Camping near London - First Timers Camping Guide

FIRST TIMERS CAMPING GUIDE #Camping #CampinginEngland #BritishCamping #CampingintheUK

City Girl Going Camping

I am a city girl through and through. I was born in the city and kept travelling from one city to another. My outdoor adventures are a recent interest that I am doing more of lately to stay fit while travelling. I am not against the outdoors, I just never had a chance to go. My Saudi family didn't do much in terms of the outdoors and my other friends were all city kids until the past couple years, when I started making more connections with outdoorsy people. So when the idea to go camping was brought up, I agreed right away. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I knew it was something I should finally try.

Since it was my first camping experience, I didn't want to venture too far from London just in case I could not survive it and wanted to go back home. So we looked for a camping site on Pitch Up until we found Evergreen Farms, which seemed like a nice option. It was an hour train from Victoria Station. We gave them a call and discussed what they had on the site and other relevant information. They seemed nice and it was such a lovely place to go camping in near London.  

Reality of Camping

The campsite had lots of pitches in various fields and woods to space campers out. Our pitch was around the Oak Trees, which we loved. The site also had two eco/compost toilets that were 5-8 minutes walk from the tent. They were looked after well. The site allows lighting a fire and wood can be bought from them. They also provide 25L of water, which was great. I felt like everything was organised well upon arrival.

First task was to put the tent up, which took about 10-15 minutes. It really helps when you have an expert camper with you. It is not too hard to figure out, but it will take you slightly longer if you had no clue how to set it up.

Second task was getting the air mattresses, pillows and sleeping bags all in order.

After all of that was set, we put the rest of our stuff in the tent and closed the zips. It was a very safe campsite, but if you are worried about safety, you can always lock the tent zips together. 

Camping is not only about staying in the campsite, it is also about the nature walks around the area. Being in East Grinstead gave us a chance to do a few woodlands walks that were quiet and pretty. There was a few historic sights around that were cool to visit as well. 

In the evening, we started the fire. By "we" I mean I was watching the process happen rather than doing much related to lightning the fire. It was satisfying to watch. When the fire slowed down, we cooked dinner on the grill! We tried to be very aware of what we wanted to eat and we packed exactly what we needed and nothing more.        

Fire in Campsite in England

Watch my camping weekend in this video: 

Packing for your first camping trip - Camping Essentials

Packing for your first camping trip - Camping Essentials

Buying the camping gear and equipments was the most confusing part to me! There are so many details I kept googling and asking about! Even something as a simple sleeping bag! It might be a good idea to go in person to Go Outdoors, Decathlon or Sports Direct to buy everything, but if you are like me and think shopping online is the way to go, you can use the links below. 

  • Tent (sleeps 2-3 people)

  • Camping chairs (stools are fine)

  • Sleeping bag: the recommended shape is a mummy so you are snug and not cold. If you want to use it in the summer, it’s better to buy a 1-3 seasons. The more seasons the sleeping bag is prepared for, the hotter it gets and the bigger it becomes. The one I got was three seasons one.

If you are buying all the camping accessories it might be a little much, but if you plan to go campaigning few times a year they will be really worth it. n this video, I share all the things I packed with the prices: 

Camping equipments for a comfortable camp

Camping Cooking Equipment 

For some reason, when I was looking up checklists online, a lot of them failed to mention the cooking aspect of the camping experience. Campsites differ in terms with what's allowed in cooking. Luckily, the place we went to had a prepared pit on the ground to make a fire and that's where most of the cooking took place. It was really handy to have the little camping stove though for a tea and eggs in the morning before getting the fire ready.

On the first night, we set up fire and the grill to make the steak we brought with us in the cool bag, which kept cold and fresh for a good few hours before we cooked it. 

Inside your Camping Bag

Since it was my first time camping and I was not sure if I would do it again, I did not want to invest in an expensive bag, so I settled for a basic Quechua camping bag and it worked really well I thought. It wasn't this exact one, but it was very similar to these two! I put all my clothes and other extras inside it then put the bigger items like the mat, sleeping bag and chair on the outside of it. 

Camping Extras: 

I saw a few good suggestions when I was looking at the Camping for Women lists such as packing earplugs for noisy nature and snack bars. I had to pack two types of tea on top of that too! They were small things and are not hugely important, but they are great to have. I packed some makeup essentials too (oops!

Budget for camping in England: 

  • Camp site: £75 for three nights for two people = £37.50 each

  • Train from London Bridge to East Grinstead (if you have a student rail card, the train fair will be cheaper) = £26 return with the railcard.

  • All the equipment and tools I got because I haven't camping before were £140, but they will last for a few future trips.

  • Food: This really depends on what you would like to eat. I went fancy for my camping food so it was £40 you can do it much cheaper than that if you plan to eat noodles.

Over to you: Where are you planning on going for your first camping trip? 

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First Time Weekend Guide to Leicester

I was never enthusiastic to go to Leicester. I didn't even look it up once in my eight years living in the UK. All I knew is two of my Saudi friends are doing their PhDs there and sometimes graffiti writers go their for a pint. That's it. I got invited to tag along with one of the writers and I just agreed because I thought why not go somewhere new in the UK just to see more of England. I was pleased to see there was a "Visit Leicester" website, which helped me plan my long weekend there. However, I was still not very excited about it UNTIL I got there! I was welcomed by the old English architecture I really like; red brick buildings with columns and towers. They just don't make them as good anymore. I also noticed all the halal signs outside of restaurants and that got me excited too! I wouldn't say Leicester has become a favourite of mine, but it shouldn't be dismissed as a place to visit. I think it's worth going there for a weekend, especially a sunny one! In this post, I will tell you about how I spent my weekend in Leicester as a first timer!   

Piece by hombre and boogie #homboog

Piece by hombre and boogie #homboog

How to get to Leicester form London?

I bought my train ticket online from National Rail. I got the direct train from St. Pancras train station to Leicester and it was only an hour. The train was PACKED, so if you are going on a bank holiday weekend, I would recommend reserving a seat online when buying your ticket. The train price for an open return ticket was about/just over £50.

St. Pancras train station

St. Pancras train station

Main Highlights

As I mentioned at the start of the post, there are a few things that stood out to me when I visited the city that I wanted to highlight in this section before telling you about the things I did in details.   

  • Architecture
    The thing I enjoyed was the informative signs near the main architectural buildings they have telling you the story and history of the building. Most of the gorgeous buildings are now banks, but it's still nice to look at them. 
  • Graffiti
    This was the main reason I even visited the city and I was not disappointed! I especially loved the big scale pieces I saw in the area behind the curve theatre. 
  • Halal food
    There is a big Muslim population in Leicester from what I have seen and that means halal food! Although, it's mostly Indian and Turkish halal rather than anything else, but I loved a few of the spots they have on the London Road, where it's higher standard halal. I listed the restaurants I tried with photos below!

Things to do in Leicester

  • Appreciate the Architecture of Leicester
    As I mentioned above I was impressed with the architecture of the city and it's fun to see some of the building they have. I was interested in the 19th century building the most, but they have a few impressive stone churches to visit as well.  If you are interested in earlier architecture, they have a full functioning Tudors house to see called the Guildhall. I wasn't very impressed with it, but if you are in the area you can stop by for half an hour.  
  • Learn all about Richard The Third
    One of the big draws of  Leicester is Richard the third since discovering his body under a car park in the city! Now, there is a Visiting Centre in the same place of the car park made of two stories. The first telling you about the history and the life of Richard the third and the second telling you about how the body was found and the role of science in all of it! Afterwards, you can stop by the Leicester Cathedral to see the new burial place.
  • Follow the graffiti trail of Leicester
    A good place that can give you some information about where the main pieces are located is the Graffiti store: Graff HQ since it supplies the spray paint. If you are keen to see artists in action, you can schedule your trip the same dates as the annual Bring The Paint International Street Art Festival. 

Where to eat in Leicester?

I was only there for the weekend, so I didn't have time to fully indulge in food and eating out, but I proudly managed to eat at four different restaurants! PS. A lot of recommended food spots were closed on the bank holiday Monday, so double check before you go! 

Breakfast in Leicester at Kai

I only went out for one breakfast while I was in Leicester and I am happy it was at Kai. The location itself is really nice. It's basically in a court yard that felt like the equivalent of Neal's Yard in London minus the crazy crowds. I noticed that this hip little courtyard doesn't have specific halal restaurants, but they have really cute independent stores and cafes. The breakfast at Kai was nice and filling. Nothing to rave about, but still nice to go to. 

Ice Cream in Leicester at Gelato Village

28 degrees in Leicester calls for a serious ice cream session! My friend recommended this place and said it was the best in Leicester and although I haven't tried the rest of the ice cream places I think she is right! The long queue outside of it was a good sign. They also have five vegan flavours if this matters to you, which I personally prefer because I don't love the milky taste of some ice creams. 

Lunch in Leicester at Boo Burgers and German Donnar Kabab

I appreciate all my three meals a day and since I was treating myself, I went out for lunch as well, which is a luxury for me because I usually skip that for a very cheap alternative when I am travelling. It helped that the food was affordable there though! 
For my first day there, I had a yummy sandwich from the German Donnar Kabab. I am usually not a fan of Donnar (the very thin layers of meat), but the photos looked too good. It was cheap and cheerful.  

Boo Halal Burger Leicester
German Donnar Kabab - Halal lunch in Leicester

Dinner in Leicester at Konak and Paddy Martin Inn Curry House

Dinner time gets really busy especially on the weekend. I noticed that the locals love to dine out and so I would recommend that you book a table either earlier in the day or a day in advance before you go anywhere or you will be waiting for at least 45mins. My people were smart and booked in advance, so I didn't wait at all and I liked that! As I mentioned before, most of the food I found was either Turkish or Indian, so I tried both when I was there! 

The Turkish restaurant Konak is halal and located in London Road. I really loved the food and their grilled kababs with bread and yogurt YUM! Thinking back to it makes my mouth water! The service was quick and good as well. If you are in the mood for something Turkish this is a solid option! 

Halal Turkish restaurant Konak in Leicester

The other dinner restaurant I tried was the Paddy Martin Inn Curry House, which sadly was not halal, but I heard soooo much amazing stuff about it I had to go try it. I had their prawn curry and vegetarian starters, which both lived up to the reputation and were very filling and delicious.  

Where to stay in Leicester?

  • The area near the Victoria Park seems really nice and quiet and you get access to the lovely park. 
  • If you want to be near the town centre, the area around the curve theatre is really good and central and that's where I stayed. I found a cute one bed apartment on Airbnb. 

Get £25 off your next Airbnb booking and give me £15 by using this affiliate link

Where to stay in Leicester?

I usually use to book my hotels as you see in my posts, but because I left booking for this weekend very late and it was a bank holiday weekend the prices were very high for below average options, but if you are booking a bit early, you might find a good deal on there. Here's the deal finder box to help you with your search.

Watch weekend in Leicester video: 

I hope you found this post useful in planning your trip! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Travel Inspiration for your Instagram

Warwick Castle, UK

The realisation hit me all of a sudden after a long conversation with a friend from the states about how international I thought I was. I have been living in the UK for two years now and I have not really been anywhere but Manchester, where I lived, London for a lame touristy weekend and Sheffield to visit my cousin. I was in shock of how wasted the past two years were without serious travelling. I decided to makeup for lost times and signed up for some of the trips offered by the International Society group. After all, my ridiculously expensive international tuition pays for the membership. The IS group had really good arranged weekends and days away to many popular attractions around the UK.

My first trip with them was a day trip to Warwick Castle. I asked some of my Manchester contacts if they wanted to come, but they had other prior plans. The lack of company never stopped me before and this time was no different and what do you know. I made friends with the girl who sat next to me on the bus and she introduced me to her other friends. In an hour, the trip turned from “by myself” to “with company”.

The Warwick Medieval Castle was buzzing when we arrived. We were greeted by men and women all dressed up in old customs to make us feel like we stepped back in time. The actors and actresses were located in different spots and each told a story. The castle was so beautiful and there were many things to do and see from the towers, the gardens, the wax people and the dungeon. The history of the castle could be traced to 914. It grew bigger and stronger from that date, but like most castles, it was attacked, burnt and restored. In the past ten years, six million pounds were spent to fully restore the castle. The castle’s full history line is listed on their website. It was such a good day out and worth the bus hours.

Enjoy these few snaps from that trip.   

Note: The trip was two years ago, but the castle is still as amazing and fun. 

Note: It is a lot of walking and steps. 

Sugar Junction

The Northern Quarter in Manchester is full of really lovely and quirky places. They are hidden behind the glossy shopping mall and the generic coffee shops. There you can find local cafes that are individual and different. I don't know about you, but I rather have my tea at home rather than go to Costa. It's just too predictable and their tea bags are just SAD! sorry Costa nothing personal. One of the loveliest places that saved me from Costa is

Sugar Junction

. The name is brilliant and the place is very sweet full of handmade cakes and a nice selection of loose teas. A great spot to unwind and have a cuppa! The style of the place is very vintage inside with the choice of colours, floral table covers, cushions, the placement of the old sewing machine and even the branding of their menu.  

Note: the pictures are from two visits. I promise I didn't eat two cakes in one sitting not like there's anything wrong with it lol

The place gets quickly packed because the seats are limited. When you enter you see the cake counter and then get the tea and the food menu. The light green wallpaper behind the the counter and the small bunting on the shelf. Makes the place look like a childhood house. Playing on people's nostalgia is a good trick some designers can use.  

The other side of their menu is like a page of an old newspaper with vintage 

Cake List! best kinda list! :D

I liked their decor and the little bits and pieces around that gave it the vintage twist. The seating wasn't the most comfortable, but at least they had cushions for back support! I liked the feature wall, which is basically exposed brick wall. It gave the place some character.  

The singer sewing machine in the corner was a nice touch. The combination of it and the tins above it makes it even more vintage looking. 

Sugar Junction serve hot food as well! Mainly sandwiches and soups. I tried their fish fingers sandwich with their sweet potatoes. DELISH! I would replace bread with pita wrap tho *you can't take the Arab out of me!* Their plates and cutlery were simple and nice.  

Deliciousness up close! NOM

Toffee cake and Lime mojito cake! 

and some more cake! *drool*

I would highly recommend this place, esp after a nice walk all over Manchester city centre. 

ProperTea, Manchester Cathedral

Happy Sunday all! I hope you are all having a great weekend

Last weekend, my friend took me to a very nice tea room in Manchester for Sunday brunch and I LOVED the place!

The location was tucked inside Manchester city right in front of the Manchester cathedral; Manchester Cathedral Visitors Centre, 10 Cateaton Street Manchester, M3 1SQ. It was quiet outside, peaceful and of course rainy! Typical British summer.

The cafe is incorporated into an old building. Their exterior goes well with the architecture. They added a twist with the red chairs and tables outside to stamp the place with a similar branding to their other branch Tea Cup Kitchen.

The first thing I saw the second I entered was their delicious homemade cakes counter full of mouth watering goodness and some tea samples showing the loose teas. Behind it stood a shelf of big tea tins.  

The design of the place was shabby chic with lovely wooden tables and chairs, white walls and checkered flooring. The wooden counters and the tables are detailed with white and it gave the furniture a nice touch. The lights were a mix of glass covered or exposed that seemed effortless.

The window tables were nice because you get all the light seeping throw the windows, but the problem with them was the booth and the chair were uneven so you don't sit in a similar eye level to the person you are facing plus there isn't any back support which makes it uncomfortable. Maybe if some light coloured cushions are added or a strip of the same material runs to cover the back, the seating will be be better. It looked really pretty nonetheless.  

Each table was decorated with little jars of small fresh flowers. That was the simplest touch, but the most beautiful! adding fresh flowers always add to the place ambiance and putting them in small jars gives it a homey feel. Their menu styling was really nice with the clip board idea, but it was just over whelming with information and choices. 

Their tea pots were smart. The places I usually go to will give you a normal pot and a mini sieve, but in Proper Tea we got a pot that will keep the loose tea in it and a smaller jug to pour the loose free tea in. 

Their afternoon three tray choice was really nice and enough for two people. Their desert choices and teas are wonderful, but their actual food was ok, but since I only eat halal or vegetarian I didn't find anything extra special to eat, but their sweets were so nice! 

Overall, I would recommend this place for afternoon, a light meal and chilling and writing!