Saturday, 31 January 2015

"Barcelona is not the capital of Spain, that's Madrid!"

Barcelona on a budget: 210 euros for hotel and flights.

It was my first time to Spain and my cousin planned the whole trip. We stayed at Hotel Sant Agusti which is one of the oldest hotels in Barcelona. This hotel is situated just off Las Ramblas where the main shops are and a fantastic food market, La Boqueria. We found this first and had traditional paellas, although I couldn't eat the king prawn sitting on my plate- it's eyes were staring at me...
My cousin decided the best way to really see the city was to go on a (free) walking tour and we saw all the awe-inspiring sights: Royal Square, Placa Nova, Roman tombs, Placa del Peak, he Jewish quarter, Saint Felio Neri (where Vicky Christina Barcelona was filmed), the Government Square and El Born. We gave the tour guide a tip and went to get a snack which of course had to be churros mmm. After this we went back to actually check into our hotel and got ready for dinner. We had been told to go Cometacino restaurant which we did and we ate tapas whilst drinking a whole jug of sangria. Then for some evening entertainment my cousin suggested visiting the Harlem Jazz Club to get another drink and see some 'new age' jazz. It was so good but the stools were very uncomfortable!

We had a list of things that we wanted to do and see. So in order to do everything we woke up early and caught a taxi to La Sangranda Familia as it is famous for the long lines to get inside. We waited an hour to book a ticket for later in the day so we decided to be productive and visit park Guell. The walk was thigh burning up several steep hills but we made it and bought some water ASAP. There wasn't enough time to buy a ticket to go inside so we saw what we could from the surrounding areas which for me was enough. (We pretty much saw everything except Gaudi's house.) Took a taxi back to La Sangranda Familia as time was running out and it was definitely worth the queuing. Although not finished the architecture was just... wow.
Again we had tapas for lunch and then tried some Catalyan ice-cream. After eating we looked around the shops and bought some things in Sephora, I've been waiting for such a long time to visit. Back to the hotel again for a siesta... when in Barcelona(?) and then we got ready for dinner in the urban part. We went to a restaurant called La Reina del Raval which was outside in a square. Then, after eating we fancied a drink (of course) and my cousin suggested going to the oldest cocktail bar in Barcelona. Here they have served Hemingway to Miro and the waiters wore dickie- bows.

On this day we walked to what is left of the Jewish Quarter and found Sinagoga Major. They had all sorts of artefacts dating back to the 1200's. There was a visitors book so we wrote something nice, gave a donation and left (it was a very small museum). Running with a theme of museums we went to the Museum Piscaso next.  As we are both students we got in for free! I bought some postcards of  my favourite work, I really like the obscure paintings.
We then walked to the Port for some lunch and to see the Head of Barcelona statue.  After we walked back to the hotel to collect our things and check out.

We got to the airport and our flight was delayed by two and a half hours... Just our luck.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Addicted to books

I purchased some new books that I thought I would share with you all, some of them are shown in the photo (please excuse my face). My Amazon wishlist is forever growing so I thought I would buy some from the list, naughty. Here are the books that I purchased, I am still waiting on a few to arrive...

  • Tuesdays with Morrie By Mitch Albom
  • The world according to Bob By James Bowen
  • The last werewolf By Glen Duncan 
  • Fangirl By Rainbow Rowell
  • The Dinner By Herman Koch
  • Midnight's Children By Salman Rushdie
  • No and me By Delphine de Vigan
  • I wanna be your Joey Ramone By Stephanie Kuehnert
  • Gregor and the rats of the Underland By Suzanne Collins 
  • The apologist By Jay Rayner
  • The hourglass factory By Lucy Ribchester 
  • The maze runner By James Dashner 
  • Scar and the wolf By Bertram Boo 
  • The claiming of sleeping beauty By A.N. Roquelaure
  • The subtle knife By Philip Pullman 
  • The amber spyglass By Philip Pullman 
  • The hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy By Douglas Adams 
  • All my friends are superheros By Andrew Kaufman
  • Elizabeth is missing By Emma Healey
  • The Rosie effect By Graeme Simsion 
And I have a few more to read and MANY more that I want to read. So much to read, such little time...

Edinburgh with my Grandmother

'Hopped on' the Easy jet Airbus to Edinburgh and then took a bus to Georges Street. We walked along Princes Street, parallel to Georges Street,  to the shops and had a mooch around. Then got some lunch. Plodded to our hotel to drop off our bags before visiting the main attraction, Edinburgh Castle. Unluckily on the way to the castle we found ourselves walking up The Mound which is a very steep hill. We didn't realise that there was an easier route to get the our destination. Once inside the castle walls we roamed around looked at the exhibits they had to offer, like the famous Crown Jewels.
Just around the corner from the castle situated the The Hub, a cafe for the Fringe Festival, here we had some tea to replenish ourselves. On this old, cobbled street there was a building for the Camera Obscura which contained floors of illusions and even their own vortex tunnel! We strolled around the Lawn Market and found the Whiski Rooms where I had a scrumptious cocktail and Scottish lamb for dinner. 

Overweight holiday makers grabbing trays off the side and practically running to gobble the last cold sausage... this was our complimentary breakfast. Children screeching for attention and 'clubbers' recovering from their nights out were dozing on the tables. And of course it was raining outside so we did what any British person would and took a nap. After the worst weather was over, we ventured to the North Bridge to the Writer's Museum and had a gander. We ingested some of the Scottish literary greats life stories and I bought a book of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (still yet to read it). Next stop was the National Edinburgh Museum, this is where Dolly the sheep stuffed carcass lives. The whole place was a taxidermist's dream. Stopped again for some tea (old people like tea) at The Elephant House. Also known as the Birthplace of Harry Potter as J.K.Rowling sat and wrote in this cafe. I kept thinking about things to write about to also become a best seller... nothing came to mind. So we continued with our journey to The Real Mary King's Close to have an underground tour of the city and what it would have been like living there. One road was comically named 'Shit Street' as the inhabitants threw their waste down to the canal. After this strange experience with our non- enthusiastic tour guide we fancied a drink. A stiff drink. The World Famous Frankenstein seemed a better place than any for one so I had another cocktail, the 'Dr Frankenstein', a concoction of colours: black, green and blue. Dinner was at The Playhouse as we wanted to visit but there was nothing on that we fancied seeing. 

On our last day there, of course, we had rain. We went to a converted bank to fancy restaurant, The Dome.  Rich in heritage and the food wasn't all that bad either. This time I had a virgin cocktail to pace myself as after we went to a bar, The Newsroom.  I had to take a copy of their drinks menu as it was printed in a style of a broadsheet newspaper. Love it. 

My Grandmother has still got it!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Nie Mowie Po Polsku...

Four days in Krakow travel diary.

Day one: Had an early flight at 6:45am from our local airport which was bustling. The flight was short but sweet and then we had to get into a taxi to the main strip in Krakow. Strolling through Cloth Hall in the main square showed how much amber stones were used within Poland in jewellery. I bought a particularly cute turtle ring with an amber shell. We purchased Polish style dumplings and cider for lunch, eating outside in the square. Since this was meant to be a cheap trip we stayed in a hostel which was next to the train line and the what's left of the Jewish area, called Kazimierz. Here we found a synagogue and near there we spotted a restaurant called 'Hamsa'... Make hummus, not war in our mezza restaurant.

Day two: The day we ventured to Auschwitz. Meeting my Grandparents there, one of which is a Holocaust survivor. Our driver told us "Living is like a swimming pool, living in Poland is the same but the water is jelly. Everything is harder." We met the Grandparents and their group at Auschwitz Birkenau, they arrived holding an Israeli flag and playing music. We stopped at the women's dorms where thirty women slept on bunk beds, three to a bed. My Grandfather spoke about his experiences here, telling us his story within the place where the monstrosities occurred. After we walked to Aushcwitz One, the work camp, where my other Grandfather was kept. We walked through rooms displaying the hair, shoes and bags of the victims within the camps. We ended the emotionally exhausting day in the crematorium discussing what we have seen and felt today.

Day three: Wawel castle day but we only went to three exhibits: The Lost Wawel, The State Rooms and The Dragon's Den. The latter being a cave with a spiral staircase leading underground.

The rest of the day was spent buying souvenirs and then we attended a Klezmzer-Hois restaurant for dinner. They had live music and 'traditional' Jewish food which was situated within the Jewish quarter. One dish claimed to be 'Jewish caviar', not sure what that is but okay...
After we finished the day at a beer garden where we drank some cocktails.

Day four: Had a breakfast made by the hostel which for the price as actually quite nice and left for the airport. I purchased some watermelon and mint vodka. Then we left Poland, we didn't manage to see the salt mines so another visit will definitely be on the cards!

I would recommend a visit to Krakow,

Monday, 19 January 2015

Cardiff: Probably the best city in the world.

The slogan: 'Probably the best city in the world' was taken from a jumper I purchased in a souvenir shop. It was meant to be a pun on Calsberg beer...  well I thought it was funny.

We stayed at a quaint b&b next to the river for a few nights. However, the journey getting there was full of detours. Detours to the train station and detours to the b&b which involved climbing over a wall. Our first stop was the 1# Coffee Shop, their coffees drunken by many famous people so of course we had to try one. After that we waited patiently for a water taxi. We didn't have to pay as all the seats were taken so we stood and took in the amazing view. We arrived at Mermaid Quay and ran to The Bay in order to get into the last time slot for The Doctor Who experience. We got there just in time for the experience which consisted of being part of the television show and walking through the tardis. We passed the dreaded weeping angels, they scared me enough to latch onto my friends arm. The second part to the tour was more of a museum with different tardis' inners from the different Doctors.

Wicked was playing at the theatre and to my amazement there were available seats for that day, well I say seats when actually it was 'standing' tickets as we had a leaning post. Although by the end of the show our feet were hurting it was definitely worth it. The set was amazing and the music fantastic, I was singing it for weeks afterwards.

The b&b provided us with a full English that was mouth watering and when we were fed we left for Cardiff castle. We did have our bags with us so it was quite the struggle but we made it work. At the castle we watched a movie about the building of it which was obviously aimed at the more younger audiences. The rest of the castle was nice to look at but very windy!

Next, we shopped at the high street util my companion couldn't so we went back to the 1# Coffee shop and waiting for our train home.

About a few days away,

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Nostalgia in the orthodontist

So there I was today in the orthodontist waiting to be seen to be told that I might need braces again, after having them for five years, but that's another story. As I waited hoping that the ticket on my car wouldn't run out before I was seen to, many teenagers appeared to make follow up appointments. A group of siblings wearing school uniform from my old high school appeared. I sat there thinking that was FIVE years ago now... where have the years gone? It doesn't seem possible, during the time I started my orthodontist work I have: completed my GCSE's, left school, started college, finished college, learnt to drive, moved to university and now in my final term of university. And this place has been here all that time and stayed the same. This made me think how our parents must feel watching their children grow from babies to young adults and how the time must fly. I then thought, how do our grandparents feel? Life must feel like a blink of an eye...

Nostalgia means sentimentally to the past, usually with happy personal associations but was my school years the happiest? No. There are soo many aspects I would change now if I could go back. Stand up to the bullies, work harder and respect myself more. I would never want to go back to school, I like there person I'm growing into and feel that the school 'past' self was just a phase in my life better left.

Just a few lines from me,

Monday, 12 January 2015

A rant about a phone...

I have a mobile phone with certain company... apparently the phone is a good one- Sony Xperia SP. It has all the lasted gadgets and gizmos but unfortunately it didn't work. It kept turning itself off and freezing so today I decided I had enough and to take the hindrance back. The lady was quite helpful and did a factory reset. However, she managed not to save my phone numbers and I was left with some unknown random numbers saved to sim. She then decided that in fact the phone really didn't work (what I've been telling her all along) and that it needs to be sent off to be repaired. 

I spoke to a man on the phone and he kept reminding me to get a receipt to prove that you've sent the phone off....

It's only just occurred to me that I haven't got an address to send it to and if I send it off will I have to pay? It's not my fault I was given a faulty phone. 

So now I am stuck with a £30 Nokia, which actually is better than a non working Xperia and the same price as a month on contract. 

Hating technology right now...

A few of my favourite books made into movies

In no particular order.....

  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick  (Movie named Blade Runner)

I brilliant sci-fi book, the plot depicts a bounty hunter (in the movie he's played by Harrison Ford) who is on a mission to retire escaped androids. But the plot gets complicated when he ends up falling for one and the lines of humanity get blurred.

  • The Hobbit By J. R. R Tolkien 

People are going to hate me for this but I actually preferred the movie to the book. Martin Freeman just makes the character Bilbo Baggins for me, he's better than anything I would have imagined.

  • The Fault In Our Stars By John Green 

John Green, the best writer for when you want to shed a tear... or several. The book was better than the movie but I thought the movie was shown so tastefully and also pulled at several heart strings. Both make you feel like you are the protagonist Hazel Grace. NOTE: Paper Towns is being made into a movie, this year, staring Cara Delevingne!!!

  • The Time Traveller's Wife By Audrey Niffenegger

One of my favourite books of all time, please read it! If you haven't watched the movie then READ it first, the movie (I feel) doesn't do its justice. Although the casting was good.

  • Memoirs of a Geisha By Arthur Golden 

Another favourite book of all time. Both book and movie was amazing, I remember the movie more though...

  • Harry Potter Series By J. K. Rowling 

We've all read them... Well I did last Summer (a bit late on the bandwagon). I have the special, colourful collection which was just a joy to read. I loved how the books looked and felt (nerding out sorry), I couldn't wait to pick up the next one in the series.

  • Interview with a Vampire By Anne Rice  

Lastly, one of the best vampire/gothic I've read. The movie was done so well and really allowed the viewing to get to know the main characters (played by Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise of course).

Generally, the book is better to read first so your imagination can come up with its own character description and then watch the movies :)

A few books based on fairy tales...

'Once upon a time....'
Now in my final year of uni I've started to write my dissertation, the long 10,000 words piece of work everyone dreads. I thought I would pick a fun topic to keep myself amused for the next term. So my question was formed on the topic of Charles Perrualt's Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty. During the background reading it surprised my how many novels where based on fairy tales. Here are a few I thought where interesting and/ or amusing:

1) The Book of Lost Things By John Connolly (A must read, the story is well written and captivating!)

2) The Girl with Glass Feet By Ali Shaw (Interesting plot with a not quite satisfying ending. Maybe a sequel is in order?)

3) The Night Circus By Erin Morgenstern (Good and engaging plot and sub-plots. I didn't put the book down...)

4) Ravish: The Awakening of Sleeping Beauty By Cathy Yardley (An erotic novel, interesting concept but I didn't finish it... too 'Fifty Shades'.)

5) The Snow Child By Eowyn Ivey (A nice and easy read. Very sweet story :) )

6) Beauty By Sarah Pinborough (Has to be a YA book? Still need to finish it. Unfortunately lost interest.)

And basically anything written by the literary marvel that is Angela Carter :)

I'm yet to read the Lunar Chronicles series and hope to read them soon...

There are many more books on
which I'm going to check out too.

Happy reading,

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Books on what happens next/ the afterlife

Recently I have just read The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North. The plot is about a man, Harry, who dies and comes back to life remembering his 'past life'.  The book goes through several of his lives before it get to the juicy sub plots. Like the fact there are others like him and he is one of the few that can remember everything from each life. I won't tell you the whole plot- go read it, the book entertained me on a five hour flight.

Then, I'm obviously following a theme, I picked up The Five People You Meet in Heaven written by an international seller (unknown to me) Mitch Albom. Can I start by saying this book is great, just great. I love the way the paragraphs are structure and some of the beautiful wording he used, especially when he describes people's lives as glass. In this book the main character Eddie is a war veteran and now works on a pier theme park. He saves a little girls life and in the process dies and goes to 'heaven'. Here he meets five people and has to go through different memories. I'm currently on number four... I'll let you know how it goes.

Lastly, I wanted to mention a book I read a few years ago, Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin. This story depicts a young girl called Liz who was killed in a hit and run. She also goes to a 'heaven' and there everyone gets younger and can talk to animals. This is such a lovely image of the afterlife, especially the end but I won't give any spoilers!

Sorry this was so morbid but lately these books got me thinking, what does happen?
And I'll leave you with that... If you have any afterlife themed books please suggest them.

Travel writing in Israel: Ascend to Masada

I wrote this piece after touring around Israel when I was sixteen years old. I found this particular day the most interesting and I hope you find it interesting too!

Just Back: Ascend to Masada 

“Welcome to the Bedouin tents,” our tour leader spoke with haste while off loading us from the stuffy coach. Sweaty and sleepy-eyed teenagers emerged one by one. We had been hibernating in it for the last five hours. The sun beamed down, as if we were being cooked alive by the rays. The scenery housed acres and acres of sand; pillows of fine grains, in a light mustard which softened our heavy steps. The air had a fresh quality to it and smelled like the saltiness of oncoming waves. Not like that of Essex.

Given food and water, much like the camels and donkeys, we trudged on towards our entertainment for the next half hour. My fellow ‘tour members’ had camel rides whilst a girl named Nicole and I sat outside a clothes shack. Her excuse for not taking part was the suffering of the animals, the weight they had to endure every day from tourists. Whereas mine was simply the fact I am allergic to animals and I did not think the Bedouins would have any Piriton.

A man dressed in the traditional oman showed us through a maze of vibrantly coloured and jewelled tents. We were then lead to a tent that was assumed to be, ‘the head tent’; being the biggest and most decorative.  Scarves layered upon homemade materials knotted together to create protection from the outside world.  Ushered inside we all sat in a circle, cross-legged like primary school children, on plumped cushions and waited for our next activity. We were offered sweet tea that represented the women and black coffee for the men, which was a shame, as I prefer drinking coffee. There were also date snacks reeking of a sickly sweetness: “They must grow dates here,” a girl at my side giggled. We sat with full hands and sitting comfortably as a man introduced himself. He informed us he was the son of the owner of this camp and then proudly stated that his grandfather had seven wives. He hoped one day to have as many; sadly he currently only had three. His dark eyes ogled the girls in his audience. Creepy.

We were eventually able to go to bed.  Thinking our beds would be just as luxurious as the Bedouin cushions we had previously sat upon, we relished a good night’s sleep. Instead we had a mattress each as thick as cardboard. I went to sleep next to my friend, Benji and his friend Sam followed. Sleeping in between two snoring boys isn’t as fun as it sounds.

“Get up guys!” was our wake up call, if you could call 4:30am a time to wake up. It was still night outside. I tried to sit up which was impossible, as Sam’s face was pressed up to my hair and Benji’s elbow was trapping the other side of my head. We all eventually got dressed and moaned all the way back to the coach.

Mount Masada was our next destination. So, forty-four hungry, sleepy and non-energized teenagers climbed the gruelling and practically vertical height of Masada. My thighs burned from exercising the muscles I never knew I possessed. After what seemed like hours climbing stairs and paths, which we could easily fall from, we reached the top (in seven minutes, a record timing). Mazel Tov!

Studying the sunrise on Masada, which overlooked the desert, was an eerie yet exquisitely awe-inspiring moment. As if observing a magnificent painting, goose bumps appeared to the skin’s surface and the view was breathtakingly remarkable. It was like a re-enactment of the scene in The Lion King when Simba is born as we listened to The Circle of Life. All I could think about was the Bedouins who see this every day.

Shalom from Yisra’el.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more travel articles :)

I come from Southend, somebody had to...

This is a piece of my work I found and recently updated, inspired by Bill Bryson.
Disclaimer: If you are from Southend please do not feel offended, this is a satirical piece and know that I love the town dearly. 

I come from Southend, somebody had to. 

I come from Southend. Somebody had to.
How would one describe a town like Southend?
The name Southend-on-Sea protrudes a little seaside town,
Where people who are gay and I mean in the happy sense, stroll down the seafront eating fish and chips in cones. 

Living a stone throw away from the sea should have its advantages. 
That would be true, however if you enjoyed swimming in a toxic greenly brown sea that bleeds pollution- crying for help. This is to no avail as the only civilizations are the teenagers that cycle on the ‘no cycling’ zones. The shattered glass glinting in the sun as it slices their precious wheels. 

Along the seafront is ‘The World’s longest pier’ which has many faults, well considering its now been burnt down twice. Once because a teenager (again) forgot to stump out their cigarette, wooden floorboards and fire are not a good combination. The second from a gas leak, which happened to combust a light bulb, nice.  Redeemed with a museum for the pier, however, there is no history of the pier inside. But there is an overpriced gift shop that sells jam, which you can get in any shop, for any tourists we may have. 

The main attraction at the seafront however would be the amusement park, Adventure Island. It was known as Peter Pan Playground. They have corny rides, with corny names like; Pharaoh’s Fury and Cow Jumped over the Moon, which makes one think who comes up with these names? Well all the rides are from Germany, built to last, so they will be the only surviving things left when the world finally ends. Sick stained seats and all. The bumper cars aka dislocating your neck ride makes you pay extra, even though you would pay extortionate amount to go the rides already. Adventure island have their own unlimited supply of pensioners looking for a past the time activity, they are plonked at the cashiers. Well it’s either that or to become a lollypop ‘person’. 

Another USP (unique selling point) of the end of the South is that of the Kursaal.  The houses around, are known as the Kursaal estate, sounds quite posh. There are however a gated off set of flats. They look like something from a holiday home, palm trees and all. The electronic gate is there for a reason, as round the corner all the low lives of Southend congregate, comparing what and whom they sole from that day. 

The mundane life of South of the end, everyone does the same. The weekends eager crowds come hurdling to catch a 27, 1 or 2 bus into, what the natives call it, town. Work the week and shop and drink the weekend. The grey landscape of town puts black and white film to shame. The layers upon layers of chewing gum and used condoms cushion ones steps.  Don’t get me wrong there’s: Topshop, River Island and Miss Selfridge like another shopping center, but every so often a new ‘bargain’ shop develops. They sell generic leggings and t-shirts, trying to incorporate the saying YOLO into anything wearable.  

In the past there was to be a 2000 millennium clock, a pride radiated from it.  Now a distant version of the gleam that was… renamed the emo clock. 
On several occasions shopkeepers had to leave their posts to divide a chav vs emo fight. Watch out for knuckle-dusters and that’s just the girls (as mum would say).  Coffee shops miraculously appear from nowhere, probably to disguise the recession; one can now get a coffee whilst trying the clothes on in the shop’s changing rooms.  

“Next up on our tour ladies and gentlemen… get you’re cameras out... it’s Hamlet Court Road” Jam-packed with dodgy decrepit men, juvenile mums and money-thieving businessmen, Welcome. The greasy spoons invite the greasily haired neighbours with open arms.  Round the corner sleeps an ancient and abandoned church which now hibernates storing drug dealers in batches. Opposite this a pub lies waiting for the busker’s monies, a convenience to say the least. The slurred words sound like a foreign language. 

Thank god I got out when I did. 

Thank you for reading and please tell me what you think, 

I'm new to this...

Hello the wide world of the web,

I've decided to try my hand at this so here goes, I'll start with my background...

My name is Sofie, I am a uni student studying English and creative writing. My main hobby is to read but I also love to travel (when I have the monies). These two will the main topics of this blog.

I might chuck in some beauty topics such as clothing, make up and also the relentless times I dye my hair. But lets get the first blog published first.

I'm gonna hit the 'Publish' button now...

Speak soon,