20 December 2017

City Spice, Brick Lane

London's Brick Lane is famous for food, especially Indian restaurants but with so many options how do you know which restaurant is the right one to pick? I was recently invited to check out City Spice to see how it measures up and find out why it won the title 'London's Curry Restaurant of the year.'
The restaurant itself is light and bright and the staff were all polite, friendly and knowledgable of their menu. We started off with the classic poppadoms and pickle tray selection. The poppadoms were cooked perfectly without being in anyway oily or greasy and the pickles and chutneys were some of the best I've had. It consisted of an almond dip which was sweet without being overly so yet light and delightful to taste, a mango chutney which was another favourite of mine which again wasn't overly sweetened, a spicy chutney which had delicious liquorish undertones, a sweet orange paste and a fresh vegetable selection.

For our starter we course to split the King Prawn Butterfly, which consists of prawns in the shape of a butterfly, lightly breadcrumbed and then fried. I'm not normally a fan of fried foods however this was fried so lightly it didn't negatively affect the flavour of the fish at all and had a great, light crunch without being at all oily. There was no skimping on the fish either as this was filled to the brim with prawns.
After much debating over the menu we both chose to order from the award winning dishes section and both went for curries we hadn't tried before.  Harry chose the Black Pepper Lamb and Mushroom dish which was rich and meaty with a subtly spice.  This is actually one of two new dishes added to the menu after the owners were invited to a special invite-only event to trade culinary secrets with Michelin Chiefs earlier this year.  I went with the Thatul Tanga Bhujon which is a totally unique, flavourful dish which was slightly sweet with a sour finish that develops as you eat it.  I've never had anything like it before and it is one of the most delicious dishes I have ever tried, unusual and completely flavourful.  

For the main course we chose to split the lemon rice which I had not tried before.  It was cooked perfectly and was very flavourful with the lemon flavours adding a refreshing dimension to the dishes we paired them with.  

I can't go to an Indian and not have a nan bread of some form, this time we went with a Keema Nan which is one of Harry's favourites.  Usually I am not normally a fan however this was light, well made and filler perfectly without being too oily.  The flavours from the meat were really tasty and moist but not too overpowering.  

I love Indian restaurants, it's one of my favourite styles of food to eat and until now I hadn't found anywhere in London that lived up to the options back home in Yorkshire. However with this I think I may have just found the best Indian in London! Check out their menu here if you fancy a visit.

What's your favourite Indian Restaurant in London?

15 December 2017

How to see Krakow in a Day

Back in the Spring I headed to Poland for the first time as I visited the stunning city of Krakow.  With it's fairytale-like architecture and amazing food and drink it's has become one of my most favourite city breaks to date.  We spent a weekend there but with our first afternoon was spent visiting the famous Salt Mines and our second day exploring Auschwitz so this left us with just one day to explore the city itself.  Krakow is a relatively small city so one day was enough time to see everything I wanted to so I thought I'd share with you the route I devised to catch all the ‘must see’ parts of the city.
Central Krakow is surrounded by a park which makes for a nice walk around the outskirts no matter what direction you come from.  Our Airbnb (affiliate link, you get £25 credit when you sign up with my link) was situated in the right side of the city just outside the centre so we headed to the north city gate to start our walk for the easiest route.  If you take the bus or train into Krakow you will find yourself in the North of the city so it makes for a great introduction to the city.  Our first stop was the Krakow Barbican before which we wanted to see before heading through the city gates into the city itself.
The Krakow Barbican is an old fortress with beautiful red brick architecture that looks just like a miniature castle, you can go inside for just 8 Zloties (around £1.50) but we didn't think there would be a great deal to see so we chose not to and instead headed towards the city walls.
Once inside the walls you really can appreciate the fairytale-like architecture in its full glory.  Winding through the city towards the town square all the streets look like you are about to come across a lost princess or a knight in shining armour.  It is a stunningly beautiful city.
Before long you will find yourself in the stunning market square.  Make sure you take your time to walk around the square in full, which is surrounded by tourist attractions, shops, restaurants and bars.  One of the most famous sites you will see here is the traditional Krakow horse and carts that really do look beautiful in their full traditional attire.  
As you enter the square to the left hand side you will see St Mary's Basilica Church.  The architecture if this building is totally really unique while the interior decoration of the church is colourful and truly stunning. It costs 10PLN to enter the church (around £2) with an extra charge to take photos inside.
Walking to the other-side of the market square make sure you pass through the Cloth Hall building where you will see a whole host of different market stalls set up inside selling all kinds of items from home-wear, to gifts, to clothing and more.  
Once at the other side of the Cloth Hall you will be greeted by the Town Hall Tower (8PLN around £1.80).  Climb the steps to gain access to one of the most beautiful aerial views of Krakow you will find.  It's a fair few steps on the way up (there’s a few rooms you can stop in if you are out of breath like me) and the views are definitely worth it.
Heading back onto the main road through the centre of Krakow you will come across several more truly beautiful buildings and local eating halls (I definitely recommend stopping on one if you want a more authentic eating experience) before you reach one of the most significant tourist attractions in Krakow, the Wawel Castle.  
It's a fairly easy walk up to the castle and once more the architecture is romantically beautiful.  The courtyard is serene and and a great place to take a rest stop.  From here we headed down the castle towards the river via the ‘Dragon’s Den’ cave which are lit up beautifully to give a magical appearance.  
When you exit the caves at the base of the castle you will see another famous symbol of Krakow, the Wawel dragon which breaths at 15 minute intervals and it sure draws a crowd!
From here we headed along the Vistula River, we took a stop among the grass to watch the world go by in the sun for a while.  You will see several boats and fishermen going to their work along this beautiful stretch of river it's a great place to unwind of the weather is right.  
We then headed across the Bernatek Footbridge with its famous arabic sculptures before making our way towards Schindler's factory.  We were aware that It was closed on our day of visit but we still wanted to see with our own eyes.  We found this surprisingly difficult to trace once on the other side of the river, it is definitely more industrial and residential where the museum resides.  We found our way eventually to see this amazing historic building before slowly winding our way back towards the city with just a few vodka stops along the way!

If you are heading to Krakow why not check out this handy map I have made to make sure you don't miss a thing!

Have you been to Krakow?  Let me know if there is anything I missed!

13 December 2017

Lessons I learnt from having an article published in The Guardian

A few weeks before Pride in London this year I was interviewed by Hull Trains about my volunteer work for the event. The Guardian wanted to run a similar piece about volunteer roles for Pride in London so I was asked by the Pride team if I’d do this one too.  They wanted someone who’d volunteered for Pride for a number of years and had experience in writing articles so I thought why not.  It’s the first time I’d written anything for a big publication like this and I wasn’t sure what to expect so I thought I’d share with you a few of the lessons I’ve learnt from the experience and how it differs from blogging:

Never read the comments

I’m going to start off with the most obvious one, never read the comments of anything that’s open to public opinion like this.  Especially when the newspaper choose a rather divisive headline (more on that later).  I love getting comments on my blog as it's still fairly rare and I've had less then a handful of bad experiences.  On this article there are hundreds of comments and thankfully by the time I got round to seeing it in the evening the worst comments had been removed by The Guardian. There were a lot of automated ‘this post has been removed for violating the terms of service’ comments which must have meant there was a lot of hate, though whether this was directed at me or the LGBTQ+ community I don’t know.  Did I read the rest of the comments?  Of course I did! I shouldn’t have but I did - it’s human nature.  I just couldn’t look away as people picked over the smallest details of what I’d written and attacked me for the choice or words or a misinterpretation, it was bizarre yet I didn’t actually find it too upsetting, just really strange.  There were of nice comments and people sticking up for me but the whole thing was rather surreal, I chose not to read them again after that first evening. 

People will refer to you by your full name in the comments

I have a strange name with an even stranger spelling, making me a dream if you ever want to find every single thing I’ve ever done online (I see you embarrassing emo Myspace profile from when I was 16).  Hence why this blog initially didn’t have my name anywhere on it for the first few years.  It’s really unusual for me to see my name written down anywhere or on so seeing comments who literally state my full name ‘Kariss blah blah clearly thinks….” etc was really bizarre.  It made the unpleasant comments feel more personal and seemed unnecessary to call someone out by their full name like that.  Thankfully I’ve had no follow up on any of my social media accounts, which with a name so google-able could easily have happened.

They may choose a headline that could change the focus of your whole piece

Let’s be real, there was no real need for my sexuality to be mentioned in this piece at all, however Pride in London needs around 1000 volunteers a year to run the event so it's important to get the word out so we can get as many volunteers as possible.  There is a common misconception that you have to be part of the LGBT community to volunteer for Pride in London, even amongst some of the volunteers themselves.  Speaking with members of Pride we decided to include a line about me being straight, it’s just a small line meant to encourage people of all sexualities to get involved.  However The Guardian then took this and ran with it, giving the article the title "I'm Straight- Here's Why I Volunteer at Pride in London" which changed the focus of the article and let to most of the outrage in the comments.

The time between you writing a piece and it being used can change what people take away from your article

When I write a blog post if something suddenly happens in the world between me finishing it and making it live I can choose not to post or edit it if something in the world effects my writing.  With submitting an article that isn’t going to happen.  In the two or so weeks between me sending my article and it going live there was a fair bit of controversy surrounding Pride and it’s relationship with the straight ‘community’ that changed the tilt of my article.  I’m not qualified to comment on that but not being able to just edit out that one sentence made me feel pretty anxious about the reception it was going to get. 

They can and will edit your writing

Heavily too, the final post was not written in my authentic voice and they even changed some things which made them non-factual (based on their thoughts rather then my facts) which is not something I enjoyed about the experience.  I understand there is a house style to follow and of course they will edit but there were sections of the post that were almost unrecognisable from what I originally wrote.

Short is good, long is bad

I know that these days short and snappy is the way forward for any written work, but the brief specifically said to use short paragraphs and sentences and simple words.  I love a long form blog post on this was a challenge for me, especially to write in a way that doesn't appear like I am being dumbed down. 

They might not deliver on their promises of linking to you

This wasn't my main focus on this occasion as I was doing it for Pride in London but the promise of a link to my blog was defiantly a huge sweetener.  They promised it several times in emails then when I chased it afterwards they said they couldn't link to my blog in the post or the bio as they don't link to personal websites (even though I made it clear in the emails that it was my personal blog and they'd seen it and agreed).  I will admit I am still a bit bitter about this as I am sure you can tell!

You have no idea if your article is going to be used

This is fairly obvious for anyone who has worked as a freelance journalist but as a blogger it was defiantly new.  You do the work, submit it, and the they might just never use it.  I thought this was going to happen to me as I'd written the post, had it edited and approved by them months before it was released and I had to do a fair bit of chasing.  The point of the post was supposed to be to encourage people to sign up to volunteer for Pride and yet it wasn't launched till the day of the event (which was a bit of a shock to come back to after the stressful day I'd had).

I know this sounds negative but actually the experience was mostly positive and as a dyslexic, working class Barnsley girl I am actually really proud of myself for getting this chance, if you want to read the full article you'll find that here.  With that in mind Pride is slowly coming around again so if you are thinking of volunteering sign up here ready for some news in the future and check out my post on 5 Reasons Why You Should Volunteer for Pride in London.  It has been a wild ride and I've loved every minute and it's given me opportunities like this I wouldn't have reached otherwise.

Would you submit an article to a major news network?


11 December 2017

Relaxed Rockabilly Styling and Body Confidence

It’s been a long time since I‘ve written a fashion post, and to be honest that’s because I have lost my confidence in how I present myself a fair bit.  Until the black Friday sales recently I hadn’t really bought any new clothes all year (choosing instead to focus on spending my money on travel) and I’d put on weight which meant the clothes I was wearing were all just that bit too tight and unflattering.  I found myself wearing the same old things just because they were comfortable.

Recently I have been trying to eat better and lose a little weight, just so I feel better in my own skin.  However sometimes you accidentally put an outfit together that makes you feel like your old self, and that's what this outfit did for me.  I threw this together when I was off on one of my favourite London activities, an Instagram walk and actually felt pretty good about myself for the first time in a long while.  Sure I picked the photos which made me look slimmer and had my best angles but it still gave me confidence. These pics were when I was at the height of my weight gain, and yet I don’t hate them, I actually like them and I think that is one of the most important things in body confidence.  Just finding something to give you that boost, whether it’s your hair, a certain dress, banging makeup, whatever it is and really letting yourself feel amazing.  For my it was realising how curvy I looked in these jeans!
As someone who lives in 50’s style swing skirts, jeans are a new one on me.  As a classic pear shape they actually totally intimidate me and I am usually stuck with memories of crying in dressing rooms as I tried them on as a teen.  This is currently the only pair I own and I adore them.  They are high waisted and slightly stretchy which make them super comfortable and wide legged so perfect for the 1940’s look.  Collectif jeans aren’t the cheapest but they are worth every penny, I’ve worn them loads and they look and fit as if they are brand new.  Fit and flare skirts and dresses have always been my safety net, this look still emphasises my waist which means I'm not too far away from my comfort zone (the skinny belt helps draw the eye there too), while being t more figure hugging then I am used to.  I have hated my body for as long as I can remember, especially my thighs and butt after getting bullied about them at school but yet in this I actually surprised myself looking at the photos and not hating them!
The shirt is also by Collectif, I have it in black and white and don’t wear them often enough due to them currently being a bit too tight and my new found fear of body hugging clothes.  I’ve found a way of placing the sleeves that means I can still wear a normal bra (hallelujah) and when tucking it in to show off that high waist suddenly I’d accidentally pulled a look together.  40’s/50’s looks are all about the waist and this is why i’ve been drawn towards those decades for fashion  

You probably know by now that I can’t make my hair do vintage styles no matter how damn hard I try!  So for this look just chucking it back with a classic bandana helps pulls together an effortless rockabilly look.  Both easy and a bit badass!

These glittery brogues aren't quite the perfect accompaniment but they do the job and I added this black plastic bead necklace simply became I love it. Say what you want but I will take cheap plastic jewellery over a gold and diamond necklace any day.
My relationship with my body has never been a good one, I’ve struggled with an eating disorder for over ten years now and it’s not something I talk publicly about very often but it’s like having a voice in the back of your head telling me I look awful all the times (it’s usually good friends with the one telling me everyone hates me too, what a charming pair!).  It is not fun and I don’t know if I will ever really feel confident or happy in my own skin, but for the moments like this when I look at outfit photos and don’t hate everything about it.  Well, those are the moments I have to cling onto.

What’s your favourite confidence boosting outfit?

8 December 2017

Harry Potter: A History of Magic at The British Library

If you have been following my blog for awhile you might have realised I’m a Harry Potter fan (or Potterhead as we are sometimes known).  I’ve visited the Wizarding World a handful of times, I’ve done the Studio Tour twice and I’ve done a Harry Potter walking tour around London.  What you probably don’t know is that I actually work for the publishers of the Harry Potter series.  I’ve never worked on the books directly but it does mean we sometimes get cool perks, like getting our own private tour around the current exhibition at The British Library like we did on a Wednesday morning a few weeks ago when it first opened!

There is no photography allowed inside the exhibition so let my words conjure it up for you.  The British library have done a fantastic job at bringing different aspects of this book to life, showing how JK Rowling may have got her inspiration in a way which is truly amazing.  Not only are there original manuscripts and notes from the original Harry Potter books (including the note from our CEO Nigel's daughter urging her dad to produce the book) but there are rare and historic books and manuscripts detailing the real world insperations of the Harry Potter universe.
From divination, to herbology, to potions you will see centuries old textbooks displaying these subjects and how Rowling did her research.  Some of them you won't believe are real, it is truly astounding!  They are all presented in a beautiful way by The British Library using amazing room designs to really get you into the magical mood.

Expect to spend around 2 hours here staring at some of the most amazing book based artefacts you will ever get a chance to see.  It is on until the 28th of February at £16 for an adult ticket.  The tickets are selling fast so book one while you can!

Have you ever been to the British Library?

6 December 2017

10 Quirky London Activities to Book for 2018

London is a crazy beast!  There are few cities where there is such a diverse range of things to do, which leaves amazing opportunities but makes it hard to choose where to spend your money.  If you want to find some of the really unique events London has coming up in the next year I am here to help you out with a few of my faves.  Not only that but they make great gifts for the special people in your life to give them a present they won’t forget!


Ride the waves at the Lee Valley White Water Centre

I don’t know about you but when I think of White Water Rafting I imagine a river running through a forest somewhere in the country, I do not think of our own fair city.  Yet thanks to the White Water Centre you don’t need to travel far to get your white knuckle thrills.  Take to the waters on this olympic course for some wet and wild fun with activities ranging from White Water Rafting, Hydrospeeding and Hot Dogs (no I hadn’t heard of that before either) and plenty more.
Price: Starting from £38

Become one with a whale with Predator Adventures

In one of the craziest ideas I’ve ever seen head to London, Predator Adventures gives you the opportunity to climb on board a state of the art F-16 fighter grade glass cockpits shaped like a whale (what else) as you experience a serious adrenalin-inducing ride through the water!  Glide at amazing speeds in this half-submarine speedboat to see a side of London few get to see.  I am hoping to hit this up early in the new year and honestly I can’t wait.  This is a great one for people who think they’ve tried it all in London or just love g-forces, it is an adventure that will surprise them and get their heart racing!  To give you a better idea of the experience I recommend checking out some of the videos on their Youtube page, it has to be seen to believed!  
Price: Prices start from £89 and are currently on offer so buy them quick, you can also buy gift cards which make a great Christmas present.

Take things at a more relaxed pace with the Moo Canoes

Not only is it super fun to say but Moo Canoes are also amazingly adorable!  Choose a canoe or kayak with their adorable cow print and take to the water for some fun at a more relaxed pace.
Price: From £26, gift vouchers available
Where to book: http://www.moocanoes.com/

The Slide at the ArcelorMittal Orbit

Londoners like to make a joke and take it too far...sometimes with amazing results!  When the Olympic Games rolled around in 2012 London built this crazy looking structure as it’s focal point, the ArcelorMittal Orbit.  After many jokes about how much fun it would be to slide down the structure it was made possible to do just that!  You don’t slide down the actual building (thank god!) but a helter skelter that has been built around around it.  I did it last year and it was a seriously thrilling ride!?
Price: £16.50 per adult

Take to the Thames at speed in a Thames Rocket

I did a full review of this a few months ago but this is a fast, fun adventure with some amazing views to boot!  Check out this post for a full review.
Price: Around £41, gift cards available.

Want a cosy keepsake?  Why not Arm Knit a Giant Throw?

If you want to give the gift of cosiness and creativity you won’t find much better than this!  You get an amazing creative experience and you get to take home your craft home with you as a lasting memory.  
Price: £55

Embrace the Winter with Ice Climbing

Another activity you would never have thought would be available in London but amazingly is!  A real, vertical ice wall is available for you scale!  Just grab a pick, a helmet, and get climbing!
Price: From £25

Food and Drink

Go back in time with The Medieval Banquet

Ever dreamt of being a king at a royal table, food thrust in front of you as you are entertained by the royal jester?  Well prepare to get a taste of that life with The Medieval Banquet.  Join Henry VII and his court for a four course meal with plenty of entertainment with wine and beer to boot!
Price: £50

Camp it up with Strictly Come Drag Queen

Bottomless boozy brunches have taken London by storm in the last year and here’s one with an entertaining twist.  London’s finest drag stars serve up and all singing, all dancing performance while you tuck into your grub over a Prosecco or 5.  Expect lip syncs, amazing routines and your chance to live out your drag dreams in their specially devise game.
Price: From £39

Get a real sweet treat with the Chocolate Treasure Hunt

Got a friend with a sweet tooth like me?  Get them this amazing gift of chocolate filled London experience.  Work as a team to solve the clues around the city and get plenty of chocolate treats along the way!  
Price: £35

So there are just a few of my favourites, what London events are you looking forward to in the new year?
*This post is in collaboration with Preditor Adventures, all words my own.

4 December 2017

Win a Pair of Ted Baker Sunglasses!

Are you loving all these amazing giveaways I’ve had coming your way on the run up to Christmas?  It’s been a year of progression and change for me on my blog (as ever) so it always feels nice to give something back to those of you who have suck by me at the end if the year.  

This time it’s another really amazing gift and a must for those of you seeking some Winter sun or just desperately counting down the days till the sun rears it’s head again (I’m with you on that one!).  The Optic Shop are giving me the chance to giveaway a pair of sunglasses from their Ted Baker range, just take a look at the choices: https://www.theopticshop.co.uk/brands/ted-baker/

To enter simply fill in the Rafflecopter below, sadly it is open to UK entries only. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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