The Highlight Reel #5

Hello! Sorry it’s been a while: I’ve been busy packing up, leaving my job, celebrating, and saying goodbye to people and places.¬†Grad week has descended on us once more and although it’s been making me impossibly nostalgic, I’m taking the opportunity to live vicariously through¬†everyone I know who is graduating. It’s been a while since I’ve done a Highlight Reel, so as I’ve not really had time to capture much on camera, here’s a little rundown of some (mainly food related…oops) highlights of the last couple of weeks.

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Sunset dog walking #nofilter

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  • Dinner at El Bocado, a tapas restaurant I have been honestly wanting to visit FOREVER, with Mae and her family. I’m always happy with some cava sangria but add some delicious tapas to the mix and a cheeky after-dinner cocktail and I was one happy bunny.
  • A quick little picnic on a sunny Cathedral Green – for the last time!
  • Stocking up on samples of my new fragrance obsession, Daisy Dream, which is the dreamiest, blackcurrantiest thing you ever smelt
  • A little trip to Topsham, which has become something of a frequent haunt of mine lately
  • Firehouse pizza & sangria with some work chums, which was a well-needed break from spending allll my time alone or at work!
  • Pretty pretty pink sunsets, followed by a good old dose of lightning
  • Free champagne, pre-¬†and¬†post-graduation ceremonies
  • Seeing my old friend Floella once more (and maybe possibly tearing up at the sight of her amazing wise face) at R’s graduation
  • Returning home to a BBQ in my gorgeous green garden after the longest most boring journey from Exeter ever!

Much more to come on the subject of graduation – I haven’t yet graduated, but I was on girlfriend duty and got to experience a ceremony as a guest – and also possibly a sentimental post on leaving Exeter forever…we’ll see! Hope you’ve all been having wonderful weeks!

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On The Waterfront, Exeter

On the Waterfront is a bit of a favourite around these parts and it’s always high on the list of restaurants-that-Exeter-students-take-their-parents-to. My parents, however, have never been, so when they arrived, dog in tow and after a long, traffic-ridden journey, on Friday, that was where we headed.

The skies had been threatening rain all day, but luckily things looked clear enough for us to grab a much-coveted table outside – which was handy for our puppy companion!¬†The restaurant is famed for its perfect location right on the water at Exeter’s gorgeous quay, and despite the black clouds hanging around, it was a lovely evening.

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To get things going, we ordered a jug of Pimms for mummy and I, and some bread and olives. There were three varieties of bread: one olive-y, one standard sourdough kind of thing (I think) and the most interesting, those little white parcels. Inside were two crispbreads – think cross between a poppadom and a baked tortilla.

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I feel like you can’t go to the Waterfront and not get one of their famed pizzas, and after much discussion and even some complex maths, Rory and I decided to split an enormous 16″ “dustbin lid” pizza. On The Waterfront have one of the most imaginative selections of toppings I’ve ever seen, and while my brother played it relatively safe (and badly, as it turned out) with a spanish sausage creation, we opted for half crispy duck, and half “three little pigs”: pork, bacon, apple sauce and yes, that is pork scratchings on top. Just in case we didn’t have enough food, we also ordered a side of potato wedges.

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The pork side was¬†okay – pulled pork on a pizza is always a good thing in my book – but there wasn’t enough apple sauce for my liking, and I much preferred the duck side. I just can’t get enough of duck! My brother ended up not really liking his but between him and Rory, they polished off the majority of the wedges. My dad, meanwhile, was tucking into a fish finger sandwich that looked great, with big chunks of battered fish rather than actual fish fingers.

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Full from our enormous pizzas and with an antsy Jimmy under the table, we skipped dessert in favour of a walk down by the river. The sun was just setting and those horrible clouds mixed with the leftover blue sky made for some pretty dramatic scenes.

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The dog, of course, threw himself into the river as soon as we let him off the lead and¬†then promptly set off in chase of another dog, which caused a fair amount of havoc. But eventually we reclaimed him and headed home! I’d always recommend On the Waterfront as my quayside destination of choice: if pizzas aren’t your thing they have loads of other options and if they are, the toppings list is unrivalled! The atmosphere is always buzzy and friendly and it’s just a nice way to while away a sunny/not so sunny evening by the river.

Route 2

On Monday morning, we woke up to some unexpected sunshine. Usually the sun always manages to come on the days I’m working, so this was actually the first time I’ve had a day to enjoy it and I was very keen to make the most of it. After some intense discussion, Rory and I decided to set off on a bike ride, which has been on my bucket list as long as I’ve been at Exeter.

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With a slightly-too-large bike procured for me (thanks Mae!) we set off towards Topsham, which is a really nice ride: once you get down to the Exeter Quay, it’s all fields and river and canal and Double Locks and then all of a sudden, you’re there.

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We went off on a little wander around the town, stopping – obviously – to take pictures at opportune moments. This little church overlooking the water was my favourite!

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It was looking a little overcast all of a sudden and we were both prettttyyyy hungry, so we decided to stop somewhere for coffee and cake. I don’t actually think we’ve ever had an outing that hasn’t involved coffee and cake – it’s kind of a problem. Anyway,¬†we spotted Route 2, and I was pretty sure that I’d read about it on India’s blog, so we decided to duck in there.

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It’s really cute inside, with a friendly laidback feel, and how great is that enormous clock on the wall? We settled ourselves on a sofa in the corner and perused the menu for a while.

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Eventually, I decided on an elderflower fizz and then – to Rory’s disgust – a vanilla ice cream. I stand by my decision: good vanilla ice cream is pretty much unbeatable, in my opinion, and this was very definitely in the good category. I basically haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

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When we were done, re-energized and with the rain looking like it was staying away, Rory made the suggestion that we carried on all the way to Exmouth. This seemed like a GREAT idea so off we went along the real route 2, a cycle trail that goes all the way there (and possibly beyond). It was a really nice trail actually, with lots of purpose-built bits and lots of great views across the water. When we got there – a ten mile trip altogether – we had a bit of a wander along the seafront and, since there was a boy involved, a play in the park.

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Of course, then came the less fun part of going all the way home again. I may or may not have whined and sulked for a small part of the journey, and suffice to say that by the time we got back to our house I was feeling DISTINCTLY sore – my little trips around the lakes last summer, it turns out, were nothing compared to this 20 mile monster of a ride on a bike that is slightly too big. We’re also both currently sporting some impressive sunburnt shoulders, but I had a really lovely day nonetheless and am now feeling ready to tackle the rest of the South West via bike – I’m just not sure my lovely boyfriend is ready to take me again…

An American in Exeter

Doing a year abroad is a bit of a weird thing for many reasons, but mostly because it leaves your friends scattered across various sides of the Atlantic. The term that I returned to Exeter, one of my favourite Americans Lydia also came to study here for a semester, and this week, she popped by for a little nostalgic visit. I didn’t actually end up taking that many pictures but I couldn’t let such a momentous occasion pass by without a blog post!

Her one and only request (besides the pedaloes at the quay, which the weather did not cooperate for) was a visit to Tea on the Green, so that she could order the Exeter afternoon tea, so naturally that was our first stop. I “helped out” with the spiced apple cake she picked to go with it and it was delish.

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We spent the afternoon wandering around all Lydia’s favourite old haunts – highlights being the corner shop near campus – and of course we had to make a trip up to campus itself!

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That evening, one of my very best friends Nicole also managed to make a detour via Exeter on her way up to Manchester which was so lovely! We all headed out to dinner and ended up having a distinctly bizarre experience at Cafe Rouge – but the food & wine were good and company even better so it didn’t matter. We spent the rest of the night back at mine drinking rum & blood orange juice, and then the next morning Nicole had to shoot off early so Lydia and I spent our last few ours brunching at Cosy Club. I’ve been wanting to check out their breakfast menu and their pancakes, syrup & bacon did not disappoint.

All too soon it was time for me to leave Lydia at the bus station for a long, long trip back to LDN. It was a flying visit, but luckily our goodbye wasn’t for long – she’s sticking around for a little bit and this weekend I’m headed up to London for a big old reunion with all the gang, so watch out for lots more fun!

The Highlight Reel #4

Happy Sunday everybody! To break up the Dubrovnik posts a little bit (last one coming soon) I thought I’d pop a little Highlight Reel in. Now that Mae & Rory are both finished their exams we’ve been making lots of time to play, although the weather hasn’t really been very co operative. We’ve planned a bank holiday outing tomorrow which I will of course post about but in the meantime, here’s what I’ve been up to this week!

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  • Surviving my first (and last) kind-of academic conference, and the 15 minute presentation & Q&A session that went with it. Is it nerdy to say that I kind of enjoyed it?
  • Enjoying the free Bounce Ball I totally forgot I ordered. I tried coconut & macadamia and now I’m hooked!
  • A smoothie/hot chocolate date to Coffee #1 with my best boy
  • An early evening, post-presentation trip to the Impy with the English gang past and present, followed by…
  • M&S 2 Dine for ¬£10 with Mae
  • Getting to read one of my favourite books, I am Charlotte Simmons, and watch Friday Night Lights – all in the name of¬†academia!
  • Spending 30 minutes on an exercise bike at work as part of a John Lewis fundraiser for Barnados…it was more fun that I imagined
  • On that note, having Exeter’s a cappella group, Semi Toned, visit JL for a little performance on Saturday. I could listen to a cappella allllll day
  • Catching up with my very favourite bromantic duo and feeling like I’d travelled back in time to first year

So as you can see, lots of highlights this week. I actually love writing these lists, they make what has felt like an otherwise dull week feel much more exciting. What have you all been up to this bank holiday weekend?

The Big Cake Show

Ages and ages ago, my mum sent me a link to the Big Cake Show website and told me I had to go. Cakes, Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, and all within 6 miles of little Exeter? Obviously she was right, so on Friday I swallowed my fear of buses and Rory & I hopped on the number 52 to Westpoint.

Our first impressions were that Westpoint was BUSY. To be honest, I think the stalls were crowded just slightly too close to together: what with the crowds of people at each stand, there was often no space at all to move between them which was more than a little frustrating, especially at first.¬†Coincidentally, we had arrived just in time for Mary Berry’s demonstration but the crowd was SO huge and Mary B is SO tiny that I couldn’t see anything at all. I did eventually catch a glimpse and we moved on.

One of my personal favourite parts was the competition cake area. I think there were quite a few cakes still to arrive but some of the ones that were there were seriously incredible.

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We couldn’t linger too long though: there was cake to be eaten! I became intrigued by Caprine Capers, who have a fab range of interestingly flavoured truffles, cremes and salted caramels – and, I didn’t realise until just now, are cow’s milk free, gluten free and nut free – so basically super health foods! I asked for a sample of their balsamic truffles and having tried a little bit, I couldn’t resist buying a whole one (for a measly 90p – bargain).

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The man I was talking to said these were actually suggested by a customer who had seen them in Italy, and they worked really well, with just a hint of balsamic – I could smell it more than I could taste it! I’m usually not a huge fan of truffles but I think the vinegar took away the bitterness of the dark chocolate (or something). Anyway, fuelled by truffles, we spent a while¬†admiring all the stands. I am always amazed by Choc Edge, who I have seen before on campus – it is an actual chocolate printer and it is incredible!

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Fuffle was a new find for me, the most divine fudge/truffle mixture you could ever imagine in a whole range of delicious flavours and all run by a cheeky Midlander who was charming the crowds.

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Can we discuss how good these meringues look? YUM

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We kept seeing people walking around with yellow boxes filled with what looked like enormous teacakes and we knew immediately we had to track them down. Unsurprisingly, the Chocolate Kiss Co stand was amongst the most crowded of them all but it was worth the wait – and we needed the long wait time to pick out what flavours we wanted! They were individually priced at 50p or you could get a box of 12 for ¬£5, but we limited ourselves to a coconut one for me and 1 strawberry, one “zebra” for him. These were DELICIOUS: chocolate coating fluffy marshmallow (the strawberry was strawberry flavoured marshmallow, mine was plain), they were basically enormous teacakes and as I write this I am wishing I’d bought a whole box! I can’t find a website for these guys and they were the only ones I didn’t pick up a card for as they were so packed, but trust me, if you see those yellow boxes, track one down.

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Obviously I can’t miss out on a chance to see my old favourites¬†Frandie Macaron, so I swung by there and introduced myself properly (I have been tweeting them quite frequently as I am so obsessed with their fabulous macarons). As always, I cannot recommend them enough – Fran & Andie who run the company are both absolutely lovely and obviously their macarons are delicious. I’ve already tried pretty much the whole collection so I saved my stomach space this time but I am already planning my Easter order to share with the fam.

By this point cake supplies were running very low across all the stands so we knew we had to act quickly if we wanted any actual cake – but luckily Daisy Cakes were well prepared and had plenty to go around. Rory opted for the world’s most enormous slice of salted caramel cake, which I happily helped him eat (although trust me, boy does not need any help). Daisy Cakes is a bakery in Torquay that I am hoping to visit one day because everything on their stand looked divine.

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Suitably full, we were just about ready to head home but we absolutely couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pose for a photo or several, in the “photo booth” set up in the middle of all the stands – a genius touch.

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It was a shame we didn’t really get to see Mary Berry (friends of mine that did said they arrived at 9:15…I don’t like her that much) or that we can’t make it to the Sunday to see my idol, Paul Hollywood (for whom I would¬†definitely¬†consider arriving at 9:15), and that it was so absurdly busy, but overall it was a great way to spend a few hours wandering about and inhaling sugar fumes & samples. I always love discovering new small & especially local companies…now how long till the Exeter Food Fest?!

Brunch & Bubbles

Champagne brunches & celebrating for no reason are two of my very favourite pastimes. On Friday, we decided to combine them both and throw an impromptu breakfast party in our living room.

Actually, the main reason we had to do this was that I bought a can of Jus-Roll croissant pastry on a whim a few weeks ago and then realised that I probably shouldn’t eat 6 croissants all to myself. They are literally the easiest thing in the world, by the way, and opening the can is possibly one of the most satisfying things ever. You just take them out, tear along the dotted line (but actually) and roll them up into neat little croissant shapes, then stick them in the oven for 15 minutes or so.

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Green & Black’s was on offer in Waitrose, so naturally the obvious choice was to have chocolate-dipped strawberries. I LOVE chocolate that comes in a gold foil wrapping – it’s so old school and fun to unwrap, like Charlie Bucket. Plus there was a recipe for chocolate chip cookies on the inside, which I thought was adorable.

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While the chocolate was melting and the croissants cooking, Mae got to work on poaching the eggs while Tas unwrapped the smoked salmon and toasted English muffins & teacakes and I chopped avocados.

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By some miracle, everything came together pretty much exactly at the same time. I’d like to say this was down to skill, but actually it was mainly just luck.

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I have never been known to celebrate anything (even your average Friday) without champagne, which was obviously the finishing & most important touch to our extravagant breakfast. Unfortunately, there was a little mishap in the opening which resulted in champagne going quite literally everywhere.

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Undeterred, we cleaned up as best we could, made Bucks Fizz and got busy with the food while champagne dripped from the ceiling (an Exeter problem if ever I heard one). Everything was delicious.

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When almost everything was finished, we sat around eating the remaining strawberries & melted chocolate and planning luxurious minibreaks to every corner of Europe. I’m pretty sure every Friday should start like this!

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This weekend, I’m off to one of my favourite places on earth for the reunion to end all reunions so watch this space for some wholesome Cornish fun – and in the meantime, let me know if you host your own needlessly-extravagant brunch party!