Saturday, 31 May 2014

European Escapade Day 1 - London to Paris

     I think by the end of this trip I'm either going to love this coach or be sick to death of it. I knew there'd be a lot of travelling time spent on it, but knowing something and doing it can be quite different. Today was a very early start, at 6am though, so relaxing on the road isn't too bad.

    We drove to the coast then took the ferry from Dover to Calais and got these great views of the White Cliffs of Dover as we left the U.K. behind. The ferry had shops & cafés available to pass the time, but I did find the motion of the sea a little unsettling - no sickness though, thank goodness! On the other side, the drive to Paris took us through the Valley of the Somme, where WWI battles were fought. Also, in true road trip style we made stops at service stations to restock our food supplies.

     On arriving in Paris, we had a little time in the hotel before going down to dinner. Afterwards we had an included bus tour of the city, going past all the major sites while our tour manager told us heaps about their history. Having been to Paris before, I'd seen them all, but it was interesting to learn a few more facts and I always enjoy seeing Paris again. We also stopped off to try snails (which I've had before) and drink some champagne.

    We were dropped back at the hotel, and then all went to the pub next door to carry on getting to know each other, however, it is a big tour group, so I certainly don't think I'll get to everyone!

Friday, 30 May 2014

European Escapade Day 0 - London

     So life is taking a pretty exciting turn over the next few weeks! I'm off on what will hopefully be a pretty epic trip through Europe. My aim is to daily blog it, with each new post probably going up the day after it takes place (but written as if on the day it happened). I'm also uploading from a mobile, so the formatting may need to be corrected when I get back. However, if I wind up being too busy for this there'll be posts about the trip later. Anyway, this is really just an introduction.

Tour Map
The Route (Source)
     The trip is booked through a company called Contiki, who specialise in tours for 18-35 year olds. This seemed like a good option for me, as I get to travel with other people, the organisation is taken care of, there's a good mix of scheduled activity & free time and it's good value for money.

    The tour officially starts tomorrow (hence "Day 0"), but we had an introductory meeting tonight, so I got the train down today. A lot of others arrived a couple of days early to see the city first, since we leave London first thing tomorrow, but as I've been before I didn't really think I needed to.

     I ended up going to Camden Market, as it's not far from where I'm staying, and I loved it. It covers a huge area, and is an endless labyrinth of stalls & shops, selling everything eclectic & eccentric you could possibly imagine. Every time I thought I'd seen it all a new alley or corner would appear. The whole place is an amazing mash of cultures, languages, sounds & smells and I could have spent forever there.

    In the evening I went to the meeting, which was brief, but then the group went to the pub to get to know each other. I chatted to a lot of people, but I know I'll never remember all the names I was told. It was a fun night though, and hopefully a good indication of the rest of the trip.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Village Craft Fair

     Since leaving high school I’ve lived in cities for most of the time, which I love for many reasons, the primary one being that there is far more to do. However, I grew up in the countryside and I now enjoy visiting home a lot more, now that I appreciate the quiet open spaces. My home is in valley, with many other houses which are all far apart, but somehow form their own little community, something I’ve found to be rare in cities. It’s nice to return home to a place where everyone knows each other, and catch up with people who I’ve known my entire life, and local events like this weekend’s craft fair are the ideal time.

     Our valley’s population is small, so there were only a handful of stalls, but they had plenty on them. There was a range of things available, from cushions to jewellery to ornaments to teacups to photos. I spent all day there, as there were also lunches and cream teas available, courtesy of my mother, so I was acting as a waitress for her. I managed to grab a few minutes to take a look around though, but I had to rope in my sister to take these photos for me. I didn’t buy anything myself, as I felt that although there were a lot of lovely things available, I had no real use for them right now. I’d love to come back to something like this when I’m older and have my own home to decorate, instead of living in a flat on a student budget as I am now.

     The fair wasn’t particularly busy, and some stalls didn’t fare too well sadly, despite the quality of their wares. It can also be a chance for the stallholders to network though, and I know some have received commissions in the past after similar events like these. However, the important thing is that our valley has events like this, to keep our community spirit alive. It provides people with the chance to catch up with each other, or meet new people who have moved here more recently. Having been out the country myself for several months, I got to see people I hadn’t in a long time. It was just a nice way to get out for the day and do something different as well.

     I like to think of myself as a fairly artistic person, though I have no exceptional talent, and I’ve become very lazy about doing anything arty since starting university. However, seeing all the craft projects that these people had been working on has reawakened by desire to do something artistic again. Things like the cushions and bunting in the first photo in particular have got me thinking about getting back into sewing again. I’ve got a busy summer coming up next, so it might be a while away yet, but hopefully I’ll find the time to get creative again.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Replacement Haul

     Now, after my last haul post I thought it would be a long time before I did another. A student budget means I can't go out and buy masses of clothes every time I go shopping. However, unforeseen circumstances arose. I was on my way home from France last week, having completed the year abroad, when one of my suitcases was stolen from the train. This led to drama, frustration, tears, numerous explanations to officials and forms to fill in... the works. Long story short, I've had to replace a lot of stuff. I didn't get everything at once, but there were some items I needed more urgently than others. I had to get new jeans, leggings, toiletries and such, as well as these items, but I thought I'd just share some of the more interesting ones.

     First of all, I needed a new pair of heels, which may not seem urgent but I'm going on a trip next week where I might be in need of a pair. These came from Primark, and I struck lucky as they were the very last pair and happened to be my size! I love the colour of these more than anything else, and I also prefer solid heels to strappy ones, as they feel more comfortable and are more practical for year-round wear. It is a summery colour, so I'll probably be on the look out for a black ankle-boot style like those I lost, but that can wait for now.

     I lost several of my nicer going-out dresses, which I also need for this trip. The shops are all full of summer colours and styles just now, so as with the heels I'll need some darker ones come autumn time eventually. However, I picked up this one in New Look, which I think will be versatile enough for day and night wear. I don't always wear many patterns, but this one just looked so quirky and zany, and I love all the colours in it.

     This dress was also from New Look, a shop I seem to get a lot of my dresses from, and this one is very typically me. I think this is a really pretty summer colour (purely coincidence/accident that it matches the heels!) and I'm a big fan of lacy patterns. I like the sheer bit at the top, with the sweetheart neckline underneath too, as it's a little different to my usual high necklines, and of course the skater skirt and belt are my favourite style for flattering my figure.

     I've always had a pair of Converse for years now, so these were first on the list after losing my last pair (which were actually coming apart anyway), and Schuh is my go-to shop for them. I've had various colours and styles over the years, so decided to change it up again with this nice burgundy colour. I stuck with hi-tops, as I prefer them to the low ones I've had before, but couldn't find a double soled pair again. I'm still pleased with what I wound up with though.

     The loss I was most upset about was that of my jewellery case. As I was away for nearly eight months, I had taken a lot more with me than I would for a short holiday, so my collection is seriously depleted, and as most of it came from market stalls and tiny shops abroad it's basically irreplaceable. I'll end up replacing it all gradually from the same sorts of places, but to start off with I picked up this necklace in Accessorize. I like pendants on long chains like this, and the elephant was too cute and intricate to pass up on.

     So, while I'm still sad about losing a lot of things, I guess one of the only good results of this is that I've been able to get lots of nice new things, and not feel guilty about spending so much! And this is only a small dent in what needs replaced, so I'll be picking up bits and pieces for quite a while I expect.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Natives At The Electric Circus

     I don't think I've ever named a post so literally, yet still have it sound so quirky and wonderful. Anyway, Natives are a band I went to see in concert at The Electric Circus in Edinburgh the other night.

    First up were two support acts, neither of which I'd heard of before but I was pleasantly surprised by both. Yew's music was relaxed and a little folksy - that sort of singer/songwriter/guitarist sound - , and I was highly impressed with his pedal work to create layers of accompaniment. We Found Out were more pop-punk, and while their sound was similar to many other acts around at the moment, they put plenty of energy into their performance.

We Found Out
     Natives were clearly a step up from the support acts however, and put on a great show. The venue was the smallest I've ever been too, which made the gig feel very intimate, especially when the band were wandering through the room while setting up. I was disappointed in the crowd though, as although everyone seemed to enjoy the evening, the small numbers meant no one really got moving around, so the atmosphere was lacking a little.


     This didn't seem to deter the band however, who gave it their all regardless. The small stage meant there was no staging or effects, but I don't mind this as it keeps the focus on the music. However, I did like how the multi-coloured lighting created an effect reminiscent of the 'Indoor War' album cover. They played the majority of their debut album (which I have already reviewed here), an upbeat & bouncy selection of songs that always have me tapping my feet, and sounded excellent live. There was also a fun percussion section thrown in, to keep things interesting.

     I took a friend with me to this show, who had never heard the band's music before, which can be a risk as I wanted her to enjoy the evening. However, I was thrilled when she wound up loving every second of the show, and declared it to be one of the best she'd been to (and she's been to a lot!). We both agreed that despite the disappointing crowd atmosphere, the band sounded fantastic and certainly have the potential to go on to bigger and better things.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Musically Inspired - Dead End Towns & Daring to Change

     Everyone has a different relationship with their home town, both growing up and as adults. Some can’t wait to escape, others never want to leave. We all lead our own lives and must make these decisions for ourselves, so I would never judge someone for doing what makes them happy. But our home towns are just one tiny corner of a large planet, which has a whole lot of stuff to offer.

Life Quotes Tumblr (37) Life Quotes
     As someone who came from a small town where not a lot happens, I think it’s important for people to experience life away from their home town. It doesn’t have to be forever of course, but the world is such a huge place, with so many incredible things on offer to experience, it seems like a waste to me if you don’t get out there and see at least a little more of it. Some people might go off travelling for a while and then still end up living in the same town their whole lives, but at least they tried it. Not everyone is privileged enough to have opportunities to see the world, which I fully understand, but if you do have these opportunities, then take them. Even if it’s just a temporary move to a bigger city, it’s something different.

     It’s the people who outright refuse to go anywhere else that I don’t understand. People who stay inside the same cosy little bubble their entire lives, doing the same routine day in, day out. There’s a whole world of culture and adventure, exciting jobs possibilities and fascinating people that they’re missing out on. Change can be scary, yes, but it’s what allows us to grow and develop as individuals, gaining experience and independence. Staying stuck in what is comfortable and familiar for your entire life means you miss out on a lot of things. Circumstances may prevent some people from making the changes that they want to, or even ought to, but if there’s nothing stopping you besides yourself then you are probably wasting opportunities.

     I think I just find it frustrating more than anything else, to see people spending their whole lives in the same job or town and never daring to make a change. This is especially the case if they are unhappy, yet refuse to do anything about it, or are wasting their own potential to do more. Some people may be scared of failing in new ventures, but it’s better to try and fail than never try at all. Mistakes and failures make us human, and should be viewed as opportunities to learn and better ourselves. However, if you are genuinely happy in your safe bubble or familiar routine, then by all means, continue. It’s not my place to interfere. But if even a tiny part of you wants something more, or is curious about what else the world has to offer; go find out!

     I don’t think anyone will ever regret venturing out into the world to try new things. They may decide that whatever they’ve tried isn’t the right choice for them, but at least they gave it a chance first. And it could be that taking a chance works out, and you discover something wonderful or exciting or that just makes you happy somehow. I think everyone regrets the chances they didn’t take far more than those they did.

Song: "Roll The Dice" - Blitz Kids

Monday, 19 May 2014

Outfit of the Day - Wedding Wear

     First up, I know the photos aren't great, but it was a hectic day so I've just had to go with what I've got. Anyway, my cousin got married at the weekend and this was what I wore. I love this shade of red, and I knew a lot of people going in blues and purples so I wanted to be different. I also like the skater style for my figure, and I thought the lace design was really pretty, and continues on the back, only see-through. The black accessories are elegant, but also really practical as I'll be able to use them again with other outfits. I know hats & fascinators aren't popular everywhere, but we Scots always wear something like them to a wedding, so my auntie (who runs a hat business) trimmed this red one with black for me.

Dress - Warehouse (Asos), Jacket - Debenhams, Shoes - Anna Field (Zalando),
Fascinator - Teviothead for Hats, Bag - Victoria Delef (Zalando),
Earrings - BHS, Bracelet - New Look, Ring - Unknown

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Review - The Amazing Spider-Man 2


     It’s no secret that superhero films have seen a huge resurgence over the past few years, in particular those featuring Marvel characters. Yet Spider-Man seems to be a particularly iconic character – after all, the series was re-booted only five years after completing the original trilogy. Peter Parker is perhaps, one of the more relatable superheroes, whose powers were thrust upon him without consent, and who faces just as many ordinary teenage struggles as he does villains.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Musings From A Train Platform

     The stream slowly eases its way through the landscape, taking a lazy saunter, propelled along by cool breaths of wind. Patches of pale green algae drift along on its surface, in no hurry to be on their way. The smooth, glassy surface is interrupted only by tiny teardrops falling from the steely grey clouds, idly floating overhead. Tall, statuesque shadows are cast by the trees dotted along the bank, and are only just visible in the weak sunlight straining to break through the cloud layer. The branches of the willow tree softly caress the murky waters, swirling through the algae. Leaves gently float down, dancing and twirling in the breeze.

     The still serenity of the moment is rudely interrupted by the roaring and clattering of the train streaking past. It doesn’t break pace, only continues rushing past the platform and off into the horizon. The world falls silent once more.

     The figure on the platform adjusts his jacket, pulling it tighter to defend himself from the increasingly cold, biting wind, whistling in his ears. He is slumped in his seat, hunched over uncomfortably on the narrow wooden slats cobbled together in a vague semblance of a bench. Watching the world, and the minutes crawl by. The low murmur of other voices reaches his ears, and he cocks his head slightly to locate their source. Two figures stand at the far end of the platform, intertwined so tightly it is hard to tell where one ends and the other starts. Their voices stop, as they begin exhibiting what is, in his opinion, a rather obscene display of affection.

     He turns his head away, gazing back down to the river, so serene and untroubled in its journey, as the world around it rushes onward. Everything moving, always moving. While he sits here, on a near empty platform in the middle of nowhere, waiting. Always waiting.  Waiting for the train running late. Waiting for a change in the endless grey sky. Waiting for the news to break. Waiting for the phone call, but it never rings. Waiting for the girl who isn’t coming. Waiting for his life to finally, at long last, begin.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Outfit of the Day - Keeping It Classic

     Stripes, high-waisted skirts and boots - these are the staples of my wardrobe, and they are so easy to mix and match to create different outfits. This top is versatile enough to be worn year round, and is very loose fitting, so I tend to wear it with a belt or a skirt like this. I like high waistlines, as I find they are the most flattering on my figure, and the short hemline emphasises long legs. All my jewellery here was gifted or found in markets, which seem to be where most of my favourite pieces come from, as they are more unique and interesting.

Top - Diesel, Skirt - H&M, Boots - New Look, Silver Ring - Etam,
Necklace, Bracelet & Earrings - Gifts, Purple Ring - Market,
Nail Polish - 'Ultraviolet' by Rimmel London & 'Amande défilé' by Bourgois Paris

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Review - The Maze Runner (James Dashner)


     This book pleasantly surprised me – I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with books generally classified as YA, but fortunately this one landed on the love side of the group. The Maze Runner follows Thomas, a teenager who finds himself trapped inside a maze with a group of other boys, and no memories of his life before entering it. It was interesting and thought-provoking and unpredictable, and on finishing it I immediately wanted to get my hands on the sequel.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Musically Inspired - Can't Say No

     Humans need other humans. We are a social species who require contact with other people. Some people want to socialise constantly, others are content to spend time alone. But we all need other people to some degree. To talk to, to help us, to care for, to remind us we are not alone.

     But what happens when this need becomes too strong? What happens when one person becomes almost entirely dependent on another? At what point does a relationship become unhealthy?

     This isn’t something I’ve experienced first-hand, but I’m well aware that it happens, most commonly in romantic relationships, although not solely in them. This can even extend into the realm of fanaticism for celebrities. One person can become so utterly infatuated with another, that they are willing to do anything they want. Compromise and doing things for the other person are vital to any form of relationship, but there has to be boundaries. Each person must still remain an independent individual, capable of surviving on their own. It’s dangerous to become dependent on someone else, when there is no guarantee that that person will always be around.

     I’m no psychology expert, but I’d assume that potential reasons for this dependency could include insecurity and fear of abandonment. People who are not comfortable with themselves, with spending time alone with themselves, seem more likely to become reliant on others, I would assume. And if someone has been abandoned in the past, they may want to cling on to what relationships they do have. It’s ok to need other people sometimes, and it’s understandable why some people need them more than others, as long as this does not become an unhealthy dependency.

     Being so entirely reliant on someone else stops you from being yourself. If you are willing to change and do anything for that person, then you lose sight of who you really are. You may start to sacrifice other elements of your life, be it work, family or interests, and while it may seem worthwhile at the time, in the long run it will cause problems and likely make you unhappy. Especially if you lose the person you are dependent on, and then realise you have nothing left once they’re gone.

     The role of the other person is worth considering too. Are they aware of the depth of the dependency? Do they reciprocate it, making it co-dependency? Do they manipulate and take advantage of it? Do they enjoy it or does it interfere with their life? Relationship dynamics are complicated, and unique to every pairing and situation. It can also be extremely difficult to know what to about someone who is overly reliant on someone else, to the point where the relationship has become unhealthy.

     So yes, humans need other humans. We need relationships, social interaction, people who care about us and who we can care for. But we also need to know how to be comfortable in our own skin, how to be independent and individual, and not conform to what others want us to be. We have to lead our lives and make our decisions as we ourselves see fit. We can ask for advice, yes – but shouldn’t accept it blindly. People and relationships don’t last forever, and we need to be able to carry on when they end.

Song: "Can't Say No" - Natives

Monday, 5 May 2014

Outfit of the Day - Beach Life

    I've gone very summery with this outfit, as it's only when the sun is shining that I'm decked out in such light colours. This outfit was put together while I was on my trip through the south of France, specifically on a particularly nice day when I ended up on the beach for a while. This skirt is very light and comfortable - although not ideal in the wind, trust me! - and I think the stripes give it a slightly nautical vibe, which was appropriate for being by the sea. Normally I wouldn't wear jewellery to the beach, but as I wasn't in a bikini or about to go swimming, I thought I'd add some small pieces. The shoes were chosen for practicality's sake, as I've been doing a lot of walking whilst on my travels, but they go well with the skater-style of the skirt.

Top - LaRedoute, Skirt - Forever 21, Converse - Schuh, 
Necklace - TopShop, Earrings - Unknown, Ring - Etam,
Sunglasses - Unknown, Nail Polish - 'Amande défilé' by Bourjois Paris

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Spring in the South - Cannes & Nice

As with Aix, I only spent an afternoon in Cannes, whilst I was staying in Nice. It’s not a big town, and there’s a limited amount to see when the film festival isn’t on – sadly my calendar meant I was there a couple of weeks too early for celeb-spotting. Even when the festival isn’t on though, the town has an air of glamour and wealth, with designer brands on the shop fronts and expensive looking cars cruising along the streets. Definitely not the kind of place I’m used to, but there’s plenty of tourist milling around too.

Cannes from Le Suquet
Notre Dame de l'Espérance
Le Suquet from below
Firstly, I climbed up the hill into the old town of Cannes, the area known as Le Suquet. It covers a small area, and there isn’t a lot to it, but I did climb narrow staircases up the hillside and went into the church, Notre Dame de l’Espérance, which was still pretty nice despite its small size. The hilltop also offers stunning views over the rest of Cannes, including the port, beach and casino.

Vieux Port
Palais des Festivals
Meryl Streep's handprint
After descending the hill again, I walked around by the port, which is quite small but there are certainly some expensive looking boats moored there. Beyond that, I passed the casino and then the Palais des Festivals, the home of the Cannes Film Festival. It’s only open to the public for guided tours on certain days, which are few and far between, so I only saw it from the outside. I understand why it’s an important venue, but it’s not all that exciting from outside. There is also the collection of famous handprints cemented into the ground outside though, and it’s fun to see who you can spot, if you can decipher the handwriting on some of them! I did manage to find names such as Sylvester Stallone, Jack Nicholson, Julie Andrews and Meryl Streep, among others.

Plage de la Croisette
By this point I’d covered the key points of interest in the town, and had no desire to go shopping, so I lounged on the beach for a couple of hours. Much of the Plage de la Croisette is privatised and costs to hire a sunbed, but there are certain areas open to the public. I’ve spent so much time walking over the past two weeks that it was nice just to unwind for a while. The only drawback was the wind, which led to the sand getting absolutely everywhere.

I stayed in Nice for four nights in total, to allow one day in Cannes and for the fact that I was there on 1st May, which is a national holiday in France and almost everything is closed. Nice is not a very large place, but it’s such an idyllic beach town that I was more than happy to spend a little longer there. On my first full day, 1st May, I started by walking down to the port, which, like Cannes, is quite small, but had some rather fancy boats moored there. Next to the port is the Colline du Château, a hill overlooking the town, which used to have a château on top but has been replaced by a park, which was pretty busy that day as no one was at work. There is a lift to the top, but I chose to walk up instead, and at the top was rewarded by stunning views over the town and out to sea.

Nice from Colline du Château
From the hill I could see that it was possible to walk along the jetty, out to the lighthouse (Phare de Nice), so after climbing back down the hill, I ventured along it. Many people were sunbathing on the rocks accessible from it, but I just had a stroll along in the sun, and got a different view of the port. After this, I walked around to the other side of the Colline, to the beginning of the long beach that stretches around the Baie des Anges. The beach at Nice is pebbles rather than sand, so it can be a little awkward to get comfortable, but once I did, I was again quite content to spend a while lazing in the sun.

Jetty leading to Phare de Nice
Plage de Nice
I walked back to my hotel via the Promenade du Paillon, a long park stretching up the centre of two main roads, resembling a large boulevard. The park includes two sections of concrete, one of which is covered in a light mist and the other has rows of fountains, and both are full of children playing in the water. There are also statues, marine-inspired play parks and a carousel, so it was a much nicer walk than a regular street would offer.

Promenade du Paillon
 The next day, I was rather dismayed to wake up to cold, wet weather. However, it was my last day on holiday, so I was still going to go find something to do – I just had to forsake another lounge on the beach. I went exploring in the old town, Vieux Nice. While it had the narrow streets characteristic of most old towns, I enjoyed it more than any other I had been to on this trip. It’s easy to get lost in the winding streets of candy-coloured buildings (a welcome change from the white and grey of others), and there’s a plethora of tiny cafés, quirky art galleries and shops selling all the weird and wonderful things you could possibly imagine. Vieux Nice also has various important buildings, including the cathedral, but I just went for a wander and waited to see which ones I came across, rather than seeking them out.

Cathédrale Ste-Réparate
Vieux Nice
Once I had exhausted the old town, and found myself going around in circles, I went along to the Musée Massena. The museum is housed inside a villa, formerly belonging to the Massena family, and is a rather grand building in its own right; the ground floor in particular is full of glittering chandeliers and ornate gilded decoration. Up the marble staircases, the upper levels hold a collection of objects and paintings about the history of Nice, creating a nice mix of museum and art gallery.

Musée Massena
Plage de Nice in the rain
I finished up with one last walk along the seafront, the Promenade des Anglais. I had been along it a couple of times during my stay in Nice, but the sunshine of my first few days had been replaced by stormier looking seas and skies, offering a slightly different version of the seascape. I wound up back in my hotel a little earlier that day, as it was too cold and wet to sit out on the beach or the promenades. However, I really enjoyed my time in Nice, and it was a nice, relaxing way to end a fairly busy trip. I just wish I didn’t have to head back to the real world now.

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