New York Active Travel Guide: Classes, Cafes & Culture

New York. What an incredible city. A whirlwind of activity, incredible food, bustling streets and beautiful sights. It is a hub for health freaks. The fitness scene in New York is miles ahead of London. Boutique gyms are on every street corner and a healthy brunch spot is bound to be on your doorstep. It is also home to some of the most indulgent delicious treats you’ll ever find. Pizza and cheesecake galore. Let’s just call it balance hey?

Fitness Classes

Walking through the streets of New York, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to workouts. Boutique gyms are big news. Here are the ones I tried, and the ones I wished I had managed to squeeze in:

Tonehouse

One word: TOUGH. This class is one of the hardest I have ever done, in the best way possible. It calls itself sports conditioning for athletes. I call it hell. I simultaneously loved and hated every second. I know that if I lived in NYC I would be there every damn day. Prepare to be pushed well and truly out of your comfort zone.

Pelaton

One of the most popular spin classes in NYC. Sessions with the head trainers are sold out weeks in advance. It is basically a party on a bike. Live DJs and huge beats mean you don’t even realise you’re working out! It admittedly isn’t half as hard as something like Tonehouse, but its hella fun.

Fhitting Room

This class was a middle ground between the above two. It wasn’t as hard as Tonehouse, but not as easy as Pelaton. It combined bodyweight and weighted exercise in various circuits and then a “FHIX Finisher” – which was killer. Think rowing, ski-ergs, TRX rows and dumbbell thrusters. It was sweaty and satisfying.

Ones I missed:

There were various classes I wished I could have made it to during my short time in NYC. I’ll be back!

> SLT Pilates – one of the toughest pilates classes in the city, performed on a “megaformer” which looks like some sort of torture machine!

> Shadowbox – a high intensity boxing class which would be perfect to punch out your jet lag!

> Refine Method – a HIIT class combining unique cable machines with kettlebells, suspension work and bodyweight training.

Bargain Hunter?
If you don’t want to fork out for expensive gym classes, one of the best workouts in NYC is going for a run around the stunning Central Park. Not only will you get to explore the city and see one of the most popular sights, but you will squeeze in a run and get your body moving!

Cafes

The food scene in New York is in short: frickin amazing. Whether you want a wholesome brunch or an indulgent dessert, you’ll find what you’re looking for!

Bluestone Lane

One of the most popular brunch spots in NYC, known to be a celebrity hang out, this cafe serve up the classics from avocado on toast through to rainbow breakfast bowls.

Johns Wife Frieda

With over 100,000 instagram followers, this cafe is pretty damn popular for brunch. Try their famous waffles and iced matcha.

Fat Witch Bakery

Known to be the best brownies in town, Fat Witch Bakery have every flavour you could imagine. From peanut butter jelly through to smores. My favourite was the caramel of course!

La Colombe

One of the most popular coffee spots in town, with branches across the city, La Colombe offer up the usual brews; as well as the “red eye” which has three spots of espresso. Brace yourself.

Ones I Missed;

Two Hands
An Australian brunch spot known for their incredibly delicious yet wholesome mid-morning spreads. I’m dying to try their fritters.

Hundred Acres

A Mediterranean brunch spot which comes highly recommended by many NYC food writers. Their menu includes ricotta fritters, shakshuka and hummus coated flatbreads. My idea of heaven!

By Chloe

Vegan fast food at its finest. Burgers. Salads. Smoothies. Desserts. I was recommended this about 20 times but just couldn’t squeeze in time to visit! Go for me!

Cookie DO

A gourmet cookie dough shop. Pretty self-explanatory really. Not to be missed!

Attractions

If you want to do all the tourist spot in NYC then go ahead, there are tonnes to choose from including the Top of the Rock and the Statue of Liberty. However, I was super short on time and only had one day to explore. Instead of hitting the typical tourist spots I decided to dedicate my time to trying to feel like a local. I explored the city on foot and ate my way around town. Below is a rough itinerary of my day!

  • Walk along the highline: an old rail track above the city. This gives incredible views of the streets and skyline.
  • Chelsea Market: explore this market and tuck into all the treats on offer. I recommend Fat Witch Bakery and the Doughtnuttery.
  • Walk through West Village/The Meat Packing District and take in the warehouse vibes. Grab a coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee.
  • Walk down towards Soho and Lower Manhattan. Browse the local shops and cafes. Stop at any brunch or lunch spots you fancy – Two Hands, Hundred Acres and John’s Wife Freda are all located down here.
  • Grab an iced coffee and head to Washington Square Park. Settle down and people watch. There is always lots going on here from graduations through to live music.
  • Walk up 5th avenue and browse the shops, popping into Times Square along your way to see the lights and performers.
  • Keep on going all the way to Central Park. Have a mooch around the stunning green paths and sit in the sunshine.

By walking through town like this, I felt like a true NYC local and got to absorb the ambiance of the city. I also totalled up over 30,000 steps… Bonus!

I absolutely bloody loved New York. I will most definitely be back to try more classes, eat more food, and maybe even hit up some more tourist hot spots!

Zanna x

June 25, 2017

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A Vegan Guide to Cardiff: Cafes, Restaurants and Shops!

Hello! I’m Becky (or @eatveggiesnotfriends on Instagram) & as a massive foodie going plant based forced me to search for and try out lots of new restaurants and eat all the vegan food I could find (not that I needed an excuse)! So to save you the effort I went through when I first went vegan, I thought I’d signpost you to some of my favourite vegan/vegetarian restaurants and shops in Cardiff, along with a few bonus places that everyone, herbivore to carnivore, can enjoy!

Cafes & Restaurants

My current favourite café has to be… The Moos! This café has been open just under a year and I have so much love for their ethos! The menu is great with everything from acai bowls with homemade granola to vegan sausage sandwiches, salads, smoothies and juices (and coffee of course)! They work like a costa coffee with grab & go food available for those in a rush, but also plenty of seating for those that want to sit, relax and enjoy their food and drinks! They offer the best vegan chocolate cake I have ever eaten and I highly recommend the chocolate thunder and the healthy hulk smoothies!

If you’re looking for somewhere a bit more formal, head on over to Anna Loka! The food here is always incredible and I honestly encourage everyone to plan a visit just to experience how great plant based meals can be! They offer healthy wholesome meals such as their Aubergine fillet stuffed with turmeric buckwheat, cherry tomatoes and kale crisps (M&S advert or what?!)… as well as mouth-watering burgers (think proper man burger with vegan cheese, onion rings, gherkins – the lot)! They also offer breakfast (including buckwheat pancakes), cakes and raw desserts!

The final eating place I want to share is Milgi’s. The majority of their menu is vegan, with everything being vegetarian, and the food they offer is always incredibly flavoursome, satisfying and wholesome! Again, it’s the kind of place you could take a group of friends and no one would even notice the lack of meat! The atmosphere is very laid back, perfect for brunch and a catch up, or dinner and cocktails! I highly recommend the Caribbean wholefood bowl and the burger, and be sure to pick up some cake to take away (if you can’t squeeze it in for pudding)!

Shops

Next up, Cardiff is lucky enough to have some fantastic health food/vegan shops that make being plant based and staying healthy super easy!

Simply V is Cardiff’s first 100% vegan store. It stocks every kind of vegan product you could wish for, from vegan cheese & meats, to chocolate, clothing and even vegan magnums! It’s a bit tucked away, but definitely worth a visit as they stock a lot of products you can’t find elsewhere. They also offer a selection of lunch options to take away, as well as cookies and cakes (try the cookies – I promise you won’t regret it)!

I couldn’t write a blog about being vegan in Cardiff without mentioning Beanfreaks. This is my go to store for all things health related and superfoody! With a great selection of vegan products, this is always the first place I head when I need to stock up on nut butter, fancy teas, snack bars and so on! They also have a great selection of vegan meats, cheeses and chocolate! It’s like a mini supermarket that stocks all my favourite foods! It also has a juice bar inside where they offer a delicious selection of smoothies, juices and ‘shots’ to take away!

Although I’ve focused on only a handful of places, I feel I have to mention…

The welsh cake stall in Cardiff indoor market that now sells vegan welsh cakes!!

The bread & cake stall on St Mary’s Street on Fridays and Saturdays, that offer vegan Chelsea buns, blueberry brioche and Viennese swirls (or Vietnamese swirls if you’re my boyfriend… *eye roll*).

And finally, The Stables (opposite Cineworld) that offers vegan pizzas – with vegan cheese!

There are so many places I haven’t mentioned, but I hope this blog has inspired you, vegan or omni, to head out and try out something new! If you see a smiley blonde getting over excited about vegan food in one of the above places (probably dragging along a very bored and embarrassed boyfriend), it’s probably me…!

The Moos – http://www.themooscoffeeandjuice.co.uk

Anna Loka – http://www.anna-loka.com

Milgi – https://milgicardiff.com

Simply V – http://www.simply-v.co.uk

Beanfreaks – http://beanfreaks.com

June 24, 2017

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Life With #NoFilter

This is a guest post from the awesome Lewis at Oxford Fitness:

Hi there! I’m Lewis and I write about all things health and fitness over on my blog – www.oxford-fitness.com. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram too, if you’re interested!

Like a lot of people, I work a sedentary office job so try and keep as active as possible, while eating well too. It’s not always easy but I just about manage it – and if I don’t, I can live with that. I’m a massive advocate of having a balanced lifestyle, not fretting 24/7 about what you’re eating, and not comparing yourself to others. Life shouldn’t be that dull! Hopefully this post will give you an insight into my outlook, and will get you thinking too.

Have you ever set foot in a gym and immediately felt out of shape, out of place, or inferior to others? What about when you’re glued to your phone and flicking through social media, and your screen is full of beautiful people with amazing bodies – ever felt a bit crap?

Yep, me too. That might sound a bit weird not only coming from a guy, but from a guy who blogs about health and fitness! Thankfully, those days are behind me and in the last few years I’ve focused on shredding my anxieties rather than a shredded body.

Not comparing yourself to other people can be really bloody hard.

The reality is that everyone is at a different stage of their journey. It’s awesome to have goals and to have role models, but to try and look just like them isn’t big or clever. Your goals should be individual, and focus on you. Focusing on other people and wanting to be like them can be an unhealthy health obsession.

In the age of social media, remember too that life isn’t Instagram-perfect. We spend so much of our lives with our eyes locked on our screens, and it’s important not to take everything at face value. So many of those perfect photos aren’t just a quick snap with the iPhone. There’s all sorts at play – tricks of the trade to get those perfect shots range from editing/lighting, dieting and training in an unsustainable way, to “athletes” using illegal substances.

My story is that I’ve always struggled with my weight. To an extent, I still do now, but I’ve worked on addressing the balance rather than extreme dieting.

I’ve gone from being an overweight teenager to having a six-pack, and now I sit comfortably in the middle – is a three-pack a thing?! While it’s good to know that I can get “summer-ready”, it doesn’t interest me as much anymore. By no stretch of the imagination am I perfect in the eyes of the world, but I like who I am. The fact that I get creases on my stomach if I’ve been sat down for a while, or that I’m getting grey chest hairs doesn’t bother me. We all have things that make us unique, and we really shouldn’t sweat the small stuff.

It could be that I’m older and wiser, married, or generally just a bit more grown up, but for me the main thing is that I’ve focused on a better relationship with food and a balanced lifestyle. Working on your health is a good thing, but don’t let it completely take over your life.

The take-home message here is that comparing yourself to other people whether it be in health, wealth, looks, or lifestyle is a dangerous habit.

Be your best-self, get used to your imperfections (your uniqueness), surround yourself with people who make you happy, and be comfortable with the person who stares back at you in the mirror.

Photo Credit

June 23, 2017

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Monthly Round Up – May

It’s that time again when I share with you my favourite moments, meals and workouts from the previous month. May was a wonderful whirlwind and I had a whole host of new experiences which I want to share. Apologies that this post is a little late – June has been equally as busy – so let’s hop right on in:

Balance Festival

This was not only a highlight of my month, but a highlight of my year. I headlined Balance Festival in early May; leading talks, teaching workouts and hosting cooking demonstrations. It was an incredible event packed full of like-minded individuals, surrounded by the most delicious food, taking classes from top studios and tucking into freebies from the best brands. It was rather surreal on my part, and I felt like I was walking on a cloud all weekend. I loved every moment and can’t wait until next year!

adidas Studio

I took over the adidas studio on brick lane for the month of May, teaching regular sweaty workouts there. There is nothing I enjoy more than meeting you guys and getting to put you through your paces. I love bringing women together, to work hard, sweat and better themselves. Plus, I was a big fan of the Bel Air food served at the studio! I couldn’t stop drinking their berry protein smoothie!

Here is a sample circuit from the workout:

35 seconds on, 10 seconds off, 3 rounds back to back

> 1 & 1/2 rep shoulder presses

> Commandos with knee taps

> Eccentric push ups

Barry’s West

In May a brand spanking new Barry’s Bootcamp studio opened in West London. It isn’t very near to where I live, but its certainly nearer than the East and central studios; so I hopped at the chance to go along! I ended up going to three classes in May and falling in love with the challenge Barry’s presents. I am not a great runner, so the combination of weights and treadmill work is really out of my comfort zone. I particularly loved Faisal’s classes.

Brew Cafe

One of my favourite brunch spots in Clapham Junction. I have been three times over the course of May. Its just so damn good. The best dishes in my opinion are the fritters and the whipped eggs, oh and don’t forget a side of the pesto mushrooms. Yum!

Neal’s Yard Rose Cleanser

Creamy, gentle and perfect for cleansing your face at the end of a long day. I use mine with warm water and a muslin cloth to give a gentle exfoliation.

Gookie Dough

Gourmet gooey cookie dough. In jars. In flavours like “funfetti birthday cake” and “red velvet”. Dangerous and delicious.

Mindful Bites Nut Butter

How on earth do they make this stuff so. damn. smooth?! It is addictive, I cant even have jars in my house. I demolish them in days. However, I love their on the go sachets. My favourite flavours are the purple one – cacao and brazil nut – and the blue one – hazelnut and berries.

Brian Cox Live

I went to see Professor Brian Cox speak live about the original of the universe. Let’s just say he absolutely blew my mind, and opened me up to completely new perspectives. If you can’t get to his show, then be sure to watch some of his documentaries online or grab a copy of his book.

Street Art Tour

In early May I took my dad out for his birthday and I treated him to a private Shoreditch street art tour. I didn’t really know what to expect, but it was honestly incredible and my whole family loved it. Our tour guide was doing a Phd in street art and certainly new her stuff. Her passion was tangible and infectious, she made every single piece feel absolutely fascinating. I was hanging on her every word! I will never look at street art the same again.

Bring on June!

Zanna x

Cover Photo: Jon Payne

June 16, 2017

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Disconnect To Reconnect

Recently I felt overwhelmed. I was stressed and struggling to focus. I was constantly flooding my mind with new information. I was on a desperate mission to learn and to better myself through reading, listening to podcasts and watching educational videos. But nothing was sinking in, and I felt like I was drowning in a mountain of work.

I soon came to realise that perhaps I was the cause of my own stress. Perhaps I was overwhelming myself by trying to constantly be switched on. Trying to be constantly learning and growing. When in fact, what I really needed to do was to switch off and give myself the headspace to think.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love learning. I will always strive to expand my intellect, I value it highly. However, I don’t think there is much use in flooding your brain with knowledge unless you give yourself the time and space to reflect and absorb this information. I have learnt that sometimes less is more.

So, I took a moment to reflect and decided to consciously disconnect from the multiple streams of information I was always plugged into, and try to switch off at various points throughout the day.

  •  I didn’t watch TED talks as I got ready in the morning. I got ready in silence.
  •  I didn’t plug in a podcast as I walked to town. I walked in silence.
  •  I didn’t type out emails while sat on the bus. I sat in silence.
  •  I didn’t scroll through social media on the tube. I stood in silence.

And you know what. The silence was my saviour. It was the headspace I so desperately needed. In these moments of peace, I was able to let my thoughts wander. To have time to reflect. My mind stopped buzzing, and it finally calmed.

I have kept up this practice and try to still incorporate moments of silence and disconnection in my everyday life. As a result I not only feel less stressed and overwhelmed; but I feel like I have more capacity in my mind. More focus. More drive. I use my moments of silence to consider my actions, to set goals and to consciously work through how I can achieve them. These moments are allowing me to not only disconnect and destress, but to self-reflect, grow and develop.

Some might say I have taken a step back. I am not constantly replying to emails every 2 minutes. I am not constantly listening to educational podcasts. I am not constantly learning, working and grinding. I disagree. I feel like I have taken a huge step forward. I may not be as connected to the outside world, but I am more connected to myself, and that is the most important connection of all.

June 12, 2017

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Visit Southern Finland: Travel Recommendations & Itinerary

It’s safe to say, I have fallen in love with Finland. It is a larger country than the UK, yet it has a population of 5.5 million total, while we have almost 9 million in London alone (!). This results in Finland being incredibly peaceful and serene; a welcome break from the madness of our capital. From the moment I arrived in Finland, I got a good feeling. A friendly vibe. The people are warm, open and incredibly passionate about their country. Their energy is infectious. They have tonnes of traditions they want to show you, and local foods they want you to taste.

I was lucky enough to spend 4 days exploring southern Finland, in the areas of Helsinki, Salo and Hanko. By hopping between these destinations I was able to experience a variety of Finnish activities, from hiking through to sailing. All surrounded by stunning scenery. If you’re planning a trip to Finland, then read on for my recommendations:

Helsinki

Thursday, 3pm.

We landed and hopped on the Finnair city bus to the city centre (around €6) and were checking into our central hotel, Hotel Lilla Roberts, by around 4.30pm. This gave us plenty of time to explore the city on foot. Although it is the capital of Finland, Helsinki is surprisingly small. We managed to delve into the quaint Old Market Hall before it closed and browse the local stalls, I even tried a delicious superfood smoothie from Mari’s Smoothie Bar there.

Thursday, 5pm

We spent a few hours mooching around, popping into locals shops and drinking some incredible coffee (hit up Kulma if you can). We even got chance to walk along the waterfront and take in the gorgeous architecture of the Senates Square and the nearby cathedral. Luckily, most of the main sights in Helsinki are within walking distance.

Thursday, 8pm.

We headed to the insanely good restaurant, Kuurna. If you go to Helsinki you must visit this place. The menu is small, seasonal and local. The food is next level. Just incredible. I would put the meal I tasted up there in the top 10 meals I have ever eaten. Bold statement, but true!

Salo

Friday, 9am

We walked from our hotel to Helsinki station and hopped on a train to Salo. It took about 90 minutes and we arrived right in the middle of the dense Finnish forests.

Friday, 10.30am

We drove to the small area of Mathildedal and checked into our cute little hotel on the waterfront, Ruukin Majatalo, before we started exploring the local area. We started off by visiting the local ironworks village, tucking into freshly baked goods from the local bakery Kylaleipuri (the focaccia was divine!) and tasting the local beers at the village pub Terho. We even met a family of alpacas at the Ruukin kehraamo ja Puoti (a series of hilarious failed alpaca selfies ensued!).

Friday, 3pm

We headed to Teijo National Park. This is the local National park and the main tourist attraction for the area. It has forests, marshes, streams and the sea; and offers visitors the chance to swim, hike, canoe and even sauna in the wild! We went on a two hour hike around one of the stunning lakes in the park, and we didn’t see a single person during our time there. It was so peaceful and it honestly felt like we had Finland to ourselves!

Friday, 7pm

We finished off the day with a wholesome meal at a nearby restaurant Mathilda Marina before hitting the hay.

Hanko

Saturday, 9am

We hopped in a car from Salo to Hanko, a short hour drive to the most southern point of Finland. Hanko, it has to be said, was probably my favourite area I visited during my short time in Finland. It is full of the most stunning houses or “villas” which use traditional wooden architecture from the 1800’s. It is surrounded by gorgeous beaches and dense forests; and radiates peace like everywhere I experienced in Finland. However, from talking to the locals it apparently gets much busier in July and August, so if you enjoy a more quiet break I would recommend going in June or September.

Saturday, 10.15am

We checked into Villa Maija Hotel, which is inside one of the gorgeous local villas. Seriously guys, it was stunning. And they served up a mean breakfast – including the most delicious cinnamon biscuits! We took some time to walk to the beach and we explored along the coastline. We found a hidden little alcove by the water, popped on some chilled music and just laid in the sun. This moment was one of the highlights of my trip. Sitting in between the ocean and the forest, listening to the waves and some acoustic music, and feeling the sun on my skin. Heavenly.

Saturday, 1pm

We hopped on a boat from Nordic Boathouse and sailed along the surrounding coastline. Again, the perfect moment to relax and enjoy the sunshine and waves. We followed this with a short trip up to the top of the town’s water tower. This spot gives stunning views over the local area and allows you to see the sea in all directions over the Hanko peninsula.

Saturday, 4pm

Then, if that wasn’t enough activity for a day, we headed out with Ilse Klockars (an amazing guide from the local tourist office, contact her on Ilse.klockars@hanko.fi) on some mountain bikes in the local forest. Who knew mountain biking was so tough?! I can certainly say that it was out of my comfort zone! That being said, I loved the challenge. It allowed me to get right into the depths of the forest and to ride alongside the ocean. Ilse took us to some incredible hidden spots with stunning views over the ocean. Plus it meant that we earnt ourselves a big dinner!

Saturday, 6.30pm

But before food, it was sauna time. Saunas are a huge thing in Finland, and in all Nordic countries it seems. We rented out a private sauna on a small island off the East harbour (Itämerenportti). It had stunning views of the ocean, and even steps into the sea for if you feel a bit adventurous! We really got into the Finnish feel and even took in some local Cool Grape drinks which apparently all the locals sip in the sauna.

Saturday, 8pm

Finally, we finished off the day with dinner at Makaronaitehdas. A local restaurant who are famous for their homemade pasta. I tucked into the Fungi dish which was laden with creamy mushrooms and soon fell into a carb coma. A perfect end to a perfect day.

Sunday, 8am

On our final morning, we headed out with Ilse on a kayaking excursion along the coastline. It was the perfect way to finish off our trip, with a leisurely morning floating along the smooth ocean. It felt incredible to be so close to nature, and be surrounded by the waves. We then soaked up the sunshine, tucked into some lunch at a traditional Finnish restaurant on the waterfront, Origo, and hopped on a train to Helsinki, and a plane to London.

Our weekend of Finnish adventures was over, and what a weekend it was. We managed to cram in 3 destinations and a whole host of activities in a long weekend. It was packed, but somehow still managed to be incredibly relaxing and a welcome break from the madness of London life. I was struck by the peaceful nature of Finland, the friendly open people and the incredible fresh local produce they use. I’ll be back!

Until Next Time:

Here are three things I want to come back and try:

  • Foraging. Going into the forests to pick berries and mushrooms is a big thing in Finland. I would love to pick my own fresh produce, then spend few hours making traditional Finnish dishes with the ingredients.
  • Lapland. The northern areas of Finland are home to Finnish lapland. I would love to visit here in the winter to see the reindeer and hopefully experience the Northern lights.
  • Roaming. Finland comes under the “free to roam” rights. You are free to walk, ski or cycle across the country and the land. I would love to pack a tent and just explore the countryside, setting up camp in the most stunning locations. One day I will!

Finland Travel Tips:

  • Stock up. In Finland they love blueberries. You will see blueberry powders, bars, cakes and bakes in every shop. Be sure to try them as they’re most likely made with locally sourced blueberries.
  • Rent a car. Public transport in Finland can be challenging to navigate and is infrequent in the more rural areas. Renting a car gives you freedom to explore this stunning country.
  • Pack your walking boots. Or a pair of trainers you are comfy travelling long distances in. Finland is the perfect location for hiking, you don’t want to miss out on it!
  • Pack for all weather, especially more chilly days. Near the coastline there can be a cold Northern wind which sends a chill down your spine! Pop a hat, gloves and thick jacket in your bag just incase.

Safe travels!

Some of these photos are taken by Mollie from Where’s Mollie. Check her out here!

Plan your trip to Finland with the Visit Finland travel guides!

June 4, 2017

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