Blogging, Lifestyle, My Life

4 Years of Blogging

November 11, 2017

Happy 4th blog birthday to me! 

I can’t believe it was four years ago that I sat at home and decided to start this blog. I’d attempted to write a blog before, it was just after graduating and I thought I’d talk about what it was like to look for a job after uni when you didn’t really know what you wanted to do. I soon decided that going travelling was much more exciting than working and once me and Stu had booked our trip, I decided to write my very first blog post.

If you’ve been reading this blog since 2013 then you’d know that is used to be called ‘Frankie goes to…’ and each blog post was called the name of the place we were visiting at the time. This was because that my blog was just a way of writing about our travels and letting everyone at home know what we were up to. I had no idea how big the blogging community was and that blogging could even be a full time job. 

It was towards the end of 2014 that I discovered Bloglovin’ and a ton of blogs that I still love to read today. It was not long after this that Stu and I came home and suddenly I didn’t know what to write about any more. How does a travel blogger keep blogging when they’re not travelling? This was a question that I struggled with for a long time. I wanted to write more but I felt like I couldn’t write about something not travel related on my blog. Eventually I decided to not worry about fitting in a blogging niche and just write about anything I wanted. 

Writing about anything I wanted soon meant that I wasn’t happy with the ‘Frankie goes to…’ brand and I decided to change my blog name to my name instead. I was writing about all aspects of my life so I wanted my blog name to reflect that.

Blogging has created so many wonderful opportunities for me and I’m incredibly proud of my little corner of my internet. I may not have the best photography and I may go weeks and weeks without a single blog post but as long as blogging continues to bring me joy, I’ll still be here. 

Happy Birthday francescaandrews.com

Travel

Regrets from my travels. 

September 24, 2017

This is a bit of a weird post for me to write because I’m a big believer in not having regrets and that everything happens for a reason. However, I honestly believe I was quite naive to the tourist industry and I ended up taking part in, and therefore funding, activities that I now know are wrong on so many levels.

Should I have done more research before going to these places? Yes.

Would I go again? No.

It was wrong of me to do these things but unfortunately I don’t live in the world of Harry Potter and time-turners aren’t a real thing. (Obviously they were all destroyed when Harry and his pals were at the Ministry anyway…). There’s no point in wallowing in self pity so the only thing I can do is help spread the message that it’s not cool to take part in these activities no matter how good the picture will look on your Instagram grid.

So what activities am I talking about?

Specifically I’m on about my time in Thailand. I’m sure you’ve all seen the pictures of people next to tigers and riding elephants. I can still see the attraction. These are amazing animals that we wouldn’t normally get to be so close to. And that’s kind of the point. It’s not normal for an elephant to carry us around. It’s not normal for us to sit next to a fully grown tiger. It’s not normal for animals who are natural predators to be in the such close proximity to us.

It seems obvious now but at the time I was surrounded by other travellers who were all going to visit the tigers and ride an elephant. It was just the thing to do when you were in Thailand. It seemed normal for us to lay down next to a tiger. Normal. That now seems crazy.

I remember reading all the signs at the tiger place about how the tigers weren’t drugged and were trained to be around humans. I thought at the time that it seemed too good to be true and it’s only since I’ve been home and read more about it that I’ve discovered the dark side to Thailand’s tourism industry. The treatment of elephants is particularly horrific, even in places calling themselves an ‘Elephant Sanctuary’. It’s hard to know if any place is truly helping to rescue the animals from the tourist hot spots because we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. I think it’s best not to fund any place that lets tourists near the animals for this reason.

If you’re heading to Thailand soon or any other country that exploits the welfare of animals for the tourism industry, then do your research before parting with your money. Is it really worth a few likes on a picture?

Lifestyle, Lists, My Life

30 before 30

September 10, 2017

Two weeks ago I turned 26 and I’ve started thinking about what I would like to achieve and do before I’m 30. I’ve spoken before about the importance of setting goals but not putting pressure on yourself so I’m hoping giving myself 4 years will be plenty of time. And if I don’t tick everything off the list then I’m sure I’ll allow myself an extension…

1. Gain a qualification.

This is a bit sneaky as I’m actually starting my Post Graduate Certificate in Business and Personal Coaching this month, but starting is no guarantee of completion! I’ve got 3 years to complete the course so hopefully I’ll be a qualified coach before I’m 30.

2. Run another marathon.

I’ve entered the ballot for the London Marathon again so fingers crossed! If I don’t get in, I’ll look for another race. Potentially one abroad!

3. Visit New Zealand.

New Zealand is the country that got away for me and Stu. We always tell ourselves that we’ll visit one day and I think we need to make it happen.

4. Go skiing again.

As we’re on the subject of travel I should mention this one as well. I went skiing with school years ago and I’d love to try it again.

5. Have a paid coaching client.

At first, I’ll be using my coaching qualification at work but I’d like to explore either consulting to a business or having individual clients. Watch this space!

6.  Volunteer.

I’d like to help out at a charity event or volunteer for a charity in another way.

7. Learn how to do a French plait.

Confession time! I’m awful with my hair and I’d love to be able to do all the pretty braid styles that I see on Pinterest. Time to watch countless YouTube tutorials…

8. Go to an outdoor cinema screening. 

These look so much fun and is one of those things I never get around to booking. Definitely one for the summer though.

9. Get a new kitchen.

Or at least give it a freshen up. New kitchens are expensive but I reeeeeeeally want one!

10. Appear on TV.

Okay, this one is completely random but I’d love to be on a game show. I applied for The Vault a few years ago and got an audition but that’s as close as I’ve got. I’ve just got to keep trying!

11. Treat myself more. 

I’ve always been good at saving and I actually struggle to spend money. Any excuse to take something out of my basket and it’s gone. I’d like to get better at buying things for myself.

12. Visit Italy.

Everything about this country looks gorgeous and it’s really not that far from the UK.

13. Start my family tree.

I love History and this would be a great project to discover more about my family.

14. Complete a triathlon.

I always like to push myself to new challenges and a triathlon would be perfect.

15.  Bake more.

I love baking and definitely don’t do it enough. I’d like to challenge myself more and I’m feeling inspired by the last couple of episodes of Bake Off.

16.  Start Yoga.

I’ve had a little taster of yoga and I’d like to give it a go properly.

17. Upcycle some furniture. 

I like the idea of giving some furniture a new lease of life instead of it going to the bin. I usually start browsing the John Lewis website for new furniture so I think it would be fun to hunt around charity shops and Gumtree instead.

18. Change my hair.

I’ve had the same hairstyle for years and I’m desperate to do something different. Shorter? New colour?

19. Display pictures from our travels.

I’ve started the mammoth task of printing all the photos from our travels but we need to start framing some or making them into a canvas.

20. Try another festival. 

I’ve only ever been to Glastonbury so not sure if other music festivals will live up to my expectations. Maybe a food festival instead?

21. Visit New York. 

Pretty much all of this list is travel related but what’s life without travel? The Big Apple has been on my bucket list for a long time so my 30th would be a perfect excuse to get it ticked off.

22. Blog more. 

I need to make more time for my blog and increase the amount of posts I publish. Even one post a week seems too much to ask at the moment.

23. Add more recipes to our repertoire. 

You know everyone has a handful of go-to meals that they can easily make in the week? I’d like to mix them up a bit more.

24. Host Christmas Day at our house.

This one scares me but I’d like to be the host for Christmas Day. It definitely won’t be this year so that leaves me with three more years to prepare myself (and Stu).

25. Start a podcast. 

I like to listen to them and I’m tempted to start my own…

26. Race more.

I run quite a lot at my local running club but I don’t enter many races. I feel more motivated to run when I have a race in the diary so I’d like to do 4 a year from now on.

27. Visit the Warner Bros studios again.

I visited the Harry Potter studio tour a few years ago and I’m desperate to visit again. There’s so much more to see there now.

28. Read 30 new books.

I tend to read my favourite books over and over again (Harry Potter – I’m looking at you) so I want to challenge myself to read something different and hopefully discover some new authors in the process.

29. Say yes more. 

It’s too easy to get into a routine in life. I’d like to say yes to more opportunities and to not be afraid to step outside of my comfort zone.

30. Be happy.

I’m very happy in my life now and I hope that I still feel the same in 4 years time.

Food, Lifestyle

Restaurant Review – The Ivy Clifton Brasserie, Bristol

August 17, 2017

Situated on the corner of Caledonia Place in Clifton, The Ivy is a beautiful restaurant that’s been open for around a year round. Stu and I finally got round to going a couple of months ago and now I’ve finally got round to writing my review. We’d both heard good things about The Ivy but I still went in with an open mind because there’s nothing worse than somewhere not meeting your expectations and letting it ruin your night.

Spoiler alert: There was *nothing* to be disappointed about.

We were booked in for a Saturday night so expected it to be busy. It was, but in a good way. We were sat in the main seating area which will leave you wishing you lived somewhere with high ceilings and huge chandeliers. Being busy, there was a constant buzz about the place which always creates a good atmosphere in a restaurant. I hate places where you feel everyone is listening to your conversation and you have to whisper. It wasn’t so loud that we had to shout across the table at each other either so win-win.


Now, The Ivy is more expensive than your standard chain restaurant but this was a treat night for us so we decided to not worry about the price and just pick what we wanted. For me, this obviously meant starting with a cocktail! I had the Lavender Lady which was a pretty, gin based drink. 

Now, the food. Our server was really attentive and explained all the specials to us and made some recommendations which is always a good sign. I like it when someone clearly knows the menu rather than just reading off the whiteboard behind them.


I started with the Tuna Carpaccio and Stu had the Crispy Duck Salad. Both came out presented beautifully and the flavours lived up to expectation. My tuna was so fresh and the miso mayonnaise it came with was phenomenal. I do love miso though. Stu’s dish was just as good (obviously I tried some) and the crispy duck contrasted wonderfully with the watermelon.


I was really torn with what to choose for a main. There was lots of choice on the menu and it took me a while to decide. Quite often, one dish will jump out at me but so many options sounded great. I eventually went for the Aromatic Duck Curry because I was intrigued as to how duck would work in a curry. The menu described it as ‘fragrant’ and that sums it up perfectly. It smelt wonderful and all the flavours really complemented each other. Any curry that uses lemongrass will always be a winner with me. The curry was served separately to the rice and although the rice looked good wrapped up in a banana leaf, it made eating it slightly difficult. I didn’t know whether to dip my forkful of rice in to the curry or to add all the rice to bowl of curry in one go… Neither seemed ideal!


Stu had the Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder which came with creamed potato and vegetables. The lamb looked immense with a mustard and herb crust and Stu definitely enjoyed it. I didn’t try any unfortunately but we can trust his opinion!

We were both feeling pretty full by this point but there is always room for pudding. I could only manage something small and went for the Mini Chocolate Truffles. These came filled with salted caramel and were a perfect sweet treat to end the meal with. Stu had the Lemon Meringue Alaska. This was a baked meringue with lemon ice cream and was served on a lemon curd sauce. All sorts of deliciousness!



With a tip, our meal came to just over £100 which is more than what we’d usually spend but for a three course meal and drinks it was worth it. Sometimes it’s nice to really make an occasion of eating out and The Ivy in Clifton is perfect for those times. It’s so easy to grab a Nandos that it can be easily forgotten that eating out should be an event. So get dressed up and head to The Ivy, no excuses needed.

Belgium, Europe, Travel

24 (ish) Hours in Bruges

August 9, 2017

Before we went to Amsterdam the other week, we stayed in Bruges for 1 night so had a bit of time to explore the city and some of the surrounding area. This was very much a stopover on our way to our main destination so there is plenty more to see and see in Bruges but it was a good little introduction to this beautiful place.

This wasn’t my first trip to Belgium but I was quite young the first time and my overriding memory of my visit is getting horrifically seasick on the ferry over. So not the best memory to associate with Belgium. We did the ferry this time as well but I was armed with travel sickness tablets and felt absolutely fine. Phew! The weatherman had promised us a bit of sunshine so we decided to drive to a beach in Belgium on the way to Bruges.


The beach was in Niewpoort and we were all pleasantly surprised. With no idea what to expect, Niewport beach turned out to be a really pretty beach surrounded by sand dunes. Being able to feel the sand between my toes always makes me happy and this time was no different. One day I’d love to live close enough to the beach to be able to do this more often. Anyway, we found a sheltered area between the dunes and spread our towels out so we could have a sit down and look out to sea. Our friends who we were travelling with, Nath and Tash, are getting married later this month so there was plenty of wedding talk whilst we relaxed. The sun soon made its promised appearance and we decided to walk down to the shore. Nath decided to have a proper dip in the sea but the rest of us settled for rolling up our jeans and going in about ankle deep. The sea air soon made us thirsty and we walked a bit further along the beach and came across this cute little bar behind some sand dunes. We bagsied the swinging bed and made ourselves comfy with a pint. Stu and Tash went for a local 8% beer which actually turned out to be the weakest beer we’d try in Belgium. We love Belgium.


After our pint and swing session we got back in the car and drove to our accommodation in Bruges. We were staying within the city walls in the old town so were surrounded by picturesque bridges and buildings.


So, what is there to do in Bruges? I had done zero research but Tash was super organised and had lots of ideas of what we could see and do. When I think of Belgium I think of beer and chocolate but Bruges has a lot more to offer. We decided to head out and aim for some of the main sights and then just see how the day goes.


Our first stop was The Basilica of the Holy Blood which is a chapel which is home to a phial which apparently contains some of Jesus’ blood. Unfortunately it wasn’t on display when we were there but we’ve seen where it is kept which is practically the same thing right? The chapel itself was really impressive with huge stained glass windows and intricate displays. I love visiting religious buildings as you usually have to be silent and it’s nice to be able to take in your surroundings peacefully.


From the chapel we walked to the historic centre of Bruges which is surrounded by impressive buildings in the traditional architecture.  A lot of these buildings including the bell tower are in the film, In Bruges, which I haven’t seen but feel like I should now. We had a little mooch around a chocolate shop near here but didn’t buy anything. We must be one of the only people to visit Belgium and not try and chocolate. Next time!


However, what we lacked in chocolate, we definitely made up for in beer. The 8% beer on the beach was followed up by an 11% one called Garre Tripel served in a tiny pub called De Garre which is nestled down a tiny alley way off the main square. This beer is only available here and is well worth the visit. It may be strong but as a non-beer drinker, I can promise you that it’s nice. It came served with some cubes of local cheese and we ordered some chopped cured sausage as well. Perfection!


We wandered around the canals for the rest of the afternoon/evening, popping in to local pubs and sampling more Belgium beer. I never drink beer and surprised myself how much I enjoyed it. I quickly learnt that a strong blonde beer would be fine for me so I’ll have to keep an eye out for these in future. In one of these pubs we stopped for some food. The waitress recommended some simple Italian dishes which turned out to be huge portions covered in cheese. My mouth is watering just thinking of them again. Before long, we headed back to our accommodation feeling very content with our time in Bruges.

I think I now need to go and watch ‘In Bruges’ and get planning a longer trip to this great city.

Have you been to Bruges? What else would you recommend to see or do?

Europe, The Netherlands, Travel

The Restaurant in Amsterdam that you NEED to know about.

August 7, 2017

When you visit a new city it’s sometimes hard to know where to eat. Especially in a place like Amsterdam where all the streets look the same and it’s difficult to tell one pub from another. If you’re after somewhere a bit different outside of the main city then read on.

Introducing Plekk.


Plekk is a short ferry ride from Central Station in North Amsterdam. The ferry is free and only takes about 15 minutes. When you get across the water don’t be put off by your surroundings. It may seem a bit deserted but you’re only a 5 minute walk away from Plekk. You can’t miss it either as it’s built from colourful shipping containers.


So what’s so special about Plekk? Well, it’s right on the beach for one. You can sit inside but the best seats are the long benches outside. Expect to share with other people but this just adds to the friendly atmosphere of the place. Sit down and look across the water at Amsterdam. We went on our last night in Amsterdam so it was great to look at where we had spent a great few days with friends.


Food wise, everything looked good but we went for some tapas options. We pretty much went for one of everything from the menu and shared 7 dishes between four of us. It’s always difficult to know how much tapas to order but our waitress thought 7 would be enough and it was perfect for us.


Every dish looked and tasted amazing. We had olives, flat breads, chorizo, a cheese platter, padron peppers, boar croquettes and roasted mushrooms. The chorizo was all of our favourites and we managed to leave a piece each to finish with. Because your last mouthful has to be the best, right?


After eating, we took our drinks on to the beach and sat on one of the many huge cushions. The sun was just starting to set so it made for a great view. There was also a silent disco going on and they are always fun to watch. It was great just to chill out and enjoy a drink at the end of our holiday.


We decided to head back to central Amsterdam for some more drinks and managed to catch the ferry back during a fantastic sunset. I hadn’t heard of Plekk before but I’ll definitely be recommending it now to everyone visiting this beautiful city.

 

Lifestyle

An Afternoon of Polo and Pimms at The Celtic Manor Resort

August 5, 2017

Anyone for Polo?

There’s three words that I didn’t think I’d ever start a blog post with but I have been to my first ever polo match!

The Celtic Manor in South Wales hold this event annually and I went with a group of friends this year. I had no idea what to expect and didn’t even know what to wear. In the end, I figured  that I’d dress as if I was going to the races because Polo has horses too. Sounds reasonable right?



We arrived on a sunny June afternoon and it was BAKING. We were so lucky. I got a horrific tan line from my dress but the day would have been terrible in bad weather. I’m sure the Celtic Manor have a contingency plan but I can’t imagine many people turning up. The good weather meant that we could chill on picnic blankets surrounded by jugs of Pimms. Life was pretty good. I even got a cheeky picture with Lydia and her Mum from Towie!


As this was my first Polo match, I knew barely anything about the game. A couple of friends knew the rules so I kind of understood what was going on but I just didn’t find it that exciting. Maybe it was just because I didn’t care who won. The best part was definitely half time when everyone descended on to the pitch for the divot stomp. This is where everyone walks around the field pressing the divots flat to improve the pitch. More sports should definitely get the crowds involved in this way.



More Pimms and food followed the match and time seemed to fly by. A local band then started playing to a tipsy crowd so there was plenty of dodgy dancing on display. Not from me obviously, I’m great…

I definitely enjoyed the Pimms more than the polo so I don’t think I’m going to be saying ‘yar’ instead of yes anytime soon. It’s a great day out though and something different to do with friends.

Have you ever been to a Polo match? What did you think?

Europe, Travel, UK

Bristol Zoo Twilights

July 16, 2017

The zoo is a great day out in Bristol but like all things these days can be ridiculously expensive, especially if you’re taking the whole family. Luckily Bristol Zoo open the doors on certain Friday evenings throughout the Summer and for just £5 each, you get to visit all your favourite enclosures, enjoy some live music and visit the newly refurbished restaurant, The Hide.


When I visited a couple of weeks ago with a group of other Bristol bloggers, it was my first visit to Bristol Zoo in years. We were lucky enough to have a quick private tour of the Zoo before the doors were opened to the public. If I’m being honest, I’m not 100% sure if I like zoos. The conservation work that they do is great and goes someway to make up for the slightly sketchy history that many zoos have, but I still find it a bit uncomfortable to see birds restricted to netted areas and to stare at a gorilla behind a pane of glass when they’re so similar to us. Bristol Zoo are doing the best they can and it’s clear that the staff are really passionate about their areas and want the best for all the animals.


That aside, the seals seemed to be having a whale of a time (see what I did there?) and I did let out a little squeal when I saw the red panda. I swear it’s the first time I’ve seen a red panda awake. They’re definitely my spirit animal!


Bristol Zoo is currently home to the Dinomania exhibition. As you walk around the Zoo, you’ll spot these huge interactive dinosaurs nestled between the animal enclosures. They look so impressive and the kids in our group loved them. Watch out for the one that sprays water though…


After our tour, we got to visit the Zoo’s restaurant, The Hide. If you’ve visited Bristol Zoo before, you probably remember a large canteen area with no personality which sold expensive junk food. It’s been completely refurbished and is now beautiful inside. Modern interiors are paired with an updated menu. It’s still a bit pricey but is actually worth the money now. We got to try a few of the sharing boards which included pizza, sausages, tortilla chips and bread and dips. We all agreed that the food was really good and would visit just for lunch if we could.




The next Friday Twilights session is on the 4th August and I might be going again with some work pals. Don’t miss out on visiting the Zoo for just £5!

I was given a complimentary ticket to the zoo but all views are my own!

Food, Lifestyle

Restaurant Review – Backwell House, Bristol

June 29, 2017

Just a few miles from the busy city centre of Bristol sits the beautiful Backwell House and I was lucky enough to visit and try out their new menu on a stunning weekday evening a couple of weeks ago.

It’s hard to put in to words just how picturesque Backwell House and surrounding grounds are but if you take a look at the pictures below, you’ll get a pretty good idea.



We were greeted with drinks by the entrance before being given a tour of the House and gardens by Guy, the Managing Director of the Hotel and Restaurant. I would usually summarise the tour in the same post as the restaurant review but that wouldn’t do this place justice so I’m going to write another post at a later date to showcase all the quirky details and the wonderful gardens.


After the tour, we were seated in this huge dining room reserved just for the Bristol bloggers group and we each had a goody bag filled with gifts from Backwell House and local suppliers which was a lovely touch. Before long our Starters were being brought out and I’m the worst for getting food envy so even though my dish looked great, I also wanted to try everyone else’s as well! I started with the Pressed Backwell Pork with New Season Peas, Pancetta and a Tarragon Emulsion (this sounds better if you read it in your best Masterchef voice). The crackling was a bit awkward to eat politely so not a great option for a first date. I ended up picking mine up and just going for the chomp! The rest of the dish was really tasty and set the tone for the rest of the meal.


Next up was the Cornish Cod with a Brixham Crab Bonbon, Crab Bisque, Kohlrabi and Pak Choi. I’m not usually one to pick fish but I thought I’d give it a go and definitely wasn’t disappointed. The whole dish tasted really fresh and no flavours were too overpowering. I was sat next to Rebecca who had the sirloin steak which looked immense so I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures.



Now for dessert I had to choose the strawberry cannelloni just because I was so intrigued. I had no idea what to expect but it was a nice refreshing end to the meal. The cannelloni was served with cute little meringues and some Cheddar Valley strawberries.


The atmosphere of the evening was great, everyone was chatting between courses and hearing stories of Backwell House from the staff. The chef, Ross Hunter, came out to see us afterwards for a little Q&A session and he was so modest! I told him to get on Masterchef: The Professionals! It was good to hear that all the food was sourced locally, including some from the very gardens of the house.

Our hosts for the evening, Guy and Felicity, were ridiculously accommodating and couldn’t do enough to make sure everyone was having a good time. I’ve been to a few blogger evenings now and this was one of the best. You can tell how much Guy loves Backwell House or ‘his baby’ as he calls it and I’m sure every visitor will leave just as happy as I did. Just go!


I received a complimentary meal at Backwell House but all views are my own. 

Lifestyle, My Life

Why Do We Always Ask Ourselves ‘What Next?’

May 22, 2017

Do you ever feel like your life has to follow a certain path just because that’s the way other people think it should be done? I’m talking education, get a good job, meet someone, buy a house, get engaged, get married, have a baby, have another one, keep pushing for that next promotion, retire, grandkids…. Then what?

Life goes quickly enough as it is and I’m sure we could all do without the pressure that we and others put on ourselves to be constantly moving towards the next milestone. So why do we do it?

I know I’m guilty of asking friends and colleagues when they think they’re get engaged, move out etc but I hate it when people ask me. ALL OF THE PRESSURE.

I’m trying to make a conscious effort not to ask these sort of questions because I’ve realised that it really doesn’t matter.

So what if you never get married? So what if you never have any kids or pop out a whole football team’s worth? So what if you rent all your life? IT’S YOUR LIFE.

Forget about what society thinks, people will judge you no matter what you do so you might as well enjoy your life.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s good to have goals but your life doesn’t have to follow a particular order. How boring would it be if everyone did the same thing?

There’s no need to compare or feel judged. Just do you and enjoy it.