Monday, 31 August 2015

10 reasons to love Newcastle

Moving to Newcastle two years ago to study feels like it was just two minutes ago and I really don’t think I could have chosen a better city.

I have fallen completely in love with the place and for that reason, I thought it would be fun to put together my top 10 reasons why everybody should love Newcastle…

1. Food
Would this really be a post on Written by a Girl without food taking priority over everything? Newcastle has such a great variety of restaurants and cafes, which I'm really working hard at making my way through. I love not only the amount of places there are to eat, but also how many independent restaurants there are too. Newcastle is also home to not one but two cat cafes, what more could you want really?

2. Drink
Geordie Shore may have tainted it slightly but if you can put that to one side, Newcastle is pretty much the city to be if you like a drink or two. From nightclubs and pubs to fancy cocktail and gin bars, there is something for everyone of any age. Oh, and it's on the whole, very affordable too!

3. Quayside
One of, if not the most, famous view of Newcastle and isn't it just stunning. Not only does it look pretty but it's also a hub of activity, home to the BALTIC and the Sunday market, as well as the Quayside beach in the summer!

4. History
On a recent walk around the city with Iles Tours, I actually realised just how rich a history the city of Newcastle has. Did you know that Mosley Street was the first street to be lit by lightbulb in the UK? See, it's not all inane food talk on here...

5. Architecture
There aren't many cities in the UK who can beat Newcastle for the beauty of the buildings, especially in the city centre.

6. Metro
Transport in Newcastle is pretty great, and it is also home to the only underground system outside of London in England (the other in Glasgow, Scotland).

7. Location
On the direct train route from London to Edinburgh, a 20 minute drive from the coast and a 3 minute metro ride from the city centre to suburbs such as Jesmond, the accessibility of Newcastle is one of it's finest assets.

8. Shopping
With Eldon Square Shopping Centre in the inner city, the Metro Centre if you're feeling particularly brave and little individual boutiques here and there too, especially if you fancy a short walk to Jesmond or a trip to Gosforth. Whether it be Primarni or actual Armani, it's waiting for you in Newcastle.

9. Arts
It's not all cheap trebles around these parts, oh no, with Newcastle named as one of the best cultural cities in the UK! Culture and arts makes up a huge part of the city, with a number of galleries and exhibitions to feast your eyes on at all times of the year. It's also been named the 'hipster capital of the North East' by the Lonely Planet Guide!

10. Theatre
As mentioned previously, Newcastle has a lively arts scene with a total of 6 theatres, including the infamous Theatre Royal, home to the very best West End shows. Additionally, there is Northern Stage which is regarded as one of the top 11 producing theatres in the UK and historic landmark Mill Volvo Tyne Theatre - I mean really, you're just spoilt for choice...

So there we have it, 10 reasons to absolutely love Newcastle and believe me, there are so many more. For a small city, it is jam-packed with things to do, attractions to see and more importantly, places to eat. What's not to love?

What's your favourite thing about Newcastle?

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Friday, 28 August 2015

Disappointment with Monaco...

On a recent trip along the French Riviera, we had plans to visit a number of places, one of which was Monaco. Having seen and heard such amazing things, from the Grand Prix to the experience of gambling at one of the best casinos in the world, my friend and I were so excited to see it all for ourselves, to take in the glamour and the beauty of one of the richest places on the planet.

On arriving, we kind of took a wrong turn, and then another, and then what do you know, we got a little lost. After wandering around for a while though, we made it onto the harbour and…

…it was awful.

It felt cheap and it looked tacky and you know what, it made me feel actually quite sad that someone somewhere in Monaco thought that this was what tourists wanted. Cheap fairground rides and a few trampolines thrown in for good measure. I bet a huge, huge proportion of the people that go to visit Monaco would be happy to see a harbour filled with nothing but open space, space to stand or sit or do whatever you like, space to look out at the ocean, to marvel at the incredible yachts that are proudly stationed along the ocean front.

Are people really coming to Monaco to get their hook a duck fix? I really don’t think they are, so why is it there? I don’t understand.

After feeling a little underwhelmed at the sight of the harbour, we decided to make our way up to the infamous casino. Walking up the main street, with views of the ocean to the side of me, I was excited to see this grand attraction that I’d heard so much about. I’d been told that no matter what the cost of the drinks ‘sit in a nearby bar and marvel at the cars driving past and the people walking around’ because apparently it’s ‘a completely different world.’

Is it?

Admittedly, there were some pretty snazzy cars parked up as we turned the corner into the square(not a patch on what we saw in Cannes), but it was slightly bizarre to see people literally lying over the vehicles as someone took a photo of them. Amidst the selfie sticks and the cameras, the awe of other people’s wealth just didn’t quite sit right with me.

Some may say it’s merely because I’m jealous that I’m not stinking rich and let’s not lie to ourselves, would any of us really say no to a few million ££s being dropped into our bank account (answer:no), but I really wasn’t. The fancy cars and the drivers waiting out front, the strict dress code for the casino or the people clamouring to get a photo of the best looking car whilst almost getting run over in the process, it just did absolutely nothing for me.

Actually, I couldn’t help but feel completely and utterly disappointed. I know you should give places a second chance but I can’t see myself ever going back. I didn't even stick around for a drink, I mean seriously, that's saying something.

I’ve been lucky enough to go to some pretty amazing places so far in my life, and I’ve loved them all so I’m almost glad in fact, that I’ve had an experience of going somewhere people love to go too, and not liking it in the slightest. There’s a pressure now to travel and to love everywhere you go too but I’m glad that before I go travelling for a year next July, I’ve realised that you won’t love everywhere, and that’s okay.

There are places which some people will love and that very same place, people will just hate.

Monaco just wasn’t the place for me.

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Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Eating in London #5 | The Breakfast Club

Everyone and their mother has heard about The Breakfast Club, which are scattered around the city of London and if you haven't, oh you're going to want to keep on reading because holy moly, it's full of calorific goodness...

The Breakfast Club has become notorious in recent years for their fabulous breakfasts so on a recent trip to London, a visit to this place was high up on the agenda.

After a rather late one the night before, with perhaps one three too many glasses of wine consumed, it was a pretty ideal place to go and make ourselves feel a little more human.

Due to being such a popular breakfast destination, there aren't many times when there isn't a queue outside to get a table. Being English, we just love a good queue however if there is neither a roller coaster or food at the end of it, I'm not a happy bunny.

Thankfully for the company I was with, there was food at the end of this queue and in the word's of Marks and Spencer's, this wasn't just any food, this was deliciously calorific, coma inducing food.

I was not feeling my best, and the only thing that was going to make it any better was bacon, and lots of it. After deciding on the pancakes and bacon with maple syrup and practically begging for a coffee, it was only then that I looked up and took in my surroundings. There's very much an 80s vibe with mustard coloured walls, mismatched wooden furniture, a few quotes here and there and fairy lights along the coffee counter. The hustle and bustle of the place, the oohs and aahs of people as they take the first bite of their meal, along with the music playing in the background gives the cafe a really good atmosphere.

I told you I wasn't feeling my best... (my eye bags are Prada by the way)

With it being so busy, I was expecting to have quite a long wait for our meals to be served but to my surprise, the service was really great, with the food coming out within 10 minutes. The queue of 20 minutes and the short wait for it to be served, was so worth it though, as unlike many things, this place definitely lives up to the hype.

I absolutely inhaled my pancakes and bacon, y'know, because I'm such a lady, with the only thing wrong with it, the fact that it was so filling! Did someone say #firstworldproblems? I walked out of the place about 4 stone heavier but my tummy was very, very happy.

Despite the name, the cafe serves food at all times of the day, with their lunch menu looking like something I definitely need to get involved in. Buttermilk fried chicken? Oh yes, I definitely need to get involved.

So, The Breakfast Club, you're all well and good but, do you fancy coming up North anytime soon? Come on, you know you want too...

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Monday, 24 August 2015

Where to stay in Nice

If you follow me on any form of social media (you don’t? you know what to do…) or read either of my most recent posts (you haven’t? Oh you’re going to want too…), then you will know that I recently visited Nice in the South of France.

My friend and I decided to look on Airbnb to see if there were any good prices on apartments, especially as the idea of two girls, getting ready in one hotel room for 5 nights, could potentially end in a sea of clothes and inability to actually get into the room due to the absolute mess we would make.

For £20 more than what we were going to pay for a hotel we were looking at previously, we found a 2 bedroom apartment in the centre of Nice. With a kitchen, lounge, and balcony area, it was pretty much exactly what we were looking for. 

I absolutely lo.v.e.d the way the place had been decorated…

…although who knew a plug could ruin a picture so much.

Not that looking pretty isn’t very important, it was also in an absolutely perfect location, just a two minute walk from the train station and a 5 minute walk to the one of the main streets in the city. Tucked away in a quiet, residential street though, it felt safe whatever time of the day.

It wasn’t all perfect though, as something I would definitely say that was needed in the apartment was air con because lord above, it was hot. So hot in fact that most nights we both laid with frozen wet towels over ourselves. Yep, it got real glamorous.

Another thing that is probably just me being very lazy, is that there isn’t a lift in the building, and with the apartment on the third floor, it was at times, a struggle. But y’know, got to burn those wine calories somehow…

On the whole though, this apartment was pretty ideal for our 5 night stay in Nice, with bright, spacious rooms, great facilities (including free wifi) and the convenience of where it was situated, making day trips to places further afield, or walks to the beach or the old town of Nice, very easy.

If you are interested in finding out more about this apartment, take a further look here

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Saturday, 22 August 2015

Eating in the North East - Mascalzone

A few weeks ago, I told myself that I would not eat out until my holiday.

The day after I made this bold and brave decision, my friend asked me if I wanted to go this great little Italian restaurant just around the corner from her after work and, I said yes.

Such good self-control, I know.

Mascalzone is a small, family run restaurant in the heart of Sandyford and one which I had never heard about before. I don’t know about you but whenever I hear the words ‘family run’ associated with a restaurant, I have a feeling that the food is going to be rich, flavoursome and very, very good.

Mascalzone definitely lived up to this feeling.

It was one of the rare days of sunshine up in the North East, so taking full advantage we sat outside with a glass of wine and basked in the sun. Choosing what to eat from a menu can be difficult sometimes, especially in an Italian restaurant so whoever came up with the idea to allow customers to order a half pizza – half pasta meal is someone who I would get on with very well.

From not eating out for a fortnight, I suddenly found myself with a starter (which in my defence, was shared), a half pizza/pasta meal and a bottle of wine. What a crying shame…

Calamari can often be a little hit and miss, however it was definitely a massive hit here, and once flavoured with a hint of lemon and dipped into garlic mayonnaise, it had vanished within seconds.

Onto the main course, for our pasta dish we had Linguini Frutti di Mare, which was mixed seafood, cherry tomatoes, grated mullet eggs, garlic and chilli in a rich tomato sauce. The Pizza Contadina made up the second half of our plate, which included tomatoes, mozzarella, grilled courgettes, aubergines, peppers, mushrooms, black olives & red onions. It was so tasty, the only bad thing was that it was gone too quickly!

The atmosphere of the restaurant had a relaxing, friendly vibe but can we just take a moment to talk about the prices.  We're all told that money doesn't make you happy and although this may be true, when you can eat such great, fresh, locally produced food for such insanely cheap prices, I'm not going to lie to you, that makes me pretty bloody happy.

This half pizza - half pasta meal was £6.95. Yep, you read that right, you don't need to book an appointment at Specsavers just yet. £6.95.

I mean really, it's cheaper than cooking at home isn't it... Sort of.

Well, that's the way I justify it anyway!

P.S Mascalzone has recently been voted the No1 Italian restaurant in Newcastle soooo it really is your duty to go and try it out for yourself...

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Thursday, 20 August 2015

Where to Eat in Nice

Hi, I'm Charlotte and I currently have the post holiday blues.

A few days ago, I flew back from Nice in the South of France after a 5 day trip with my friend, Rosie.  I plan on writing a few different posts on the trip, including where we stayed, what we got up to in Nice, as well as our day trips to Monaco and Cannes. I knew that Nice would be lovely, but I never thought that I would love it as much as I did - I would recommend it to anyone of any age and would definitely go back again.

The first post of my Nice series is about where to eat in the city, because I have my priorities right, and food always comes first. Always.


This was my favourite place that we ate at of our whole trip. Oliviera is a small restaurant in the old town of Nice run by a lovely man and his wife, who use a huge variety of quality olive oil in their meals. Now, you may be thinking 'how good can that really make a meal?' but honestly, I have never tasted such fresh and flavoursome olive oil in my life.

All of the options on the menu are quite simple, with each dish then complimented with a handpicked olive oil as it served to you. Both myself and Rosie chose the vegetarian lasagne, which, after two oils were sprinkled over the top, was simply amazing.

It's not just the food though that makes this place so great, it's the whole dining experience. The restaurant only has two sittings - one at lunch (which we did) and one in the evening. This is due to the importance the owner places on his customers enjoying and relaxing their time at Le Oliviera and at no point does he want anyone to rush, or feel rushed. He is a lovely, lovely man and comes round each table to give an exact run down of the menu, including all the fresh and local ingredients the dishes are made with. 

We spent just under 3 hours at this restaurant and it was really, really great. The prices are very fair for the quality of the food you are getting, including so much bread and olive oil before and after your meal, you will definitely not wanting to be hitting the beach in your bikini afterwards. 

You will need to book this in advance though, as due to being very popular and only doing two sittings a day, the restaurants gets fully booked very easily. 

La Voglia

Nice can be pretty expensive, although I definitely think you could travel here on a budget if you wished to do so. After a rather luxurious and pricey first few days, finding this place along with the huge queue outside, was a blessing in disguise.

The portions at this restaurant were just insane - the photo doesn't do it justice in the slightest. We actually ended up eating here twice because it was just so so good, and the lasagne that Rosie got could easily have fed 3 people and that isn't an exaggeration. The quantity though, did not affect the quality and everywhere you turned, were incredible looking meals.

It was like stepping into food heaven.

There were constantly people queuing up to this restaurant even until as late at 10:30/11pm, which is a good sign in itself and although the service wasn't super speedy, it wasn't at all bad and hey, you're on holiday, who wants to be rushed through their meal and then leave? Not me.

For two very large meals, and two glasses of wine each, the bill came to €40 exactly, which is about £28.50 - you really cannot complain. Whether it be pizza, pasta, seafood or salads, it has a lot of choice so if you're searching for somewhere that won't hurt your bank balance, this is it.

Le Frog

On our first night, we were feeling very adventurous and decided to try both snails and frogs legs at a small but very well known restaurant in the old town, Le Frog. Neither of us knew what to expect but I was actually very pleasantly surprised! Frogs legs basically taste like very tender chicken and are delicious and the snails... Well, I would order them again but they are...interesting. As you scoop it out of the shell, it shoots out so quickly you can't help but think of seeing a live snail but if you can get over that, they are, albeit very chewy, served in a really tasty garlic sauce. When you're in France and all that...

Some of the other dishes on the menu looked amazing, in particular the monkfish, but after gorging out on snacks in the day, neither of us could even think about ordering a main course. If you're looking for a traditional French experience, definitely try here.

Cafe de Turin

Cafe de Turin is a famous, premium seafood restaurant which has been open since 1908. It's so well known in Nice and if you're looking to eat or try the very best, fresh seafood this is your place. We had a slight disaster with what we ordered, however this is no fault of the restaurant at all. Carrying on from our adventurous first night trying snails and frogs legs, we decided to go all out and get a platter which included oysters, mussels, crab and prawns.

This was our first time trying oysters, as well as raw mussels and I'm pretty sure that it will be the only time but honestly, if you adore seafood and are willing to splash the cash, you should try here. If you, like myself and Rosie, love seafood but wouldn't want to go quite as far as we did with what we ordered, get the mussels and fries dish - a woman on the next table to us got it and it smelled and looked incredible.

Added info 
- I must have bumped my head and simply forgotten as I didn't try even once but if you, like me, love ice cream/gelato/anything cold and filled with sugar, go to Fenocchios - it's one of the best places for it in Nice.

- If you're best friends with wine but not the money it costs, get yourself straight to a local food shop/supermarket - there will be shelves filled with €3/4 wine and the quality is amazing - you won't find any Blossom Hill rose, no sirree, just the very best. We took advantage of this far, far too much but really, it's France's fault, not ours.

Writing this post has made me very hungry and made me want to go back to Nice very quickly.

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Monday, 17 August 2015

Eating in the North East | Jesmond Dene House

Recently, my dad and step mum came up to Newcastle to visit for the weekend and with all 3 of us sharing a rather large love of good food, I decided to take them to one of the nicest places in Newcastle, Jesmond Dene House.

After a walk through Jesmond Dene on a lovely relaxing Saturday morning, we were all ready for a very large drink. We had actually walked for much longer than we previously thought so what a crying shame that we just had to order some food…

After being seated in the outdoor garden area, we were actually waiting for a fairly long time to even be served drinks and to be honest, it wasn’t really very busy. However, once the waiter did come to our table, he apologised profusely and for the rest of our time there, the service from all of the staff was faultless.

Having possibly consumed one too many glasses of wine the night before, a salad just wasn’t going to cut it. I needed some carbs and I needed them quickly. Whilst my step mum ordered the most beautiful salad, I decided on the ‘Northern Sea battered cod in a tartar sauce on sourdough bread and fries’ so in other words…a battered fish sandwich and chips.

This could possibly be the least ‘me’ meal I have ever ordered but there are times in your life when eating healthily just isn’t on the cards, and this was one of those times.

Little did I know, my carb dreams would come true quicker than I thought, as a wooden box filled parcels of joy and happiness arrived – bread! Yay! In the words of M&S, this was not just any bread, this was warm mozzarella and tomato bread (and brown and white, but doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it).

Now of course, the food at Jesmond Dene House is known as being of the best quality, so when my food arrived, I wasn’t surprised at just how good the taste and flavour of the fish was – it really was lovely.

After possibly ordering one too many bowls of chips, it’s safe to say there was no room for dessert – we were all suitably stuffed. Lucky enough to catch one of the rare days of nice weather in the North East, we sat back and relaxed, taking in the beautiful surroundings.

Set in such an idyllic place, it’s hard to believe you’re just a 5 minute car ride from the city centre – we really are very lucky in Newcastle to be so close to places of such peace and tranquility, as well as the vibrancy and energy of the city centre.

If you’re looking to treat yourself, or wanting somewhere fancy to celebrate an upcoming birthday or event, Jesmond Dene House is definitely a great option.

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Friday, 14 August 2015

Updated What To Take To University Checklist

The time has come.

That moment that you've been working towards for the last two years, it's here.

You're heading to university!!!

The few weeks you have between finding out your A level results and moving to university is pretty damn hectic, and amongst many other things, the stress of what to actually take with you, can be pretty daunting.

I thought it would be useful to put together a list of things that you may want to think about taking with you, whether it be for your bedroom, bathroom or kitchen.

Oh and also, congratu-bloody-lations you clever thing you. All that hard work, it paid off.
Bathroom -

I had an en-suite which I absolutely loved, and I definitely think it's worth paying slightly more for if you get the chance to choose...

- Towels - minimum of 2 and I wouldn't recommend white..
- Bath mat
- Toilet brush
- Toothbrush holder
- Soap dispenser
- Little bin
- Cleaning products - wipes(just useful to have), anti bacterial wipes, bleach, air freshener
- Toilet roll

Kitchen -

Be prepared for cutlery to go missing, and washing up to be the bane of your life..

- Plates
- Cutlery - preferably with a pattern/colour so you know which are yours..
- Frying pan
- Sauce pan
- Wok
- Cheese grater
- Wooden spoons
- Spatulas
- Scissors
- Bottle opener
- Tin opener
- Sieve
- Oven proof dish - pasta bakes are great for making bulk meals and popping in the freezer, perfect way to save money!
- Chopping board
- Mugs - I bought way, way way too many...
- Knife block
- Toastie maker
- Kettle/toaster - but check with your flatmates first, if you stalk find them on Facebook beforehand..

Bedroom -

Your room is probably going to be on the basic side, and to be honest, there isn't always  huge amount to work with but there are a few ways to personalise it and make it your own...

 - Duvet/bed sheets/duvet covers(minimum of 2)
- Pillows/covers
- Mattress topper - without one, my bed was basically like sleeping on a piece of wood..
- Rug
- 1 lamp for bedside table and I also had a desk lamp too - not essential but I hated my main light as it made me feel like I was in a hospital room...
- Cushions
- Blankets
- Laundry basket
- Alarm clock
- Fairy lights
- Shoe rack
- Hook rack to hang coats etc
- Cute little home decor bits to spruce it up a little and make it feel like home
- Photographs - I had photographs everywhere, - they break up the bland walls and help remind you of home when you're feeling a little down
- Storage drawers - I had a plastic 3 drawer set at the bottom of my wardrobe for pjs, socks, underwear etc because clothes space is somewhat limited!
- Door stop
- Printer
- Plug extension cable
- Curtains(not completely necessary but the ones that are already there will probably be hideous..)

 Miscellaneous - 
- Blu-tack
- Batteries
- Plastic wallets
- Folders
- Pens/pencils/highlighters
- Drawing pins
- Posters
- Stapler
- Hole punch
- USB stick

Things that I could've lived without -
- Mini kettle
- Mini fridge in room
- Printer - useful and glad I have it but moving to university is already expensive enough and this wasn't completely necessary
- Storage - my advice would be, don't buy storage until you see and move in to your room. You can then see what you actually need and won't waste money on things you don't need.

Hope you found this helpful!

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Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Eating in London #4 | The Refinery, London

On a recent trip to London, my sister and I decided two things:

1) We would walk everywhere to counteract the amount of food we were going to eat
2) We would eat our way around London

I am proud to say, that we kept to our word - we did not use one form of public transport, and we did eat our way round the capital.

After a long, long, long walk from Soho to Borough Market with suitcases in tow, we were about as a ready for a drink as a man lost in the desert.

With tired feet and an aching arm from a suitcase in which I wore precisely 1% of the things I had packed, we both pretty much collapsed into The Refinery, Bankside.

After ordering a glass of Pimms each, along with a Mediterranean pitta bread platter and sweet potato fries, we began to feel like normal functioning human beings again. What I did love about the menu was that it focuses on organic and local ingredients which usually means good quality, flavoursome foods.

Can we just take a moment to appreciate how cute this flower pot full of fries is?

Despite it being a Monday afternoon, I was pretty surprised at how quiet the place was although with the amount of staff there was, I'm guessing it gets pretty lively when y'know, people have finished earning a living for the day.

The decor is really lovely, with formal and informal spaces making it a great place to catch up with friends but also to organise parties with family and dinner with work.

I always think that you can tell how nice a place is by the style of the bathrooms (Is that just me? Am I weird?) and The Refinery's were pretty impressive.

The green tiled walls were somewhat striking,  and witth a gorgeous seating area to reapply your lippy as well as cocktail recipes printed onto the black framed mirrors, it felt very luxurious.

Are we all in agreement that this quote is something we should all live by? I hope so...

A relaxed bar and restaurant which was an ideal place for us to chill and chat over a few nibbles and a couple of drinks before heading to the station to catch our train home - would definitely recommend it if you are heading to South Bank any time soon...

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