5 of the best vegan restaurants in Brighton

I visited Brighton for a weekend many years ago, when I was a fully fledged omni. My impressions mainly ran along the lines of “oh, pretty, many pretty shops, and the sea, oh this is nice…” Can I remember anything about the actual food? Does a vegan just eat salads? Of course not! Because my borderline obsession for revolving an entire trip around my taste buds is something that only started in 2012.

So let me tell you my impression from this trip.

“Vegan food! Vegan food! Vegan food everywhere! Wait, what? A vegan perfume shop? Oh the lovely smells! And more vegan food! Vegan donuts, what? Vegan cake? I can eat everything everywhere this is incredible!”

the best vegan restaurants in Brighton

Vegan food as far as the eye can see

I am very sad to say that this isn’t a definitive list of all the vegan food in Brighton. I think I would need a month and a far more elasticated waistband, and so this is only five. But oh my, what a five. Each has something that makes it shine, and you won’t regret choosing any one of these to eat at when you’re down for a day on the beach.


Food for Friends is Brighton’s oldest vegetarian restaurant. Dating all the way back to 1981, it’s been on the planet far longer than I have (I’m not telling you how much longer though, nosy) and is a testimony to how deeply entrenched vegetarianism is in Brighton’s soul.

For some reason I couldn’t find the door, and so I wandered round the building pushing hopefully at everything door-shaped for quite a while until I got in. I’m infamously bad with doors so this has probably never happened to anyone else, but if you find yourself equally baffled then it’s on the right-hand side, past the first door-like thing.

best vegan food in brighton

Once in we ordered starters of satay tempeh skewers with a chilli, mango, bean sprout and herb salad, and tofu pockets stuffed with stir-fried shiitake, spring onions and brown rice, served with marinated pak choi, pickled ginger, wakame and hot Gochujang pepper sauce. Now say those five times fast without taking a breath.

I was not expecting strength of the pepper sauce in the tofu pockets, which clearly shows how closely I read menus, but both were excellent. I’d pick the skewers over the pockets as my preference, as I don’t see tempeh done well on menus very often. The real show stopper though was the fig salad with pickled ginger crisps and toasted pine nuts in an agave mustard dressing.

vegan food in Brighton to eat

I’m always hesitant when I see “cheese can be replaced by tofu for vegans” on menus, as I usually imagine it’s a bit of an afterthought. I don’t know how these smoked tofu cubes were cooked, but I’m pretty sure they could convert even the most hardcore tofu-hater. They’ve been on my mind ever since.


A beautiful restaurant and friendly staff.
Complimentary sparkling water.
Beautiful presentation.


I would have liked a few more vegan options on the menu.
I don’t have a constant supply of that smoked tofu.

Price range:

£20-£30 per person for two courses and drinks.


If you’re one of my more loyal and devoted followers (and if you’re not, why not?) then you’ll remember that back at the start of this year I came up with the mildly ludicrous concept of asking other bloggers where they thought the best vegan meal in the entire world was. Amanda Burger, resident blogger and vegan burger connoisseur at Burger Abroad, thought that Rootcandi deserved this title. Naturally, it’s been pretty high up on my to-do list ever since to check this out for myself. Strictly in the name of research, of course.

the best vegan food in Brighton

They’re the UK’s first all-vegan tapas restaurant, but they’re tapas with a twist as you pick a theme – Asian, European, Indian, or a mixture of all three. You’re recommended to pick a mixture of six, which comfortably feeds two people. It’s the perfect date restaurant, as long as you’re okay with sharing food, that is. Having been in Andalusia, the home of Tapas, earlier this year, it was nice to see Garbanzos con Espinacas nowhere on the menu.

the top vegan food in Brighton

We plumped for the European menu, although I could have quite happily gone for any of them. What particularly impressed me about Rootcandi was that each mini-dish was a mini-masterpiece. Almost too pretty to eat. Each one was bursting with flavour, and my personal favourite had to be the asparagus with asparagus cream, little pastry puffs and cherry tomatoes. The flavour combination was absolutely on point.

the best vegan food in Brighton

Dessert was a winner too. It the first time I’ve had vegan meringue (made from aquafaba) and it was so good it reminded me I really need to give making it myself a go. I still haven’t, although last night I dreamt I was making them for my family who weren’t my real family, but midway through making them I lost the thing I was using the squeeze out the mixture, and then my entire family suddenly got evacuated, and I was left in a room with crumbles of vegan meringue everywhere panicking about where everyone was. I went to a backroom and there were piles of pictures I’d drawn as a teenager that were weirdly really good, and I packed them up to take with me for when I too was evacuated, because I thought well I may be alone but at least I can decorate with memories of the past, and then I also packed the meringues I’d already made for the road.

Don’t ask.

But Rootcandi was incredible. They can definitely remain on the list of the world’s top vegan meals, and they’re one of the best places I’ve eaten for sure.


The food is amazing, creative, delicious…
Unique menu and dining experience.


What my subconscious dreams up for me at night.

Price range:

£25-£35 per person for two courses and drinks.


Am I the only one who feels like hearty vegan breakfasts and brunches are an underdeveloped scene? Green Kitchen has it sorted in Brighton, at this gorgeous little cafe a short walk or 10 minute bus out of the centre. I finally got my pancake fix of vegan bacon with maple syrup on pancakes – don’t knock it till you’ve tried it – and a full English.

The vegan bacon is made by Sgaia’s Vegan Meats, which is the first time I’ve heard of them. They’re one of a few artisan vegan meat companies I’ve seen popping up in the past year, and their bacon was remarkably delicious. It wasn’t trying too hard to be bacon, and allowed itself to be tasty in its own right, which I really appreciated. The same can be said of the menu: it’s creative and interesting, without trying to be too fancy. I was spoiled for choice.

the best food restaurants in Brighton

If you’re visiting Brighton, try to find an AirBnB near here so you can set yourself up for the day before heading out to sightsee. Using my code that’s off to your right in the sidebar will just about get you a free night’s stay, and you can toast me in the morning with your soy latte. The cafe is also dog friendly, something I always appreciate.


Good portions, delicious food, friendly owner.
Dog friendly.


A bit of a wander from the centre.

Price range:

Under £10 for a meal and a coffee.


If it’s been more than a month since your last deep-fried-food-coma then you should get yourself down to Beelzebab, a kitchen that’s being run out of a caravan at the back of Hope and Ruin Pub. Especially with the nights getting colder and darker, it’s full on proper vegan comfort food that’s just what the doctor ordered.

the best vegan restaurants in Brighton

When we arrived they offered us the special of deep fried vegan mac & cheese. I’m not sure how you deep fry mac & cheese, but they did it and it tastes pretty damn decent. The thousand island fries came buried under a mound of sauce and melted cheese, and the hot dog was also groaning under the weight of seitan, cheese, mustard. Ohhhhh it was good. So good. My one mild niggle was the kebab could have done with a bit more sauce, as if it doesn’t get as much of its contents smeared across your face as you manage to put in your mouth then I don’t consider it’s doing its job right.

the best vegan food in Brighton

We didn’t get to try the desserts this time, as the thought of more food was a bit much, but it’s somewhere I’ll definitely be back to next time I’m in Brighton, to finish eating my way through everything on their menu.


Good people, good place, good food.


The triple bypass required afterwards.

Price range:

£10-£20 for two items and a drink.


The lovely owner of this particular Loving Hut has taken the concept of Loving Hut – vegan fast food – and made it fly. She’s left the typical Asian theme of the Loving Huts, saying it’s not what she’s familiar with, and has chosen to do the sort of food she can do well. She definitely does do it well, too, walking away with VegFest UK’s best vegan restaurant award in 2015. It’s not priced out of a range that students can afford, which I really appreciated, remembering my own student days when eating out was several days of food budget.

the best vegan restaurants in Brighton

I tried a few things from the menu, but the winner dinner for me was the vegan fish and chips. I’ve had battered tofu and chips before, and was always vaguely disappointed. This one tasted unerringly like the real thing, though, but if anything nicer. Apparently a few weeks before a man had come in and ordered it. He can’t have realised it was vegan because after finishing it he asked “that was really good, what type of fish was that?”

the best vegan restaurants in Brighton

I also tried the cake, and the coffee and walnut is delicious. Especially the frosting. It’s properly buttery and thick and substantial. The type that goes perfectly with a cup of coffee in the afternoon.


Affordable, quick, tasty.


Closes early (but does take out).

Price range:

£10-£20 for two items and a drink.

I had less than 48 hours on this trip, and I ate and I ate and I ate. Brighton, I’ll be back for round two, and I’m coming for your vegan food. Where isn’t to be missed? Where are your favourites? Let me know in the comments below.


the best vegan restaurants in Brighton

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Top 20 eco-friendly gift ideas for vegans

My birthday was a few days ago. It was a rollercoaster of a year, from the amazing to the awful. And although my birthday was lovely and relaxing, and full of love and family and wonderful messages from friends, there was one thing noticeably lacking: birthday presents.

Now this is okay, and I don’t mind, I mean what do you get your minimalist sustainability obsessed friend who probably lives on the other side of the planet to you? I see the conundrum that every year my friends and family face, because when someone has such a specific and niche set of interests the chances of getting something they won’t use are… well… pretty high.

To help out those of you who have fussy creatures like me in your life, here’s a list of safe gifts to give for a variety of budgets. These are guaranteed to delight the eco-vegan in your life, without costing the earth, in any sense of the word.

I’ve divided this into five handy categories:

Homeware | Jewellery | Clothing and Accessories | BooksFood

Click on the word to go straight there and avoid the other things (handy if your giftee doesn’t have a home, or if you’re on a diet and don’t want to see mounds of delicious chocolate being all delicious and tempting on your screen. Except it’s vegan, so it’s basically one of your five a day.)


Veggie Loven Mug

I love the design of the actual mug itself here. You should check out their Etsy shop, they have lots of beautiful designs that would fit perfectly into a farmhouse style kitchen. And have you seen the sandals on the bottom of the mug? So cute! I think they’re little Birkenstocks.

Best gift ideas for vegans

Wet Dreams Mug

This is more like a combination of myself and my friend Veggie Visa’s wet dream, she with Morrissey and pizza, myself with cats and broccoli (what a weird sentence to say) but I think it’s a pretty cute mug. I would love if it were custom designable so that you can pick from a selection of ones you want, but alas life doesn’t work that way.

What to buy a vegan for their birthday

Nooch Jar

If you don’t know what Nooch is, it’s that cheesy nutritional yeast stuff that vegans bang on about and put into everything. I can think of several people who would flip out over this jar. They also have some gorgeous mugs and bowls on their site, go and have a looksie.

What to buy a vegan for their birthday

Hazelnut Coffee Candle

A lot of candles are made from beeswax, and so not suitable for vegans. That, or they’re full of chemicals which I know I at least don’t really want to be inhaling. This one, however, looks good enough to drink. In fact, I think I’m going to go and make some hot chocolate now… it may be summer but it’s freezing here in Ireland.

Top gifts for vegans

Welcome to my Vegan Kitchen

For the adorable homemaker. As in someone who makes an adorable home, or someone who is adorable and homemakes, your choice really. These are just decorative, not for use. I particularly like their ‘Cruelty Free Zone’ ones that are also in their shops. And a percentage of the sale goes to an animal shelter.


Eco friendly birthday gift ideas

Vegan Ring

I love how subtle and pretty this ring is. I just went full on and got the vegan logo tattooed on me 4 months in… (sometimes spontaneity and I like to dance together) but as a less permanent way for someone to subtly declare their vegan loyalties this ring is perfect.

Gift ideas for vegans

Vegan Bracelet

Maybe it’s that ‘Plant Powered’ that swung me, but this has to be my personal favourite in the jewellery section. They’re super customisable so you can make it suit your loved one exactly.

vegan gift for animal lover

Paw Print Necklace

Need a gift for an animal lover? If you can sneak your friend’s pet’s paw print to the maker of this lovely necklace, then it’s the perfect present for your friend who talks about their cat/dog more than any human in their life.

Great gifts for hippies and vegans

Raspberry Earrings

These are the sort of thing that normally I’d pass over, but they’re so ridiculously realistic that I feel like if I leave them on too long they’ll start dripping juice down my neck. They’re made by a designer in Greece who has an Etsy shop full of little fruit and veg dangling off bits of metal.

Best birthday gifts for vegans

Birthstone Necklace

When I was a child I hated my birthstone – peridot – but as I’ve become older myself and the colour green have become inextricably linked. I think it’s the eco thing. This is a particularly nice birthday gift because of the birthstone element. If the text isn’t too your liking, check out their other items.


Best presents for vegans

Yellow Clutch

Make sure you giftee likes yellow, it’s generally a love it or hate it colour, but personally I love it and think it cheers up everything. It’s a bit of a nightmare trying to find purses, clutches and bags that aren’t made from leather and won’t break in a week, so they make the perfect gift for any vegans in your life.

vegan bag for birthday gifts

Crossbody Bag

When I was working in Russia and carrying my laptop everywhere, I was wearing business clothes but carrying my turquoise backpack. If you have someone in your life who has to carry a little more, this bag will go with anything. They can always decorate it with a few patches if the grey’s not their style, too.

Best christmas gifts for vegans


If your giftee is a winter baby, or you’re buying a Christmas gift, then what better than a pair of gloves? It’s incredibly tedious going round the shops and checking labels to find gloves without wool in, so cut all that and get this gorgeous handmade pair. Funnily enough I chose the green ones to show, but there are plenty of options.

clothing gifts for vegans

Vegan T-Shirt

This is just one of many vegan t-shirts that are awesome. I made a list earlier this year which you can find here. If you buy anyone (albeit not a hardcore meat eater, I mean a vegan anyone) a shirt off this list (or more to save on postage) then you’ll have a very happy little herbivore on your hands.

vegan shoes to give as gifts

Japanese Shoes

This year I finally spent the money on a pair of boots from a vegan brand, and my they’re wonderful. However, they’re also a kinda expensive. If you feel like splashing out a little and know the shoe size, a pair of vegan shoes is a more risky but potentially much appreciated gift. These look extremely comfortable.


Booja Booja Truffles

These are like the queen of all vegan truffles, with only wonderful ingredients. I’ve only ever been given them for my birthdays/Christmases and they’re a bit of a failsafe for ‘don’t know what to get, she lives out of a backpack, argh!’ vegan and everything free and they still taste amazing.

best edible gifts for vegans

DIY Dairy Free Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit

This is pretty awesome. I don’t know what it tastes like, but they have good reviews. This would be a good gift for a newbie vegan who hasn’t delved into the world of making their own cheese, yet. Although in fairness, I haven’t really either. I’ve had very few cooking failures in my life, and they pretty exclusively revolve around trying to make nut cheeses.

An Entire Gift Basket of Vegan Chocolate

Do I need to explain this one?

Vego pack of 6

Created in Germany, these have since spread and are widely acknowledged to be the best tasting vegan milk chocolate. They’re delicious, and rather large, although I can never make them last as long as I feel I should be able to make a bar of that size last.

Vegan Wine

Did you know that most wine actually isn’t vegan? If you’re going for the classic option of a bottle of wine as a gift, make sure it’s vegan friendly. Check out Barnivore for a list.

Disclaimer: all the opinions in this are completely my own, and I’d genuinely be thrilled with anything from this list. But you should know if you book through the link above I’ll make a tiny commission at no extra charge to you. Probably about the cost of a coffee. So go ahead, buy through a link and save those around me by being attacked by a caffeine deprived me…


best eco-friendly gift ideas for vegans

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Surviving sexual assault/rape while travelling. What to do, and how to get through

*Deep breath in, deep breath out.*

You never know how something like this will feel until it happens to you. I had glimpses before – physical harassment, groping, mild assault. And then something big happens, and it changes you, and changes how you will interact with the world for a long time, maybe forever. And you’re travelling, maybe alone, maybe long term, and you have to pick up the next morning, and keep going, and keep meeting new people, feeding yourself, getting on the right bus, getting through the day as well as you can.

If you’ve come to this page because this is you, I’m truly sorry. I’ve been there. If the worst has happened, you now have the question “what do I do if I’ve been raped while travelling?” It’s in no way a nice question, but there are things to do, and ways to cope. I’ve given my own experience here of the things I wish I’d known at the time, and the things that I found through trial and error that helped me get to where I am today. Of course, this is very subjective, but I’ve tried to be as honest as I can with my experience in the hope that you can relate and get some help or at least comfort.


My emotions: guilt, shame, denial, shock.

Steps to take: Is there any chance you can have been drugged? Was it violent? Go to the hospital, get medical help, get blood tests and swabs taken. Go to your embassy (but with the precautions below). Take the morning after pill if necessary.

When I returned to the UK and had a full checkup at a sexual health clinic, which included me having to give a full report of what had happened. They told me I should have reported it to X country’s embassy anyway, as it then goes on a list of statistics about safety for travellers. However, this wasn’t my priority at the time (and he wasn’t a national of that country) and I understand if it’s not yours. Again, put yourself and your needs first.

Try and take a bubble bath, or a bath with essential oils, or just a bath. I’m not normally a bath person, but in the week that followed they really, really helped.


Are you in a western country? What are the laws for women? If you’re in the UAE, parts of Africa, or apparently even Ireland (where I’m now based) you can actually be prosecuted yourself. In which case, avoid your embassy, avoid the police, and look after yourself. Get back to your country if possible, and go from there.

Remember: 97% of rapists never receive any punishment, and 54% are never prosecuted. I’m not telling you not to prosecute if possible, I’m just saying that it’s not usually that simple.

A common reaction when I started opening up to friends, especially male friends, was did you go to the police? Why didn’t you go to the police? You should go immediately! I felt attacked. While I realise they were only trying to help and look out for me, the man in question was nomadic, wasn’t a national of the country in which it had happened and wasn’t a national of a country that supports women. I didn’t know his real name, I didn’t know have a way to find him, and I also didn’t have evidence. My word against his in the court of a country which would definitely not have put the woman first? Ha. It would have caused me a huge amount of emotional distress, when what I needed was to look after myself. Again, although the first response might be to want an eye for an eye, consider if it’s a) even possible and b) going to cause you yourself more harm than good. I’m sure I’ll get some heat for saying that prosecuting isn’t a priority, but consider the country, the situation, and the collateral damage for yourself before running to the police. Do some research if necessary. Look at the Stanford swimmer case recently (which, incidentally, was ridiculously triggering and caused me to temporarily leave social media). The amount of victim blaming that happened was insane, and that’s in a case with cast iron evidence. Men – if a woman is unconscious, throwing up, falling over… leave her the fuck alone. Simple.


I waited a little too late, until an awkward stage – too late to test for anything in my system in the 24 hours after the incident, too early to test for STIs. They could check me over (I had been hurt and had a strange pain for several months afterwards) but that was about it.

I ended up in an Italian hospital. It was chaotic and stressful and took an entire morning. I know it needed doing, but trying to communicate what had happened to me through Google translate to a random staff member is making me tear up just thinking about it.

Italy, and many other countries in the major cities, have a hotline to call when they get this sort of case, and they will refer you to a women’s clinic with a lawyer and a psychiatrist. Because I wasn’t in Italy when it happened, the lawyer wasn’t a thing for me. And in fact I never went, because I didn’t especially trust that there wouldn’t be another very stressful language barrier.

Can you fly home? While my first instinct was to keep going and not let this affect me or my plans, which were already in motion for the next few months, a week back in the UK to be properly checked over would have helped. Nearly half a year later, I still have (thankfully mild) PTSD that I’m finally having to turn around and deal with, and I’m thinking maybe I should have done this sooner. Don’t take what’s happened to you lightly, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help.


My emotions: guilt and shame subsided to confusion and immense sadness about why anyone would want to make another human being feel this way. I had barely spoken or made eye contact with anyone else for 5 days. Eventually, this turned into anger. Honestly, although I’ve largely recovered I’m still immensely, burningly, incomprehensibly angry. I think of all the emotions it’s the healthiest, though.


Stay off social media as much as you can. It’s too unpredictable. You can be scrolling down your newsfeed: cute cats, food, recipes, and then boom a triggering article or video about rape/sexual assault jumps out at you with no warning. It can wreck your whole mood for the day, and just isn’t worth it for the cute cat videos.

Avoid people who have a negative influence on you. This is good life advice, but now more than ever. In the months following the incident, when I met people with personality types opposite to my own I would normally have ignored them, perhaps become a little irritated. Instead, I started experiencing panic attacks, insomnia, and shaking with fear when I allowed one of these people into my life for too long. When travelling, it’s difficult to control your environment and who you meet. If you need, stay in one place or find a way to get into the countryside away from people.

People often ask me when they hear the sh** that’s happened: “Will you travel alone again? Will you travel again?” My answer is always the same: “Hell yes!” I have had so many amazing, life changing experiences through travel and through my style of travel, and I would never, ever want to lose any of those to also lose the negative things that have happened to me. At the end of the day, they’re a chance for me to grow, develop and become stronger.


I absolutely cannot emphasise this enough. Thankfully, I have an amazing network of friends all over the world who were incredibly supportive and really pulled me through in the first few weeks. One flew in to be with me for a few days in Rome, and in the days before that a woman I had never met – the friend of a friend – invited me to stay with her and her parents in their apartment in very rural Tuscany. I’m very lucky in that this was what set me on the road to recovery, but this would never have happened had I not started opening up to people and asking for help. 

More than that, the more I talked to people about what had happened the more I realised it was not my fault. It was not me. I in no way should ever blame myself for what had happened. It allowed the anger to start, and for me to feel strong again, and not broken.

I became weirdly efficient at updating people on what had happened to me, casually telling them over a Facebook message, WhatsApp, or in person over a catch up lunch when I came back. There is simply no good way to tell people if it’s something you want to share when they ask: “so, how are you?” No one is prepared to hear it, either. I often found myself reassuring them. It’s a weird, surreal, and very uncomfortable situation, but each close friend I had in the loop was another ally and a weight off my chest.

If you don’t feel comfortable telling people you know, reach out to people online. I’ve seen posts in Facebook groups before from women who’ve had an incident on the road. They’ve been met with huge amounts of support and love, and offers of help. For every one person who’s the scum of the earth who did this to you, there will be 500 others who want to help you and raise you up again. Allow yourself to trust human nature again. Just do it. Believe me, telling people will be such a relief.

And remember – as mentioned above, 54% of rapes are not reported. And 1 in 5 women in the US has been a victim of rape. You will be shocked when you start opening up by the number of people who say oh yes, me too. While it’s horrible to hear that others have suffered in the same way you’re suffering, it means that empathy is there, and support is there. Do what you need to find it. Look after yourself.


I found myself worrying a lot that I wasn’t responding how I ‘should’ be to what had happened. For example, I landed myself in a relationship which didn’t last long and which I soon realised I was in for the comfort, the safety, and to avoid being seen as ‘available’ by ‘dangerous’ men. (For context, I’ve been happily single and independent for 2 1/2 years, so suddenly entering a monogamous relationship is very out of character).

I was ashamed and embarrassed to admit I was dating again already, as the response from one female friend was ‘I wouldn’t be okay with a man touching me for at least a year!’

I understand now that this was my personal coping strategy. This was my way of finding a way through. Do what feels right for you, and get the help that you need. Equally, I’ll think I’m doing fine, and then find myself having a panic attack, or ridiculous levels of anxiety. There is no timeline of recovery. I have to remind myself this regularly.


50 actual facts about rape *triggering*


For America: https://www.rainn.org
For Ireland: http://www.rapecrisishelp.ie
For the UK: http://rapecrisis.org.uk

Still don’t know who to contact?

I check my emails regularly. I’m not great at replying to people asking me for English Teaching career advice, but I will reply to you as soon as I physically can if you email me on this topic needing help. And I will never judge. [email protected]


This is just my from my personal experience. If you’ve had something happen and you found something really helped you through that I haven’t mentioned, please let me know and I would love to add it to the end of this post to give more help and hope.


What to do if you're raped while travelling

The more I can get this post out and shared, hopefully the more I can help.

Image: Stock photo by Himanshu Singh Gurjar

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5 unusual things to see in St. Petersburg, Russia

Everyone and their grandmother, or in my case, mainly my grandmother (we’re a culture-cramming sort of family) can give you the rundown of what to do in Saint Petersburg. You go to the Hermitage for some art, the Russian Museum for some history, the Summer Palace for some wondering at the amber room. In the evening you go to the ballet to watch some of the finest dancing in the world.

But what if you want to see a different side of St. Petersburg, while still getting in music, art and culture? What are the unusual, offbeat and alternative things to see in do in St. Petersburg, that will really get you under the skin off the city?

Skip the Hermitage – head to the General Staff Building

Everyone’s heard of the Hermitage, and if you go (at least in the peak times of year) you’d better suit and boot up in full American football style gear to have any chance of getting near the art and exhibits. What fewer people know is that they’ve moved a lot of their collections – the impressionists, the post-modernists, their Matisses, Rembrandts, Monets, Gaugins and so on into a more discreet building opposite the Hemitage itself. There’s also a Faberge collection and historical clothing, if that floats your boat. Entrance will set you back 300 roubles, and you can enjoy the art without tripping over tour groups. Although the building is a little confusing (for me at least – somehow I ended up on the top floor in the realists first) eventually a logic appears.

Unusual things to do in St. Petersburg

My favourite Matisse

Nearest Metro: Admiralteyskaya

Visit the Etagi Loft project

Situated in an old bread factory, the Etagi Loft project has grown from being an exhibition space to having small shipping containers stretching out behind it filled with cafes (including many vegan ones), coffee shops, bakeries, alternative bookshops, thrift stores… and so the list goes on. It’s the largest exhibition space in the city for contemporary art, and has four exhibition spaces as well as a hostel attached to it (which also allows pets!). Especially as a vegan in St. Petersburg, if I had to choose a hostel I’d stay here, because almost of the cheap and delicious vegan places are in the Etagi Loft Project too. Actually, and here’s a confession, I think I got so distracted by the food the first few times I was here that I totally forgot to explore the rest of it, and it was only in my finally week I discovered it has so much more than food.

Alternative art in St. Petersburg

Nearest Metro: Ligovsky Prospekt

Hang out in the mosaic courtyard

The courtyards in St. Petersburg are worth exploring anyway, as they’re often rambling, and filled with stray cats, abandoned buildings, and other surprises, but this one has to be the best.  This much less known attraction is just across the way from the Summer Garden – a mosaic courtyard which rambles on for quite a while, created by an artist and then developed into a youth project. New parts are appearing constantly – there’s now a fountain, and the children’s playground has also been decorated. You’ll probably encounter a Russian woman or two grouting some brightly coloured tiles. It’s a wonderful place to people watch, as the locals have just accepted it into their lives and go there to relax and catch up.

The mosaic courtyard St. Petersburg

Nearest Metro – Chernyshevskaya

Dance to the buskers

One of my favourite things about St. Petersburg in the summer is the live music that’s everywhere. Outside almost any metro in the centre, and stationed at intervals along Nevsky Prospect and in the gardens you’ll find buskers galore. It’s not the buskers themselves that are so special, though – it’s the people who get lost in the moment and dance like no one’s watching. From women with their eyes closed dancing freely, to elderly women waltzing with their grandchildren, it’s one of the most free and unselfconscious things I’ve seen in a country that’s infamous for their stoicism. Take some time out of your sightseeing to join the crowds and enjoy some live music, and some dancing, on your way to your next place.

A brass band in the Summer Gardens.

A brass band in the Summer Gardens.

Pushkinskaya 10

Also known as The Museum of Non-Conformist Art, I first discovered Pushkinskaya 10 on International Museums’ night, where many of the museums in the city open for free until 6am. It was my second weekend in Russia, and it was cold, and pouring with rain. Despite this the streets were buzzing and the queues for all the museums stretched around the block, even at 1am. Although it’s been open for many years now, the museum still provides studio space for a number of working artists, and so you never know whether the room you walk into will be an exhibition, a studio, an installation, a stall where you can buy something… I like the way it keeps you guessing. It’s large and rambles on through many rooms connected by small cramped corridors, and it’s all worth investigating – even the graffiti that stretches up to the top floor and gets weird and creative. It’s a mixture of Post-Soviet and modern art  Check out more pictures and information here.

Pushkinskaya 10 St. Petersburg

Late night museum fans in Pushinskaya 10.

Nearest Metro – Ploschad Vosstaniya

On my wishlist for a return visit:

The Street Art Museum.

The Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines.

Have you been to St. Petersburg and done something a little off the usual tourist trail? Let me know in the comments below.



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Motorbike Crash in Cambodia – Part 2, the island recovery

Read part one here:

To recap: I was in Cambodia. I couldn’t walk. And the damage was seeming pretty serious. I was also alone, except for a guy who was, for now, hanging around to help me out. In my dorm room was a woman who got me stoned and flashed me, two tattooed Icelandic boys who didn’t talk, and a blur of various others who looked at me in horror as a warning tale.

I was due to arrive on Koh Rong Samloem, an island off the coast of Cambodia that I didn’t know much about. I delayed my trip there by a couple of days, until I could at least hop if I was holding onto someone’s arm. My friend decided to come with me, to keep me company, carry my bag, and be said arm. Also who can resist an island with nothing on it except a hostel? No internet, no wifi, no civilisation…

Have you spotted the catch yet? I was very injured with deep wounds. This might not have been my smartest idea.

Before we left, we went to the hospital to get my bandages changed. With us we took the newest member of our dorm-room of misfits, the man we dubbed Desperate Dan, who had been having a bit of a rough time. On this particular occasion he’d come to get his stomach checked out, which had started causing huge problems. A week ago he’d had a heart attack, after his drink had been spiked with meth, ket and MDMA by the Cambodian woman he’d had a week long romance with. He was also onto his third phone, after being scammed, losing, and breaking his previous ones. The tales were endless.

Once at the hospital he disappeared off and I was left in the waiting room in my wheelchair. A man on the other side with a tiny tiny baby noticed me staring, and beckoned me over. My friend wheeled me across and the man handed me his baby, who must have been barely a week old. I awkwardly held it as it snuffled to itself. I couldn’t quite believe how trusting this man was, that he would hand his baby to a stranger.

As I got my bandages changed, I thought it was probably wise to check that I was okay to disappear off to a tropical island. “Is there a hospital there?” I asked.

Beautiful Koh Rong, taken by Rene.

“There’s definitely a hospital on Koh Rong,” the baby-faced doctor confidently replied. Koh Rong was the next island across, and so I was reassured. Meanwhile, my friend was off getting his rabies shot. A dog had, unprovoked, nipped him on the ankle when he was at Angkor Wat, and now he was suffering a huge amount of expense and tedium trying to find rabies vaccinations everywhere he went so that he could complete his five week post-bite course. When done, we waited for Desperate Dan, who was in a mood. They had found a stomach parasite.

We reached the island without too much mishap, although swinging on and off a boat with only one leg was interesting. With impeccable timing, my friend decided to pass the hour on the boat by showing me the pictures he’d taken with my camera of when he went back up the mountain to see the parts we didn’t reach. This included a picture of my blood on the road… still there two days later. I went silent for a while.

Ew. Ew. Ew. Ew. This was after two days!!!

By this time I was on some intense pain medication, and everything was dreamlike and surreal. One long boat ride, followed by a shorter one to transfer to Samloem, and we’d made it onto the island. In typical twist of fate style, the cabin we were given was the one furthest away from the main area where the food and the people were.

I spent my days by beating everyone else at scrabble (and being very modest about it). My concentration was too poor for most other things, but apparently my word skills were still working. After a couple of days the blood had soaked through the bandages and gone crusty, causing me a lot of pain. It was definitely time to get them changed, and so we started trying to make arrangements.

“Is there a hospital or clinic here?” we asked. We were told no.

“Can we go to Koh Rong? Is there one there?” They looked at us, and me, and shook their heads.

“I have to get to the hospital though,” I said, indicating my extremely dirty bandages.

He made a phone call, and told me that a boat would be leaving early in the morning and we could get to Koh Rong on that – the same boat we had come on, just going in the other direction. How we could get back remained a mystery. Likewise, whether there was a hospital also remained a mystery. They seemed to think there possibly, probably, maybe was one.

The next morning we set off bright and early, ready to go. The hostel boat took us round to the pier on the other side of the island and left us there for a while, where we were scammed into buying tickets from some guy in the restaurant who didn’t seem to be sympathetic to me needing to get medical help. When the boat arrived, the German woman covered in tattoos who was also crewing the way over looked me up and down with a ‘you again’ expression. She offered me a hand and I swung myself on.

Once we arrived on Koh Rong my friend headed off to find how we should get back. It was already 10am, and we were told that the last boat for Samloem was leaving at 12. This was much sooner than we had expected, as we knew the boat going back from the pier to the hostel wasn’t until 3. Unperturbed we made our way onto the island to find out about a hospital. While I waited, my friend went to ask and came back with the news: “he said there’s no hospital here, people always say there’s a hospital here, but there isn’t and I don’t know why they keep saying that. If we go to the bar down there, then there’s a barman called Dennis who’s a doctor.”

Pharmacy fun

Dennis was a shirtless and tanned English guy who took one look at my bandages and roughly told me to go up the road to the pharmacy, where they would charge me much less and do just as good a job. To get into the pharmacy we had to step over multiple small children who were rolling around in the doorway, where a blonde girl introduced herself and told me the pharmacist was in a meeting and we would have to wait. “As long as we catch our boat,” I said. “And why are there so many children here?”

“Oh, it’s also the daycare and English centre,” she said, watching as children wandered around the floor, inches away from prescription medicine.

The pharmacist, when she arrived, was an Australian girl in her mid-twenties who ushered me into the back room and onto a grubby bench. The wooden walls smelled of damp, and old English textbooks lay spread open in the dust on the floor. The metal plate with the medical tools on it was anything but clean, I think there was even a dead spider sitting next to a scalpel.

“So were you a doctor back in Australia?” I asked, as she peeled off my bandages.

“Oh no, I came to Cambodia a few years ago and fell in love with it. Two years ago I came back and started volunteering here, and at one point I did a first aid weekend. But after two years of dealing with motorbike accidents, you get all the experience you need.” I wasn’t overly reassured, and I was very thankful that nothing more serious had happened to my wound since I had arrived on the island.

The super sanitary room

As I grit my teeth and tried not to scream as the iodine was dripped onto the open wound, a cat wandered by on the wall above me.

The boat was, in fact, not a direct boat but rather a scuba diving boat for Chinese tourists. As we lounged around in our shorts and t-shirts, they tightened their life-jackets and clung to every piece of boat they could reach. Young Chinese women took turns holding each others hair back as seasickness got the better of them. When the boat stopped in the middle of the sea, we retreated to the upper deck for some sunbathing while the tourists leapt off the side of the boat and bobbed around, still in their life jackets, hunting for fish.

Relaxing on the top deck

Hours later, and a a little sunburned, we were deposited on the pier where eventually the hostel boat picked us up. The newbies who were arriving looked panicked at the sight of me, exhausted and bandaged. The hostel staff welcomed me back and asked if I’d managed to get my bandages changed, and I just looked at them.

“Next time someone asks if there’s a clinic on Koh Rong, please, please, tell them no.”

A Chinese tourist in a life jacket, bobbing along.

To be continued… as I find myself alone in Siem Reap, and with a website that’s been revenge hacked.

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