Try Here: Rabbit Vegan Café

Singing proud as Exeter’s first 100% vegan café, Rabbit is a dream come true for the city’s meat-free lovers. However, this cute little hangout on Well Street is far from being vegan-exclusive, attracting even the most hard-core carnivores to give it a try.

Rabbit aims to show that ditching meat doesn’t have to be boring, and it certainly doesn’t have to be healthy salads all the time! With their menu split between ‘vice’ and ‘virtue’, vice lets you indulge in a quarter pounder ‘cheezeburger’, tofu dogs, or a bowl of mac and ‘cheese’. Whereas virtue offers burrito bowls, tofu toasties and a Moroccan chickpea pie. Whether you want comfort food or delicious and inventive ‘virtuous’ options, this café has you covered.

If that doesn’t excite you, look no further than their Instagram, which posts daily pictures of their incredible home-made cakes and desserts. My mouth is always watering at the sight of their famous tortes in flavours such as chocolate and raspberry, peanut butter and cookie dough, chocolate orange or salted caramel (just to name a few!). If those don’t whet your appetite they also produce cakes and ‘cheezecakes’ with just as many flavour varieties. These 100% vegan desserts taste like the real deal, so indulgent I don’t feel like I am missing out on anything, and I certainly don’t feel like I am being a ‘healthy boring vegan’!

Rabbit is also really good value for money. For instance, we went for their ‘lunch-time meal deal’ priced as £6.95. For the equivalent of an expensive pret lunch, the meal-deal was a large bowl of their soup of the day; (in our case, curried sweet potato and red onion), accompanied by a huge side salad with a dressing of our choice, followed by a slice of any of their delicious cakes, tortes or cheezecakes!

 

Lunch isn’t their only option either, as on Fridays and Saturdays Rabbit now open from 6-9pm as a ‘vegan diner’. Seeing how well the ‘vice’ side of their menu does during their lunchtime service, Rabbit have now opened up for weekend nights filled with indulgent burgers, mouth-watering hotdogs and loaded fries to compete with the real American deal.

So, whether you are a vegan, or a sceptic, go and check this cute little café out, it might just surprise you.

Try This: Super-Easy Sweet Potato Falafels

Falafels. Loved by vegans and meat eaters alike, super versatile, super healthy, and all-round delicious (in my humble, opinion).

Homemade falafels are always that little bit healthier than the shop bought versions. First of all, I’m an advocate of baking rather than frying falafels, it’s healthier, and I think they are easier to add to sandwiches, as they won’t fall apart as much from being too crispy. Other than that, inevitably, homemade falafels means you know exactly what is going in your food and you get the satisfaction that you made your own.

This quick and simple recipe can be easily adapted, sometimes I use roasted butternut squash or roasted peppers instead of sweet potato, or add some fresh chilli for a kick.

Sweet Potato Falafels
Vegan, Gluten-Free

Makes 12

Ingredients:
1 can of chickpeas (drained)
400g of sweet potato (2 ish large ones)
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
1tsp of ground coriander
1tsp of ground cumin
1 tsp of paprika
Salt and pepper

Optional extras 
Plain flour (Sometimes helpful to bind the mixture together).
Chopped coriander, lemon zest, tahini paste or my favourite, some crushed chilli (for extra flavour).

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200
  2. Place the sweet potato in the microwave, on high, for around 8 minutes, flipping half way through or until it is cooked through – you can roast it if you have more time.
  3. Once cooked, remove the flesh.
  4. If you have a food processor, whack the sweet potato and all other ingredients in the food processor and blend until combined. If not, its time for a work out. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and use a potato masher to combine. (If you’re also lacking a potato masher, my boyfriend’s technique of using a good old fork to mash works fine, but as he quickly realised its much easier to pick up one for a £1 in the supermarket!)
  5.  Shape the mixture into balls slightly bigger than a golf ball and place on a baking tray, I sometimes use a muffin tin to keep them in place. Equally you can shape them to look like burger patties if you prefer them to be flatter for wraps, buns and sandwiches.
  6. Place in the oven for 15 minutes, flip and cook for another 15 minutes, or until they have started crisping and turning brown.

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And there you have it, place in sandwiches, wraps, salads, on their own as part of a mezze board or dipped in some hummus as a delicious healthy snack.

 

Beer, Burgers and More: Budget Berlin Food

With a budget even tighter since graduating, a lust to travel and a love of food and wine is hard to satisfy sometimes. But early this month I took a trip to Berlin in search of an adventure. Expecting to see some amazing sights, the biggest surprise turned out to be the Berlin food scene. So much choice, all incredibly delicious, and the best part, stupidly cheap. If you are heading out there I highly recommend making the time and effort to search out some good food, here are just a few suggestions we tried out to wet your appetite!

Burgermeister

Previously a literal toilet, Burgermeister is the perfect joint to pick up a cheap, greasy and totally delicious burger. Their takeaway-style restaurant has a simple menu, from a classic cheeseburger, to those who want to up their game and tackle a burger filled with double meat, double cheese, bacon, BBQ sauce and jalapeños. A selection of fries, cheese fries or chilli cheese fries are also the perfect accompaniment, all washed down with a beer costing no more than €2.20, what’s not to love? Their most expensive burger is a mere €7.30, but the rest weigh in around the €4/5 mark this the perfect cheap and cheerful meal. We went there for dinner on our first night after arriving early evening and one burger and a beer each left us feeling pretty stuffed!

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Curry at the Wall

Whilst spending a few days in Berlin, it seemed almost wrong to not have at least one currywurst experience, but of course, we were searching for the best. After seeing a few sights, hungry for some lunch, we set to googling for the best place in the Mitte area, which led us to Curry at the Wall. At first glance, it looks like any other fast food place (and to be perfectly honest this was the only place we had currywurst, so it might have been just that). However, Curry at the Wall quite uniquely has a view of part of the old Berlin Wall from just across the road, and once you’re done eating there, you can walk across and wander round the Topographies of Terror exhibition, right in front of the wall. Tourist attractions aside, for €7.90 you could get a plate of their traditional currywurst, chips, and a beer, and despite my scepticism it genuinely tasted really nice and filled us up for the rest of the afternoon for sightseeing.

Sushi Cube

I was always under the impression that good sushi would always be expensive, until we found Sushi Cube after a morning of sightseeing. With a huge amount of choice, (usually red flag for me) it took us a while to narrow our options down, luckily they provide their own set ‘menus’ to help you decide. Labelled 1-10, each menu was a plate which had a selection of different sushi dishes and a side of a spicy miso soup, with prices ranging from €4-6. We opted for one of these plates, and then picked two other smaller dishes, but with 8 California rolls costing no more than €3, you could easily create your own cheap feast, and we were stuffed by the end. Not to mention you could pick up half a litre of wine for a very reasonable €7, (and cheap decent wine is pretty much the way to my heart).

Rissani

This was our absolute goldmine find for delicious food on a tight budget. Tucked away around the corner from a strip of amazing, good value restaurants is Rissani, the falafel and kebab restaurant of dreams. Having read that you could pick up a falafel for a mere €2, we headed down with the expectation that if we weren’t full after this, we would head to another place we liked the look of further up the street, but how mistaken we were! Ample choice on the menu, our eye was caught by their special ‘sharing plate’, boasting that it featured all its most popular dishes on the menu and for only €9, we took a gamble which paid off massively. Within 5 minutes we were handed a huge plate stacked with falafels, hummus, kebab meat, chips, salad, halloumi, wicked hot spicy sauce, tangy garlic sauce and some soft warm pittas on the side. Needless to say, we were totally stuffed by the end, and at €9 for our entire dinner, it meant we had some money to go grab a couple of drinks up the road, total bargain.

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Santa Maria 

Lunchtime meal deals, a total saviour for anyone on a budget and Santa Maria provided just that. Colourful and inviting, they offer a variety of Mexican delights with meat, fish and veggie fillings. Their lunchtime meal deal boasts either tacos, burritos or quesadillas with a beer for between €7-9, but you can also swap your beer for one of their traditional margaritas for an extra €3. Come on a Tuesday and all their tacos are €1.50, and happy hour means margaritas are a mere €5. Perfect lunch stop, although I’d recommend a burrito over the tacos, I opted for the chicken tacos and as flavoursome as they were, I would have liked some salad/cheese or sauces to go with, whereas the burrito was full to the brim and totally delicious.

Markthalle Neun

If you find yourself in Berlin on a Thursday night, make sure you clear your dinner plans to head to Kreuzberg for their famous food market. Kicking off at around 5pm, this beautiful hall hosts a huge variety of food and drink stalls, your only problem will be deciding what to have. Playing the tactical game, we scoped out all the options before deciding we would order one thing at a time and share so we could try as many things as possible. We opted for a weird but wonderful spicy pork and marinated cheese wrapped in a naan, octopus dumplings and some fresh calzone/ pasty mashup (which only cost €4!). All washed down with a glass of wine (in a real glass might I add) from one of the many bars dotted around the venue. There is something for everyone with endless vegan, veggie and meat filled options from tapas to cheesecake, or pasta to tacos.

Zola’s Pizzeria

Our last meal was spent at Zola’s, a busy restaurant tucked in a cute courtyard serving up the freshest and most delicious pizzas around. Every pizza is made fresh and cooked for no more than 90 seconds in their wicked hot traditional pizza oven, and if that doesn’t entice you enough, Zola’s actually made my boyfriend claim that was the best pizza he had ever had. A small menu means quality is kept, with just enough options to make you double think before you order.

Try This: Fuss-Free Overnight Oats

For the last year or so I have been OBSESSED with overnight oats. Super quick and easy to prepare, this delicious twist on your morning bowl is basically porridge, but soaked over night to create a creamy, cake-like texture and means when you are in a rush in to get to lectures or work, your breakfast is already sat in the fridge waiting for you to enjoy.

Just like porridge, overnight oats are also super versatile, with a simple base you can adapt and add different flavours and toppings to mix up your mornings and satisfy your tastebuds.

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Overnight Oats – The Base
Serves 5ish – Depends how big you like your portions!

Ingredients  
1 cup/ 100g Porridge oats
1 heaped tbsp Nut butter (Almond, peanut, cashew etc.)
1.5-2 cups / 375-500ml Milk of choice (Almond, coconut, soya, rice etc.)
2-3 tbsp Chia seeds
2 tbsp Honey/maple syrup
1/2 cup / 125ml Any thick yoghurt- (Optional, it makes it thicker and creamier but if you’re on a budget its not an issue to skip!)
1 tbsp Vanilla extract (also optional, I literally never have this at uni but it’s nice if you do)
Pinch of salt

Method:
1. Place all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined
2. Add more milk depending on how thick you want your oats
3. Place in any sort of jar/container/tupperware and whack it in the fridge. Its best left over night but if you can’t wait that long and fancy it for dessert after dinner, around 2 hours should give it time to set enough!

 

 

At uni I put mine in a big tupperware container and take out as much as I fancy in the morning, but alternatively to give yourself even more time you can portion them out into individual pots. That way you can also make lots of different flavours or add your toppings before so you don’t even have to think!

Variations:
You can do SO much with overnight oats to tailor to your individual tastes.

Toppings:
First off, you can change your toppings every day, my choice is normally a banana, or a handful of raspberries and blueberries. But you can also add granola for some crunch, seeds, nuts, coconut flakes and literally any fruit that you can get your hands on.
Top tip: I can’t afford too much fresh fruit at uni so I buy bags of frozen raspberries and then defrost a handful in the microwave for 30 seconds.

 

 

Flavouring:
The easiest way to mix it up is to use a different nut butter or different kind of milk to give you that variation in your life so you don’t get bored, but the ‘world is your porridge-oat’ in terms of stepping up your flavour game. My all time favourite is adding a spoonful of cacao powder (or just regular chocolate powder), and tadahh you have chocolate overnight oats! Add banana and you’re looking at banana, chocolate and peanut butter oats, the perfect combo. Add grated carrot, cinnamon and chopped nuts to get a carrot cake flavour for a morning ‘treat’, or go one step further by having cheesecake for breakfast by adding cream cheese, some lemon zest and then your choice of fruit! For any protein fiends out there, you can also get your fix, add a scoop full of your favourite protein powder and you have super-charged your morning oats with minimal effort.

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So fill your boots, (or your fridge), with delicious, fuss free overnight oats to get you going faster in the morning and see you through till lunchtime!

 

Try Here: No. 1 Polsloe

Tucked away on the corner of Polsloe Road, No. 1 Polsloe is a hidden gem where locals and students alike can’t get enough. If you aren’t in the know, it’s probably because most have been keeping this tiny café a secret from you so we can grab the Instagrammer’s dream window spot, or any spot for that matter, it’s always packed with hungry brunch loving exonians!

And it comes as no surprise that No. 1 Polsloe is always as full to the brim as their artisan coffees, this café is calm, cool and cost-friendly. Their food is seriously top-notch, with delicious options for meat-eaters, veggies and vegans a-like, you are spoilt for choice, and there is something for everyone. From American-style pancakes, to eggs royale, hearty soups and health bowls to the classic avo-on-toast, all the food is made with high-quality ingredients and a lot of love.

 

But your options don’t just stop at food, No. 1 Polsloe offer an amazing range of locally sourced, fresh barista coffees, delightful milk alternatives, decadent milkshakes and fresh juices. This is not forgetting their interior of beautiful flowers, fairly lights, local art and funky furniture is a sight to behold, (and will make your Instagram feed look incredible).

It’s hard to believe with its well-established fan base, slick service and affordable food my hangover dreams are made of, that this café is only just over 2 years old, and thriving every day. They have also already hosted a number of exciting sell-out evening events such as creative workshops for silver rings and festive wreaths, and the ‘world’s smallest Christmas market’!

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No. 1 Polsloe has well and truly won my hungover heart, to the point I’m not sure I want to spread this worst kept secret of a gem anymore, I’ll never get a table! Having moved just around the corner from the café for my final year at uni, I am sure I shall frequently be there hiding away to forget my dissertation meltdowns and indulge in some of the best brunch around.

 

 

Try This: 2-Minute Vegan Pancakes

So, pancake day is literally almost over and I’ve decided to add to the noise a little too late and give you my recipe, why? Because part of being an adult is realising that you can make pancakes any day of the year!

This recipe is completely fuss free, takes two minutes, vegan friendly, and tastes like heaven on a plate. Now I maintain the real heroes and make-or-break parts of the humble pancake are the toppings, so really, a pancake is what you make it. But it helps to have a good base.

A lot of vegan recipes for pancakes use banana instead of egg, which I personally really like, but I know it’s not for everyone, so I’ve gone for banana-free ones to satisfy all – but if you want, feel free to change the nut butter for banana, or chia seeds etc.

Go crazy and add some broken up dark chocolate or blueberries like I did to pimp-up your pancake, and marvel at how easy and stress free it can be!

2-minute vegan pancakes
(Serves: Literally depends on how greedy you’re feeling, I ate it all, but I went into a food coma, it made about 6 ish pancakes!)

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Ingredients:

150g (1 cup) plain flour
2 tbsp caster sugar
2tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 heaped tbsp nut butter of choice
1 tsp oil (vegetable, melted coconut, whichever you prefer) – plus extra for frying!
300ml almond milk (or milk alternative of choice)
Toppings/ additions of choice (go crazy)

Method:

  1. Sift (or don’t, I didn’t because 1) I don’t own a sieve at uni 2) who really has time for that) all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl
  2. Mix the nut butter and oil together and then add to the dry ingredients
  3. Add the almond milk and whisk until combined
  4. Add in any additional flavours (I’ve chosen some dark chocolate and blueberries)
  5. On a medium/high heat add a little oil, enough to lightly cover the pan, once hot, pour in your batter to whatever size you want
  6. Once the pancake is coming away at the sides, is producing some bubbles and looks brown on the bottom, flip and cook on the other side (or try your best pancake-tossing tricks!)
  7. Remove from heat, get your pancake decorating on and enjoy!

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From the pictures you can also tell I went a bit ott… to the point you can’t really see the pancakes! So, feel free to indulge as little or as much (as much is encouraged) as you want!

Try This: Ultimate Shakshuka

Mornings are getting darker, evenings colder and for some, freshers week is around the corner. Summer may have only just left us, but as I do live in England, winter is very much making its way in, and I have already lit the fire twice this week. Dreary and wet days mean that a nice cold sandwich will no longer cut the mustard and some warm comfort food is on the menu.

I made this for lunch a couple of days ago and posted it on my Instagram stories and to my surprise, I had loads of people message me asking what it was, and for the recipe. (Side Note: When I say loads I mean 7. But that was enough for me to feel like I was Nigella Lawson and that I might as well make a blog post out of it).

 

Shakshuka is my new love affair. There are plenty of recipes online so you can adapt how you like as I sort of made this one up on the spot. The basis of it is a rich spicy tomato base with some runny baked eggs in the middle, this warming dish is perfect for brunch, lunch and dinner, and works as my personal favourite hangover cure. So if you are in need of a little comfort food, hanging from freshers week or want to mix up your mid-week meals, give this one a try.

Ultimate Shakshuka: 
Serves 1

Ingredients:

1/2 can of chopped tomatoes
1/2 can of chickpeas (drained)
1/2 pepper (chopped)
1/2 chilli (chopped)
Large handful of spinach
2 eggs
1tsp paprika
1tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
Bread (toasted)

Method:

  1. Preheat the grill to around 170. Place the chopped tomatoes, pepper and chilli into a saucepan and place over a medium heat to start heating through and reducing the tomatoes.
  2. Add all of the seasoning and chickpeas and place a lid on the saucepan and let it thicken up a little.
  3. Once thickened, add the spinach and stir until it had wilted and combined.
  4. Then transfer the contents of the saucepan into a bowl of choice.
  5. Make two small wells in the mixture with a spoon and crack the eggs into these wells.
  6. Place the bowl under the grill and leave until the eggs are cooked through.
  7. Garnish, and serve with some toasted bread to dip into the egg yolks as mop up the sauce.

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Super easy, and super quick, it probably takes me max 15 minutes to make. And you can play around with your ingredients; sometimes I use a tin of 5 bean mix instead of chickpeas, or you can go one better and get the 5 bean in a tomato sauce and then you have no need for the chopped tomatoes. Frying off some onion and garlic and adding to the sauce also gives some nice flavour, or my personal favourite, crumble some feta on the top after you have cooked the eggs!

 

 

5 Eco-Conscious Brands To Watch

Making more ethical and eco-conscious choices has been something I have been working on and becoming more aware of over the last two years. Simple things such as making more ethical food choices, being more conscious of the amount of food waste and general waste I produce, and working to reduce my plastic usage.

It seems that the world has also started to take note, more and more big name brands and small independent companies are priding themselves on producing ethical products or managing their waste more effectively.

This post is a shout out to a few brands and companies doing their bit to help the planet, whilst also producing some amazing products!

Toast (Beer) 

Beer lovers rejoice! You can now drink to your hearts content whilst also supporting the reduction of food waste. With the realisation that 44% of bread is wasted, Toast made it their mission to produce an ale using unsold loaves from bakeries and unused crusts from sandwich makers. In every bottle there is a slice of surplus bread – and better still, ALL of their profits are given to the charity Feedback to help tackle food waste.

So far they have saved over 6000 kilograms of bread, and are a fast growing and pioneering brand of conscious living. Their hierarchy in dealing with the surplus bread is Reduce, Redistribute, Brew, meaning that even before they use the bread to make their beer, they try to see if what they have collected is suitable to give to food redistribution charities first.

http://www.toastale.com/

Bees Wax Wraps 

Having only just discovered this company, I am now SO excited to share what Carly and Fran do. Everyone has at least one roll of cling-film or tin-foil in their home, constantly wrapping sandwiches, trying to preserve last nights leftovers can produce a lot of unnecessary plastic use. Enter handmade brand, Bees Wax Wraps, 100% natural made from cotton, bees wax, pine resin and jojoba oil, these wraps act in the same way as regular cling-film. Place over a bowl or wrap round a sandwich and the heat from your hands helps mould the wrap and makes it seal.

But wait for the best part, they are completely reusable AND biodegradable. Once you have used a wrap, you can give it a wash in some cold water and soap and its good to go again, and after a month stick them in the oven to re pasteurise and its like they’re brand new! I am definitely looking at investing in a few, and with such beautiful and funky colours, lunch will never be boring again!

https://www.beeswaxwraps.co.uk/

Pela

If you own a phone and admit to being as clumsy as me (or just don’t want to take the risk with your £400 phone) you will inevitably own a case, and like most of the population, it will probably be plastic. Traditional cases are made with a lot of plastic which contain toxins and are chucked away once we get bored of the design, meaning they sit in the ground or ocean for potentially thousands of years.

Pela have created a set of phone cases which not only protect your precious phone, but is also 100% compostable, BPA free and non-toxic, so you can save the world even when you’re taking a selfie.

https://pelacase.com/

Antibad

A friend I used to go to college with has been interning for this brand for a while and if you are a fashion lover, this is the place for you. Antibad are an online store and magazine which brings together sustainable clothing and accessories to challenge fast paced fashion and promote that sustainability can also be stylish.

From vegan bags to bamboo bras there is something for everyone. The website launches on October 1st so keep an eye on their social media and sign-up to their newsletter for offers and information.

http://antibadstore.com/

Chilly’s

The pinnacle of plastic use and waste comes in the form of plastic bottles. America throw away over 35 billion plastic water bottles every year. It is a huge waste of plastic, super damaging to the environment, not to mention it actually costs us lots of money. Chilly’s is a water bottle brand which aims to reduce single-use plastic bottles with their stainless steel ones.

The bottle is expertly designed to keep your drinks cool for up to 24 hours and hot for 12. With so many beautiful and stylish designs, you will want to be seen with this bottle, let alone that you’ll have that warm fuzzy feeling that you are saving the planet while you hydrate.

https://www.chillysbottles.com/

There are so many more wonderful brands out there but here was just a handful for you to check out if you want to do your bit for the world, enjoy!

Thrifty Travel: Dublin

 

It always seems to be the way, your lust for travel is much bigger than your bank balance, you feel like you deserve a holiday but your budget says more ‘camping weekend in the back garden’ than it does ‘trip abroad’.

But there are so many ways you can still get your holiday fix without breaking the bank, my first example, Dublin. Granted this won’t be your standard getting a tan, sipping on margaritas style holiday, however if you are up for a bit of culture, a little adventure, and lot of Guinness, Dublin is a great place to spend a few days and it doesn’t have to cost the earth. So here is my guide to Dublin, what to see, what to do and all on a student budget.

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Travel

Flights

Being from the South West, travel is sometimes a bit of a nightmare, and crucially, extremely pricey. However, flights to Dublin are pretty cheap.

From Bristol to Dublin the flight is almost under an hour and by booking only a couple months in advance, a return ticket cost us £59. Having a quick search online this price seems pretty standard and even when I looked to book for as early as next week the prices seem to stay the same, only varying by £10 or so.

So flights are relatively cheap, but use price comparison sites like SkyScanner or Kayak and you can keep an eye on flights and buy them at the best price. Another massive tip is to try and book flights which mean you arrive to your destination early, and depart late, that way you can make the most of your trip by having a good proportion of the day on your arrival and departure to play with.

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From the airport

Fortunately, Dublin airport is pretty close to the city centre and we found it worked out quite well to hop on a coach which took us directly onto O’Connell Street. For a small €12 we had a return ticket which we could use at any time to get us back and it took us straight to the heart of Dublin within 25 minutes.

Day to day

So, if you really want to save money and you are staying in somewhere pretty central then there is no better way to experience the city for free than walking from place to place. In general, much of the tourist attractions in Dublin are fairly close together and so walking shouldn’t be a problem.

Although we stayed pretty central, (if we knew which way to walk it would have only taken us about 20 minutes to walk to the centre), Dublin has a super easy and fast tram system that I would encourage you all to take advantage of. For less than €5 we had a return which got us to the centre in 5-10 minutes and once there, we walked the rest. Taking the tram made life so much easier, it’s really simple to understand and felt a lot safer when we were coming home after dinner and drinks out. They also run stupidly regularly. If you’re staying for longer than a couple of days it also might be worth investing in a ‘leapcard’, they sort of work like oyster cards where you can top them up with money and scan it at the tram stop.

Warning: It is super easy to fall into a false sense of security and think that it is not worth buying a tram ticket because there are no barriers or officials on the trams 24/7. However, ‘tram security’ do regularly hop on and check your tickets and issue fines for not having one, which is seriously not worth it when a return costs next to nothing.

Accommodation 

Airbnb have it pretty sorted. For a whole flat only a 5-minute walk to the Guinness Factory and a 10-minute tram ride into the main centre between 3 of us we found a place for £64 each for 2 nights. Airbnb was super handy as by talking to our host we could check in early and check out late and had the entire flat to ourselves. Because Dublin is a major city, there are literally so many places listed on the site so you can go mega cheap and just hire a room in a house, or splash out more and get an entire apartment. But I would look at these as early as possible as all of the good ones can get booked up quickly.

Another cheaper alternative are hostels which are dotted all around the centre at the fraction of the price of a hotel.

Food and drink  

Food and drink is probably the only thing I would say requires a bit more of a ‘splurge’, but that still doesn’t mean you can’t save a few pennies here and there.

If you do what we did and get yourself an Airbnb, you are already setting yourself up to save some money since you will normally have a kitchen in an apartment. If you’re in even more luck like we were, your host might provide some tea or coffee and smaller bits like cereal, and then your breakfast is sorted. If not, it will cost you much less to buy some bread and some cereal than it will to eat breakfast out, and if you are in mega saving mode you could even make packed lunches.

But in general we found it quite easy to have a bit of early morning breakfast at the apartment, head into the city and start sightseeing and then grab some brunch/lunch from a local café. Dublin is full of hundreds of restaurants so grab a couple of guides or just wonder round and there is something for everyone. On our first night we had some really reasonably priced tapas right in the centre of temple bar, and on the second we knew we wanted to have some traditional Irish Stew so went fully traditional and had it in the Brazen Head, Dublin’s oldest pub.

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All in all, food can be as cheap or as expensive as you want to make it, the only thing you might need to give on, is if you’re partial to a cheeky pint. Now granted, since we were only staying for a couple of nights we didn’t take the time to branch out and try and find some cheaper places to drink and stuck to the good old Temple Bar area. But you can imagine my face when I asked the bar tender for two glasses of red wine and he replied ‘€15 please’. This is coming from a girl who wouldn’t pay anymore than £7 for a whole bottle back at home, though. That being said, even a pint of Dublin’s world famous Guinness set us back €6.80, and my poor housemate paid €6.30 for the pleasure of a traditionally cheap and cheerful Bulmers.

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Smiling through the pain and savouring every last drop.

So if you’re planning on drinking on your trip my advice would either be bite the bullet, or if your stay is a little bit longer than ours was, have an explore outside of the main tourist traps, prices might be a little cheaper!

Attractions

Top tip: If you are a student TAKE FULL ADVANTAGE, most of the places we went to offered a student discount (so make sure you bring your student card with you), and it makes a lot of difference.

Free:

Trinity College: Dublin’s famous university is free to enter and have wonder round, it’s a really impressive building and has some beautiful grounds. You can also pay for a guided tour which if you’re interested in its history might be a good idea.

Temple Bar: A vibrant and bustling section of the city filled with traditional Irish pubs, restaurants and gift shops. Enjoyed best in the evening where you can drop into one of the many pubs and listen to some live music.

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Grafton Street: If shopping is your thing, then head down to Grafton Street, Dublin’s main shopping area. Filled with well known brands and independent stores it would be quite easy to spend a whole afternoon there. We also visited just to feel like we were part of the Ed Sheeran song.

Paid:

Guinness Factory: So worth the tour if not only for the fact the brewery is AMAZING. The tour is self guided and not only offers a student discount but you can also get cheaper tickets if you book at certain ‘off peak times’. You work your way through 6 floors of the history of Guinness from how its made, to their advertising. Your ticket also buys you a sample and lesson in how best to ‘experience’ Guinness as well as a free pint at the end in their impressive skybar which gives you views across the whole of Dublin. Student ticket: €18 Adult Ticket: Anything from €14-€20 depending on the time you book for and how early in advance you book!

Top tip: So we might have just been lucky, but stick around the skybar for a bit, quite often people get to the top and don’t want their free pint, or are under aged and so hand their free coupon to people who want it – in the 45 minutes we were up there we got offered an extra 4 free pints (but maybe we just looked like poor students who needed it).

Christ Church Dublin Cathedral:

Founded in 1028 this beautiful cathedral is worth an explore. At ground level the building boasts stunning stain glass windows and an impressive organ. But explore further and you can take a walk through the medieval crypt featuring a mummified cat and rat discovered in the cathedral’s organ and Ireland’s first copy the Magna Carta.

€6.50, Adults, €5, Students

Dublin Castle:

Yet another remarkable building, and a place you can save some money on too! Dublin’s castle is a great opportunity to see how ‘the other half’ lived as you walk around drawing rooms with beautiful ceilings and great halls bigger than your house. You have the option to take a guided or self-guided tour, with the guided you get to see the Viking Excavation and Chapel Royal, so if that is something that peaks your interest it might be worth spending the extra €3. However, for just a peak round the state apartments and exhibitions, it’s a little cheaper to go with a self guided tour. The castle also has some lovely grounds where you can sit and enjoy a bit of lunch.

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Top tip: You can actually download a free app which gives you an audio tour of the state apartments, saving you spending the extra for a guided tour.

Guided: €10 Adults, €8 Students
Self Guided: €7 Adults, €6 Students

Kilmainham Gaol Museum:

This was one of my favourite attractions we visited over the three days. Open from 1796-1924, the Gaol is now open to the public to take a tour round and witness the place where many prisoners of the Irish Civil War and leaders of many rebellions were held. Holding everyone from political prisoners, child thieves and murders, the well informed tour guide shows you some of the most harrowing and impressive features of the building. Getting to actually walk into the cells prisoners spent years of their lives and stand in the room some men and women spent their last nights’ in was such a weird and interesting experience and I fully recommend you take the trip over.

They do recommend that you book your tickets in advance, not only because the tickets are slightly cheaper but also because it gets extremely busy, we were very lucky to get there first thing and squeeze in on an early morning tour, but booking online would be a good idea.

Online:  €8 Adults, €4 Student
Walk-in: €9 Adults, €5 Student

So in 3 short days we managed to do a lot, but Dublin is filled with so many more wonderful museums and boasts a lot of fascinating tours. Dublin is a great cheap get-away for culture lovers and guinness drinkers alike, and I hope my lengthy post also saves you a euro or two!

 

Lessons from Abroad: Costa Rica

Last summer, after over a year of saving hard, team West travelled for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday to Costa Rica. To say it was an adventure would be an understatement. We were staying in a super rural part of the island, the roads should have come with a warning that they may be unsuitable for anyone with a nervous disposition, and we spent our days sharing sun loungers with the local iguanas. However, it was genuinely one of the most fun and exciting holidays I had ever been on, surrounded by the rainforest and its wildlife, amazing food and the most welcoming local community.

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The holiday came at one of the most perfect times for me personally. After finishing an exciting but really tough first year at university, moving away from home, and working super hard at my job, two weeks away from civilisation to explore and relax was just what I needed. And while we were away this phrase came up a lot: Pura Vida.

Pura Vida, is one of the most commonly used phrases in Costa Rica. Used as a greeting, farewell, to let people know you’re doing well, or just to say thanks etc. In its simplest translation, Pura Vida, means ‘pure life’, but it is also similar to sayings such as ‘real living’, ‘full of life’ or even our favourite Disney phrase ‘Hakuna Matata’. And like the Danish have taken Hygge, using it not only in its literal sense, but also as a basis for their way of life, so too, has Pura Vida become a way of life for the people of Costa Rica, which is something I think we could all learn from.

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To Costa Ricans, Pura Vida means that no matter what your situation in life is, someone could always be less fortunate. They believe that no matter how much or how little you have in life, life is too short to worry about it and that we should just live it as optimistically and fully as possible.

And wouldn’t the world be a much happier place if we didn’t worry about how much stuff we do or do not have, and instead appreciate our lives for what they are. And the Costa Rican people seem to have it pretty sorted. They have no standing army, (and haven’t since the 50s), they are one of the most valued environmental destinations, with a quarter of the country consisting in protected forests and reserves, and they have one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world. They live healthy, balanced lives, with respect for nature, one another and themselves.

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Even just being there for two weeks I felt I began to understand this deeply ingrained value more and more. Half way through the holiday, the internet at our apartment stopped working for an entire week and as more time went on, the less fussed I seemed to become. I was enjoying time with my family, seeing some of the most amazing views I have ever experienced and really understanding how fortunate I am to have the life I do.

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So one of my first lessons from abroad, is Pura Vida. Appreciation, optimism, and living life for the now. And so I here I am sharing my lesson with the rest of the world (or just my parents, who make up 85% of my page views). But I feel like in the interesting and sometimes scary time we are living in, some lessons from places and people who seem to be keeping pretty happy and out of trouble, couldn’t hurt.

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Much Love x