Travelling with…IBS

Ah the glamour.

No, it’s not a made up disease which you can deep breathe away. Unfortunately it’s a very real, very debilitating issue which can ruin days of your holiday. From my calculations I’d say I’ve been dealing with IBS for around 17 years now. While it’s definitely not completely under control, I have far fewer ‘episodes’ (episodes: hospital trips, x-rays, cramping to the point where I can’t stand up, breathing hurts, lower back ache, nausea, fatigue, multiple trips to the bathroom) than I used to have when I was less aware of the food I was putting in to my body. I’ve read so many books and blog-posts on this topic now, taken so much advice from every. single. person I know (really something I don’t love to share about myself!). I’ve taken stock of what happens when I eat certain things and I thought if this could help somebody else then I should share. I’ve just put together some tips I use both at home and when travelling and although every individual is different, hopefully this helps somebody out there 🙂

IBS is more common in women and from my experience there does seem to be a link between IBS and the menstrual cycle. Here’s some of the most useful information I’ve come across on the gut, menstrual cycle and hormones:

Giulia Enders: Gut – the inside story of our body’s most under-rated organ

I picked up this book and basically swallowed it whole. Logical and relatable, Giulia, a German microbiologist, provides a detailed look at the gut, the brain-gut axis, and the world of gut bacteria. We went to see speak at the Sydney Opera House a couple of years ago and she just seems like the nicest person in the world too! There are plenty of videos out there of Giulia talking about her work but I like this one.

Alissa Vitti: WomanCode – Perfect your cycle, amplify your fertility, supercharge your sex drive, and become a power source

The first I heard about WomanCode was from health blogger, Lee from America, on her post about Cycle Syncing. Honestly, it’s like the penny dropped for me. Lee explains the theory behind Cycle Syncing very well so I’d advise having a look at that post (or this one) but the piece that resonates with me is incorporating particular foods during each given week of your cycle which can help your body function optimally by getting it the right micronutrients at the right time. My copy of WomanCode is highlighted, pages cornered and looks about a million years old but the information in there is so helpful. I’ve posted a copy of the foods Alissa suggests incorporating in each week of my cycle on my fridge so it’s easy to refer to when I’m whipping up a meal 🙂

Belinda Kirkpatrick & Ainsley Johnstone: Healthy Hormones: A practical guide to balancing your hormones

This one is a recent addition to my collection. It’s an odd feeling, but I don’t think I know quite enough about my hormones. They say PMS doesn’t actually have to happen – I WISH! This book, from naturopath and nutritionist Belinda, and food stylist and recipe developer, Ainsley, walks us through the menstrual cycle, offers practical advice for dealing with common symptoms, provides a huge selection of recipes and a section on supplements – what they’re used for, how much to take and usefully, where you can get these naturally in the food that you eat.

Steps I take which seem to help:

  • Arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare. Elevated stress and anxiety levels definitely don’t help IBS. Actually deep, controlled breathing can help if you’re stressed or anxious and want to just slow your body and mind down.
  • It’s especially difficult when travelling but the thing that works most for me is a food routine. Rain, hail or shine at home I have porridge/oatmeal (made with water and oat milk) with chia seeds (soaked overnight), cinnamon and turmeric warmed up in the morning. I top this with different nuts/seeds/nut butters (desiccated coconut, almond butter, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, walnuts or pecans) depending on what’s on the cycle syncing list that week or what I’m feeling. I don’t tend to top with fruit as I rather fruit on it’s own. If we’re staying in a hostel or airbnb it’s pretty easy to make porridge but if we’re out and about I’ll try to order something along these lines from a cafe. I love using Instagram to find new foodie spots to try.
  • Water, water, water. That age-old trick that helps with everything. Drink way more than you think you need. If you’re thirsty it’s already too late and you’re dehydrated. I wouldn’t recommend drinking local tap water and I do. I only drink the tap water at home. If we’re abroad we’ll pick up a huge bottle of water and fill up our S’well bottles for days out and about exploring. I won’t drink ice-cold water if possible though as it’s a little too harsh.
  • Very little dairy. No cow’s milk. I usually drink oat milk (Oatly), but I’ll also have almond milk or coconut milk. It’s pretty rare that I’d have yoghurt. I do like butter though. I love ice-cream but have it on very rare occasions as it really is an aggravator. Also, no soya milk – it’s a known hormone disruptor.
  • No coffee. Very difficult for most of the world I know, but it just instantly upsets my tummy. I ADORE the smell but I just cannot deal with the taste. My husband on the other hand travels with his Aeropress, grinder and weighing scales 🙂
  • Tea. I’ve cut way down on black tea – it’s quite caffeinated so if I fancy some I will still have it but I’ll make it very light. I tend to stick with herbal teas now – Spearmint is my absolute favourite and it really seems to help with hormonal (cystic) acne. Peppermint tea is good for cramps and  Ginger tea can help with nausea. Chamomile tea is supposed to be good to help relax you in the evenings but I haven’t really taken to the taste of it. I like light Earl Grey or Chai tea. I always pack tea-bags in my suitcase. Must be an Irish thing as most people I think bring a box of tea-bags even if they’re just going to Spain for a week’s holiday!
  • Hot Cacao – I warm up oat milk and then add raw cacao, cinnamon, turmeric, a little black pepper and a little maple syrup if I need something chocolatey. I’ll often add spirulina to this for a little green kick too. Such a cosy, hyggelig drink.
  • Fizzy drinks – I don’t drink them – too much sugar. Also, 0range juice – it’s very acidic so if I wasn’t feeling well I’d steer clear.
  • Greens – baby spinach is my holy grail. I love, love, love it and would eat it for every meal given half a chance. Lambs lettuce is a close second. I think greens play a huge part in keeping IBS at bay so I try to incorporate some with both lunch and dinner.
  • I don’t eat white bread. Yes, I eat brown/wholemeal bread – love it. I’d been missing Irish Brown Soda Bread in Australia but now that we’re back living in Dublin I’m really getting back in to it!
  • I also don’t eat most breakfast cereals. Cornflakes are like mini blades in my tummy.
  • No potatoes. So sad for an Irish girl and I don’t know what it is about them but I’ll eat one and instantly look about 6 months pregnant. Sweet potatoes all the way for me. Pop one in the microwave for c. 3 minutes, top with anything (butter, salt and pepper or shredded chicken with spinach,  sweet pointed red peppers and an egg. Perfection!)
  • Probiotics. I always travel with a probiotic. Digestive enzymes before a meal also help. I’ve tried out a lot of different brands and not all of them had an effect so I think this is a very individual decision.
  • I try not to eat on the aeroplane. Easy when the flight is under 5/6 hours but obviously I’ll eat if it’s long-haul. If we go on long-haul flights we always request the vegetarian meals – you’re given your meal first so you have time to go to the bathroom and brush your teeth or change or whatever before everybody else finishes their meals and starts queueing. You’re nestled back in ready for your movie or sleep. Pre-ordering vegetarian meals for the flight is my number 1 travel tip!
  • No packet food – none of those sauces from packets or those ready-made frozen meals.
  • No smoking. Zero interest.
  • Red meat – there’s a huge amount in the media about red meat all the time. I choose not to eat red meat but I will eat poultry – chicken and turkey are staples for me.
  • Fish – I eat most fish – salmon topped with chia seeds and popped into the oven – so delicious. There’s always a fish dish on a menu!
  • No big meals – yes, we go for dinner when we’re travelling but we never order 3+ courses as it’s just too much food. Little and often 🙂
  • Exercise – it’s actually easier for me to get exercise in when we’re travelling. John and I love to walk and rarely take public transport in a new city. We love to get lost and luckily, we always happen upon a must visit site! Some airlines have seated yoga sequences in the on-board entertainment system so I highly recommend doing those!

Foods I don’t touch (no matter what):

  • Onions, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale – that brassica family and I just do not get along.
  • Carrots. I’m sure some people are fine but nope, can’t even.
  • Popcorn 😦
  • Chinese or Indian cuisine – from takeaways. We were only in China for a short amount of time but I ate rice (white rice. Brown rice has too much fibre for me) with vegetables and no sauces and I was fine. I’m honestly put off going to India because of the food. It’s supposed to be a must-visit destination but it is one that scares me a little…
  • Fast Food – McDonalds, Burger King, Hungry Jacks etc. Not worth it!
  • Risotto – the actual devil.

I don’t think any of the drugs out there do much to alleviate this condition. I keep Buscopan in my wallet all the time just in case of cramps but it’s really a last resort – I’d much rather deal with my symptoms with food. Also, if you’re packing a suitcase – add a hot water bottle 😉

What it boils down to for me, is hydration, movement and 90% good decisions.

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Amsterdam, Zaanse Schans and Zaandam, The Netherlands

So the very first thing we noticed when we arrived in The Netherlands is just how flat it is compared to Ireland – no wonder everybody is on bicycles! We started our trip in Zaandam (a little town about 15 minutes by train from the centre of Amsterdam) and then we moved in to the city for a few night after that. I had seen the Inntel Hotel Zaandam on Instagram a few years ago and decided to make it my mission to stay there someday. Mission accomplished!

Zaandam

Zaandam is a lovely little town; there was a fun-fair on during our visit so obviously John and I went on the rollercoaster. Pre-that though we had the most amazing pizza at de Pizza Bakkers in the main square in Zaandam – the staff were fabulous and it was the best pizza I’ve had in aaaaaages!!

Inntel Hotel Zaandam

You know it!

Zaanse Schans

We took a morning trip to an area called Zaanse Schans in the Zaandam region too. It’s a very relaxing area and the perfect spot for a wander after a huge breakfast – it’s a little village with a grouping of historic windmills. De Kat Colour Mill is the last working colour mill in the world – they’ve been producing natural dyes and pigments in this mill since 1782. You can take a self-guided tour for €4.50 (€2 for 6-12 year olds).

Zaanse Schans – so pretty!

Zaanse Schans area

Zaanse Schans

SO green!

De Kat Colour Mill

De Kat Colour Mill

Old school charm

Inner workings of De Kat

Amsterdam

AMSTERDAM!!

On arrival to Amsterdam (we did take a couple of trips in and out from Zaandam as it’s so close) the first thing we all noticed was the architecture – the buildings are quite quirky. Tall, tiny, crooked, cramped, palatial – they have it all! Camera click bait! We had a jam-packed few days in the city but managed to arrive on a morning when there was a market on – first stop: cheese, please! The market was the Biologische Noordermarkt, an Organic Farmers Market held every Saturday from 9am – 4pm. It’s 100% worth a stop. Right across the street from the market you’ll find Amsterdam’s famous apple pie spot, Winkel 43. There was a major queue for this so we didn’t check it out on this trip but it’s on the list for next time! We happened upon a tiny little Puglian/Italian cafe, Rigoletto, so we stopped here for a lovely breakfast. Amsterdam is a very walkable city, you could get a lot of it seen in 1 or 2 days. After the market we wandered in to the Amsterdam Tulip Museum. This one’s a shop at the front and a tulip museum at the back. Mum and I got lost perusing this spot for about an hour. We bought SO many tulips – Spring is going to be colourful! They have tulip bulbs here that you can send all over the world. The staff are very helpful. There’s a cheese museum next door too that’s worth a little perusing. There are cheese stores on every street corner – they’re the Starbucks of Amsterdam!

Touristy Things

We took a trip to the Heineken Brewery. I booked online around 2 hours beforehand. You take a self-guided tour which takes a couple of hours. Tickets are €18 and you get a couple of tokens to have two beers at the end of the tour. It’s an interactive tour and definitely worth a visit. We walked down here after a visit to the Flower Market/Bloemenmarkt. The market is a row of floating barges awash with an assortment of tulips. Bulbs, slippers, fridge magnets, knick knacks – any item you can put a tulip in or on 😉

I’d been following the Avocado Show on Instagram for a few years so HAD to have lunch there. It’s very close to the Heineken Brewery (address:Daniël Stalpertstraat 61 HS, 1072 XB Amsterdam) and if you like avocado then this is the place to have some lunch. The food is oh so colourful so I’m taking that as it’s oh so nutritious too!

We visited the Anne Frank Museum/Anne Frank Huis – I also booked this one online the night before we visited. We visited on the last booking slot of the evening. Thankfully it wasn’t too cold or rainy buy you so have to queue outside for your allocated time slot. Once inside you’ll receive headphones which you use for a self-guided tour. Tickets are €10 online plus a booking fee. It’s a small museum and the stairs are pretty small. You’re basically standing in a queue of people listening to your headphones. There’s a sombre vibe here, obviously, but it’s a must visit destination in Amsterdam.

My favourite part of our whole trip to Amsterdam was our visit to the Moco Museum. We only had time for one museum and there was a Banksy exhibition, Laugh Now, on at the Moco Museum so that was an easy decision (Moco Museum are open about the fact that Banksy did not collaborate with them on this exhibition nor did he consent to it. They sourced his work from collectors). I think my Dad is a Banksy convert now so that’s a great result!

 

Mushrooms, mushrooms, mushrooms

This is one GIGANTIC mushroom!

Cheese, please!

Amsterdam Tulip Museum

So much cheese!

Just need some vino…

So pretty!

Unicorn Doughnuts!!

Unicorn Doughnuts!!

Just a typical Amsterdam street

Aw 🙂

Flower Market

Tulips and more tulips and more tulips

Moco Museum

Banksy

Two Days in London

Celebration time!

We made an impromptu 1 year anniversary trip from Dublin to London on our way to a family wedding. Oh gosh I LOVE LONDON!! It’s such a bustling city, the weather was perfect and our hotel stay was just perfect. We just had a one night stay in the newly refurbished ‘The Principal‘ hotel right on the Piccadilly tube line at Russell Square, overlooking Russell Park. The location is excellent. And the bathrooms! Brass, marble and a roll-top bath and I’m 100% set. It’s currently in the midst of a soft opening so everything looks quite fresh and the staff are fabulous. I’ve never stayed anywhere with such lovely staff. There’s a nice coffee shop attached too, Burr & Co.

Welcome welcome welcome!

A welcome coffee

After checking in our first port of call was straight back on to the tube and off to London Bridge station to check out Borough Market. More specifically it was a coffee pitstop, to the Gentleman Baristas just outside the market to help himself get through the day. 4 out of 5 rating on this one. There was a queue for a little gelato spot called Gelateria 3Bis so obviously this was pitstop number 2. This one is worth a small queue so again, 4 out of 5. Pretty good start to the day! We ended up wandering around Covent Garden a few times so we popped back here after our gelato stop and went to check out the Deciem/Abnormal Beauty company little store. J’adore!

Ooh London!

Quintessentially London

Charing Cross

Oh what you come across…

DRURY LANE!!!!

The Ivy

What a beautiful day!

Guiding us towards the Gentleman Baristas

We had a 3pm booking for the Art Afternoon Tea at the Rosewood Hotel just off the Holborn tube stop. Afternoon Tea is served in the Mirror Room, a copper-hued beaut of a location. Again, epic bathrooms. That’s really how I judge a place!! We just missed the Rodin art tea by one day so we got in on the new Cubism/Pop Art theme. It was delicious and they gave us their signature Banksy concoction with a little candle to celebrate our anniversary; so lovely. It’s an exceptionally sweet afternoon tea so prepare for a major sugar rush!

Here we go!

Round 2!

Inside the signature dessert

Some more sugar was called for on our second day so we got ourselves to Belgravia to check out the Dominique Ansel Bakery and to see the queues for the Peggy Porschen Cakes. Holy crap that cookie shot with Tahitian vanilla milk is the tastiest morsel I’ve come across. Probably devoured it in 10 seconds flat. By probably I mean actually… I also tried their frozen s’more – also absolutely delicious. John got a Cuban sandwich (mainly because we had recently watched that Chef movie) and he loved it too. He was super impressed that a bakery actually sold something savoury. Yes, he’s the person that orders a cheese board as dessert. Opposites attract!!

So, this is a thing…

Peggy Porschen

Getting excited!

Current special: Strawberry Fields

Decisions, decisions!

Paris-London

Kinda talented

I’ve been waiting for this!

SO GOOD!

We also made a quick stop at the Victoria & Albert Museum, for a quick mooch around. The jewellery collection is astounding – Beyonce gifted her Papillon ring which I’m sure is worth a gazillion pounds so that’s definitely worth a look. We didn’t get too much of the museum done, more of a drive-by but I cannot wait to get back!

V&A

Stairs to nowhere

So ornate!

Hitchin, England

Just 1.5 hours outside of London (only 1 hour by train) lies the cutest little English village, Hitchin. We tripped up to Hitchin from London to see the lavender fields in full bloom at Hitchin Lavender. We stopped off in the actual village of Hitchin for a scrumptious lunch at The Groundworks cafe, situation just next to St. Mary’s Church. There’s such a lovely village vibe here, it would be a lovely place to stop over for a night.

Hitchin Lavender is just a 5 minute drive outside of Hitchin, just after Ickleford village. It costs £6 per person and you receive a little brown bag (and some scissors) which you can fill with as much lavender as you can squish in. Hitchin Lavender is a working farm and there’s a little tea-room where you can stop off for a quick cuppa. They have 25 miles of lavender here so plenty of space to get a picture with just you in it! Currently, they also have sunflower fields right next to the lavender and they look so, so beautiful. You can cut sunflowers too and it’s 50 pence per stem. There was a bridal party taking their photos (how amazing are those pictures going to look?!) and if you need to do something along those lines then there’s a £50 professional photography charge.

Well worth a visit!

All the options!

Miles and miles…

So happy!

Bee-metropolis

Gorgeous!

My haul

Sunflower Alley

The happiest flower

AND relax!

Our Wedding

So, 13 years in we thought we’d get this thing done!! We married in the countryside of the Dordogne region of southwest France last August. Yep, like nearly a whole year in 🙂 It’s definitely different being married – I love the feeling of having John as a husband. It’s really special. So I won’t go in to too much detail, I’ll just pop some photos below but here’s a little information just in case it’s of interest to anybody out there in the blogosphere.

As we’re not residents in France we had to have a civil ceremony back home in Ireland before our religious ceremony in France. It wasn’t that easy to organise from Australia to be honest but my Mum was a superstar helping out with SO much stuff.

Ireland

To get married in Ireland you need to provide 3 months notice. Here’s some information on the technical side of things. After our ceremony we took some photographs at Muckross House and Gardens (my Mum and Dad took photos here on their wedding day so it was something I really wanted to do hail or shine). We then had a small family lunch in the Europe Hotel in Killarney. We stayed here before flying to Paris the following day. Oh ya, John decided to go mountain climbing whilst feeling a little under the weather a couple of days before and ended up with full blown tonsillitis. He could barely speak for this ceremony and his doctor told him he shouldn’t fly to France. What the actual…

At Muckross House – my dress is by Rachel Gilbert from Australia

France

Anyhoo!! We celebrated our wedding at Eglise Saint Thomas in Excideuil and we had our reception at the Chateau La Durantie. Most of the wedding party stayed on the grounds with us for the weekend which was fantastic. We booked the chateau from Thursday afternoon to Monday morning and this was our itinerary:

  • Thursday: Everybody does their own thing. John and I frantically chase around the countryside buying alcohol and food. Also, Ciara has to visit the GP as John passes on his disease and I end up with a blocked ear!! NOOOOO – antibiotics for both of us on our wedding day!!
  • Friday: Our guests had the day to themselves to lounge by the pool or wander to the local village. In the evening we organised welcome drinks and lasagne at the Chateau.
  • Saturday: Wedding Day!!! Ceremony: 3pm. Reception back at the Chateau.
  • Sunday: Poolside BBQ and chill.
  • Monday: Guests loaded up on the bus and John and Ciara hit the road! Honeymoon time!

Starting the day with my girls

Getting dolled up! My dress is Bliss by Monique Lhuillier

Getting help!

Had to make sure I was in these babies correctly

As did this munchkin

Coz twirling’s the best!

Here we go!

Getting hitched

Deed done!

She did so well 🙂

Our Wedding Party

Little lavender lovely

Some us time

Coz obviously

Gentleman’s Lounge Area

Guest Book/Postcards

Simple dessert table

Our Cake Topper

Evening shenanigans

The perfect sunset

Oh ya, I had pockets…

 

Honeymooning in…PARIS!

We chose to finish off our honeymoon in très romantique Paris. We stayed in the Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg which is in a fantastic location, right around the corner from Concorde metro station and the Hotel de Crillon (side note: that’s one amaaaaaaazing hotel). The Sofitel is on the same street as the American embassy and there were police on each end of the street blocking vehicular access…just a little odd. The Sofitel has Hermès toiletries so let’s just say we now have quite a collection 😉 We didn’t really hang around the hotel at all (there’s not really that much to it), instead we spent as much time as possible traipsing the cobblestone streets. The hotel is just across the road from the Jardin des Tuileries so it’s really a wonderful location if you like pottering about.

We had cocktails at Les Ambassadeurs at the Hotel de Crilllon just around the corner one evening. One should be overdressed for this activity!! Luckily, I had my wedding shoes (read: rent) to ‘spruce up’ my holey jeans. HA!

Said shoes/babies…

We bought some tickets to the Moulin Rouge one afternoon for that evening. There are a few sittings most nights; we chose the 9pm with a bottle of champagne. The seating in there is super tight but the cabaret show is worth seeing. They do have live animals as part of the show which we were not expecting; not really necessary to be honest but something to bear in mind…

Moulin Rouge

Visiting the Louvre

We purchased tickets online a couple of days before visiting the Louvre. It was our first visit and hopefully not our last so we just decided to do a little of the museum, check out the Mona Lisa, good ol Venus di Milo and just a little bit more. We need to leave some stuff for future trips to Paris so we only went in for about 3 hours – I think you could spend a month just getting meandering the halls here.

Lots of people queue outside the Pyramid but if you go downstairs in to the shopping centre, Le Carrousel du Louvre, you can pick up tickets in the tobacco shop, La Civette du Louvre if you fancy skipping any queues 🙂

Carrousel Arc de Triomphe

The Louvre Pyramid

Pavillon Richelieu

You can pick up Louvre Tickets here

We used this entrance – in the Carrousel du Louvre shopping centre

Already lost

Getting all artsy

Beautiful inside, beautiful outside

Venus di Milo

View from inside the Louvre

She’s beautiful at night too

Visiting Musée de l’Orangerie

After a trip to the Louvre it only makes sense to walk down the beautifully manicured Jardin des Tuileries to the Musée de l’Orangerie. Although we’ve been before it’s going to be forever on my list to do in Paris since Monet is without question the greatest artist that ever did live. For sure next visit we’ll do Monet’s garden in Giverny.

Jardin des Tuileries

Oh to look at this Renoir every day…

Renoir

Miles of Monet

Getting a closer look

Water Lillies

 

Visiting the Eiffel Tower

We took an evening trip to visit the Eiffel Tower after pizza and a wander by the Seine one evening. It was a last minute decision (like most experiences when we’re travelling) but when there’s no queue you just seize the day!

Sunsets

Pont Alexandre III

The perfect evening

Eiffel Tower

In all her splendour

I don’t even know how to explain this chap!

What can I see!!

View from the Eiffel Tower

Oh so pretty!

Rue Gustave Eiffel

 

Parisian Wanderings

Are there any ugly buildings in Paris?

Strolling the Seine

Coffee stop!

Shop fronts

Petite street strolls

Les Deux Magots, Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Saint-Germain-des-Prés