Christmas Traditions

In our house, Christmas is all about the food, the fizz, and the family. As we collectively grow older, all the material aspects of Christmas begin to matter less and we recognize that the company we keep is invaluable.

But there's one thing that makes the holiday season more special than any other time of the year- and that's tradition. Maybe it's because I'm feeling nostalgic in my older age or because I won't be home for as long this Christmas as I normally am, but I find myself holding tighter to these traditions now more than ever.

My family isn't particularly religious or "traditional" per se but there are a few little family traditions that we've kept up over the years that I look forward to every season (and am sad to see go as the 25th comes and goes). So today I thought I'd share with you a few of my favorite family Christmas traditions.

Christmas Cookie Making 

One of the best things about traditions is how they not only serve to create memories but also how they sometimes conjure up the same conversations every year. With Christmas Cookie making, this couldn't be more true. Every year, we say "this isn't enough cookie dough!" as my grandfather rolls out the dough on the counter. Of course, it always ends up being more than enough, especially considering that there are always so many sweets in the house. And decorating the cookies once they've been cooked is always the time where competition ensues. Who's the best decorator? The neatest? The most creative? (spoiler alert: it's always me) We always end up eating half of the decorations, and my grandfather is forever in charge of cutting out and decorating a Rudolph cookie (always the most delicate of the bunch). We're definitely creatures of habit!

Yearly Christmas Ornaments 

My mom is truly a Christmas fiend. The second the Thanksgiving Turkey is eaten, we're already scoping out a tree. And because the tree is up at the end of November, my mom has to get started on one of my favorite family traditions pretty early on. For as long as I can remember, my mom has been gifting each of us an ornament every year. And not just any ornaments- ones that are unique to the person and sometimes unique to that time in their life. If you think about that in the scope of my family, with four kids, two parents, and countless years together, you can imagine our tree is pretty full. Some of my personal favorite ornaments are my swan (to go with my namesake) and my American Girl Doll "Samantha" ornament. This year, my favorite new addition was my brother's Bean Boot.

The Boston Holiday Pops

This tradition never fails to put a smile on each of our faces. And even though we see the same show every year, the Boston Pops Orchestra always switches it up and it's always a new adventure for us. From the classics like Sleigh Ride to the legendary Boston Pops own version of Twelve Days of Christmas (listen to it here- you won't regret it), there really is something for everyone. And the best part is always the sing-along. You can bet I'm always going to be belting out my favorite Christmas tunes whenever I get the chance!

As we face a lot of changes in our family what with us kids growing older and creating our own lives, it's comforting to know that some things never change. Even when I feel like my life is moving forward at a mile a minute and I'm not quite sure where I'm going, I know I can always reach for and remember these strong family traditions.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a happy New Year!


Forage & Chatter: A Can't-Miss Culinary Highlight in Edinburgh

Memorable meals come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. We might remember a meal fondly because of the people we shared it with or the events we were celebrating. But having an unforgettable meal based solely on the excellence of the food? Those ones are a bit more rare.

Last week, I had the pleasure of having a meal that I'll truly never forget thanks to Forage & Chatter.


Recent Reads

I feel like I've said this a million times, but I'm not a big reader. I know that might make me sound terribly unintelligent or unintellectual- but hear me out. After long days of constantly being surrounded by words from journal articles, social theory books, and my own writing, it's hard to gain the motivation to read.

But now that I've found some books that I'm really enthusiastic about, I can't wait to read a few pages before bed every night! Even if it's just a short chapter or five pages, I'm happy with any progress I make. I've also probably already said this before, but I usually don't go for fiction books. Maybe it's because I study Sociology, but I really enjoy reading books about social issues more than anything. On this very short list of just two books, though, I have one fiction book and one non-fiction book for you! I'm also new to this whole reading two books at once thing, but I'm kind of loving it.


Black Ivy, Edinburgh: A Bohemian Dream in Bruntsfield

Living in a more residential area of Edinburgh, like Marchmont, it can be difficult to find an elegant spot for dinner or drinks within walking distance. So when a much-anticipated new restaurant and bar opens up around the corner from my flat promising "local luxury," I'm all ears.

Black Ivy opened it's doors just a couple of weeks ago in Bruntsfield, after a long renovation over the summer. Whether you're looking for a local lunch hangout or a new bar to try out, Black Ivy has got you covered. And with a complete overhaul of the space, menu, and overall vibe, you'll feel like you're in a hip, Newtown establishment- without the high price tag.


Remember, Remember... A Memorable Bonfire Weekend

I haven't celebrated Bonfire Night since my first year at University. It was super exciting since I had only been living in the UK for a few months at that point, and I had never heard of Bonfire Night before. I went up Calton Hill with my friends, lit some sparklers, and watched the diffusion of sparkling fireworks across the city.

Since then, I've let the weekend pass without notice. Which is sad, because Bonfire Night is such a fun holiday. I won't get into the history of Bonfire Night, but it's basically an excuse for people to come together to drink cider in the crisp autumn air and watch fireworks light up the sky.

But this year, I fully celebrated Bonfire Night with a fun 'n' fancy event in Central London, and a trip to Blackheath to watch some fireworks.


Life Update: Fourth year struggles, long-distance, and future travel plans

What? Leda posting on a Monday? I know- I find it hard to believe too!

I decided to post a little life update today because as you can see from my un-timeliness on the blog as of late, things have been getting pretty busy around these parts. Plus, between the travel and food posts, there's a real life going on behind the scenes! Just thought I'd remind you.

So here's the 411 on what I've been up to lately:


An Authentic Taste of Italy at Veeno, Quartermile

There are few things in life more comforting, or more deeply satisfying, than a nice glass of wine sipped alongside a lovingly prepared cheeseboard. In fact, this sounds like my ideal night in. But as far as my student budget can stretch, this usually means that I'm stuck buying a "slightly better than average" bottle of wine, and find myself deliberating over whether the hefty price tag of Tesco's Finest cheese is worth it.

But this weekend, I was able to live my continental fantasy when I was kindly invited to review a wine tasting at Veeno, the Italian wine cafe.


3 Little Decorations in My Room That Make Me Smile

I'm just about finished putting the final touches on my bedroom for this year. I know, I know- it's October. I should've already done this by now. But life, okay? Between traveling a lot and being busy with my course, putting up pictures and fairy lights has been the last thing on my mind. 

Despite my delays, I'm a firm believer that little decorations can make all the difference in making a space "homier." I'm lucky though, because a.) I've had the same bedroom at university for going on 3 years now and b.) My flat in Edinburgh already has quite a lot of charming character. But in any case, a room without personal touches isn't really a home. 

So today I wanted to share with you three little, low-key decorations in my room that bring personality to the space. 

My Teacup "Collection"

I say "collection" with a bit of hesitance. It's only three teacups. But, I'm hoping one day it will become a bigger collection. I wish I was more proactive in actually buying unique teacups, but I'm lucky enough that my mom has gifted me with these three special cups and saucers. 


An Autumn Afternoon in Greenwich

If you've been spying on my Instagram lately, you may have noticed that I've been spending a lot of time in London. That's because Ben moved down South for his job and, well, I have the more flexible schedule (#studentlife).

One of the best perks of Ben moving to London is that we both get to go out and play tourist every so often. It's like a mini-vacation from Edinburgh without traveling too far (or spending too much money). There's so much more to London than Big Ben and the London Eye. And while these landmarks are great, it's been fun to see what the London area has to offer beyond this.

Where to start? Enter Greenwich. Effortlessly charming, historically significant, and filled with quaint restaurants and cafes, it's the perfect place to spend an Autumn afternoon.


I'm Only An "Average" Runner, But Here's Why I Keep Going

Sports were never really my thing growing up.

I played soccer from when I was in Kindergarten up until the age of 11. I was never the star player, and my coaches only ever said I was "okay." Cue the participation trophies. Then, I tried out tennis for a while. I went through all the motions, struggled with a backhand, and finished off my summer classes not making much of an impression.

And then, running came into my life. I loved it- the thrill of racing, the sense of accomplishment I felt after going for a long run, the team spirit. It was the perfect sport for me- no balls or bats, just me, the pavement (or grass), and my own thoughts. I really felt I had found my place. And at first, I was pretty good at it. In fact, I was one of the best girls on the team in middle school.

Being "good" at running was, at times, my justification for doing it. I mean, I wasn't good at anything else, and enjoying it was just a bonus as far as I was concerned.



Honeycomb & Co, Edinburgh: A hidden gem and personal favorite

In a city like Edinburgh, where the food scene is diverse and ever-changing, it's hard to pick a favorite. In fact, there are few places in Edinburgh that I've been back to multiple times- no sooner have I discovered a new restaurant than I feel obliged to check a new one off my list.

But if you asked me what my favorite restaurant for any occasion, for any type of foodie, is? I would 100% tell you that it's Honeycomb & Co. in Bruntsfield. With radiant decor that's as instagram-worthy as it gets, flavorful food that changes on a regular basis, and coffee, cakes, and cocktails to top it all off, Honeycomb & Co. is the place that I'll tell anyone and everyone to go to.


A First-Time Visit to St. Andrews

Now, I must warn you. This is going to be a pretty jam-packed post. If only because my mom and I got up to a lot while we were in St. Andrews. 

If you can believe it, in all my (three) years of living in Edinburgh, I had never once made the journey to St. Andrews, our neighboring university town. My excuse is that I think it takes a little bit more effort to get to if you don't have a car- there's no direct train, so you get off at Leuchars and then have to take a bus into the town center. Okay, maybe that's not the best excuse (it's just an extra bus ride after all), but I'm glad that my mom's visit gave me the chance to finally explore this charming seaside town.  


An Afternoon at Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

As an Edinburgh student, it's no secret that royals walk among us. Whether they're "minor" royals who attend the same classes as us, or the major royals who visit the city on a regular basis. It's not uncommon to have a friend or two who's met a royal before (I met Princess Anne last year, and have a few friends who have met Prince Phillip thanks to the Duke of Edinburgh Award).

But how much do we really know about the Royal Family? I mean, aside from binge-watching The Crown and Victoria, that is. Despite the celebrity of it all, there's a lot more to the Royal Family than headlines and hairstyles. The history of royalty in Edinburgh is rich and compelling. And when you combine that with the complexities of England's relationship with Scotland, you have a really interesting story.

Being someone who is always keen to learn more about British history, who also loves beautiful architecture, art, and gardens, I was so pleased to be given the chance to visit Holyrood Palace with my mom while she was in Edinburgh.


Exploring Wine Country in Santa Barbara, California

It's been more than a week since I returned from my holiday to California. And guess what? I'm still dreaming about all the wine I tasted there. France and Italy may be world-famous for its wine, but California is quickly building up its reputation as a leader in the wine-making world.

While Napa and Sonoma county may be the most well-known places to fully immerse yourself in the vineyard lifestyle, Santa Barbara does the trick if you're staying in Southern California, and don't want to venture too far from the LA area. It's basically a win-win.


LA in Three Days

This girl is no stranger to Los Angeles. Ever since my oldest brother moved there to pursue his music career (and succeed in it), I had spent many a spring break soaking up the sun on the West Coast. But over the past two or so years, I've had to skip out on the annual LA trip because, well, life got in the way. So while my parents took one for the team and continued to visit my brother each spring, I, sadly, missed out. 

Until this year. The annual Olia Family vacation took a dramatic turn, and we ended up heading West instead of to Europe, like we normally do. It makes things easier for my oldest brother, who has little time to take off of work, and makes it so that we can stay in the country (albeit a 6 hour flight away) for our vacation. Cue jetlag. 


Upcoming Travels

I just touched down in Los Angeles on Monday for my first big holiday after 8 weeks of work. I'd say it's pretty well deserved, and for that reason I'm keeping things short this week.

The next month or so is going to be pretty hectic for me in terms of travel. Nothing monumental or anything, but plenty of moving from one place to the next. It's definitely not the worst way to start off my final year of university, but I definitely wish there I had a bit more stability. Oh well, all in the name of travel, I guess!


How to Spend a Day in Boston

There's no shortage of things to do or see, or iconic foods to eat in Boston. But say you've ticked all the tourist-y boxes (the Freedom Trail and Faneuil Hall to name a few) and want to freshen up your Boston itinerary?

Well, that's just what fellow blogger Hayley and I did this weekend. Hayley first paid me a visit in my home city last summer. Since it was her first time in Boston (and in America for that matter...), we had so much to do in so little time! Back then, we really hit the ground running and did the full on Boston crash-course. But this time, we took things at a bit of a slower pace, visiting old favorites and discovering a few hidden gems.


3 Things I've Learned from 3 Years of Blogging

Starting a blog when you go abroad is about as basic as it gets. I'm sorry to say it, but it's true. 

For some, it's a required assignment for their program. For others, it's a personal project punctuated by bursts of creativity from time to time. And for the rare breed of blogger, they've turned their online space from a side hustle into a full-time job.

For me? It's simply been my passion since day one- basic or not. 

I started my blog back in 2014, about a month before I started at the University of Edinburgh. At the time, I knew so little, but wanted to write about so much. I mean, so much that any little adventure or anecdote would turn into a full-blown blog post. I was amazed by everything, and I just had to write about it. 


A Weekend in Connecticut

Sometimes you just need a weekend away with a good friend. 

But when your friends are spread out all over the country (and the world) during the summer like mine, it can be hard for our ambitious plans to materialize. 

Luckily, Hayley and I were really proactive in planning a weekend trip together for the summer. Hayley is working in Stamford, Connecticut for the next year, and since she's (relatively) close in proximity to me, we thought we'd make the most of it! 

This past Saturday, I took the bus into New Haven, Connecticut to meet Hayley for a day of wandering, photo-taking, and eating. Because that's what bloggers do of course! My bus from Newton to New Haven only took about 3 hours, and there was no traffic, so me and Hayley's journeys from our respective locations timed out perfectly. Talk about fate.  


3 Classic Summer Cocktails

Nothing quite beats sipping on a good cocktail outside on a hot summers day. And while I've tried out many a colorful concoction, there are a few classic combos I keep going back to. And that's because, surprise surprise, they're easy. 

Nobody wants to be juggling cocktail shakers, crazy garnishes, and a million different ingredients while trying to entertain their friends. So minimalistic cocktails made up of ingredients I usually have on hand are my go-tos. 

With this arsenal of classic summer cocktails in your back pocket, there's something for everyone. Gin, rum, and vodka based drinks are all crowd pleasers. In fact, the Moscow mule and mojito on this list are two drinks I've made many times back in Edinburgh for parties big and small. So you can trust me when I say these are good. Plus, Sunday evening cocktails have become somewhat of a tradition in my house, meaning I have lots of experience

Just a few tips before I dish out these recipes: 

Keep it chill // It's best to stick all your ingredients in the fridge or freezer (depending on how much time you have) before you start putting your cocktails together. Otherwise, you'll end up having to use much more ice than you need, watering down your drink (and nobody wants that). 

Make a batch of simple syrup in advance // If you want to add a touch of sweetness to your drinks, simple syrup is the way to go. Since you dissolve the sugar into the water beforehand, you don't have to worry about adding granulated sugar straight into a drink, and having it sink to the bottom. To make simple syrup, just add one part sugar to one part water, and let dissolve over a medium heat in a heavy bottomed sauce pan (stirring occasionally). Let it chill in the fridge or freezer beforehand, or else you'll end up with warm drinks!

Measure, measure, measure // I'm all for improvising on cocktails, but you have to be fair to everyone. While I'm not saying that you can't add an extra shot in for good measure, it's best to be exact in what you give everyone, so that each of your guests gets their fair share. Whether you invest in a jigger or do the classic student move of using a good ol' shot glass, there are plenty of ways to ensure that each cocktail is roughly the same (in strength, sweetness, and flavor). That being said, I'm not one to measure in ounces or "parts," so I've kept it simple by using shots as your base measure. 

Minty Mojito 

Mojitos are bound to get the party started. With plenty of lime and mint, mojitos are bound to please even the pickiest of drinkers.  


A Literary Afternoon Tea at the Boston Public Library

Afternoon tea is a longstanding tradition for my mom and I. We've been keeping up with this tradition since I was young enough to still be ordering the "kids" tea- that is, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a pot of kid-friendly hot chocolate.

Over the years, we've tried all manner of afternoon teas. From traditional (dare I say "stuffy) ones to ones that offered more trendy bites. And while I can easily say that I've been to at least a dozen different afternoon teas between the US and the UK, there's one particular spot in Boston that we seem to always gravitate towards.

The Boston Public Library is an oasis of calm in the middle of downtown Boston. And while the famously photogenic reading room and sundrenched central courtyard might be teeming with snap-happy tourists, if there's one way to escape the hustle and bustle, it's to spend a gentle afternoon at the Courtyard Restaurant.


Running for Education Equality with Teach First

Running is so often a selfish act. We run for ourselves- our fitness, our mental health, and to improve our speed or endurance. In some ways, I like that aspect of running. Having only myself to rely on for accountability- and being able to do something simply because I want to- is refreshing.

But maybe I've spent too long running for only myself. After all, there are countless stories of people running to improve the lives of others. It's about time I've said "count me in."

On Sunday October, 8th I'll be able to say that I've run for someone (and something) other than myself. As I run around and through the Royal Parks of London, I'll be sporting a Teach First running top, and doing my part to combat educational inequality.


6 Goals For Summer 2017

When I say "summer goals," I'm not talking about the ones you see on Instagram. You know the ones- the impossibly gorgeous sunsets, the poolside snaps, and impeccably plated meals al fresco. Instead, I'm talking about the kind of goals you set for yourself in order to have a productive summer.

As students, the majority of our years are spent doing coursework, socializing, and participating in extracurriculars. Basically, we just keep on trudging along. So the summer is the ideal time to set goals and intentions for these few months of sun in order to prepare ourselves better for the coming year. Today, I've pulled out my handwritten list of summer goals and elaborated on them to share them with you, in case your in need of any inspiration, or even if you're just a bit nosy.


What I Did for My 21st Birthday

I just finished up my two weeks off before starting my summer job today. I thought about writing a post about what I got up to once I arrived home with Ben, but honestly there would be way too many photos and anecdotes. So I thought that a shorter post on what I ended up doing for my 21st birthday would be a happy medium.

For some people, 21st birthdays are a chance to go wild and crazy on a night out. In my case, I was just happy (and relieved) to be able to finally order an alcoholic drink at a restaurant with my family. Partying hard at a club wasn't on the cards, but a whole lot of good wine (and beer, and cocktails...) was.

After a big breakfast on my birthday morning, I knew that I couldn't just sit around an let me 21-ness go to waste. My first adult-outing was to the Harpoon Brewery where Ben and I took a tour of the facilities and had a tasting. Despite my usual status as a non-beer drinker, I thought that the experience would be worth it. Plus, it's something that's so very "Boston" that I had wanted to do for a while. 

For just $5 a pop the young and energetic team at Harpoon guide you around the brewery, walking you through the steps of how their drinks go from hops to bottle on a daily basis. We learned that Harpoon came about from three best friends who were traveling Europe and wanted to bring great beer to the East coast. We also learned how to tell whether a bottle of Harpoon had been brewed in Massachusetts or Vermont (I won't give away the details- you'll have to go on the tour for that ;) ) 

After about 20 minutes of talking, they take you into a tasting room- the moment everyone had been waiting for. Unlike other tours I had been on, they don't actually limit your intake of beer samples. They give you a small glass that they fill up about halfway, and you can essentially try as much as you'd like in the given time period. And trust me- you'll want to try them all. With a large selection (and by that I mean, about 10) of their recurring and seasonal beers on tap, Harpoon really gives you a thorough overview of their stock. 

Once you've downed your last mini glass of beer, it's back into the production area to listen to a bit more about the company and have your last few questions answered. While our group didn't have any burning questions, there was one guy who took this time as a chance to express his love for Harpoon (spurred on by the samples, of course). 

We couldn't leave without having a full pint in their famous beer hall, so I ordered a glass of the UFO White Ale (a favorite of mine from the sampling session). Ben had the Hoppy Adventure, and we shared a malted barley soft pretzel with the IPA cheese sauce and ale mustard (sensing a theme here?). While I'm not the biggest beer connoisseur- in fact, I never order it- the Harpoon brewery tour gave me a new appreciation for the good stuff. 

Going out for a family dinner is one of my favorite birthday traditions. We're a very close family, but these celebrations give us a chance to come together all at once and enjoy ourselves. Oleana was our restaurant of choice, not just for it's resemblance to our own family name, but because it's owned by the same woman who's responsible for me and my mom's favorite lunch spot, Sofra. The food is fantastic. Think updated Mediterranean classics in a chic, yet comfortable setting. 

We were lucky enough to snag a table in the back garden which, even on a Monday night, was buzzing with guests. Because we had pre-booked the family style sharing menu, the only thing we needed to order was some bubbly to start. The rest was taken care of for us. 

The dishes came out in staggered waves, and we were treated to two rounds of appetizers (in my opinion, the best part) before moving onto both a fish and meat based main, followed by two signature desserts. Due to my excitement, and my family's unwillingness to wait long enough for me to snap a photo, I came away with barely any photos of the food. It's a shame, because not only was it delicious, but it was also perfectly presented. Some of the highlights were the crispy falafel bites with beet tzatziki and spicy Middle Eastern pickles (not your average take-away sandwich), the sticky Sultan's delight braised beef, the flaky hake with roasted peppers, and the piece de resistance, the baked Alaska. Okay, that was a more than a few highlights- but forgive me, because it was just delightful. 

My final "official" birthday celebration was actually the gift that two of my brothers gave to me. And it was pretty unique to say the least. My brothers (and my only family in general) were all patiently waiting for me (the youngest!) to finally turn 21. So they treated me (and Ben) to my first "night out" as a legal American and brought us to a bar called Drink in Boston. 

This cocktail bar's clever name is a testament to how minimalist it really is. The bar features no rows of various spirits, no ingredients out on the counter, and no seating apart from the enormous wraparound bar. And what makes it even more minimalist? There's no menu. Just tell your server what flavors you like, or what you want your drink to be inspired by, and the rest is up to them. Talk about the ultimate trust in your bartender (excuse me- mixologist). Picky drinkers need not apply. 

My first drink was my favorite. I asked for something sour, and boy did they deliver. I always find that "sour" cocktails never quite make the cut for me, but this one did the trick. My guesses for the flavor were grapefruit, pomegranate, and blood orange. My second drink was something dessert-like, and my third was inspired by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 

The best cocktail requests of the night? Ben's "American Dream" cocktail that even Jay Gatsby would raise a toast with, Kian's "Clifford the Big Red Dog" cherry drink, and Camy's "I work on a farm can you give me something that's just like a sheep?" concoction. Coming up with ridiculous cocktail requests is half the fun (the other half is drinking them). I'm so grateful to my brothers for taking us out- it was more than generous, and I'll never forget it.         

A week into being 21 later,  and I still get giddy at the fact that I'm able to order a glass of wine with my mom at dinner. I certainly waited long enough, and my legality in Scotland made the wait even harder. Even so, I'm sure the splendor of it all will wear off in a few weeks! Might as well enjoy it while it lasts. 


Third Year Highlights

I always love doing a little round-up post once my academic year comes to a close. Okay, well the academic year for me ended quite a while ago, but I stayed in Edinburgh for quite a while after that, keeping myself busy with loads of other work.

Anyway, I think reflecting on each year of university is important. When you're a student, you really measure your life in academic years rather than proper years. But so much can go on in those nine-ish months that you spend away from home. You grow, you change, and you start to think about the future more and more. 

Now that I'm going into my fourth year (I know I say this a lot, but YIKES!), that's really the big question: what's in store for the future? And for me, the other logical question that follows is: where are you going after you finish university? Okay, slow down. I'm getting there. And next year will be all about sorting that out, I promise. 

But for now, let's look back. I want to talk about the big things that have changed, or been exciting, or been scary over this past year. 


Clerk's, Edinburgh: Your New Favorite Neighborhood Bar

Everyone needs a go-to neighborhood bar.

It's the kind of place where you meet up with friends on a moments notice. When your friend texts you "Pub?" you'll know exactly where you're going. 

It's the kind of place where you're just as happy ordering a pint as you are a no-nonsense cocktail; where you can order some chips to share, or something bigger if you didn't have time to make dinner. 

The neighborhood bar is really a jack of all trades. It hosts pub quizzes, karaoke nights, and shows every sports game imaginable (even the really niche ones). It's the kind of place that has something for everyone.    

I happened upon a new favorite neighborhood bar of my own a few months ago. After a friend of a friend invited suggested that a group of us meet at Clerk's Bar for a catch up, and I had just one bite of their pulled pork sandwich, I was sold. So you can trust me when I say that Clerk's bar is just the ticket. 


Fairytale France

Two weeks ago, I posted about our trip to Béziers in the South of France. While we were based in Béziers, staying at an airbnb in the city, we took a day trip to another (even smaller) French town called Pézenas which I thought was worthy of its own blog post. Since I'm currently writing to you from rainy (and fairly empty) Edinburgh, this post serves as a bit of wanderlust for myself, as I dream of soaking up the sun and being on holiday again.

Pézenas is practically a stones throw away from Béziers, taking only about thirty minutes on a coach bus to arrive at our destination. At only 1.60 each way, it's well worth the price for a change of scenery.


Get Your Gin Fix (And More) at Heads & Tales, Edinburgh

A good bar is hard to come by. One that sells watered-down drinks for cheap? Easy enough to pinpoint in any student area. A well-known chain that serves thousands of sickly-sweet cocktail combos? Walk down any High Street and you'll find one. But a bar that feels truly special with a well thought out drinks menu, that won't break the bank? Now that's one in a million. 


Béziers: The South of France's Best Kept Secret

Ah, the South of France. Just the mere thought of this lust-worthy place conjures up images of endless fields of flowers, picturesque coastlines, and quaint villages teeming with authentically French restaurants. For me, going to the South of France always remained a bit of a pipe dream- Paris was easy enough to get to, and the rest of the country seemed only discoverable by car.

But when the prospect of traveling down to Béziers (wait, where?) on holiday presented itself, I jumped at the chance to finally see the South. Granted, it was pretty easy to "jump" when the flights from London were only £14 roundtrip- pretty good, right?

Visiting a place that I had never (and I really mean never) heard of was one of the great joys of planning out and anticipating this trip. It's something I'd encourage anyone to do, even if you're the most meticulous of planners. I'm definitely not a "throw caution to the wind" kind of gal, but having a less predictable holiday was just what I needed. And it ended up being even more relaxing because there was no pressure to do anything in particular. You know when you go to a major city and feel like you just have to see their most famous sights, and end up shelling out a ton of cash for them? This was not one of those trips.


Discovering Authentic Indian & Bengali Cuisine at Voujon

Voujon is a restaurant that I have passed by countless times. I didn't think much of it. After all, there are practically as many Indian restaurants in Edinburgh as there are stars in the sky. To catch (and keep) the attention of Edinburgh residents and visitors alike, each and every Indian restaurant in town has to find their own way of standing out from the crowd. 

So how does Voujon make its mark on Edinburgh's saturated Indian food scene? Some might say its the punchy purple decor. Others might vouch for the impeccable service. But for me it all comes down to the food. Of course, great Indian food in Edinburgh isn't hard to find. But Voujon prides itself on its ability to seamlessly meld together the flavors of two cuisines which are often thought of as synonymous. Bengali food, while commonly paired with Indian food in restaurants, is often overlooked on menus. Comforting flavours such as butter chicken are likely indulged in over the more unfamiliar spices of Bengali cuisine. But at Voujon, this lesser known cuisine takes centre stage. 

Greeted by crisp white linens (that would soon be dirtied by the likes of saffron and cumin) alongside sleek, modern decor, Voujon impressed from the outset. Surely their food would be as elevated as their decor. 

A plate of crispy popadoms could not be resisted. The perfect way to start a meal- flavourful, guilt-free goodness. With a selection of pairings that consisted of classic mango chutney, spicy pickled lime, and pungent onion relish, Voujon's popadom offerings weren't particularly ambitious, but packed a punch with each crunchy bite. 

Murgh Chatt may not be the most eye catching and exciting dish on the menu, but it's a fan favourite of Ben's. Tender pieces of chicken cooked in a rich but slightly tart tomato sauce makes for the perfect starter if you prefer something that isn't fried. 

I enjoy a good mystery dish from time to time. So even if I don't know exactly what a dish entails, I might just go for it and hope for the best. Wild, I know. After all, what's a good meal without a few surprises along the way? Skipping over the usual samosas and pakora, I sprung for the Voll Puri, enticed by its promise of spicy chickpeas and a tamarind sauce. These delicate spheres of fried air-like bread were filled to the brim with chickpeas and potatoes. My only job was to pour a stream of tart tamarind sauce into each orb, and pop them in my mouth. I'm of the strong opinion that starters should always be fun- and this one certainly did the trick. 

While we felt that we might have been a bit overzealous in our ordering of mains (the wish list seemed to never end!), we were surprised (if not slighty pleased) that the portions weren't as large as we had expected. Most Indian restaurants we've been to offer up massive portions, only for us to attempt to eat it all and leave defeated. But Voujon's menu is a bit more refined than the rest.

Saag aloo is a no-brainer at any Indian restaurant. Even though it's usually pegged as a side dish, I could easily eat it as an entire meal. Tender potatoes cooked in creamy spinach is as indulgent as it gets. For a bit of a change from the usual, we also ordered a side of aloo gobi. Similarly to saag aloo, aloo gobi features potatoes, but has the added bonus of cauliflower- and in a much lighter sauce. The two together? Definitely a winning pair. 

Rice and naan are staples in any Indian or Bengali restaurant. Peshwari naan, being a favourite of mine because of my sweet tooth, was a must-order item. And while I've had my fair share of Peshwari naan in the past, this one definitely stood out. Impossibly fluffy, with a crisp top, Voujon's naan is one for the books. A side of saffron rice also paired well with the mains, adding a touch of flavour without being overwhelming. 

The main events? Well, the blogger rule is to get two very different dishes. Keen to try out some authentic Bengali food, I took a risk and went for the Shatkora chicken. For me, this dish was a standout because of the exotic fruit that featured prominently. Almost like a combination of lime and apple, the  fruity taste was unexpected, but married well with the slightly spicy sauce. Definitely not your average chicken curry. 

Despite my efforts to think outside the box, Ben's main of sag gosht proved to be both of our favourites (yes, we compete to see who orders the better meal!). Juicy pieces of lamb, earthy spinach and fenugreek, and warming ginger all meld together into a dish that has you savouring each bite. 

Just when I thought that I've experienced the best of Edinburgh's Indian food scene, another great spot pops up to add to my ever-growing list. With wholesome Indian cuisine as its foundation, and a passion for introducing its patrons to Bengali food at its heart, Voujon achieves the perfect balance of serving tried and true classics along with new, exotic favourites. 

Thank you to Voujon and Crimson Edge PR for inviting me to the restaurant for a review. You can learn more about Voujon and view the full menu on their website here


Finding Comfort in the Unknown

The unknown is an uncomfortable thing. Especially for someone like myself where planning is a way of life (I am my mother's daughter, after all). But now, as I come into true adulthood, I find myself amidst the most unknown part of my life I've possibly ever experienced.

I may have sought consolation in the odd friend or two about how I don't yet know where I'll be this summer, or what I'll be doing. It's May, and to the average college student not having set summer plans at this point is a nightmare. But the truth of the matter is, my seemingly inescapable apprehension regarding the summer appears to be only a taste of what's to come within the next year or so.

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