TRAVEL | Queen of the North

20140727-103920-38360650.jpg

20140727-103920-38360847.jpg

My dad recently asked me what I wanted to do to celebrate my birthday/moving to Madrid. He initially suggested the normal boring things, such as going out for a meal or something. But neigh, I did not want Thai food– I wanted a kingdom. I told my dad I wanted to visit a castle, not really expecting that I’d get to visit one, but I guess threatening to leave the country makes parents sentimental or something, so off we went to Middleham Castle.

Middleham Castle is in North Yorkshire, aka the prettiest Yorkshire, and is really close to Wensleydale, the home of my favourite cheese. But if there is one thing I love more than cheese, it’s the monarchy, and this castle was also the childhood home to King Richard III, who also happens to be my second favourite monarch. Even if people claim he killed his nephews, you’ve got to respect the last king to die in battle. Richard is also one of the rare occasions I’m anti-Shakespeare. My kingdom for a horse? Okay, Willy, whatever you say. I’m still super bitter about Leicester getting to keep his body. First we lose the War of the Roses, now this.

20140727-104129-38489592.jpg

20140727-104129-38489784.jpg

The castle was super cool and super old– just the way I like them. I tried to soak up as much of the history I could, but sometimes I did get a little distracted by climbing over things. What? It was the closest I’ve ever gotten to something like Winterfell, so I had to go a little Bran Stalk. Out of respect to the Old Gods… or something. Luckily I didn’t witness any incestous liaisons and end up losing the use of my legs, but I also didn’t leave with a direwolf or the ability to control animals and giants. A shame, really.

It was great to experience a bit of English history before I move, and I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the monarchy. I’m really excited to explore Spain and it’s history, but I’m glad I’ve spent these last few weeks in various castles and churches to keep me going whilst I’m away. Keeping up with the stereotypically English theme, I’ve also had one last visit to the fish and chip shop. Minus the fish, of course. Still a vegetarian, still dreading how that’s gonna work out in Spain.

Three days to go! Adios!

20140727-104310-38590940.jpg

Advertisements

LIFE | Home Comforts and Happy Thoughts

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 11.38.13

I move to Madrid in seven days and I can’t believe that it’s actually gotten to the point where I can say that. When I originally decided to move to another country, it was more an act of defiance or desperation than any deep routed desire. ‘Ugh, if nobody will hire me over here, maybe I should try a different country– a better country!’ Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved to travel, but something greater than my love of travel is my overwhelming anxiety and deep-routed pessimism. But now the time is here. On Wednesday 30th July I will get on a plane in Liverpool and get off it again in Madrid. I also turn 22, which isn’t really that exciting other than I can sing Taylor Swift songs without feeling like a fraud.

To commemorate this stupid decision I’ve made to live abroad and become an English teacher, I am here to write a list of all the things I will miss here in Britain. A task that was actually harder than I first thought… so maybe I am making the right choice after all.

I will miss…

5) Having Absolutely No Responsibilities: Admittedly this is not something contained to the UK, but just my life here in general. Although a year of unemployment lost its appeal pretty quickly, it’s still nice to know I had the option of watching Jeremy Kyle in a onesie if I really wanted to.

4) Easily Accessible Vegetarian Food: I’ve always had a deep hated of Spanish food ever since I once ordered some form of fish dish and when it arrived it was literally a plate of twenty fish arranged in a circle, staring up at me with dead eyes, with a minute amount of lettuce in the middle. Skip a few years and now I’m a vegetarian, and if all my obsessive googling has taught me anything, it’s that the Spanish really like ham. But the main heartbreak throughout all of this struggle is that Oreos aren’t vegetarian in Spain. I have seen the end and I do not like it.

3) Understanding television… But Mainly Netflix: Spain not having Netflix was probably more distressing to me than the whole Oreo fiasco. How will I watch Gossip Girl in a constant loop whenever I’m sad? How can I live without knowing Buffy The Vampire Slayer is just a few clicks away? HOW WILL I EAT WITHOUT HAVING THE OFFICE IN THE BACKGROUND? It’s not even just Netflix. My year of living at home has got me heavily invested in Coronation Street. Spanish soap stars have nothing on Roy Cropper.

2) Embracing My Inner Goth: I do not do well in heat, so deciding to move to Spain probably wasn’t the smartest decision I’ve ever made. It’s one thing adjusting to 15 degrees plus warmer weather, it’s another thing doing that when your wardrobe is 80% black. Maybe I’ll just have to dress like a Wimbledon contestant and feed my gothic soul with a steady diet of black nail polish and My Chemical Romance instead.

1) Oakley: There’s no snarky title of this one, because more than anything else, I’m gonna miss my cat. As lame as it sounds, Oakley is my best friend. We cuddle, we play, we give each other headbutts of love. There is no greater comfort to me than the way he smells after roaming through the fields. Sure, he may wake me up by crying outside my door at inhumane times, and he may be obsessed with getting inside my wardrobe, but I love him. I am not sure how I’ll get by without his constant confirmation of love, but I will try. Until then, there’s always Skype, the 80,000 pictures of him I already own, and the fact that Madrid has it’s own cat café. But he’ll never be replaced. ❤

All of this aside, I am really excited to start this new adventure in my life. The last twelve months have not been my favourite and I think that a clean break will do me good. So now I have one more week to pack all of my possessions into a suitcase, stuff as many Oreos as humanly possible in there too, and try not to die of an aneurism before I leave. Fingers crossed.

BOOKS | The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

20140709-123310-45190149.jpg

I think I’ve made it obvious by now that I’m a big fan of fantasy novels, particularly if they span over the course of a series so I have lots of opportunities to get emotionally attached to all the fictional characters. Recently the last book in The Grisha Trilogy was released, something I’ve been waiting for what feels like forever for. I don’t even remember how I came across the series, but I’m so glad I did. I read the first book (Shadow and Bone) over a year ago, waited impatiently for the second book (Siege and Storm) to be released, and then faced an even longer and totally agonising wait for Ruin and Rising, the final instalment, to arrive in my hands. The wait was made even more torturous by the fact I was stuck in the middle of reading a ginormous and slightly mediocre book when the release date rolled around, and not being one who takes giving up in the middle of a book lightly, forced myself through it until I finished. I had a brief (I’m talking like, maybe an hour here) break from reading after I finally closed the last page, and then I started on Ruin and Rising. After what felt like an eternity trying to get through the previous book I read, I felt pleased that I finished R&R in a little over twenty four hours.

The Grisha Trilogy is definitely my kind of book, and even more my kind of fantasy universe. I love when fantasy books give a really detailed look inside how that particular world works, be it through politics or monarchy or religion– and The Grisha Trilogy definitely delivers on all three. Throughout the course of the trilogy we’re taken from army barracks to royal palaces and everything in between, taking it all in from the point if view of our protagonist, the orphaned Alina Starkov. I have a love/hate relationship with first person narrative, but Bardugo definitely delivers with Alina’s voice; she is totally believable and her emotions really shine through in through in the writing. Alina is flawed in the right moments and I like that she’s not a perfect character. It would be very easy to make Alina self-righteous and super entitled, but she had a good head on her shoulders, which definitely adds to the enjoyment of the book. The plot isn’t everything when reading a book, the narration definitely plays a major part in whether I enjoy something or not.

Amazingly complex fantasy world aside, the characters are what really make this series for me. Alina is great and everything, but it’s all the attractive boys that made me really fall in love (with the series, not the boys… maybe the guys too, shush). The Darkling was my first love in the series, even when I got the impression that I was supposed to be rooting for someone else, he was always my favourite. However, the second book totally changed that with the introduction of Nikolai, who might be in the running for the top space in my fictional crushes list. I will admit I never really got the whole Mal attraction thing, and for the most part of the series I don’t think he brings that much to the plot, other than Alina pining over him. There’s been very few books where I’ve actually cared about the romance subplot, so I’m a little confused over how this series managed to pull me in, but I did, so I’ll have to deal with it. Team Nikolai forever.

In more technical terms, I really liked the pacing of the book. Everything felt just right, and I didn’t find myself mentally screaming ‘hurry upppppp’ whenever I turned a page, something that happens more often than not when I’m reading YA novels. I can’t really talk for the first two books in the series, because I read them so long ago that I can’t remember every little detail– but I do think that R&R was my favourite book of the series. The ending was definitely not what I was expecting, but I really enjoyed it. There’s nothing worse than finishing a book and realising you guessed the outcome two hundred pages ago. I definitely found myself caring more about the minor characters in the last book, some of whom I didn’t really care for in the previous two. Everyone really came into their own, and even though we don’t get to hear their take on events like we do Alina’s, I’d like to think I got to know them pretty well over the course of the final book. Genya especially, I definitely didn’t expect her to turn out so badass.

I think that YA books sometimes get a bad reputation, particularly in the fantasy genre– but The Grisha Trilogy is a really satisfying read. The universe is just so rich with culture and history that it didn’t come secondary to the characters, it was just as important to the plot as Alina herself. I really hope there will be more stories set in that world because I don’t think I’m done with Ravka just yet. I’m all for a Nikolai spinoff series, I’d love to know what he gets up to when he’s not fulfilling his royal duties.

I give the The Grisha Trilogy 4/5 stars, for a really intriguing and intricate read.

TV | Five (Female) Fictional Crushes

466755_1276549770455_full

The wise words of Mindy Lahiri in The Mindy Project say it best here, ‘I hate when people say girl crush, no one’s gonna think you’re a lesbian if you just say crush’, and there are so many amazing female fictional characters out there, it felt wrong to limit this series only to men… animated or otherwise. I’m all for girl power and celebrating women, and what better way to do that than to list the smart, witty, talented women of television that also happen to be super cute… animated or otherwise (*cough*).

1) Nicky Nichols, Orange is the New Black:

I was pretty much spoilt for choice with this show, because there’s a whole range of amazing female characters in OITNB. Alex Vause and Poussey Washington almost made the list, but Nicky is my favourite. For starters, I wish I could get my hair that voluminous. She’s also a total badass who’s not afraid to get what she wants, and she really works that prison uniform. She also shows a sensitive side though, comforting Alex and Morello on various occasions, as well as not been afraid to call Piper out on her idiocy (finaaaaaally). We really need more Nicky-focused episodes in season three, because to me she’s ten times more interesting than this will they/won’t they Alex and Piper thing. Please just stop.

2) Elliot Reid, Scrubs:

I’ve watched Scrubs for a very long time, and I’ve gone from loving Elliot, to hating her, to loving her again. Yeah, she can be a bit neurotic and whiney– but I’m a bit neurotic and whiney. It’s so refreshing to see a character who struggles with anxiety but who still manages to be successful whilst following her own instincts. I just wanna sit and drink a bottle of wine with her and talk about our self esteem issues and maybe cry a little. It probably also helps that I have a huge crush on Zach Braff, so of course I’m gonna want to project onto her. Also, she must be doing something right if even the Janitor is nice to her. That’s a real achievement.

3) Tara Maclay, Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

If you honestly thought I was going to get through a list of my favourite fictional characters without including someone from Buffy, you were so, so mistaken. Tara probably isn’t the obvious choice to be included on my list of crushes, she’s not even my overall favourite female character on the show (Willow, followed by Anya, if anyone was wondering), but she’s definitely the type of person I’d want to be around. She’s caring, smart, and funny– whilst also being super awkward and shy when she’s first introduced to the Scoobies. She’s also a pretty great witch, something that definitely adds a few bonus points. Dorky 1990s/2000s fashion aside, she’s someone I’d be proud to call a friend, and she’s not someone who could be replaced easily, Kennedy.

4) Blair Waldorf, Gossip Girl:

I’ve already included Chuck on one of these lists, so it was obvious that Blair was going to follow, if not for the reason that I could borrow from her amazing wardrobe. Blair is everything I wish to be in life– and a few things I’d rather not. She’s confident, a perfectionist, and ridiculously wealthy (ummm). As well as being a tad abrasive, obsessive, and, well, a bit of a bitch. She’s cultured and intelligent, and although I don’t agree with all her methods, she gets stuff done. Her brief romantic stint with Dan also showed a new side to her, one that’s definitely more Brooklyn than the Upper East Side, and I totally dig it.

5) Marceline the Vampire Queen, Adventure Time:

Of course there was gonna be another animated character, who do you think you’re dealing with here? Marceline is the coolest girl ever– living or dead. She’s musically gifted, has an amazing sense of style (which is unusual for an animated character– seeing as they usually wear the same outfit for sixteen seasons), and is pretty much a total rockstar. Plus, she can transform herself into terrifying creatures, why would you not want that in your life? We also both like to be alone and have emotional attachments to our stuffed animals, which is a quality I definitely favour. I don’t even care that she’s over a thousand years old, her age doesn’t seem to get to her and she still seems super fun. Anyone who can boss around the Ice King is cool in my books (get it, cool? Haaaa).

I felt like my blog was lacking on the lazily hidden feminist propaganda, so I hope this does the job. Celebrate femininity! Grrrrl power! All that good stuff. Maybe I should stop living in a fantasy world (or several, if these lists are anything to go by), but I have just over a month now until I run off to Madrid, so I’m gonna keep watching TV and talking about it until then, so you better get used to it. It’s a lot more interesting than blogging about estate agents and how terrible my grasp of the Spanish language is, trust me. Yo cocino una papa!