A return trip to London!

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DO I MISS LONDON. I haven’t seen it properly since I left 2 years ago, except for a couple of overnight stays, which have both left me emotional to be back in a city which shaped me so much.

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So for a last trip with my BCN friends, I couldn’t wait to show them my London (hence why I insisted on staying in the East End).

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We explored so much and exhausted ourselves, the best way to be a tourist in London.

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The grey clouds are deceiving – it was just as warm as Barcelona!

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Of course we had to see some of the typical sights – it was a tourist trip after all.

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I visited Borough Market for the first time ever. It was nice to see it still thriving after the recent attacks.

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We saw Twelfth Night at the Globe theatre, one of my favourite places in London. It was very different to the previous Twelfth Night at the Globe I saw, but just as funny and well done.

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The U.K. has been subject to some horrific terrorist attacks recently, to the point my friends and their family were worried about us going. I never want London, or the U.K., to be off-putting to anyone. It is a beautiful place that (should) welcome all.

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I also got to meet up with friends in London, I miss them so much!

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I would love to live in London again – when I can afford it. It really is a place I always feel so happy to be in, and it is a city like no other.

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I always feel like London is a place people can be themselves, and express themselves.

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A visit to Somerset House – another place I had never visited! London is never in need of things to do or see.

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Quotes for the Nomad in You

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This is purely beautiful. I wrote a post a while ago about the difference between being a travel and a tourist, and I feel like this quote sums it up. Life shouldn’t be about existing inside a bubble, unaware of how other people live their lives.

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Do I love Kerouac. The Beat generation experienced the world in a way anyone scared of living in a box wishes for. This quote I use as the lock screen for my phone – I first used it when life wasn’t going smoothly, and it gave me encouragement to look at. So now I always like to have it to look at whenever I need.

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This explains the feeling you get when you’ve been living away from home for a while – be it a different city, country, or even continent. You still identify with your home, but it doesn’t feel like your home any more. And neither does your adopted home. But you wouldn’t change it, because although it can feel out of place, you are free.

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Can we all just appreciate the fact that Rupi Kaur exists, and is the voice of inspiration and reason for women everywhere? This quote hit me because I used to feel like my perception of love was finding a home in someone else, but it is even better to be reminded that the home I make should be my own – both literal and figuratively.

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I have no idea as to the origins of this quote, but when I cam across it randomly on the internet, I felt like it described me perfectly. Because yes, if I could have this as my life I would be grateful, and happy. Friendly reminder to not waste your time on books that are mediocre, or you’re only reading because you feel like you should – but read the books that you want to, the ones that engage you. The ones that leave you feeling inspired, whether it’s an all time classic or something largely unnoticed by others.

Being an Expat: Expectations vs Reality

Living abroad is an amazing experience and adventure. You develop as a human being, and have amazing stories to tell your future grandkids/anyone who will listen to you brag. But it’s not what films and books always describe it to be, or how your family and friends imagine your cool new life. You’re still human, who misses home comforts.

Expectation: You’re a suave, sophisticated jet-setter. A coffee to go in one hand, and your passport in the other.

Reality: Flight delays, dodgy wifi, forever looking for a plug socket. You look and feel messy, and scowl at those who treat flying like a fashion show. At least you know how to dress for comfort.

 

Expectation: You live in a cute, traditional flat.

Reality: Same as any flat share. Kinda scruffy if you go for the cheap option, and your flatmates can be a strange bunch.

 

Expectation: You practice the language all the time.

Reality: They know you speak English. And they will use English with you. It’s manners, but you wish they would test you more.

 

Expectation: You learn new, local dishes, perhaps buying your ingredients in local shops and market stalls.

Reality: You get excited finding home products in the supermarket. Baked beans? PG Tips? Worcester Sauce? Bring it.

 

But really, it is a cultural experience like no other, and you’re grateful for the amazing opportunity you’ve been able to have.

Feliç la Diada de Sant Jordi

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In England, today is our national day of St George. It is also Shakespeare’s birthday (and death day). We don’t really celebrate, but in Catalonia St George, or Sant Jordi, is also the patron saint.

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They use the story of Sant Jordi slaying the Dragon and rescuing the princess. She gives him a book to say thank you, and he gives her a rose. So, on this day men give roses and girls give books. Kind of an unfair deal in my opinion, but still sweet. Any day that celebrates books is okay to me. Plus, I love giving novels as gifts, if it’s one I’ve read and love, then to me it’s a very personal gift. Everywhere there were stalls selling books and roses, and the profits of the roses go to charity. A sweet way to not commercialise a holiday.

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Casa Batllo was also decorated for the day. It was also promoting blood donations and had a bus outside. I’m not allowed to donate blood in the UK, due to receiving a blood transfusion a year ago. I had that in Spain and I’m a rare blood type so I was hoping I could to return the favour. The person in charge seemed very unsure, and it was a long wait before you could even see the doctor to be questioned so maybe I’ll try another time. But if you can donate – do!

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Faro, Portugal

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The last stop of our trip was the southern town of Faro. The train from Lisbon was delayed and we had to deal with a creepy middle aged man leering at my friend, but anyway, when we got there it was simple walk to our hostel. Baixa Terrace Hostel was our least favourite – the room was cramped for 6 people, security seemed a little lax and we skipped the included breakfast the second day, but for a small and not so touristy town we got what I expected.

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Our main goal for Faro was to sunbathe on the beach. The Bus 16 goes every hour and takes you to and from the beach (and airport) in about 30 minutes for 2.25 euros.

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As a lupie warrior I had to be extra careful with sun-cream, but still ended up burnt. The beach was nice with soft sand and a few cafes and shops.

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The town of Faro was nice for a small place, and definitely more local than Porto or Lisbon. It had some great restaurants and cafes, both local cuisine and international. We ate Mexican and drank margs and were given free tequila shots at Taco y Tequila, but also ate amazing Portuguese food at A Venda, and the cafes provided great breakfast and snacks.

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Due to me being burnt my lovely friends decided that instead of revisiting the beach before our evening flight, we would instead explore the old town.

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After the trip my Dad decided to tell me that in Faro there is a “Chapel of Bones” which I am so disappointed to have missed.

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It is definitely a place you can explore in a day or two, but it was very friendly and a nice end to our relaxed trip.

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Our last snack before the airport was tea and the local natas – so good!

Faro was sweet, and Portugal was lovely. I’ve never visited the country before, but I am so glad I finally have.

Lisbon, Portugal

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The second destination of our trip to Portugal was the capital – Lisbon. We caught the train from Porto which was less then 20 euros for those under 25 (about 25 for those older), and took about 3 hours. Our hostel – Lisbon Lounge Hostel was a short walk from the train station we stopped at. This hostel was clean with nice social areas and rooms. We also took part in the family dinner for 10 euros, and the bar crawl for 12. THAT was messy but fun… The breakfast provided included crepes, something I had never experienced at a hostel before!

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My favourite thing about Lisbon was the views. This one is blocked by some port wine sangria of ours, but the hilly nature of Lisbon provided us with some amazing spots to enjoy our drinks.

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We only had two days in Lisbon so spent it exploring the city, however also recommended is to take a day trip to the nearby Sintra, which also offers amazing sights.

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Again with the drink and the views… The local cuisine of Portugal is heavily focused on cod. The street our hostel was on seemed to consist of nothing but cod restaurants. Also a necessity to try is the local natas – an egg custard tart that goes amazingly well with cinnamon.

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Before our train to Faro we went up to the castle. 5 euro entry for students and 8.5 euros otherwise. The views from the castle were incredible. The castle itself was small and there was little information, but it was fun to walk around. Also worth getting there early, we did and got in easily but when we left the queue was reaching all the way down the street.

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Lisbon is a very small capital, you might even forget it is the capital. But the people were for the most part friendly (like in all the cities), and also like the other cities it was super relaxing to wander around and just enjoy the atmosphere. It has been on my travel bucket list so I am happy to have ticked it off, but also would happily return one day!

Porto, Portugal

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I am just back from a 6 day trip to Portugal with two friends. It was a beautiful break between deadlines for uni (although now I have to knuckle down again!). First stop was Porto, which was possibly my favourite city we visited. It was small but picturesque, a perfect long weekend getaway.

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We stayed at the Bluesock Hostel which is a stone’s throw away from the river, and very centrally located. It was a good price for a clean and modern hostel, not much of a kitchen but a decent continental breakfast. The rooms and bathrooms were fine except for the plug sockets not working very well.

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Porto is famous for its wine – port. So we went on a tour of the most famous cellar – Sandeman, for only 10 euros you gained some knowledge and sampled two of its wines. You also should try a porto tonic – port wine with tonic water!

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Everywhere we went the views were amazing! One thing we didn’t get to see was the Livraria Lello bookstore, because the queue was loooong and we didn’t realise you had to pay entry (4 euros). Disappointing because I was looking forward to getting lost in there, but I always love a reason to return to somewhere I love.

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Porto is also famous for it’s local sandwich – the francesinha. It is made up of many kinds of meat including beef, ham and sausage, and then topped with cheese and tomato sauce. Served with chips and sometimes an egg. Will not lie, it was not my most favourite of things to eat. It left me feeling quite ill after. After trying we then discovered a cute tearoom with desserts which suited us much more.

I loved Porto, I also got to see a friend from my Burgos days who was also visiting, which was a great surprise. It was chilled but evidently also knew how to entertain. A great start to our week!

Tarragona

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Another weekend, another beach day! I swear I do my studying during the week, so I have the weekend to enjoy myself and the increasingly brilliant weather here in Catalonia.

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This past weekend we travelled 1 1/2 hours by train to Tarragona (about 16/17 euros return from Barcelona). Trains are not very frequent compared to Sitges so plan your travel ahead.

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The town itself isn’t much of a tourist attraction – which has both good and bad points. It was nice to experience a Spanish town that you could tell was authentically Spanish though!

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We sunbathed and ate and caught a train home that was so busy we had to sit on the floor. If my student life now means sunbathing at the weekend – I can’t complain!

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Sitges

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Now the weather is much improving in already sunny Spain, friends and myself decided to take a day trip to the nearby town of Sitges, only a 30 minute train journey from Barcelona, less than 10 euros return.

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Sitges is incredibly popular for carnival, possibly due to the fact it is a great place for LGBT pride and fun. We didn’t go for carnival but I have been told it is better than Barcelona.

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We went so we could enjoy the beach and start tanning for the summer. Compared to my friends I was practically a ghost (damn Celtic genes), so more is definitely needed.

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We also enjoyed sushi and Spanish seafood, and gelato!

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I’m going to miss my Spanish life – British beaches are fun and fish and chips are great, but soft sand and sparking blue sea is just too nice!

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Brussels, Green politics and the EU

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I am a part of the 2017 Green Party UK’s 30 under 30 scheme, and first on the agenda was a three day trip to Brussels to visit the European Greens headquarters and meet our Green MEPs at the European Parliament.

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Before the official business we walked around to see the churches, museums, cathedral and all the other beautiful architecture to get a feel of the city. I was surprised to see many art exhibitions advertised – Brussels was not a city I would imagine to be arty but it was (including some great graffiti art)

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We also tried the waffles, chocolate, fries and beer because obviously. All delicious.

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It was hugely enlightening to listen to Green politicians and others to understand more about the work they do within the EU. It was also sad to know that the UK would soon no longer be a part of it, and also interesting to learn about how the EU could really benefit from Brexit, and not the UK. Irony is beautiful.

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It was great to meet new people with similar views and ideology. I have not always been Green, although I have voted for them before in the past. I am open about how I switch between Greens and Labour, depending on ideology, because it is difficult to find a political part that truly shares your beliefs. However the Greens are amazingly vocal about equality and diversity, and this scheme is unique in encouraging young people to become more politically involved.  They want a better future for everyone, can’t disagree with that.

To learn more about the Green Party UK, visit their site!