Over the Easter Holidays, which seems like an eternity ago now, I went on a bit of an adventure. You may recall how I went away to Austria over Easter 2014 on an orchestral tour to Vienna, and it appears that music, Austria and long haul coach trips are now somewhat a tradition for me over the Easter break. However, this year I did not have my sheet music and violin in tow, but ski boots, goggles and a slight apprehension about what I had actually signed up for. This time I was off to Snowbombing Festival.
Ramblings from a coffee shop
I have begun writing this post sitting in a coffee shop of which this will be my third visit, partly because it is just so good and mainly because I don’t know where else to go as a non-resident of Durham. It feels a little bittersweet to write a post about how brilliant Durham is as I had my heart set on studying here for so long, so I already knew what a wonderful place it is. In fact, I did have concerns it would be a little upsetting to be here and be so involved with the student lifestyle I once thought I would be living. However, this visit has so far reassured me that although Durham is wonderful, Bristol is the city for me after all and I can continue to write this post about my wonderful trip with no bad blood or dramatic sobs of ‘WHY OH WHY?!’. So now I’m going to carry on sipping my raspberry tea whilst I wait for my friend to join me and enjoy the rest of my time here with a refreshing sense of contentment that everything has worked out for the best.
I want to do a bit of a profile of some places that I have visited, but because I am pretty sure I will visit most – if not all – of them again at some point, I’m going to call this ‘series’ (woah getting a bit of professional over here) “First visits” cause I’m so creative with naming things. So here is the first of the first visits. How apt!
Vienna, Austria, Central Europe
I live in a house of constant crafting. My dad spends his free time making wooden trinkets and recently got into pyrography; my mum has dabbled in card making, scrapbooking and sewing, and has the big project of decorating a bare doll’s house to keep her busy currently; and then there is me with my (terrible) paintings, drawings and general crafting. I have grown up making things, and I don’t think my creative streak will ever stop having its own way and causing me to start projects that take a ridiculous amount of time to get done. But I love it.
A Scrapbook for a Travel Lover
For Christmas this year, which now feels like a far away dream, some of my friends and myself took part in a secret santa. As soon as I found out which lovely person I had been assigned my brain immediately jumped to the creative side and I started writing down all my ideas of gifts I could give her because I have way too much spare time. My friend is very into travelling and as it is something we have in common I thought it might be a nice idea to create a kind of European city travel scrapbook. I know, I am like a ten year old who just wants to glue and stick things all the time (was that just me then as well?).
On a trip to Liverpool my friend helped me choose this lovely scrapbook from Paperchase and the rule is when you have bought the scrapbook you have to start filling the scrapbook – no backing out. Uh oh.
So for about a month and a half, I slowly filled up the pages with a city profile for each two page spread. Some pages are pretty terrible (e.g. the first pages on Paris), but on a whole I was quite pleased with it. The idea behind it was that my friend could put her own photos in, check off the places she had visited and fill in her memories from her adventures, and her task is now to make sure she gets all those places ticked off and more. It isn’t perfect by any means – I am not actually that good at arts and crafting, I just really enjoy doing it. But it is full of lots and lots of love, because I am a walking cliché. Here are a few of the pages that aren’t too naff:
I know, it is a bit of a weird present, but I think she liked it!
Gifts in a Jar
I also wanted to get something for the rest of my friends, but I as worrying about offending them a little if I gave them lavish gifts when the majority of them are living the student life I am soon to live. I know they wouldn’t be offended really, but I a ma bit of a worrier. So I decided if I went homemade-ish I could get away with getting them something. I had some jars lying about so I decided to utilise the jars and make 3 different types gifts:
1. Spa in a Jar
It rhymed so I had to do it. For the spa in a jar I bought various minature spa-type bits and bobs and quite simply… Put them in the jar! Each jar had one main product (e.g. body mist, body lotion etc…), a candle, a loofah/flannel, face mask, bath fizzer and rose bath petals. Then I covered the lid in purple tissue paper, made a label out of black card, and stuck it on. Easy!
2. Coffee/Tea Break Jar
It doesn’t rhyme, but it involve coffee and tea so you can’t go wrong. For these ones I actually found these jars that said coffee and tea on, and filled them up with various goodies – unsurprisingly, various types of coffee, various types of tea and then a load of chocolate and a few biscuits. I plonked some rope round the jars, made a label and again, easy!
3. Cookie Jar
The final jar was quite simply full of cookies. Yum. My friend asked for he cookie recipe, and this is the one I tend to use for gooey, chocolate chip cookies.
‘Millie’s Style’ Chocolate Chip Cookies
(recipe by alice1211 on BBC Goodfood)
125g butter, softened
100g light brown soft sugar
125g caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
225g self-raising flour
½ tsp salt
200g chocolate chips
1. Get your oven on gas mark 4. Or 180°C. Or something else.
2. Get your butter and your sugars, sugar. Cream them, which I always find really fun.
3. Egg time. Beat it in. Then plonk in the vanilla, mmmmm.
4. Grab a sift and sift in the flour and salt.
5. Fold in those chocolate chips.
6. Make them into little balls, and put them on ungreased baking paper.
7. Bake them for no more than 7 minutes (believe me) and take them out – they will harden as the cool.
That was my creative Christmas splurge. I always like to read about other people’s crafting endeavours so I thought I would write about my own. Like I say, I’m not very good at it, but I don’t think you need to be. Especially if you have some jars lying about.
For a blogger that claims to be ‘obsessed with travel’, I rarely have ever mentioned travelling, other than my few trips round the country, which makes me seem a bit of a naff travel blogger.
To be fair, I’ve never claimed to be a blog solely talking about travel, and thank goodness for that because as some of you may know, I’m working in a school until next summer – and as much as I’d love to get more travelling out of this year, my job and my students now come first. Which is totally cool, as one; loving the job (you know that one already) and two; without it I wouldn’t have the funds to travel.
Cause I spent all my funds. This year… On travelling…
What!?!? You spent the money on travelling yet have never mentioned your travels? Yes, yes you are right imaginary astounded person. Thing is, the main trip I went on last summer was to Amsterdam with (I’m sure he won’t mind me saying) my now ex-boyfriend. Now when I started the blog, I actually starting writing about my trips to Vienna, London, Amsterdam and the Lakes, but because we broke up during this I was a bit too sob sob sob to be talking about what an amazing time we had in the Netherlands. But we’re still mates, and we’re good, so now I feel like I can finally write about it all. I’m the weirdo who writes about the trip with my ex, but I really just want to talk about HOW AMAZING AMSTERDAM IS. I dunno, bit weird, bit weird. Is it weird?
I know writing about where I went earlier this year doesn’t really fit the whole gap year theme, but the thing is I really want to write about travelling, and while I can’t travel but my wanderlust is still strong, it feels like a good time to relive the lovely trips I’ve been on.
Okay. Phewf. So I’ll start with Vienna and get that up, which was much earlier in the year than the rest of my trips, and I can’t believe it was this year…. It feels so far away! So get ready for some actually travel posts. It feels nice to say that even though it literally has nothing to do with my gap year.
Bonsoir! (see I can French. Side note: I was tempted to write a blogpost in French as I miss writing in it but then I realised people wouldn’t have the foggiest what I was on about and I would look more pretentious than ever. Such a tough life I lead, right?).
On Friday night I got back home from a lovely trip to Oxford with my boyfriend. It was a birthday present, and although I knew we were off to Oxford and would be doing a River Cruise, I knew nothing about where we actually staying in Oxford. I’ve got to say, I love a good surprise, so this one was pretty great.
We had quite the adventure actually getting to Oxford. Our home town is in the North-West of England, so as you can imagine, it takes quite a while, and a fair few trains to get all the way down to Oxford. So we meet at our local station all excited at around 9.15 am, nothing too early, but early enough for two teenagers. The first train journey was nothing too arduous – less than hour to Liverpool South Parkway on the all too familiar grey and yellow Merseyrail train. No delays, we were chatting away, it was going great. We get to Liverpool, however, and this is when it all goes a little wrong… But we wouldn’t realise that for another hour and a half.
Our next stop would be Birmingham New Street, so we hop over to platform 2 and wait for our train. One train comes along, and I say to my boyfriend ‘Nope, not our train, next one’, and I was half right. So the next train comes along, and it is at the time we had expected our train to come. Has to be our train, right? So we get on, find seats with a table (Jackpot!!) and settle in to watch an episode of ‘Don’t Tell The Bride’ on his iPad (which I highly recommend). Enthralled with the tantrums from the bride-to-be and “I’m sure £30 is enough for 10 bridesmaid dresses” from the groom-to-be (seriously, it is fantastic television), we don’t notice that the stations we are passing are not what we should be passing at all. Even when we stopped at Manchester Oxford Road for 15 minutes, reality TV had us too gripped to even blink an eyelid.
When the train started heading back the direction we came I was a little surprised, however. “It is probably just changing lines”, we assured ourselves. But we knew. Trying to ignore the obvious mistake we had made at first, we carried on watching our programme, but when it finished and I suddenly noticed that this would be the second time we passed Warrington Central, our mistake was proven and mobile phones were out checking the trainline to see which train we could catch to actually get to our actual destination.
2 hours or so later, and we’re finally back on track, with 2 more train journeys to go. We finally got there two hours later than expected, but we had a really good ham, cheese and honey mustard baguette from the Upper Crust at Birmingham, so I feel it was all okay. We are easily pleased.
So what about that surprise location where we would be staying? A prison. We stayed in a prison. But a really fancy one. Well, not quite. My boyfriend somehow managed to get a room at the Oxford Malmaison, which is an old prison reinvented into a gorgeous hotel, and it was so bloomin’ posh that our room was decorated with various tartan items and the complimentary tea included at least 4 green teas and a selection of fruit teas. I’m just used to good ol’ English Breakfast when it comes to free tea.
Once we got there we decided to go for a wander, and headed towards Christ Church Meadow. Before we got into the park area, we had to walk down a busy main road, but the sudden quietness as we walked into the park compared to the urban chatter only a minute away was amazing. You can see why so many people dream of studying there; the gorgeous setting is only further complimented by the complete silence you can find in so many places in the city. This beautiful meadow spanned for acres, and we only got a small glimpse of it, however within our little walk we saw people punting, fields of cows and the cutest ducks you could ever imagine.
My boyfriend had also booked a special offer we our very fancy hotel, so we were actually having a meal at the hotel that night. Now the one thing I told my boyfriend was more important than anything is that we eat good food, because we both like trying new food and basically eating in general (hence our excitement over the baguettes). I was not disappointed. First we ordered some fancy cocktails. Mine was lovely, but I wasn’t a fan of my boyfriend’s… Jalapeños in a cocktail, not for me. The rest of the meal was as follows:
- Crusty Bread, with Hummus, Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar and Butter to share
- Tomatoes and Mozzarella for me, Thai Chicken Wings for my boyfriend to start
- Chargrilled Chicken, with a Thai Salad and Roasted Peanuts for mains
- Sticky Toffee Pudding for me, Chocolate Soufflé for my boyfriend for dessert
Hungry yet? I am again…
All in all it was a pretty amazing meal, and the fact we were sat in this uber-swish cellar, with bars on the windows to remind you of this stunning building’s history made it even cooler. After the meal, we were pretty knackered from all the travelling so just went back to the room to watch some ‘Orange is the New Black’ (see, we have good taste in TV really).
Pretty detailed account of our first day, perhaps too detailed and boring, but documenting it all is partly for myself so I can read them back and remember the awesome trips I’ve had. I have been reading lots of other lovely blog posts these past few days and have seen that many people finish them with questions, so I think I might do the same.
Have any of you been to Oxford before? What travel mishaps have people had in the past? And what food have people been enjoying lately?
Rhiannon 🙂 x
So I have no idea what this year will bring yet, but here are some ideas. Like a bucket list (cliché, right?).
- Get a job.
Before I can really do anything, I need some money. Getting a job has always been a tricky task for me. I applied for so many part-time jobs during my two years at college and rarely got anywhere that by February this year, I had completely given up. “Oh well!” I thought, “I’m off to Uni in a few months anyway.” Oh Rhiannon, how wrong you were.
- Go to France. At some point. Otherwise I’m a banana.
I mentioned that my future degree will be French and Russian, and I really would love to go to France for a month+ and get to speak some très sexy français (I promise, my French is better than that really).
- To further that, go interrailing around Europe.
I’ve already asked a lovely friend of mine about this, as we have always wanted to see Europe train style. We (drunkenly) decided we would this summer a while ago, but now we have decided that we might as well make it a real thing. Hopefully we can do that over the summer. Watch out Europe.
- Learn to drive. Maybe.
This is dependent on a job, but I need to learn and I have a lot of free time. Seems like a good idea. Perhaps the roads of my hometown might disagree
- Write some more music. Like actually do it and record it for a change.
Don’t get me wrong, I write music all the time. But I never actually sit down and record it properly. I record covers all the time, but as soon as it is my own stuff I feel like a bit of an idiot. So maybe I’ll actually get somewhere this year.
- Read more books.
Simple enough, but I get so lazy sometimes. I did really well last year/this year and read a lot of books for my English Literature A-Level, but this summer I have read 3 books. 3. I’m rubbish at times.
I need more ideas for sure, but we’ll start with those. I think I will do some more specific things and have a big list of random things to do soon, but this will do for now. The big things.
Hi! I’m Rhiannon. 18. Travel lover. Baking fanatic. Music nerd. And I take way too many pictures of my dog, Harvey.
So here’s the story. My uni sadly let too many applicants in and could not offer me my own permanent room for the first term. Sucks. I’m not one to be put off straight away, so I investigated further, but as more and more things went wrong I decided to do something that I didn’t imagine I would ever be doing, as someone who has dreamt of going to uni for so long. I decided to defer my offer and take a gap year (Dun, dun, duhhh).
Dramatic, right? Bet you’re on the edge of your seat with that exciting tale. But on a serious note, this was a big shock for me, I had never considered a gap year; I was meant to be going to uni in a couple of weeks, not a year. Luckily, I’m the travelling type. The degree I will eventually pursue will be French and Russian, therefore I am going to try my hardest to use this year to visit some brilliant places, especially France. So it’s not all bad!
In fact, it is pretty cool. I have a year to do whatever I like. I don’t have to impress any uni’s as I’ve already got my place. I don’t have to study for terrifying A-Levels. It’s exciting – and I really don’t want to waste this opportunity. So that’s the story behind the blog. My friend told me I should start one (Thanks, Tom!) to document my year, and all the adventures (finger’s crossed) I have. I’m not promising it will be all fun and games however. As I hadn’t planned for a gap year, and saved to go on numerous holidays with friends over the summer, I am a tad broke. Time to get a job and get saving, but it is going to be worth it.
I go to Oxford with my boyfriend tomorrow, and although this was planned well in advance of the gap year fiasco, I am going to class it as the start to my completely unplanned year. It is going to be an interesting one.