Things I won’t miss about commuting 


Things I won’t miss about commuting 

I am eagerly looking forward to my new job. 

Out of the whole prospect of taking on a completely new role in a new hospital, a new area and taking a 9-5 job as opposed to shift work I’m used to, one of the things I’m looking forward to the most is not having to commute via public transport for hours on end at stupid o’clock in the morning. 
I’ve complied a list of everything that sucks about commuting by public transport (from London Underground, National Rail and more recent addition, bicycle) to keep my excitement going a bit longer prior to starting next month.

I’m sure with time I could make a list about commuting by car and having to use my car for work use, but I can’t comment on that until I do it. 

If that sucks even more I’ll be sure to do a blog post on it, but I really can’t see that list being longer than this one. 

Here goes…. 

  • The mass panic looking at the busy platform and how many potential train seats are left and wondering how you can blag a seat by complaining about a made up ailment. I somehow don’t think “sorry I’m about to take over an Children’s A&E department for 13 hours which will probably busy horrendously busy, so do you mind if I actually try and sit down / sleep whilst I can? Cheers mate” would really cut it. 
  • Having good intentions for your hour long journey (reading, writing, sifting through my to do list) then spend it catching up on sleep. Every. Single. Time.
  • People giving you ‘the look’ when they plonk themselves next to you after you’ve just done a 13 hour night shift and smell of god knows what. “No love, I have in fact already been to work, saving children’s lives I’ll have you know and do you really think I would choose to look like this first thing in the morning?” Just go sit elsewhere and leave me alone if it offends you that much. 
  • Men. Speaking really loud into their mobiles at 6AM about some work related thing or other that really could have waited until they got there. Like, who are you even taking to at this ungodly hour and have you ever heard of an indoor voice?!
  • Having to watch women apply their make up on the train. I mean seriously, can’t you just give yourself 10 more minutes in the morning and do it at home or once you’re at work? Cause then I (and everyone else on the carriage) wont have to sit through the tense 20 minute application of your mascara praying for the train to jolt just at the right moment. Just don’t do it love, you look ridiculous and EVERYONE is watching you. 
  • Having to rely on the Underground, in particular the Metropolitan Line (before I moved out to Bicester). Enough said. 
  • THAT awkward position. You sitting on chair. Male standing and holding hand rail above you. Do. Not. Look. At. His. Crotch. Best get my book out and pretend to read on my lap.
  • The revolting position. Being on a crammed train in the ‘summer’ at rush hour and being rammed under some sweaty guys pit for at least 30 minutes. Mmmmm. #smallgirlproblems.
  • It alway deciding to rain JUST as I’m leaving home or work and have to cycle in it and end up looking totally wrecked before I’ve even started work in muddy trousers and lion mane hair. YAY. 
  • The fact that my bike locks alone weigh 2kg let alone my work gear itself…
  • The fact that currently, based on the average amount of times I travel into work a week (4), times the amount of time spent each day commuting (3-4hours a day there and back), I spent approximately 8 hours a week traveling. That’s the length of a standard working day and I’ve not even included work in that! 
  • In addition to the above, my monthly train fare is currently the same amount of money as what I receive for my Inner City Allowance, so I’m actually no financially better off working in London. Yay me! 

Now do you see why I’m excited to start? No more 5:40am wake ups, no more nights and helloooo weekends! 

Weird.

Till next time! 

Gem x

Dearest Vicki


Dearest Vicki 

Today more than ever I am reminded of you. You probably don’t even remember me but I want you to know what an impact you had on my life. 

It was devastating to find out what happened and broke me more than I actually thought it would when I found out.

You see, we met on holiday in our early teens, wrote each other (yes like pen pals – the days before broadband internet and Facebook) for around a year and then fizzled out, as most holiday friendships do.

Not only that, our families got on ridiculously well on holiday too. Also had 3 children, all scarily the same age and so we all hit it off together but in different ways. 

What you probably didn’t realise though, was just how cool I thought you were! I was so stoked to have made a friend on holiday who knew nothing about me and who thought I was cool too… I think. 

Looking back at these letters always give me a giggle. They must have been back in 2002 as we speak a lot about music, in particular Destiny’s Child, Blue and Avril Lavigne. 

Even though we had many different interests, we always made the effort to write to each other, even if it was months apart at a time and you always asked about me. In particular, through the time of my parents splitting up. I can’t even remember what I even wrote about it come to think of it or how I came out with it, as to everyone else I kept pretty quiet about it and myself to myself as always.

It wasn’t until I began to clear my room out a few years back now, when I came across your letters in my memory box. 

Oh, I’ll see if she’s on Facebook now and maybe catch up. 

A quick log in to Facebook to see if you were on there… I remember that instant sinking feeling in my chest that all I could find was a memorial page. 

Even looking on there I had no idea what had actually happened. How could someone so full of life, a girl that really took life by the horns, suddenly just go in a blink?  

I remember crying to Mum about it and from there, decided to get in contact with Vicki’s Mum, not to find out what happened, but to give my deepest sympathy.

Since then, my Mum and now partner have been in contact with Vicki’s Parents, have got back in contact where and even met up on occasion. So it’s not all doom and gloom. 

I’ve brought two friends back together and while I don’t have my friend in real life, the memories we do share more than make up for that.

Happy Birthday Vicki.

Love Gem x

Cutting Myself Some Slack

I was writing out my Yays and Nays post the other evening when I just stopped. 

I didn’t want to write about that. 

I wanted to write that in fact, due to a lot of stresses over the last month, I’m going to actually write what I want to write right now, I’m not going to worry about what people think. 

This is half the reason I don’t blog as often as I ‘should’ be, because I constantly wonder not only what people will think of me as a blogger, but every think of every part of me and it’s exhausting. 

Even debating whether to post this or not has taken me the best part of a week to do.

It’s exhausting because I don’t just have this mindset towards blogging, I have this mindset in most other areas of my life. 

What I needed, was someone to tell me how to process all 101 thoughts in constantly going round in my head, which get so piled up on top of each other, it feels as though I don’t have the brain capacity to know how to deal with them – and if I do – I worry about the potential consequences doing something about it.

A vicious circle indeed. 

This revelation has not come out of the blue. 

It wasn’t until an unfortunate incident at work last month that got to me much more personally than it would normally do, to the point where I could no longer actually function. I literally came to a standstill for 3 days straight while my brain tried to process not only this incident, but everything else I’d been trying to juggle.

I talk with J and my Mum all the time about work stresses and cannot thank and appreciate them enough for their support and advice – but this time I needed someone to tell me why this incident affected me more than it should and how the hell I can begin to clear the chaos that goes on inside my brain on a daily basis. 

I decided I needed to get out of this state. After discussing it through with J – I decided to do something I would never normally do. 

Speak to a complete stranger about it all in attempt to gain another view of things as I could only focus on what was in my brain, but even that itself I couldn’t focus on. 

After a couple of sessions it was clear that in fact this self doubt and feeling the need to constantly please people has always been there deep down. Ive struggled to make friends at school, and when I do, I’m so worried about loosing them I don’t show them any signs of weakness incase they feel as though I’m demanding for them. Instead I’ve always been the friend who will listen and support at a moments notice, which is why I feel a lot of them rely (and I’m happy to give it of course) on me as a go to source of advice and support. 

I have now been given little affirmations to say to myself when things get too much and attempting to find my own way of de-stressing (at the moment it’s going for walks and keeping a to do list and reflection diary). Although when I started this and went back to tell this person , she told me I was still putting pressure on myself to want to correct everything right away and that I will slowly learn with time that not everything going on needs to be sorted out right now- just face one problem at a time and the others will naturally resolve as I’ll then have more ‘capacity’ to deal with them. 

That’s not to say I’m going to stop caring about any one anymore, but I just need to recognise when I need to slow things down and take time out to look after myself, to cut myself some slack in a bid to avoid these massive build ups leading to break downs. 

I need to remember that while I may only have a select group of friends and family, these are invaluable relationships that I have built up and should remember that these people love me for who I am and that I shouldn’t feel ashamed at all of showing signs of weakness. It’s time to use my support group and actually take from it as opposed to just giving. 

I’m so glad I sought help, because that in itself I felt was a massive weakness in myself. I am now recognising the need to slow down and care less. I wouldn’t say I’m a ‘totally changed new person’ but I sure am making progress. 

Till next time 

Gem x 

The Yearly Rundown (2016)

Every year pretty much since I started blogging (even back in my livejournal days!) I have done this yearly review.

I just love having something to look back on in the years to come and see how far I’ve come. This year for sure has been quite something! Apologies for the lack of blog posts this year – but if you read on, you can see I’ve been a bit busy…

In 2016:

1. What did you do that you’d never done before? Bought my first home, went scuba diving and got myself a ginger cat!


2. Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year? To exercise more, buy a house and improve clinical skills at work. Well the last two happened..! For 2017 I want to go back to number 1 on last years last years list which – to exercise more. I did about 7 weeks of the couch to 5K over Jan/Feb and then gave up. Back on it in January. Need to look up Zumba classes around Bicester too. Although I am cycling to and from Bicester station now so that’s something..!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? One of my friends had a gorgeous baby girl, Emilia 🙂

4. Did anyone close to you die? No.

5. What countries did you visit? France, Spain (Barcelona and Valencia) and Furteventura


6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016? I honestly feel like I’m not lacking anything right now. Life is pretty darn sweet…

7. What dates from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory? Moving into my first home with J was a pretty big date and J finishing his Nursing degree at University.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Passing the Advanced Paediatric Life Support Course, Buying a House and getting the balls to try scuba diving 💪

9. Did you suffer illness or injury? Not much apart from the odd D&V 👌

10. What was the best thing you bought?  House, Tigger (cat) and Holiday to Fuerteventura with J

11. Whose behavior merited celebration? Mum for supporting me greatly with the house buying and J for still putting up with me 😂

12. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? An old college friend of mine and someone I’d rather not mention as they’ll probably read this.

13. Where did most of your money go? Household Appliances and Furniture..!

14. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Again – Holiday and House..!

15. What song/album will always remind you of 2016? Craig David – When the baseline drops. Welcome back Craig David!!

16. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Happier!
ii. thinner or fatter? The same
iii. richer or poorer? Poorer but worth it ☺️

17. What do you wish you’d done more of? Exercising.

18. What do you wish you’d done less of? Worrying and Procrastinting

19. How will you be spending Christmas?: I spent it working night shifts but managed to see family in between. Looking forward to New Years with friends ☺️

20. Did you fall in love in 2016? Only more in love than I was already – now that I have two favourite boys ☺️


21. How many one night stands in this last year? None.

22. What was your favorite TV program this year?  Probably Bake Off and surprisingly Planet Earth. Proper grown up now!

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? Not hate – but dislike yes.

25. What was the best book you read? Harry Potter 1-3

26. What was your greatest musical discovery? Seeing Elshay back in Cafe 1001 took me by complete surprise. Miss going to underground gigs and seeing unsigned talent first hand.


27. What did you want and get? A House and a Cat – got both 👌

28. What did you want and not get? Nothing springs to mind

29. What was your favorite film of this year? Probably Fantastic Beasts and where to find them. Also enjoyed finally watching Inside Out.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 28 and did a joint birthday do at Junkyard Golf Club in Shoreditch and was treated my J to a slap up meal at the Crazy Bear in Beaconsfield


31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? B big more productive with my time and having more time for family / friends.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016? Not greatly changed to be honest.

33. What kept you sane? J, for sure.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you like the most?

35. What political issue stirred you the most? Erm, Brexit?!

36. Who did you miss? Seeing close friends more often.

37. Who was the best new person you met? Some new work colleagues 


**Please excuse  the mid-nights, eye bag posing **

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016: If you put your mind to it, you can and will achieve it.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year? “If you gave me a chance I would take it – It’s a shot in the dark but I’ll make it – Know with all of your heart, you can’t shake me – When I am with you, there’s no place I’d rather be”

Best of 2016:

1. Party: My brothers Disney Themed 30th!

2. Show: Didn’t see any *hides in shame*

3. Album: KT Tunstall’s new music

4. Movie: Fantatsic Beasts and where to find them

5. Song: Craig David – When the baseline drops

6. Experience: Scuba Diving and moving into new home with J.


7. Concert: Erm… don’t think I went to any? 😱

8. Book: Harry Potter 1-3

9. Month: May, August, September and October

10. Day: A friends wedding in May and Moving House Day in October

Hopes for 2017:

1. Predict something that you think will happen in 2017?: It’s going to take a lot to beat it…!

2. What do you hope changes about your country?: People see the benefits of the NHS and stop abusing it

3. What do you hope for yourself?: That I get a little fitter and progress further in my career

4. What do you hope for your family?: That we all remain in good health.

5. What do you hope for your best friend?: That they’re happy.

During 2016:

1. Where were you when it began?: In bed trying to sleep between day shifts

2. Did you stay up?: Till 12:30

3. What was your new year wish?: Didn’t make one

4. How many boy/girlfriends?: One.

5. Break up?:  0 👌

6. Have any crushes?: Nope.

7. Care to mention names?:

8. New friends?: Few work colleagues

9. Had to say goodbye?: Nope.

10. Missed anyone?: Some close friends

11. Win anything?: Just at life 👌

12. Best place you went to?: Valencia


13. Worse place you went to?: Can’t think of any.

14. Happiest moment?: Going on holiday with J, watching friends get married, getting my own house and bringing Tigger (cat) home

15. How was your birthday?: Pretty different trying out Junkyard Golf and experiencing dinner at the Crazy Bear.

16. Best present?: Dinner at the Crazy Bear with new dress & heels to go with it, Smart TV for new home, and 2 glider lessons and membership for Bicester Gliding Centre.

The best present I got someone was J’s birthday present – Scuba Diving with Penguins in Torquay’s zoo and aquarium.


Well that concludes an awesome year that was 2016.

My goal for 2017 is mainly just to use my time and plan things a bit better, without giving myself too much of a hard time! Blogging more is definitely on the list though. Maybe I should start using an actual paper diary again. Yes. That worked well before, when I actually used it that is…


Till next time (year)!

Gem x

Feeling Festive with The Kettle Shed

This last week I have definetly been feeling more in the festive spirit, especially now that the house is coming more together, the Christmas decorations are up and one thing that Christmas focuses around massively of course is the incredible food and drink on offer!

Fortunately for me I was sent some some lovely Christmas Infusions from The Kettle Shed (whose tea I have reviewed before me here) to trial over the festive period. 

Gingerbread

The gorgeous smell of this tea hits you as you open the box and smells exactly like gingerbread. Made with rooibos, ginger cinnamon and vanilla, this smell comes off strongly in the flavour too and definitely  has a significant kick of ginger to it!

On the instructions it says you can have it with or without milk – I tried it with both and preferred it without the milk to keep the flavour more locked in.  

As the ginger and vanilla had quite a kick, I’ve been adding a drop of honey or half teaspoon of sugar to add a touch of sweetness to it – but I always add a touch of sugar or honey to any tea i have (such a sweet tooth). That being said – its definitely a warming and enjoyable brew.



Eggnog 

A more subtle flavour – eggnog is quite similar in taste to the gingerbread but less ginger-bitter and has a much more subtle taste. It has pretty similar ingredients to the gingerbread (replacing the ginger for nutmeg) and again can be had with or without milk (again I preferred it without milk and a touch of sugar). 

What I love about The Kettle Shed is not only is the tea packed full of antioxidants, the packaging is completely recyclable and the fuso bags are also completely biodegradable. What’s more, every box of fuso tea bags you buy The Kettle Shed donates tea to homeless shelters across the UK. How lovely! 

These brews are perfect after those days of attempting to get 101 things done on your to-do list and leaving yourself exhausted, these brews are lovely to come home and just put your feet up with (biscuits optional but recommended..!) 

Next on my list of their brews to try is Carrot Cake which just sounds DEVINE. You can see their full list of available brews over here.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Till next time! 

Gem x  

Yays and Nays #17

So my last post was 11th August and my last Yays and Nays a whopping 3 months ago. Sorry about that. I really need to stop starting these posts by apologising all the time. Getting a real sense of deja vu. More so, I really need to start my scheduling in my diary again so I can schedule in time to actually blog.
Anyway, due to my lack of blogging, this Yays and Nays update is, like I said, a whopping 3 months worth! Hopefully after reading what’s been going on, you’ll hopefully see why I haven’t blogged in 3 months and forgive me..?! Here goes:

Yays! 

Hughenden Manor
So in an aim to make the most of the summer and my days off in between shifts and visit more parts of the U.K. –  myself and J decided to spend the afternoon at Hughenden Manor. You can read more about Hughenden on my previous post here.

West Wycombe Carters Steam Fair
Me and J went to a steam fair! We actually had a weekend off together and I think this is what mostly sparked the excitement of going to a fair. But it was a lovely evening out and enjoyed doing more child like things like riding the most rattly rides and eating a bag of mini doughnuts (I’m a doughnut as opposed to a candy floss girl) finished off by a firework display – perfect!

Oxford Day Out
In a bid to get to know my soon to be nearest City, I took one of my days off and explored the city of Oxford. Lucky for me it was on a scorcher of a day and spent the afternoon trapsing up and down the little streets and unique shops – albeit a little bit sweaty and avoiding getting burnt. It’s mad, Oxford is only an hour from me now and yet never really given it a second look. Well, I sure have now and only felt love for the place. Very old streets and a mix of old/new stores giving it really is the best of both worlds.

My Birthday
My birthday this year was a very enjoyable one and was spread out over an entire weekend! I did a joint birthday do with one of my work friends and decided to give the new Junkyard Golf in Shoreditch a go. It was a laugh and despite it being quite disorganised in terms of layout and what seemed to be lack of staff on – it was a good evening catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while. The Sunday was spent with family having a gorgeous Sunday lunch. J brought the most incredible homemade cake too – a chocolate coca-cola cake topped with M&Ms, Skittles, Buttons, Rolos and Fruit Pastilles – oh and edged with chocolate fingers! A truly lovely day and once again, glorious weather too!


The last installment was on Monday (my actual birthday) and was spoilt rotten by family, friends and of course J. I got to pick from 3 options of dresses and heels he had picked out and was treated to dinner out at the Crazy Bear in Beaconsfield (which if you didn’t know – is a pretty swanky restaurant/hotel). So Definetley an awsome birthday all round. Definitely made turning 28 that little bit easier..!

Camping Torquay
The end of August, J finally got to use the birthday present I had got him back in May – diving with Penguins in Torquay’s Living Coasts Zoo & Aquarium. As the trip itself was quite far (a good 4 hour drive) we decided to make the most of it and do another camping trip for 3 nights. Which I think was well needed as we had both been feeling the strain pretty hard – myself at work and house buying and J finishing University (helloooo nurse!). He absolutely loved it and the smile on his face after was just priceless!

Fuerteventura
Last week myself and J came back from a well needed 2 week holiday in Fuerteventura (I know I keep saying “well needed day out” and “well needed holiday”, but nursing full time you definitely do need them)!

It was awsome finally getting to meet everyone J goes on about (after teaching scuba diving out there for 5 years prior to studying Nursing). We spent the first week relaxing and exploring the island and the second week I took the plunge and went Scuba Diving! Scuba diving is something I never pictured myself doing due to such anxiety towards it. With J though I completely trusted him with all my heart and not only tried it – but loved it and went on to complete my Open Water course whilst there too! The first dive did scare me of course – but was an overall ‘good’ scary feelings. After the initial panicking, by the 3rd dive in I was eager to get straight in! Looking forward to diving elsewhere now on our future holidays together.

And last but not least…

I completed on my house!
I’m now a proud owner of a 2 bed house in Bicester! Going to be spending the next couple of weeks decorating/ furnishing and hoping to be moved in properly by the end of the month – with J of course too. Very exciting times indeed!

Nays!

Well, this one is kind of a nays – but saying goodbye to two close friends whilst they go off traveling over the next few months. A yay for them though, finally going and doing what they’ve always wanted to. Takes me back to my traveling trip 3 years ago that’s for sure – I just know they’ll have the time of their lives and learn and grow so much from it.

So that’s my 3 month round up! Hopefully I’ll have a bit more time to blog more once I’m properly settled in so hold fire..!

Till next time!
Gem x

Hughenden Manor, High Wycombe 

On a gorgeous sunny day last month, me and J finally had a day off together with no plans. We (mainly I) decided that I wanted to make the most of the day and head out and explore! We stuck to the local area and decided on the National Trust site Hughenden Manor in High Wycombe.

We do love a good picnic we do, and so doing as we do best, selected the finest freshest baked goods from the local Waitrose. No Tesco Meal Deals, no sirree! 

On a arrival to the site, we waved my parents NT passes (shush, I intend on getting my own soon..!) and parked up no problem. 


Hughenden Manor was the country home of the Victorian statesman and charismatic fellow Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli who lived here from 1848 – 1881. 

The Manor itself has certainly been refurbished since then, but has been done very well and in still in keeping with the era. 


The formal gardens to the front and back of the manor have been recreated based on the original designs of Mary Anne Disraeli. Surrounding the manor and gardens there are ample pathways for you to explore more of the parkland surrounding it.


We were lucky enough to time our visit just right to catch a free 30 minute talk on the history of Benjamin Desralei, his character, his role within the government and royal family and his personal life and aspirations to become a novelist. The talk really covered all the basics and was truely insightful and surprisingly not dull. 

Not only did we catch this talk but we also managed to catch a second talk whilst here – in how the Manor House was used during the war and how pilot maps were made here to allow pilots to track and plan their attacks. I do have quite an interest in WW2 history, in particular aircraft used, so found this quite interesting too.
Overall, I really enjoyed my day out here at Hughenden Manor with J and was really nice making a day off a relaxing but still a somewhat productive one..! 

For more information on Hughenden Manor, including prices, facilities and directions, head over to the National Trust Website 

Till next time! 

Gem x

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Yays and Nays #16

So it’s that time again for another Yays and Nays round-up. If anyone is actually keeping track, these posts will now be coming you every 2 months (so that i actually have enough to write about in each post…) May and June was pretty lovely all in all with some added exciting news to boot, so without further ado…

Yays

Visit to Bath and Lacock village

With a couple of days off in between shift work, I decided to make the most of it and visit the beautiful city of Bath. I hadn’t been back here since I was little so visiting was like somewhere new entirely. Bath is steeped in history and seriously recommend a walking tour of it if visiting. The Roman Baths were of course a main highlight, but walking through the beautiful cobbled back streets as just as enjoyable. Fortunately I had fab weather at the time (#whatthehellhashappenedtosummer?) so really felt like a little break away even if it was a one night hostel stay. 


I also hit up the beautiful village of Lacock village on the route home and despite not going into the Abbey, was really nice just to have a wander around (super scenic) for an hour or so before carrying on home. You can check out my post here on it for a better write up of it. 



Solo trip to Barcelona and Valencia

Ok, so yeah I couldn’t help but go away again on my annual leave. As other friends (and half) were working, I decided in a solo adventure to Barcelona (which I had visited 8 years ago) and intrigued to see what Valencia had to offer so check that out too. Again you can read up more about what I got up to and why I fell in love with Valencia using the links above. 



Bluebird Tea Mixology Class

For my birthday present last year (August FYI) my two besties got me a tea mixology class at Bluebird in Brighton. Due to shifts/ baby’s/ limited available slots we kept having to postpone it but finally got to do it last week. I didn’t really know what to expect, but it was such a cool experience and learnt so much about pretty much every type of tea possible. We got to sample anything we liked, taught how to brew certain teas correctly and even concoct our own samples to take with us. May have spent a fair amount on tea stuff, but it was just all so nice! Expect a blog post about this soon. Definitely recommended to any tea lover out there! #teaovercoffeeanyday



Airkix Indoor Skidiving 

Another joint present that me and J got for Christmas (and again finally got round to doing) was Indoor Skydiving with Airkix! So much fun and right up my street. We also used this day out as our anniversary day (as we were both working the actual date we met) and celebrating J passing his nursing exams and nailing his dissertation. Super proud! 


House Hunting

Ticking another thing off my 2016 to do list was to buy my first home  – and I  hope I’m not going to jinx it by writing it here – but I’ve totally had an offer accepted on a beautiful 2 bed house in Bicester. Tad further out than I first planned, but needed to to be able to afford something actually liveable and that didn’t need too much work. It’ll be nice to live and explore somewhere completely new too and start building my own life #independantwoman. Hopefully my next Yays and Nays will be able to confirm everything’s gone to plan and can actually start making it my own before moving in. Very exciting 🙂 

Nays

Nothing much apart from I seem to have had a lot more anxiety over the last month or so, which isn’t like me at all. With all the positive things going on at the moment, I don’t really understand where it’s coming from. Hopefully it’s just a temporary thing. Just need to remember that my life is pretty sweet right now and that I don’t actually have anything to worry about. Silly Gem. 

Till next time! 

Gem x 

 

Visit to Valencia

So following on from my 4 days in Barcelona, I took the 3 hour long train (which was surprisingly only 22 Euros) to Valencia for a two night stay.

I’d wanted to visit here after reading a lot about it on various blog posts (but mostly from the 3 posts The Travel Hack did raving about it) – I had to see what the fuss was about!

Safe to say I wasn’t disappointed!

I arrived around midday and checked into my room at Home Youth Hostel and was definitely a step up from the hostel in Barcelona. This hostel was a lot more open, better atmosphere, really helpful tips from staff, clean bathrooms and lucky me, ended up getting a 4 bed dorm to myself. Winner! Plus, look how cute my room was *squee*


The rest of the day was spent exploring by myself around the main market ‘Mercado Central’ which was pretty much directly opposite the hostel. Here they sell mostly fish, meat and fruit (all locally sourced) and also freshly squeezed fruit juices for 1 euro (a lot cheaper than the shops surrounding the market). You can also try their famous Valencian drink ‘Horchata’ (made of tiger nuts, water and sugar) for a euro too. Apparently it has many health benefits and is a great hangover cure – but definitely an acquired taste! The market itself is just huge, even the ceiling is pretty spectacular and everything just looks so fresh and appetising. Definitely a good place to head for a light breakfast without getting ripped off by surrounding touristy cafes.


Pretty much on the same street as the market was La Lonja de la Seda (Silk Exchange) – known for being one of the most famous civil buildings in Europe and one of the main cultural and economic structures in Europe. It’s styled in gothic architecture and so the buildings themselves are very ornate in appearance. In the centre courtyard, orange trees fill the yard leaving an amazing citrusy scent, especially in the spring and summer months. The entrance fee with an audio guide was only 2 euros (free on Sundays), and although it doesn’t take long to go around, its definitely worth a nosey for some pretty snaps.

For dinner that evening I tried a little place around the corner from the hostel and had a Paella Valenciana (although had definitely been pre-made and warmed up as it came out in 15 minutes) although trying to get paella freshly done for one person would be pretty expensive – but it was still pretty nice considering. I also trialed a glass of Valencia’s other local drink ‘Agua de Valencia’ – a mixture of OJ, vodka, gin and champagne… Fair to say it sure has a kick to it! Could already feel the effects of the alcohol after one glass and ended up chatting to the owner for 20 mins (I was the last one left in the restaurant) which isn’t like me at all. Definitely made me feel more at ease though and such a different vibe from my first night in Barcelona that’s for sure.

These good vibes carried on into my second day here. I joined the hostel’s organised walking tour – which considering it was free, was very extensive and covered pretty much the entire old town of Valencia and its history, what its famous for and what to try out here (pretty much where I got all my info written above from) so yeah a very extensive tour and a good 2.5hours long.

After briefly cooling off in the hostel and re-applying sun cream, it was time to explore the rest of Valencia, the modern side of Valencia. As it was so hot and would have taken a good hour to walk to and from or a hot bus, I decided to hire a bike instead and ride through Jardi del Turia – which used to be a river but has been dried and re-created into a long beautiful garden/ park area – perfect for children, families, athletic types to spend their leisure time in. It has a playground, sports gyms, fountains and gardens and dedicated walking/cycle paths the entire way and just absolutely stunning and really quite relaxing to cycle through.


At the end of the park was the outstanding Museum of Arts and Sciences and Aquarium. These buildings are absolutely fascinating to look at and admire and feels like a whole new world compared to the old town I’d come from just 30 minutes before.

After a leisurely afternoon cycling around the streets of Valencia (I hadn’t ridden a bike in ages so was making the most of it) and managing not to get too horrendously lost – it was time to hand the bike back in (boo!). After a well needed shower, I headed back out for my final meal of the trip – pizza with a large glass of Sangria -the perfect way to finish off an awesome trip.

Safe to say that Valencia definitely stole my heart, I mean, the photos can make you see why and defiantly preferred this city over Barcelona. Barcelona is just so touristy now, it kind of ruins the chilled Spanish vibe, which Valencia still definitely has.

Valencia – I’ll be coming back for more of you!

Till next time!
Gem x

Barcelona (round 2!)

So, I’ve been travelling again! This time solo. I had a weeks annual leave to take and no one else was off work so yeah… off I went! I decided as I’d done Barcelona before, but not for 8 years, I not only wanted to it revisit again (because I loved it the last time) but also visit somewhere I hadn’t before – Valencia. But more on Valencia in another post.



Day 1:

To be honest – My first impressions being back in Barcelona weren’t great.

Turning up at the Center Ramblas hostel in possibly the sketchiest street off La Ramblas (main shopping street in Barcelona). The hostel room I was allocated was so noisy (not due to travellers staying there – but room being right next to the elevator) and really stuffy and cramped. The bathroom was pretty grimy to say the least (6 rooms with 4-6 beds in each sharing 2 toilets and 2 showers) and the whole place itself just really lacked atmosphere. Like, I’ve stayed in a fair few hostels in my time and this has to be one of my least faves. I could have moved hostels – yes you’re right, but would have had to pay another nights stay, find somewhere else that isn’t miles away from everything and risk being in the same situation. So I stayed put.

Another thing – is that I totally forgot that I was visiting Spain, you know, where they speak Spanish – and all I know is thankyou. Bad prep on my part there.

So I was feeling a bit overwhelmed to say the least and as it was dinner time, I thought I’d get out there – venture out to find a nice little place to eat. Well, I got COMPLETELY ignored in first two places I went in to, sat down for 10-15 minutes and so left – thinking I MUST be wearing an invisible cape or something. Yes these places were a tad busy, but I mean waiters walking right past me and attending to others behind me. In the end I ended up settling for standard restaurant on La Ramblas where I probably got overcharged at €15 for prawn spaghetti and a Coke, but I’d given up at that point and felt pretty defeated on my first night there.

After thankfully I brought some ear-plugs with me, so I jammed these in my ears and prayed for a few at least a few hours sleep.

Day 2:

Woke up, took a shower and thought to myself, right, need to get back into the swing of solo travel malarkey and decided to do what I love to do when solo travelling – by joining a Sandemans Walking Tour! I’ve lost count of how many of these I’ve done now. They work buy providing free walking tours around the city – to which then you tip at the end what you feel it’s worth. Our guide was a cute little (I mean little like 4’8″) Aussie lass with infectious enthusiasm and had so much knowledge and history of Barcelona – it really opened me up to the beautiful and historical side of Barcelona and the initial first doubts slowly started melting away.

I then decided to head back to hostel to cool off #palegingerproblems and realised that for the Segrada Familia and Park Guell you now have to book time slots in advance. I don’t remember doing this last time in Barcelona (although that was 8 years ago) but in a way it makes sense seeing just how touristic Barcelona has become now. So I booked these for the next two days.

Determined not to waste the rest of the day, I headed on the Metro to Montjuic Castle (not so much of a tourist spot and no advance booking required). I would definitely recommend getting the Telerific cable car up – unless you’re a REALLY athletic person as it is a long slog uphill for a GOOD 30 minutes in 25 degree heat. Not my style. The castle itself is nothing to write about (literally just brick walls) but its the views from the castle that make it worth the visit – just breath taking. You can buy a return cable car ticket, but I (seeing as I had some time to kill) suggest walking back down from the castle to the metro as there are some beautiful gardens and when I visited the garden and flowers were in full bloom. Plus, it didn’t make me feel as lazy as getting cable car both ways..!

To avoid the awkwardness of solo dining again like the previous night, I went to Carrefour supermarket and bought a to-go meal which I ate back at the hostel. €4 instead of €15? Sorted. I know I’m on holiday and should be able to eat out, drink what I like etc etc, but seeing as I was away for the whole week, wanted to save money for the places that mattered or needed to see and if I had some spare to go home with then hey, bonus.

Day 3:

By the time I dragged my bottom out of bed (after a disturbed nights sleep) and went to book the Segrada Familia for today, the next available slot was 16:30. Hmm. No bother to me though, as I took these 5 hours to kill heading down to Barcelonetta Beach where I chilled with a book for a while before I got too hot and then walked along to the stunning area of Port Vell.

Port Vell, to me, just has such a relaxed vibe to it everywhere is so clean and I just happily say there for a good hour or so reading and taking in the views before getting the metro to the Segrada Familia.

Man I forgot how huge it was. Like, really huge. The construction of the Segrada Familia is still ongoing with a proposed end date of 2026 (100 years after the death of Antoni Gaudi) but who really knows.
The most magnificent part for me was the sense of openness and light that you get inside the cathedral with not only stained glass windows down each side, but also in contrasting warm and cool colours, giving a real sense of relaxation and ease. I mean the pictures here just don’t do it justice.

Of course, I did actually go up the tower too – just literally to take in the view and snap some pics. That’s all you really do up there. Was quite a hairy trip down the winding steep staircase (400 of them) though, but at least it was down and not up. If you’re a claustrophobic person, or scared of heights – this part may not be for you.



Day 4:

Again, booking the day before – I went using the Metro to visit Park Guell (a space where much of the area is designed by, again, Antoni Gaudi). The ticketing system is quite strict now compared to what I remember before in the park itself is now segregated and that in order to enter the Monumental Zone, you have a 30 minute time slot in which to enter, I guess to avoid overcrowding. I thought this seemed a bit extreme when I first booked it, but actually being there, makes total sense. It would be quite chaotic if it wasn’t segregated and ruin the ‘tranquil’ atmosphere the Park and Gardens are supposed to have. Again, Barcelona is so touristy now. May have been less busy going in March, April or May, but I guess like London – it can be just as busy all year round now.

The remainder of my last day in Barcelona was pretty relaxed after this. I took a stroll around the shops, ate out solo again to better success and got my things prepared for an early train journey to Valencia in the morning…

And that rounds up my stay to Barcelona in a nutshell! Managed to fit quite a fair amount in 4 days without ever feeling too rushed which was nice. Oh, and having ‘feel at home’ data roaming from 3 helped tonnes – google mapping pretty much everywhere I went (sometimes a paper map just don’t cut it) and booking online tickets with ease.

Stay tuned for part 2 where you can read about my new love – Valencia!

Till next time!

Gem x