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Postcards from Edinburgh

On
Sunday, December 23, 2018

Undeniably one of my favourite places to visit, David and I headed to Scotland's capital to celebrate my 24th birthday earlier in the month.

Because of the incredibly cold weather, and because we ticked so much of to-do list off when we visited during the Fringe two years ago, the three-day break was different than usual. We did a little bit of shopping and visited the Surgeon Halls Museum, but mostly we didn't have an agenda, and ultimately we found ourselves just wandering around the city and exploring it in the height of its winter festivities. 

When we returned on the Friday afternoon, I felt unbelievably 'Christmassy' which I haven't been able to say in a very long time. Last year, we visited the Berlin Christmas markets, this year, the Edinburgh ones, perhaps we'll make it a tradition to visit a Christmas market each year.







One Year in Our Home

On
Saturday, December 1, 2018
Exactly one year ago today David and I moved into our first home and it's crazy to think about how much has changed since then.

From fitting a new boiler in January, and subsequently replacing all the radiators (and then plastering the walls), to fitting a completely new ensuite, to fitting new flooring throughout the house, to then the tiny details like plug fittings, door handles and hinges, a lot of labour has already gone into making this home ours, and I can't thank my dad enough for all the hours he's spent helping us, though there is still a long way yet to go.

Then, there's the cute fluffball currently lying on my legs - one year ago today neither of us thought that we'd end up with our own dog. She brings so much life and energy into the home (that's most likely the cocker in her!) and again, Christmas Eve will mark the day we brought her home.

Next year, the focus will undoubtably be on the kitchen which is in dire need of a makeover, the main bathroom upstairs, and furnishing the rooms. As we've been knocking out walls, glossing doors, and digging up the garden, the more exciting aspect of owning a home (at least, for me), has taken a backseat. So next year, I will buy those dining chairs I've had my eye on for what seems like forever and I will invest in a new, huge kingsize* bed.

*at least!!


Postcards from Orlando

On
Saturday, November 17, 2018

David and I travelled to Orlando, Florida for two weeks back in November 2016 as a celebration of my graduation and to mark our 4th anniversary. We covered so much in the two weeks (all Disney parks, Universal Studios, Discovery Cove, Kennedy Space Centre, etc) and I took so many photos, that limiting it down to a select few for this blog post was difficult! Looking through the images now reminds me of how magical the whole trip was and how I'd love to go back one day.












A Week in Rome (And My Top Tips for Visiting!)

On
Saturday, October 6, 2018

In August, David and I travelled to Rome for a week for our annual holiday. I've made it a habit to visit somewhere new every year and Italy has been somewhere I've always wanted to visit as an adult (I visited Venice when I was a toddler, and I can't remember any of it!). Here's what we did in a week and my top tips for anyone planning on visiting the eternal city.

Day one
We landed in Rome Fiumicino in the early afternoon, a couple of hours before hotel check-in. We waited in the hotel restaurant, drinking Diet Cokes until we were able to check into our room and I was able to change into something a bit more comfortable (skinny jeans in 30+ degree heat is not great!). We stayed at the Smooth Hotel which is quite close to the city centre, so we decided to walk into the centre to see the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. We quickly discovered the nasoni, Rome's free drinking fountains, and took advantage of them throughout the rest of our stay. On our way to the Trevi Fountain, we stopped at a gelato store and, quite foolishly, ended up paying €8 each for gelato (I would like to guess that it's probably a lot cheaper elsewhere). We also popped by to Pinsere and ate pizza in the street - I had a classic margherita and David ordered a broccoli, anchovy and olive pizza which was the shop owner's recommendation.



Day two
On day two, we visited the incredible Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. The three are so close to one another which meant we didn't have to stay on our feet for very long, therefore making the 34+ degree heat a lot more bearable. We also tried authentic Italian pasta and bruschetta from a nearby restaurant - both were amazing but the bruschetta was unreal.


Day three
Our third day was spent in the Vatican City, touring the museums and seeing Michelangelo's masterpieces, including the Creation of Adam, in the Sistine Chapel. We also saw the Castel Sant'Angelo and had burgers for tea at a little burger bar that had a Better Call Saul poster displayed on their wall - a winner based on the poster alone!



Day four
We started our fourth day in Rome with a visit to the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, also known as the 'bone chapel', the 'bone cemetery', or the 'bone church'. Though the overall experience was quite short (it consists of a short museum tour then entry to the chapel), the chapel itself was incredible and something both David and I enjoyed seeing. We then decided to visit the Pantheon, stopping again at the Trevi Fountain on the way.

Day five
On day five, we decided to travel out of the city centre to visit the Catacombs of St Callixus which is a short bus ride away. Before leaving for the catacombs, we decided to pop by and see the Bocca della Verita, the marble mask made popular by the film Roman Holiday, and the Circus Maximus, which had been recently used as a concert venue. Despite the fact we are both pretty hopeless with buses, and find metros and trains so much easier to navigate, we managed to get to the catacombs - and with a lot of time to spare too! When we returned to the city, we went to find the best pasta in Rome and I think we found it. Pasta Chef, just a short walk from the Colosseum, was our restaurant of choice after seeing excellent reviews online and it didn't disappoint. David ordered a tomato based pasta with shrimp and I opted for the vegetarian lasagna which is, to this day, the best vegetarian lasagna I've ever had.



Day six
After feeling that we'd seen all the major landmarks at this point, on the sixth day, we decided to venture out of Rome and visit the 'city of the sun', Naples. We travelled from Rome's main train station to Naples which only took us over an hour. With a small difference in price, we also decided to travel first class, which was a first for us both. Once we arrived in Naples, we visited Nuovo Castel, went to the top of Castel dell'Ovo, ate cannolis, sat in the Piazza Plesbiscito, then tried baba', an iconic dessert in Naples which  is a small yeasted brioche-like cake finished in a rum-spiked citrus syrup (we both weren't too keen). We also ate authentic Neapolitan pizza which was David's favourite food from the whole trip.



Day seven
Our final day doesn't count for much as we did nothing on our seventh day except for sleep and visit McDonalds (did you know Italian McDonald's serve cheesy chips?)! The holiday had truly caught up with us at this point, and so we had an extremely lazy day, sorted our suitcases, and got ready for our flight home the next morning.



My top tips for visiting Rome


If you’re planning on visiting Rome anytime soon, then there are a couple of things I think would be beneficial to know (or, at least, I wish I had known!). Continue reading for my top tips...

1. Carry an empty water bottle
As mentioned, the nasoni are Rome’s free-to-access and safe-to-drink water fountains placed throughout the city. Taking advantage of the nasoni will save you on average €2-€4 per bottle of water. The fountains can be found near in all major tourist spots as well as hidden away in side streets and on street corners. You can also find them by, as obvious as it is, listening for running water or looking for streams of water in the street. If you want to make it easier, there’s also a nasoni map app available for download on the App Store though be warned the user interface isn’t the best so you may need to spend some time to understand it!

2. Take the train
Rome is a pretty compact city that can easily be explored on foot, though visiting in the summer can be exhausting. Rome's metro system is efficient and affordable, making it easier to visit all the major landmarks of the city without breaking the bank. To get around without spending a lot, purchase a 100 minute ticket. The ticket, which costs a couple of euros, allows you to transfer between the metro, bus and tram within 100 minutes from when the ticket was validated. However, be warned that the tickets are only good for one-way journeys. For example, once you've left the metro station, you will have to purchase another ticket to travel again.

3. Ignore scammers and those trying to sell you things
Like many other major European cities, when in Rome, it's highly likely that you will encounter individuals trying to sell to you, or trying to scam you. We watched this YouTube video on the second night we were there and found it incredibly interesting. It sounds so rude, but throughout the rest of the trip, we simply ignored everyone which was a better tactic than engaging with them by saying 'no' or 'no, thank you'. If you show you have no interest in the items they're selling, they will leave you alone.

4. Cover up
Rome may be a major tourist spot but it's also important to respect the city's religious landmarks too. Rather ignorantly, I didn't consider the dress codes enforced within places like the Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel and the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, though, luckily, I had packed a skirt and dress that was long enough. The dress code is pretty simple: your shoulders and knees should be covered. 

September Snapshot

On
Monday, October 1, 2018
Coats are getting thicker, the air is getting cooler, and daylight is getting shorter: it's October, and autumn is officially here.

On reflection, September was probably the most exciting and unplanned month of 2018. To begin with, the 1st was David’s 24th birthday. We’d booked tickets to see Kynren (a live outdoor show telling the story of England) for the 31st of August, the evening before David's birthday. Although Kynren wasn’t a birthday present in particular, we had it all set weeks in advance and of course, on the evening I end up too ill to attend. Luckily David still ended up going with a friend, but the illness continued for the rest of the weekend and into the next week meaning that I was mostly in bed for David’s birthday weekend. Though I don’t think he seemed to mind, it would’ve been nice to have a marked his birthday with a nice meal out, visiting the cinema or seeing Kynren together!

The 14th was my leaving drinks at work, the 20th was my last day, while the 24th was my first day at my new job (it's been a busy few weeks). Additionally,  the 4th was David's first day at his new job!

Also within September, we painted, glossed and prepared the upstairs of our house for the new carpets which were fitted on the 17th. The home feels a lot more like ours (and warmer!), and for some strange reason, I'm reminded of Christmas when I stand in what will be our main bedroom.

Finally, on the 19th, we picked up our new car! The purchase was completely impulsive: we went to visit the VW garage on the Saturday prior - the 15th - and by 5pm, we've signed the documents, paid our deposit, and confirmed our pick-up date for the 19th. We're now the proud owners of a VW Tiguan. It is an absolute dream to drive and is so spacious I can't wait to visit IKEA with it!