A blog about travel, books and navigating your twenties in one piece

Thursday, 29 September 2016

On My Happy List #08

So I'm a week into lectures and slowly getting back into the swing of things (things being having responsibilities and assignments once again) and so I thought, while I'm in a rare state of feeling like I'm vaguely on top of everything, I'd spread a bit of positivity and let you know what's been making me happy as of late! Let's get straight to it...

1 // Making my new room feel like home - Being a student who lives away from home inevitably means that you end up moving around quite a lot in a short space of time so it can be a bit hard to feel settled in one house. Because of that, there's really nothing like adding homely touches to your student room and, having put up some fairy lights, photos and having made other changes which make my new room feel familiar has really made a world of difference! The photo above is the wall above my desk and one of my favourite parts of the room although I've still got a few more photos I want to put up there. I might share some more photos at some point once I'm completely happy with it if you'd be interested in seeing that!

2 // Trying new things and having them pay off - I mentioned in my currently post a couple of weeks ago that I was a bit unsure whether to try some new things this year at uni but, since I said then that I would because I realised I had nothing to lose, I decided to give them a go. I'm now trying out Korfball for the first time and have volunteered for a few societies that I never got around to doing last year. And do you know what? I'm really glad that I did! I've only had two Korfball sessions but I'm starting to enjoy it a lot and have met some really nice people through it already. It just goes to show that stepping outside of your comfort zone isn't always the worst thing in the world and I should probably go ahead and do it more often!

3 // Enjoying the reading for my modules - I know, tragic right? But I have to say, apart from a couple of pieces of reading I had to do on Monday night that I couldn't for the life of me get to grips with, I've been finding the reading so far this term genuinely interesting. Module reading will always be a bit of a tedious task but it makes it so much nicer if you find it engaging so it's actually one for the happy list at the moment!

4 // Making the most of the weekend - This last weekend was pretty great. I had the best night out I've had in a long time with my friend Ellie on the Friday, a lie in on the Saturday followed by a cinema trip to see Bridget Jones' Baby (which I loved!), dinner out with my housemates and bowling and then a very lazy Sunday that involved a lot of module reading but also catching up on tv and relaxing. It's so easy for the weekend to go by without you even realising it so getting out and actually doing stuff at least for part of it makes me super happy.

5 // Looking back at photos from the Summer - When I was deciding what photos to put up in my room (a very difficult job when you have a ridiculous number of photos from the past few years!) I ended up taking a flick through all of my new ones from this Summer that I had printed just before coming back to uni. It was so nice to spend a bit of time looking through them all and realising what an incredible Summer it was. Good memories are the best and being able to go through them all made me feel very happy indeed!

What's been making you happy as of late?

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

A City Break Guide | My Top Tips

Summer may be pretty much over for us Brits (and, to be honest, I'm secretly quite excited for Autumn), but whatever time of year it is, a city break makes the perfect holiday. As you'll probably already know because I've been banging on about it basically non-stop, I was lucky enough this Summer to travel to and explore five European cities. It taught me a lot about the best things to do to prepare for a city break and what's really useful to know/have when you're there. So, just in case you're thinking of planning one anytime soon, I thought today I'd throw together my top five tips to help you make the most of your city break.

1 // Book to stay in a central location - Being a student, I planned my holidays this Summer to be as inexpensive as possible and tried to save money wherever I could. One thing I think is definitely worth the extra cost though is booking an Airbnb, hotel or hostel that's in a great location relative to the sights of the city you're going to visit. It makes everything so much easier when you're there; you don't have to worry about getting home if you're out late, you'll have more time to fit things in because you won't have to spend time getting into the centre and out again, and you'll probably even save money as you won't have to fork out as much on public transport or cabs getting to places. All in all, this is the one place I'd recommend spending a bit more money as there are so many pros to being in a good location.

2 // Research what you want to do/see before going - City breaks are typically short and no more than a long weekend, so you'll want to spend as much time as possible out and exploring. To make sure you have the maximum time to do this, I'd really suggest at the very least having a list of some things you know you definitely want to do before you get there. I'm a planner by nature so I like to make a rough itinerary as soon as I arrive in a city but I always make sure I've put together a list of things I know would be fun to do before going there, meaning I can just look up the logistics of them when I get there rather than having no idea beforehand. I've got into the habit of bookmarking travel blog posts of places I think I might want to go and I can't tell you how handy they've been this Summer. Real people's recommendations are the ones that I've found are the most trustworthy and I've so far never been let down when following ones from blogs I read.

3 // Look up articles for restaurant suggestions, don't just rely on Trip Advisor - Knowing which restaurants are going to be good and affordable just by looking from the outside can be one of the hardest things to judge in a completely foreign city. The best way of finding some real gems that I've found is looking up articles completely devoted to the best budget restaurants of a certain city. This was a complete life-saver in Verona, Venice and Paris for me with the following articles one, two and three and I honestly had some of the best food I've ever tasted because of these recommendations. On the times I tried using Trip Advisor to find places to eat, I struggled to have much luck and found that articles like the ones above were much more clear and offered a range of options.

4 // Eat in when you can or have picnics - Of course, one of the best parts of going abroad is trying the local cuisine and treating yourself to meals out. However, if you're trying to save your pennies a great way of doing that is to eat in for the majority of your stay if you're in self-catered accommodation and to just eat out a few times as a treat. Alternatively, you can really save money by having picnic rather than restaurant lunches. When my friend Rosie and I were in Paris we had an amazing picnic which included salami and brie baguettes, fresh fruit and chocolate in the Jardin du Luxembourg and it was my favourite lunch there. The food was great (picnic-y lunches are my favourite) and we got to look around the beautiful gardens - a real win-win and definitely something I'd suggest if you stumble upon somewhere that would make a good picnic spot.

5 // If you can afford it, pay for mobile data to use maps - Completely inessential but something that makes life a bit easier when you have no idea where you're going (or just a truly terrible sense of direction like me), being able to use Google Maps abroad is incredibly useful. It can be really fun to get lost in new cities and eventually find your way to wherever you were looking for but to have the ease of knowing you can just open a maps app should you get lost to help you find your way is great and something I'd say is worth investing in if your network provider has a good deal!

So those are my top five tips to get the most out of your city break! If you've got any planned please go ahead and let me know where you're going - I love hearing about other people's travels and adding to my very long list of places I want to see!

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Currently #11

Well, somehow it's been three months since I wrote my last currently post. It feels like all I did was blink and yet here we are; a new season, shorter days, and the sense of a fresh start I find I always feel at the start of Autumn. And so, with all these changes, I thought it was about time I checked in again and let you know what's been happening recently.

(Taken in Cornwall, August 2016)

Reading :: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. I don't know how to describe how much I am loving this. I've loved Jodi Picoult ever since I read Nineteen Minutes at the age of fourteen and have since devoured every book by her that I've picked up. In my opinion she's one of the greatest writers of the twenty-first century. Her meticulous research into the issues she explores in every one of her novels is nothing short of admirable and completely evident in how much detail she gives in her books. And Small Great Things is no exception. I'm not going to write too much about it now because I want to write a full review when I finish it and closer to the date of its publication in November (I was lucky enough to be allowed to take a proof copy home when on my work placement at Hodder) but, when it comes out, I really urge you to pick it up. This book couldn't be more important in this day and age and I think it's crucial reading for everyone. (Also, as a side note, isn't it just great to read a book that you can't for the life of you put down because it's so engaging?? It's a really rare occurrence and I'm loving it at the moment!)

Eating :: Chilli. I've just moved into a house in Exeter in the past few days and, as I was in catered halls last year, this is the first time I'm cooking and budgeting how much I can spend on food for myself. I'm enjoying it so far and have loved cooking at home over the summer as well but my absolute favourite thing to make at the moment is chilli. Partly because it's easy to make (and in big portions so it lasts longer) and partly because it's so darn tasty, I can't get enough of it and may have had it for dinner three nights in a row last week when I was still at home...

Thinking about :: New opportunities and whether to take them. The great thing about being at uni is that you have the chance at the start of every year to join so many clubs or societies and try out a whole range of things which will probably never be as accessible or easy to do at any other point in your life. The hard thing is when it involves going outside of your comfort zone. As important as it is to do that and as much as I know from past experiences that it pays off, it's still a little daunting. But I know there's no point in sitting back and not trying new things just because I'm a little unsure about them. And now that I've written that I basically have to go for it because otherwise I'll look back at this in a few months and wonder why I didn't just go for it - currently posts really do keep me in check you see!

Watching :: EVERYTHING. All of the good TV comes back around this time of year and it's the only time I find myself watching around six shows at the same time. From The Great British Bake Off to Our Girl to Victoria, TV is pretty good at the moment and I'm hugely enjoying all three of those. Oh, and I've also become completely addicted to Gilmore Girls. Yes, I know I'm about ten years (or more) late to this party but I've only just started watching it on Netflix and I'm obsessed

Listening to :: As I said in my last post, I can't get enough of Lauren Aquilina's new album 'Isn't It Strange?' so that's what I'm listening to, pretty much non-stop!

Loving :: Being back in Exeter. This summer was incredible and I really had the time of my life but four months off was definitely long enough and, as much as I'm sure I'm going to be taking back saying this once lectures start next week, I feel really ready to study and get stuck into my new modules. Who am I kidding, this feeling will probably last all of a day come Monday, but for now I'm looking forward to it!

And that's my mind dump done! I hope it was mildly interesting and that you're all having a wonderful week!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Isn't It Strange?

As much as I love music and like sharing the odd song I can't get out of my head on here, I don't think I've ever talked about a whole album before. Unless it comes to an artist I completely adore (ie. Mumford & Sons, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Bear's Den), I rarely listen to an entire album and instead tend to just add specific tracks I like the sound of to my Spotify playlist. 

But 'Isn't It Strange?' by Lauren Aquilina I love in its entirety. I first heard a song from it this weekend in Hannah Witton's favourites video (side note: I also love Hannah and think her YouTube channel is really great) and decided to add Lauren's debut album to my current playlist to see what I thought.

As I started hearing different tracks from the album when I shuffled my playlist I realised how much I love the sound of Lauren's songs. They don't all sound the same, but in my opinion they have their own sound overall which makes them distinct from anything else I have on my playlist at the moment. That might just be because I tend to listen to quite similar styles of music, I'm not sure. All I know is that every time one of the tracks from 'Isn't It Strange?' comes on, I feel strangely energised and want to hear more.

So, over the past few days, you could say a bit of an obsession has developed with this album. The sound is amazing, Lauren's voice is smooth and beautiful, and the lyrics really steal the show for me. Each song is so relevant in that they're about different aspects of modern relationships - be it the games people play in 'Wicked Games' or how weird it is to have someone who was once such a big part of your life become not a part of it at all after a break up in 'Suddenly Strangers'.

I think this album will really resonate with any young adult because of the themes it deals with and would fit right in to anyone's playlist. My personal favourite tracks are Midnight Mouths, Wicked Game and Suddenly Strangers so, if nothing else, give those a listen and let me know what you think! If you're looking for something new to listen to, I'd really recommend giving Lauren Aquilina's debut album a go, I absolutely love it.
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