The start of adulthood?

N.B. I wrote the first half of this a week ago, and I have now left Oxford and am back at home in Lincolnshire.

It’s been almost a whole year since I wrote a blogpost but that is not to say that the past year has been uneventful. On the contrary, it’s been a highly formative year: I’ve completed my degree, found out what I’m really interested in, and made exciting plans for the coming year. To be honest, it feels like it’s been about five minutes since I got home from Spain last June having finished my year abroad…and now I’m sat in my room in Oxford, surrounded by boxes and suitcases ready to be taken back to Lincoln for the final time tomorrow.

To say a bit about Finals, suffice to say that they happened and I came out the other side considerably more tired and haggard but alive and proud of myself for getting through it. Oxford Finals are notoriously gruelling because for several of the BA courses 100% (or almost) of the degree hangs on a handful of exams at the very end of the three or four years. It’s an antiquated system which lends itself well to last minute cramming and for which I have (at present) little to no respect. Maybe I’ll feel differently about it in a few months time when the seemingly endless revision period and the flurry of sitting eight three-hour exams in less than a fortnight is but a distant memory. Or maybe not.

That said, I could not be more grateful for the myriad opportunities that coming to Oxford has given me; I genuinely feel that I am leaving the place transformed into a completely different person to who I was at the beginning. I’ve learnt a lot about my subject and about myself and met some people with whom I know I will be friends for the rest of my life. But, although I am sad to be leaving a city where I’ve been so happy, I have no doubt that it is very much time to move on.

And I’m moving on to something really quite exciting: at the end of August, I’ll be moving to Santiago de Chile, where I’ll be working as an English Language Assistant through the British Council for ten months. I cannot wait, and am currently in the process of sorting everything out: visas, insurance, flights, and so on. Latin American life is not exactly famed for its fast pace and things are taking a while, but I suppose that that’s something I’ll just have to get used to!

Anyway, I’m planning to rekindle this blog and post regularly while I’m in Chile, so watch this space for updates on my ever more desperate attempts to evade adulthood…

 

Sun, sea, and salted caramel in Guernsey

I spent the beginning of last week visiting my friend, Will, who lives in Guernsey. I was excited a) to see him now that he’s out of the exam hole and b) to go on what is my only holiday this summer. Always keen (as my blog title suggests) to visit new places, it didn’t take long for me to act upon Will’s offer of a visit and book flights.

I’d never been to the Channel Islands before but it turns out that there are flights to Guernsey available from East Midlands, our “local” airport. Note the quotation marks; it’s still a ninety-minute drive away from little old Normanby-by-Spital, but it did save me the hassle (and money) of going to Gatwick.

When I stepped off the aeroplane (which was so small that it looked to be powered by propellers), I could have been in Spain such was the temperature. My arrival very handily coincided with the hottest day of the year so far. The weather was glorious for the whole time I spent there and so I really did feel like I was on holiday.

Guernsey is very quaint: the streets are all fairly narrow (with a speed limit of 35mph) and there are a lot of brightly-coloured window boxes and hanging baskets (not that I’m complaining).There was also an inexplicably large amount of bunting. The sea views and the boats bobbing in the harbour are very picturesque; in essence, the whole island is reminiscent of a seaside town.

We spent the first day looking around the town (St Peter Port, Guernsey’s capital) and went to Herm, one of the other islands. Will’s dad had described a particular stretch of beach on Herm as “like the Mediterranean”, and it actually was. Pale sand, clear sea, excited children, the whole caboodle. It was also during the first day that I ate this beautiful salted caramel and banana crêpe:

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It was as fabulous as it looks.

The next day, we had a guided tour around Victor Hugo’s house. Hugo lived in Guernsey for 15 years during his partially self-imposed exile from France. The house itself was nothing other than a work of art, and the tour was probably the highlight of the trip for me. It was still boiling so we spent the afternoon relaxing on a beach. Of course, the whole island had had the same idea but we managed to find a clear bit of sand.

It was a really fun-filled trip (thanks a million, Will) and I would definitely recommend a visit to Guernsey if you’re looking for a destination that’s not too far away. Next step: to be able to point to the Channel Islands on a map…

I wrote an article for The Oxford Student about Guernsey. You can read it here.

Review: Cafe Shanti, Lincoln

Now that my year abroad is finished, I’ve found myself feeling reluctant to call it a day with this blog as well. I’m going to try and keep going with it by writing about places I travel to (bound to happen far less often than it has over the last year, but never mind), things I eat, whether in a restaurant/cafe or cooked by me, and anything else of any interest whatsoever that might happen.

I’ve always been a bit wary of food blogging for a number of reasons, the main one being that a lot of it ends up seeming (very) pretentious and inaccessible. Reviews of cafes or restaurants that the average person can afford to visit don’t seem to be the norm; in terms of recipes, chia, coconut oil, out-of-season fruit, etc. seem to be the order of the day. In my mind, food should never be classist. Everyone needs it to survive, and everyone should be able to enjoy it. I hope that this will be reflected here.

So, let’s get going with a review. I’m currently in Lincoln, my home town, and on Friday I went to Cafe Shanti, a vegan and vegetarian restaurant that hasn’t been open for very long but that seems to have quickly established itself. I feel like “vegan and vegetarian restaurant” carries a certain number of connotations, not all of them positive, but these should be left at Shanti’s door.

The first thing I will say is that it is SUCH GOOD VALUE FOR MONEY. I’ve been to this cafe a few times and am amazed every time by how they offer really delicious food for remarkably low prices. Each of the main meals is about £5 and the menu includes several curries, lasagne, burgers, and wraps, most of which are suitable for vegans. I’m not vegan, but the friend who I went with on Friday is; she, too, has visited a few times, mainly for the falafel wraps. It’s stated on the menu that everything except for the bread and the vegan ice cream is made on the premises.

The second thing to be said is that Cafe Shanti was set up to raise money for a charity called Lincs2Nepal. As far as I can tell (and I could be wrong about this), all of the cafe’s profits go to the charity, which provides aid to oppressed and marginalised Nepalese people. How great is that? You can check out the charity’s website here.

After a lengthy bout of indecision, I chose a peppermint and liquorice tea for £1.35 (which I would highly recommend) and a falafel burger with hummus and sweet potato fries, which was £4.95. As someone who has had more than her fair share of falafel over the last couple of years, I was excited to try some more.

Disappointment did not feature. It was all perfect: the burger was suitably seasoned and came with a soft brown bun and plentiful salad. And who doesn’t love a sweet potato fry, really? Although Bill’s is still the undisputed champion of the traditional chip’s “healthy” (or not) relative, these ones weren’t bad at all.

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Additionally, the service was quick and friendly, and waiting time is quickly whiled away by admiring the plentiful decorations inside the cafe. I could be wrong, but I would suggest that a lot of them are souvenirs from Nepal or gifts from some of the people that the charity has worked with there.

I’ve never had dessert there, but there are several varieties of vegan cake on offer as well as waffles with various toppings.

I would really recommend this place for vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters alike. Lincoln is distinctly lacking in other choices for non-meat-eaters and so it’s a very welcome addition to the city. The food is delicious, it offers outstanding value for money, and I really think that local businesses such as this cannot be supported enough. And, perhaps best of all, it’s for charity. Really, what’s not to love?

Price: £6.30 for a main course and drink. Contact details available on Cafe Shanti’s website.

Featured image taken from Cafe Shanti’s Facebook page.