Stories of 2019 #49: Cultivo Lounge, Letchworth

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!


Stories of 2019 #37: Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom

The land of endless enchantment, where your ultimate Disney fantasy’s become reality.

As soon as I stepped into this park, I was mesmerized. Walking down Main Street with a smile on my face and my eyes wide to take everything in. It truly is the most magical place on earth. All my senses were going. I could hear people singing, see the iconic castle at the end of the street from the parade square, smell the delicious buttery popcorn from the stand and feel the sun beating down on my skin.

Where to begin? There is so much to do in this park from places to eat (honestly if I had not just eaten a massive buffet breakfast I would have eaten my way around the park), shopping and then there are the characters and rides! Our guide took us straight to Space Mountain before we had to meet the group at the castle for photographs. In Tomorrowland this thrill roller-coaster dips and whips around in the darkness as you shoot off in your rocket to space. Queue screaming…

Nothing like a fast roller-coaster to shake up the breakfast! After getting the adrenaline hit of the first ride of the next four days we went to the iconic Cinderella castle. Surrounded by lush rose gardens and a tranquil moat, the magical castle is the perfect place to get your perfect Disney photo.

We did not get to go inside the castle but they showed us from the outside the windows to the Cinderella suite. Imagine staying inside the suite! There is also the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where fairy godmothers can sprinkle their magical dust and transform you into a prince or princess. Or, dine with Cinderella, Belle and all the other Disney princess’s at Cinderella’s Royal Table.

We were so lucky also to have such beautiful weather.

But it was only to get better as we were led to a private rose garden just opposite the castle. And believe it or not, we were greeted by a very very special character. Cinderella herself had met us in the rose garden! Pretty as a picture she was.

Photos complete, me and my hair were ready to be thrown around on some rides. Starting off on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train before screaming our way around Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain and The Haunted Mansion. Then, we took a more relaxed route and went on “It’s a small world” as well as, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spinner.

One of the highlights of having the VIP Disney tour guides is that there is little to no waiting for rides, which is unheard of at Walt Disney World. You all have fastpass+ so you manage to get lots of rides done within probably the time you are queuing without it. I once remember we queued for three hours for the Peter Pan ride back in 2004!

With time to spare before the Festival of Fantasy parade we stopped for lunch. We went to Gaston’s Tavern and had, I think the world’s largest cinnamon bun. I cannot describe to you how amazing this warm, dreamy cinnamon bun was. Alongside this swirl of cinnamon dough heaven I had LeFou’s Brew. It was a must whilst there, so rude not to.

Topped up on sugar, we went to the parade. A celebration of your favourite Disney music and characters dancing their way through the Magic Kingdom. Be sure to spot Mickey and Minnie Mouse in a huge hot-air balloon, Alice in Wonderland chasing after her rabbits and Maleficent on her fire-breathing dragon!

And the excitement just continued as we headed to the Town Square Theater where we were fortunate enough to meet the duo Minnie and Mickey in their celebration outfits. This is a once in a life-time opportunity as you do not often get to meet them both together so be sure to meet them before the 30th September.

Turning dark, we finished off the busy day at the Magic Kingdom with the most spectacular firework display above the castle. Happily Ever After is a dazzling journey of colour, light and music that bought me and many others to tears. There is nothing more special than this firework extravaganza. Simply memorizing. Take your 3D glasses too to see the secret Mickey’s!

I know what you are thinking… India you have not had sugar in a while are you feeling OK? I know my cinnamon bun was what only a few hours ago? But do not worry, America have us covered and we arrived home to a cake on our bed!! I could get used to this life easily.

Tomorrow – Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios and of course, more sugar fueled treats!

Stories of 2019 #10: My Published Journalism

Following my previous blog about how to get magazine journalism experience, here is my article that I have had published in the magazines. I do not think you will ever get over the excitement of seeing your name in print. Enjoy reading!

The Spirit of Summer // High Life August 2018
Capsule Collection // High Life September 2018
Stage Left // High Life August 2018
Roisin Murphy // September 2018
Take me there… // The Sunday Times Travel Magazine May 2018
Van Gogh // The Hertfordshire Life

Stories of 2019 #9: Getting Work Experience in Travel Journalism

‘Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ‘em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.’ – Theodore Roosevelt

The magazines I have been published in.

Everyone bangs on about work experience, experience or getting your foot in the door and all that jazz. But it can be daunting. It can be hard! It can be expensive! I have lost track in how many magazines I have emailed and had no reply to do work experience at. But keep emailing and at some point, they reply. For my course at Nottingham Trent University, it was compulsory to have a minimum of three weeks work experience in order to pass the course. So, that definitely pushed me outside my comfort zone to do it.

When I do look at my CV or what I have had published, I am glad that we had to do work experience as I do feel a little proud at what I have been able to achieve. If I am honest, some work experience has been better than others, some more exciting, some more admin based but all in all, I have met some great people, had work published by all and had the experience of working in a busy editorial environment. Now, I have not yet got a career within journalism so I am unable to tell you whether or not this experience has benefited me into getting a better career but I am assured by other people that it does. So, fingers crossed aye.

Where have I done work experience?

Currently, I have done nine weeks of work experience.

I started off with easing myself in with one day at my local paper, The Comet. I really enjoyed this taster day and the editor was so helpful in showing me what to do, how to do this and how to do that. I even had to do a telephone interview for an event I was writing about. I did not have a Dictaphone or was able to do shorthand as at this point I was only on about 20 words per minute! I basically just scribbled down as much as I could. But all worked out fine and I had an article published in my local paper. I will not forget that little moment of first seeing my name in print! It was all very exciting. Here, I also met Richard, the editor of Hertfordshire Life Magazine, where I would undertake work experience a few months later. This shows how important networking is in the industry.

Next, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine. I can’t really remember how I applied for ST Travel? I am sure I saw an email on Twitter looking for work experience placements. Side note, #journojobs is a good tag to look at on Twitter for jobs and work experience. I did two weeks here at the London Bridge Office. It was a bit of a whirlwind the first day. I was sat at a desk and told to write! Which in a way was an excellent task as it got my work out straight away but then the following week was more fact checking and overall not a lot of work for me. So, much of the second week was asking around for any old job. This may have just been unlucky for the time I was there as it was January. Who knows.

After this, I went back to Stevenage to work at Hertfordshire Life magazine. Perfect work commute. Five minute drive or a nice 40 minute walk! There was only two people on the editorial team at Hertfordshire Life and was really lovely to be able to have that one on one experience. They also had my best interests at heart and gave me important work to do straight away. I think this definitely makes your experience, when the team are looking out for you and making sure you get the best out of your time with them. Richard, the editor, put me straight on writing book reviews and also going through ways I can develop stories, as at this time I was still learning how to be a journalist. But, nevertheless, they put me forward for trying my hand at the bigger features including interviewing celebrities and putting together my own main feature for the magazine. Amazingly, my feature I did whilst there became the cover story and I now own about 10 of that issue ha ha. Thinking back, this was actually a really valuable work experience and they even bought me Easter chocolates and I was able to work from home. Happy days!

On to my favourite place where I have done work experience – High Life magazine. If I recommend one place to do work experience it is here at Cedar Communications. High Life is the in-flight magazine for British Airways and covers so many different topics from travel to fashion to food. Their offices are on The Strand, neighbours to the Savoy hotel. I did two weeks here again and worked with the editor, Andy Morris and the editorial assistant, Melissa. Similar to Hertfordshire Life magazine, they had my best interests at heart and made sure they were making the most of me. I had lots of work daily and I was kept busy, which I find very important for my work experience. I do not want to be sat there like a lemon! I wrote features, transcribed copy, tried to come up with ideas, interviewed Roisin Murphy, went to the PR events, overall it was my highlight in my work experience journey. I attained this place by emailing Andy himself, which I was able to get hold of through a speaker who came into my university. See the saying can be true – it is not always what you know, it is who you know.

That is all my previous work experience. As you can see all my experience so far is travel related as ultimately this is the area of journalism I wish to pursue a career within.

What I have found when trying to get work experience is that basically if you don’t ask, you don’t get. You just need to keep trying and putting yourself out there. Yes, it is scary and trust me I am a nervous wreck, I would say on the first day but I am nervous wreck for the whole two weeks. My mum can vouch for that. You just want to do your best and make sure you impress them. Really just go in relaxed and take any opportunity you can. Just go for it. At the end of the day, if this is something you really want and you put all your hard work into it, it has got to pay off surely? That is what I am hoping anyway…

Other ways to get work experience… Go Think Big are a good company and have magazines such as Grazia and Hello. Fashion Workie also has lots of jobs and work experience placements. Asking your lecturers at university so they can put you in touch with anyone. Magazines themselves sometimes have email addresses online or in their print issues for interns and work experience. Just keep your eyes peeled.

I will be posting more about my work experience/magazine journalist journey such as my published work, university work, university tips and so on. So, please follow and like my blog, Instagram and Facebook. Let me know if there is anything you would want to know about if this is something you are interested in or wish to share your work experience and perhaps we can exchange contacts.

East Coast Australian adventures: Byron Bay

“Welcome to Byron Bay! Cheer up. Slow down. Chill out.”

This is the first thing your eyes lay sight on once you reach Byron Bay. And for me, that was a very happy sight after being on a 12-hour bus journey from Sydney the night before. But little did I know that this was the true motto of this surfer spot along the East Coast in New South Wales.

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Luxury Amsterdam Airbnb

For mine and Jess’s trip to Amsterdam we decided not to stay in a hotel but an Airbnb. I had stayed in several Airbnb’s before and I personally have had a great experience and all houses I have stayed in have been amazing. And this gem was no different.

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Where did I eat and drink in Amsterdam?

Amsterdam is a foodies heaven! I think everywhere I looked there was yummy food from chips covered in sauces, waffles coated in chocolate, to big ice cream cones. But also nestled away there are healthier cafes and amazing coffee shops (and I mean coffee shops that sell coffee beans). I had seen some places online and had kept them in mind when on my little city break and I loved each and every one of the places we went too. Even my three euro pizza slice was INCREDIBLE!

Warning: This post may make you extremely hungry… Like I am now writing it!

Continue reading “Where did I eat and drink in Amsterdam?”