Road Trip Bucket List


Can anyone here remember that noughties chick flick 'Crossroads' with Britney Spears? Well that movie had me dreaming of one day going on a big American road trip since I was about 12. From a young age I've always wanted to drive. We would often take long trips as a family which would consist of sometimes 7 hours worth of travelling, but it never phased me. I wasn't one of those little kids in films screaming 'are we there yet?' Instead, I would spend hours looking out of the window, taking in all scenery and being mesmerized by places I hadn't seen before. I used to think 'one day I can drive places like this myself' and now aged 25 and with a driving license, I can.

Today I have teamed up with E-Shores to celebrate Route 66's 90th birthday and to bring you my road trip bucket list. They kindly provided me with a little road trip kit to pimp out my car and some inspiration for my bucket list.

Route 66

First on the list is Route 66, the ultimate American road trip, Route 66 starts from Chicago, passing by Illinois, Missouri, and Oklahoma and finishes in LA. On route you can see some amazing sights and stop at some amazing places such as the Grand Canyon, the Nevada dessert and gamble your way through Las Vegas. It's the ideal road trip for those wanting to live out their favourite American road trip fantasies and is a great way to see country.

The Amalfi Coast, Italy

Italy is a country that I've always wanted to visit and the Amalfi route offers breathtaking views of Italy's most scenic coastlines the Sorrento Peneinsula near Naples. This route passes through the traditional Italian towns of Salerno, Ravello, Almalfi, passing along the cliffs situated highly above the Tyrrhenian Sea. The Almalfi route is considered so beautiful that in 1996 it was made a World Heritage Site.

Ireland's Atlantic Way

Situated a little bit closer home and just a short ferry away is Ireland's Atlantic Way. Ireland's Atlantic Way covers 1,500 miles of land from Inishowen Peninsula calling at towns such as Donegal, Ballina, Westport, Galway, the Shannon River, Kinmare and Kinsale. This route is great for those looking to learn more about the Irish heritage and language, maybe try a few pints of Guinness or a glass or two of whiskey (when you're not driving of course) and visit historical sites that are hundreds of years old. This will probably be my first road trip as my husband is Irish and keen to learn more about his roots, plus I can take my little car over on the ferry.

If you're planning a road trip, check out E-Shores amazing Spotify playlist to get you in the mood.

What is your dream road trip?




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Vegetarian Friendly Cuisines


Dining out is one of my favourite past-times, but as a vegetarian it can often be rather difficult. These days a lot more restaurants are catering for vegetarians and vegans as the diets are becoming much more popular and both are gaining a lot of media attention, however there are still many restaurants and certain cuisines that haven't latched on to the trend. I know I'm not the only vegetarian who has had moments where they have looked at a menu in despair realising that the only thing they sell is the generic 'vegetarian burger or vegetable lasagna'. These are fail safe options for most typical budget English restaurant and it's okay if you're in a hurry, but if you're looking for something to wow your tastebuds, visiting a restaurant with only these two options after you've spent hours getting ready can be anti-climatic. For all those who love dining out, but are vegan or vegetarian, I've put together a little guide of the best cuisines (in my opinion) that are veggie friendly and will deliver when it come to taste and originality.

Thai Food

The first cuisine I would recommend is Thai food. So far I haven't been to a Thai restaurant that doesn't have at least five different vegetarian dishes and I have dined at Thai restaurants all over the world, including Thailand. Thai dishes are naturally vegetable heavy from their Pak Boong (Morning Glory) which is a stir fry made from a type of Thai water spinach (make sure you ask for a vegetarian equivalent to their oyster sauce) to a more well known dishes such as a vegetable 'Pad Thai'. I particularly enjoy Thai soups which are quite hot, but often include a really nice buttery soft tofu and lots of mushrooms. Thai curries are also easily adapted to be vegetarian or vegan if asked and many Thai restaurants do offer tofu red or green curries.

Eat: Green/Red curries, Thai vegetarian soups, stirfrys, vegetarian Pad Thai (noodles)

Avoid: Oyster/fish sauce -  Oyster and fish sauces are a staple in the Thai diet, so you should always make sure your dish comes without.


Indian Food

Indian food is another cuisine that is often vegetarian friendly and if you like spices, there's an array of vegetable or chickpea based curries that will tickle your tastebuds. Vegetables are a staple in Indian cooking and many parts of India are known for their vegetarianism. Typical Indian vegetarian food is usually chickpea and lentil dhals, potato and cauliflower curries as well as dishes with Paneer, which is an Indian style cheese, a little bit like Halloumi.

Eat: Aloo Palak, Aloo Gobi, Karahi Daal and many more

Avoid: Indian food is generally quite safe for vegetarians, but if you're vegan look out for creams, yogurts and paneer all of which include dairy.

Japanese Food

Like many Asian cuisines, Japanese food is known for using a lot of fish stock and fish sauce, however there's still many great vegetarian dishes and a lot of dishes that can be easily adapted to your dietary needs. Vegetarian sushi can be found in most Japanese restaurants and it's also very easy to make at home, as well as vegetarian Gyoza which are Japanese dumplings. Other dishes include Miso Udon Noodle soup and sushi salads.

Eat: Miso, Gyoza, Sushi

Avoid: Always ask to see if something has been cooked in a fish sauce

Lebanese Food

Lebanese food is probably becoming one of my favourite cuisines. Lebanese food consists of cous cous, hummus, flatbreads, halloumi and falafels and vegetarian moussaka made from eggplant and chickpeas. Lebanese food is heavily influenced by Greek and Turkish cuisine that also has a lot of vegetarian dishes, so you can always find something veggie friendly in a Lebanese restaurant.

Eat: Falafels, Hummus, vegetarian Moussaka, Fatoush (salad) and Manakish.

Avoid:  A lot of Lebanese food is heavily meat based, so always double check that these dishes are vegetarian.

Italian Food

Italian food is part of many peoples weekly diet and there's always something for vegetarians to eat. These days many Italian restaurants are recognising that a large proportion of the population is now also vegan and it is getting a lot easier to find vegan pizzas. 

Eat: Arrabiata pasta, mushroom risottos, pizza with vegetarian toppings

Avoid: Parmesan cheese - a lot of parmesan cheese includes animal rennet and you should always ask if it is vegetarian.

What is your favourite vegetarian cuisine?


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Banyan Bar Leeds Review


Banyan bar is a newly opened restaurant and bar in City Square, Leeds. The restaurant is part of the Arc Inspiration group which is popular in Leeds for running other successful establishments such as Manahatta and The Pit. Yesterday my husband and I were invited down to the restaurant to test out their new menu and see their newly launched bar for myself. When we arrived it was really busy with people sat both outside and inside the restaurant and people being turned away. It gave us a good vibe as a busy bar usually means it is good.


We were greeted by the waitress at the door and led to our table at the far right of the restaurant. The interior is very modern and cosy with leather armchairs, rose gold lighting dangling from the ceilings and smart faux cacti and plants on the tables. It is a smart/casual bar attracting mainly city workers on their way home from work. The restaurant is conveniently situated across the road from the train station, making it a perfect pit stop before the train home. The drinks menu is vast with a great selection of Banyan's unique cocktails, mocktails and wine. I opted for the Very Berry mocktail while my husband went for the 'Passion Punch'. Both drinks got the thumbs up from us, the Very Berry was very flavoursome and fruity and the Passion Punch had a kick, but it was incredibly refreshing. 


When it came to ordering food, I was pleasantly surprised by Banyan's large vegetarian and vegan offering and my carnivorous husband was equally impressed with the meat selection. I chose the 'Vegetable Kingdom burger' which was a halloumi burger with chargrilled peppers and red pesto and sweet potato fries, while my husband ordered the 'Portuguese Marinated Half Chicken'. All the flavour combinations of my burger worked really well together and the halloumi was cooked to perfection and not too chewy. My husbands dish was devoured within minutes due to enjoyment. He said that Banyan's chicken was very juicy and succulent and that he couldn't eat it fast enough.


We were both very full from our main courses, but neither of us could resist dessert. Banyan's dessert menu is small, but very tempting with cheesecakes, tortes and brownies. The waitress recommended the Salted Caramel Torte to me so I decided to give it a go, while my husband went for a chocolate brownie, his favourite type of dessert. Both dishes were beautifully presented when they arrived and tasted just as good. My chocolate torte melted as soon as it touched my mouth and it was pure bliss. My only criticism is the lack of salted caramel sauce, I didn't taste that much salted caramel at all. My husband thoroughly enjoyed his brownie, but said it was a little bit too rich. 

So, would I visit Banyan bar again? Yes,definitely. The food was fantastic quality, the staff were really nice and helpful and the bar had a nice atmosphere. Most importantly, whereas other chain bars where they only have one vegetarian item on the menu, Banyan has plenty, so I'll definitely be back to try the other options.


Have you been to a Banyan Bar before?


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5 European Destinations to Book This Summer


There's nothing more exciting than booking a summer holiday, whether it's to lay by the beach and tan all day or to explore some culture, but if you're indecisive like me, deciding on where to go can be rather difficult. If you're looking for something a little bit different to the party islands, yet want somewhere that is affordable and pretty, here's a few of my recommendations.

Barcelona

Barcelona is a city that will please just about everyone and is an easy comprise between a beach and a culture orientated holiday. With tapas galore, a short walk to the beach and dozens of museums and art galleries as well as a vibrant city life, it's easy to see why tourists fall in love with this Spanish city.


Lisbon

Lisbon is one of the cheapest capital cities in Europe and has been coined by many as the 'new Barcelona'. It has activities galore, gets 3000 hours of sunlight every year and the average temperature is over 30 degrees in the hottest months. If you're perfect European escape is drinking cheap, yet cheerful alcohol and getting a tan without the heavy social life, Lisbon is for you.


Copenhagen

Every year there's always a new European hotspot that drives social media fanatics crazy - last year Instagram was pretty much a slew of hipster images of Budapest and Amsterdam and now this year it's Copenhagen. Copenhagen is a charming city with bicycles, boats, outdoor pools and the sea. Many say if you combine Venice and Amsterdam, it would pretty much result in Copenhagen. The city mainly appeals to those who love culture and foodies - Copenhagen is known for it's pastries and has the 'world's best restaurant'.



Prague

If you're looking for somewhere a little bit different, why not visit Prague? Prague is a destination that a lot of my friends have been raving about recently and it seems to be coming ever more popular over the years. Prague is the capital city of the Czech Republic known for its music, its picturesque river and being home to dozens of museums and historical sights. It is also the 6th most visited place in Europe.

Rome
If your ideal holiday is eating pizza and gelato while shopping and checking out some history, you cannot really go wrong with Rome. If you fancy visiting Rome for free, Jones Bootmaker are running a competition for you to win a luxury city break, including flights, four nights in a 5 star hotel and excursions to some of the top tourist attractions. 

Where are you planning on going this summer?







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Comptoir Libanais, Manchester


There's nothing I love more than discovering new restaurants and trying new cuisines, so when I stumbled across a Lebanese restaurant chain that I hadn't tried before, I knew I had to pay them a visit. Lebanese food is something that has always appealed to me - Falafels, cous cous and hummus are three of my favourite thing to eat, but until recently, I had never been to an authentic Lebanese restaurant. Comptoir Libanais is Lebanese chain restaurant, with 11 branches around the UK. The company was founded in 2008 by Tony Kitous who wanted to bring wholesome and healthy Lebanese food to the western world. The restaurant caters for many different dietary requests including vegetarians, vegans, dairy free and coeliacs.


When we arrived at the restaurant, my husband and I were both blown away by the interior. Upon entering the Manchester restaurant, we were greeted with a colourful little shop filled with Lebanese cooking books, beautiful handcrafted bowls of many colours and authentic Lebanese pastries. We were then taken to our seats by a lovely member of staff who was very welcoming and handed us our menus. The atmosphere was great, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and there was a really mixed crowd, showing that Lebanese food really does appeal and cater to all types of people.  

Before ordering food, the waiter asked if we would like any drinks and I opted for Laziza, a non-alcoholic Lebanese raspberry beer. I didn't really know what to expect as I hadn't tried it before, but it was lovely. The beverage poured like a beer, but tasted more like a cider. It was really refreshing and really enjoyable to drink. 


For starter I choose the Falafels. As previously mentioned, Falafels are one of my favourite things so I couldn't go to a Lebanese restaurant and not try them. These falafels were the best falafels I've ever had. Crunchy and textured on the outside and fluffy on the inside, perfectly spiced and wholesome. The yogurt dip was a perfect accompaniment and the pickles were also a nice finishing touch, despite almost blowing my head off with the pickled pepper.


I really struggled to pick the main dish as there was so many things I liked, but in the end I decided to go with the Mana'esh which is a Lebanese flatbread. My flatbread was topped with Halloumi cheese, wild thyme and fresh mint and was served with a comptoir salad.  It was like a mini pizza and tasted divine. I wouldn't have expected mint to go that well with cheese, but the flavour combinations worked perfectly and I was so impressed. This picture makes the meal look a bit greasy, but despite being quite heavy on the cheese, the meal was rather light. I finished feeling satisfied, but not sick to my tummy full. It was the perfect main meal.

For two cocktails, a non-alcoholic beer, two starters, two mains and a side the meal came to £50, which I think is great for a city centre meal. We both thoroughly enjoyed and it was a great introduction to Lebanese cuisine. Would I go again? Yes, in a heartbeat.

Have you been to Comptoir Libanais before?





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