Prague: a city known for its architecture, history, gastronomy and magnetism for British stag dos. The latter being, oddly, the reason I came to this city second time round (the first I was interrailing aged 20 with my best friend – enough said.)

No, I wasn’t on a stag do, the boy was – and since flights were insanely cheap he suggested I join him after the lads had returned (and his broken body remained in a state of beer-induced disrepair.)

So, in negligence of the fact we’re meant to be saving, my inner travelista remains a force to be reckoned with. And off to Praha I flew last Sunday.

I’m not so much of a rigid plan-maker when I go to new cities, I prefer to mostly just wander and see what I can find, though there were some particular sights and activities we were recommended. So I give you a list of highlights from 4 days in the Czech capital…

Charles Bridge

Yes it’s an obvious one, but missing this out on a trip to Prague would be pretty sacrilegious. The bridge itself provides a glimpse into medieval Prague (pre-cartoonists and postcard vendors, obv) and there’s nothing like a bit of history on your holidays to make you feel cultured.

It connects Prague’s old and new towns and is just a lovely space to wander around. Leading onto the Old Town’s gorgeous old cobbled  streets, which are lined with old beer houses, squares and medieval buildings, the piece de resistance is the multitude of bakeries selling Trdelniks – or ‘Chimney Cakes’.

Oh god the Chimney cakes.

Round pastries coated in butter, rolled with cinnamon sugar and almond and filled with nutella, jam, ice cream or fruit, trdelniks are everywhere in Prague and were the sweet lining to my hol.

 

Hemingway Bar

If you want to feel like Daisy Buchanan for the night, this is ya place. I’m a total sucker for anything novelty/vintage/retro – anything that reflects a different time period, basically.

So when I heard about this little speakeasy tucked among the cobbled streets of the Old Town near the river Vltava, I took little persuading to go in and sample a cocktail or two.

Entering through a thick, velvet curtain, you’re led into a small, candlelit bar. There’s classical music playing and the waiters wear bow ties. The cocktail list is immense, and the drinks are served in a variety of oddball container. I had the “Magic Moment” cocktail of Beefeater gin, mallow and nettle cordial.

“Part of the magic is made by you” the bartender told me (flirt), before presenting me with an odd looking little potion bottle with 2 different openings. You mix the gin and then the cordial and the drink changes colour, which provides a lot of excitement for a simple gal like me – especially after a couple of wines already. It also tasted pretty dang delicious. I could’ve inhaled any of the cocktails on their list – peruse it for yourself here.

Oh and just in case you require any further persuasion, Hemingway Bar has been listed as one of the top 50 best bars in the world. In short, you gots to go.

 

Cafe Imperial

We heard about this art deco place through my dear old dad as a jazzy little spot for lunch or dinner so we thought we’d check it out. With over a century’s history behind it as one of Prague’s best-loved restaurants, I knew we’d be in for a bit of a treat.

I didn’t get any photos of the inside (one food pic on my phone was already pushing the bf’s limits), but the ornate ceiling, golden intricacies of detail and bow-tied waiters (do I have an underlying fetish for this?) made for a very luxurious restaurant experience.

I had a “US Hanger” steak – nope, not entirely sure what it is either, but I can tell you it was unbelievable! Good house red wine too.

 

Lennon wall

Who knew the Czechs held such an affinity with the Beatles’ bespectacled lead singer?  On the other side of the Charles bridge, into the Old Town, there’s a whole graffitied wall which serves both as a shrine to JL and a canvas for the city’s enthusiastic spray-painters.

Random to us, yes, but apparently after his death, the music icon became a pacifist hero for oppressed young Czechs living under communist rule.

It’s a mish-mash of JL imagery and the words he stood for – peace, love… also now ‘beer’, which you can see emblazoned on his forehead – but the common theme that belies it all is one of inspiration and political freedom. It’s a pretty cool place to visit.

It’s also really close to the Trdelnik street I mentioned earlier.

Just saying.

Lokál Dlouhááá

Want to be where the [Czech] people are? Then this is ya boy.

A friend of ours who lived in Prague for 6 months told us about this place and it was just as she described – lively, full of young locals and with a gigantic list of different craft and local beers and wines, I felt like this one one of our more ‘authentic’ Prague experiences.

We got probably the most lethal “Grog” I’d ever tasted – as in, probably could’ve got drunk from the fumes alone – and a pint of raspberry beer which was (dangerously) tasty. There’s an array of local food as well, i.e., potato dumplings and sausages, but we were content with our novelty bevvies.

Great little spot for day or night drinking (I don’t discriminate), and probably your best bet to sample some of what the Prague locals eat and drink.

Beer spa

So it seems the Czechs love beer so much they bathe in it. After a heavy night but with a determined “when in…” attitude, we marched to the nearest available spa. Mainly for the lols, if I’m honest.

And lols it did bring.

We were led into our own private spa room with two deep, wooden baths at one end. These were filled with hot water and a mixture of malt and hops. In the corner there was a little fire and a “traditional hay bed” (no we didn’t really know what that was about either).

When our host eventually left and we had recovered from our laughing fits, climbing into a bubbly bath of beer with access to an unlimited beer tap next to you proved to be one hell of a way to spend an afternoon.

And yes we eyed each other cynically when the host started talking about the benefits of malt and hops on your skin, but I gotta say we were softer than a couple of peachy baby bums after that sesh. With the added benefit of finely sculpted abs from laughing for an hour straight….

 

It’s a city I’ve now experienced in both summer and winter and both times it’s been equally as beautiful – and very good fun. If you visit, there’s no other way for me than an air bnb – we got this beauty for £23 a night. Praha, I’ll be back again some day.

 

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I know this is a controversial way to start a blog post, but I think you lot can probably deal with it.

You know when you quite like someone and then realise they vote Tory?

Well, this is exactly the feeling I get when I realise people have bought their Instagram followers.

It’s that sinking feeling of disappointment, pursued by a creeping feeling of disdain. I know that makes me sound like a bit of a bitch, but at least I’m being honest. I judge people who buy their Instagram followers.

Big time.

I started my Instagram page when I moved to Leith in the middle of last year, because I was so excited about the area and its non-stop happenings. Street food, cool bars, amazing restaurants, great second hand shops, the list goes on and on. As a passionate writer, I thought I’d link my Instagram to my blog and become a more active member of the online Edinburgh community that I get so much pleasure from being a part of.

I’ve grown my followers organically, and from engaging with people whose interests align with my own (or at least, I like to think they do. Most of the time they’re much more interesting/fashionable, but what’s a gal without her dreams?). From being primarily about Leith and stuff going on there, the blog has evolved into what I loosely term “life and style”, featuring photos and articles on places around Edinburgh – and, when I’m lucky enough, places outside of the UK too.

I get such a buzz knowing that the majority of people who follow me have chosen to do so, because for whatever reason the content they see appeals to them. So it sounds heavy, but for me, realising that a person has bought their followers leads me to question their integrity, and the extent to which it’s been compromised. Yes, everybody likes seeing their follow count go up, but I don’t think Instagram should be used as two dimensionally as that.

It’s such a powerful tool to connect with people both on and offline. I’ve had the absolute pleasure of meeting some inspirational people doing amazing things because I have an honest, organic following and whatever perks or benefits I get out of my Instagram page and blog is earned from the effort I put into it.

Fine, it’s Instagram,  whatever way you look at it there is a degree of self-indulgence, but to use it as a platform to falsely influence another person’s perception of you screams insecurity and vanity all at once. Surely your online presence should reflect you as a person, to at least some extent?

We’re all guilty of projecting a degree of fallacy in our posts, but I think we’ve now reached the point where we all accept that, and still choose to appreciate what has become a sort of an art form. The bent leg, the candid pose, the false smile, the perfect lipstick, the moaning boyfriend/sister/mum behind the camera. These are just some of the measures deployed in the effort to achieve an insta-worthy photograph, but anyone with a slither of sense knows that this stuff isn’t real – especially when the very people in such photos keep telling you so.

To look at accounts with thousands of followers only to notice suspiciously low engagement fills me with a sort of disappointment, because it reflects a much bigger message: that people are increasingly unable to appreciate what they have, rather than the things they don’t. Yes, Instagram can be used for both personal and business pursuits, but I don’t think it should be the dogged recepticle of a tireless masquerade.

So let’s stop caring so much what everyone else thinks about our follower count and keep using Instagram in the way it’s meant to be used: for fun (with a side of self-indulgence).

Over and out,

Charlotte McRanterson

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Ah – another Monday, another week ahead scattered with pieces of all the broken promises I made to myself over the weekend. It’s occurred to me that for much of my adult life, I lie to myself on a regular basis. Not sinister lies obviously, I’m not harvesting bones in an allotment. Just sometimes I’m guilty of promising great things for myself, allowing myself to momentarily envision a more fulfilled, harmonious me.

Although I achieve the odd glimpse of triumph, much of the promises I make to myself are lost in transience. So in the spirit of unified Monday blues, let me share with you some of my most regular expectation-versus-reality offences – normally made on a hungover Sunday evening. I hope some of you relate. And if not I hope you at least manage a sneaky laugh.

1.

Expectation 1: I shall make my lunches up for the next week, be virtuous and not blow newly-acquired pay packet on luxurious midday meals.
Reality 1: Goes into M&S on Monday with a dangerous #treatyoself mentality. Spends £8 on lunch and snacks.

2.

Expectation 2: I shall be virtuous this week and not drink. Respect thy body.
Reality 2: Gets to Thursday. You know the rest.

3.

Expectation 3: I shall go to the gym in the mornings so the idea of an evening gym session doesn’t hang over me all day crushing me under the weight of self-pressure.
Reality 3: Presses snooze repeatedly at 6am. Does not go to gym. Comes in from work at 6pm still tired and does not even manage evening gym sesh. Eats chocolate to self-medicate.

4.

Expectation 4: “I don’t care how much you e-mail me and haunt my sidebar ASOS, I don’t care about your sale.”
Reality 4: £80 later in the basket and hell let’s bump it up to £100 to claim that sweet next day delivery.

5.

Expectation 5: Realises how broken and damaged my dyed blonde hair is. Won’t dye it again until the damage has grown out. Will have glossy head of virgin hair.
Reality 5: 2 inches of natural dirty blonde later and it’s a trip to the hairdressers. Tames damaged, frizz hair with heated styling tools. And on and on it goes.

6.

Expectation 6: Will save money so I can at least convince others if not myself I am an adult with the ability to scrape together a house deposit and other adult-y things.
Reality 6: You’re only young once. Book that spontaneous holiday. Buy that £4 coffee. Shoes down from £100 to £50? Can’t pass on a bargain like that. #YOYO.

7.

Expectation 7: Heard so many good things about these meditation tapes people seem to be doing. Will go home, download some and get my zen on. Yes.
Reality 7: Sits in front of TV painting toenails and wondering for the tenth time if I do, maybe, actually fancy Noel Fielding. Just, like, a wee bit?

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The fading of tans, layering of clothes and packing away of novelty inflatables make Autumn a bit unpopular to die-hard Summer fans. Sandwiched between summer (yay!) and Christmas (double yay!), Autumn, for some, is probably a bit like puberty: awkward, unpredictable, neither here nor there… Lots of people probably want it to just end already so they can get onto the good stuff (Santa. Or his damn beard.)

Personally, I love the Autumn. It’s something to do with the intangibility of it – the shifting of colours and smells. Living in Scotland, that tired old villain Rain will predictably be a force to contend with too- but for me that’s a small price to pay for the ability to layer up, crunch through leaves, consume hot beverages (alcohol optional but generally recommended), carve pumpkins, and finally light that spiced-something candle you bought in July.

Before I get too carried away in my romantic Autumn daydream, let me share with you 5 things that can convince any fence-sitter to “fall” in love (sorry not sorry) with this cosy season.

So here’s what’s on my Autumn ’17 to-do list.

 

ONE. The Enchanted Forest, Perthshire

I’ve been wanting to go here for years, but have never actually made it. So I’ve decided. 2017 is my year.

In case you haven’t heard of it – from 28 September to the 29 October, Faskally Wood near Pitlochry is transformed into an “Enchanted Forest“, with incredible lighting, visuals and music. I plan to go, buy many glasses of mulled wine, perhaps eat some sort of unhealthy burger thing, and appreciate the glory of nature in the Autumn (and some cool jazzy lights).

TWO. The Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh

I’d just moved to Edinburgh when I made my first trip here in 2014, and it was one of my boyfriend and I’s first dates, so I’ve got a particular fondness for this spot. I’ve been to the Autumn light show here for the past two years, but this has now been trumped in favour of a Christmas event. The gardens are still one of the most beautiful places you can be on a sunny day in Autumn, though. Go at night and you can get a mulled vino from their booze van, too… (do I have a problem?)

THREE. Oktoberfest

As if I need to convince you that drinking beer and eating bratwurst is a great idea. (I have a problem, don’t I?)  OK so it’ll never be Munich, but Edinburgh’s got a wannabe in Princes Street Gardens and that’s good enough for a non-German, non-beer connoisseur, comme moi. Although I’m in London later in October so will be hitting up Erdinger Oktoberfest at the Greenwich Peninsula. Prost!

FOUR. Samhuinn/Beltane fire festival

So I feel like this is regarded as one of those Edinburgh myths, much like that well-known “best place in the world for new year” patter. My reasons for this? No Edinburgh local seems to have actually heard of, or been to it. But this is the year I plan to test this “Celtic New Year” out for myself and get lost among the, er… fire sticks and hooded people. (It’s not a KKK gathering, I swear.) Read more about it on their page….

FIVE. Jupiter Artland 

Okay fine so technically this isn’t an exclusively “Autumn” experience, but the grounds look absolutely beautiful and I’ve been meaning to go for ages. And what better season to feel smug and cultured than in the arms of a crisp, autumnal day, in somewhere that alarmingly resembles Tubby land. No, YOU’RE uncultured. https://www.jupiterartland.org/

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Have you ever noticed that if you choose to be happy, and come at the day with a positive air, things tend to work out better for you? As someone who experiences intermittent low mood and mild anxiety (I don’t say “suffer” because I’m not a victim – none of us are) I know it’s not always easy to do so.

I also know that there’s a big difference between being happy and plastering a smile on your face to get through the day.

So, in these past 18 months of ups and downs, and sometimes, as my boyfriend will account for, acting first rate cray-cray, here are the things I tell myself so I can hold on to that light when it flickers or fades. View Post

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In a world clouded with uncertainty, and heightened feelings of scared anxiety surrounding the future of both our own generation and that of our country, I read something recently which lifted my spirits and has stayed with me.

“What a wonderful thought it is that some of the best days of our lives haven’t yet happened.”

This is one of the best things I’ve ever read, and I think it’s important that we remember it, and above all allow ourselves to believe it. Wasn’t it Steve Jobs who said the best way to predict the future is to invent it? I saw a close family friend recently, the mother of my best friend and a lady who speaks with confidence and clarity and the sort of wisdom you only achieve when you live a life full of love and fearlessness (because without one you cannot fully achieve the other). She told me about her son’s graduation ceremony. 

Although a lovely day, the overarching theme of the speeches given and songs sung seemed to be an idea I’ve heard many times before: suck it up while you can, kids, because your University years are the best of your life. For a day designed to celebrate achievement, this has always seemed to me depressingly defeatist, and now more than ever, a damaging idea to insitll in the minds of a generation of young people entering a world which is not only full of uncertainty, but also apparently on the brink of a relentless downhill spiral. 

Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at University. Yet I can acknowledge that while they were good days, they were good for that period of my life; a period which has come to an end – a necessity in order for the next period of my life to take place. I would never seek to taint such fond memories with the misinformed idea that they must now be viewed as stars, squinted at from the gutter in which we with finished degrees now collectively exist.

And to be quite frank, the idea of eating cereal for dinner, existing on pennies at the end of a much abused overdraft, nursing a constant hangover and swallowing caffiene tablets like M&Ms to get through days of revision cramming at the library were in fact my life peak paints a somewhat gloomy, unambitious picture of what one should expect from life.

They say don’t set your expectations too high, or you will feel disappointed. In this case, if you have recently graduated, and are struggling to find a job (been there), are living back at home (feel ya), and you just wish you could be back at the union downing pints of gin and juice, please, please, allow yourself to expect more from life. More is coming: I see it every day.


In the words of C.S. Lewis, there are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.

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Despite being published over 130 years ago, Jekyll and Hyde’s popularity remains intact. Directors, academics, authors and the riff-raff ourselves have spent centuries analysing what this work of fiction represents. Its themes and nuances transcend generations: magnetic and repellent all at once, the novel holds a place of privilege in the literary world as one of few novels to attract audiences from past, present and I have no doubt far into the future. View Post

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