So you haven’t heard from me in a while and there’s a reason for it! I’ve been working on a bit of a revamp of my blog as it’s become so much more than what I started it out for back on 1st Jan 2017 when I set myself 12 challenges for the year.
I would love to keep this space dedicated to my 12 Months of Simple Living, but I have so much more I want to carry on sharing with you. Like my endless travel adventures, some awesome life adventures I have coming up and simply some of the things I love like food, fashion and more.
A space where I can share all of those things with you, and the best bit is that I’ve made it so much easier to navigate so you can go straight to the topics you’re interested in, be it Tanlines or Wine 😉
So I guess my biggest hope is that you love the new site and if so, that you subscribe (again, for some of my wordpress followers). It’s completely free, no need to sign up or anything (unless you want to become a member – also free). Just pop your e-mail in at the bottom of the page!
A massive welcome to you and thank you for taking the time to read my little memos about life and mostly how I fail at it!
In a nutshell:12 challenges over the course of a year and 13 weeks to see the world!
Look out for my blog posts tracking my progress on each of my challenges and updating you on my “13 Weeks of Wandering“. Hopefully they will be informative and humorous, but inspiring as well as thought-provoking.
Join me as I show you a new way to challenge yourself and live simply. Don’t forget to subscribe at the bottom of the page!
If you have done or are thinking of doing a similar challenge, I would love to hear about it so let me know in the comments below or contact me.
Currently residing in Surrey, but have been blessed to have lived in many different places across the UK, and in Ghana before that. I would describe myself as an introvert with extrovert qualities (confusing much?!!).
There are lots of things I love and these include spa days, dancing, writing, organising & finding bargains. Obsessed with avocados and edamame beans, have two odd phobias… if you can guess what they are I will be impressed.
Côte d’Azur, literally translating to ‘Coast of Azure’ is the perfect description of the French Riviera. With the ocean a bright cyan-blue colour that reflects the clear sky, this really is a stunning place to explore.
Although there seems to be no set boundaries of the French Riviera, it spans the coastline in the south east of France from the Italian border to around Toulon, with Nice being the largest city in this region.
I managed to bag myself some free flights to Nice courtesy of Last Minute. No, not a perk of the blog, just lucky enough to have been told of the deal they’d put on to launch the new lm card. They were giving free flights up to the value of £75 for those who signed up to the card by the end of April (sorry guys, you’ve missed it this time but subscribe & follow me on insta so you don’t miss out next time)!
Taking full advantage of the location, I also visited Antibes, Èze & Cannes as well as a cheeky 2 day trip to Paris (it was a tad dramatic, so you may want to catch up on that blog post if you haven’t already).
Enchanting, like a fairytale, the medieval village sits up high in the mountains overlooking the Mediterranean sea.
After you fight for a parking space in the very limited car park, you climb a labyrinth of staircases that lead you through romantic narrow walkways with galleries, shops and restaurants to keep you distracted.
Beneath the ancient cobblestone castle grounds lies a breathtaking backdrop of the glistening blue ocean on one side, and the mountains dotted with houses on the other.
Among other things, the ancient fortress hides an exotic garden, Jardin Exotique d’Eze, found by climbing to the very top. Before you reach the garden, however, you will meet a little church decorated with stunning artwork. Go in and have a look. And beside this church is a grave-yard, with delicately decorated stones remembering those who have passed. The church courtyard offers amazing views over Èze and the sea beneath.
Now, if you happen to have a spare few hundred euros lying around, then you could pop into the famous and most esteemed La Chèvre d’Or restaurant. This two MICHELIN star restaurant offers spectacular views over the azure sea and sky and exquisite cuisine based on regional produce. I had a peep at the menu in passing, expect to pay in the hundreds for a starter… Some of you are all like, yeah and? So enjoy, and just let me know how it tastes!
The main city of the Côte d’Azur, Nice has it all. Fly here to the third busiest airport in France, or get the train to the main station, Gare Nice-Ville where you will almost immediately be on the main high street lined with popular shops leading up to the Place Massena. If you don’t fancy the long stroll and a spot of window shopping, then you can jump on a tram that will take you straight to Place Massena.
This is the main city square where it’s all happening. First thing you may notice when you look up from the chequered black and white cobbles on the square would be the 7 meter marble statue of Apollo in the centre of the Fontaine du Soleil. He stands out even more in contrast to the pink (red ochre) Italian style buildings that surround the square.
You won’t have to walk more than a couple of minutes from here to get to other popular spots like the Promenade des Anglais.
Promenade des Anglais
This coastal promenade stretches all the way from the airport to the Quai des États-Unis, so a very long way. You need not walk the entire 7km, but do take a stroll along here if you want to drink in the absolutely beautiful coastal views.
Restaurants, shops and cafés line the coastal strip on one side, on the other side pebble beaches stretch where tourists and locals lay sunbathing, playing volleyball or having a dip in the clear blue riviera waters.
By the lifts and stairs to the famous castle hill where you will find the Colline du Chateau, is the popular “#I Love Nice” sign that is never void of tourists taking their iconic photos whilst posed precariously dangling off a “C”.
Make the most of this photo op before heading on up to the castle!
Colline du Château
Many tourists don’t realise that the stairs are not the only way to the top of castle hill, so I’m going to save you those steps (because let’s face it, by now-if you’re touristing as hard as me- your step count is already pushing 30k). There are lifts guys! Yes, there’s a queue to get the lifts, but it’s no longer than waiting for the Covent Garden lifts in London (those who know, know) and it will save you being a sweaty mess when you reach the top trying to get those insta-shots. Access the lifts via the Quai Rauba Capeu entrance.
Atop the castle hill sits the Château, remains of an 11th century castle built atop the hill for military purposes. This is the highest point in Nice; you can enjoy panoramic views over the whole city, the bay and even the Alps in the far distance.
A main feature of the Château is the waterfall built in the 18th century which crashes down spraying water across the path surrounding it and anyone who happens to be on it! You can do like me and pose for photographs by the spraying water, or you can head on up to the top and enjoy watching people getting sprayed from above. More panoramic views of nice are offered from this vantage point as well.
This Château offers a mini sanctuary from the city with tropical trees and the famous Parc de la Colline du Chateau, a lush green park offering shaded walks and even more breath-takinng views. A playground with climbing frames will keep the kids busy and the two cafés mean that you won’t go hungry (or thirsty in the hot Nice weather)!
When you’re ready, get the lift back down and go check out the old town.
Vielle Ville (Old Town)
This quirky old town has charming buildings, a contrast of yellow paint and pale blue shutters, and a busy marketplace. You will see busy bakers rushing with carts filled with baguettes, pretty market stalls with neatly lined fresh fruit and veg, as well as open restaurants with chatty customers sitting outside in the warm sunshine.
Through the narrow cobbled streets, it’s a great place to get lost in the architecture, atmosphere and bustle of the area.
Keep an eye out for “Socca” crepe stands that sell this local Nice speciality; crepes made from chickpea flour. Half as sweet but twice as healthy!
Perhaps once you’re done weaving in and out of the narrow streets, popping into the cute little shops selling everything from soaps to cheeses, take an outside seat in one of the many cafés and enjoy a coffee whilst you watch the world go by.
A short 30 minute drive from Nice is the beautiful city of Antibes. Ideally located midway between Nice and Cannes, it has all the charm of Nice and the glamour of Cannes. There is plenty to keep you busy around Antibes, from the Le Viel Antibes’ (Old Town Antibes) Marché Provencal to the museums and art galleries. It’s entirely up to you how you like to spend your day!
See some Art & History
I started here, grabbing a cheap €5 uber from my cousin’s place near the Gare d’Antibes. I was dropped by the athletics training ground, Stade du fort carré, where a statue named ‘Le Poilu’ stood looming over the stadium. I soon realised that this was a world war one memorial as I read some of the 200+ names that were engraved on the base.
The walk alongside the statue offered fantastic views over Antibes’ coastline, many used this area for their daily jogging routine with some stopping to stretch by the statue.
Spotting the entry into Fort Carré across the fence, I didn’t fancy the long walk around to get in. Spotting a small hole at the bottom of the fence, supposedly made by others who also didn’t fancy the long walk around, I crossed the overgrown grass to squeeze myself through the gap.
The fort grounds lay out openly with areas restricted to allow for natural wild plants to flourish. Breathtaking views over the coast continued in nearly all directions, with the harbour on one side showing off the yachts of the rich and famous.
Cacti lining the narrow walkway told me I must be near the fort. Carved in the Cacti were the many names of friends and lovers who had visited this historical landmark before me.
The fort coming into view was a sight to behold. Built in the shape of a star, I had come out to one of the vertices in front of me. Looking up, I felt small compared to this huge structure, it also felt like I’d gone back in time.
On entry, I found out that the only way to explore the fort is with a guide for €3. Best €3 I ever spent! I definitely recommend this fort tour, the guide had excellent knowledge of the history and (for those not fluent in French yet) spoke very good English!
See for yourself the jaw-dropping views over Antibes.
From Fort Carré I walked along the harbour admiring the yachts and various types of boats that were docked along the shore. How can there be so many rich people in one place, I wondered as I dreamed of what life could be like aboard a yacht. A father and daughter were casually having dinner on their yacht as I walked past staring just a little too hard at them ha!
En route to the Musée Picasso, I entered into the main square of the Vielle Ville where tourists (presumably fresh off their boats) explored the charming alleyways. The little boutique shops that stocked trinkets and souvenirs were clearly priced for yacht owners, so it was window shopping for me! In one intersection between alleyways, restaurants serving local food and fresh produce competed with one another on each corner.
Art galleries in different styles were open for free viewing. One I explored had a picasso style to it.
Eventually, I made my way to the real Picasso museum of Antibes. In a 14th century Château, the Château Grimaldi, the museum is architecturally beautiful from the outside with stunning works of Picasso displayed carefully inside. Picasso spent around 5 months using this Château in Antibes as his studio for his varied artworks.
A definite must-visit, the entry was only €8 and gave you access not only to the works of Picasso but a number of other artists also such as Nicolas de Staël, Hans Hartung and Anna-Eva Bergman. Know who they are? Me neither, but the art was awesome so go look!
Get some Sun
Immediately outside of the Picasso museum you can enjoy a delightful coastal walk along the Promenade Amiral de Grasse, where not only will you have the azure coastline beneath you but gorgeous little homes to admire along the route.
If you keep walking along the coast, you will reach the little sandy shores where some restaurants expand out. A little further on tourists and locals alike sunbathe, swim and enjoy the sandy Plage du Pontail.
I stopped here to enjoy the rest of my afternoon, but if you continued down the shore you would have come across the more well-known Plage de Salis.
Grab a Bite
Now, I don’t want you to do all this exploring and miss out on the fabulous French cuisine. After all, why else are you in France?!
Here’s a couple of places I recommend!
Located in the Old Town, this unassuming restaurant hid behind others competing around it. But I was looking for real French cuisine, not the tourist-inspired Italian food that all the popular restaurants seemed to be doing.
When I saw the menu, I knew this was the place to grab some lunch.
Sitting outside, I unwittingly got myself the strongest V shaped tan lines because of my v-neck top, but the time passed easily whilst I enjoyed complimentary mini bruschetta bites with a delicate truffle paste whilst I waited for my Duck Confit main.
Sipping on my wine, I basked in the sunshine satisfied with the delicious lunch.
Le Golden Beef
Rated 4 stars on Trip Advisor and google alike, this restaurant is idyllically located near the waterfront right by the musée d’archéologie d’Antibes. With friendly staff and a good selection on the menu, this steakhouse had my mouth watering.
I enjoyed some a couple of their well-recommended cocktails whilst waiting for my beef skewers with a side of ratatouille. It did not disappoint! Tender and cooked exactly to my specifications, this was most enjoyable!
Not ready to leave, I decided to treat myself to a diary-free dessert; Le carpaccio d’ananas au sirop de verveine. Délicieux!
So if I had wanted to meet a celebrity in a serendipitous moment and fall in love living happily ever after on a fat-ass yacht with bare dollar to sprinkle into my bath tub (I have had no such fantasy…), then I would have spent a lot more time right here in Cannes!
Promenade de la Croisette
Walking towards the water front from the train station, Gare de Cannes, I hit a number of white tents obscuring my vision of the sea. I was in fact on the famous Promenade de la Croisette. Spanning the shoreline for about 2km, this famous promenade is the home of the very popular Film festival held at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. As I faced the white tents that were being set up in preparation for the festival, I could just make out the ocean beyond. Further along to the right of me, Yachts of the rich and famous were already pulling in and docking in the very busy harbour that was looking more like a yacht car park… a yacht park?
A huge casino was conveniently opposite the yacht park and all along the promenade, high end shops, hotels and restaurants lined the road. Businesses were all preparing for the thousands of visitors that would soon flood Cannes from all over the world as I walked the Croisette. Famous film stars would soon be a common sight in this area as the festival begun on 14th May and lasted until 25th May.
A local taxi driver told me how easy it was to get hold of a VIP pass to get into these celebrity parties during the festivals. He explained that each invited guest would usually be given more than enough passes for their friends and family and usually give away the rest! So guys, get your hustle on!
Once you get into one VIP party, it’s easy to get into the rest of them, and before you know it, you could be partying with Brad Pitt! Why wasn’t I there for the Film Festival!!!! 😦
You’ve probably gathered by now that you’re going to need a bit of money to pay Cannes a visit – that is if you aren’t as keen on window shopping as I am! But if you are scraping the barrel a bit with your cash, don’t leave Cannes out, you can still have so much fun!
For those wanting to browse the many high end shops, a really nice street for boutique shops was Rue d’Antibes.
As you can see, it’s worth it even if you are just peeping in through the shop windows. I took this opportunity to pop into Pandora for another little travel charm. 🙂
Speaking of shopping, you absolutely must visit this gorgeous market in the older part of Cannes; Marché Forville!
Colourful fruit and vegetables are displayed in what would be anyone with “OCD” tendencies’ dream, neatly stacked and colour co-ordinated!
You can find all sorts of food products from cheeses to truffles to fresh fish! Most stalls give you free tasters, so if you already burned a hole in your pocket from the high street, you can still enjoy the market.
If you are planning on making any purchases, make sure you have cash on you.
If you’d made it to the Marché Forville, you will have noticed everything seems a little different than it was on the Croisette. That’s because you are now in Le Suquet, an older medieval part of Cannes, full of cobblestone pathways and charming architecture. Atop the hill, you will see the Clock Tower of Notre-Dame de l’Esperance.
Keep climbing the stairs that lead up the hill and when you eventually reach a Gothic-style church, the Notre-Dame d’Espérance. In the courtyard, steps up the wall brings you panoramic views over the Bay of Cannes. To one side, the harbour and it’s many, many yachts, to the middle, rooftops over the city, to the other side beautiful coastal views.
This hill is certainly not one to miss!
So, this concludes my very short tour of a very small part of the Côte d’Azur, France. I hope I’ve given you more than one reason to visit (even if it’s just in search of Brad Pitt at the Cannes film festival). Have you ever visited the French Riviera? Let me know your experiences in the comments!
Everyone knows Paris is the epitome of romantic getaways, a city of history, high end fashion, art, food and of course, a city of love.
Paris has been depicted in every chick flick I can remember as being the one place to fall in love, the place you go when you’ve made it working in a prestigious fashion magazine, or the place to run away to if you are searching for yourself… and some really good food. Ya’ll know which movies I’m talking about!
So, when I booked my train tickets to Paris, for one night and two days, you can imagine how excited I was! My expectations were high, I selected my outfits carefully (you can’t go to Paris and just wear anything!), I was ready to be whisked off my feet beside the Eiffel tower by my French prince charming. Well, not really, but you get the picture. This was going to be awesome!
I had been spending time with family in Antibes, so the train took around 6 hours (a round trip was €70) and departed at 6am. Side note:- I went with OUIGO, if you do the same, be aware that they don’t sell food or drink on the train so you need to take your own. Also, they don’t have charging points as standard so you have to pay extra for seats with sockets.
Starry eyed (with slight dark circles from lack of sleep) and full of hope, I embarked on my epic adventure to Paris. Little did I know what was to come…
Paris taught me three lessons, and the first I learnt as soon as I arrived.
Lesson One: Always Opt for French over English
I suppose this goes without saying, after all; you’re in France! But you’d be surprised how many people didn’t even try to speak French. Thankfully, I was already clued up on how the French appreciate tourists speaking their language, so I had some lessons with my 4 year old nephew before I left.
But sure enough, when I went to use the €0.50 public bathrooms, I was greeted with a “Bonjour” and a spiel of words which I guessed meant “please pay over here”. I responded with a “Bonjour” and preceded to use my very minimal French to ask where to pay with card. The guy gave up pretty quickly and switched to English letting me pay.
However, there were American tourists behind me who came in with a very loud and slow “Excuse me, where can I get change for the bathroom?”. He responded with, “Je ne parle pas anglais!”. #awk
This rule generally served me well over the week that I spent in Nice, Èze, Antibes, Cannes as well as Paris.
Lesson Two: It’s Actually not that Safe
So I hadn’t left the station yet when I put my backpack down for a moment and placed my phone in my pocket whilst I rearranged. A man sitting near me got my attention, “Excusez-moi,” followed by a long string of French that I could only pick up a word here and there. But by the look on his face, the gestures he made and the few words I caught, I knew exactly what he meant. I took my phone out of my pocket and zipped it into my bag, thanking him with a smile “Merci beaucoup”. He seemed satisfied and relaxed back into his chair.
Adding this conversation to the fact that I had just spent the 6 hour train journey trying to be out of the eye line of a shady dude who just kept staring at me, it put me a little on edge as I started to make my way to the first point of interest I’d marked on my google-map.
The majority of the day was uneventful but I generally didn’t feel too safe, particularly in the Bastille area. I was looking to stop for lunch, though, so when a friendly guy at a nice looking restaurant called me over, I decided to have a look at the menu. “Come and sit down, I’ll get you a free glass of wine, it’s on me!”
Well I couldn’t resist the offer so I sat and sipped on my rosé watching the world go by.
The waiter kept coming back to make conversation, and he seemed funny and friendly so when he offered to show me around Paris after his shift, it seemed like a great opportunity to see Paris from the eyes of a local. Maybe not.
Now I wasn’t born yesterday, so I’m fully aware that guys can be… a certain way. So in true me style, I nipped that in the bud early on, “listen, if you’re expecting anything from me, it’s not gonna happen!”. Yeah, it might seem abrupt to you, especially as he was giving me all this free wine, but I don’t have time for that kind of shit so I have to be direct. He was all, “me? noo, not at all!” At the time.
Bitch, please. Instead of showing me around Paris, he decided to take me to a bar and he kept the wine flowing. That would be totally great if he was someone I knew and trusted, but I was not about to let myself get drunk with a total stranger. I felt super awkward and was starting to get the spidey-senses going, like danger-danger. So I was turning down the wine, and eating Calamari and Olives to keep my stomach full. But then he started getting too close to me and touchy-feely and I was all like erm, hands off. And he’s all like, “don’t worry, I don’t want to have sex with you, I mean I do, but you don’t want to so…” At this point, I’ve already had enough, I’m like “l’addition s’il-vous-plaît” and he’s all like, “no, bring two glasses of wine”.
I’m kicking myself, like why am I even here?! But I stood my ground, “cheque, please”. And a polite, “thank you very much for the wine, but I have to go.” He replied, “Come and see me next time you’re in Paris, but remember, next time I’m gonna f**k you.”
Omg, I ran away from there like someone was chasing me bruh.
I was tired, cold, my feet were killing and I was so ready to crash in my AirBnB that I’d booked with a view of the Eiffel tower. But first there was 120 steps to climb to get there, and once I was in, I suddenly realized there was no toilet! The ‘apartment’ was just a small room, with a sink in one corner and the tiniest shower I’d ever seen in the other corner, a bed taking up the whole other side of the room and a table in the middle. And I thought London was bad! (I mean it probably is!)
I had to make my way to the other end of the corridor which seemed to go on forever around in a square, to find the toilet, only to discover it doesn’t even have toilet paper! Guys, I’m telling you, Paris on a budget is Paris on a BUDGET!
So finally, I was ready to crash, I had a shower, doused my blistered and aching feet in freezing cold water, brushed my teeth and lay down fully intending to plan some more on my phone for the following day. I fell asleep instantly with the light still on.
4:30am I woke up to the sounds of someone messing with the door lock, severely confused and with a hangover already setting in, I thought maybe someone had the wrong door and I called out “erm, excuse me?”. No reply.
That’s when I saw the newspaper slid between the crack of the door trying to open the latch- this person didn’t have the wrong door, they were breaking in!
I. Was. So. Scared.
Omg, you have no idea. My immediate reaction was to shout really loudly, and that seemed to do the trick. The paper slid back and I just heard a man say “Oh, sorry” in a Parisian accent but then it sounded like he moved on to the next door and carried on. In shock, I didn’t know what to do, my mind flashed back to the dude from the café- had he followed me somehow? Should I call the police? But I don’t speak French, would they have translators? How would I let them in to the complex? There was NO way I was going out there. I realised the door wasn’t fully bolted, but when I put the key in to bolt it, it wasn’t moving. I could still hear sounds outside, was he waiting there for me? I pulled the key out gently so he couldn’t hear, no idea what to do next.
Thankfully, my best friend was online on a Texas timezone; he told me to push the bed against the door, but seeing as I couldn’t move the bed the glass table had to do. It probably wouldn’t have held much but with a glass propped on the edge and some extra spoons for good measure, I was sure that if this guy attempted anything, I would be woken up. It took a long while for me to be able to sleep again but the next day I was grateful to be in one piece. Tired, hungover, but in one piece.
My mood was met with a full on thunderstorm outside that morning, and no, I didn’t have an umbrella.
Lesson Three: Paris is What You Make It
I’ve been all around the world by myself and two days in Paris had me running back home! Overall, I guess you could say, Paris wasn’t for me.
But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a good time. Nope, it’s like anywhere really, Paris is a big city, all big cities can be dangerous and if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, shit can happen. The important part is this; don’t let it mess up your whole trip.
Am I shaken up? Yes. Will it put me off solo-travel? No! And neither the rough night, nor the thunderstorm stopped me from exploring Paris a little bit more before catching my train home.
So, before I put you off going entirely, here’s some of the awesome parts of Paris.
Musée du Louvre
The Louvre is a must visit by day and night, if not to view the world’s largest art museum, then for this incredible piece of architecture; the Louvre Pyramid.
By day it looms symmetrically against the backdrop of the stunning 13th century Louvre Palace. By night, it’s lit up casting a stunning reflection over the surrounding waters.
The Eiffel tower is the most popular landmark in Paris, it’s what makes Paris, Paris! So why wouldn’t I take the opportunity to explore this stunning structure?
Of course, for a price you can enter and climb to the top of the tower, but after the night I had, that was not going to happen for me! Maybe next time (and there is going to be a next time come June, it’s already booked guys so I have to go).
For all it’s grandeur during the day, it doesn’t compare to the incandescent display that it is at night time. Crowds gather to wait for the sparkling light show that happens every few minutes all over the tower and for that moment, you could believe in magic.
It wouldn’t be right to visit Paris, after what happened so recently, without stopping by to show respect to this incredible historical Cathedral.
It was tragic to see it on fire, but it was even more tragic visiting to see how much was lost. But, as you can see, not all is lost and work seems to have began in the rebuilding of the great Notre-Dame.
Presently, the whole street accessing the Cathedral has been blocked off, but you can see it through the gate and you can also get a good look from one of the river cruises.
History & Architecture
From hotels to bridges, there is stunning French architecture to enjoy on every street. Cathedrals full of history are dotted all around Paris, all free to enter and enjoy ancient art impressed on every wall.
The best way to see all 26 bridges (or ponts) is by boat, a cruise can be as little as €15 for an hour and you get historical context given as part of the tour (not just on the bridges but on all points of interest that you pass).
Grab a Bite
Everywhere you go, you are lured in by tempting smells and the sound of clinking glasses, chatter and laughter as people sit outside of the brasseries or cafes eating.
There are so many options when it comes to food in Paris, you can get Japanese sushi, American burgers, Italian pizza and of course some typical Parisian French cuisine. Which was exactly what I was after when I found La Brasserie De L’Isle Saint-Louis, at the advice of a French gentleman sitting beside me, I ordered the Coq au Riesling Maison. See for yourself in the photo below, it was delish!
Delicious typical Parisian cuisine at La Brasserie De L’Isle Saint-Louis
So the Parisians get about town using a slightly different method of transport than you may be used to… Electric Scooters!
You can see them everywhere just sat there waiting for someone to use them. So, how do you get hold of one of these scooters? It’s easy, just download the app (there’s several brands, so choose get the app of the closest scooter) and it’s about €1 a go! The same goes for bikes.
You can find the scooters or bikes using the app and you unlock them by scanning a QR code. When you’re done, you leave it, lock it and the app charges you.
So, as you can see there’s plenty to do and see in Paris so don’t cross it off your list just yet. Just have your wits about you when you go.
The time had finally come for me to enter my destination state; Florida. Waving goodbye to Georgia as I left St. Marys & the Okefenokee swamp behind me, I set the sat nav on my cheap ZTE to Jacksonville with a *ahem* small detour via the scenic coast road.
Well, I wasn’t going to step into Florida without first checking out its famous beaches! So Amelia Island seemed a perfect first stop on the way down.
It wasn’t a disappointing view with endless sand stretched out before me and mini rivers forming in the indentations carved into the beach by the waves.
That’s where I met this little man, sunbathing in the perfect spot only just submerged in the water forming part of the mini river. Giving this star a little stroke, I realised he was soft but a little furry and probably didn’t want to be bothered. So I left him to enjoy his little paradise and took some time to enjoy mine.
There were some large hotels side by side on the beach, although not so many people. A few deck chairs and umbrellas set up were the signs of holiday makers while tyre tracks on the ground told me a vehicle had passed through not long before.
A long stroll, brief dip of my toes and relaxing lie down had me ready for the next leg of my journey to Jacksonville Beach.
The coast road, Highway A1A, was beautiful on the way to Jacksonville. So beautiful in fact that I had to make a second stop just off the highway!
I realised I probably wasn’t technically allowed to stop, but I had never seen beaches so pure white and so empty as this!
Only two others had ventured onto this beach, they were a father and son from Jacksonville and they were fishing. They hadn’t been having any luck so far, and hoped I would bring them some luck. Unfortunately, I did not! But it was great chatting to them and learning of their plans of a boat trip the following day.
I wished them luck before continuing my journey.
I booked a night in a local Air BnB, and when I turned up I was met by a cool guy who invited me to do my laundry and pet his snake. As fun as that all sounded, I thought I’d head into Jax to check out the scene there instead.
Parking by the river, the city lights reflected against the water giving a real “big city” vibe and I cautiously walked towards the landing alone. Fairy lights outlining the trees meant that I was definitely getting close to where it would all be happening in the city.
I was surprised at what I did find; most shops, restaurants and bars were shut but there seemed to be a big biker community hanging out on the landing. Live music was playing, drinks being served in a bar-truck and people sitting in the square. Harley-Davidsons lined the streets where bikers had parked and headed to the landing to hang out together.
Making friends with some nomads, I chatted for a little while before heading back to the Air BnB. Though it was a cool place to chill, I didn’t feel particularly safe on my own.
The Jax Beach
The next day, I thought I’d try my luck at the Jacksonville Beach to see if I’d enjoy the vibe there a little more than I had the night before.
First up, I came across the Beaches Museum & History Park which is supposed to have informative exhibits on the historic beach community. Although the museum was closed, one exhibit of an old steam train caught my eye through its glass walls.
But, actually, I found out that Jacksonville had more than a dozen museums and art galleries for lovers of history & art. I preferred to work on my tan on the beautiful white beaches…
For lunch, I went to a beachside bar/restaurant, the Ocean Grill & Bar, which served me the most delicious vegan tacos. Then, some more beach time had me ready to carry on to my next destination. But I hadn’t expected to be abruptly stopped en route.
Florida is lush with wildlife, only a day into hanging out in Florida and I’d already come across a star fish and a [pet] snake. So I shouldn’t really have been surprised when there were signs on the coastal road that I was driving along warning of turtles crossing. But when I was cruising along and saw a tortoise in the middle of the road, slowly making its way across, I could also see the car speeding towards me directly in the tortoise’s path. Without a second thought, I slammed my breaks and jumped out of the car holding my hand up to the other car in (what I hoped was) an authoritative way bringing it to a complete halt. I then picked up the tortoise and wandered to the nearest house, assuming it was a pet. Because, over in the UK, tortoises are always pets!
As I waited by the huge mansion holding this wriggling guy and warning him never to try and cross the road again, a lady answered the door understandably confused. I tried to explain how I’d found him and asked if it belonged to them, she looked at me as if I was mad and said, “No, they live in the hand dunes by the side of the road”. #awk
So I wandered deep into the sand dunes and released my new friend back into his home with multiple warnings about the dangers of crossing roads. I’m sure he understood and went back to his friends to warn them too.
St Augustine-Vilano Beach
So, my coast tour continued and I took a well needed break on the Vilano beach. Another nearly deserted beach, with one woman scouring the coast with a metal detector and digging up the sand in random places.
I enjoyed the peaceful sound of the waves as they gently lapped the shore, even the call of the odd gull didn’t annoy me the way they do in Brighton when they are after your food.
Opening my book, I soaked up those moments of pure tranquillity and mentally decided that this was one of the faves.
The journey continued…
At this point, I’d decided I would end up in Orlando, after all, it is a popular Florida city. But I had one more little stop to make on the way; Daytona beach!
Daytona was described online as one of the beaches not to miss, and when I approached the buzzing pier with its fair ground and roller coaster rides, I could see why.
The sun was setting by this point, which offered great views of the pier and the ocean. A man with a rake carved a message into the damp sand for those hanging around on their pier to read; an advertisement of some description.
This was far from the quiet, tranquil beaches I had enjoyed on the journey so far but it had an excited buzz that had been missing from the others.
I decided to grab a bite at a nearby restaurant along with a cheeky drink, and watched the sun set as I sat by the river at the Sunsetters Bar & Grill.
The city lights started to reflect on the river and I knew I had to make a move if I wanted to check into my next destination on time.
The fireplace burned with hot embers, my face mask soaked into my skin, my Matcha Chai latte sent steamy wafts of sweet spices to my nose and I put my feet up to watch a movie. 2018 was coming swiftly to a close, and for the first time that I can remember, I had the opportunity to enjoy this New Year’s Eve alone.
As the first of the fireworks started to disperse into the night sky in a colourful display I could both see and hear from my living room, I put out these vibes for 2019:
Care for My Body
Uplift My Spirit
As you know from my 12 Months of Simple Living, I don’t do New Year’s resolutions in the traditional way. I like to go about my resolutions slightly differently, tackling one thing at a time. And I already knew what the first would be.
If you read about my Vegetarian month, you may have picked up on the fact that I live with Vegetarians. One thing I didn’t know at the time was that I am lactose intolerant; yes that’s right, I can’t eat dairy! So when one day in December Val told me she’d signed up to going Vegan for January, I was keen to join her. It made sense for two reasons, first being that we usually share meals and second being that it was my chance to go 100% dairy free.
Prior to this, I’d been avoiding the biggest triggers of my intolerance; Cream, Milk, Butter & most Cheeses. But I hadn’t cut dairy out completely having a cheeky chocolate here and there, biscuits, cake and all sorts of dairy laced delights. It wasn’t doing a world of good for my body with break outs, tummy aches and sometimes more severe symptoms.
I saw Veganuary as an opportunity to look after my body by cutting out dairy, and also to eat even more healthily by having more fruit and veg. I’d have to cook most meals from scratch, meaning more nutritious meals, and I’d have to take food into work with me, saving me money.
But on a non personal note, here are some reasons why swapping vegan meals into your diet could benefit you:
Environment; a huge percentage of man-made pollution comes from the meat industry. Cutting it down can literally save our planet.
Economy; as referred to in my Vegetarian month, in the UK alone we throw away apx. 34k tonnes of beef each year. In the same space we produce 165lbs of beef, we could grow 20k potatoes. Cutting down beef consumption could help feed more people and reduce waste.
Health; vegans have low rates of obesity, lower BMIs, lower risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
So, I sat by the fire with my hot Chai latte watching Bridesmaids, and I finished my absolute last dairy treat of the year; a chocolate brownie. And the clock chimed midnight, the fireworks started going and Veganuary began!
It was all going so well…
The first couple weeks of Veganuary, I was fire! I made some banging Vegan dishes, if I say so myself. I got some of my inspiration from the many vegan cafes I visited in Bali. But, in case you haven’t experienced the gorgeous Bali cafes, here are some vegan ideas for you;
-Avocado, Tomato & Fresh Basil with Walnuts & Vegan Parmesan
-Chilli con Vegetales with Rice
-Vegetable Lasagne with Vegan Parmesan
As you can see, there are lots of delicious options available for the vegan diet. Some of the products I was really impressed with were;
Oatly Crème fraîche
Trek Cocoa Coconut Protein Flapjack
Blue Skies Mango & Passion Fruit Ice Cream
Walls Swedish Glace – Vanilla
Vitalite Dairy Free Butter
Waitrose Vegan Spinach Ravioli (but this one was hit or miss depending what you had with it)
And they are not even paying me to endorse them (you are so welcome guys, I’ll accept freebies, thanks).
So, it was all going well, things were going easier than expected, I was resisting the urge to go to KFC with my work colleagues, saying no to all the cakes and treats that usually show up in the same spot at work each week. I was being really smug about it… but that was totes about to change.
What went wrong?!
Around two weeks into Veganuary, I came home from work one day and Val decided to confess that she’s given up Veganuary! What?! Why? I asked, concerned. It had been her idea after all! She just wasn’t feeling very good on the diet, she’d been lethargic and weak and just didn’t feel like her body was getting enough nutrients.
I thought about it, actually I hadn’t been feeling so great myself. I was even more tired than usual, I was getting unusually hangry between meals and I felt generally weak. But I was stubborn, there was only 2 weeks to go! I decided to soldier on, after all, what difference would 2 weeks even make?
So what I hadn’t realised about the vegan diet, is that my calorie intake had to be higher to get the nutrients I needed. My intake was actually lower than before, because I was saving some of my dinner to be able to take into work for lunch. I was also skipping breakfast as usual (I know, bad) and so I was finding myself to be very shaky by the time lunchtime came along.
The other thing I hadn’t realised, was that I needed to be swapping in alternatives, rather than just leaving out the non-vegan part of a meal I would usually have. So, I was just cutting out the quorn or meat option, using random vegetables to replace it and cutting out dairy, usually replacing with soya. That didn’t bode well for my body.
My nutrient and calorie intake was low, I was getting stressed with work, I wasn’t drinking enough water (yeah this is still a problem, remember my Water challenge?), and the first nail in the coffin came when I decided to let my hair down with some colleagues at a leaving do. I drank way more than I should have (but also way less than I have in the past), and my immune system must have crashed at this point. I stayed true to Veganuary even in my drunken state, and I am proud of this! But the next day, I was pretty hung over.
I was still unaware of my immune system crash at this point, I thought I’d got away with it as I powered on through my hangover. But two days later, I had one small glass of wine with my vegan dinner and my body said “no!”. Within a couple of hours, I felt the familiar tingle of an oncoming cold sore and before I could do anything, it was a blister. I thought, okay, I can deal with this. I treated it and went to bed, pleased with myself. The next day, the sun was out and I knew I needed a pick me up, so I took a 5 minute walk in the sun and by the time I got back, one had turned into six! I was devastated! But I realised at this point, I couldn’t go on any longer like this. My body had given up, and I also needed to.
So I gave up Veganuary. And I’ve been trying to recover since, drinking water, taking vitamin supplements and avoiding alcohol.
How to not fail at Veganuary
So having been through all of this, I think I’m qualified to advise on what not to do at least! I recently met a lady who has been a vegan 3 years now and started her own vegan meal plans as a business, she had some great nuggets of advice for me.
Don’t try to do it all at once!
The sudden change, especially from eating meat to not at all can have a shock impact on your body. Some great advice I received for those who want to become vegan, is to ease into it. Try going vegan 4 or 5 days a week first, and eventually you will get there. Even swapping one meal a week to vegan can have huge impacts on the environment, and your health.
Do swap suitable alternatives in.
So, instead of just leaving out the non-vegan elements, like I did, try to be purposeful about replacing the element with a suitable alternative. For example, in a vegan lasagne, instead of just using veg, try adding in some beans. I’ve been told that blended white beans makes some bangin’ bechamel sauce!
Eat more calories!
If you are used to meat, you will be used to having something slowly digesting in your stomach over time. A vegan diet can be much quicker to digest leaving you with an empty stomach, this may have been why I was feeling sick a lot of the time and getting much more hangry between meals. Additionally, to get enough nutrients, you will need to eat more.
Listen to your body.
If you aren’t feeling well, or you are getting lethargic and weak. Do what you need for your body! Whether that means getting additional supplements to aid you, or taking the vegan journey slower. Maybe 3 days a week if you are doing 5 days. It’s not a one size fits all, so put your body first!
Do your research!
Most people are concerned about protein in the vegan diet, but you actually get enough protein from plants. 5 grams of spinach or 18 grams of lentils will do for your daily intake of protein, so do your research. The only thing that does occur naturally in animal-sourced food is Vitamin B12. This vitamin is important to help with brain and nervous system functions. You will have to source fortified food for this vitamin, such as fortified cereals and tofu. There is a fortified yeast that can be sprinkled onto certain foods to add nutritional value.
So, I hope that if you have been considering a Vegan diet, I haven’t put you off too much. But it is important to know what you’re getting yourself into. Knowledge is power after all!
Did anyone else do Veganuary? If so, how did it go for you? Leave a comment.
Any of you full time vegans? Leave your tips in the comments below!