Here I am, Scottish but a UK citizen nonetheless, in the German capital of Berlin attending Stallwächterparty, a political summer party, celebrating Europe and the partnership between the countries that make up the European Union. So how did it feel being part of this prestigious event, representing Scotland, when the country you live in is tangled up in the whole Brexit disaster?

When I received my invitation to attend this years Stallwächterparty from the office of Winfried Kretschmann, the Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg, I admit I was shocked. Why me? The nerves kicked in. What could I possibly have to offer? Would it be awkward? But most importantly, could I bring anything I’ve learned back to Scotland with me?

Before the start of the parliamentary summer holiday, the federal state of Baden-Württemberg has been organising a summer party, Stallwächterparty (Stable Guard Party), for guests since 1964 within the state parliament building in the diplomatic quarter of Berlin. Over the years, it has developed into one of the most prestigious events in politics. The event allows guests an opportunity to interact with esteemed politicians, business leaders and diplomats as well as journalists and renowned personalities from culture, sport, film and television, all under one roof. 

Each year, a theme is chosen as part of the celebrations and in 2019, it is not surprising that the theme was Europe and its inhabitants. Baden-Württemberg does not only see the European Union as an economic community, but rather a community of shared values and successes that are to be celebrated by people who want to shape a future Europe from within. 

As the only invited representative from Scotland, I made my way to Berlin eager to find out more about this region of Germany, how Scotland is viewed and of course, to experience an event, unlike anything I had ever been to before. 

There are a few destinations around the world that are thoroughly misunderstood despite being very popular, and Ibiza is certainly one of them. Because it has world-renowned night clubs and has at times been a favoured spot among the rich and famous, most of us tend to think of it as a night-and-day beachside and yacht deck EDM party in island form. That might sound like a pretty good time to a lot of people out there, and it actually can be a fair description of some aspects of Ibiza, at some times. However, there’s plenty else to love about the island also, which is why we’ve compiled some highlights.

Less than an hour away by train, Edinburgh is the perfect location for a day trip from Glasgow. In the past 11 years that I’ve been back living in Glasgow, I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve probably been to Edinburgh no more than 10 times. So I’m making it my mission in 2019 to explore Edinburgh and it’s surroundings more.

If you’re heading to the city soon, looking for things to do and hotels in Edinburgh to stay in while you visit, this post is just perfect for you.

Exploring Edinburgh: What to see, do and eat
Exploring Edinburgh: What to see, do and eat

When you first think of Edinburgh, I’m sure that first thing out your mouth would be Edinburgh Castle, THE most historic castle in the world, in my opinion. From the Edinburgh Tattoo to Hogmanay celebrations, its no wonder that this beautiful 12th-century masterpiece is Scotland’s most-visited paid tourist attraction. But what if you wanted to explore more of what Edinburgh has to offer? Today I’m showing you what I got up to in this east coast city for the day, just don’t expect me to start putting sauce on my chips anytime soon. Seriously, who invented that?

Exploring Edinburgh: What to see, do and eat

Food for Fuel

Away from the crowds of the Royal Mile, I started my day with Bross Bagels in Edinburgh’s West End to fuel me for the day ahead. A short hop in a tram from Haymarket, its been one of those places I’ve always wanted to visit but ended up always visited the city when it was closed. I finally made it this time and it didn’t disappoint. I ordered the ‘Lickin’ Chicken’ (£5.50) which was sliced chicken breast, salami, Monterey jack cheese & honey mustard, on a poppy seed bagel. Absolutely delicious. Ross ordered the special of the day and opted to have it on an ‘Everything’ bagel. This bagel was filled to the brim with Salt Beef, applewood cheese, smoked crispy onions, sauerkraut and rock sauce (£5). We may have also ordered a cheeky third to go. We did need fuel after all. 

With three locations around Edinburgh, I would make it my mission to try this gem. If you can’t quite manage to make it or live far away, they also do UK Wide delivery of their Montreal style bagels to have at home. Bonus. 

Exploring Edinburgh: What to see, do and eat

Explore Scotland’s National Museum

Exploring Edinburgh: What to see, do and eat

Renovated in 2011 at a cost of £47 million, within the National Museum of Scotland, there is an abundance of galleries and exhibits for everyone to enjoy. From Scottish History to Dolly the sheep, you could get lost in here for hours. My top tip? Head to the 5th floor first, go through the Enquire gallery towards the lift/stairs to the 7th floor where you can access the roof terrace and are met with some of the best views of the city. 

Exploring Edinburgh: What to see, do and eat

Once you’ve soaked in the stunning scenery, make your way down floor by floor. My picks? Exploring East Asia, Ancient Egypt and Animal Senses.  Favourites of mine no matter the museum. The National Museum of Scotland is one of the best museums I’ve been to in a very long time and love how inclusive it is no matter the age. Even better? It’s free to enter. 

Get a caffeine hit

What I love about Edinburgh is the number of high quality independent coffee shops there are in the city. While in the West End we popped into Cairngorm Coffee after brunch for my first coffee of the day. It was the first time I had visited this branch and loved the decor inside. Alas, I couldn’t spend too long here because I had to explore the city. So after a quick piccolo, we jumped back on the tram and headed central. 

Later in the day, to soothe my sore feet and give them a rest after hours of walking, we headed to Lowdown Coffee in one of my favourite streets in Edinburgh, George Street. Lowdown is a beautiful small coffee shop a stone’s throw away from Princes Street and is by far my favourite in Edinburgh. From knowledgeable staff to ever-changing beans, their coffee has never let me down. They also do some great cakes too. 

Exploring Edinburgh: What to see, do and eat

Greyfriars Bobby, the most devoted dog around

Greyfriars Bobby is definitely the most famous dog in Scotland. So famous he has a life-sized statue of himself outside Greyfriars Kirk. Bobby slept next to his master’s grave for around 14 years before his own death in 1872.

Exploring Edinburgh: What to see, do and eat

My visit to Greyfriars Bobby was tinged with sadness as my beloved dog Bobby (and his namesake) passed away last Friday, 15th February. I’m filled with sadness at losing him after almost 13 years together by my side. My visit to Edinburgh was at a time earlier this week when I wanted to keep myself busy and clear my mind as its still so raw. Seeing this statue in real life, knowing Bobby was named after him by my late grandfather brought some joy to a very sad week. 

Dogs called Bobby really are the greatest. 

Stroll through Grassmarket

Exploring Edinburgh: What to see, do and eat

Nestled within the heart of the Old Town, Grassmarket is one of the most picturesque and lively areas of the city. With colourful shops and curved street its no wonder locals and tourists alike flock here. Victoria Street is a popular spot for independent boutiques, food and drink. In the olden days, the area was used as a cattle market and more notoriously, where public executions took place. I visited as the sun was started to set and the sky was utterly beautiful. Definitely very magical around that time. 

Explore the gardens

Separating the Old Town from the New, the Princes Street Gardens are a wonderful setting for relaxing away from the hectic city life. During warmer days, these gardens are overflown with people basking in the sun. In autumn, filled with visitors to the Edinburgh Festival and with Winter comes Winter Wonderland and Hogmanay. If you love exploring, monuments and nature, this is one sight not to be missed and once again, even better, is free to enter. 

Exploring Edinburgh: What to see, do and eat

Authentic Mexican at El Cartel

With hundreds of restaurants in the city, its no wonder that you could dine at a different restaurant daily. Edinburgh is a melting pot of International cuisine catering to the diverse residents who call Edinburgh home. We decided to dine at El Cartel on Thistle Street for something quick before our train ride back to Glasgow. 

Freshly-made, authentic Mexican street food, we ordered Duck Carnitas, Carne Asada and Baja Cod Tacos with Chamoy Chicken Wings and Jalapeño Bombers on the side. This was undoubtedly the best Mexican food I’ve had in Scotland. Tacos were bursting with flavour, taking on a modern twist with ingredients such as pomegranate, dried cherries and pecan salsa. The Jalapeño Bombers were addictive, I could have eaten platefuls of these but all in moderation and all that. You can’t book a table at this branch, so wait in line and you’ll end up thanking me later. 

No sooner had I finished my last bite than it was time to head back West to Glasgow. As we had a tram pass, we jumped back on the tram from St Andrews Square to Haymarket to catch the connecting train to Glasgow. A quick 48 minutes later, I was back West Side in my natural habitat planning my next adventure. 

Have you been to Edinburgh before? What are YOUR favourite things to do in the city? Let me know below. 

Collaboration post: Spending money was gifted by, but all views are my own.

Ahead of Burns Night on the 25th of January, I spent an evening with Asda, showcasing their high-quality goods from suppliers across Scotland and creating a spectacular Burns Supper for us all using some of these products.

I have a confession to make, up until my Burns Supper dinner with Asda, I had never been to one before. I also couldn’t tell you much about Robert Burns other than the fact my brother shares his birthday with him.

So what happens at Burns Suppers? The whole point of Burns Night is to celebrate the life and work of Robert Burns, Scotlands National Bard. Guests are piped into the dining room and seated then grace is said before the main event.

Our menu for the evening with prepared by Asda’s Head Innovation Chef Mark Richmond and his team who created some delicious recipes to help inspire us in the run-up to Burns Night, using some of the fantastic Scottish products available in store.

January. A new year and a time for fresh starts. A time when half the population are partaking in Dry January, Veganuary or have made it their NYE resolution that this will be the year they’ll become a fitter version of themselves. 

To kick a new series on the blog called ‘Cooking The Books’, I’ll be taking a closer look at James Haskell & Omar Meziane’s latest book Cooking For Fitness and attempting to re-create one of their dishes that stood out for me.

British & Irish Lion Rugby superstar James Haskell’s, brand new cookbook, Cooking For Fitness. James has teamed up with the UK’s top performance chef Omar Meziane to create this unique recipe book designed specifically to boost training performance and achieve your body goals. The book includes 79 quick and easy recipes with clear instructions and uses honest uncomplicated ingredients, most of which will already be in your kitchen cupboard. The recipes have been carefully designed with both male and female fitness enthusiasts in mind – whether your aim is to build muscle, strip fat, increase resistance, improve performance time, aid recovery or simply fuel your training, the recipes will help you do just that.

I don’t know about you but when you need to buy presents, I’m fresh out of ideas on what to buy for those special in my life. There are only so many boxes of chocolate, jumpers and socks you can buy before it becomes very monotonous.

So what do you buy for the people in your life that have everything? The ones who tell you they don’t need anything but you still want to get them something? I’m looking at you Dad! For me, this is where Red Letter Days comes to the rescue and perfect for last minute gifts for procrastinators like myself.

Red Letter Days was the first of its kind, pioneering the concept of experience day vouchers way back in 1989. Over the years it has transformed and now, you can choose from 6000+ variations of amazing gifts. Now surely you’d be able to find a special gift for that person in your life?

I tested out one of Red Letter Days more popular experiences, Boutique Escape for Two recently and transported myself to the Lake District for the weekend before Christmas season was upon me. Years ago, I actually went to Boarding School for two years near the Lake District. I visited Kendall and Windermere a good few times but had never been back since the early 00’s. At just under 3 hours drive, I forgot just how accessible it is from Glasgow. The Lakes are a beautiful part of England and the perfect place for some relaxation and exploration. Its been rather stressful the past few months and I desperately needed a break.

On a recent trip to St Andrews, I was in the mood to explore some other villages in the surrounding area. One that stood out for me was the pretty village of St Monans on the East Neuk of Fife, a little over 12 miles south of St Andrews. St Monans is the smallest of the East Neuk fishing ports, filled with 17th and 18th century colourful homes wrapped around the harbour.

I’m a huge supporter for recipes that are simple. Ones that you can prepare rather quickly, without much effort and most importantly, are flavoursome. A combination that I had yet to try was fruit in a salad. Okay so tomatoes are technically a fruit, but in this instance, I’m referring to the king of berries- strawberries. Yes, I’m adding them into a salad. In collaboration with M&S, I’m recreating their Strawberry and Manchego Salad. It can go one of two ways; be a flavour revelation or be awful. A true Marmite moment.

For the ingredients, I popped along to my local M&S Simply Food that I honestly don’t think I’m ever away from. Ross and I pop in for a few things then leave with a trolley load constantly. Recent favourites of mine are the ‘Best Ever Burger’ that they started doing. These are by far the best burgers you could buy in a supermarket and contain bone marrow to make them extra decadent. Delicious chargrilled or even better barbecued with crispy onions and gooey Manchego cheese in a brioche bun. Drool.

Back to the Strawberry and Manchego Salad though, you know, healthy balance and all that jazz.

I picked up the 8 ingredients required to recreate this recipe, including the all important Strawberries and headed home very proud of myself that I managed to restrain myself from buying extra goodies. This time.

Cyprus is an island-country located at the east end of the Mediterranean Sea. Its historic and ancient past combined with its bustling present is the perfect experience for any would-be world traveller seeking adventure in this part of the world. 48 hours in Cyprus is certainly not enough to enjoy everything that it has to offer. However, it is enough to see some of the most dazzling and significant locations this side of the Mediterranean.

We are currently in the midst of the British tomato season and what better way to celebrate than creating some healthy, easy and delicious meals using some fresh Piccolo tomatoes. Dishes so easy and with minimal effort  even the novice amongst us can prepare them.

With tomato varieties such as heirloom to beefsteak, my absolute favourite has to be the cherry tomato and in particular Piccolo tomatoes. Intensely juicy and sweet, they are full of flavour on or off the vine, whether cooked hot or eaten cold.

Growing up, I always remember my grandfather having a whole salad tomato with his lunchtime sandwich. He’d eat it whole like an apple, stopping to sprinkle some salt after every bite. I never understood how he could eat a tomato that way. My mom inherited his love of eating tomatoes like an apple, right down to enjoying a glass of ice cold tomato juice. Not for me.

I teamed up with the British Tomato Association to create some mouthwatering dishes for you all. Matt from family run business Glinwell kindly sent me a box of fresh Piccolo tomatoes direct from their farm in St Albans, Hertfordshire.

While I could never envision consuming tomatoes the same way my grandfather did, the following 5 easy & delicious recipes with Piccolo tomatoes are right up my street, allowing the tomatoes to take centre stage and shine. 

Halloumi Couscous Salad

A bright salad full of flavour and even better served alongside some grilled halloumi or chicken. Create a batch of it to use throughout the week for work lunches saving you even more time. This is my go-to salad when I’m bored of rocket leaves and balsamic glaze.

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Halloumi Couscous Salad

Pan con Tomate

A traditional Catalonian tapa, with only 5 ingredients it requires no cooking. A staple amongst the Catalans its easy to see why after a bite. Enjoy on its own or with some Iberico ham.

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Pan con Tomate

Red Lentil and Roasted Piccolo Tomato Soup

A hearty soup, perfect to enjoy as a meal in itself or as a starter. With the addition of some crusty bread, its a firm favourite of mine. I had it for dinner last night and for lunch today its that good.

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Piccolo Tomato Salad with Sumac and Pomegranate Molasses

A simple salad bursting with flavour, taking me back to my Middle Eastern days. Serve it alongside some grilled chicken, flatbread and hommous. 

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Piccolo Tomato Salad with Sumac and Pomegranate Molasses

King Prawn Spaghetti with a Tomato, Chorizo and Chilli Sauce

A decadent dish cooked and served in under 30 minutes. A great mid-week comforting dinner or one to savour with friends at the weekend. So irresistible I had it two days in a row recently.

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What is your favourite way to eat tomatoes? Do you have a go to recipe? Interested in trying any of these recipes? Let me know your thoughts.

A Merchant City staple since 2002, The Dhabba in Glasgow has consistently been named as one of the best curry destinations in the city, in particular, for North Indian cuisine. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I tried it out for myself – would it live up to its reputation?

It’s no secret that I adore Indian food, however, dining in a restaurant that purely caters to North Indian was a culinary adventure. Personally, the most I know about the differentiation between North and South cuisine is rather basic. With Middle Eastern influences in the North, Biryani is one of the most popular dishes to come out of the region. North Indian curries usually consist of creamy, thick sauces; ideal for dipping chapati or naan bread into. Food in the South, as served in The Dhabba’s sister restaurant, The Dakhin, is generally spicer with coconut based sauces, seafood and vegetarian dishes playing a huge role.

That’s where my knowledge ends.

Forget your Chicken Tikka Masala or Lamb Roganjosh, it was time to order some dishes and explore North India for myself, from the comfort of a rather elegant decorated restaurant in the heart of Glasgow.