Morocco (part 1)

It feels like this summer has been absolutely go go go for me. As you will (hopefully) have read, I’ve recently been to Paris, and now have just come back from Morocco. I’m lucky enough that one of my best friends is Moroccan so we had her as a tour guide which was amazing!

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I don’t even know where to begin describing Morocco. It’s lively, colourful and beautiful. The landscape is awe inspiring and the culture is amazing. Dry, arid dessert burns under the sun; huts rise from the land, crowning the hills; brightly coloured buildings line the narrow streets, and shops selling everything you could want pour out onto the street.

We started the trip by flying into Rabat. We ate dinner at an amazing little restaurant called Le Petit Beurre. The walls were adorned with the beautiful tiles Morocco is famous for, and a man sat playing traditional music. My first meal was a Pastilla, a pastry dish stuffed with spiced chicken, dusted with cinnamon and icing sugar. It was a flavour explosion in my mouth. In the morning we drove about 4 hours north to the Rif mountains and Chefchaouen. It is potentially the most beautiful place I’ve ever ben. Pictures do not do it justice.

Famous for it’s buildings painted vivid hues of blue, the city is nestled in the mountains. It felt like every few steps we took forward we had to whip out our cameras and take more photos because it was just so beautiful. We headed through the medina to the waterfalls on the other side. We didn’t do the trek to the waterfalls as we didn’t have the time, but we still got to see the streams running down the mountainside.

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Whilst there, we stayed just outside the city in the gorgeous Auberge Dardara, an absolutely stunning family run inn. Our rooms were traditionally decorated and absolutely beautiful. The pool was stunning, giving views of the mountains behind it. The inn is surrounded by farmland where they grow all their own food, and my god was it good. We ate like kings on dishes such as fig and goat tagine, home made goats cheese, fresh bread and vegetables. In short, it was PHENOMENAL. In the evening we rode some mules into the farmland around the auberge.

donkey riding

 

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Paris (part 5)

Sadly this is the last post from Paris. I hope you enjoyed my ramblings about it. This was our last day and we didn’t want to go too far from where we were staying, so we headed down the Boulevard Haussmann to Garnier’s Opera House. Under the rule of Napoleon after the French revolution, Paris underwent many changes. Mainly that Haussmann was commissioned to form a new plan for the city of Paris. He created wide boulevards and essentially designed Paris as we know it today. Napoleon also wanted Paris to be known as the centre of the artistic world, so he commissioned Garnier to design an Opera House to compete with all the others and enforce Paris as being centre of the arts. The product is something rather spectacular. The Opera House is dominating, ornate, and fantastic.

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The Opera House was a place designed to see and be seen. More space is dedicated to public interaction than to the auditorium. It features huge, magnificent halls, reminiscent of those in Versailles. It is astounding to think of how much money this must have cost.

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Many important and influential performances were held here. Particularly the Ballet Russes in the 1920s, which featured the works of countless artists and composers such as Picasso, Stravisky, Leon Bakst and Debussy. The ceiling of the auditorium is done by the Russian painter Marc Chagall. It is colourful, lively, and fantastic. Contrasting the older more opulent decor of the rest of the Opera House, whilst complimenting it at the same time.

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Paris (part 4)

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On our 4th day we decided to head to an area of Paris I really love, Montmartre. Montmartre is an area in the north of the city famous as being the area loads of artists, prostitutes and creative bohemians lived in. At the time most of the artists were living and working there, Montmartre wasn’t actually part of the city, and instead was a farmland area used for growing grapes. The Sacre Coeur is a beautiful church perched high on the hill of Montmartre, visible from lots of areas in Paris. You may have seen it in my pictures from the Eiffel tower and from the clock face on the Musée d’Orsay. The church has A LOT of steps, but luckily there is a little funicular that runs up them so you don’t have to climb the whole way. We decided to climb up the dome, once at the top, 300 steps later, it boasts some pretty spectacular views over Paris.

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After heading up the dome we wandered through the picturesque streets on Montmartre. Cute little houses, and cobbled streets really give this area a fantastic atmosphere that feels so much more serene than the rest of the city. Street art adorns the walls. Being an old agricultural area, Montmartre has retained some of this identity with the windmills that still remain. Such as the Moulin de la Galette and the infamous Moulin Rouge.

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Paris (part 3)

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We started the morning by heading to the Musée d’Orsay. The d’Orsay and the l’Orangerie both let people age 24 and under in for free with proof of age which is amazing. The d’Orsay used to be a train station so the architecture is fantastic. As you can see from the picture above it is huge (5 floors) and has the most amazing windows and ceiling. It also has these stunning lock faces that are windows, which I was completely blown way by.

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The collection was absolutely amazing. There was so much artworks spanning many movements and periods. It was incredible to actually see some of the paintings I had learnt about in the flesh, such as Manet’s Olympia and Dejuner sur l’herbe. As an art history nerd this is like absolute god status.

After we were done at the Musée d’Orsay we walked down the river past the book sellers in their green stands perched on the walls at the banks of the river. We headed down towards the Ile de la Cite to go and explore that. The Ile de la Cite is a small island in the middle of the Seine that is where the Notre Dame Cathedral is. The day was gorgeous and so we walked round exploring. There were little islands at each end of the island that we visited. We stopped at the Notre Dame which is stunning. The queue was huge so we didn’t actually go inside, but I’ve done that before so it wasn’t a huge shame.

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Paris (part 2)

Our first activity of the morning was heading to the Musée de l’Orangerie. I had seen pictures of it before but nothing ever really compares to when you’re standing before it in real life. The top floor is dedicated to two HUGE rooms taken up by 8 panels of waterlily paintings done by Monet. It was honestly incredible. Monet worked with the architect to make sure the space worked the best for his paintings, and the effect they have produced is magical. The rooms are both oval shaped with a huge window in the ceiling to let in natural light, however netting has been placed at the entrance of the window so the light is not strong and harsh. The paintings are vivid hues of blue, purple and green, expertly placed to mimic the effect of water and flowers. The sheer size of them is incredible. I could happily have spent ages here. On the lower floors the Orangerie also houses many works by other members of the impressionist movement, and some later modern pieces that have been influenced by Monet. For me it is the perfect gallery. Just the right size for you to feel you have seen a lot, but not so much that you get bored.

 

After a brief stroll through the Tuilleries Gardens, we headed up the Champs Elysees towards the Arc du Triomphe. I’m not going to lie, this walk felt very long, and it seemed that the Arc just carried on getting further away the longer we walked. When we finally arrived it was a little underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong the actual Arc itself is huge and really cool, but it is literally in the middle of a roundabout so they general atmosphere is ruined by the honking of horns and cars trying to get round. And just like everywhere else in Paris, there are tonnes of people. If you happen to drive past it then it’s cool to see but I don’t think I would bother going out of my way just to see it again.

We headed to lunch in a little creperie just of the Champs Elysees which was amazing. It was called La Creperie des Champs Elysees les Ecuries and was like a quaint, old Normandie creperie in the heart of Paris. The interior felt somewhat like a stable with wood paneling and tables made out of old cart wheels. The crepes were cooked in the centre of the room under a huge chimney type thing. The food itself was amazing. We split a bottle of Bretton cider alongside our crepes. I went for a Savoyarde crepe which has potato, onion, cheese and bacon and is pretty incredible.

In the afternoon we headed south of the river to go and explore the catacombes. The catacombs had been closed for a few days due to strikes so the queue was absolutely HUGE (are you sensing a theme here?). Despite our protests we stuck it out and finally made it down there. The catacombs are pretty amazing. They are tunnels that stretch under the whole of Paris that were filled with bones when the graveyards became too crowded. It was so surreal seeing thousands and thousands of bones stacked on top of each other, with patterns built in out of skulls and different shaped bones. I didn’t take any pictures because they asked that you respect that these are remains of the dead. Our visit was somewhat ruined by a group in front of us who laughed and talked loudly the whole way round, took countless photos, and even went as far as to pick up bones and pose for photos with them like they were sword-fighting. I whispered to my sister ‘if they did that to my bones I’d come back and haunt them’.

Despite the fact we were in France, we actually had Thai food for dinner. There was such amazing variety by where we were staying it seemed rude not to!

Paris (part 1)

So if you follow me on instagram you will have seen I have been in Paris recently. I managed to see A LOT so I’m going to break it down into a few blogs so it’s not ridiculously long.

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Paris is infamous for being one of the most romantic cities in the world and attracts millions of visitors a year, and it’s easy to see why. We took the Eurostar which I have never done before so was quite exciting. It was so easy and much less stress than flying. We still had to hang around a bit but it was lovely to not have to deal with all the crap you do at airports like no liquids over 100ml in the hand luggage etc. The hotel we stayed at was called Opera Cadet and was located in the north of the city, about a kilometre from the Gare du Nord. I would say the location was pretty much perfect. It was tucked down a little side street with hardly any traffic (we didn’t actually realise cars were allowed down it for a few days). The street was everything you hope Paris would be, jam packed with tantalising food. As you walked out the hotel you came face to face with a boulangerie patisserie, and the smells of rotisserie chicken cooking hit you. The cafes that Paris is so iconic for poured out into the streets, with many happy and well fed people seated outside, tucking into inviting dishes. Interspersed with the cafes, fruit and veg stands dotted the street, stacked with a plethora of vibrantly coloured produce. The hotel itself was lovely. The decoration was not the most modern, but the staff were lovely and helpful. They truly made the hotel a delight. One of the best features of the hotel was a small garden out the back. Situated in a courtyard, the garden was a perfect oasis from the city and I spent many hours reading there after days of exploring. I water fountain bubbled away contributing to the tranquil atmosphere, and leafy green plants sprouted from every available space.

We started day 1 with probably the most iconic sight in Paris, the Eiffel tower. Built in 1889 for the World fair to mark the centenary of the storming of the Bastille; the tower was only meant to be a temporary structure; however proved so popular that it still stands today. We took the metro to the Trocadero then walked down to the tower over the Seine. The views from the top of the Trocadero are stunning, with fountains and gardens running down to the roads, and uninterrupted views of the Eiffel tower. Luckily for us, it was a beautiful day, so we hung around and joined the masses of crowds taking photos and posing. When we got to the tower, we spent what felt like forever in queues. Queues to get our bag checked, queues to get tickets, queues to take the lift. The top floor was shut when we got there because it was so busy so we could only go as high as the second. When I went to Paris a few years ago, we went late in the evening so as we climbed we could watch the sun set and the lights come on. I would definitely recommend going at that time over going in the day. I think the tower was open until midnight or something like that, so you have loads of time! The views really are unrivalled from the tower. Paris is so stunning and it’s amazing to have 360 views of it stretched out before you as far as the eye can see.

After stopping for a lunch of croque monsieurs we headed back to the river to take a river cruise. I know it sounds super touristy but I would highly recommend the river cruise. It was such a calming way to spend an hour, just cruising down the Seine spotting the famous buildings that lined the bank.

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After that we decided we felt pretty tired and were probably down for the day so we headed back. Where we were staying they had some gorgeous shopping galleries. Nestled in one of these was the beautiful Le Valentin Salon de The. On our way past the night before we had stared in wonder through the window, Mouths watering at the sight of rows of intricate designed cakes, and stacks of sweets. The cakes did definitely not disappoint. They were stunning. Layers of rich salted caramel and mousse and meringue that melted in your mouth.

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After relaxing in our hotel and letting the cake go down, we headed out quite late to find somewhere to eat. We decided on a bar/restaurant called La Comete just down the road from us. I thought I better balance out the rich lunch and cake by having a salad for dinner. My parents went for the French classic Confit de Canard. The food was great and the atmosphere of the place was fantastic. All the tables were full with a lively hustle and bustle. Waiters bobbing in and out carrying plates of delicious looking cold meats.

End of second year

So now my second year at uni is done, I want to have a little reflect on everything that I’ve done and things that have changed. Hope you enjoy my pics x

Over the summer of first year I went through a pretty horrible break-up. Instead of wallowing in it I decided to really kick start second year with some fun activities. The first thing was meeting up with some of my best friends I made whilst travelling and going to Disneyland. I definitely wouldn’t call myself Disney obsessed, but I’d never been to Disneyland before and it was SO MUCH FUN. It was also amazing to actually meet up with my friends after so long. We talked about going to Disneyland while we were travelling but you don’t really expect to actually be able to! The second thing was Tokyo World which is a 2 day music festival in Bristol. I didn’t get to go in first year because it’s so close to the start of term but I’m so glad I went this year. It was honestly one of my favourite weekends.

So the first major change was probably moving into a house (instead of halls) and all the changes this brings, mainly paying bills. I have absolutely loved being in a different area of Bristol because it means I have got to explore so much more. Also I really love my housemates which makes it all the better.

In October I went on a family trip to Vienna which was also amazing. Travelling really is my main passion so any excuse to go away I will take it. Vienna is a beautiful city no matter what time of year, full of art and culture. (I’ll do a whole post about it shortly)

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As far as my course goes, I have really enjoyed learning this year. Every module I have picked has been really interesting and just cemented the fact I am doing the course for me. Luckily most of my grades have been good (not all of them I mean you can’t have it all) but I’m finishing on a good grade to go into third year with. Alongside my degree I also got a job going into local schools and teaching art (I’ve talked about it in a previous blog post). I’ve absolutely loved the job and it’s given me the chance to do some really cool things like a collaboration with the museum developing education packs.

This year I’ve also met some really amazing people and developed friendships with some of the amazing friends I have already. I am so grateful for everyone in my life because they really do make the experience. Which leads me on to my next big change…

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This year I met my amazing boyfriend Jack. He’s so lovely and an absolute gem and I’m so happy he is in my life.

So there we go, that’s most of the changes that have happened in my life this past year. I mean a lot else has happened this year but these are the main ones.

 

Chick lit

Today’s topic is one of deep annoyance to me. Chick-lit. If you are unfamiliar with the term, it generally refers to literature aimed at women (the kind that have pastel coloured covers with love hearts all over them, you know the sort).

I love to read but I really don’t think I’ve found my genre yet. I have tried dabbling in romance novels and chick lit and honestly it’s just a bit shit. I know the genre gets a lot of bashing but to be honest it is just a bit meh. When I was watching Jane the Virgin (watch it if you haven’t btw it’s amazing), one bit really stood out to me when Jane is getting writing advice from her supervisor. And she says to her she needs to follow the rule of there being a conversation between two women that isn’t about a man. I thought this was actually really interesting, and generally is a great rule to follow. Who wants to read hundreds of pages of a woman pining over some man who will never notice her and telling everyone about it, only for him to notice her and for her to, get this, TELL EVERYONE ABOUT IT. GRRRRR.

I remember being about 15 and really annoyed by the whole hopelessly in love female protagonist and going to Waterstones to get some new books. I picked up one that sounded quite cool, it was about teleportation and orphaned kids being taken by the government in order to experiment with teleportation on them. And I was like yes this is safe. This sounds like it’s science fiction enough to be cool without being a bit too sci-fi for my liking. And BAM! What do you know? A tenuous and unnecessary romance story line, messily added to the plot.

Romance is great, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes I just want a story that actually stands alone as being a good story. It doesn’t need romance or a love interest to make it interesting. I just finished a book that only briefly skirted over romance and had the majority of the emphasis on the story, and honestly it was so refreshing. Why do books aimed at women always seem to have a strong romance element? Do editors and publishers think that that’s all that goes on in our brains or something? I guess the answer is that I should just read books aimed at men or a unisex audience. But it just raises the question of why can’t that niche be filled?

Rome

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I put the vote out to the hunnies of Instagram and they voted yes to more travelling pics and blogs so here goes one about Rome.

Rome is a stunning city, one of the capitals of food and culture, Rome has been a city of major global importance for thousands of years. There are countless things to see and do, and it would be so easy to spend weeks there and still feel like you’ve hardly made a dent. One of the most prevailing impressions Rome made on me was that it was really bloody hot, and very very busy. The main thing I love to do when I visit new cities is to just wander through the streets and soak up all the ambience. As I have mentioned previously, I study history of art, for which Rome is one of the key cities. I absolutely love architecture and gazing up at all the buildings so I always have to allow myself plenty of time to do that.

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There is so much of Rome that I don’t really know where to start, but it wouldn’t be a visit without the Colosseum. One of the most iconic landmarks and historical sights, the Colosseum is pretty much a must see, but for this same reason the queue is also pretty damn awful. No one can deny it is pretty damn spectacular. It’s amazing to think of the people who sat in that very arena and watched gladiator shows all those thousands of years ago.

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Another very popular tourist location is the Vatican. The centre of the Catholic church, it is also a destination of pilgrimage for many people. Being a bit of a nerd, I can’t help but admire it for it’s architecture. St Peter’s is built on what used to be a medieval site, with the Square (even though it’s a circle) added in the seventeenth century by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. When planning the city of Rome and the square, Bernini wanted it to be breathtaking, hence why the houses and streets surrounding the city are quite closely packed, then you emerge into this pristine, white open space. Later changes to the road approaching St Peter’s were made in order to be able to have processions down the street which subtracts to the effect these days. A nice fact to drop in there is that the obelisk in the square of St Peters is the only one still in the original roman position (back in the Roman days the area was used as a circus). St Peter’s is breathtaking, the pristine stone glistens under the scorching Italian sunshine, the water droplets from the fountains delicately catching the light and reflecting it all around the space.

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One of my favourite places is the Pantheon. From the outside it doesn’t really appear to be anything spectacular, however it has been standing since roman times which is pretty remarkable I would say. The inside is absolutely incredible. The space is truly awe-inspiring, and the fact that it was built many thousands of years ago is a testament to the ability of Roman architects and design. Like St Peters, this building has also undergone drastic transformation having been appropriated from the traditional paganistic Roman religions and being used as a church. In the seventeenth century the architect Borromini added two bell towers known as the ‘ass’s ears’.

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The art produced for churches in Rome is some of the most spectacular there is, you should never underestimate what treasures a church will hold. This picture was taken in Santa Maria Del Popello, I thought it was spectacular (in the same church they also had a Caravaggio painted in a chapel). The church was the main patron for many artists, even very wealthy families considered it a good act to get a piece of religious art commissioned, hence the wealth of art available.

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If you want to get out of the city a bit then the catacombs really are spectacular. Just a short drive away, they are so beautiful and peaceful, and feel completely removed from the city. Built underground to house the bodies of the dead, I expected them to have a slightly creepy atmosphere, however mass is still regularly held in the tunnels.

Glass shop

The picture above was taken in one of my favourite areas of Rome, Trastevere. The Trastevere area is a spectacularly lively and bohemian area of Rome with tonnes of restaurants and shops. This particular shop sold glass of all different varieties from light shades to beads. Walking in it took my breath away, like an Aladdin’s cave of glistening, multicoloured lights. The whole area was buzzing with people out to eat and shops enticing you in. We went in the evening, when the scorching sun from the day had cooled off and people had their second wind of life.

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Now we definitely couldn’t talk about anywhere in Italy without mentioning food. Now I hate to say this, but after a week I was actually starting to have enough of Italian food. Don’t get me wrong, every meal we ate was incredible but I just wanted something homemade. I think I had pizza and pasta every day which to be honest is my dream, but it did mean I came back a lot heavier. Rome has such a wealth of picturesque pizzerias and trattorias producing some of the most incredible food. The picture below is a brasserie by the Spanish steps. We stopped for lunch and had these desserts that were a strawberry tart, but instead of the usual strawberries it was dotted with lots of tiny wild strawberries. Simple and elegant, the pastry was flaky and buttery, the filling was a ligth creme pattisiere, and the strawberries were dusted lightly with icing sugar. The strawberries were exquisite: fresh, juicy, and packed with so much more flavour than cultivated ones.

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