Fuerteventura Gift Box Giveaway!

As you all know I recently visited Fuerteventura, my favourite place ever and hopefully my future home. To celebrate reaching 2000 followers on Twitter I decided to do a giveaway, and what better theme for the prizes than this beautiful island…

Gift box for Fuerteventura Giveaway
The full gift box, complete with loads of prizes!

Details of entry are below, but before you do so check out the great selection of gifts you could win, all flown back from the Canaries!

The Prizes

Skin Products

Skin care from Fuerteventura giveaway - aloe vera body lotion and soap

The Canary Islands are famous for their aloe vera – one of the only plants that can thrive in such harsh, arid conditions. Fuerteventura is dotted with aloe vera farms, with the plants being used to make a wonderful selection of skincare that’s been proven to moisturise skin effectively and provide relief from sunburn and other issues. I’m never without aloe vera skincare so decided to include two of my favourites in the giveaway – face and body lotion, which I use everyday when I’m out in the sun, and a bar of aloe vera soap.

Home Decor

Home decor from Fuerteventura giveaway - hanging lizard decor, lizard cup, and magnet

If I could I’d buy all my home decor from Fuerteventura – there’s so many artisan shops out there with beautiful handmade gifts! Lizards are very popular on the island and you’ll see them running around all over the place, so they’re a common image when it comes to decor and many people have them on the walls of their houses or adorning their jewellery and accessories. I chose a cute cup/container plus a lovely hanging decoration for the lizard theme, and of course the Fuerteventura magnet (which you have to have when it’s a gift from abroad!).

Food Items

Food items from Fuerteventura giveaway - mojo sauce

Another thing the Canary Islands is famous for is Mojo sauce. There are two main types – a slightly spicy red pepper variety known as Picón, and Green which contains coriander or parsley. They make beautiful dipping sauces and work well with bread or my favourite, Canarian potatoes. I’m including a recipe for these as well as it’s the ultimate Canarian starter!

jewellery

Jewellery from Fuerteventura giveaway - four bracelets and anklets

If you snooped through my jewellery box then you’d notice that most of it has a beachy feel to it, which is typical of the jewellery you can buy in Fuerteventura. Bright colours are appreciated, and many bracelets, anklets, and necklaces use material and string rather than metal. I love how durable the jewellery is over there and the traveller/beachy vibe it gives off, so I’ve also included four bracelets/anklets as one of the prizes.

candles

Candles from Fuerteventura giveaway with candle holder

And finally, we have another lizard-themed product – a handmade candle holder, complete with a set of rose candles.I’m a big candle fan myself so when I saw this holder I just had to buy it! There are several wonderful shops with these sorts of products but I found this particular one in El Campinario in Corralejo, and the shop also featured many beautiful crystals and ornaments. I’ll admit I’m envious of the winner for getting this!

how to enter

All you need to do to enter is use the following Rafflecopter link – it’s that easy! The giveaway lasts for two weeks so make sure to get your entries in quick, and don’t forget to share with your friends! Good luck!

Click here to enter the giveaway!

Fuerteventura giveaway pinterest image
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Sunshine Blogger Award

I’ve received my third blogger award which is amazing! I was nominated by three wonderful bloggers – Little Tinkablee, LoveMeTreatMe, and Nyxie’s Nook, and I strongly recommend you check all of them out as they write brilliant posts and have been so supporting throughout my blogging journey. This is a great concept for an award and I love how individualised it is. I’ve got to say though – I’m thankful for three nominations but Jesus H. Christ did you guys give me a lot of work when I was writing this up!

Sunshine Blogger Award title image

The Rules

The rules of the Sunshine Blogger Award are simple:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and don’t forget to link back to their site
  • Answer the 11 questions asked by your nominators
  • Nominate at least 11 more bloggers for the award
  • Write 11 new, creative questions for your nominees to answer
  • Notify your nominees via social media or by commenting on their blog
  • Lastly, list the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your site or in your post

the questions

Questions From Little Tinkablee

Do you have any pets? If so how many?

I have just the one pet, my beautiful Giant African Millipede, Chongololo. Some thing she’s an odd choice for a pet but I love her – she’s super interesting plus I’m a massive fan of bugs!

Me with my pet Giant African Millipede, Chongologo
She may be different but I love her

If you could turn into any animal what would it be?

This is a difficult question! I think I’d probably go with an octopus… They’re my favourite animal and super intelligent so I could still have loads of fun.  

Favourite book? (four max)

It’s hard to pinpoint my absolutely favourite book ever but one I really loved was The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins, as it had everything I look for in a good novel. My favourite non-novel book is The Ultimate Noah’s Ark by Mike Wilks, a book I grew up with and adored (I still don’t know all the answers though).

Favourite Author? (four max)

I’d say Ian McEwan, Marian Keyes, Jonas Jonasson, and David Nicholls – all excellent writers (though very different).

Top 3 bloggers that have helped you out the most?

There are three bloggers that have been super useful actually when it comes to blogging tips and courses and so on – Cynspo, Dana Nicole Designs, and Jenny In Neverland! Thanks to these three I actually know what I’m doing 😊

Is there a colour that you hate? What is it?

Brown, unless it’s combined with colours like oranges and reds.

Me doing child's pose for yoga practice
Yoga keeps me motivated and is one of my favourite ways to de-stress

When you aren’t blogging or planning a blog what do you like to do in your down time?

Usually you’ll find me either gaming, reading, cooking, or doing yoga. In the summer I’m mostly found at the beach, swimming in the evenings after work.

Favourite season of the year?

Summer! I’m a complete sun-worshipper and hate the cold – anything over 25 degrees is perfect for me.

Have you ever dyed your hair a crazy/vibrant colour?

I used to have black hair with a blue tint when I was at school – not something I’d do again but I did love it! I’ve also accidentally dyed my hair purple before, and once had a pink fringe with my natural blonde hair (don’t ask).

 Have you ever volunteered for anything?

Yes, I love volunteering! I’ve done lots of voluntary writing and I currently provide voluntary cover art designs for my local magazine. I’ve also done some volunteering with my local nature reserve where I counted sheep and made sure that they weren’t suffering from flystrike. Counting sheep is much harder than it sounds as they tend to run all over the place when you go near them! I’ve also volunteered with social care and helped a Children and Families trip to Legoland which was super fun, albeit exhausting.

 If you had to choose between never having a single piece of fruit again or a single piece of vegetable, what would you choose?

This question makes me sad… I’m going to have to say fruit because otherwise it makes dinners really difficult, but I’d sure miss watermelon, mangoes, and berries ☹

Questions From LoveMeTreatMe:

If you could go back to any time period, which would you choose and why?

Oooh that’s a difficult one! I’d want to go really far back so I could experience something different… Maybe to the time of Mayans or ancient Druids, or even further back to the Jurassic era! I’d absolutely love to see what life was like in such a wildly different time.

If you had to pick a mythological creature to be what would it be?

Definitely a Kraken, as then I could eat boats whole which would be pretty cool. Don’t think I’d have many predators, either!

Which musicians do you really resonate with?

Jimi Hendrix, who inspired my love of guitar. Also Kurt Cobain and Florence.

Do you have a routine you do before you begin to create? What is it?

A positive workspace for blogging
Achieving a relaxing and positive vibe is crucial to my productivity

Sometimes I’ll just open my laptop and write but generally I stick to a routine. I have a really nice desk in my studio where I write, and before I’ve started I always make sure I have my notebook handy and a cup of tea or coffee made and ready. I usually light incense and will sometimes light candles as well. It’s also really important to me that my workspace is tidy while I’m working (when I’m not working, not so much) so I put everything back where it should be before I start.

If you had to pick an actor/actress to play your life who would it be?

Alicia Vikander because I love her ❤

Your name is in the dictionary. What is written next to it to describe you? Human is not an answer.

Probably just a load of question marks. I’m not sure, though the words ‘bug’, ‘eclectic’, and ‘creative’ would definitely be in there somewhere!

Are you pro marijuana legalization, or against?

I’m against cannabis legalisation which is mainly due to my job as a youth support advisor. I’ve worked with so many young people that have made the wrong choices in life and ended up in really negative situations, and so much of it could be traced back to cannabis use (which, of course, is often traced back to other issues as well). I’ve worked in a school where students would take up the habit and screw up their grades, and eventually end up without an option once they’d left school. Many young people I’ve worked with who were cannabis users have gone on to commit crimes or take more serious drugs, and others have ended up with severe mental health problems including anxiety and paranoia because they started smoking in school and never stopped. It breaks my heart that it’s so easily accessible despite being illegal and so many young people are screwing up their lives before they’ve even began… Sure, they can get back on track, but it takes a lot of time and resources and some of them never turn it around (coincidentally I’ve seen a few of my ex-regular cannabis users in the news recently going to jail for various different assault-based crimes).

However, I’m totally for medicinal use providing that the THC is removed… I’ve heard wonderful things from some people! I’m looking into CBD oil myself for my migraines, so I’m interested to see how it works.

Name one food you refuse to live without.

CHEESE. It’s why I could never be vegan – I just love it so much! Terrible habit but I pretty much sprinkle grated cheese on everything…

We all have hobbies, which is your favourite?

Although it’s nothing to do with my blog I really enjoy gaming! I’m mostly found on the PS4 but I love PC and handheld gaming as well. I pretty much game every day – I love the immersion and the escapism to a degree, plus the wonderful storytelling some games provide. I’m also really motivated by trophies and achievements so I’m a bit of a completionist!

Pick a colour to describe your personality.

I’m tempted to go rainbow but I’m not sure if that counts! I’m a bit of a chameleon and my personality really depends on my surroundings – sometimes I’m super outgoing and happy to take risks and be bold (think oranges and yellows), and other times I’m this super quiet shell of a person who will avoid all social contact and gravitate towards cosy, easy going situations (more teal or duck egg blue, or sometimes even a dark navy/indigo). My sense of self comes and goes, and I tend to just adapt!

Name something you wish came naturally to you, and why.

Having a good memory, for sure. My memory is absolutely terrible and I constantly have to write things down – even if you’ve pretty much just told me something there’s a chance I’ll forget it! I’ve learnt to overcome the issue with other tools but it’s frustrating that I can never quite find the information in my mind.

Questions From Nyxie’s Nook:

Why did you start blogging?

I write reviews for CEX as a side-gig, and one day I was sitting down writing a couple of reviews and felt myself just really enjoying it. That’s where the idea for the blog came from – a place where I could just review loads of stuff. I’d love to make it my main career as it fits in nicely with my goal of moving abroad!

The caldera at Isla de Lobos, Fuerteventura
The world around me brings me so much inspiration – particularly when I’m travelling

Who are your inspirations and why?

I don’t really get massively inspired by people but more the world around me… Nature and what it brings is my real inspiration, especially for travel and experience. Positive environments motivate me to be my best and inspire me to get out there and try new things.

Describe yourself in three words.

Creative. Eclectic. Introverted.

Who brings the most joy in your life?

My partner, who I’ve been with for almost 6 years.

What is the most important thing for you in your life?

Sounds cliché but being happy – which I guess stems from being healthy, having a good work/life balance, having a positive relationship, and not having too many financial worries. I need a lot of variety in my life to be happy as well.

Harwich lighthouse ink drawing
I’m also an artist in my spare time and I specialise in ink drawings – this is a cover I drew for a local magazine

What at you best at?

Procrastinating! Joking aside, I’d probably say ink drawings.

What change can you bring in the world through blogging?

Hopefully to inspire people to try new things and to help them find the experiences and products that they need in their life.

What is the one thing you wish to change in the world and why?

Lack of responsibility towards the environment because I’m very passionate about sustainability and eco-friendly concepts. I’d also like to change how fast-paced and short-termed we have become as a society as I believe it’s very damaging.

What do you fear the most?

Dying – not the pain part, but the concept of not existing. I find that really hard to grasp.

Who is the best blogger for you?

Ahhhh this question is too hard! My answer is… everyone I’ve nominated or who has nominated me 😀

If you had to change your name, what would it be?

Something elven or witchy… I’m not sure of specifics though! I go by Luna Marina (pronounced MAH-rin-uh) in my Pagan circles so that would be pretty cool.

the nominees

Here are my nominees, in no particular order!

What’s In My Wonderland?
The Art & Science Of Worldbuilding
The Sacred Space
Time To Travel
Your Travel Handbook
The Ray Journey
Frantasmagoria
BritVoyage
Lea Bella Blogs
ThatAutisticFitChick
TreatYoBrain

the questions for my nominees

  1. What’s an interesting fact about you that people might not expect?
  2. If you could only eat one cuisine for the rest of your life what would it be?
  3. What’s a fear you have that you really want to overcome?
  4. What’s your main aim when it comes to your blog?
  5. What’s a hobby you don’t currently do but really want to take up?
  6. If you could have any superpower what would it be and why?
  7. You’re moving house and have to choose between a ranch in the desert, an ice house in a snowy land, a treehouse in the jungle, or a bamboo hut on the beach. Which do you choose?
  8. What’s something you were absolutely obsessed with as a kid?
  9. You’ve been given £1m to donate to any single charity of your choice. Which one do you go for?
  10. Aside from blogging (if that’s the case), what is your dream job?
  11. And the ultimate debate… Pineapple on pizza?

Looking forward to reading all of your responses!

LEON | Budget-Friendly Airport Cuisine With A Twist

Extras soon rack up the price of a holiday, and having to spend all that extra cash can be frustrating. It’s easy to end up spending way more than you want to in the airport when it comes to food, but that’s where budget-friendly restaurant Leon at Stansted Airport comes in.

LEON Stansted Airport title image

Given that our holiday to Fuerteventura was a budget one, we wanted our airport breakfast to be budget too. I’d almost lost faith after seeing another certain restaurant at Stansted Airport serving club sandwiches for £12.99 each… Until we came across LEON, with its brightly-lit logo and decorative charm.

LEON promises fast-food with bold flavours and natural goodness. As we were eating at the wonderful time of 5am we went for products on the breakfast menu, however they also serve hot lunch boxes, wraps, salads, and burgers from 11am, all with a Mediterranean twist. The breakfast menu is fairly varied and you can choose between muffins, poached eggs, porridge, and Greek yoghurt, or simply a dose of caffeine if you’re not all that hungry.

LEON, Stansted Airport - breakfast pot with egg, sausage, bacon, and beans
The humble breakfast pot – small, but filling

I was completely swayed by the poached eggs so had to go for this option, opting for the English breakfast poached egg. It contained the egg at the bottom plus sausage, bacon, and haricot beans, which were much more like the homemade variety than what you might get in a can of Heinz. The breakfast was served in a cute little pot – it was a small serving but I was expecting that at just £3.95 – and it really blended the flavours together well.

My partner decided to try out one of the breakfast muffins, and was able to have a special request of bacon and sausage together (the menu allows for either one meat, or combined with an egg). Again the portion was small, but it was again only £3.95 which is very good value compared to other restaurants within Stansted Airport! Like the breakfast pot, the muffin was full of flavour, and contained a beautiful Mediterranean sauce that I would never have considered to mix with breakfast items, yet it worked even better than your standard ketchup and added a slight zing.

LEON breakfast tray with breakfast pot, bacon and sausage muffin, and flat white coffee
Our full order costing just £10.50 (complete with brightly coloured tray)

As well as the food I really appreciated the decor of LEON, which was warmly lit and featured lots of vintage photographs on the wall. It was colourful but tasteful – not too vibrant for 5.30am but enough to make you feel excited about eating there. Generally it was quite spacious and the seating was very suitable for a fast-food location. Ordering the food was easy and the whole process from ordering to sitting down and eating took minutes.

Flat white coffee with LEON restaurant decor in background
A well-lit and positive atmosphere, great for enjoying a coffee pre-flight

I was impressed by the focus on eco-friendly products with LEON – all of the packaging used within our food was recyclable which is rare in the food world. They claim that their food is all natural and, while I can’t confirm that, it tasted a lot healthier than other fast food I’ve had before and I didn’t come away feeling bloated and over-full like I might do at McDonald’s or KFC, for instance.

I’d be happy to eat at LEON next time I’m at Stansted Airport as it didn’t break the bank yet served food that tasted great and kept me full for my flight. While it might not be best-suited for those who want a full sit-down meal, LEON is perfect for travellers that need something fast, budget, and above all full of flavour.

If you liked this review then don’t forget to like, pin, and leave a comment! You can also check out my other recent eatery reviews here:

Hare & Hounds | Wagamama | Odell’s Coffee Shop

LEON, Stansted Airport, Pinterest image

Norwich Cathedral | A Retreat Of Solace In The Heart Of Norwich

Norwich is a vibrant, bustling city that I certainly fell in love with when I visited for the first time. Norwich Cathedral was one of the reasons why, giving me the perfect time to myself and a visual experience I won’t forget.

Norwich Cathedral title image with Bible

I absolutely love religious buildings. I’m not Christian (my beliefs are very different), but there’s something about a cathedral that makes me have to go inside. Once I locked my eyes on the beautiful Norwich Cathedral I knew I had to make it part of my visit to Norwich.

View of Norwich Cathedral exterior
View of the spire from the cloisters

Norwich Cathedral is very central to Norwich, easily accessible by walking or bus. It’s difficult not to notice and is surrounded by lovely gardens and park spaces. Like most other cathedrals entry is free but you can donate via one of the donation boxes or purchase gifts and other items from the gift shop inside. The cathedral regularly holds services so if you want to visit for other reasons then make sure to double check what’s on before you go!

What really stood out to me most within Norwich Cathedral is the architecture – stunning brickwork and arches combined with delicate stained glass windows and ornate features and decor. It’s a huge building and breathtaking when you think how long it must have taken to build, given that it’s 874 years old as of 2019. I spent a lot of my time there just sitting and viewing, unable to take my eyes off of the intricate design.

Cloisters walkway within Norwich Cathedral
One of the walkways within the cloisters

The cloisters are one feature you absolutely must look at when you go – a quadrangle of walkways surrounding an open air grass space. It’s accessible from two different entrances in the main building and from here you can access the cathedral library (sadly I didn’t have time but I will certainly be going back to see it!). Thankfully it was a lovely day when I visited so I got to see the cloisters in their prime – there was some work going on to one side which meant that not every part was accessible, but it didn’t detract too much from the experience. There’s also a herb garden nearby which features several different plants and provides another space to just sit and enjoy.

Stained glass window inside Norwich Cathedral
A stained glass feature within the cathedral

Once back in the main area of the cathedral you can ascend a spiral staircase to see a range of different religious artefacts collected over the years. These were very interesting to look at and gave background into the history of Christianity within the area. There’s a also space to light a candle in memory of loved ones, and plenty of places to sit and take it in. Guided tours are available throughout the day and are completely free – I listened into one that walked past me and there is a whole wealth of knowledge to be explored there, so certainly worth it for anyone who wants to know more about the cathedral.

I found my visit to Norwich Cathedral quite poignant – I’d had a busy day rushing around the city trying to get shopping and so on, but seeing the cathedral was a nice reminder to slow down and appreciate the beauty around me. It’s one of the most impressive cathedrals I’ve been to in the UK and I’d certainly recommend a visit if you’re in the area.

What’s your favourite religious building that you’ve visited? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to like and pin if you enjoyed this post! You can read another review of a Norwich location here:

Biddy’s Tea Room, Norwich

Norwich Cathedral Pinterest image

Culture Smart! Colombia | An Insightful Guide to Colombian Life

*Thank you to Lena Mistry of Kuperard Publishers & Distributors for allowing me to take part in this blog tour! I received a free ebook copy of Culture Smart! Colombia in exchange for an honest review.

Culture Smart! Colombia title image

Author: Kate Cathey
Genre: Travel guide
Published: 1st May 2019

SYNOPSIS

Colombia has a spectacular and variant landscape, embracing tropical beaches, highland plateaus, the rugged, snow-capped peaks of the Andes, arid deserts, and dense Amazonian jungle. Colombian society is equally diverse. Stylish, cosmopolitan cities coexist with poverty in the beautiful countryside. As a result of the 16th-century Spanish conquest, modern Colombia’s multiethnic society is a synthesis of Spanish, indigenous, and African traditions—evident in the music, in the food, and in Barranquilla’s famous Carnival. The Colombian people are emerging from decades of crushing civil war and lawlessness with their spirits unbroken. Animated, lighthearted, and ever ready to enjoy the moment, they are looking to the future with hope and are eager to share their rich and beautiful country with the outside world. This pocket-sized book reveals Colombia’s key customs and traditions, examines life at home and at work, and introduces some distinct and delicious culinary quirks. There is also advice on safe travel, vital information on how business is done, and how to communicate effectively across the cultural divide.

MY REVIEW

I was given a choice of books of the Culture Smart! series to review and I chose this one as I have an interest in Colombia already – I’m currently learning Spanish and have made a Colombian friend who I practise the language with. It’s a place I’d love to visit, but I’m also aware that due to its history you need to know what you’re doing when you’re out there.

Given the usual type of travel guides that I’ve become accustomed to, I had a good idea in my mind of what to expect from this book. I imagined it would tell me the best places to visit, some key things to be aware of, and useful tips for enjoying my stay. It delivered on all of those, but also provided so much more that usually I wouldn’t consider in a travel book.

Cover image of Culture Smart! Colombia
Cover for Culture Smart! Colombia

Culture Smart! Colombia starts by focusing on the geography and history of the country, which is very rich and complex. It reads like a true exploration rather than a guide, not only giving the most vital points but also the background to understand it all. From the first chapter alone I gained a real insight into why the country has been built up the way it has, and an explanation behind the very family and relationship-focused values of the local community, which I would say is quite different from the less socially-designed British values I’ve grown up with.

Also explored is the collection of attitudes that Colombians share, from the obvious to the much quirkier. It’s the sort of information that you tend to wish you’d known from hindsight – information you might learn the awkward or hard way when travelling in a foreign country. After reading I now feel much more confident that I’ll come across as less of an alien when I visit, given that I can now appreciate how relationships are formed and what is considered crucial as part of this process. One thing I learnt is that slow-paced talk, including small talk, is so important out in Colombia and necessary to create positive relationships – wildly different from the British “say as little as possible then get out of their personal space” attitude that I’ve become so accustomed to! This information has surely prevented a whole host of awkward encounters on my behalf.

As well as this the book covers a lot of what you’d expect – the sorts of food you can eat, the festivals you might take part in, and the best places to visit and explore. It works as a guide for all, giving tips to the tourist whilst also helping out any readers that may be staying much longer, or potentially moving out there. There’s even a section on doing business in Colombia, which is highly useful for anyone that might end up working there, even if only temporarily. It doesn’t dress up the country as purely wonderful; Colombia’s unique beauty is acknowledged, but there’s no room for naivety as safe practice is described for all areas of the visit.

Although some of the information is hard-hitting, particularly when reference the violent activities of the past, I really feel like I’ve come away well-versed in Colombian life despite having never been there before. The information was all relevant, and covered so much that I know I’ll be taking the book out there when I inevitably visit. I don’t think any more detail could really have been given – the only thing I felt could have been improved was the photography, which is all in black and white and so I feel takes away from some of the vibrancy of the culture.

After reading Culture Smart! Colombia, I’m intrigued to purchase the rest of the series – the preparation the book has given me is far higher than any other travel book I’ve read. Information is nuanced, and clearly shows what a traveller needs to know when visiting Colombia. I’m now even more excited to visit the country and I feel safer about it too – something that’s so important when travelling. This one is a definite recommendation from me!

New Culture Smart! titles including Colombia

PURCHASE LINKS

If you’d like to purchase Culture Smart! Colombia then you can do so here:

Amazon US

AUTHOR & SERIES BIO

Kate Cathey is a writer and anthropologist. Born in the USA, she attended Sarah Lawrence College in New York, where she studied Art History, and later graduated with a B.A. in World Arts and Cultures, concentration in Anthropology, from the University of California, Los Angeles. Since then, she has travelled extensively in Latin America, researching and writing about regional cultural and culinary traditions. In 2009 Kate moved to Bogotá, Colombia, where she directed cultural travel programs and was a contributor to Bogotá’s English-language newspaper, The City Paper.

Culture Smart! guides are written for people who want more than just the nuts and bolts of where to stay, what to see, and how to travel. Short, sharp and humorous, they deal with the richly rewarding human dimension of foreign travel by telling you about the beliefs and attitudes of the people you will meet and about situations you may encounter. They help you to understand what makes people tick, the values they live by, and the kind of behavior that will be reciprocated with goodwill and hospitality.

Each guide includes concise chapters on the local customs, traditions and values of the country’s inhabitants, and crucially, the key historical and cultural events that have shaped them. There are sections on social and business etiquette, tips on communication, both verbal and non-verbal, and advice on how to be a good guest.

Our aim is to arm readers with a level of cultural fluency, so that whatever your reason for travelling, each situation may be approached with both confidence and sensitivity.

Brief and thorough, our guides are designed so that they can be dipped into for quick reference as and when needed, or comfortably completed in a few sittings, affording you a comprehensive overview of what you’re getting yourself into before you have even taken off!

Written by long-term expats, journalists, professors and diplomats, Culture Smart! guides have been helping travelers be more than just tourists for over 20 years. With over 100 country guides to date, there are new titles and editions published every year.

Marcel Proust once said, The true voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. We hope that Culture Smart! will help you arrive at your destination with your eyes open.

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Culture Smart! Colombia Blog Tour 2019

Fuerteventura Grand Tour – The Best Way To Experience The Island

The island of Fuerteventura has so much to offer such as rolling volcanic landscapes, stunning white and black sand beaches, and vibrant and rich culture and history. What better way to experience it than through a tour of the island?

Fuerteventura Grand Tour Title Image

We made the decision to do the Fuerteventura Grand Tour on our third time visiting Fuerteventura – we knew our way around Corralejo by that point and wanted to see what else the island had to offer. The Grand Tour was perfect for us – we don’t drive, so it gave us access to some difficult places to reach in Fuerteventura, and it meant we didn’t have to research the places to go beforehand.

The trip itself picks up day trippers from Jandia, Costa Calma, Corralejo, and Caleta De Fuste and includes a professional guide, an air-conditioned bus (much needed on the day we went – a sweltering 36 degrees celsius!), and free entry to each of the museums. Lunch isn’t included, however there are plenty of restaurants and cafés to visit in each of the locations or you can just take a picnic with you. It’s a full day, with pick-up at 7.30am at the earliest, so be prepared to be tired! You can also experience the trip in English, Spanish, or German depending on what day you do it.

Aloe vera fields from the Fuerteventura Grand Tour
The aloe vera fields (photo from Excursion Center)

The day starts with a visit to the Aloe Vera Museum in Tiscamanita, quite far out from any nearby towns. Aloe vera is to Canarians what tea is to the British… If you don’t have any in your house then there’s something wrong with you! It was very informative – not only did we get to try each of the products and discover how to prepare aloe straight from the plant but we also learnt loads about the different type of aloe vera and the range of health issues it can help with. I even received a free aloe vera shoulder massage! The products themselves were quite expensive so I didn’t buy any of them, however they were very high-quality products with a higher percentage of aloe than any others I’d seen in Corralejo so most likely worth the price.

The main church in Pajara from the Fuerteventura Grand Tour
Church Of Nuestra Senora de la Regla (photo from 123RF.com)

We then headed off to the first of three towns – Pajara, which is a traditional and quaint village situated on the West of the island near Ajuy. It’s very different from Corralejo, Morro Jable, and the other resorts as it’s focused much more towards the locals than the tourists, so it was lovely to see this side of Fuerteventura. I was particularly wowed by the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Regla, a small but beautiful church that you can freely explore.

The second town we visited was the island’s old capital of Betancuria. It’s nestled 800m above sea level in the mountains and the trip up there is certainly an interesting one… Lots of thin, winding ascents which can feel a bit scary when in a coach! The tour drivers are brilliant though, and there wasn’t one part where I felt genuinely unsafe. Betancuria was absolutely lovely – again very quaint, with cobblestone streets and colourful flowers lining the buildings which really stood out against the white walls. I would have liked to have spent more time here, so we made a mental note to visit again at some point.

Betancuria and it's sign from the Fuerteventura Grand Tour
The sign of Betancuria (photo from Excursion Center)

The coach stayed up in the mountains for most of the afternoon, and the tour guide gave us a brilliant explanation of the history of Fuerteventura, from why Betancuria is no longer the capital to how the towns and villages were formed in the first place. We then went onto visit a local goat farm – goats are quite important in Fuerteventura as they provide lots of meat and dairy products (goats’ cheese is big over there) so we got to see the goats being milked and meet a variety of other animals on the farm. My favourite part of the farm was the farm shop, which had such a great variety of Canarian products! We bought some locally made mojo sauce and cactus jam, and we also got to sample the goat’s cheese that was for sale.

Lots of goats at the goat farm during the Fuerteventura Grand Tour
Goats!

The last stop on the tour was El Cotillo, a beautiful village on the coast. By this point I was knackered so we didn’t explore as much as we would have liked, instead going for a relaxing coffee out of the sun. We were back home early evening, giving us time to go out for dinner and enjoy ourselves, but in all honesty we didn’t last long and ended up falling asleep pretty quickly!

I really enjoyed myself on the Fuerteventura Grand Tour – it gave me a really good understanding of the history of the island and we got to see some beautiful locations that could be easily missed otherwise. It’s the sort of tour I’d go on a second time as it’s just so convenient and there’s a lot to love. I wholeheartedly recommend this tour if you do visit Fuerteventura – we booked ours through Excursion Center and they were brilliant as well.

If you’ve travelled to Fuerteventura before, where was your favourite location? Let me know in the comments! Also don’t forget to like and pin! You can read my other Fuerteventura excursion reviews here:

Isla De Lobos | Lanzarote Grand Tour & Timanfaya

Fuerteventura Grand Tour Pinterest graphic

Moxie – Alex Poppe

***This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you decide to purchase the product using the link then I get paid at no extra cost to you. I only provide links to products I really enjoy, so you can be assured that it’s a positive recommendation from me!***

First off, thank you to Melanie Fraser of Fraser’s Fun House for allowing me to be a part of this Blog Tour! I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Title image of Moxie by Alex Poppe

Author: Alex Poppe
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Published: 30th April 2019

SYNOPSIS

Jax, a magazine-cover model, has had half her face destroyed in a bomb blast. Drowning in whiskey and self-loathing, she must rebuild her life now that her beauty is gone. Part love letter to New York, part commentary on social justice issues, Moxie is a timely and raw portrayal of the sometimes self-destructive search for identity and redemption.

MY REVIEW

It’s so refreshing to read books where the main character isn’t much of a role model, and Moxie by Alex Poppe certainly fits into this category. Jax is a blunt and brutal character whose actions are eyebrow-raising at times and whose views towards life are cynical and often misguided. She’s experienced a trauma that she hasn’t yet risen from, and Moxie is her journey as she comes to terms with her new life.

There are a lot of interesting things to say about Poppe’s writing, which is modern and unusual in a very good way. Moxie is written in the first person, including much commentary from Jax, and with a peculiar style that sees a lack of first-person pronouns (similar to how Geralt talks in The Witcher, if anyone has played the game). I found this quite odd at first, but once I’d got used to it I enjoyed a more original writing style and it actually really suited Jax as a character, who is a woman of few words at times and likes to get across her point without the frills. However, this forthright writing style is combined with the most beautiful of poetic description, including phrases such as “A kite writing on the blue above with its red tail becomes my North Star”. Poppe has a way with words that I wish I did; she can take a simple moment and describe it in a way that brings it to life both visually and emotionally.

Generally the book is very emotionally charged, and switches between these emotions very quickly – within a single page we can go from raw sexual desire to acute self-loathing, and then suddenly we’re back to Jax’s reserved and candid personality. It’s a real rollercoaster of a read and I enjoyed being able to explore so many facets of the Jax’s mind, among other characters. Generally these minor characters were developed and I liked how they were used to progress the storyline, though I did find myself getting confused by several due to how quickly they would flit in and out of existence. I particularly liked the exploration of characters from Jax’s past… Poppe is excellent at the “show not tell” rule when it comes to backstory, using suggestive scenes to piece the puzzle together for the reader.

Cover image of Moxie by Alex Poppe
Cover image for Moxie by Alex Poppe

Despite her abrupt nature and overly-expletive dialogue Jax is a relatable and interesting character who deals with many things during the course of the book, such as grief of the self, discrimination, and loss of her sexual experiences. The reactions to her from other characters are intriguing and made me really feel for Jax – simple walking past someone could induce a torrent of hurtful words that she’s expected to take on the chin. Being British (read: highly reserved and awkward when encountering members of the public) I couldn’t believe that some of these things could be said by strangers (or anyone), but it really put it into perspective to me just what disabled and disfigured people must experience on a regular basis.

Though shocking and in-your-face at times, Moxie is an enjoyable read that makes an important commentary on our society and the value of beauty above other things. It showed to me an injustice that sadly is all too prevalent, and highlighted how important the sense of self really is to an individual. Moxie is a beautifully written story of self-realisation and the perspective Poppe brings through her writing is something we all need to understand and experience.

PURCHASE LINKS

If you’d like to purchase Moxie then you can do so here:

Amazon UK |Amazon US |Book Depository

AUTHOR BIO

Alex Poppe, author of Moxie, profile image

Alex Poppe is the author of the debut novel Moxie (2019) and the story
collection Girl, World (2017). Girl, World was named a 35 Over 35 Debut Book Award winner, First Horizon Award finalist, Montaigne Medal finalist, and was short-
listed for the Eric Hoffer Grand Prize. It was also awarded an Honorable Mention in General Fiction from the Eric Hoffer Awards. Her short fiction has been a
finalist for Glimmer Train’s Family Matters contest, a nominee for the Pushcart
Prize, and commended for the Baker Prize. Her non-fiction was named a Best of
the Net nominee (2016), a finalist for Hot Metal Bridge’s Social Justice Writing
contest, and has appeared in Bust and Bella Caledonia. She is an academic writing
lecturer at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani and is working on her third
book of fiction with support from Can Serrat International Art Residency and
Asociacíon Cultural LINEA DE COSTA DUPLO Artist in Residency programs.

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Moxie by Alex Poppe blog tour details

Hollow Trees Farm, Suffolk | Shop, Trail, & Café All In One!

Prior to visiting Hollow Trees Farm in Semer, Suffolk I spent a good hour or so with my Mum researching family-friendly farms in the area. We were struggling to find anything under £15pp until we came across this gem at only £4.95pp – not only is the place a farm trail but also contains a farm shop and a café!

Hollow Trees Farm Shop Trail & Cafe title image

As the price of Hollow Trees Farm is so much lower than other farms in the area you’d expect it to have less but this was certainly not the case – we were there for several hours and could easily have been there longer had we spent more time in the shop and with the animals. As it was the Easter holidays we also had an extra thing to take part in, which was the Easter egg trail! The (actually quite difficult) challenge consisted of finding a group of wooden egg doors hidden on the main farm trail, and then answering their slightly cryptic clues to fill in a puzzle. Once we’d completed the puzzle we got a free toy which was a nice touch.

Hollow Trees Farm Shop Trail and Cafe outdoor space
One of many lovely grassy areas to explore

The trail itself is a very good length – it’s long enough that there’s lots to see and do but contains plenty of rest breaks for those who might need to sit down and relax mid-way. The trail follows round the various animal enclosures and there are also mini parks dotted all of the place to give some more energetic entertainment whenever it’s needed. The variation is good and despite it being school holidays we weren’t really waiting to use any of it as there was so much to go around. I also loved how natural the place was, with large expanses of grass and hills for kids to run around have fun.

Obviously my favourite bit was the animals, and there was a great range at Hollow Trees Farm from your expected pigs and goats to smaller animals like guinea pigs and rabbits, and even some beautifully coloured birds! There were also alpacas which made my day. Feed can be bought from the entrance for a small price and there was plenty to go around – all of the animals apart from the pigs were able to be fed, and there were special chutes available to pour feed down for any animals that were slightly further away for whatever reason. The animals were all really friendly and clearly loved the attention – I also noticed how much space they had to roam and how happy they seemed, which is something very important to me when visiting animal experiences.

As well as the main trail you can also spend your time there in the farm shop, which sells a range of homegrown and local products, and a gift shop which I really liked as it was quite small and not full of overpriced pointless items like they often are. Instead it contained a small but satisfactory range of farm-related toys and Playmobil products and we ended up coming away with a bizarre blow-up pig that kept the stepdaughter amused for a long time.

Hollow Trees Farm Shop Trail and Cafe goat feeding
My stepdaughter and Dad feeding the most adorable baby goat

There’s also a café on site which serves a good range of light food such as sandwiches and jacket potatoes. We didn’t actually eat here as we were looking to try out somewhere different but the café was quite busy and the food looked great from what I could see. Many families had opted to take picnics with them which is also an option – I felt there could have been more seating areas as many families were sitting on the ground and it took us a while to find a table for our snack break. On a lovely day a full picnic would be a great idea on the trail, and helps to make the day out even more budget-friendly.

My stepdaughter absolutely loved the time we spent there and so did the rest of the family – adults, teenagers, and children were all entertained! I would 100% go back there again – for such a great price it’s the perfect family day out.

If you enjoyed this review then please don’t forget to like, pin, and leave a comment! You can view some of my other family-friendly review locations in the UK here:

Southsea, Portsmouth | Three Cliffs Bay, Swansea

Camp NaNoWriMo Update – Week 4

It’s the end of April which means that Camp NaNoWriMo is nearly over for 2019! You may have noticed that I didn’t post an update last week due to several things (stepdaughter visiting, laptop breaking, life in general) so here’s my final update for the experience.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2019 Title Image - Week Four

My novel & goals

Title: Written In The Stars

Genre: Romance/women’s fiction

Synopsis: After discovering her fiancé (and love of her life) has been having an affair, Vicky Murton decides it’s time to give up the dating game. It’s now official – men are all useless and not worth her time. Besides, it’s much easier to live a happy life when someone else isn’t there to spoil it, right?
That’s the plan, but then Vicky’s astrologically-inclined friend, Felly, gets involved. She reckons it’s not that all men are unreliable – it’s just that Vicky has bad taste. If she would just listen to her inner psychic, then Felly reckons that Vicky will meet the man of her dreams.
With Felly in charge of her love life now, Vicky has a whole host of different experiences to look forward to (or not). But will Felly’s zodiac-based predictions ring true? Or is it really down to Vicky to find the right man?

Camp NaNo goal: Revise 50 pages of first draft

My progress so far

I didn’t get anything done during week three at all as I couldn’t access any of my chapters, which wasn’t great. It meant that I had to really pile on the pressure this week to get it done – I had 21 pages to get finished by the end of week 4 if I wanted to win.

I actually managed to do it! I feel that my time to sit down and edit has been quite inconsistent as I’ve only really been able to work on my novel on weekends, but I pushed through and got the last bit done today. In total I revised 52 pages of my novel, 2 more than my target, which equated to 13 chapters.

My favourite excerpt from this week

Back at work, everyone expressed their sympathy with me, but it didn’t help. They all had different lovely things to say.
“It’ll be alright, babe.”
“I know it’s difficult, Vee, but the hardest part is now over. You can start to move on now.”
“This is good – you’ve got the bastard out of your life! Nothing to remind you of him now – you can start over.”
Okay, so Celine didn’t have quite such a heart-warming and comforting approach, but I appreciated her trying, at least.
“I just…I just don’t know what to do now.” I found myself saying.
“Find these shoes in another size?” An elderly customer shouted.
“I don’t know…You need to look to the future now. Which I’m sure everyone keeps saying, but it’s true.” Sarah tried to comfort me. “Maybe you should go for something completely different?”
“But I want this pair!” I heard the woman shout back.
“I’m not sure…I don’t want to do anything right now. I just want to get back to my old life and go from there. That’s all I want. All I need.”
“Different is good though, sometimes.”
“This is the only pair of shoes that I like! Can someone please help me find them in my size?!”
Cue Sarah’s rage mode, reserved only for the most abrasive of customers. “They’re underneath the other shoes! Can’t you see we’re busy here?!”
The customer huffed and went back to the shoe section.
“Sorry, about that. I think we need to –“
“Stop thinking about my abyss of a life, and get back to the job we’re supposed to be doing?”

What i’ve learnt & focus for the rest of the novel

Something that I’ve noticed about my writing is I tend to overuse certain words – “still”, “though”, “definitely” and “also” to name a few! I really want to focus on making my writing concise and removing these repetitive words – it’s hard during NaNoWriMo to truly craft your writing because of the time and word count pressures, but hopefully I’ll be more aware now at least.

I’m proud of revising 13 chapters but I’ve still got a long way to go – another 42 chapters left! Now I’ve made a start I’m confident I’ll get bits done here and there… I don’t think it’ll be a quick process but hopefully I’ll have a fully revised draft done by the next NaNoWriMo, so I can put ‘Written In The Stars’ to one side again for a bit while I write the next one, and then go back to it afterwards and look into editors and beta readers. There’s lots of other things to focus on as well but for now I’m enjoying taking it one step at a time and not letting myself become overwhelmed by it all. Hopefully in a couple of years you’ll be seeing my name on the shelves!

How did your Camp NaNo project go? What are your plans now? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to like this post if you enjoyed reading it!