What I ate in Belgium

Moules Frites in Bruges Belgium

You might remember back when I went to Paris, I started a new post series on what I ate whilst I was there.  Half of the holiday is based on the food you eat anyway, right?  So it’s a series I’m going to continue for every trip abroad.

Soon after I arrived home from Paris, David and I set off on a road trip to Belgium!  Another country known for its dishes, more than you might realise.  But, I must warn you, my ‘what I ate in Belgium’ post might not be nearly as ‘cultural’ compared to the dishes I ate in Paris.  This country is believed to have invented ‘frites’, or chips to you and me, after all.

So forgive me and have a little read on things to eat in Belgium if you’re visiting soon…

A Burger from Ypres Burger

Ypres Burger

And now you must know what I meant by this post not being very cultural.  But we all go on those kind of holidays where we just eat a lot of junk and blob out.  (‘Blob out’ – I love that phrase.)  So here it is; I don’t live a perfect life or eat perfect food all the time and my god I love a good burger, I’m not ashamed to admit it.

So when I looked up the best cheap eats in Ypres on TripAdvisor Ypres Burger was number one.  Located in the central spot in town and after our early start, me and my boyfriend went for it.  A simple burger and chips meal is hard to get wrong anyway.  Ypres Burger could certainly give McDonalds a run for their money.  (Speaking of which, we didn’t see a McDonalds anywhere in Ypres!)

Cheese & cold meat nibbles in St. Arnoldus

Things to eat in Belgium

Before heading to Menin Gate for the Last Post, we slinked into one of the cosy bars that lined the street leading to the memorial.  There must have been over a dozen Belgian beers on tap in here – but not a drop to drink for me… I was driving.

Regrettably I did miss out on some Belgium beers and good beers they probably were too.  But to keep me going I was pleased to see a selection of nibbles on the menu.  We munched our way through some local cheese and cold sausage meat.  Although, for the life of me I can’t remember the name of the sauce (maybe a kind of mustard?) and that sprinkling over the cheese? That was David’s handy work…

Another burger from Paul’s Boutique

Paul's Boutique in Ypres interior

I can feel the judging already.  Don’t you judge me.  Paul’s Boutique was another cheap eat favourite, as voted for via TripAdvisor.  Not only that but it made me feel like a kid again.  (Thanks to its decor, similar to that of an indoor laser tag’s.)

We did manage to fit in some culture here though.  Despite it not being a Belgian dish, the Netherlands isn’t too far away and we dipped into some ‘Bitterballen’; deep-fried and crispy breaded balls with a meaty centre.  They weren’t too bad, but I know, still unhealthy.

Bitterballen from Paul's Boutique in Ypres

Moules Frites in Singe D’or

Moules Frites with Belgian beer

Bruges is a cosy city, especially in winter. The weather can be bitterly cold, but it offers two ways to warm up; sightseeing around the city, walking rather briskly, or nipping into one of the snug little restaurants to warm your belly and soul with Belgian beer and Moules Frites!  (Translation: mussels and chips.)

This was my third time in Bruges but my first time eating one of Belgium’s most famous dishes in the land of which it came.  The Belgians are brilliant aren’t they?  Mussels and chips. Simple yet so satisfying.  (We were sat next to a roaring fire too and felt especially cosy.)

Although I didn’t check TripAdvisor this time and to my horror discovered this restaurant’s 2 and a half star rating half way through my meal.  I was shocked for a second, then just carried on chomping on my mussels.

A Belgian Waffle, from anywhere

Belgium waffle and other things to eat in Belgium

I thought it would be quite apt to end the post on a Belgian waffle, should this post even exist without the mention of a Belgian waffle? Again I paid no attention to TripAdvisor this day (to my detriment or not) and we just swooped up a Belgian waffle from the nearest takeaway cafe.

We sat and munched over the bridge from the Beguinage, next to Horse Head Drinking Fountain whilst horse and carriages trotted by.  Which made me think, I’m glad I didn’t check TripAdvisor, because sometimes you just need to buy whatever food from whichever lovely setting you’ve wandered within.

We plonked down here for a few minutes, rested our tired feet before finally heading back to the car to head home.  You were good to us and our bellies, Belgium.  (We’ll be back.)

Have you ever been to Belgium?  Tell me your favourite meal you had there, don’t let me miss out on the good stuff!

FOLLOW ME:
    

Continue Reading

Discovering WW1 History in Ypres

Ypres_Grote_Markt

When most people think of Belgium they probably think of Bruges, chocolate and Belgian beer.  Their first thoughts might not wander to the town of Ypres, a location steeped in First World War history.

Just before Christmas, David and I set off on a Belgium road trip where our first stop was Ypres. We were there to discover sites in and around the town that was unforgettably caught in the whirlwind of World War 1.

Ypres might not seem like a location, or a history, that fits my blog’s theme/aesthetic.  The First World War is often referred to as a ‘senseless’ war, but one we shouldn’t forget and Ypres certainly has a presence to that. This is why I’ve decided to tell you about our time there and what to do in Ypres.

What to do in Ypres

What to do in Ypres

In Flanders Fields Museum Ypres

I won’t pretend I knew all the battle sites around Ypres, known as the ‘Salient’, before arriving. However, I did expect that I’d feel humbled from what we saw and learned.

Arriving in town this had already began.  It was hard to believe we were looking at buildings that were completely rebuilt back to their medieval design (as they looked convincingly older!).  I found the Ypres Cloth Hall to be the most striking piece of architecture in this area, which shockingly was too reduced to rubble.

Impressively it was reconstructed to its prewar condition, which gazing up at its sheer size you can believe why this took a few decades to complete and why its one of the best sights in town.

1.  In Flanders Fields Museum

Ypres Cloths Hall now houses In Flanders Fields Museum.  We could have spent hours in here, with its high and varied volume of interactive exhibitions and artefacts.  Many of which are activated by a microchip embedded ‘poppy’ bracelet given on arrival, (that can also be kept as a souvenir).

View from bell tower of Ypres Cloth Hall

We chipped in an extra 2 Euros to climb the 231 steps up to the belfry, which provides the best views of the town’s medieval architecture and layout.  The exhibition exits through the Tourist Information Centre, where we lingered to find walking and cycling routes of the surrounding area.  (Our plan was to cycle the ‘Peace Trail’ the next day.  Alas, weather or time wasn’t on our side…)

2. Menin Gate

One of the most touching memorials is found at Menin Gate, inscribed within its walls are 54,896 soldiers names who were killed in the war, yet whose graves are unknown.  If that hasn’t hit home enough, as a tribute from the people of Ypres, every night at 8pm the road that passes through the memorial is closed and buglers sound the ‘Last Post’.

A ceremony that has been carried out, uninterrupted, since 1928 (bar a few exceptions).  Despite us visiting at the end of November when the town was quiet, we found it was bustling under the memorial’s arches before the ceremony began.  Silence soon fell among the crowd though when the buglers were about to begin, with thoughts turning to the men who lost their lives.

Menin Gate at night in Ypres, Belgium

Inside view of Menin Gate, Ypres

Inescapably, you walk away with a weight of poignancy, especially knowing this ceremony vows to occur for eternity.  As we sat in a nearby bar beforehand, a local man told us every November 11th sees the service not just fill the memorial, but crowds pour out onto the street covering the city.

3. Tyne Cot Cemetery

Lying just outside of the town in the quiet countryside is the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in the world.  Walking to the entrance of Tyne Cot Cemetery‘s Visitor Centre we began to hear names spoken from various speakers dotted along the pathway.  Later we would discover these names, 34,887 of them, were those who were reported missing.

Whilst Tyne Cot can be a very mournful place, with white aligned gravestones forming row after row, the stillness of the surrounding landscape creates a peaceful resting place for the fallen.

Tyne Cot Cemetery in autumn

Battle of Passchendaele Museum in Autumn

4. Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917

A short drive from Tyne Cot is the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.  Passchendaele was a horrific battle towards the end of the First World War where half a million men were killed for just 8km gain of ground.

Housed in a beautiful chateau, the museum explores not just the battle at Passchendaele but the old weapons and uniforms of soldiers.  Realistic dugouts and trenches can be experienced too.

5. Hill 60 / Caterpillar Crater

Much is to be learnt about the war through museum exhibitions and seeing how many lives were lost in the many graveyards scattered around the area and beyond.  However, seeing battle sites that are still weathering the carnage of the past really instilled a lasting impression for me.

Hill 60 had been fiercely fought over in the war and although the trenches were filled, the land remains scarred.  Close to this lies Caterpillar Crater, which for me was one of the area’s most sobering sights.  Despite grass and nature growing over it, the huge hollow of land where the mine was detonated has to be seen to be believed.

Hill 60 former battleground in Ypres Belgium

Caterpillar Crater Ypres Belgium

6. Talbot House

Another short drive away from Ypres is the sleepy town of Poperinge, which became a place of refuge for soldiers.  Away from the trenches and shelling, a townhouse was founded where troops could recuperate and feel a little more at home (and looked like it too!).  There’s a cafe on the bottom floor, where you’re welcomed with a hot drink (no charge, but donations are suggested) and a makeshift altar that was created in the attic room.

Talbot House unexpectedly interested me the most and felt like a place stuck in time.  Particularly when I read a few soldier’s letters that were sent home describing this as a place of peace.  It has a huge emotional draw, yet tranquility too which is inescapable.

Talbot House Poperinge

Altar in the attic room of Talbot House

Watch where else we explored in Belgium:

Have you ever been to Belgium?  Where did you discover and what did you like about it so much?  Tell me about your experiences in the comments section below!

FOLLOW ME:
    

Continue Reading

New Purchases Show & Tell – January 2018

New Purchases Show & Tell January 2018

At the start of the year I can’t help but think about the new purchases I’ll be making in the year ahead (mostly thanks to this series of mine).  However, starting now – as of my New Purchases Show & Tell January 2018 – there’ll be a bit of shake up.

Now that I’m classified as a ‘homeowner’ I’m looking to need to spend my money more wisely.  (Not that I haven’t done that in the past…)  There might be less clothes and beauty purchases, although don’t worry I’m sure they won’t completely go.  But I predict there’ll be a wider variety of products in the horizon for me this year  However, let’s start with some new year basics first!

New Purchases Show & Tell January 2018 video

Here’s what I’ve been buying to help me get ready and prepared for 2018.

Leucttrum 1917 Notebook Dotted A5 Black – 41 seconds in
Being only my second-ever Bullet Journal (in my lifetime!), I’ve changed the brand of notebook I’ll be using this year.  Part of me wanted to see what all the fuss was about with Leuchttrum notebooks.  I’d never heard of this brand, yet their notebooks seem to be a bullet journaller’s favourite. Now I can see why, through the many features their notebooks include, which I want to cover in more detail in a separate post.  For now though, take the example of having dotted pages (instead of squared, like I had last year). As well as giving a cleaner look and feel to my pages,  it gives more flexibility to more designs too.

New Purchases Show & Tell January 2018

Dymo Embosser Omega – 2:07 minutes in
I have wanted one of these FOR YEARS!  My inner geek (oh screw it – I am a geek!) fell in love at first sight, whenever it was when I’d first caught sight of one as a kid back in the nineties.  Having never owned one growing up, I felt as giddy as a little girl again when it was delivered to my door.  I love how retro the black tape looks.  I want to label e v e r y t h i n g.

Sweat app (for Apple) – 2:52 minutes in
Forgive the obligatory fitness purchase in January, but getting this app has been on my mind for the past year or so.  I’ve been aware of Kayla Itsines and her Bikini Body Guide (BBG) workouts from long before that too, so I took the leap and subscribed to her app.  Let’s just say it’s no walk in the park and I’m working out more than ever – a whopping 6 times a week!  But her workouts are 28 minutes long, meaning I can easily squeeze them into my busy schedule.  Tell me if you’d like a separate review?

Chok Idea Watchband – 4:14 minutes in
Closely related to the fitness kick I seem to be going through, I’ve bought a new watch strap for my Apple watch.  I’ve needed one for a little while, as mine was going a bit off colour.  (Ewe, I know.)  I can’t afford an Apple branded watch strap at the moment, but this cheap but comfy strap will do for now.  I think the white and pink colour combination freshens it up a bit too!

New Purchases Show & Tell January 2018

Next month…

Right. With Christmas done and dusted, this means my money is free to be spent on what I want again.  (Instead of getting into debt by spending it on gifts for loved ones and way too many ‘Christmas drinks’ down the pub.)  This also means I can get back to buying things for our house, finally!

David and I have our eyes on some blinds for the living room, which I admit doesn’t sound too exciting.  But I may want to purchase my first plant for our home too, as plants seem to be all the rage right now.  Rock n’ roll people, rock n’ roll…

FOLLOW ME:
    

I have not been asked, sponsored or paid to review any of these products. I just like to shop!

Continue Reading

Birchbox UK January 2018

Birchbox UK January 2018 unboxing

It’s a new year already and Christmas celebrations (with all the feasts and parties) passed long ago.  Diets have begun, gym memberships are back to being active and even my Birchbox UK January 2018 is on a New Year kick.  It’s time to focus on the year ahead.

Most people are done with getting all glammed up this month, unlike last month when we received a number of sparkling treasures from Birchbox. But that’s not to say we can’t make time to pamper ourselves.  Find out what I received below!

Birchbox UK January 2018 unboxing

Birchbox UK January 2018 kick starts the new year with the theme Stand Tall.  (Figuratively speaking of course, as I’m only 5ft 2.)  And as it’s the time of year to get organised, Birchbox UK have teamed up with British stationary brand Ohh Deer.  Namely because stationary = getting organised!

As for resolutions, instead of the usual babble like ‘get fitter’ and ‘quit this or that’, Birchbox urge us to ‘rip up the resolution rulebook’ and embrace something we really enjoy.  If that means making a habit of trialling new beauty products then count me in!

Samples

This is what we’re all here for; the samples.  Birchbox subscribers knew they’d be receiving a full size Lord & Berry Blusher Crayon since being given the choice of two colours.  So let’s get down to the details!

Birchbox UK January 2018 samples

  • Lord & Berry Blusher Crayon (FULL SIZE!)
    I’ve owned blusher sticks before, but blusher crayons?  Trying it straight out of the box it’s surprisingly creamy and quite blendable too.  There’s no going overboard with it either, I drew a few lines on my cheeks (something I never thought I’d say) and used my fingers to blend, which left me with a natural-looking flush that was quite easy to master.
  • Marcelle Waterproof Eyeliner in Charcoal
    Here’s another product that’s soft and smooth to apply.  Grey is a welcoming twist on the classic black for me, being so pale le noir can look too harsh at times.  I don’t often wear pencil eyeliner on my upper lid out of frustration from making a mess.  However, this glided on and, more importantly, stayed on.
  • Thermaliv Night Cream
    I usually reach for oil (over a cream) for my night time regime.  But this could be a game changer.  The collagen production boosting and vitamin E ingredients are what drew me in and oh my word, it’s a pleasure to apply.  Waking up the day after my skin felt blissfully smooth and I couldn’t wait to apply it again the same evening.
  • Paul & Joe Beauty Primer in Dagree
    So, after some leaflet confusion I discovered what this product is and its intrigued me even more.  A hydrating beauty primer (I’m listening) with 3 types of hyaluronic acid (yes, my skin loves that stuff!) that absorb into the skin at different times during the day to keep my complexion hydrated and boosted at all times (okay – sold!).  On first impressions, it definitely does what it says on the tin (bottle) and packs a dewy glow to boot.
  • Afterspa Amazing Makeup Remover
    Amazingly – get it – this works!  Admittedly, I was dubious at first whether a cloth and just water could break down and remove ALL of my make up.  (Including foundation.)  Even my usual makeup remover still leaves me with panda eyes in the morning.  But I was proved utterly wrong when I woke up without looking an inch like Robert Smith.  (Joy!)  This will come in handy when I stumble in after a night-out and can’t be bother to cleanse, tone, zzzz….

Added Little Extras

When I hear the tune of a Birchbox collaboration, I always look forward to the added little extras and there’s been a few this month.  Of course we, as Birchbox subscribers, have come to expect a little discount with the brand collaborator – 20% off at Ohh Dear can tick that off nicely.

On top of that however, for a discounted fee we were also sent the flamingo adorned weekly planner as well as some stickers that are both fabulous.

Birchbox UK January 2018 added extras

The added LOC Shadow sticks were a thank you for recommending a friend who signed up.  Another bonus if you managed to recruit more Birchbox subscribers!

Box round up

Well I think it’s fair to say I’m quite chuffed with this box.  Having tried all of the items already I don’t think there’s one weak link in here.  Birchbox UK January 2017 – you have started the year on a happy note!

The fun hasn’t ended here either (spoiler alert for next month coming up).  Another full-size product will be waiting for us in February’s box in the form of a Keeome (remember them?) Silicone Buff makeup applicator.  Give me some of that South Korean beauty good stuff!

Not a Birchbox subscriber?  Sign up here and get 50% off your first box!

FOLLOW ME:
    

I have not been paid by, sponsored by or asked by Birchbox to make this blog post or video in any way – I just do it for the love!

Continue Reading

My Reading Challenge 2017: did I make it?

My failed Reading Challenge 2017

If you judge how late this blog post is then you’ve probably guessed already that I didn’t complete my Reading Challenge 2017.  Well, you guessed right, I didn’t – I may as well confirm this now.  Although it does start this blog post on a rather bad note, doesn’t it?

Oh well, I’m disappointed (and kind of embarrassed) that this is the second year in a row I’ve not managed to complete a Reading Challenge.  In my defence, I’ve had quite a busy year.  But let’s lift those spirits up a little bit and talk about the books!

Reading Challenge 2017

My Reading Challenge 2017 (what I actually managed…)

17.  Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Apologies to Reese Witherspoon, but Wild (the film) didn’t urge me to read the book.  It wasn’t until I listened to Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete podcast with Cheryl Strayed that I really wanted to read it. But not only this book, but other books Strayed has written too.  For purposes of my Reading Challenge 2017 however I’ll stick to this one.  (Well the truth is I’ve only read this one.)  It’s an epic true story of when Cheryl walked the Pacific Crest Trail – from California to Oregon, and how the pieces of her life fell away and lead to her decision to do it.  An incredible and at times emotional tale, I’m so glad I listened to that podcast otherwise I may have never read it.

18.  Ctrl Alt Delete by Emma Gannon
Oh look at that – this wasn’t even planned!  I probably couldn’t wait any longer before I dove straight into Emma Gannon’s memoir on how she grew up online. (Again, this read wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for her podcast.)  Emma and I are the same age, so plenty of the memories in this book and cringeworthy moments are quite familiar to me.  If you’re part of the generation that chatted to friends on MSN Messenger and learnt minor coding from designing your MySpace page, you need to read this book.

Reading_Challenge_2017

19.  Paris by Lonely Planet
Is it cheating to put a travel guide in my Reading Challenge 2017?  To be honest, I discovered Lonely Planet when I was backpacking and some of them are written so poetically, it’s like reading a novel anyway.  So that’s why I included this.  Plus I had my nose buried in it nearly every morning, whilst on the metro and in the evening when I was in Paris.  Just as lovely, yet informative, as their Asian counterparts that I’ve read, with some beautiful descriptions of Paris.  I usually never go on holiday without one.

20.  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Have you noticed a pattern here?  I watch a movie, like it, then want to read the book.  I’ve got to say this one was definitely as good as the film, if not better.  The casting was also spot on with Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, but I’ll keep to my review of the book.  Written fantastically from the perspective of two different characters; husband and wife.  If you don’t know the story (which lucky you if you don’t) it’ll keep you guessing and hit you with some twists you won’t see coming.  A story I couldn’t put down, even when I was in Paris.

21.  Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
One of the reasons I wasn’t able to finish my reading challenge could be down to a few chunky books I’ve tried to get myself through before the end of the year.  Such as Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run.  I love Bruce, but he had me reading 528 pages to get to know more about him.  I don’t hold it against him though, as every story and memory was written in the same beautiful way he writes his songs.  He sets the scene on his trips and shows across America, throwing in his thoughts and feelings in a way that’s inescapable to think and feel just as he does.  I love Bruce even more after reading it.

Reading Challenger 2017

Total: 21/25 books read

So I didn’t make it, but I’ve read some pretty good books on the way.  One of the biggest things that slowed me down was getting stuck trying to read a book I wasn’t enjoying, which was rather chunky.  This was much earlier on in the year and although I felt I was catching up after the summer, I was short of just 4 books to completing my Reading Challenge 2017.  (3 if I pulled my socks up more during Christmas.)

Will I lower my amount of books to read in 2018?  Rather stupidly no, actually.  2018 will be the last year of my twenties, so I think it’s kind of apt to aim for 30.  If I stick to books I both enjoy and are not too big, I can make it!  What have you been reading?

Follow my Goodreads account here.

FOLLOW ME:
    

All front cover images on this post are embedded from Goodreads.com, please contact me if any image that appears here should be removed.

Continue Reading