Wednesday, 30 April 2014

ICE ADVENTURES


The IceHotel is located in the small town of Jukkasjärvi in Sweden, where almost as many dogs as people occupy the area. It is a hotel made completely of ice as the name suggests. The guests will even find themselves crawling into an ice bed at the end of the day.

The idea was the first of it's kind in 1990 and still attracts tourists in their thousands from all around the world who desire to see and experience this unique hotel and have a stay that's described as magical. The hotel construction is no easy feat as unlike other hotels it melts, gets re-designed by artists and then built again annually, so from year to year guests will get a slightly different experience making this wacky hotel even more amazing. If your looking for a similar experience to get you warmed (or frozen) up for this trip later in life then the Ice bar in London can give you the mini cold adventure you crave. 



Me and my sister had an amazing time at the Ice Bar in London, we were treated to cocktails in sub zero temperatures and surrounded by beautifully crafted ice sculptures.




*The start of this article was published in Quench travel.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

PLACES TO EAT IN CARDIFF


The Corner House

Cornerhouse is a small intimate pub which is located on a corner funnily enough. It serves high end pub grub, it is the best of both worlds combining pub food with top quality restaurant standard. It hosts a great atmosphere with tables filled with families, couples and diners there to have a nice meal and a good time. I would say it is the perfect place to enjoy a first date over some perfectly cooked steaks and a bottle of wine. The Corner house also has outdoor seating available for those Cardiff sunny days so you can enjoy your food al fresco if you're brave enough!

Café 37

Cafe37 is a bespoke cafe located on Salisbury Road at the centre of Cathays. The interior resembles that of an American diner and is more often than not filled with students catching up over enormous fry ups. It has a really nice buzz to it and you shouldn't cross this place off your list of places to eat if you're not usually a fan of a greasy spoon cafés as this place is different. It has a sort of up market twist, an extensive menu and quality food.

My personal recommendations would be one of their burgers and a milkshake. The milkshake come in tall glasses, they are thick in texture and coated generously with whipped cream. They come in not only the standard flavours: strawberry, vanilla and banana but for the adventurous amongst us they have oreo, cream egg, whisper and other such of our favourite chocolates whipped into their shakes.

Thai House

The Thai house is an authentic restaurant tucked away at the back of St. David's shopping centre. It's like a little piece of Thailand located in Cardiff where most the staff are thai and dressed head to toe in traditional clothing even down to flowers in their hair. The menu is divine and serves a wide range of dishes all titled with their Thai name... it was almost impossible to choice what to have from this diverse list. (If you also struggle I would highly recommend the lamb curry.) When your food is ready the waitresses place all the plates in the centre of the table so that you are encouraged to share, which is lovely as you get to nab a little bit of everyone's tasty delights. The food is high quality, it is delicious beyond belief. I would advise you get yourself there as soon as possible for a meal you definitely won't regret.

Have you got any recommendations for great places to eat in Cardiff?

*This article was originally published in Cardiff Times.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

TOP TIPS TO BEAT EXAM STRESS

The exam period is a strange time of year with most of us hibernating in a seemingly inescapable black hole of revision. It's a time when University rudely presses pause on our laughter and happiness, forcing us to enter a parallel universe of library visits, mammoth-sized books, lecture notes and 'group study sessions'. When you do attempt to do something, dare we say it, fun, the sense of guilt is overwhelming; that niggling voice in your head whispering: “shouldn't you be revising?”. That laid back attitude you had during your GCSEs no longer cuts the mustard and you, as a result potentially become a frazzled, burnt-out stress head. So here are a few small tips to help combat those pre-exam meltdowns. 
Exercise
Getting out of the house and taking your frustration in the great outdoors has countless benefits; a great workout releases feel-good endorphins, which will help you feel ready to battle another day at the books. We all know pigging out during revision time is obligatory, so getting down to the gym or going for a light jog also means burning off some of those extra calories so you're ready to squeeze back into your favourite LBD post-exam hell.
Incentives
Sitting in your room all day knowing you're going to be doing exactly the same boring reading tomorrow, unsurprisingly creates a serious sense of cabin fever. Motivation levels are at an all time low, so giving yourself something to look forward to may make you more motivated to work. After a hard day studying, reward yourself with a trip to see your friends, a movie and take away or maybe even a night out - you deserve some down time.
Checklists

Writing a list of what you need to do for the day might seem futile, but can make a the thought of revision seem a little less daunting. Putting pen to paper can help to free up the worrying and means less stress, as you won't be worrying about forgetting something important. Let's face it, it's so satisfying being able to put a big tick next to the completed revision tasks on your 'to-do' list!
*This article was originally published on Her Campus Cardiff. Available to view here.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

DRUNK FOOD

There are three different times when calories do not count these are; number one your birthday, number two the entire Christmas season and finally the one that occurs the most regular for the majority of us... when you are drunk. When you've had a bottle of rose, a swift few pints, or a couple of vodka doubles or whatever your drink of choice is on a night out calories become a myth. Fact. You are free to feast on whatever it is that you may desire. Carbs? what are they? Grease? the more the better. Large? Of course.

I don't know if I'm the only one who's a drunk foodaholic, but after exiting a club I rarely go straight home, my local fast food place needs a quick visit before I can even think about returning. I feel like visiting the take away shop is a continuation of my night out and an important part of it. Channel 4 practically made a show about drunk people in a chip shop: Fried Chicken Shop. If you haven't watched it yet get on 4od now! I found it very entertaining to watch and it's even more entertaining to be there in the midst of it. I am going to run through my favourite places to go and purchase the best, most fattening food after a night out in the 'diff:


  1. Family Fish bar
Family fish bar has to be Cathay's favourite chip shop, it would be hard to find a student who has never visited. My housemate has become such a regular that they are now on first name terms and if I go along with him the chances are I'm going to get a free scallop or “potato fritter”, the name is dependant on which part of the country you come from. For me though a battered sausage and small chips is the ideal post night out meal. The great thing about family fish bar is their perception of a small portion seems to be a little distorted and it's actually enough to feed my entire ten bedroom house (well maybe that's a little bit of an exaggeration but they are big).
It is often the case that I suddenly feel really generous in these food places and purchase food for every man and his dog, although these gestures don't always go to plan. One time I decided an entire chicken was the right way to go, so after stumbling home with my family fish bar present, I placed it on the table only for a friend to throw up at the sight of a chicken on a bone (a phobia we did not realise she had).

My connection with Family fish bar has become so strong that when they were closed one night I decided the best thing to do was find their number on google and leave them an answer message asking why they were closed and enquiring as to whether it would be possible to open up and make me a battered sausage and chips? Unfortunately this attempt failed.


  1. Chippy Alley
Caroline Street otherwise known as Chippy Alley by students and locals alike is situated in the centre of the town, in the middle of the clubbing district...ideal. It was awarded it's name due to the large amount of fast food places that call this street their home. Gregg's is the only chain shop on this street, all the rest are individual non commercialised welsh food joints. I think most people will agree this is very refreshing. In Gavin and Stacey Nessa describes a perfect night out ending in "a curry and fight down Caroline Street" and she pretty much nails the ambiance of the street... you come down here for one of two things food or a fight. I know which one I perfer! 

I remember my first experience of Chippy alley, I was taken back by the amount of choice on offer, after much deliberation between our group we decided on Dorothy's, the longest standing food shop on the street. After looking through the menu and being torn between the cheeseburgers, fish and other battered delights I finally decided to ask for a “Birmingham style kebab” (as I was feeling a little homesick), in which he replied I will get you an “extra large”. He most definitely knew his stuff. I delved into this delicious meal which combined bread, kebab meat and salad (so it's healthy right?) while my two friends demanded to see his manager as they were so delighted with the service provided by the young man that they believed he was worthy of a promotion and a pay rise. We then exited the chip shop and my housemate offered her chips to a homeless man outside at which he refused claiming he was already full demonstrating the amount of food anyone can pick up in this amazing street.

Chippy Alley is not just a great place for food but it's also a great place to pick up people for after parties, that I always believe I'm throwing but they rarely go ahead. This could be the place to mingle, it is rumoured Charlotte Church met Gavin Henson on this very street!


  1. Fast food chains
I think it would be hard to find someone who has never had a deep McDonald's craving after a night out. When I was a fresher living in Talybont me and my flat realised that we just couldn't go to bed without a large Big Mac so we made the small trek up to McDonald's. They refused to serve us as it was only drive thru after 11pm. We were disheartened and sad but it didn't matter because we had a plan. We got in our invisible car and attempted to make it as realistic as possible and we “drove” round to the first window, the woman behind it was the one who had refused us five minutes earlier. With complete confidence we began our order, we waited with bated breath for her response. Sadly, she saw through our car and we were left to go home empty handed.

Another night out I politely asked Burger King for 20 free chicken nuggets after my milkshake was unsatisfactory, this was also unsurprisingly a fail. Rules appear not to deter me in my late night conquests for food.


I'm going to go out there and say it, drunk food is a vital part of any night out. Food just tastes that much better drunk doesn't it? Sadly after a night out there is always a morning after, but please don't feel guilty for your drunken pursuit of food, you've already got a hangover to deal with. Instead take my advice and head down to cafe 37 and order the breakfast that promises to cure your hangover, cleverly called the “hangover cure” breakfast. Enjoy!

*This was originally published in Quench food and drink section.

A DAY IN HAND


When people think of the month of February, the first thought that usually comes into their head is Valentine's Day. For some of us it is a dreaded day, for those who are single it can be a painful day. However, it is undeniably a day to celebrate the love that exists in our world. This is something the creator of the website 'A day in hand' believes should be celebrated 365 days a year. David Watkins created this site essentially to celebrate the relationships we form in life, and the feeling of love we publicly display by the simple yet so meaningful gesture of holding hands. Yet for the people featured in the pictures on his site it can cause an unnecessary back lash. That is because the people partaking in the campaign are of a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender nature.

It's very difficult to imagine the discrimination people have to experience for simply showing their love for someone if you have not been in the situation personally. Perhaps this freedom is something many people in society often take for granted. I for one could not imagine what it would be like to be unable to hold hands with a partner whilst walking down the street. To be discriminated against for doing something that is so natural and which does not affect other people is something that I cannot comprehend.

The site's message is one of positivity and hope for the future. It encourages people to support the cause by following three simple steps. These are, firstly, to find someone of the same sex that you love, respect, or admire. Secondly, to put your hand in their hand. And finally to step outside. This is a campaign not just exclusively for the LGBT members of society, but it is also for anybody and everybody who believes that being able to express your love for somebody should not be confined for only the conventional straight people in society. The site quite cleverly points out that you do not have to be black to object to racism, nor do you have to be female to object to sexism, and you certainly do not have to be gay yourself in order to know that “LGBT rights are human rights”. The site in fact features straight people holding hands with people of the same sex, in order to show their support for the cause. The site also has other features such as forums, latest news, links to other sites that have a similar theme and just general messages from people who have got involved and supported the cause.

Valentine's Day is for everyone, no matter what the gender of the people in the relationship are. Love is for everyone, no matter what the gender of the people in the relationship are. It is time people support this revolution, and the website is a lovely and inoffensive way to do it. The hand-holding pictures are a simple and emotive way of showing that love should not just be for straight people. It is an innovative idea that could affect people's perceptions of “unconventional” relationships, and in fact make them no longer “unconventional” but a significant and normal part of society, that people openly accept.

*This article was originally published in Quench LGBT+ section. Available online here.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

TOMORROWLAND MADNESS


Tomorrowland is a dance music festival held in a small Belgian town that attracts ravers in their thousands from all over their world united in their love for good music and their quest for an incredible time. The festival has grown year on year and you are incredibly lucky if you get your hands on tickets... they usually sell out in around an hour! My housemate Mary always claims that you don't get to choose if you go to Tomorrowland, the party Gods in fact pick you... quite a unique approach to festival tickets but I kind of love her ideology.

Each year a new set is designed and created and it truly takes your breath away even just seeing pictures. The themes are all kept fairly secretive before the reveal making it that much more exciting for revellers. This year marks the tenth year of this extraordinary festival so they are sure to pull out all the stops to satisfy the ever growing crowd, in fact for the first time this year the festival will spread over two weekends doubling the number of lucky party goers. Many of the line up have already been announced for the festival including Above and Beyond, Hardwell, Benny Benassi and Nicky Romero to name a few.

The host town Boom (appropriately named) boasts a small population of about 17,000, but each year in July it gets invaded by this monstrous festival and really becomes alive. If you're looking to head out early then you can enjoy the quaint bars and restaurants in town or even head to the capital Brussels which is just over an hour away for some tourist time. 

I will  be sure to blog all about my experiences, I am so excited to go already but at the same time sad at the thought of this massively hyped up weekend of my life to be over!


Have any of you ever visited? Any top tips on enjoying this festival to the max?


*This article was published in Quench Travel.

THE TRUTH BEHIND BOOZING HOLIDAYS


In our generation it is often considered a right of passage to immerse yourself in a girl's or boy's drinking holiday. Those who have never experienced one are usually those who actively reject the values and morals that come along with these escapades. Our society has seemed to become obsessed with finding out the "truths" behind these weeks spent getting drunk in the sun. As a result many programmes have sprung up promising us that they will reveal what truly goes on, such as 'Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents', 'What happens in Kavos', and 'Magaluf Weekender' to name a few. They vary in tameness with one showing us a serial womanizing holiday rep who takes his conquests for a few shots in BCM and rarely converts his spooning into forking (Magaluf Weekender) compared to someone shooting a firework up their own arse and firing parts of his poo around his hotel room as a birthday celebration (What happens in Kavos). But unless you have experienced one yourself I don't think you'll ever really know what they are like...




Boat parties, fish bowls, pervy men and on stage sex shows all unite in one big Magaluf cocktail. I had just turned 18 and me and my friends decided we just had to go on one of these holidays. We were never far from being documented as you can see in the photo just above the Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents film crew were recording an episode while we were on board, we actually all briefly appeared in the episode much to our delight. What the BBC conveniently left out of the final cut was the star of the show whipping her boobs out and letting male passengers feast on her nipples; the show is not as honest as you may think. While in Zante I also met another star of the hit TV show and he confessed to us that he knew all along what show he was partaking in and was just on it for the free holiday. Since I was in high school I'd always liked to go out but nothing can prepare you for your first abroad strip. British youngsters seem to lose all inhibitions at just the smell of suncream and we saw some things we will never be able to erase from our memories. A rep only has to mention the words sex game and the crowd cheers in delight waving their hands praying it's them that gets to the show the crowd that they know the most creative sex positions. One girl even gave a male counterpart oral on stage for the entire club to see.

Despite all this these places are fun holidays and a chance for you to make amazing memories with your best friends. I was not deterred from my Maga experience and the following year decided to give Zante's closing parties a visit...




I don't know whether it was the time of year or the destination but Zante seemed to have a little more class than Maga. On our penultimate night we were whisked away to a separate island where everyone was adorned in white clothing ready to party the night away. It truly was beautiful spending the night with my best friends dancing in the sea and enjoying great music. On our final night we visited one of Zante's nicest restaurants; Cool Peppers where we were treated to a slap up meal and lovely company showing that for us it was not all about getting wasted, it was about enjoying each other before we were separated around the UK for university.

These holidays may be fun and games for me, but they most certainly do have a dark side with people drinking themselves into oblivions and making life altering decisions, such as the craze of balcony jumping that caused deaths. People drink so much they find themselves at risk of being victims of various crimes such as robbery, violence or even rape; you can read more here. Destinations can be described as "no rules" party scenes where drinks prices are significantly cheaper than here in the UK. Me and my friends got ridiculous amounts of alcohol for 5 euros and were practically begged to come into the clubs in Maga due to our group size (and the fact I have some hot friends!). Holidaymakers don't see the consequences they could face as a result of their their actions. 

Has it all gone too far or has the press exaggerated the situation?

Monday, 21 April 2014

WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS


Paris is a mythical city filled with romance and history, many describe this french capital as their favorite, and after a visit it is not hard to see why. It is a key feature of many movies and sitcoms, the one that sticks in my head is when Mr Big comes for Carrie after she was whisked off by the Russian artist millionaire. Who can forget Carrie's outfits in those final two episodes? Of course show costume designers had to step it up with Paris being every fashionista's dream.

 

Me and one of my very good friends from uni decided to take the trip last September. I had been to Paris already twice before but I had never left the confides of the Disney Land resort, I felt this was cheating and decided I needed to see this city that virtually lies on my doorstep. Being poor students we decided on Megabus as our transport of choice (I think you know how much I love the megabus for cheap holidays). We also booked the Hotel Richard, even though the location is ideal being right next to the metro station and the local streets are littered with cafes and bars that are reasonably priced... the hotel was probably the worst I have ever stayed in. Our room consisted of a bed, a sink, a shower that offered no privacy and an outdoor patio table. It was unclean and you were required to walk from the toilets on each level to your room to wash your hands, meaning you know just how disgusting the door handles are. The reception desk were also a tad rude, but we weren't going to let our accommodation ruin our trip...



We chose to make our trip at this particular time of the year in order to catch the Techno Parade, a giant free dance festival where french youngsters gather in the streets to follow vans blasting out techno music and dance their troubles away. The streets were packed and the slow moving parade was such a fun experience that I will always remember... and the best thing is it was free! Haribos were also chucked out at the crowd, who doesn't love a free sweet treat?!

Visiting Paris in the fall was also a positive due to it feeling less touristy and I got a different feel for the city that I may have got in more peak summer months. It was the perfect last trip before our return to University.




What's a trip to Paris without a climb up to the top of the Eiffel tower to see the city in all it's glory...




We spent another day in Paris on a river tour where we got to see all of Paris's famous attractions including the Arc de Triumphe which is such a strange experience. You go under a subway to be able to stand beneath the attraction and you are left standing in the middle of a roundabout while cars zoom past you and beep their horns. Paris is home to some of the craziest driving I've ever seen. This is a far from peaceful attraction, a visit instead to the Jardin du Luxembourg will chill you out after this chaotic one.



Next we saw the Notre Dame where I was lucky enough to light a candle and say a prayer/make a wish. It's truly beautiful inside and all the tourists are respectful to it's serenity.



Whilst strolling the cobbled streets of Paris we came across the padlock bridge where couples go to cement their love for one another through decorating their own padlock and chucking the key in the river. I hope one day to return to the city of love and do one of my very own. I also hope when I make my next visit I have a little more money than a maxed out overdraft so I can do some shopping in some of Paris's amazing shops, but sadly this time it was just window shopping for me.


Another great positive to Paris is it's unbelievably cheap wine and I'm a sucker for a glass of rosé
What do you think of Paris?

Friday, 11 April 2014

WELSH VARSITY 2014




April 9th marked a lot of Cardiff uni students' favourite day of the year- Varsity. A day to whip out all of your red clothing and war paint and head down to Bute Park to drink cider and watch whatever sport takes your fancy. 

Cardiff feels different and alive with spirit, everyone is together in one mission to get drunk and beat Swansea. I walked to Tesco at about 11am only to find students were already wasted singing at the top of their voices in KoKo Gorillaz and letting fireworks off in the street... probably a little too rowdy for the morning. I first was required to complete a group project, but at about 1:30 me and a few housemates headed down to watch the Fresher's rugby. People had gone all out with their dress and were in high spirits despite the loss. 

The finale of the day comes in the form of a rugby match at the Millenium stadium where the best players and often future rugby stars battle it out in an intense rugby showdown. Not only that but the half time performance is supplied by the cheerleaders. Chanting becomes key in showing your support, my personal faves being "shoes off if you hate Swansea" and "Cardiff was your first choice".  Although all is in good fun and Swansea give back what they take.




The final part of the day comes in the official after party at the Lash. This night holds a special part in my heart and has become my favourite night out. People either can't stand it's tackiness or countdown to each Wednesday night, I am most certainly the latter. Most of my cheer socials end up here and we love it's unapologetic cheesiness: cheap drinks, casual dress and the students who attend have an undeniable affection for this night, all put together make for something quite special. It's quite sentimental saying goodbye to it, I know it's just a club night but it's also where I have had some of my best uni memories. Me and Megan had to hug it out in the final hours of Lash as seen below. Let's just hope the new club night is just as good!



Yesterday was also National Sibling day, I couldn't imagine my life without my amazing sister, in fact I don't think I'd be at university now so I wouldn't have got to enjoy the amazing Varsity. I found this 24 things only sisters will understand, it is so true! Love you loads Abbi!