Spring is springing!

Once the snow melts and the sun starts to show its face, the Russians arrange a picnic and BBQ to celebrate.

This was a lot of fun, and something you wouldn’t get from staying in a hotel or hostel!

Met up with Oksana’s friends, and head into the woods for the best spot to picnic.

The boys hard at work doing man-fire-cooking. While we enjoy the sun!

The boys had done a good job! So much food! They made shashlik

This was a great send off as it was my last day in Saint Petersburg, I was off to Moscow that night on the sleeper train!

When I woke up, I was in Moscow. Convenient, although not the best sleep as you can imagine!

Alexandra, who was going to host me, met me straight off the train.

It was still early in the day so once I’d freshened up and unpacked we went on a whirlwind tour of the city.

Unfortunately, it was a Sunday, which meant the whole world and it’s dog was out, but that didn’t stop the thrill as we approached St Basils!

I was so excited to see this church, ever since I can remember, and have a picture of it in my bucket list book! So that can now be ticked off!

Look at that smile!

I may have got a little carried away and taken photos from every angle!

And sketched it…

Reluctantly moving on, we walked past a film set, for a film we will probably never get to see in the uk.

Over the bridge to the ‘island’.

I can’t get over how hot it is here. I packed layers of clothes and bobble hats and it’s like 18 degrees out!

Saw the Kremlin from the outside.

Alexandra and her husband Andrej took me to a Russian Soviet restaurant. Which was basically like stepping back in time to the 80’s.

I’m getting a bit obsessed with Piroshki, filled buns, the meat ones taste like corned beef pasties!

After the attempted sleep on the train and a day of sight seeing, I was ready for bed!

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Walking Tour

Armed with very little Russian, my guide book and the directions Oksana had given me, I ventured out to explore more of Saint Petersburg.

Starting with getting a decent view of the city from the top of St.Isaac’s Cathedral.

Next stop, one of my favourites, the Church of the Spilled Blood!

This was enough walking for me (they are spaced pretty far apart and takes me an hour to walk there!)

Met Oksana once she had finished work and we went all girly and had our nails done!

Sparkles and Russian flag.

Time for alcohol. You would think vodka would be the choice seeing as I’m in Russia, but I’m not the biggest fan since drinking too much of it in my younger days, and now I can’t even look at it.

Belgian bar for some cherry beer instead!

Beer was good, food wasn’t brilliant.

I may have got addicted to the cherry beer.

First impressions cont…

The rest of my first day was a whirlwind tour of the city to help me get my bearings, locate the sights I wanted to visit and food places (very important!)

Starting on Vasilyevskiy island, where we’re staying.

Old Saint Petersburg stock exchange building.

Two columns have been built opposite this, we tried to find their meaning, all I found was in my book, they’re called Rostral Columns and the four seated figures represent Russia’s rivers, Neva, Volga, Dnieper and Volkhov. There are many other rivers in Russia, these are just the ‘greats’.

The Hermitage from across the river. Apparently when the country was doing badly, the monarchy at the time thought it was a good idea to buy loads of art to prove they were doing fine.

Sounds like girl logic!

Don’t know what it is with me and the ice, but once again, I was transfixed. Oksana explained how the broken ice that moves along the river is known as ‘walking ice’.

Continued our stroll along the river to find a poem by Pushkin about Saint Petersburg.

St. Isaac’s Cathedral in the background across the walking ice.

A little bit of Egypt…

A pretending manticore. Basically a seemingly random collection of stuff all along the river side!

Crossed over the bridge (and the walking ice) to New Holland.

New Holland is a little area that has been refurbed and taken over by hipsters. Lots of little ‘street food’ cafes, art, photography and book shops.

Oksana was on a mission to show me as much as possible, so after our quick hipster falafel lunch we moved on to see Palace Square, but not before stopping outside a cat cafe.

Finished off with the sun setting over Palace Square.

We managed to clock 15 miles walking!

Russia – first impressions

Cold like UK winter cold, so not so bad. Although after being in New Zealand this time last year just in time for winter, then returning to UK summer (which, let’s face it, means rain) followed by living in London Town over winter, and now just as the sun is starting to poke its head out of the clouds in the UK, I fly north!

Now I’m here, I’m glad I did, there’s still snow in certain areas and the cracked ice on the water looks like something out of ice age.

You ever get the feeling that you feel like your eyes have seen everything and nothing excites you?

Sounds awfully numb.

I didn’t realise I needed to see and experience something new and fresh until I saw these slabs of cracked ice.

Sounds crazy, but we had walked through this forest, which was beautiful in its own right.

We came to the lake, Lake Ladoga, which is huge.

There is this strange quiet that comes with snow.

You hold your breathe, listening, taking it all in.

Slowly approaching the bank of the expanse of water, can now hear the gentle ripples against the rocks and ice.

Then there is is, giant slabs of frozen water, cracked and melting under the clear, cloudless sky.

Neither my words or photos do this justice.

I don’t know why, but this was amazing to me.

I could have quite happily taken a deck chair and sat there for a good few hours, listening, reflecting and enjoying the view.

Like this guy:

Seeing this lake is just one example of how having a friend who is happy to take the time to show you their country is invaluable.

There is no way I would have ventured up here alone, for starters it was two hours away, two tubes and a bus ride into the middle of nowhere!

Secondly, I tend to rely heavily on tour guide books, as they usually cover the main sights that most tourists want to see, and this journey was not in the book!

Thirdly, as I have only just started learning basic Russian to see me through my journey, I have a personal translator and teacher! You learn more from a local than a language app!

After this epic walk it was time for some Russian food!

I love trying foods in other countries! Food and exploring, my favourite things!

The smell of fresh baked bread engulfs you as you walk through the door of this little cafe.

As it’s Easter this weekend, the locals kept coming in to buy easter cake to take away.

Pirashkí (пирожки) is a sort of stuffed bread roll, naturally, I ordered all the sweet ones.

But before stuffing my face with those, I tried buckwheat porridge, which isn’t like porridge at all, it’s more like giant cous cous!

I enjoyed, it’s supposed to be pretty good for you too! Winner!

Now for dessert!

I had the one stuffed with poppy seeds, I think I was picking black out of my teeth for the rest of the day but it was worth it!

Bus selfie!

I am swaddled in a million layers! I didn’t want to take a risk and catch cold, and even Oksana has let me borrow her coat on top!

I could barely move my arms!

Turns out my rip curl coat I bought in New Zealand is actually everything-proof like it says!

What people call ‘transformation’

I’ve been there, scrolling through my Instagram or twitter or whatever social media platform, seeing people’s ‘before’ and ‘after’ pix, thinking ‘yeah, great, THEY can do it.’

These pictures never inspired me because they seemed so false.

It was just a picture.

The ‘before’ picture doesn’t explain how unhappy that person was with their appearance, what triggered them to make a change, what changes they made that weren’t some miracle, quick-fix, idiotic diet, or even how they got to that point in the first place.

Just as the ‘after’ pic doesn’t say what hell they went through to get to that point, how long it actually took, how many days where they thought they wouldn’t see their end goal, how many social events they had to turn down because they were sick of explaining to people that they don’t drink, don’t eat certain foods, have to be up early because they are dedicated to another plan.

Another term we all hear is ‘Mind over matter’, again, no one really takes the time to explain all this. Something has to spark off in the mind to make you want to completely overhaul your way of living to make a huge physical change.

So, for me, I had been comfort eating since Mom was diagnosed. I was exhausted from working full time, caring part time and living with an inept partner who wouldn’t think to prepare a meal for his burnt out, drained girlfriend.

It was an agonisingly slow process, from having to sever the relationship, which took months of back and forth. Repairing family relationships. Taking a step back and seeing that I was being guilted into staying in my job when I knew my family was infinitely more important.

Having to learn to take time out for myself, with all the running around making sure everyone else was taken care of, I neglected myself in so many ways.

These were just the first steps, and these took months. While all this was going on I was always cooking healthy food for Mom. Researching and inventing new recipes to make boring food interesting for her. I just forgot to make stuff for myself! Which lead to quick to cook foods, pastas, breads, potatoes. Fast food, always labelling it as a treat and wouldn’t do it again. I stopped going to dance classes, I stopped going to the gym because I wasn’t feeling it anymore, and so the spiral downwards began-where you eat to feel good, then you feel crap once the sugar high stops so you eat more and so on…

Once Mom was gone, I thought I was taking control by enrolling into a fat camp in Ibiza. Although it was a good experience, and I learnt that my body was a lot more resilient than my mind told me, it wasn’t a long term help.

Eating 1000 calories and exercises for 5 hours a day isn’t maintainable in the ‘real world’.

The weight went back on.

I buggered off to China. I felt massive! I went traveling, this helped me lose a bit, mainly through all the walking and sight seeing and attempting to make healthy choices which were generally cheaper!

Back in the UK, I joined some kickboxing classes and eventually found some confidence again, I made the decision (just in time) to hire a personal trainer.

I had always put off hiring a personal trainer on the basis that I’m not an idiot, I know what food is good and what is bad and that exercise is imperative.

But without a plan or someone to answer to, I was my own worst enemy.

Cain of GB Fitness required me to complete a questionnaire about basically everything!

He designed a meal plan and several exercise plans for me.

Just after the first meeting I felt hope.

Someone believed in me.

Yes, I paid him, but it’s also in his best interest for his business and his reputation that I succeed.

So I am now beginning to see the pain and glory behind those many ‘before and after’ pictures.

I am learning all the time while I change my lifestyle-and that is the key-it’s a lifestyle change. No quick fix, no fluctuating weight, just bloody hard work, food prepping all the damn time to make sure you don’t slip. Watching as your friends order three course meals while you try and inconspicuously eat your chicken and veg out of a Tupperware and hope you don’t get kicked out of the pub! Drinking water, lemon water, green tea, when sometimes you just want a full fat coke!

2014 is when I started piling on the weight, we are nearing the end of 2017 and I’m still not where I want to be physically, but I’m definitely where I want to be mentally.

And for me, that was about 90% of the battle. Getting my mind to believe I could achieve this goal!

And even though I’m not looking how I want to, I will share my progress photo.

I want to re-iterate, this is a BEFORE and CURRENT PROGRESS pic. This is a long-haul journey, no bullsh*t, just actual commitment to a plan.

I’m not putting this out here as a sob-story, I’m hoping readers can relate. You are not alone. There is always someone going through something similar. And you will come out the other side if you choose to.

A Different kind of Journey 

After the effects of being in an unhealthy relationship, the grief of Mom, I turned to food. A lot. And not good food, take aways, pizzas, and my all time vice-chocolate. If you’ve been following my blog since the beginning, you will have read about my experience in the boot camp in Ibiza. A quick-fix, which didn’t last very long once I came back to the real world! It got to the point where I felt like I tried everything. I’m an intelligent human being, I KNOW I should eat healthy foods and exercise more, that’s just common sense! But actually following those general rules when your emotions are up and down like a yo-yo is hard when you have no self control! 

So I employed a Personal Trainer. 

I put it off for so long because I genuinely thought I could do it by myself. 

Getting help was one of the best things I’ve done this year. I actually have a plan I can stick to, I’m accountable to someone, and I’m seeing results, albeit slowly, but I feel like the excess weight will actually stay off with this lifestyle change.
And that’s the key to all this, it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle choice. 


Moving to London has also been challenging during this transition. Socialising in London calls for a lot of drinking. I’ve been called boring several times, and received a lot of weird stares when I’m offered a drink and I refuse. 

All this behaviour has made me realise I’m actually lucky as I don’t need alcohol to enjoy my night. I still talk to everyone, I still dance like no one is watching, and I don’t have the hangover or crave bad carbs the next day! 
So once I get to a point I’m happy with, I may even share my before and after pix. So watch this space…
https://www.gbfitness.com

London!

Well, my feet haven’t touched the ground in the last few weeks. An opportunity came up to live with some friends in London and I took it! 

Since I’ve arrived I’ve been to several house parties, a comedy night, a cocktail event in Spitalfields market, and a movie premier where I met the actor who played Flash Gordon. All in the space of a week! 








And there’s plenty more where that came from. Only thing is, I’m not a big drinker, never have been, and I don’t have work yet. So the pressure of drinking expensive alcoholic drinks at every.single.social event is quite brutal. 

Luckily there is plenty to do which doesn’t involve drinking, or spending a lot of money!

I found a free art class where I started learning how to draw comic book characters, something I’ve never tried properly before, and also had a MMA taster which I enjoyed! Being away from the sea sucks but there’s plenty of parks to have a walk through to pretend you’re in the countryside.
So my current task is to find a job I love. Maybe a tough one but life is way too short to spend it doing something I don’t love. I’ve had enough of those jobs so far! I may sound smug, but that’s one thing grief has taught me, life CAN be snatched away at any point so why be miserable in life?