Barcelona Bound!

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It’s a huge relief to be writing this post, because the past few months this has been an uncertainty. But I finally booked my flight, and in a couple of weeks I will be beginning my MA in International Relations at Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals!

I’m hugely excited. And nervous. And impatient. And giddy. Spending the majority of the past year in Spain made me fall completely in love with the country and its culture, and although my plans were to spend one year in Spain then return to university to complete a masters, over the year I realised I wanted the university to be in Spain. So after a lot of research I found IBEI, which sounded perfect. Plus it is in Barcelona! I found the city awesome when I visited for a long weekend with a couple of friends last December. Burgos was a beautiful city to live in, and after three stressful years of university it was perfect to unwind and relax. However my heart lies in big, cosmopolitan cities and so I’m super keen to return to one. London was great for three years, and I’m expecting Barcelona to be just fine for one 😉

The uncertainty of these past few months have been a result of my recent lupus diagnosis. Speaking with the specialists who have been seeing me since I returned to the UK, they unsurprisingly voiced their concerns over me returning to Spain, therefore having to change doctors, all whilst still battling to get my lupus under control. Which is not ideal. However I am stubborn. Although I know things aren’t perfect with my health, I do feel like things have dramatically improved since I’ve been put on the right medication. And although deferring a year was gently recommended by some, I honestly felt that it wouldn’t take a year for me to be as okay as I’m ever going to be. And truth be told, the idea of spending a year in my home city working some random job was not appealing at all. Life doesn’t stop, and we all have to keep rolling on. And I know me, I know I need to be in a city where I can just head out for coffee or drinks with friends, find live music and theatre, museums and art galleries, or to get lost in.

So I must give a MASSIVE shout out to the NHS specialists who after umming and ahhing, basically said it was my choice, so long as if I go to Barcelona I still arrange to be seen by them in the UK every three months. Which suits me fine! They even said they would establish contact with my doctors in Barcelona, all so I can happily pursue my dream education. Sure, I have my complaints about the NHS. Mainly to do with how it is operated and its need for more funding and what the government is doing to it etc (but that is a rant not for here), and also that they failed to diagnose my lupus last year so it had to get worse and threaten my kidneys before the Spanish doctors diagnosed me. But I can never fault the people who work for the NHS (except maybe the really grumpy ones). How can you fault people who dedicate their lives to saving lives? I wander into my appointments with medical records all in Spanish, declaring that I want to return to Spain despite having a life threatening illness that should be monitored regularly, and they barely batter an eyelid.

Also have to be grateful to have the family I have, who are willing to support me and my stubborn dreams despite preferring me to be somewhere a lot closer to home. Especially as my summer has involved quite a few doctor trips and a couple of A&E trips, but I like to think I’m slowly becoming less of a walking casualty…

And now the nerves are hitting me: that I’m soon to be moving to a foreign city, finding a place to live, finding new friends, and hopefully not going to completely fail at a degree that is quite different to my BA in English Literature…but I am itching to go. Although it’s been nice spending time with my family and old friends, I cannot wait to have my independence back and once again establish my own roots in an adventure that is uniquely my own. Everything will be once again on my own terms, and life will continue being an adventure. And I miss being a student! (Yep, I miss all the essays and deadlines and late night studying…)

I am nervous that lupus will affect me more than I’d like (don’t tell my parents). Student life usually entails a lot of nights out, but now I know my body simply won’t be able to handle that anymore. I will sometimes have to sacrifice socialising with new people to make sure my body is rested, looked after, and so I don’t find myself back in hospital. Communicating with doctors will certainly be an experience, and I don’t know how much to tell the people who will become a part of my life. “Hi, I’m Eleanor and I have lupus/Hola, soy Eleanor y tengo lupus” might not be the best introduction…but at the same time people close to me will need to know that there will be times I can barely stay awake, or my joints hurt so I can’t move much, or my immunosuppressants are working a little to well and I have to keep away from all possible infections (aka people).

But oh well. There might be set backs, but if there is one thing I’m glad about it’s that although lupus is a pain in the arse, it could be worse. I’m still able to have a normal life, and I’m still able to have a future. Sure, it put me in hospital and made me quit my job, but things have been in improvement since. My steroid dosage has gone from a huge 60mg to 20mg starting in September. As a result my face feels a lot less moony (now I can’t tell if it’s moony or just naturally wide). My shingles scar is gradually fading and my muffin top and spots are decreasing, so while I don’t feel totally attractive I feel less gross than I did a couple of months ago. But most importantly my kidneys are functioning as they should, my chest pains are gone (meaning my heart is safe), and although my joints sometimes hurt it is nothing compared to before. My body might be trying to attack and kill itself, but it’s not winning.

Barcelona I am ready for you! (That is a lie, I have so much to organise and oh god how I hate planning and packing). I’m actually flying to Madrid to spend a weekend with a friend from my Burgos days, and I cannot wait. Then I have a super long journey to Barcelona to make, to find somewhere to live, and begin my studies and a new chapter of the life of Eleanor. Vamos!

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Ribblehead Viaduct

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Found in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales is this Victorian viaduct that is a popular local landmark for visitors to admire. It is close to the Three Yorkshire Peaks, which is a challenging hike of three mountains to complete in one day (or in your own time), so finding muddy and weary hikers is common, and it has a nearby pub for the thirsty!

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Lincoln Cathedral

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I’ve wanted to visit Lincoln for years because I have heard it is super pretty. Well my expectations were matched! It is very ideal for tourists who love exploring pretty, winding streets full of tea rooms, cafes, shops and pubs.

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The eye catching landmark is the Gothic cathedral. Found after hiking up the only steep hill in the city, aptly named “Steep Hill”, it is beautiful both inside and outside.

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In the cathedral gardens is also a statue dedicated to the memory of poet Alfred Lord Tennyson. The memorial also bears the lines from his poem ‘Flower in the Crannied Wall’.

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is

Granada

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The final destination of my Easter trip to Andalusia was the beautiful Granada. The Semana Santa processions were winding up, but we still managed to catch some sights (including a Virgin Mary float that is carried solely by women).

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As the south of Spain has a huge Arabic culture, it was the perfect place to dine in Moroccan restaurants. Delicious food (and tea – yay!), but we had a shock when we discovered no alcohol was served!

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The Alhambra is the most famous landmark of Granada – we didn’t buy tickets in time but it was still fun to see it from a distance.

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Spain is a Catholic country so of course there was a cathedral – and a stunning one too! The inside was very white and airy, which was a welcome escape from the sunny heat. Although I am not religious, I was raised Catholic and I do enjoy the serenity found when visiting churches and cathedrals. Whatever your opinions on religion are, there is no denying it is a huge influence on culture, countries and history – so always worth exploring when travelling!

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My friend had two free tickets to a flamenco show – very exciting! I had seen flamenco performed in bars before, but never at a proper flamenco establishment. It was amazing – intense, passionate, and alive!

Granada is definitely a city I would return to, and not just for the chance to visit the Alhambra. It is vibrant and full of great places to eat (very important). The landmarks are beautiful, and good weather can usually be expected!

 

Cordoba

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After Seville we travelled to Cordoba nearby. We only stayed one night, as Cordoba is smaller than other cities to explore. Covering the city centre doesn’t take long, but there is still enough to see to make it a worthwhile destination!

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The top thing to see in Cordoba is the mosque – cathedral. It is unique as it was a mosque for years, which explains its beautiful design inside and out, however it was converted into a cathedral during the Christian Reconquest in Spain.

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Photos of the interior do no justice (because flash isn’t allowed), but the endless arches are a stunning sight to see.

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Although the hybrid of Christianity and Islam that features in the mosque-cathedral, and many other Spanish buildings, are a result of years of conflict – it is nice that now they can exist in harmony and the beauty of each can complement the other!

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Because we were in the city on a Monday, a lot of attractions including the Alcazar were closed which was a huge shame. However we still made the most of what was on offer – including a tower museum and getting lost!

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As with any city it is always fun exploring the streets – Cordoba has a famous street of the flowers, which during Spring is filled with blooms!

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There is even some roman ruins to check out – now home to the stray cats of the city.

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Although I wouldn’t recommend dedicating too much time to Cordoba, instead other cities in Andalusia offer more to see and do, a day or two will be plenty to enjoy the sights, attractions, cafes and bars!

Semana Santa in Seville

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During the Easter break earlier this year I hopped in a car and travelled to the Andalusia region of southern Spain, swapping the cold north of Burgos for sun, sunglasses and the slightest of tans…

First stop was Seville, which is often reported to be one of the best cities in Spain to visit for Easter, or ‘Semana Santa’ celebrations. We stayed in an Airbnb flat in a hipster neighbourhood of the city. Seville was as beautiful as expected with its old, narrow streets, and its stunning cathedral.

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One thing you cannot miss out on if you visit Seville is the Alcazar – a palace originally built by the Moors and eventually taken over by the Christian Kings. Exploring it you can see the clear mixture of original Islamic architectural influence with later Christian additions – a common feature of Spanish architecture, particularly in the south.

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Tickets are 9.50 euros, and free for students. A great way to spend a morning or afternoon exploring the palace and its beautiful gardens. Expect it to be crowded of course, because it is one of the main tourist destinations of Seville.

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The evenings we dedicated to catching the religious processions of Semana Santa. These occur all over Spain, and are elaborate with huge floats depicting the Easter story. It was a very somber affair, more so than I expected as the processions were slow and the accompanying music haunting.

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The costumes the people in the processions wear can be very alarming if you;re not expecting them. They obviously look like the KKK, but these costumes have existed in Spain for centuries, and are meant to resemble dunces as the people pent for their sins (which is funny if the KKK took inspiration from dunce outfits…)

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Our last stop was the Plaza de Espana which is surrounded by huge gardens. Seville is hugely popular among tourists and travellers and it isn’t hard to see why! With a rich history and the irresistible Spanish vibe of being both fun and relaxed, it can be enjoyed by relaxing, exploring, or indulging! It is more expensive than other Spanish cities, which is a shame, but definitely worth the extra euros if you want a worthwhile trip!

Chick Flicks Worth Watching

I saw the new Ghostbusters film the other day. It’s attracted a fair bit of attention, not just because it’s a beloved franchise reboot, but also because (omigod) the main cast are all women. Which has led to some people saying it ruins the beloved franchise.

Yeah yeah, women playing traditionally male roles should never happen. Sure. Because being a ghostbuster requires male genitalia. It’s included in the job restriction, in case you didn’t know.They have to shoot the lazer stuff at the ghosts out of their junk.

The film is good, and the cast were better. The strongest parts of the film were the interaction and charisma between the leading actors, the ghost busting was fun action but not the highlight. What was great was seeing four very different women each completely own their lines and screen time. And sure, maybe casting Chris Hemsworth as the helpless, hapless eye candy usually reserved for females isn’t the most progressive of ideas, but it certainly makes a hell of a good point. If people have a problem with perfectly good male actors only offered eye candy roles, they should have a problem when it happens to female actors. Which is all the time.

So if you want a laugh, and to be entertained, it’s a good film to see. And I doubt the young generation have any problems with their ghostbusters having boobs.

So perhaps action films are finally heading in the right direction. But what about chick flicks? These films are eaten up by half of the worlds population, but most of them have such a sad, basic story line. That usually ends in all the problems going away when the girl gets the guy. Often by changing herself, or perhaps succeeding in changing him for the better. So what are the chick flicks that are actually, possibly also feminist?

Bridesmaids

Let’s start with the one that stars the ghostbusting Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy also. Whilst the film is focused on an upcoming wedding, it ain’t about the bride and grooms relationship, but instead about the friendships between the bridal party. I’m pretty sure the groom only has one line: “I do”. This is a top choice to watch with friends when you want to howl with laughter. This isn’t women being funny in a cute way, this is women being funny full stop. With alcohol, puke, poo, fights and passive aggression. Hello to being a woman.

Legally Blonde

I never thought this film would be my cup of tea, but then I actually watched it. It’s definitely a film for when you don’t want to think, but what’s great about it is that it takes the stereotypical blonde barbie type, and makes her smart. Harvard Law School smart. A girl can like being girly, but she can also be top of her class. And what better lesson to teach young girls that when a guy is an arse to them: get upset, but also work hard and own life.

Bridget Jones’s Diary

With this film we have a relatable woman. Not someone who magically has an amazing career/life, but one who works, smokes, drinks, sometimes has food in the house, has an overbearing mother, inadvisable crushes, and discuses everything with her friends and everyone has advice but no one really knows what they’re on about. And occasionally does stupid things and embarrasses herself. We’re all human, and Bridget Jones is wonderfully human.

Mean Girls

Typical teen, high school movie involving queen bee and nice girl fighting over popularity/a guy. But it’s actually a good film, where both learn their lesson and realise there are more important things than having everyone kiss your arse but bitch behind your back. Teenage girls should always watch this film to realise there are better things to do than be mean to each other.

So those are my top picks for a chilled night in! Of course there are plenty of other films with ace female characters to gorge on, but these are typically chick flick, but with a healthy twist of common sense.