The sun has come out to play and generally, everyone is feeling happier. I started the week with a wobble but today (I am writing this on Thursday), I am a happy Inds. I am sat in my room with the window open, where I can hear the birds tweeting and see the sun shining a beautiful light into my room. I have to say this is my favourite time of year. You are done with the cold weather and you can feel it going up few degrees! You get excited for the possibilities of what this summer could bring and find yourself reminiscing on previous BBQ’s and pub garden afternoons with friends, ice-creams by the sea and horrendous burn lines (not tan lines lol). I hope you have been able to enjoy being outside in the sun. Luckily for me, I do not drive so I am forced to get out and walk around in the sunshine with, most likely, a podcast playing in my ears.
In photos (HUJI style, of course) my week has looked like this… True stunner in that first one lol. Probably was I look like 99% of the time… hair-up, headphones on, lazy eye out and about, gym clothes, no make-up – true India style.
What a whirlwind week I have just had and it is not even over yet! The perks of working part-time is that I have been able to spend a few days with friends and family and been able to spend pretty much everyday so far in London.
Me and my friend, Jess, had booked to see George Ezra a few months back at the O2. As we had not seen each other in a little while and always wanting to explore London, we thought why not make it into a mini staycation! We booked a Travelodge in Greenwich and headed up Monday evening. Both Instagram obsessed, we had a few points of interest we wanted to visit after seeing them on various influencers accounts (how basic of us haha). And Monday nights bar of choice was an underground bar in Waterloo called Tonight Josephine. Iconic for its, ‘well behaved women don’t make history’ neon sign on the ‘gram, we headed there for some Monday night cocktails. How every Monday should end! Tonight Josephine is one of seven bars run by this chain, with notably Bar Elba in Waterloo and Blame Gloria in Covent Garden. My cousin has been to Blame Gloria and said how much fun it was, so definitely one to try. On Monday, me and Jess also tried Bar Elba, which is a hop skip and a jump away from Tonight Josephine, but is a rooftop bar! Admittedly, we were drawn in by the 2-4-1 cocktail sign outside the door as we left the other bar…
Bar Elba had a lot better atmosphere than Tonight Josephine but I think people were in the same boat as us and were won over by 2-4-1 drinks.
Tuesday we woke up nice and early with the intention to try and get tickets for the V&A Dior exhibition. With pre-bought tickets sold out for bloody months, they realise 120 on the day tickets. But when we arrived at the V&A at 9:50am, the queue was already big! Would you believe six people from the ticket desk – they sold out… I mean, how unlucky. I would have prefered them to have sold out either after me (in an ideal world) or if I was 20 or so from the front! Not six!
Anyway, after an hour of standing in a queue for no reason, we walked to get some brunch and drown our sorrows in coffee. Already in the Kensington area, we walked for 20 minutes to Farm Girl cafe in Chelsea. Rose lattes, acai bowls and avocado on toast – this place screamed India. Decorated by Beata Heuman, this Wes-Anderson-esque cafe is beautiful, with its hanging ivy plants and pastel pinks. I ordered a coconut milk flat white and an acai smoothie with organic Amazonian berries with banana and almond milk topped with fruit, chia seeds, almond butter, granola and coconut shavings. Jess had the same as me but with a butterfly matcha.
Our day was basically a walking tour of food places we wanted to go as we could not get into the exhibition. After Farm Girl cafe in Chelsea we wandered over to Oxford street, where we had cake at Deliciously Ella’s deli. But my god, I will have to go back here for lunch as the smell as soon as you entered this busy little cafe was incredible! I love Ella anyway and follow a lot of her recipes when cooking at home (which you will see on my Instagram) so this spot was basically because I am a fan girl. Plus, all of her foods are made from organic ingredients so, all healthy, I shall tell myself anyway. I opted for an iced turmeric latte and slice of victoria sponge, whilst Jess had a beetroot latte and banana bread with almond butter.
For a food break, we hit the stories along Oxford Street dipping in and out of the shops, as well as our bags to reach for our purses. The day was flying by and we needed to head back to our hotel to get ready for George Ezra at 7:30pm. We decided we did not want to eat at the O2 and would rather eat in central London at a cool restaurant. I had found a plant-based kitchen just off of Oxford Street on Percy Street, called Kalifornia Kitchen, ran by Loui Blake. Here we had a burger and chips! It only has a small menu but the waiter recommended the klassic kalifornia burger and it was real good. #dontkalemyvibe
Now, well and truly full after three stops across London (ops) but not too bad considering our 28,000 step count, we ventured back to the hotel and then onwards to the O2. As expected George was brilliant. He instantly brings a smile to my face with all of his songs and in between, each song, he tells stories about how he came up with this song or that tune and included witty comments. Overall, it was a brilliant performance and I was up, out of my seat dancing away to Shotgun, Paradise and Barcelona.
*Well done for making it this far if you are still with me and this blog post – you are a true fan and I love you greatly!*
On Wednesday, we were going to try again at the V&A but I was struck down with a cold. So, instead we decided just to head back to Stevenage, where Jess drove back to Manchester and me in search of cold and flu tablets. After a good nights sleep dosed up with Night nurse (miracle tablets), we were up and again, I was standing on the platform at Stevenage station, dolled up for afternoon tea! For my mum’s birthday we had bought her the Mary Poppins themed afternoon tea at Aqua in the Shard. On the 32nd floor we had scones, cake and finger sandwiches overlooking the amazing skyline of London.
But today has been less glamorous and the cold has come out in full force! So, I woke up, cooked a delicious breakfast and got on with some jobs from the comfort of a nice, warm house. But the week is not yet complete and I have more exciting events coming up. Tomorrow night (Saturday), I am going to a charity ball so my ball gown and high heels are ready to get dancing! Then Sunday, me and my dad are perhaps going to make some plans as my mum is off pampering herself with her friends at Champney’s health spa. Not jealous….
So, this week has flown by and been full of exciting events. Not so good on the gym and healthy eating side of things as I have only been twice this week compared to my usual six… can you believe that! Feeling guilty just writing that down. I suppose with a cold and a busy time, it is difficult to squeeze it in and I should chill a little bit. But next week I will be back on the workouts.
Iconic, quirky and utterly beautiful – Sketch London has been one of my favourite dining experiences I have had in London. There are five rooms spread across a three-story Georgian style townhouse on Conduit Street, The Gallery, The Parlour and The Lecture Room and Library, The Glade and The East Bar.
My mum took me last June for my birthday, where we had dinner in the dreamy pink Gallery dining room. Founded in 2003 by Algerian born Mourad Mazouz, this venue has now become the most weird and wonderful spot to be in London. As soon as you enter the building, you come across a hop scotch and that is only the beginning of all the little quirks you are about to come across.
The Gallery is the flagship dining room within Sketch due to its candy-floss pink design from the ceiling to the bubblegum pink velvet armchairs with the only exception being the floor which is contrastingly a beautiful mix of white, cream, teal and navy marble with gold specs. It is a truly stunning room, all designed by India Mahdavi (I mean great name). Lining the walls is 293 art line illustrations by David Shrigley and even designs on the dining wear. This is one of the cool touches which Sketch London does so well. From the salt and pepper to the bottom of your desert bowl, words or sayings are on each dish.
We ordered two cocktails as we were celebrating and starting to look at the menu. Maybe we looked confused but the staff were very attentive and helped us work through the menu, asking what we liked and recommended dishes to us. Pre-vegan days, I opted down the fish list, whilst my mum looked for a meat option.
We began our meal with campagne sourdough mixed cereal bread and Abernethy salted butter. Followed by our dinner and then tiramisu for two dessert. Do remember if you do get the chance to go, order the mash on the side. It needs to explanation to why once you have had a spoonful of this creamy, potato heaven! I mean it was my birthday and it is not every day you are lucky enough to celebrate at Sketch London, so we were making the most of it! I even had a glass of champagne also which they poured in the most amazing way, from a very great height lets just say that.
Not only did we get to experience the iconic Gallery restaurant but even the toilets are a unique experience. You pee in a pod, literally. It definitely has to be one of the weirdest toilet experience to date in my 22 years. Under a multi-coloured ceiling, similar to a disco dance floor, large egg-shaped pods are scattered around, where inside the toilet awaits. Even the mirrors above the sinks are quirky! You could visit Sketch London just for the toilets themselves.
I would really love to go back to Sketch London and try all the other stunning bars and restaurants but I would also like to go back to The Gallery and have afternoon tea.
It was such a lovely afternoon with my lovely mum, celebrating my birthday and one that I will cherish forever! I hope everyone gets to experience the mad hatter world of Sketch London. From the decoration, to the staff, to the food, to the drink – it was exceptional.
This week has been a great week for working out! They have been hard, sweaty and I definitely can tell that I have been pushing myself that bit further. I must admit, I do go a little easier in fear I cannot do it. But something has changed in me. I am on it! Feeling strong and have kept on track with the food side of things also, which is mainly what I struggle with.
Lets get to it then.
PM – The shake off the weekend cardio class. This workout only really would work in a group as you each do one thing and carry on the other moves until the whole group has each done that move.
Round 1 / each person in the group does 20 burpees / whilst each person takes turns to do their burpees the rest of the group do 10 wall balls / 10 star jumps / 10 lunges
Round 2 / same concept with only 15 burpees / 10 kettlebell swings / 10 jump squats / 10 tuck jumps
AM – I actually had a personal training session on Tuesday, which was fun, with Sam from Renegade gym, as I just feel like I need some extra guidance on how to achieve my goals.
Barbell strict overhead press 5 x 10 (30kg) / Cable overhead press 21, 18, 15, 12 with a-frame press ups in between each rep for 10 / Cable overhead press dropset for as many reps as possible x 3 / Lateral raise 3 x 12 (5kg)
AM – Burn baby, burn! And, did this burn. I still have an achey neck now from the amount of wall balls…
Bench chest press 5 x 5 (42.5kg) / 150 calorie row taking turns in pairs (if doing workout on your own, you could just do 75 calories) / 150 wall balls (6kg ball I used) and then every time you pause or put the ball on the floor you have to do a 200 meter run (!!)
I managed 75 wall balls in a row, which left me feeling very dizzy lol. Then did the rest in 2 goes. So, overall, I ran three times.
PM – Again this class was based on a group but you could just use this as a circuit. Similar layout to Mondays class with the time it takes for one person to do their exercise, you keep going with your exercise until they are done.
300 meter row (timer for rest of group) / butterfly sit-ups / kettlebell USA swings (overhead) / dumbbell thrusters / do this circuit three times
120 calories row race / we did this between four people.
PM – In all honesty, lacking motivation on this day, this was not my best workout of the week.
Barbell bent over rows 12/10/6/3 (increasing weight, 45kg for me) / hammer curls 12 x 3 (7kg) / banded bicep curls 3 x 20 (me and sammy basically did half of these…)
AM – My favourite class of the week – squat Saturdays. I love this class because George, who runs it, is also pushing you to try that little bit harder and it is jam packed full of exercises. Safe to say, my legs hurt today!
Wall balls followed by jump squats 12 x 3 / barbell back squats 10/8/6/3/1 (I hit a PB and managed 105kg 1 rep max) / back squat drop set 12/18 (I did 80kg then 60kg) / leg extension 3 x 15 with goblet squats (20kg) 3 x 15 / leg press 3 x 6-10 (however, me and Heather, tried 2 reps are 300kg! And smashed it) / weighted walking lunges 2 x 2 lengths with still leg deadlifts 2 x 12 (dead by this point, I did 6kg with the lunges and 40kg with the deadlifts)
Finally, giving myself a rest day!
Totally have the gym bug at the moment and I am absolutely loving each and every workout. Even when I am not really putting 110% into my workouts (aka, Friday), I still went and felt so much better for going and at least putting in 80% effort!
Last week was a good week as it involved two brunch dates. One at Chia for pancake day and one to Cultivo Lounge in Letchworth. In the heart of the town, this cafe is the perfect spot for meeting friends, drinking coffee and even having a cocktail or two.
We were meeting my cousin and her little one – Theo. But we also had two pooches with us so needed a place to meet that was dog-friendly. Luckily for us, Colvito Lounge was just the place and even has little dog treats on the side! Not only did we need somewhere good for dogs and young ones but also with at least one vegan option for myself. What a bunch we are aye. However, they pulled through not with just one option on the menu for vegans but a whole menu for vegans! So, Coltivo Lounge is good for those on two legs or four, aged two or 55, herbivores or carnivores.
We settled into plush velvet couches, surrounded by tassel hanging lampshades all over the shop and cool prints and mirrors covering the walls. It is packed with character, charm and quirky touches, bit like myself!
The vegan menu was also on the table amongst the others, which is much so much better than having to go up to the bar and ask for one! It also had so many options to choose from, I was sat staring at it for a good ten minutes before I could even narrow down my options.
Deciding to go down a healthier route, I opted for the vegan falafel salad with butternut squash, wood-roasted peppers, cucumber, edamane beans, black quinoa, mixed leaves, coriander and French vinaigrette dressing. I also had two oat milk flat whites which were, I think, the best flat whites I have ever had. I know, that was a big statement I just made…
When you order a salad, you are slightly gutted because it is a salad and really you do not fancy it. You are simply trying to make a better choice (especially when it is your second meal out of the week). Well, that is often my thinking! But, no word of a lie, this salad was so good! The falafel was baked perfectly, the quinoa was covered in a beautifully sweet vinaigrette and I just love edamame beans so it was a winner for me. My mum and cousin had the halloumi and falafel version, which they enjoyed equally as much.
Overall, our ladies lunch date was perfect thanks to Coltivo Lounge. But sadly, no brunches this week?! Have no fear my lovely readers, next week I am in London for two days which means one thing – food!
I have been home now from travelling for over four months. But as soon as I got home, it was like I had never even been? Not one for being quizzed, I loved hearing about what everyone else has been up to. Life went on, I signed back up to the gym, I went back to work and daily life continued on without much thought about what a big deal it kind of was?! It is only since someone said to me, “how mad was it that you went to Australia?” that I started thinking, yes, that was mad! I went to Bali and Australia all on my own.
Now, I know that really this is not that big a deal. I know people who have left for god knows how long, and I only went for a tiny dent of that time but it is the fact I still packed my bags and went. Personally, for me, I love to travel and experience the different cultures but I do not know if I could do that length of time, over the other side of the world for so long? Especially for my first trip. Just over three months was the perfect step for me.
So, this post is a reflection on my time as a solo traveller.
I was meant to go with a friend from home but as it turned out being it was not meant to be as she got ill and other things got in the way. Luckily, she is back to full fighting health and even got to do her stint of solo travelling! But I do think it was a blessing in disguise that we went separately. It would have been a completely different experience and looking back at my time away, I would not have wanted it any differently. Being solo forced me to be social, forced me to step out of that comfort zone and take risks you would not take if you had the comfort of a friend. It also enabled me to do what the hell I wanted! If I wanted to go to bed at 9pm (in true party style), I could. If I wanted to stop and have endless cups of coffee, I could. And if I wanted to go anywhere and do anything, I could. That is the beauty of travelling on your own. It is flexible and completely up to you.
All the people I met being away were my highlights! I made friends with people I never would have made friends with if I was not on my own. Once I had got into the flow of just being myself, I was chatting to everyone. I have got the traveller conversation nailed… What’s your name? Where are you from? How long are you away for? Are you going up or down the coast? How long are you at this hostel for? If you have stayed in hostels and travelled, I bet you have had that exact same conversation at least 20 times!
Rosa and Alex, were two girls I pretty much spent a whole month with and we would all get upset if one of us choose to stay somewhere for one day longer and then would be all happy again when we were reunited. It was hard to say goodbye to these amazing ladies but I am sure I will see them again. I also made friends with Tom in hostel bus after the Greyhound, Sean in a exercise class in a hostel, Ali over a box of goon, Jada on the Uncle Brians Tour in Cairns and Mary on our skydive. So many people make your experience whilst you are travelling and I know you would meet people if you were travelling with other people but being on my own made me chat to anyone who would sit next to me and I loved that aspect sometimes (yes, sometimes, if you carry on reading lol).
Really it is such a bizarre concept staying in hostels, sleeping in a room with people you have never met from around the world. But the people you met, are those who you would never have the chance to meet at home and that is one big highlight for me!
Another highlight for me was having that peace and quiet when you needed it. Travelling can be tiring. You are constantly surrounded by people and constantly trying to make some sort of conversation. Truthfully, the only time you are completely on your own is when you are in the toilet. The full door toilet, not even them cubicle ones. I remember in Melbourne, one girl even said she was so fed up with talking to people that one time she sat in the toilet and read her book for an hour just to have a break. For me I went the beach or the park but each to their own hey!
I remember one afternoon in St Kilda, Melbourne, I laid down for near enough two hours staring into the sky, relaxing my body and thinking about everything going on. It was beautiful. I also did this on the beach in Byron Bay one morning. If I was not on my own, I would not be able to do this (well, not without feeling a little bit bad). Taking a break where necessary is a hidden beauty of going on your own.
My not so highlights…
I had many lows when I was away. More lows in Australia than I did in Bali. I think this was primarily down to being on my own in Australia, compared to Bali, where I was with a big group of bloody amazing girls. Not having an organised day or group, made you have to make an effort and sometimes you were faced with a true sense of loneliness. Everyone you meet, is at a different point in their travelling experiences. I met people who were itching to meet people and go exploring but then I also met people who were on their second year, working and the novelty of the excited traveller had worn off.
I found this happened more in cities like Sydney or Brisbane, where people based themselves for jobs. Especially in Brisbane, I was hit square in the face with loneliness. It was horrible and an experience I really wish not to have again. Do not get me wrong, the city was lovely and I spent three days doing some fun things like seeing a circus show, eating I think the best pizza, petting joey’s and watching fireworks but I also cried in the cinema toilets, looked for tickets home and just wished I was moving to the next place already. I did not expect it to hit me like it did. You feel silly too (well I know I did) because I was in Australia?! Australia! Living the dream and travelling and you could not moan or be upset to those at home, in the cold, working hard. But honestly, talk to people. Let them know you are feeling low and they can send you virtual hug. Also, do things you enjoy. Yes, I may have cried in the cinema toilets but I also love the cinema and saw a really good film – Crazy Rich Asians.
I also had this feeling in Byron Bay. It was my first night after the overnight bus from Sydney, where I had the most amazing few days with Cole, and I had spent all of my first day in Byron Bay on the beach, alone. That evening, I cooked dinner and felt brave enough to go into the social area. All I saw was people on their phones (one time I think they are a curse travelling) or in big groups (intimidating…) and ended up rushing back to my bunk, feeling like a complete loser at travelling. I text my friend, Jessamyn, saying I can’t make friends and I am being unsociable. Upsettingly saying to her I thought travelling would be all party, party, party. But like she said, you do not need to make friends. You have friends at home! This was just what I needed to hear. Why was I putting such a pressure on myself to make friends? So, if you ever have this feeling of not making friends, just remember your friends at home waiting for you and simply remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day, ready for new adventures. You are there to see the sights and when you stop worrying so much, I found I relaxed and was able to speak to people. This early night was actually followed by two of my most favourite nights travelling, so it is proof it works!
No experience is smooth sailing and we all need them times were we are suffering to realise what we are made of. So, as much as I did not like the low points I had, they made my trip what it did and made me stronger for future ones. I am still amazed I actually went. But even though I have been to the other side of the world on my Tod, I still get incredibly nervous to do things on my own. I am not now this independent women, I get nervous going to bloody London or have spent the last few months deciding what to do next and whether I could do that trip on my own (totally forgetting I have done it before…). We often forget what we have achieved when we get more concerned with worry about the future, filling our heads with self-doubt. I remember feeling so incredibly nervous waiting at Heathrow Airport for my flight to Bali but then I also felt incredibly nervous waiting for my flight home, wondering what is next for me? As deep as this will sound, you are solo in life, whether you are in Boxfield Green or a hostel in the depths of Cape Tribulation being bitten alive by mossies! I somehow managed to get the courage to go away solo then and now I need to get the same courage to do my next trip or next step in life and my time away solo has taught me that for me, India Paine, this is possible.
That took a turn there at the end but that is me always going off on tangents! If you want to travel solo, I highly recommend but just expect you have to take the rough with the smooth. However, it will be the most amazing time.
My week in workouts! I am thinking of making this a regular Sunday blog post and trying to incorporate more health and fitness into Stories of Adventure, as it is a big passion of mine and something, at the moment, I am doing regularly. Let me know what you think or whether you prefer to see more travel related posts?
This week I have worked out 6 times. Six times a week tends to be what I am doing at the moment, however, I did do a double session on Monday. So, I have technically only been to the gym 5 times, which has been quiet nice to have 2 days off.
It has been a tough week of workouts and I am starting to see more definition in my abdominal muscles but over the next 6 weeks I am really trying to lean out, as I do feel I have put on some extra fat in certain areas, ready to go to Seville in April. I am calling it #6weekstoseville – my new mini series – and I am planning to show/track my workouts, how I feel and food!
Less of me rambling and on to the week in workouts…
AM – upper body / pull-ups 3 x AMRAP / barbell bent over rows 4 x 10 / cable lateral pull 4 x 12 / rows / 4 x 12 / lateral raises 4 x 8 (heavy I use 6kg) drop set straight away and do 4 x 15 (light weight I used 4kg) / bicep curls 3 x 15 / tricep dips 3 x 15
PM – cardio / 5 x 10 calorie watt bike (horrific, actually thought I was going to throw up) / 200 meter run followed by kettle swings 30 reps x 5 (together)
PM – Iron class / pull-ups 5 x 5 / handstand push-up 5 x 5 (amazed I could actually do these against the wall) / floor chest press 4 x 8 / deficit push-up 4 x 12 / renegade rows 3 x 10
AM – Blitz class / round 1 x 3 / 400 meter row / 15 deadlift (40kg) / 15 burpees / 15 push-ups / round 2 x 3 / 15 calorie watt bike / 15 overhead press (20kg) / 15 jump squats / 15 wall balls (6kg)
Thursday – rest day!
PM – Did my own upper-body work out inspired by NaturallyStephanie / cable chest press 3 x 15 / incline dumbbell flies 3 x 15 (6kg) / incline chest press 3 x 15 (12.5kg) / round 1 x 5 / 10 overhead press / 20 kettlebell squats / 20 upright row / 15 press up / round 2 x 3 / 8 hanging leg raises / 10 cable oblique twists / 10 cable chest press
AM – Squat Saturdays (my favourite class of the week) / wall balls 3 x 15 (in pairs, whilst partner doing wall balls you do body weight squats) / squats 5, 5, 3, 1 (increasing weight – I hit another PB of 100kg!!) / 20 x 3 cable goblet squats / 12 x 3 leg press / 12 x 3 split leg squat (12.5kg each side) / 12 x 3 leg extension… legs are sore today!
Sunday – Rest day! Not planned but we had been out Saturday night and I missed the 9am class… oops. I did go for a walk though and battling the gale force winds was a workout within itself!