Taking A Walk On The Wild Side

FORAGING FOR WILD FOOD WITH HUNTER GATHER COOK

A few weeks ago we went along to Wilderness Festival in Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire. One of the really unique things about this four day festival is the number of new and unusual activities you can try your hand at alongside taking in all of the music and entertainment during your long weekend in the countryside. From archery, wild swimming, wood carving, hot yoga - you name it, they quite probably have it on offer and ready and waiting for you to take part. 

Burdock

One such activity that we decided to get involved in was an afternoon of foraging for wild food followed by wild canapes and cocktails in the woods. An afternoon organised by the team from East Sussex based company Hunter Gather Cook. Such a unique experience and a great way to spend time out in the fresh air, shaking off the stress of daily life. So I thought I'd share a few photos and a little bit about our experience here on the blog today.

Before I get started a little warning here I guess. One thing we learnt very quickly during this mini adventure was that there are a great deal of dangerous plants and other nasties out there that can do you a lot of harm, and I don't mean just make you a bit sick, I mean really nasty harm. So just a quick note - before you take yourself off outside and start picking wild flowers and mushrooms to add to your evening meal, make sure you take time to learn from an expert about exactly what you might be taking home with you. You really don't want to make a mistake when it comes to eating things found out in the wild - trust me! 

Hazlenuts

The afternoon was spent with our foraging guide Elliot as he took us on a tour of beautiful Cornbury Park and pointed out an array of plants, trees and other wild goodies that I'd never before noticed even though I've spent many years walking my dog around many different country spots. I certainly didn't know that so much could actually be eaten. From hazelnuts, burdock, nettles, spearmint - all sorts of wonders just at our feet or happily hanging above our heads.

Water Mint

Whilst a two hour beginners tour and introduction to foraging does not an expert make, I did learn some fascinating facts that I'd never previously have known. Things like all plants within the mint family have square stems. Now the amount of times I've picked this from the garden and added it to my new potatoes without noticing that fact I can't tell you. Next time you pick up a sprig of mint have a feel - it's totally square, such an odd little quirk of nature! For some reason I was also fascinated to learn that the peanut comes from the pea family. Pretty much nothing to do with nuts even though it's in the name. It actually grows underground and is considered a legume. Who knew!

Nature is endlessly fascinating and this short but really informative introduction demonstrated just how much there is out there to learn. I can certainly see why people find foraging so interesting and how it can become a lifelong past-time and learning experience. It's also such a great way to get out and about, keep active and take in some much needed fresh air and peace and quiet. A brilliant break from the usual hectic routine.

River View

As our two hour expedition came to an end we headed back to the woodland alcove where the team had set up an off grid kitchen and had been busily preparing us an array of wild canapes to tickle our tastebuds. Plus a bramble cocktail to which we added our foraged spearmint to give it a final flourish! With a little music, some fresh nibbles and a cocktail in hand, the afternoon concluded with an atmospheric cocktail party in the woods as we digested everything we'd learnt on our sunny exploration of the English countryside.

Wild Cocktail Reception Menu
Wild Canape
Venison Canape

If you're looking for a new activity to get you out in the fresh air and exploring then foraging could well be worth a try. I'd highly recommend giving it a go. Just (as mentioned above) make sure you go with someone who truly knows what they're doing as you get started! Hunter Gather Cook run regular seasonal courses at their East Sussex site and would certainly be a great place to start if you're tempted to give it a go.

Louise

 

 

A (Fairly) Relaxing 48 Hours In Copenhagen

Last weekend saw us take a quick hop and a flight over to beautiful Denmark and its capital, Copenhagen. We only had a brief amount of time to spend seeing what this city has to offer, but being so close, just a short one hour and twenty minute flight away from London, we wanted to get on that plane and explore as much as we could as well as catch up with friends and make some new ones! For anyone planning a similar trip I thought I'd share some highlights in the form of my five things to do on a quick visit to Copenhagen, and some photographs to get you inspired before you travel. I hope that you enjoy.

Copenhagen Nyhavn

FIVE THINGS TO DO ON A WHISTLE-STOP TOUR OF COPENHAGEN

1. Chill Out Beside The Water

One of the most iconic sights of the city of Copenhagen has to be the brightly coloured, historical beauty that is Nyhavn (New Harbour). Here you can stroll alongside the 17th century waterfront and get your first taste of the city. Many restaurants and bars dot this canal side spot and although the tourist draw of this part of town means they will probably catch you out slightly on the price side of things, it's a stop not to miss for a sunny drink or two by the waters edge. It's also a good place to sample a traditional Danish open faced sandwich on rye bread or Smørrebrød as it's known - but more on that to come below.

We popped into a restaurant at Nyhavn for a quick and cheeky pizza before we flew home, from a restaurant called La Sirene and it was one of the freshest, tastiest pizzas I've had in recent years! Not too bad on the price front either so I'd recommend checking this place out if you're in the mood for pizza with a view.

Copenhagen Nyhavn

There are many and plentiful waterfront, canal side strolls to be taken and fresh and beautiful food to be sampled in Copenhagen. Spend a morning strolling serenely by the water, take in the sites and do your best to avoid the many cyclists! Stop somewhere along the way to nibble on something tasty and traditional. Here a notable mention must go to this tasty Smoked Salmon Smørrebrød that tickled our tastebuds at the peaceful Christianshavns Faergecafe alongside Christianshavns Canal.

Copenhagen Open Sandwich
Copenhagen Christianhavns Harbour

2. Stroll Around The City Sights

One of the most famous sites in Copenhagen has to be the bronze sculpture of The Little Mermaid seated on a rock by the waters edge alongside Langelinie Promenade. Based on the Hans Christian Anderson tragic fairytale of the same name and now over 100 years old, the sculpture itself has seen its own fair share of tragedy and mishap having been beheaded and restored twice as well as having been vandalised many further times for various reasons. She's worth popping by to see, although you will be greeted by huge crowds of tourists doing the very same thing, all trying to grab a selfie with the famed figure. Still it's a classic sight not to be missed on any first time trip to this city.

Copenhagen The Little Mermaid

Keep an eye out for many other intriguing as well as more modern sculptures as you walk around the city. One such, much newer work, is The Global Visionary or Zinc Global, seated at Nodre Toldbod. Based loosely on the famous Auguste Rodin sculpture called The Thinker this version, made out of machine parts by artist Kim Michael, is quite a sight to see and has proved controversial in Copenhagen with some locals loathing it and others loving it. So take a look for yourself and see what you think!

Oh and if you're looking for a cheeky stop to take the load off and grab a bite to eat then there's a cosy restaurant right by this sculpture called Toldboden which is worth a moment of your time - although be warned, if you miss the brunch cut off point then you'll be faced with a lay out of lots of beautiful food right before you yet not be allowed to taste it! Their fish and chips are worth a bite though so all in all not a bad stop if you have some time to while away, again by the waters edge and with a beautiful and classic Danish style interior to boot.

Copenhagen Sculpture
Toldboden Fish And Chips

You cannot fail to notice as you walk around the city, the many unusual and beautiful buildings that make up the uniqueness of the city's landscape. There are some really stunning examples of architecture both old and new dotted around Copenhagen from the more recently built Danish Opera House to many beautiful historical palaces, galleries and churches that capture the eye. Sadly we didn't have time to visit many although we took in a great few of them via the view from the top of The Round Tower (coming up below). But if architecture is your thing then this list of famous buildings in the city would be a great place to start for anyone wanting to explore this side of Copenhagen further.

Copenhagen Opera House

3. Eat, Eat And Eat Some More!

So I realise I've already mentioned food quite a lot! Well the truth is I love to eat and I love to take photos of my food so stories of my travels are usually filled with oodles of foodie photos. This post continues that theme and as well as the places I've mentioned already I wanted to focus on a few other, very notable and chomp worthy places that we stopped at in order to take in some of the best food (I personally think) that this city has to offer.

Copenhagen Host

One of the best meals that we had has to be the delectable tasting menu at Höst where a delight of contemporary Nordic food graced our palates during a lovely evening of food and wine in cosy, cool and chic surroundings. Eating here really is an event in itself that takes all evening, a way to unwind, chat, eat and drink as you are served not only a starter, main and dessert but a pre-starter, pre-main and a pre-dessert as well! All paired with well thought out wine selections making it a meal to remember. I'll let the mouthwatering photos below tickle your tastebuds and do all the talking, but I'd definitely recommend an evening here for something very unique and memorable.

Copenhagen Host
Copenhagen Host
Copenhagen Host
Copenhagen Host
Copenhagen Host

Sunday, our last day in the city, was all about the meatballs and so we turned to The Union Kitchen to get our fix of their delightful balls of the day! Beef meatballs with mash and gorgonzola sauce did the trick at fixing both hangovers and hungry belly's as did their delightful bloody marys with added bacon. The vibe here is cool and relaxed and it's a lovely spot to spend a Sunday brunching with friends, recovering from the night before. I'm reliably informed that their hangover burger is well worth a bite as well!

Copenhagen The Union Kitchen
Copenhagen The Union Kitchen
Copenhagen The Union Kitchen
The Union Kitchen Bloody Mary

Another very notable food and drink suggestion, especially good for a Friday night, goes to the stylish PS Bar and Grill. We ate here the night we arrived and the food was delicious, small plates and bigger bites all washed down with pitchers of unusual cocktail combinations. Sadly none of my photos really came out because the low lit evening vibe that kicked in shortly after we arrived didn't allow for my usual snappy shots! However this was a very cool venue full of very beautiful people and with tasty food (the tuna was amazing) and top cocktails (try a sloe gin and tonic, you won't be disappointed) making for a very cool place to begin the weekend.

PS Bar And Grill

4. Take In An Aerial View

Whenever I visit a new city I like to find somewhere high up from which to get an aerial view and understand the lay of the land. I'm not altogether that good at directions! So this always helps me get a feel for a place and gives me some bearings on which to go by. The Round Tower in Copenhagen looked likely to do just the trick so I knew it was somewhere I'd like to visit should we get the time.

Before visiting Copenhagen I read quite a few posts from fellow bloggers to get inspiration for the trip and this one from Carolin over at Style Lingua was probably the first that brought the tower to my attention. So I'm glad we found a few spare moments to make our way up the unique 209 metre spiral ramp to take a look out over the city from up at the top. The tower, dating back to the 17th century, is also one of the oldest functioning observatories in Europe and is still used today by many visiting amateur astronomers.

It proved a lovely way to take in the city landscape below, even though it's actually only 36 metres tall, so not that high by todays city tower standards, it still gives you a chance for a beautiful perspective of the red and green roofed city laying out at its feet. I'll leave you with a few photos to show you just what I mean.

Copenhagen Round Tower
Copenhagen Round Tower
Copenhagen Round Tower
Copenhagen Round Tower
Copenhagen Round Tower
Copenhagen Round Tower

5. Take A Trip To Christiania

I think it's probably fair to say that no first time trip to Copenhagen is complete without a stop at Freetown Christiania. This unique and controversial part of the city has existed since 1971 when hippies decided to set up camp amongst some old abandoned military barracks and established their own autonomous neighbourhood, with their own self rule and way of life that is completely separate to the rest of Copenhagen. Now it has around 850 residents and functions utterly independently of the Danish government. 

It hasn't been without its problems though and since 2004 has been the subject of regular police raids leading to some conflict and much discussion about the area, especially about its open cannabis trade which is illegal in Denmark but active in Christiania.

To my mind the jury is out on what I feel about such a place, though it was interesting to take a look around and the local residents welcome regular visitors. Just make sure to heed to the do's and don'ts when it comes to photography. For your own safety it is definitely best to follow the rules as clearly indicated by the many signs visible around the area when you visit. Below are just a couple of snaps I took before entering the community itself but once inside keep those phones and cameras well away.

Copenhagen Christiania
Copenhagen Graffiti

I hope you've found this beginners insight into a quick trip to Copenhagen useful, especially if you're planning a visit there yourself.

Where We Stayed: We stayed at Hotel Skt. Annae (pictured below) which was a lovely spot, very conveniently and centrally located and perfectly comfortable - although the room was very stuffy and the air-con was broken but staff were quick to fix this with a well placed and competent fan!

Copenhagen Hotel

If you're looking for further reads on the city before you go you may find these additional posts useful, as I did, when planning your trip:

Thanks for reading and happy travels!

Louise

 


Practical Festival And Travel Worthy Packing Picks

LIFEVENTURE FESTIVAL SURVIVAL KIT, TRIED, TESTED AND REVIEWED

Having just returned from a wet but wonderful weekend at this years Glastonbury Festival, and with many further festivals that others will be attending over the next few months, today I thought it might be useful to share some useful bits and bobs well worth packing if you too are heading off for festival fun, or indeed packing for any sort of travel worthy adventure over the summer.

Lifeventure Festival Survival Kit

The lovely people over at Lifeventure* very kindly sent over a package of useful festival ready goodies to take to this years Glastonbury. So I thought I would run through some of the bits and pieces that came in most useful. Practical items that really will stand you well wherever you are and whatever the weather. Plus having been on many backpacking adventures in my time, I know for certain these will come in incredibly handy for budding explorers everywhere.

 

MY TOP FIVE FESTIVAL AND TRAVEL WORTHY PACKING PICKS

A torch is always useful when camping at a festival or indeed on any type of outdoor or backpacking type of travel experience. We always carry a torch of some sort and a head torch is ideal because it leaves you hands free to navigate, carry your baggage or just generally balance yourself in the sticky, slippery mud! You can also use the strap to attach it to the top of your tent once you reach your destination so you can get yourself organised before finally laying down to get some rest. This one was particularly useful because it has a selection of lighting modes based on what you might need, gives incredible bright and clear light, and came with batteries which is always something that I forget to pick up and run around last minute trying to organise!

Security and ease are always top priority for me on any adventure. I always take a body wallet when embarking on slightly less luxurious travels and have previously used something similar when backpacking around Asia as well as Central America in the past. They're a great way to keep your most important documents and much needed cash safely on your person without advertising to the world that they're even there. Easy to hide discreetly under your clothing and a great way to remain hands free in trickier situations. This multi pocket one is great because, as the name suggests, it has a variety of sections in which to file away and organise your money and valuable documents such as tickets, ID etc. With three sizeable zipped compartments you can keep everything separate for ease of retrieval. It's also made of a much friendlier fabric than some that I've used before. The soft fabric doesn't stick to your skin or make you feel itchy or uncomfortable!

Multi Pocket Body Wallet

I always put together a first aid kit for trips away, especially ones where you're going to be stuck in the middle of nowhere for a sizeable amount of time. Whilst many festivals do have pharmacies and medical tents onsite, I always find it helpful to have my own basic kit with me. It saves queuing, plus you can never find the resources you need when you need them! So it's usually quicker and easier all round to have access to your own. When travelling overseas, especially to slightly more cut off destinations, having a mini first aid kit in your bag is always a must. This one has everything you need to tackle minor general first aid issues that you may come across. Plus the loop on the back is really useful for attaching it to your belt or backpack.

Pocket First Aid Kit

Now we all know that most festivals (in the UK at least) are synonymous with a form of rainfall at some point in the proceedings. Glastonbury certainly didn't disappoint on that front this year! A DriStore bag comes in very handy for protecting your belongings, keeping them clean and dry amongst festival, trekking or travelling rain and mud. There's nothing worse than all your belongings getting soaked within the first few seconds of your trip. This 5 litre one is quite small but ideal for day bags. I used it to keep my essentials in inside my bag as I wasn't that worried about the bag itself but didn't want the important items inside to get hurt!

These handy little things pack away neatly so are really easy to carry with you when space and weight is limited, they're incredibly soft and lightweight - very useful. Although they are supposed to be extremely absorbent I don't find they beat a real towel on that front which can be frustrating. But when you need to take a towel and don't have much space then they are definitely one of the best options. 

Other Useful Festival Picks

OTHER REALLY USEFUL PACKING PICKS WELL WORTH A MENTION

Digital Hardcase: Festival-ing, trekking and outdoor fun can be tough on belongings so alongside a DriStore bag (mentioned above) to protect from the elements, protecting your electronics from a potential hefty battering is also helpful too. This case offered sturdy protection for my smaller Canon camera that I like to carry with me everywhere I go. Also with a handy loop on the back to attach to your belt or clothing for easy, hands free use. 

Duct Tape: Always comes in handy for fixing things, patching things up and sticking things down! This one is a really handy pocket sized amount. Just enough to come in useful, not so much that it's a hassle to lug it around with you. 

Dry Wash: Useful to carry around in your day bag, especially when festival bound. I don't even need to bring up the subject of festival toilets, I'm sure the horror and the legend already precedes them. Although some have taps or hand gel available, the queue for the tap is often longer than the queue for the loo itself and the gel runs out on a regular basis. Carrying your own around is recommended. This bottle was enough to get through the entire weekend. Antibacterial gel with no need for water, it smells lovely and could also be used for a full body wash if those showers either don't exist or you are put off by yet another chance to stand and queue.

Travel Ear Plugs: An essential for festival goers actually wishing to get some sleep, or if you just want to dull the noise a little after partying too hard the night before. Always worth having with you for all sorts of travels and adventures. 

SoftFibre Inflatable Travel Pillow: I didn't use this for Glastonbury but I think it will come in very handy for other travels, especially for long flights to tropical destinations! This one has an easy to inflate valve, a removable, washable cover and looks very useful and easy to use. So whilst I can't fully review this right now I will keep you posted about the handiness of this as I plan to take it with me on some other upcoming adventures later this year.

Glow Sticks: Well you can never have enough colour, fun and glow at a festival can you! We used these on the last night during Coldplay's set. We had already been given the changing coloured wristbands onsite so we attached these to our person for some extra glow and to really get in the spirit of things - why not hey! Lightweight and easy to carry around in your day bag, these were sturdy and easy to use, just snap and go. They last for up to 15 hours so yes they were still glowing at the foot of our tent the following morning! 

All of the above can be found on the Lifeventure website apart from the glow sticks which you can find here. Check out what else they have to offer that may come in incredibly handy for any upcoming travels.

Thank you to Lifeventure for giving me the opportunity to try out some of these useful festival and travel related accessories, and indeed helping me to survive the muddy joy that was this years Glastonbury Festival. If you're looking for inspiration for any future adventures then I hope this run down comes in useful and if you're festival bound this summer have a fantastic time. Live, laugh, love and enjoy!

Louise

 

*I was sent this selection to try out and review. All of the opinions are as always 100% my own and I would not share products or items if I didn't believe they were worthy of doing so.

 


Northern India Photo Diary: All Of Life In Varanasi

Back in January we took a trip to beautiful India and the very stunning Sri Lanka. I began to share the journey and a selection of the millions of photos that I took in this post here but then with a big house move and the realities of other work and general life settling in, for one reason or another I didn't get around to posting anything further. Today I was looking back at all of the photos wondering if it was way too late five months on to be sharing the experience. But you know what, I think these forgotten volumes of adventure deserve to be shared. I certainly know that I love to see photos and hear tales of peoples travels if I'm looking to explore a certain place myself, so I hope anyone considering a journey to these parts may still find these photo diaries interesting. 

Varanasi

I will pick up our journey in the unabashed wonder that is Varanasi. Now we took a short flight from Delhi to Varanasi which takes around about an hour and twenty. It's worth noting here that some of the internal flights in India have a much lower baggage allowance than international flights, so check before you go to make sure you and your backpack are going to be able to get on board without too much extra cost or hassle!

For anyone that has been to Delhi and found it an assault on the senses, well Varanasi is another level of hectic hustle and bustle all together. So brace yourself for the kind of chaos that never quits but that will enthral and amaze all the same.

Varanasi

The pace is indeed the definition of frantic but this is a vibrant and colourful stop not to be missed. Sacred and full of soul, sat on the River Ganga, or Ganges as we know it, it is here that all of life and indeed death collide with unbound pace, colour, sights and sounds. This can be incredibly overwhelming but looking back I still believe this was the most memorable place of the entire trip.

Varanasi

Because of the proximity of Varanasi to the holy River Ganges it is here that people flood from all over India to bathe in the holy waters and extricate their sins. Here too they come to cremate loved ones and engage in funeral rites upon the event of their death. It is considered an auspicious place to die because of the Hindu belief in Moksha and freedom from samsara - the cycle of death and rebirth. I'm not an expert in this area but this is my understanding and I really hope I've described this correctly. Much of life in Varanasi is conducted around these funeral rituals and you will likely witness many examples of this as you walk around the narrow streets, explore the beautiful flower markets and of course make your journey down to the colourful Ghats.

Varanasi
Varanasi
Varanasi

Ghats are the riverfront steps that lead down to the River Ganges and there are many of them, eighty-seven in fact, in Varanasi each with their own purpose. Many are used for bathing and for various ceremonies. Others are used solely as the sites for the daily cremations that take place by the waters edge. Visiting the Ghats is an integral part of a trip to this city and one of the best ways to begin to understand what life here along the river is all about.

Varanasi
Varanasi
Varanasi

As many visitors do, we took a boat along the Ganges both in the evening and also at sunrise, a great way to get a view and understanding of the vast expanse of the Ghats alongside the river, witnessing the daily rituals that take place on each. An evening boat ride is usually synonymous with watching the daily evening prayers that take place on the rivers edge, the prayers to Mother Ganga, known as the Ganga Aarti. This was by far one of the highlights of our trip.

Varanasi

Initially we took a boat along the waters edge as the sun set. Once out on the river and as darkness started to fall we took part in the ritual of lighting candles in small cups made from leaves and flowers, known as diya, and setting them on the river, sending each one off with a silent wish or a prayer. We then nestled our boat alongside the numerous others on the water by the edge of the ceremonial Ghat and settled in to watch the evening prayers performed amongst a heady mix of music, fire and the smell of burning sandalwood. 

Varanasi
Varanasi
Varanasi

The experience of a few days in Varanasi will certainly stay with me for a long time. Whatever your own personal beliefs in life you cannot fail to be touched by the spiritual nature of this feverish holy city. It's certainly a must to add to your itinerary when visiting this part of the world. Be prepared for a profusely intense experience that will definitely challenge but ultimately be incredibly rewarding.

Louise