Things That Scare Me + This Month’s Sponsors!

Things That Scare Me + This Month’s Sponsors!

So I’ve realized that I’m stuck in a rut. While I’ve been diligently job-hunting, blogging and working out at home, I haven’t done anything truly exciting in a really, really long time. While I consider myself an adventurous and try (almost) anything kind of person, when I’m in Michigan I get kind of… boring. And while I won’t be here forever, I still need to maximize my time in the Mitten and spice things up.

Which is where my new blog series, Things That Scare Me, comes in.

Things That Scare Me is an effort to start pushing myself out of my comfort zone- i.e. I’m going to start trying things I find scary!

Here are few “scary” activities I’ve brainstormed:

a. Sign up for voice lessons

b. Try speed-dating

c. Buy a stranger a meal

Do you guys have any ideas? I’m really excited about this so let me know if you have any (relatively scary) suggestions!

 

This Month’s Sponsors

And onto this month’s sponsors! I was so thrilled that so many readers responded well to my sponsorship program. I’m now offering paid ads so if you’re interesting exposing your blog to 65,000+ monthly page views and lots of incredible, travel-passionate readers stop by my sponsorship page!

(Note if you’re having trouble seeing the Passionfruit ad prices just shoot me an email- ashley {at} ashleyabroad {dot} com and I’ll send them over. I’ve heard using Internet Explorer helps!)

 The Blonde Travelista

Blonde Travelista

Best of the Blog: Why Don’t Americans Travel? // Australian Differences and Slang // San Diego Safari Park

Introduce yourself! Twitter // Pinterest // Instagram

Caroline Made This

Caroline Made This

Best of the Blog: What to Expect // The Dressing Room Mirror // How I Organize for an International Trip

Introduce yourself! Facebook // Twitter

Curiosity Travels

Curiosity Travels

Best of the Blog: Finally Being Honest: The Story About How I Really Feel About Korea // This Is The In Between // Lessons I’ve Learned About Life and Travel in 2013

Introduce yourself! Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

Melanie Fontaine

Melanie Fontaine

Best of the Blog: Hiking in Borrowdale at the Northern Lakes, Lake District // Snapshots From Sichuan Province, China // Goodbye Norway: One Last Visit To Fløyen

Introduce yourself! Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

Mind Body Travel Mind Body and Travel

Best of the Blog: Top 5 Things to do in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico // Hiking Trails in Breath-taking Zion National Park // My First Impressions of Chengdu

Introduce yourself! Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

One Trip at a Time

One Trip At a Time

Best of the Blog: London in One Day: The Itinerary // A Drizzly Day at Dover Castle // Design and Structure of the Commonwealth War Cemeteries

Introduce yourself! Bloglovin’ // Pinterest

 Progression of Happiness

Photos

Best of the Blog: BHow to Travel More in University // Tips for Long Distance Best Friends // New York City’s Top Ten Attractions

Introduce yourself! Twitter // Instagram // Pinterest

A Texan in Spain Photos1

Best of the Blog: Albarracín: The Most Beautiful Village in Spain // 5 Ways to Speak Spanish Like a Spaniard // How to Drink Coffee in Spain

Introduce yourself! Twitter // Instagram // Google+

Taking Tea in Turkey Taking Tea in Turkey

Best of the Blog: Let’s Talk Tea // A Celebration of Love // Türk kahvesi, for the present and future

Two Feet One World

Two Feet One World

Best of the Blog: Exploring the Secret Tube Station // How I Survived Oktoberfest // ANZAC Day at Gallipoli

Introduce yourself! Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

Okay shoot! What are some good ideas for the Things That Scare Me series?

French Eating Habits I’m Taking Home With Me

French Eating Habits I’m Taking Home With Me

One of my favorite things about the French is that they tend to be well-rounded: The French dress fashionably, travel, read a ton, keep abreast of politics and quite famously, eat well.

Collectively I’ve spent about a year and a half living with French families so I’d like to think I know a thing or two about French home-cooking. But returning to Paris this year reminded me of so many French eating habits I have yet to work into my daily life.

While there are many French food customs I’ll never get on board with- like oeufs en gelée (blergh) and small, sweet breakfasts, there are others, like a salad with every meal and good wine that I’m more than behind.

*Note- not every French person or family does these things, these are just food customs I’ve observed personally.

A Salad with every meal

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Salad is truly an art form in France. In fact I never liked salad until I lived there.

When I lived in France, I made a simple green salad every day to accompany the main dish at dinner. I loved how it wasn’t a question- at dinner you always have baguette, and you always have salad.

You start with fresh, butter lettuce that you wash and dry with a salad spinner three times. It’s usually from the farmer’s market and speckled with dirt so it’s important to wash thoroughly!

Then you always, always, always make the vinaigrette from scratch. (I’ve never even seen bottled dressing in France!) Here’s my recipe.

And voilà, you have a delicious salade verte!

Yogurt after every meal

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After dinner in France we would bring out an assortment of yogurts: mousse au chocolat, lemon and strawberry, among other flavors. In my opinion, yogurt is the perfect low-key, weekday dessert, and boasts plenty of health benefits as well.

Sadly, this is one French food tradition I sadly won’t be replicating in America as American yogurt is sugary, processed and terrible for you. You might as well just eat half a candy bar.

Also, if you’re ever in France, the above yogurt, Fjord, is the yogurt of dreams: thick, tangy, creamy, addictive. As in like worth smuggling through US customs.

Apéro dinatoire

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Interestingly enough, there’s actually no viable English translation for apéro dinatoire! Cocktail party with snacks? Drinks and finger food?

Essentially an apéritif dinatoîre is when you invite guests over to drink and snack on an assortment of hors d’oeuvres. You don’t “officially” serve a meal so it’s not a dinner party; it’s more of a casual, often weekday gathering that lasts late into the night.

(Fun fact- did you know no one says hors d’oeuvres in France? It’s an antiquated word.)

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Gougères, or cheese puffs, I made for an apéritif dinatoîre last year. They’re surprisingly super hard to make- this was my third batch!

Sparkling water

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Sparkling water always makes me feel kind of fancy. Plus, if you’re trying to cut out pop, it’s a healthy carbonated alternative.

Always using a tablecloth

Another thing that makes me feel a little more put-together? A tablecloth. The French never sit down to eat without one.

Epic, five-course dinner parties on the regular

Oh god. French dinner parties are so much work yet so worth it. Here’s the drill:

1. Decorate your house beautifully, with a fresh tablecloth, flowers, chic stemware and your best china. Your best china isn’t just for holidays- it’s also for impressing your guests. And turn on some music!

2. Wait for your guests to arrive- they’re always a little late. Once they arrive greet them with a kiss and serve them hors d’oeuvres and cocktails (kind of like an apéro dinatoire but with a lot less food).

And don’t forget to thank them for their gift, usually a bottle of wine or flowers. In France it’s rude to show up empty-handed.

3. Sit down to the table for the first course (entrée in French. Yep, it’s backwards from English!)

4. Serve the main course. It is imperative for everyone to rave about the food- in France people talk a lot about food. Points for serving more exotic dishes like tagine or goulash.

5. Serve the cheese course. Ideally you will have at least 3-4 room-temperature cheeses on a plate- here’s my guide on how to serve a good cheese course.

5. Serve dessert. Also, this isn’t a throwaway course- it’s a lot of work. Ideas: financier with a berry coulis, omelette norwegienne, a poached pear in a salted butter caramel sauce.

6. Serve coffee.

7. Chat about politics/sex/family life until as late as three a.m., serving up plenty of wine.

 8. Wake up mildly hungover and wash about 8,000 dishes. Each of those courses had a fresh plate, remember?

Buying good wine

Once I grow up (ha) I vow to never buy Yellowtail again- good wine is worth paying extra for, in my book. Unfortunately, good wine in the states is pricey, but in France you can pick up a decent bottle from 3-5 euros!

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Also, someday I will have a badass wine cellar like my host dad in France with a gravel floor and a million wine bottles. #seriously

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Farmers markets

Ah, I love a good farmers market, especially in France. Most French farmers markets are open two-three days a week, and serve up all the good stuff: charcuterie, seafood, cheese and fresh produce. French_Eating_Habits_Farmers_Market

More picnics

Um I think if I mention one more picnic on my blog you are all going to kill me, but really- I never have them in the states. Picnics=the best.

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A cheese course before dessert

Because… cheese.

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Eating healthy on the weekdays and indulging on weekends

This is one healthful custom I’ve observed in France. The French often eat simple foods during the week, and on the weekends indulge in pastries for breakfast, barbecues for dinner and sinful desserts. It’s the perfect mix of abstinence and indulgence.

Omelets for dinner

I’ve actually never seen anyone in France eat an omelet for breakfast! But we did often eat them for dinner with chives and other fines herbes on top. Yum!

More cheese and butter in my life

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And especially more goat’s cheese.
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My actual favorite food in the world. Also it kills me that this cost literally two euros.

Which French eating habits would you like to adopt?

Protein-Packed Salade Niçoise with Seared Ahi Tuna

Protein-Packed Salade Niçoise with Seared Ahi Tuna

Though summer’s (sadly) coming to a close, I’m still eating lots of lighter meals. (Hey, it’s still 95 degrees in Michigan!) And one of my favorite summer salads is Salade Niçoise.

I learned this recipe in France years ago, and love it because I usually have all of the ingredients on hand: eggs, canned tuna, lettuce, green beans and tomatoes. Also, it’s incredibly filling while being high in protein and low in calories.

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One habit I picked up in France is to always make my own vinaigrette- it takes seconds and tastes so much better. And while I usually use high-quality, olive oil-packed canned tuna for Salade Niçoise, I figured why not amp it up with a few sashimi-quality tuna steaks?

What’s great about Salade Niçoise is that you can really customize it- sometimes I add radishes, new potatoes, cucumbers or white anchovies packed in vinegar. (Also known as boquerones.)

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Salade Niçoise

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/2 head of butter lettuce
2 tuna steaks (sashimi-grade ahi tuna)
3 tbsp vinaigrette (preferably homemade- here’s my recipe for homemade vinaigrette!)
10 oz green beans
2 tomatoes
4 eggs
1/2 c Nicoise olives (with pits intact)

Directions

1. Heat a large pot of salted water over high heat with a lid.

While you are waiting for the water to boil, make the shallot vinaigrette in a large salad bowl.

2. Wash and dry the lettuce. Place the lettuce in the bowl over the dressing but do not mix. (Once the salad is dressed it should be eaten immediately after as the lettuce will become soggy.)

3. Once the water boils, add the green beans. Boil until soft, about 10 minutes.

(Note- the French boil green beans much longer than most Americans- around 30 minutes. I think 10-15 minutes is perfect.)

4. Carefully add the eggs to the boiling water once the green beans have been boiling for a few minutes. (Washed thoroughly of course!)

5. When the beans are finished, strain them and allow to cool for a few minutes. Rinse the eggs under cold water and peel, then quarter and season them with salt and pepper.

6. Brush the tuna steaks with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat up a sauté pan over high heat and add a few tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil. (Don’t use olive oil as it has a low smoke point.) Sear on each side for about 90 seconds. The center of the steak should be raw, like sushi.

7. Wash, dry and quarter the tomatoes. Season with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper and add to the salad bowl.

8. Add the green beans, tuna, olives and hard-boiled eggs to the salad. Mix thoroughly with tongs and serve immediately.

What are your favorite summer salads?

Eating the Delicious East End

Eating the Delicious East End

Over my three weeks in London, I finally settled upon my dream neighborhood- the East End. The East End is everything you’d want as a twenty-something; it’s packed with street art, cute cafés, lively bars and some of London’s trendiest restaurants.

The East End also has hundreds of years of history. For centuries it was synonymous with poverty and over-crowding, and Huguenot refugees, Irish weavers, Ashkenazi Jews and Bangladeshi immigrants have all called it home.

So when Eating London invited me on a food tour of the East End I was totally on board- as both a foodie and history buff how could I pass up the chance?

And if I haven’t already convinced you that London’s a foodie town, prepare yourself, dear reader.

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St. John Bread & Wine // Bacon Sandwich

Our first stop? St. John Bread and Wine. Featured on my favorite travel show ever, No Reservations, St. John is known for its nose-to-tail dining approach, which as an offal lover, I’m all for.

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This bacon sandwich was near perfect: thick, cut-with-a-spoon-tender slices of bacon slathered with a secret ketchup sauce and held together by grilled white bread. And what’s neat is that both the bread and bacon are baked and cured in house.

And while normally I prefer American-style bacon over English, this was the bacon sandwich to rule them all.

The English Restaurant // Bread and Butter Pudding

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What’s that you say? Who eats bread and butter pudding at 10 a.m.?

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Well at the English Restaurant, you can! Between the creme brûlée crust and the luscious crème anglaise sauce, I was literally sighing with happiness over my bread and butter pudding. And plus, the English Restaurant had the most cozily English atmosphere- I could’ve nursed a pint there all afternoon.

Androuet // Cheese Platter

To my delight our third stop was Androuet, a little French cheese shop! We tasted two of my favorite English cheeses, cheddar and stilton. And from the first mouthful of perfectly ripe cheese I was in fromage-ophile heaven.

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The young French owner explained that Androuet was started in Paris in 1909. I also learned that the owner and I are cheese twins; both of our favorite cheeses is Sainte-Maure de Touraine, an unpasteurized, full-fat aged goat’s cheese with a piece of straw through the middle.

 

Poppies // Fish and Chips

British readers, please skip this paragraph. But to my palate fish and chips is overkill- why pair fried with fried?

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But the fish at Poppies was light as fried cod can be, and was especially delicious when doused in vinegar. I also loved the throwback American diner interior and kind of wanted to play Elvis on the jukebox.

Pride of Spitalfields // Ale

Next it was time for drinks, so we headed to Pride of Spitalfields for an ale tasting.

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While I love beer, my inner hipster hates that I can’t get myself to love ale- it’s just too lukewarm and still! And although I sadly hadn’t been converted into an ale-drinker by the end of the visit, I’d definitely return to Pride of Spitalfields for its cozy, red-plush interior and dozens of beers on tap.

Aladin // Indian Curry

Would a tour of the East End be complete without stopping by Brick Lane? Probably not.

Brick Lane, also known as Curry Mile, is home to a large Bangladeshi community that immigrated to London in the 1970’s and 80’s.

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The chef served up three curries for our visit, and all were scrumptious- I especially loved the lamb curry. But by this point I was so stuffed even the tastiest curry could hardly entice me.

(But don’t worry, I made room. You think I’d let a lamb curry go to waste?)

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Street art by Stik on Brick Lane

Beigel Bake // Salt Beef Sandwich

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There was quite a line outside Beigel Bake, and from my first bite of this salt beef sandwich I could see why. The fatty, melt-in-your mouth meat paired with the yeasty bagel and dab of sharp yellow mustard made for a perfect fatty-acidic taste combination.

Pizza East // Salted Caramel Tart and Tea

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And the grand finale? Dessert at Pizza East! I fell in love with Pizza East for two reasons- first, the uber-chic, warehouse interior which oddly enough we weren’t allowed to photograph. And secondly, this salted caramel tart was possibly the best thing I had all day- decadent, chocolaty and topped with coarse sea salt.

My only regret- I wish I would’ve had room for pizza as the pies coming from the kitchen looked to die for!

Final remarks on the tour

As you may have guessed, I absolutely loved the Eating London food tour. I loved that the tour guide, Nicole, provided so many interesting facts about the East End’s history and culture- I was jotting down facts on my iPhone during the tour. And as I’ve mentioned, the food was bar-none.

And my favorite eat of the day? It’s a two-way tie between the bread and butter pudding and the salted caramel tart.

. . . . . . . . . . .

After lunch I burned off a fraction of the calories I had just consumed by combing the East End for street art. Sigh… I love London.

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Have you ever eaten in the East End?

A big thanks to Eating London for providing a food tour in exchange for a review. They in no way insisted that I write a favorable review, and all opinions are (as always) my own. If you’d like to join the Eating London food tour, here are a few tips: don’t eat breakfast, bring a camera, show up on time and DEFINITELY wear loose-fitting pants and comfortable shoes.

Celebrating a Blogiversary – Ashley Abroad Turns Two!

Celebrating a Blogiversary – Ashley Abroad Turns Two!

Hey guys! So today I’m excited because my blog jut turned two. (And yes, I do refer to it as if it were my child.) Who would’ve guessed I’d still be blogging after all this time? I certainly wouldn’t have!

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Anyway, a lot’s changed since last year’s blogiversary and in short, I’m really proud.

I’ve worked with a lot of great companies in the last year, from Best Western to Skywings Paragliding, and even hosted my first giveaway and started offering sponsorship. And recently a journalist from Forbes.com interviewed me which made the parents happy.

My traffic’s never been higher, and my page views have more than quadrupled in the past year- in one year this site’s gone from 6,000 uniques and 15,000 page views to 13,000 uniques and 64,000 page views!

(For the record I still have troubling believe this.) Ashley_Abroad_Traffic Honestly though I’m happiest that I’ve managed to connect with such a great group of readers, regular commenters and real-life friends- you guys are really the best. Your support, particularly on more emotional posts, means the world to me.

I started this blog with four main goals: to improve writing and photography, make friends, earn a living and secure freelancing jobs. Four for four, I guess!

And just for the sake of strolling down memory lane, here’s are some of my favorite posts from the last 12 months.

Most useful: How to DIY A Budget Yoga Retreat in Bali, How to Start a Successful Travel Blog, How to Plan an Inexpensive but Awesome Trip Abroad

Most confession-y: Back Home, But What Next?, Why Working As a Digital Nomad is Not For Me, And Then Everything Changed in Vietnam, Why I Honestly Came to Bali

Best photos: Carnevale in Venice, In Awe of the Temples of Angkor, Magnificent Macau

Most adventurous: Canyoning in Dalat, Vietnam, Paragliding in Interlaken, Switzerland, Climbing Mount Batur, Bali’s Most Active Volcano Best Food Porn:

My Top Eats in Singapore, Authentic Thai, A Very Tasty Guide to Vietnamese Food

My personal favorites: Tiny Paradise: A Week on Gili Trawangan, What I Miss About Bali, A DIY Trip Down to the Mekong Delta, Practicing Gratitude Wherever You Go, What I Miss (and Don’t Miss) About Living in France

And even though I’m ready to be a bit more settled, I’m still really excited to see where this blog takes me. Thank you guys for coming all for the ride.

Always,

Ashley

So now I’d love to hear from you! What would you like to see more/less of on Ashley Abroad?

Announcing My New Sponsorship Program (And Where I’m Moving Next!)

Announcing My New Sponsorship Program (And Where I’m Moving Next!)

So some big changes are afoot on Ashley Abroad. I’m now offering a sponsorship program for bloggers looking to advertise!

And I want to test the program before charging anyone so here’s where you come in- the first ten bloggers to comment below will receive a free 310×150 spot for September as well as a feature in the sponsor introduction post. So get commenting!

While sponsorship is a big thing on lifestyle sites like I Wore Yoga Pants and Yes and Yes (where I’ve advertised myself!), I’ve noticed it’s nonexistent on travel blogs. And with all the exposure it can offer, it’s time to change that.

 

A Big Move

And for my second announcement of the day- I’m moving! (Or, at least I’m trying to.)

If you follow me on Instagram you may already know where.

Here’s a hint:  unnamed-1

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I spent last week in the Bay Area apartment-hunting with my friend McCall and if things turn out well I should be a San Francisco resident in the coming weeks!

I’ve wanted to live in San Francisco since I was nine years old so it’s time to finally make that dream come true. I used to work in the Bay Area through high school and college at my uncle’s restaurants so I’m beyond excited to be based there again.

I’m also thrilled to have my own apartment- it’s been years since I’ve had my own space.

Diversifying My Blogging Income

To date I’ve made the bulk of my blogging income from sponsored posts and links but I’d like to start earning money in a less spammy (and potentially site-ruining) ways. I’ve been hugely inspired by Pinch of Yum’s income reports and have thus decided to implement a few new ideas.

So here are a few ways I’m diversifying my income:

a. Joining BlogHer ad network.

You may have noticed the new ads in the sidebar. This is because I have a year-long contract with BlogHer so I will have to post 1-2 a week to fulfill my contract. In short you’ll be seeing a lot of me around here!

b. Becoming a Hostgator affiliate.

I’ve had a great experience with Hostgator over the past two years and couldn’t recommend their hosting highly enough. While their sidebar ad isn’t pretty (see right), I’m excited to become an affiliate for a company I really love.

Essentially I earn a small commission if you buy a domain or hosting through the ad at right (or the link above), so if you’re looking to start a blog or website I’d really appreciate a click!

c. More giveaways.

While giveaways don’t directly generate revenue, they do help build social media numbers. And considering I’m a social media slacker, I could use the help.

I was very happy with how successful my recent Jo Totes giveaway went- not only did my readers seem very interested in winning the bag it resulted in tons of engagement on social media. And now that I have an $8 monthly subscription to Rafflecopter I’m planning on reaching out to more companies whose products I regularly use to see if they’d be interested in a giveaway!

d. Sponsored content with companies I love.

I’m interested in doing more product and app reviews on my site that I think could be useful for you guys. Currently I turn down 99% of product review requests that I receive but I’d like to do more outreach. I’m also signing up for a few promotional networks: Pollinate Media Group, Clever Girls Collective, POPSUGAR Select, to help put me in touch with companies I like.

 

Also, and this is only vaguely related, but recently I searched myself on Get Off My Internets (a terrible decision, by the way), and I found some very unkind things about myself in the forums.

I don’t have much to say in response, but I’d like to cordially invite anyone who despises me to stop reading my site. Because I’m sure you have better things to do with your time.

. . . . . . . . . . .

Going forward there is so much I’d like to do with this blog, including a site redesign, more recipe posts and maybe even an eBook. But I’m trying to take it one step at a time!

Anyway, for all the non-bloggers I’m sorry for sharing all of this boring back-end stuff! Regardless of how I monetize my blog I’ll always generate content I’m proud of and think can be useful for you.

. . . . . . . . . . .

This post contains affiliate links but all opinions are my own. Thanks for keeping Ashley Abroad afloat!

The Best of London Food Markets

The Best of London Food Markets

Okay, world. Here’s my personal declaration: London is now a foodie town. In my humble opinion, you can find more creative and diverse food in London than you can in Paris or Chicago.

Yep. I wrote it.

Don’t believe me? Read on to learn all about London’s best food markets I discovered during my three weeks in the Smoke.

I ventured to all of these markets under the shrewd guidance of my friend and fellow travel blogger Amanda. Amanda knows all about where to find the best eats in London; she’s even writing her dissertation on London’s up-and-coming craft beer scene!

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What’s up: Netil Market is a tiny market located nearby larger and more frenetic Broadway Market. Its aesthetics are delightfully hipster-friendly with clapboard stalls, green pinstripe awnings and picnic benches. And despite its small size, Netil Market has lots of great eats.

What I loved: Um, this bao from Bao London. The only dish on the menu, this classic gua bao is filled with slow-braised pork belly, pickles and cilantro, and dusted with peanut powder.

It took everything in my power not to order a second one. IMG_6825

Also, the market offers lots of childhood classics like cupcakes and grilled cheese (which kind of goes with the hipster theme, no?). And I always thought grilled cheese was an American thing! IMG_6815 IMG_6827 Where to find it: Every Saturday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. at 23 Westgate Street, E8 3RL. Websitenetilmarket.tumblr.com

Broadway Market

What’s up: Craving London’s best ethnic food? Get ready to queue up at Broadway Market, the sprawling market located only a stone’s throw from London Fields.

The market offers up quintessentially British eats like Scotch egg and stilton cheese, as well as a kaleidoscope of ethnic cuisines, from Italian to Indian.

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What I loved: At Hanoi Kitchen I had some of the best Vietnamese I’ve had outside of Saigon; I was in heaven over my barbecued pork and my beloved Vietnamese coffee. I even went back for a second coffee… whoops.

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IMG_6866 Amanda seemed to enjoy her first taste of Ghanian food quite a bit too!

We finished off the meal with a bit of caramel New York cheesecake in London Fields. While it didn’t quite compare to the cheesecake I’ve had stateside, it was still a nice taste of home. IMG_6871

Where to find it: Every Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 5:oo p.m. at Broadway Market, E8 4PH

Websitebroadwaymarket.co.uk

Brixton Village v1

What’s up: Brixton Village is a covered arcade market boasting the kind of fresh-off-the-boat fare that foodies dream of, from jerk chicken to traditional Japanese. It’s located in Brixton, a rougher immigrant neighborhood that’s a bit out of the way; but this food is worth the hike, I promise.

What I loved: We beelined to Okan, a tiny Japanese eatery for my first taste of okonomiyaki. Um, yeah, how have I never had this AMAZING dish before?

Okonomiyaki is a savory pork and scallion pancake topped with fish flakes and spicy mayonnaise. Drool. And because it’s always beer o’clock in Ashley and Amanda world, we cracked open some icy Japanese brews to accompany. v

As we wandered around the market after lunch I cursed my stomach for not having more room; everything looked so good! I did find space for some frozen Greek yogurt that I tried in Greece a few years ago. It was as delicious as I remembered! IMG_1448

Brixton Market also seemed like a great place to buy inexpensive groceries; I saw tons of fishmongers and vegetable stalls in the area.

Where to find it: Brixton Village is open 8 a.m. – 11.30 p.m. every day except Monday, when it shuts at 6 p.m. The directions are complicated so check the website below.

 Websitebrixtonmarket.net/brixton-village/

Borough Market

What’s up: Borough Market is a food market located in Central London, right on the Thames. Although a bit pricey, it’s the perfect spot to stop while sightseeing. The baked good selection is particularly tempting!

And as I so eloquently wrote last year, spit roast pork sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies and sangria all in one sitting? Yes please.

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What I loved: While in town I stopped by Borought Market on at least four occasions. But the best thing I discovered this year was La tua pasta, a pasta stall that sells some of the tastiest black truffle tortellini in existence. My mouth is literally watering just writing about it.

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Where to find it: Borough Market is open for lunch Monday and Tuesday (10 a.m. – 5 p.m.) and offers a full market Wednesday and Thursday (10 a.m. – 5 p.m.), Friday (10 a.m. – 6 p.m) and Saturday (8 a.m. – 5 p.m.). It’s located at 8 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TL, right outside the London Bridge tube station.

Website: http://boroughmarket.org.uk/

 

Here is a map I made to help you find all the markets!

View London Food Markets in a larger map

What’s your favorite London food market? And if you’ve never been, which one entices you most?

My Absolute Favorite Camera Bag + A Giveaway! [CLOSED]

My Absolute Favorite Camera Bag + A Giveaway! [CLOSED]

So today I want to tell you about my favorite travel camera bag- and yes, give a $100 Jo Totes gift card to one lucky reader!

I’ve written about this bag before- long-time readers may remember I listed it as one of my top ten travel products.

Jo Totes Giveaway

Why I love my Jo Totes bag:

a. It’s beautiful and stylish. See above!

b. It’s well-made. I’ve had mine for a year and a half and it’s in great shape.

c. It’s big. My bag can fit a camera as well as several lenses, and not to mention other valuables like my cell phone and wallet.

d. It’s street-smart. No one knows you’re carrying a valuable DSLR, which is great!

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Other Jo Totes selections

This bag has traveled with me around the globe. I used it a ton during my year in France, both walking around Paris as well as jaunting about the continent. I also used my Jo Totes this year on my world trip (although I sent it home after India- tweed doesn’t really suit Southeast Asia, now does it?)

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Hanging out in London… IMG_3988-001

Road-tripping down the French Atlantic coast… DSC_5250 copy

Weekend-ing in Strasbourg… (Courtesy of Sateless Suitcase.)

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Snapping shots in Madrid! (Courtesy of Sateless Suitcase.)

So here’s the exciting part for you- I’m giving a $100 gift card to Jo Totes way to one of my readers, to go towards purchasing the Jo Totes camera bag of their choice!

To enter all you have to do is leave a comment, follow me on Twitter, share about the giveaway or like my Facebook page. And you can share about the giveaway on Twitter each day for additional entries.

This giveaway will run until 8:00 a.m. on August 4, and then I will announce the winner on my Facebook page. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Twitter: @ashleyhfleck

Facebook: Ashley Abroad

Instagram: ashleyabroad

Jo Totes provided me with one $100 gift card for this giveaway. No additional compensation was given and all opinions are my own.

It’s my 24th Birthday!

It’s my 24th Birthday!

Hey guys! Today I’m 24. Which officially means I’m in my mid-twenties. Is it weird I’m mostly totally okay with that?

First off, I want to thank each and everyone one of you who responded to my twenty-something crisis post. I teared up reading a few of the comments- seriously, you guys are so awesome for sharing your sympathy and wise advice.

Okay, and back to the birthday. My family threw me the loveliest birthday at my lake house, complete with the same strawberry cake I’ve had every year since I was 16. And while I did receive some lovely gifts (a new Swarovski necklace!), the real gift was being home: riding old-fashioned bikes with my brother, sipping champagne with my grandmother, hearing my grandpa’s World War II stories over coffee. I adore my family. ash ash1

Also, I do have some exciting plans in the works. While I don’t want to prematurely announce them, I’m 95% sure of where I’m moving in September- but my lips are sealed until I sign the lease!

Until then, I will be right here. IMG_1981

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And I’m so excited to continue blogging about my world trip- I still have Switzerland, England, Wales, Spain, France, India, Thailand, Malaysia AND Vietnam to cover! There’s so much I can’t wait to share.

And long-time readers may remember that last year I posted a list of 23 things I wanted to accomplish in my 23rd year. Here’s how I did!

COMPLETED: (8/23)

Learn how to scuba-dive, get in the best shape of my life, learn how to cook Asian food, get 3 freelance articles published, fight muay thai, make a conscious effort to keep up my French and Spanish, try Stand Up Paddleboarding, pay off all my debt

WILL COMPLETE (I SWEAR): (10/23)

Move to a new city after the Asia trip, learn how to drive manually, get a job that I love, try surfing again, go to a music festival, volunteer for a great cause, attend a travel blogging or media conference, take a graphic design course, throw a surprise birthday party, run a 5K Color Run

HALF-COMPLETED/DEBATABLE: (5/23)

1. Learn how to use my camera in manual, learn how to shoot in RAW and edit with Lightroom.

I learned how to shoot in manual and use Lightroom, but still don’t know much about RAW. Oops.

2. Buy a new wardrobe.

Um, do a few ASOS dresses and two pairs of jeans count?

3. Buy a custom-design for my site.

Well, I got a new theme. But money was way too tight for a $5,000 redesign.

4. Learn how to do liquid eyeliner like a French girl (yup, still failing after a year).

Yeah. I think I’ve got this one but I’d have to run it by my French friends.

5. Keep blogging!

Well I took an intentional three-month break, but I fully intend to blog regularly now.

. . . . . . . . . .

And for next year? Here are seven goals. (Apparently 23 was far too ambitious!)

1. Make a conscious effort to be happy and make friends wherever I move this year.

2. Post at least one recipe a month on this blog. I miss cooking, especially cooking French food!

3. Stay in shape. I’d love to run my first 5K and get into pilates.

4. Keep up my French and Spanish. Y’all know how much I love languages.

5. Write handwritten thank you cards. It’s just classy.

6. Get better at dancing. Perhaps belly-dancing or salsa?

7. Try a wreck dive. Now that I’m an Advanced Open Water diver I’d love to do this.

. . . . . . . . . .

So, do you set goals at your birthday? Or is it just me?

Back Home, But What Next?

Back Home, But What Next?

Confession: recently I’ve been having a bit of a crisis.

I’m back home and savoring the Michigan summer as always. But the one question that plagues me day after day is, “Okay, so what now?”

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As many of you know I just returned home from a four-month trip around the world: Europe, India and Southeast Asia. My trip was perfect. Truly, it was the best, most confidence-building trip I’ve taken. I was so, so achingly happy for most of the trip and don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much.

Leaving my laptop behind served me well- instead of planning out blog posts I lived in the moment and only endured a few anxiety attacks in which contemplated my imminent doom and old age. (Loveee those.)

So now I’m at a crossroads- continue traveling or look for a job stateside.

The problem with the former option is that there’s nowhere I’m itching to visit in particular. And living in hostels loses its charm eventually- there are only so many times you can discuss the same three questions with strangers: Where are you from? Where were you last? Where are you going?

The latter option frankly terrifies me: Sign a lease? Work in an office all day? Live in the states? Be… normal?

For a while I hoped I’d follow the C’est Christine trajectory- a year in France, a year traveling Europe and Southeast Asia and after two years of non-stop fun, to settle down stateside.

But now that I’m home, I have no desire to settle down here. On the contrary, I walk around with a knot of anxiety in my chest. It’s like a pesky little voice is constantly whispering in my ear, “You do not want to be here. You do not want to be here.”

Which makes me ask myself, what on earth is wrong with me? Why can’t I enjoy living in my own country? Do I have to be abroad to be happy? What about my family and friends I love so much?

I have a few ideas of what to do next: move to Australia, learn German, teach English in Japan. Yet none of these are lifelong goals, they’re whims. More like well, that would be cool, right? kind of goals. Which isn’t the passion-fueled life I’d like to be living.

I sometimes wonder if I’m living up to my potential. I come from a very bright family, from a long line of inventors and entrepreneurs. While they rack up scholarships to Yale and gigs at Google I flit around the world and “live in the moment.”

While I was in India and Southeast Asia, I was traveling with two friends who work as a management consultant and an investment banker. While they are incredible warm and supportive friends who gave me lots of sound advice, being in their company made me feel… unaccomplished.

I didn’t go to an Ivy League. I don’t make 120K and I don’t have a job with amazing benefits and intellectual coworkers. And a part of me wishes I did.

Spending time with such hard-working (and happy) people also made me wonder, “Could I pull 16-hour days on a regular basis? And if I didn’t enjoy it, does that make me lazy?”

Recently my little brother commented, “Ash, I have no idea how you travel all the time. Don’t you get sick of being broke?”

Which yes, frankly, I do get sick of being broke. I want to be able to order a glass of wine at dinner without worrying. I want to buy my friends birthday presents that cost more than $30. I want to be able to put $500 on my credit card without having a panic attack.

So here I stand, absolutely, 100% unsure of what to do next, uncertain of what will make me happy either short or long-term. I stand here utterly humbled and afraid for the future. Luckily I still have youth on my side, but how much longer will I be able to say that? How long will I have that free pass?

And I don’t want to wrap this up with my usual pithy, optimistic conclusion. I wrote this for my own catharsis as well as for the sake of other twenty-somethings grappling with the same problem.

And I also wrote this to humbly ask for your advice, any and all life or career advice you can give me. Because I honestly have no idea what my next move should be.