The Best Of 2016


Since David Bowie left the mortal realm, the world has become a terrible place. But despite this, I thought it was important to look back at my personal positives of 2016… no matter how sad I am that Carrie Fisher is dead. 2016 was a year of big changes for me. After months of agonising over the decision, I decided it was time to repatriate myself back into British life. I’d gotten a tad complacent with everything… so obviously my brain decided to change it all at once. 2nd times a charm, right?

So, in order, I bring you my highlights of 2016.

Visiting Florence

I’ve wanted to visit Italy for as long as I can remember – and after almost two years of living on the continent, I finally got my chance. I traveled round the country by train – and although the trip was slightly derailed by the destruction of my passport – Florence was by far my favourite desintation. I saw amazing architecture, did fantastic shopping, marvelled at incredible art… and saw creepy fetus mannequins from the 19th century. I will definitely be back.

Reading Stephen King’s It

Much like visiting Italy, I had always wanted to read It. And although it really didn’t live up to the ‘omg so scary’ reviews I’ve been hearing my entire life, it was huge. Like, physically. And I’m glad I read it. And it makes me feel less terrible about failing my Goodreads Reading Challenge this year. Seriously, it was huge!

Giving up teaching

Although I have never wanted to end up as a teacher, it somehow became my job.  Yet it was always my means of staying in Madrid and getting a pretty decent income. So I stayed. But at the same time I was interviewing for summer camp positions to keep myself fed for the 3 months of Hell I was about to experience, I took a chance and interviewed for an unpaid editorial internship. And got it. Although I then had to decide between teaching and eating and gaining experience in the field I loved and starving – I’m glad I took the risk as it proved I was capable and qualified to do what I loved and gave me the push I needed to leave the safety net of Spain. Even if I did have to eat a lot of pasta to do so.

Seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Seeing this play was a long time coming. I first bought the tickets in October 2015 and spent an agonising year waiting for my time to come. I’ve written about the show in great detail already, so I won’t dwell on it too much, but it was definitely my favourite part of the year. Not only did it fill the empty place in my soul of the waiting for a new Potter release, but my quick trip to London was the catalyst for my eventual return to the UK. Thanks, Harry.

Doing a Brexit of my own

And finally, the most important change for me in 2016, moving back to the UK. Despite being on the top of my game in the ESL world, I knew it was time to move on. So after packing my entire life into two suitcases and a cardboard box, I took the leap and moved back “home”. I write this blogpost to you from my new place in Brighton. I have no idea what’s going to happen next, but I imagine it will begin with job interviews, vegan food, and maybe a new haircut.

Cheers to you, 2017.

Four Spots In Florence


It’s been a while since I was in Florence, and I’d almost given up on writing a post about it. But no matter how much time passes, I can’t get that damn city out of my head. It’s definitely one of my favourite cities in Europe and I can’t wait until I go back again. So although it’s been a while since I visited, I couldn’t let the opportunity to post a few of my favourite Florentine haunts. They’re touristy af, but whatever, finding the hidden gems is for subsequent visits.

1. Museum of Zoology


Although when people think of museums in Florence, they’re usually referring to Renaissance art, the first museum I visited was the Museum of Zoology. This place definitely isn’t what you’d expect. Full of taxidermy, wax models, and other wonderfully weird creations. The insect section was super cool… I had no idea bugs could grow that big and it makes me thankful that the cockroaches here in Spain aren’t as big as my face. The human section was pretty interesting too, mostly because it shows how little people knew about the human body only a few hundred years ago. I’ll save you the pictures I took of sliced in half boobs, even though I kinda loved it. My favourite part though, was an exhibition on rhinos and extinction, which made me cry a little bit. If you need a break from all the Reniassance art, the Museum of Zoology and it’s boob models is definitely an eye opener.

2. Giardino Boboli


Even though it was petty terrible weather, no museums were open, so I risked the rain and a took a trip to the Giardino Boboli. I’ve never really been one for royal gardens and the like, so it surprised me how much I enjoyed my visit. The views of Florence are incredible, and it’s a great way to kill a few hours because it’s so damn big! The whole thing has a very Studio Ghibli feel, it’s very whimsical and kind of eerie. But my favourite part of the trip has to be the museums included in your ticket entry price. In the costume gallery, I got to see a great exhibit of fashion through the ages, with information about the designers/owners that was super interesting to me, particularly because of the feminist twist. It wasn’t what I was expecting upon entering a garden, but I was very happy to spend my day there.

3. Galleria dell’Accademia 


Everyone goes to the Galleria dell’Accademia when they visit Florence, but I noticed that a lot of people take a picture with David, then leave, but there’s so much more to see! Admittedly the building was way smaller than I expected, but it does have some hidden gems. Definitely not the place for you if the Weeping Angels from Doctor Who creep you out, but if you’re a fan ofRenaissance  sculptures, you’re gonna love it. Just make sure you buy tickets in advance, because otherwise you’re looking at a two hour wait in line.

4. Volume, Piazza Santo Spirito


Although I nearly picked the whole piazza for this section, really my love is all for Volume. This is the type of place we need more of in Madrid. Laid back, dingy, with amazing coffee and food. Aka everything I love in a cafe bar. I think I came here three times over my four days in the city, and it was mainly for the amazing jam croissant I had my first day. If you need a good coffee/food/book reading spot inbetween all the architecture and art, head across the bridge and relax a bit away from the crowds. Seriously though, get the jam croissant.

Forget Rome, Florence has got to be the ultimate Italian city break.

24 Hours in Venice

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For as long as I can remember, the world has been all “Venice! Venice! Visit Venice!” And I’ve just taken it at face value. If everyone you meet tells you that you just haaaave to visit a place, you’re inclined to believe them. So at the ripe old age of 23, I finally got around to it. For a day at least. Admittedly I wasn’t there for very long, but I think I sussed out the place enough, and that is: I’m not really convinced that Venezia lives up to the hype.

Don’t hurt me! I can explain, I swear. After a jam-packed 26 hours on the island, walking its entire length and seeing the sights, this is what I took away from my visit. As unbiased as I can possibly make it… even if my travelling companion made me contemplate throwing myself into a canal on more than one occasion.

 

Let’s start with a pro, I at least owe it that, Venice is super beautiful! If you’re looking for an Instagram-worthy trip, Venice has you covered. I’m not sure anything can top the train pulling into the station, zooming over those crystal blue waters with the sun shining in the sky. Pictures could never do it justice. But once you’ve left the station, you’re right in the middle of the action. And in this instance, ‘the action’ is men screaming “DO YOU WANT A SELFIE STICK?” at you every three seconds. Which, despite living in a major touristy city myself, is not something I have to deal with to the extent it is in Venice.

Which brings me to my main con of the city, you really can’t imagine anyone actually living here. I may complain about tourists from time to time in Madrid, but damn Venice is something else. It’s just so damn touristy, I can’t comprehend how people can possibly go about their daily lives here. Flocks of slow moving crowds, your only form of public transportation being a boat, and the extortionate prices for even a can of Coke is enough to put me off for life. When I visit a city I want to truly get a feel of what local life is like there, but in Venice I just felt like I get was getting the same package deal as everyone else. Maybe if I had stayed there more than a day I could have discovered some of these types of places, but I don’t think I could have taken another day trapped in the tourist bubble. Maybe I should have bought one of those selfie sticks after all, if only to hit people with.

So if you’re looking for a place to experience living like a local, then Venice isn’t the one for you, but if you just want to take some pictures next to bridges, then go for it.

 

Speaking of the bridges, Venice is not an easily accessible city. Particularly if you have a wheelie suitcase. Stopping, pressing the handle down, picking it up, crossing the bridge, putting it down, and pulling out the handle again. About 600 times a day. KILL ME. And what’s more annoying is when people in front of you do this without moving to the side. Stop. Learn tourism etiquette, people. It’s also not really an accessible city in the sense that it totally fucks Google Maps up. I paid for an EU expansion on my sim for this trip, and it was pretty much made redundant in Venice. The city is so labyrinth-y that it can’t really tell what side of the canals you’re even stood on half the time. So my tip for Venice is to definitely invest in a good map or guide book before setting foot on the island. Because if you buy it in Venice, it will cost 3x times as much.

 

But however negative I’m being right now, I do still want to end on a pro, and in this case it’s the Venetian Ghetto, my absolute favourite part of the city. Historically, this was the area of Venice that Jewish people were compelled to live, but nowadays, its a quiet haven away from the bustle of the city. It’s genuinely like being in another world. You enter the neighbourhood by crossing a tiny bridge and walking through an archway before finding yourself in a little piazza. If you turn right here, you’ll discover cafés and gelato shops and eventually find the crowds again. But if you turn left and cross the river, you’ll see laundry hanging between buildings, people beating rugs out of windows, and families working on their boats. It was definitely an eyeopener for me, and I think the people who live here really lucked out with their location. If I can only recommend one spot to see in Venice, this is the one I’d pick.

Honestly, it’s been a month now and I still can’t decide if I enjoyed my time in Venice or not. I’m definitely glad I’ve visited, if only for the ability to tell those people I mentioned in the first paragraph that “actually, I’m not too fond of Venice!” I may go back in the future to give it another shot, but as of right now my heart only has room for one Italian city, and that’s Florence. Gushing blogpost coming sooner than you can say “mango gelato”.

One Day In Milan

Last Friday I got back from a week of traveling around Italy, and after seven days of recovering from the experience, I think I’m ready to talk about it. So I’ll start at the very beginning of the trip:Milano.

The very first thing I learnt on my trip is that Milan Bergamo Airport is a very liberal name, as it’ll take you over an hour to actually get into the city*. So if you’re a budget airline connoisseur like I am, plan accordingly. My flight to Milan got in at 23:20, and the busses aren’t as regular at that time of night, so I didn’t end up getting to Milan until 1:30. Which was great, as I only had one full day in the city and obviously wanted to experience it with sleep deprivation.I stayed at the Hotel Ambrosiana, which I would recommend if you’re only in the city for a short time like I was. I didn’t spend much time in the hostel other than sleeping, so I can’t really comment much on the place, but they have a 24 hour reception was useful for my awkward ass flight time and the staff were polite and accommodating. And most importantly, it was clean. My room had a private bathroom, which helped, and the prices were affordable. It was definitely a good base for my trip, as it’s 15 minutes walking distance from the train station (where the airport bus drops you off), although I did end up taking the metro to the city centre. Which, by the way, is very reminiscent of the New York Subway in its aesthetic. I’ll keep the Madrid metro thanks. Far less dingy.


The centre itself is very catered towards tourists. I’m sure if you wander off into the side streets you’ll eventually find some less extortionately priced cafés and restaurants, but I only had a few hours and was running on very little sleep, so I stuck to the main areas. The plus point of this was that everyone spoke English, which don’t get me wrong, is definitely the opposite of what I look for when travelling, but living in a major city with such poor English skills (and y’know, teaching it for a living), I’m always interested in a place’s use of the language when I visit.

Now, I know Milan is a major fashion capital, but I didn’t get a chance to check out the fashion district or any of the fancy expensive stores. I did, however, go to the highstreet because, hello, have you met me? If you’re a fan of shopping when travelling, then Milan is definitely the city for you. Gorgeous,mosaicked, pedestrianised walkways with stores at either side; I could definitely see the perks of living here as a young fashion lover.


On a more cultural note, I have to mention the Duomo. When I was obsessively googling ‘things to see in Milan’ and ‘Milan in 24 hours’, all signs pointed to one thing: this giant ass cathedral. And it was definitely the highlight of my time in the city. Essentially you pay money to climb up a tiny, winding, ancient staircase with people trying to squeeze past you coming the other way. And that’s it. Loljk, you’re climbing to the top of the cathedral. To walk around, talk to gargoyles, and marvel at the amazing views of the city you get. I can’t remember how much it cost me (#BestBloggerAward), but I can remember thinking ‘wow, this view was worth the money’. Mainly I just admired the architecture and sat on the roof overlooking the city. And thought intently about why the Duomo is guarded by army men in gnome hats. Conclusion: no idea but it’s pretty unnerving.

The ticket price also included entry to a religious relic museum. And if you like depictions of God surrounded by tiny, burning babies, it’s the place for you.


But I’m afraid that’s where my positive view of the city ends. Milan, for me, was underwhelming. It could be any European city, so if you’re looking for something Italian, it’s gonna disappoint you. You certainly don’t get a Mediterranean vibe from it.

Overall, if you’re looking to go to somewhere like Venice but want a cheaper flight, I definitely recommend flying into Milan and getting the short train ride to Venice… but only stay a few hours, or a day maximum. My two nights were pretty excessive. It’s a nice city, but to be honest I barely felt like I’d left Madrid.

* If you want to experience something cool, stay in one of the Zzzleepandgo pods at the airport. I did this before my 7am flight back to Madrid and thoroughly enjoyed how stress free the entire experience was. Sleep pods are great!