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.

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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!

Who says lupus can’t look good? HA..

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Currently half way through a trip to Portugal! It is super sunny and warm so I’m applying suncream a few times a day, and I bought this “stylish” hat to protect me from the suns rays and avoid becoming ill ill, as the sun can leave me with extra fatigue and joint pain and I need to enjoy my time with friends! The hat has been squashed and I look ridiculously but oh well. Never take yourself too seriously, except for your wellbeing.

Nomad Songs

Every life, every moment deserves an awesome and fitting soundtrack.

Although I think calling myself a nomad is a little pretentious, and not true, I haven’t really lived at “home” in a long time. Nowhere I can think of as permanent, and when half of my belongings are in boxes somewhere in Yorkshire, and I am in Spain, and in a few months time I’ll be somewhere else, at times I can feel a little lacking in roots. But I don’t complain, I love the feeling of freedom and being able to decide my life on my terms.

Although I am expecting to be living at my Dad’s for a while after graduating whilst I job hunt (he seems thrilled), I like the idea of getting work experience in different places before I find a city to truly call my home. We can dream..

Or alternatively, I will just save every penny and save my free time for travels.

A while back I wrote a post Wanderlust Playlist for a soundtrack to accompany the love of travelling. But nomad is different, for a nomad is more of a permanent wanderer who never stays in one place for too long. These are songs which I feel encapsulate the moments anyone feels like a nomad, for any reason. I like songs that suggest home can be found anywhere, in the people we meet. To me thats love (friendship, romantic, familial etc), and thats what makes any nomad or wanderer feel safe and happy.

Home – Gabrielle Aplin

House by the Sea – Moddi

People Help the People – Birdy

Hopeless Wanderer – Mumford and Sons

Wanderlust – Frank Turner

I am Disappeared – Frank Turner

Home – Phillip Phillips

My Silver Lining – First Aid Kit

Tips on Saving Money

I like to think I’m pretty good at saving. During my undergrad I was putting money aside to travel to Brazil a few times, and I was still saving a decent amount annually. This has really helped for this year, now I’m only studying and not working, and living off family help rather than a student loan. (Touch wood) but I have avoided entering my overdraft 100%, so to me an overdraft is not a safety net to use freely, but one as a last resort.

Currently I am cutting back so I can comfortably afford a trip to Portugal in April, and a music festival in July (Y Not in Derbyshire!). Here are ways I am managing my limited funds so I can afford to fun things that will leave me with great memories.

Budget Spreadsheet

Using Excel to plan a monthly budget, figuring out each thing will cost (food, rent, entertainment etc) and sticking to it (!!) is a life saver when needing to know how much I can save a month.

Buy only clothes you REALLY want/need

This has been easier since living in Spain because when I buy clothes I have to be aware I have to pack them in a single suitcase to take back to the U.K, but even before I would resist buying on impulse, instead leaving it for a week or so and if I still wanted the item I’d buy it.

Learn to say no

It can be too tempting to say yes to every invite – even when you know you can’t afford it. People will understand if you don’t have the funds, and before committing yourself be honest that you need to work out your budget to see if you can afford it. If you say no to little things or things you’re not too enthusiastic about, that way you can afford the more fun things.

Cheap food

UK supermarkets are great for offering “basics”, which are cheaper versions of your everyday purchases, and are really no different from more expensive brands. It might even help to limit meat/fish purchasing when cooking at home – it’s cheaper and healthier. Learn to make delicious foods from scratch, rather than ready made meals. And cook in bulk to either freeze meals or enjoy throughout the week.

Enjoy time at home with friends

Instead of eating out, all share the ingredients cost to cook at home. Usually this is well received as who doesn’t like to save money whilst socialising. And friends won’t judge you for turning up in comfy clothes and zero make up.

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!

The perks of having lupus

Okay, so it’s not great having an incurable, life threatening, life changing disease that can control your life and ambitions, affect your relationships and can make day to day life a struggle. It actually sucks. It’s even worse when you feel like people don’t understand, which is a top complaint from anyone living with a chronic illness. It can affect your mental happiness as well as your physical well-being, and I see this from blogs I’ve read, vlogs I’ve watched, and the occasional forum/tumblr post ect.

BUT.

Sometimes I’m left wondering if these lupus posts are benefiting anyone, especially the writer. The ones where it seems to be nothing but ranting about having lupus and all the complications that come with it. Now, I love having a good rant. It’s part of the reason I started this blog in the first place, and I like using it so I don’t have to offload so much of my lupus worries onto my friends. I know they’ll listen, but sometimes I want to pretend everything is normal again with them.

But I’m a firm believer that if anyone focuses too much on the negativity in their life, they themselves will only feel negativity and that’s not healthy. I like to focus on the good aspects of things, and when you’re stuck with something for life, this is really helpful. So can good come from lupus? Only if you make it so.

Friends/Family Support

This I have found to be the most important, and what has really helped me deal with the diagnosis. From the blog posts  I’ve read, it gives the impression that often there is a complete lack of understanding from your closest circle. They don’t mean to be so, but no one really “gets it” unless they have it. It can make people with lupus feel alone, and in some cases people have lost friends because those people just didn’t care. Luckily, I have experienced almost the complete opposite. Sure, there have been a few friends who never bothered to ask me how I was doing when they knew I had been in hospital and had to quit my job. And that hurt. But that was only a handful, instead I have never felt luckier or more appreciative of my friends, both old and new, who really were there for me. And I don’t think I could ever thank them enough. I was also cautious to tell new friends I have made since my diagnosis, I didn’t want that to be one of the first things they learnt about me. But when I told people, I never got any of the comments, like “but you don’t look sick”, or “maybe you should try changing your diet” that seems to be expected. Instead they were fully understanding and supportive straight away. So yeah, lupus sucks. But you realise people are there for you, and that you’d go mad without them. And you love them even more for just being there.

Doctors take you seriously

Before diagnosis some lupus patients are suspected of hypochondria, but I’ve found since being diagnosed, no matter what complaint you go to the doctor with, they cannot ignore it “just in case”. Which is pretty good really. Even if I’m worried I’m wasting their time, they’ll never let it show. Even whilst studying in Spain, I’ve had trouble with the bureaucracy and it’s affected my access to healthcare, but they wouldn’t let me be unable to see the doctors I need (thank god). I know a lot of people have complaints about doctors, but they know what’s important and their main job is to make sure you’re okay. So you can go into an appointment knowing they will pay attention to you, and that whatever you say will be taken into account.

Kicks you into well-being

I liked to think I was pretty healthy before I was diagnosed. Always ate healthy: fresh produce, and home made meals by yours truly (so it was annoying when I was undiagnosed and suffering that so many people just assumed I wasn’t eating properly). I even joined the gym (until I got so ill I could barely drag myself out of bed let alone to do a session of zumba or cardio). But with lupus a healthy lifestyle is more important than ever. I’m now even more conscious of what food I buy. I make sure I’m getting all the necessary nutrients, I make packed lunches of pasta and salads for long days at university instead of buying god knows what at the cafeteria, and although I’m not a gym bunny yet, I make sure I stay active by walking most places. Your body is a temple, even if it is under permanent restoration. When your health becomes your number one priority, you realise how delicious healthy eating can be.

A weird kind of invincibility

There can be times when you feel totally vulnerable. Your body is in constant battle with itself, and the littlest infection puts you at high risk. But despite facing constant setbacks, the overload of pills you take each day allows you to live each day. Every achievement becomes so much more meaningful when the odds are against you.

You appreciate things more

Time with friends, time with family, concerts, walking about in the sun, late nights and long days. These are a few of my favourite things (or at least what I appreciate more knowing they take a toll on me more than they used to). The fact you can still live a normal life despite the doctor appointments, hospital visits, tests, medication and general “approach life with caution”, means every good moment is a lot more meaningful to you.

An excuse to nap

Because who doesn’t love to nap? At least now I can have a nap and not feel guilty.