the red square was closed that day, but we did get to go back and see the square at night from behind. There was a firework display for the soldiers celebrating there and it was a truly lovely evening. After exploring the centre, we also took a tour of the circle line to see the stations - and wow - they were all so opulent and breathtaking. My favourite was the famous yellow one and the church-style one (apologies for not knowing their names but if you go on the circle line, you'll know!). I like the sound of the Russian language, I also kind of love that I cannot read anything it says in Russian, it makes me feel like a proper tourist. The language fascinated me, to me it, phonologically and orthographically it is a complete mismatch, but of course I cannot read Russian, so I do not know. As a nation, Russian people appear a little stand offish, but I was assured by a local that it is just their way and in fact they are a very friendly bunch once you get to know them. 

On the third day, I spent my time preparing for the main event - the Trans-Siberian railway. I stocked up on the vegan food I could find (I will write a separate blog post on eating vegan in Russia as I feel it could be helpful). I would recommend learning some Russian for food shopping by the way. Also, for general life. Before I visited Russia, I ignorantly presumed that the people there would have a good level of English, partly because I almost thought it would be like Scandinavia. However, I was wrong, the English levels I encountered from the airport to the hotel to the tourist offices were not of a high standard. It isn't a bad thing, why should they speak English I guess? but I did surprise me somewhat and made me wish I had swotted up a little on some Russian. 

Sorry if this post is a bit flat, I am writing it a month or so later from when I got back from the trip. In all honestly although I wish to highlight the best parts of all the places i have visited, I can't help but to feel flat about the whole experience to be frank. I booked with G adventures, well, I put a deposit down and then they took all my money without asking me from my account. I found out from trading standards that this was in fact wrong, however they were refusing a refund and I had a limited time to sort my visas or I would have lost all my money. It's hard to feel enthusiastic about something you were practically trapped into. Anyway, once I had decided to get into the spirit of things and sort my visas out - G Adventures did not help me one bit with my visas - STA travels do by the way. Then they asked me all about my dietary requirements in order for me to get the most of my two thousand pounds plus, and the guide hadn't heard of veganism before I arrived. 

Anyway, lots of good did come from this trip, and I met some nice people and saw some beautiful things, However, if you're a vegan who doesn't drink alcohol, you may want to do this trip by yourself, with someone close or with a group of like-minded individuals... I'll talk about this more in my next post! Despite the bitter taste of G adventures in my mouth, I did really enjoy Moscow and wish I got to spend more time there. I will definitely go back to explore more of it's beautiful streets and architecture. I would love to do a walking tour and visit more traditional places next time too! 

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An Autumn's Day Gratitude Diary...


My New Gaff
In July I found a nice little home for Riley and I, and in August we moved into it. It's in an area close enough to my hometown to be able to see those I care about, but far away enough to avoid people if I want to - ha! It's in a peaceful area and I feel safe and happy here, which really is all that matters. I love the flat itself, it has bay windows and lots of old fashioned character - it even has some of the original features from the olden days! I specifically love my bedroom now I have made it my own with my photo wall, throws and curtains. I put the curtain rail up on my own with a hammer drill and painted the whole place by myself too. I'm feeling like an independent happy woman in my new home!

Riley
Of course Riley was going to be on here - he makes me happy and fills my heart with so much love, while making me laugh on a daily basis. The place genuinely feels so empty when he isn't here and I really miss him. He's been a true blessing in my life and I love spending time with him. Sometimes I feel like calling in sick, just to spend the day with him! I can't wait to spend the Christmas period here in England with him and my family! 


My University
I love my University so much, this is my second degree and third University and it really was third time lucky. This year  is amazing already. I love the people, both staff and students. I love what I am learning about. I love the area and I love how I am feeling about this year. One of my lecturers wrote one of the books I read last year which inspires me and fills me with confidence in her teaching. I am being taught by people in positions in which I aspire to be in which is both inspiring and motivating. Last year, I think I felt very unsure about everything. I wondered if SLT was for me, if I was good enough and why the University were teaching us half the things they were. Then I completed my exams and placement and realised that actually I am more than capable, and more than worthy to be here. I also realise that there was method in the madness of the University itself and I now have full trust that they will pull us through. 

Good Food
Lately I've been making a lot of my own food and meal prepping to save money as my rent has gone up almost double in this new place. I have to say I do prefer my own food though. I always season things better than the shops do as us obviously to my taste. I make better vegan lunch options than what are on the shelves and I save my monies while doing so. I also find cooking very therapeutic and a nice way to spend some time. I do love going out for meals too occasionally of course. My recent favourites have been wagamama's dumpling and mushroom starter, a vegan doner from a place called 'What the Pitta' in Croydon, raspberry muffins from a place called Organico in Epsom, Vegan Korma from a place called 'Khan's' in Epsom, the vegan donuts in 'Donut Time' on Old Street, London and Coughlan's bakeries all over south London have been releasing treat after treat for the vegan community. I'm also loving how easy it is to be vegan now! 

Feeling Homely and Staying Home
For the first time in my life, I really don't feel like travelling (well, this side of Christmas anyway). I'm not saying this is a permanent fixture because it isn't but I am saying that I have a lot more gratitude for my life right here where it is. I love what I am doing, I love where I live, I love the people and animals I have in my life, and I just love where I am at right now. The way I feel about travel now is that it is a lot of effort and money to explore a place you might not like. I have plans to travel to Africa and South America because they're calling my soul and I already know I love them both. However, all these tours and returning to Asia - they're both a no from me. It's personally not my cup of tea anymore. I would still love to travel to Finland, Oman, New York and San Francisco, but I'm really not in any type of rush right now. When I do go though, I will go alone, or with someone I love and I will go to see one place at a time so I can fully absorb the culture and enjoy it. 

A Few Random Loves:
Coughlan's bakeries, fresh bed covers, freshly cleaned clothes, my tumble dryer, charity shop shopping, PHB's brightening moisturiser, a hot bath, the pound shop, my houseplant,  catching an empty train and missing rush hour, listening to music; specifically south America and French music at the moment,  Make up free days, time alone, the beautiful colourful leaves of autumn, having fresh hair, deep meaningful compliments, candles burning, time with my favourites, playing cards, being picked up and cuddled like a baby, sleepovers with my friends, being alcohol free, new outfit ideas, mushroom vitamin D tablets, co-op's soya mylk, co-op's free-from millionaires, cherry bake-wells, cosy jumpers, black tights, and laughter, laughter is the key!

Peace Out Potatoes xo
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