lifestyle blog
Adult Life, thoughts, Travel

So…I’m moving to the UK.

Well I have been quiet for a fair while, haven’t I? Things have been a little hectic, partly because holy shit I’m moving abroad for the first time in my life. And that kind of thing takes time, you know? Existential crises take time.

 

Where am I off to and what’s the plan?

Anyway, I’m moving to a northern city called Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and I’ll be living and working there while I study for an MLitt Philosophy at Newcastle University. Hurrah! For a long time, it’s basically been my dream to do exactly that – but that doesn’t mean it was all sunshine and rainbows once I hit the big, red button.

The (Blind) Panic

There have been many times where I was gripped by this white-hot fear that it was all going to be a terrible mistake – that I’d end up alone, nobody there would like me, and it’ll all just be a massive failure resulting in me returning to Malta with my tail between my legs. The flip-side to that was pure elation at the fact that I finally took the steps I needed to get myself where I want to be; it’s easy to get too comfortable here in Malta. Easy to forget how badly you need to leave.

On wanting to leave Malta

Before some of you reading this hop on the ‘MALTA D BEST’ bandwagon and get on my case for wanting and needing to leave, give me a moment. Malta is a great, beautiful island with centuries of history and some of the nicest people you’ll meet this side of the Mediterranean – but no matter how great your home country might be, I think it’s just so important to live abroad for a while, in different countries if possible. Why? Well I just think it shapes us into generally better, more independent and interesting people. Living with your parents until you’re like 30 isn’t the way to encourage personal growth, just saying.

Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll move on to one other reason I need to leave: the way this country is being ruined one development, one crane, one bribery at a time. The fact that ‘we’ the people seem so powerless to stop it is maddening.

I’m tired. Tired of the year-round struggle with allergies and throbbing sinus headaches I get because of the dust. I’m tired of the 8+ cranes I see every morning as I make my way to work. I’m tired of the other (countless) cranes spreading across the island like some sort of plague. I’m angry about how the so-called Planning Authority is doing literally nothing to preserve our history or maintain some sort of aesthetic integrity in our cities, towns, and villages. They don’t care and they don’t listen. I’m angry that the government does nothing to stop this rampant over-development of our tiny island – we’re going to run out of space, and you can’t bribe someone into creating more land. I’m tired of the traffic and pollution. I’m tired of how disgusting this supposedly-1st-world EU country looks when you venture beyond the bits we show to those all-important dignitaries. I’m tired of the complete disregard shown to the environment. I could go on, but I think you get it, right? On to more positive things!

Things I’m Excited About

Oh goodie, my favourite part. I’ve been visiting Newcastle ever since I was a child because I have family up north – so I already know what I’m excited to do once I settle in there:

  • Waterstones, Blackwells, and all the other bookshops that are NOT Agenda
  • Cooler weather (I’m a winter person)
  • Sweaters and scarves and wooly socks
  • Hanging out with my English family
  • Newcastle University!
  • Grainger Market – a huge market in Newcastle where you can buy all the fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, and meat you want (and more) at really good prices
  • Trains
  • Castles, lighthouses, ruined monasteries, etc.
  • Amazon Prime Now, not even going to lie
  • Having my own space that’s 100% mine and not in Malta
  • Lush
  • Snow (a little bit)
  • Pub lunches
  • Living right next to a huge park
  • Getting a bicycle

I’m a woman of simple pleasures. Give me a bicycle, a good bookshop, and the university of my dreams and I’m set. Oh, and here’s a picture of a tiny seaside town, just an hour away by bus, at sunset:

 

Anyway, I think I’ve moved past the whole ‘terrified to leave’ stage and into the ‘I’m so excited’ stage! Of course I’ll miss everyone here, but I’m only moving a 3 hour flight away. It’s not Australia.

Have you moved to another country? Do you have any tips for a newbie like myself? Hit me up!  

-Kelly

Standard
things to do in barcelona
Travel

Arguably Abroad: Barcelona

Well, it took us a while to get to this one, but here we are! A few weeks ago I flew over to Barcelona with a couple of girlfriends to watch Ed Sheeran in concert, then, just one day after returning to Malta, I was off to Catania with my parents. I don’t think I even needed to unpack (never mind the fact that it takes me roughly a month to full empty a suitcase). Here are some of the highlights from Spain!

Barcelona

We arrived early on Saturday afternoon and really hit the ground running. After checking into our gorgeous, Pinterest-worthy hotel, we were off again, looking for some much-needed tapas and wine. Every meal I had the pleasure of eating was just delicious, and service was always friendly – even when we struggled a bit with the language barrier.

Art in Barcelona

Barcelona is often affectionately referred to as the ‘artisan city’ – and I’d say that’s a spot-on description. The city is an open art gallery, and Gaudi seems to be everywhere. I could sit and type about all the incredible art and architecture Barcelona has to offer, but I’ll save you (and myself) the time and suggest a few things that you definitely shouldn’t miss, even if you’re only there for three full days, like we were.

The Sagrada Familia

Unfortunately, we left it a little too late to buy  tickets to get inside – but we still made time to visit and appreciate this stunning piece of magical architecture from the outside. My top tip? Book. Tickets. Now.

The Picasso Museum

You just can’t go to Barcelona without spending a couple of hours appreciating Picasso. Even if you’re not particularly into art, I promise you’ll find the main exhibition really interesting. It’s incredible to see Picasso ‘grow’ from a young artist, just learning the ropes, into the fully-fledged, confident master who gave us artworks like Guernica.

what to do in barcelonaPark Guell

I first found out about this beautiful, mosaic-filled park thanks to Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 on my PlayStation. No, not joking. It was kind of surreal seeing Gaudi’s flamboyant park in ‘real life’, and it was not as close to the centre as I thought it would be (for some reason). Anyway, plan your route there in advance and try to get there before sunset to get maximum photo-op time. To see the best bits at the best times, you can pay a small fee to get in before 8ish – after that, it’s free, but you’ll have loads of other tourists contending for the perfect photo spot.

things to do in barcelona

The Gothic Quarter

The Gothic Quarter is Barcelona’s old city centre, stretching all the way from La Rambla to Via Laietana and filled with some serious sight-seeing spots. If (like me) you’re a bit of a history dork, you definitely need to spend a couple of hours wandering around the area. My top tip? Plan your visit to The Gothic Quarter, The Picasso Museum, and La Boqueria market on the same day, because they’re all within walking distance.

Something Extra Special: Montserrat Mountain

This one was a definite highlight and I’m pretty sure you’ll feel the same. Just a train ride and cable-car trip away from Barcelona city centre, you’ll find Montserrat, an incredible mountain range with its highest peak hitting 1,236 m (Sant Jeroni). This idyllic place is home to Santa Maria De Montserrat, a Benedictine abbey where you can visit the Virgin of Montserrat sanctuary, the rumoured location of the Holy Grail of Athurian legend. Oh, wear comfortable shoes  because you’ll be walking quite a bit if you really want to enjoy this piece of paradise properly, and if it’s sunny you’ll need a hat and sunnies to protect you during your little trek. Stay hydrated, kids.

things to do in barcelona

How to get there (well, this is how we did it anyway)

  • Go to Plaza Espanya train station – it’s in the same building.
  • Look for the signs leading you to the R5 Train.
  • Stop at Monistrol De Montserrat – a cable car (funicular) will arrive/leave to coincide with train times.
  • You can get tickets there, but the cable car might be included in your train ticket depending on which option you went for.

Remember to check train and cable car times to make sure you don’t end up stranded there! Not that you’d complain…

Something Extra Tasty: La Boqueria Market

If you love food then this is an absolute must-see. This huge, public market is located in the Ciutat Vella area and is probably one of the most colourful markets I’ve ever seen. You’ll find anything from freshly-squeezed juices, fruit cups, amazing fruit, vegetables, fish, and meat, to dried goods and artisan chocolates you can take  back home. It’s all ridiculously well-priced, well-presented, and so fresh the fish might just jump up and make a run for it. I got to see real ostrich eggs! (I’m very easily amused).

things to do in barcelona

Unfortunate timing, butt you get the idea. Pun fully intended.

Quick Tips

Here are a few ‘top tips’, collected from friends, the internet, and my own experience:

  • The city has a bit of a reputation for pick-pocketing (like any big, European city), so be extremely careful and aware of your surroundings. Forget those cute, just-a-flap-no-zip-to-protect-you bags, and make sure your phone, wallet, and ID are safe at all times.
  • If you do end up getting pick-pocketed, make a report at the nearest police station for insurance purposes. There’s one down the steps in Plaza Catalunya, the same place as the station.
  • Getting around  on foot is easy, but you might want to use the (really efficient) Metro system too. Buy a T-10 ticket from any station for just €10 – it cover 10 trips and will serve you well.
  • The Gothic Quarter seems to be a pretty popular nightlife spot – check it out!
  • Shops open at around 10 am, and close pretty late.
  • Do not leave without trying tapas and sangria!

That’s all for now – if you have any questions or tips for future trips to Barcelona, leave them in a comment! 

-Kelly

Standard
Travel photo by Eva Darron
Travel

Packing Up: My 10 Travel Essentials

So I’ve recently returned from a week-long trip to Newcastle in the UK, and already have another three trips or so planned for 2017. The wanderlust is truly strong in this one. Far from being an expert, organised packer, I’m the type of person who frantically throws things into her suitcase a few hours before her flight and only remembers she’s forgotten a few things when the plane’s about to take off. My bad.

travel essentials

Even though I’m quite possibly the worst person I know when it comes to packing for a holiday, there are a few essentials that I always remember to chuck in before grabbing my passport and whirling out the door. Who knows, this post might help me become a more organised person when it comes to this sort of thing (indeed, it might not).

1. A book

And a backup book because you know I’m not going to be a happy bookworm when I finish the first book half way through my flight. I can’t be bothered to haul my laptop out of my hand-luggage, and I very rarely manage to sleep on a flight, so if I’m not reading a book I’ve probably got my nose buried in the latest issue of The Economist.

2. A hair tie or hair clip

Between Maltese humidity, a 2-3 hour plane journey, and all the trials and tribulations that come with any holiday, your hair might get in the way. If my hair is up, sh*t is going down.

hair essentials travel rihanna harvard

3. iPod

Raise your hand if you don’t want to have to listen to your drunk neighbour or screaming kids for the duration of your flight. Raise your other hand if that constant humming sound the plane makes gets on your nerves. Okay, you can put your hands down now, you weirdo.

travel essentials

4. Compact brush with mirror

This doesn’t even need an explanation. Do you have hair? Does your hair get messy? Does your hair get knotted sometimes? Do you just want to look at just how much of a hot mess you are half way through your flight? If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of these, get yourself one of these babies.

packing list

6. A pack of tissues

I confess, this is mostly because of my ridiculous year-round allergies, but this is actually a good quick-fix if you don’t have blotting paper on you and your make up is looking a little…worse for wear.

travel essentials

7. Water

If you want to be smart about staying hydrated during your flight, forget the teeny-tiny bottles you pay way too much for during the flight – buy a larger bottle for the same price before hitting your designated gate.

travel essentials

8. Lip Balm

Whenever you fly, you know your lips are going to get thirsty as hell. My personal favourite right now is Carmex lip balm, but Body Shop also do a good job in this department.

beauty essentials travel

9. My journal

If you read my recent article about keeping a journal, you’ll know I love writing in mine. At the end of a busy day sightseeing, there’s nothing I love more than sitting down with a glass of wine and looking back over all the things I’ve done, savouring each memorable moment as its written out.

what to pack travelling

10. Nail Clippers

Before you raise your eyebrow at me, hear me out. When you’re abroad and you inevitably hit the shops, you’re going to want nail clippers to de-tag everything so you can wear it immediately. I see you there, with the Primark bag.

travel essentials

BONUS: Instant Camera

A couple of years ago, I treated myself to a Fujifilm Instax Mini 8. The film is a little pricey (it works out to around €1 per shot) but I love the fact that I can keep a physical copy of my photos and stick them in my purse or display them on my desk at work. It’s something you can treasure and enjoy without WiFi.

What are your travel essentials? Let me know in a comment below! 

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Standard