I got a Tattoo!!

So as you an see above, I got a tattoo. which is something I have been considering for a few years on and off and even when a few weeks before our holiday I erring on the side of getting one done, I was still going back and forth. 

However on the day I decided definitely yes, which was about 11:30am, by 15:00 it was done and dusted. I had googled previous English speaking tattoo shops in Barcelona and luckily enough there was a highly recommended one about 5 minutes walk from our hotel, namely Oxytocina here:

On arrival we had a great welcome from the owner and the consultation was easy as, apart from the fact it was done in English, they clearly knew their stuff. I took in my own design and the gave me a little advice on sizing and placement (I originally wanted it on my foot, but was advised that it might not last as long, so I switched to my arm), and then before I knew it, I was sat having it done. 

It took about an hour altogether and just 10-15 minute to do the actual tattoo. It didn’t really hurt (maybe 2/10) and I was THRILLED with the result. It’s quite a delicate tattoo, which was exactly what I wanted and I couldn’t recommend Oxytocina highly enough. 

My insta explains the meaning behind me having YNWA on my arm and do you know what’s cool. Last year (2017) M had a “Forever Stone” laid at Liverpool’s ground, Anfield which also has a similar inscription…. 

In fact, I filmed a VLOG for my YouTube Channel about it all too:

Love 

Gx 

Barcelona Travels | Eating Out

Travelling to a foreign country for the first time since being diagnosed as Lactose Intolerant was a worry for me. I furiously worried about having to try to explain my situation in another language. So you have to imagine my utter joy when I tell you how WELL I ate in Barcelona and wasn’t poorly once! 💃

So the way I kept so well whilst being away had a couple of ingredients (if you’ll pardon the pun). 

  • In every restaurant we went to, everyone spoke English. 
  • We ate vegan wherever possible. 

I mentioned in my post about some of the amazing thing we did whilst in Barcelona, that we went on a Runner Bean walking tour. Our first guide was a lovely guy called Miguel and at the end of the tour, he asked if anyone wanted food recommendations. We asked for vegetarian and he suggest a few places and of course, we found a few places ourselves. 

Teresa Carles

So I have to start with the MOST amazing food that we ate whilst we were away and this was one of Miguel’s recommendations. It seems Teresa Carles has a small group of restaurants in Barcelona, all with slightly different styles. The main Teresa Carles one, I would say is on the same level (if not the same style) as a Jamie Oliver restaurant, if you live in the UK. 

The menus were in Spanish and English and of course as the restaurant has a healthy focus, it contained SO much vegetarian and vegan food that I almost squealed with excitement. 

Our first trip we had a small wait to get a table, but when we did, we were seated on a large table with 6 other people. This is fairly unusual by British standards, but why not eh? In terms of food, on our first trip, I had something called a Portabello Freak & Do which was a gorgeous Portabello Mushroom dish with potatoes and M had a vegan lasagna. Both gorgeous and THEN we both had vegan cakes for dessert. Pure heaven..

The food here was SO good that we also came back on our last day – the nicest food I have eaten in a VERY long time! 

Flax & Kale

Flax & Kale are also part of the Teresa Carles group  but had a slightly less formal vibe. However, the food was EQUALLY as delicious and I had a simple dish of mushrooms on toast which were cooked in Coconut Milk. I know this sounds simple, but the mushrooms tasted like the very best mushrooms risotto I have ever had! Highly recommend!! 

Chok The Chocolate Kitchen 

So of course, after an amazing meal, we had to try to have an amazing pudding and whilst on our way to somewhere else, we walked past Chok and this instantly became somewhere we had to try. 

The had a selection of Vegan chocolate puddings and we eventually went for one that we thought was pistachio, but actually was Matcha when we got it back to our hotel! Still bl**dy lovely though. 

Bacoa Burger

So yes, Bacoa Burger isn’t vegan, but it DOES have vegan options. It also has a couple of different restaurants around Barcelona and we loved the one we found here: 

They had lots of choices for burgers and the were delicious. Because they make each burger from scratch with options to add extras or leave things off, I was able to customise my meal without dairy. Plus they did actually have a vegan burger if I’d wanted. Bonus. 

The Bio Centre

The Bio Centre was another recommendation from Runner Bean and had a totally chilled and somewhat student vibe. It was dressed like you would imagine movie restaurant to be with fringed lampshades and quirky shelf decorations. So unusual. This was actually one of the few places where we didn’t take any photos of the food. Needless to say, we loved it and the food was gorgeous. 

Deliveroo

If you live in a city or any type of densely populated area then you might have already experienced Deliveroo, but this simply doesn’t exist where we live. Participating restaurants put their food on the Deliveroo app, you order and then a rider will collect it and bring it to your door. 

This was perfect for us when we were too tired to go out to eat, a sort of happy medium between hotel and apartment living. We ordered from

The food we ordered was honestly so gorgeous that I couldn’t quite believe it. So yummy, so vegan, so much fun! 

So there you go, it WAS possible to eat healthily(ish) in Barcelona and it’s certainly possible to eat Vegan. I loved every mouthful. 

G x 

Barcelona Travels | Places to Visit

Barcelona is wonderful and having just spent a week there, I just HAD to share some of the wonderful places we visited and things we experienced. We felt like we only scratched the surface, so would LOVE to hear any recommendations you have too. Comment below  👇

Sagrada Familia

The Sagrada Familia (the Sacred Family) is one of the most iconic building in Spain as well as the most visited venue in Barcelona. It was the final work of renowned architect Antoni Gaudi. There is so much to see at what is now a basilica after a papal visit and it was WELL worth a trip. We decided on a guided tour which cost us 24€ each and we loved it. The tour took about 50 minutes or so and was in English.

I personally loved the inside more than the outside as Gaudi’s work is really very unusual and I didn’t love it, but I DID love the inside as the stained glass was beautiful. 

Camp Nou

Camp Nou is the home of FC Barcelona and the 2nd most visited attraction in the city. Tickets were 25€ each and we easy enough to buy on arrival. It was fairly busy but not too mad at the time we went, but I imagine in Summer it would be HEAVING and so you might be better off going as early as possible in the morning. We paid a little extra with our tickets to get an audio guide, but I honestly don’t think we needed them as there was plenty of written information to look at.

The tour includes the museum, the away dressing room and we also got to the the stadium itself from a a few levels including pitchside and the press boxes. I am not into football at all, but it was very good tour and there was something for everyone, even me! 

Teleferic de Montjuic 

The Teleferic de Montjuic is a cable car the goes up to the Montjuic Castle. It was only 5€ each and we were able to book this in advance. Google told me that the queues could be quite busy so we decided to go early. As it happened there was hardly anyone there really, so we didn’t have to wait at all. 

There was a castle at the top which gave us stunning 360 degree view of Barcelona and we spent a happy 90 minutes exploring in the sunshine. Glorious. 

p.s. the cable car takes 7 minutes from Bottom to Top and if you aren’t a fan a heights, it goes without saying, that this might not be for you! 

I have left the very best till last……..

Runner Bean Walking Tours

M found out about Runner Bean walking tours as part of our pre-holiday research. We decided to do one on our second day and then again on our last day.  The tours are in English and last 2.5 hours and the first one we did was a walking tour of the Gothic Quarter with Miguel. It was FASCINATING and we loved every single minute of it. Miguel was able to show us around the intricate Gothic Quarter in to some of the smaller streets giving us such an insight into it’s history and architecture. 

He was funny and charming and the time passed so quickly. But do you want to know the best part? The tour is FREE!!!! The idea is that people just give the guide whatever they thought it was worth to them. It was BRILLIANT!

Miguel pointing out the Jewish Headstones that were stolen to build part of the wall!

The second tour we took was with Ana and she walked us around Gaudi’s works. This tour was also free, but we had to buy a metro ticket to help us move between the the different Gaudi houses. Ana was so smiley and the 2.5 hours went SO fast. She had really interesting facts about every house and piece of architecture she showed us – I LOVED it! The tour ended at Sagrada Familia and despite having already been there earlier in the week, she still gave us some fascinating insights into the facades.

I honestly can’t recommend these tours enough, entertaining, insightful and fun. Just the BEST was to see Barcelona IMHO. 

We booked ALL of these trips online, with the exception of Camp Nou, which you are better off purchasing at the stadium, as tickets purchased online still have to be collected from a ticket office in Barcelona. 

There was so much more we wanted to do, but just couldn’t fit everything in. As mentioned in my previous post about the technology we used whilst on holiday, we also visited the Zoo, but it was very tired looking with lots of construction. Do NOT recommend. 

But overall we loved EVERYTHING and can’t wait to go back! 

G x 

p.s why not take a look at some of the technology we used in Barcelona to make our trip even more special. 

Barcelona Travels | Technology

Oh wow, we have just arrived back in the UK after the MOST glorious week in Barcelona, Spain. This post is one of 3 being published over the next week or so to highlight some of the things we did and some of the stuff we used whilst in Spain to make our life easier or trip easier to navigate – literally! 

The first thing I am going to focus on is Technology. For those that know me in real life, know I am a proper geek, which I think is pretty awesome. I am always the girl finding a tech savvy way to get something done and so I thought I would give you a run-down of what we used…. 

Google Maps

Ok so Google Maps has been my long time navigation go-to when trying to find my way around  a new city, so I thought I would continue this in Barcelona. So the first thing I did when researching places that we might want to visit, including our hotel and places to eat, was to search for them in Google Maps on my iPhone X and then save them into a list. I then shared the list with M and so this meant that we could both continue to add things as we found them and we could both see. 

I then made the map of Barcelona available offline, which involved a small download of the map, which meant that it didn’t drain my data (or battery) whilst away as it already had the map loaded. I have to say, this worked BRILLIANTLY! We used Google Maps every day as we walked for MILES from place to place – in fact I walked a total of 26.4 miles across the week, which was 70,280 steps!!!!! Wow. 

MyTaxi 

So, we mostly walked around Barcelona, but we did sometimes need to travel further afield or we were simply too tired to walk. When we did need a cab we used MyTaxi. In my research, I found that Uber didn’t really operate in Barcelona and so we set ourselves up with MyTaxi. 

Much like Uber, we could hail a Taxi from within the app and set a destination so if, like us, you don’t speak to local language, the cab driver already knew where we wanted to go. 

Once the journey was over, we could use the App to pay, having registered my debit card whilst still in the UK. Perfect and the epitome of stress free! 

Google Drive 

Another fab thing that I made use of whilst we were travelling was Google Drive which is an online document storage service. Everything I booked, including tickets and passes for things, I uploaded to Google Drive and then made them available offline. I then shared this with M so we both had access. This was SO much easier than having various bits of paper and also useful as most of the trips and activities were booked the day before and so we were simply unable to print things off. Have barcode on phone – will travel! This worked for Runner Bean Walking Tours,  Barcelona Zoo, Montjuic Cable Cars and Sagrada Familia. Also I kept our travel insurance and various other travel agent documents in there too. Perfect and never lost! 

easyJet Boarding Passes

We flew with easyJet for the first time and as it’s a low budget airline, I didn’t have high expectations. But I have to say, both flights were painless.  One of the things we did use were digital boarding passes, which were SO much easier for us. We were able to check in online for both flights up to 30 days before the actual flight (which we did) and this gave us our boarding passes. I downloaded the easyJet App and this then put the pass in my iPhone’s wallet. Once we were at the airport my phone detected where we were and my pass appeared in the lock screen. 

We saw so many people faffing with large bits of paper, but the digital version worked best for us as, like most people, we are never without our phones, so it made sense. Also, due to already being checked in and only having cabin bags, we could arrive much later than usual! 🙂 

Deliveroo

I am going to do a whole separate post on how WELL we ate in Barcelona, but for now I just have to give a lovely mention to Deliveroo. If by some slim chance you’ve never heard of it, it’s basically a food delivery service. But rather than being limited to Chinese or Pizza, this service will go to your favourite (participating) restaurant and bring a whole RANGE of yummy foods. We used this a few times and were impressed every time. We ordered in the app from the menu the restaurant provided and paid using Apple Pay. The restaurant accepts the order and then within 20 minutes or so, we got a notification to say our rider was on his way. We could then  track where our rider was via a map in the app (rhymes! nice… ) and before we knew it, a guy on a bike pulled up to our hotel and handed us a bag with lovely food in it… 

This was a perfect solution for us being room only in a hotel. Sometimes, after long day being out and about, we couldn’t be bothered to go out to eat, so this seemed like a happy medium. Nice food, but in bed!! Brilliant. 

Happy Cow

Continuing the food theme, we occasionally used an app called Happy Cow to find nearby Vegan or Veggie restaurants. It has great filters and even some photos of both the  place and food. I have been using this in the UK and it worked fine in Spain too. 

and finally….. 

Words with Friends

Inevitably, travelling can mean lots of waiting around and so M and I resurrected an old favourite in Words with Friends. It’s a simple word game, like Scrabble, that allows you to play against someone in your contacts or against the computer or it will even match you up against another player from around the world. This kept us busy and if I am honest awake whilst we waited for our room to be ready when we first arrived in Barcelona! It’s really the small things sometimes. Also, I hate to admit it, M is VERY good at Words – he always beats me!! 😳

**

So those are all my tech recommendations for travelling in a new city – I have left out only one, which was an app we downloaded for Barcelona Zoo. But to be honest the Zoo was as crap as the app.. so 🙈 👎 I would love to hear anything else you have tried too. 

As this is a small series, don’t forget to come back to see all the amazing Vegan food we ate whilst away – being dairy free has its advantages! 

G x 

p.s. Why not take a look at some of the places we visited

 

Manchester Pride 2018 💗

Working in my day job at The Prince’s Trust, I get to do some amazing things. Today was one of those days. At work I am part of our PULSE network, which is a network of LGBTQ+ staff and Allies that support the LGBTQ+ community at PT. 

I am an Ally and so today I took  M along and we walked for The Prince’s Trust in the parade. M said that he thought that it was a life affirming day to see so many happy and joyous people out having such a gorgeous time – couldn’t have said it better myself! 

Thank GOD we live in a country where this is not only possible, but also celebrated. After all….

 💜💚💛💙💗

Love is Love

Top Tips for Nervous Travellers | Being Alone

So in this series so far, I have talked about tackling trains and cars and so to round up my tips, I thought I would talk about how to handle being alone. 

So the being alone starts for me from the second I leave the house and I usually go long distances by train. So I walk to the station, get on the trains and arrive at my hotel on my own. With my lack of natural direction, I am always grateful to find all stations, platforms and hotels without getting too lost… 🌼

But let’s talk about being on the train for a second. As a solo train traveller, it’s inevitable that you will have to sit next to strangers. Over the last 12 months or so, I have sat next to a fair amount of man-spreaders (gents, it IS possible to sit with your legs together), the odd too loud headphone wearer, the people taking calls on speaker and my personal favourite, the ‘need a shower or some big-ass deodorant’ seat-mates. All lovely 🙅.

But I find the way to deal with all of the above is distraction. I am not above a little chat with a seat-mate, but mostly I just want to have a bit of me-time, which usually involves my headphones and a podcast. I am lucky, in that I have always been comfortable with my own company and the more I do travel solo, the more I am ok with it.

Once I get to the hotel, I find that I feel more comfortable if I do things to the hotel to make it feel like mine. At home, all my stuff is in the same place and I know where everything is which is just a small part of what makes it actually feel like home. So I basically follow the following 4 steps to feel settled in:

  • I immediately unpack, clothes hung up and on shelves/in drawers.
  • I put my toothbrush and other toileteries in the bathroom. 
  • I set up where I am going to charge my various devices
  • I connect to the WiFi. 

via GIPHY

So I know that this sounds very simplistic, but most hotel rooms are a variation on a theme and so settling in to the room can really settle me, ready for whatever I am up to in a new city. It becomes my home, my safe haven, so after a busy day (usually talking to people I don’t know that well) I can come back and in relative comfort, decompress. (It takes a lot of energy to be in a new place, taking to new people for 7 hours). 

I mentioned in my Trains blog, that I often download films and TV series to watch on the journey, but if there is decent WiFi in the hotel, I also make the most of Netflix and YouTube to make myself laugh and even just relax before bed.

Of course, the one thing I do every night come hell or high water is make the most of FaceTime. These days, being away from home isn’t like you are cut off from people – video chatting means that we are so connected these days, I am not sure “miss you” always applies.

But one thing is for sure, is that just a few simple steps can make a bland hotel room, certainly “homey” if not home. I have even contemplated taking a candle with me, but I too worried about it setting off the fire alarm!!

Anyway, I think it’s ok to be nervous travellers, I am one and I still travel on an almost daily basis. Hope you’ve enjoyed this mini series and I would love to hear any tips you have too.

G x 

National Tramway Museum, Crich | Review

Oh I am a lucky girl, so lucky in fact, that my best friend Karen was kind enough to send us tickets to Crich Tramway Museum. She has been volunteering there for over 20 years and is currently the Chairwoman, I am very proud of her!

So yesterday, M and I made our way to Crich, where the museum is located and after a slight mishap (I put the wrong post code into the sat nav and ended up 16 miles away from where we should have been 😂), we arrived in just over 2 hours.

I think that when people imagine museums, they perhaps envisage lots of dusty artefacts behind glass, but nothing could be further from the truth in this instance. When we arrived, Karen met us at the gate and we were delighted to be given a map and leaflet about a special models exhibition that was happened this weekend. We were also given special pennies to pay for our TRAM RIDES! The idea is, is that you get a penny at the gate and then this pays your fare for all your tram rides throughout the day. Each time you go on a tram, the conductor gives you a ticket. 👍

 

The museum has around 4 trams running each day which go up and down a track, which I reckon takes about 10-15 minutes to go to the end of the line and back. There isn’t a timetable as such, but we never waited for more than a few minutes every time we wanted to take a tram. But we will come back to that…..

As you enter the museum you head down into the village as this is the centre of everything and leads to all the main attractions. There is a pub, tea rooms, ice cream parlour, sweet shop, gift shop, exhibition hall and several tram depots. We made our way around each area, and it was just fascinating and  Karen is a real tram enthusiast and as she showed us round, she gave us many insights into each and every artefact and with she had a snippet of information about each and every tram. 

But the best part for both M and I was riding on the actual trams. we agreed that our favourite was “the boat”, named appropriately, because of its shape…

But we did have a few more rides and each one was so atmospheric and allowed us to really feel what travelling by trams felt like. What was just amazing though, was  that the trams are driven and conducted by volunteers. Everyone we met had an obvious passion for trams and them made our rides such an immersive experience. They were happy, enthusiastic and so informative. What a credit to Karen and the museum as  a whole.

We such an amazing day we had, even stopping at the pub for a cup of tea and Rita’s Tea Rooms for some lunch. We had a perfect day and I if you are looking for a slightly unusual, but interesting day out – then I would definitely give this a go.

I found it such a gentle experience, which was honestly SOO relaxing, I can’t believe we waited so long to go. 

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 Loved it! 

G x 

Top Tip for Nervous Travellers | Cars

Ok so continuing this weeks Nervous traveller series, I am going to share with you how I have learned to deal with being a nervous car traveller.

I think the first thing and the most important thing is that if you have to be a passenger in someone else’s car, then where possible honesty is the best policy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to be vulnerable in front of people, especially if it’s just getting a lift to someone from work, but I think it’s important to remember a few things.

I grew up in a family where just my dad could drive, which ultimately meant he was in charge in the car. He wasn’t a fan of stopping mid-journey unless either we were on a super-long trip or, of course, if he needed a comfort break. But here’s the thing, people joke before journeys “has everyone been to the loo” with the implication that cars can’t stop between A and B. But of COURSE they can stop and if you need to stop for any reason, just tell your driver. If you have to insist, do so. I think that knowing that this is OK and make the decision to do this, if you need to, can really help anxiety. If you are friends or even friendly with your driver, then it might be worth warning them beforehand, even if you do this by text, then at least everyone knows.

All of the above applies if you ever have to give someone you don’t know a lift and this also makes you nervous. Anxiety around this can happen for many reasons, my personal issue is that I worry I might need to stop and go to the loo, so I am not keen on having new passengers. But in this situation, as the driver, I need to remember that I am in control of the car and if I have to make a detour, it’s not that big of a deal. I can also refuse to take a passenger, if I am not up to it and the world will carry on turning.

In term of navigation, I would always recommend the obvious GPS device in your car. I have had one since 2005, starting off with the original TomTom and then graduating to a Nissan Note with in-built GPS. I have also recently used Waze and TomTom for the iPhone as well as the ever reliable Google Maps. My particular favourite at the moment is Waze as I like the map and it connects to Spotify.

I would also pack the requisite drink & snack for long journeys as you just never know when you might get stuck. Now reading this back, lots of these tips are obvious, but hand reminders if I ever feel my natural anxieties start to get the better of me.

Good luck and do let me know of any car travel tips you have found work for you.

G x

p.s. have you found good travel sickness pills that work for you?