51 // Paris, Paintings and Pastries

So last month my mum and I took a little trip to Paris as her belated Christmas present, it’s a nice way to extend the that grateful feeling you have during the festive season. We went just before my birthday and it was a nice way to relax a little as I’ve been working pretty hard and right now me and Mikee are redoing our kitchen which is a bit intense. Anyway – here’s my guide to what we got up to.

HOW WE GOT THERE:

My mum and I took the Eurostar. It took two tubes from where I live in London and then the 2.5hr trail from St Pancras. Once we got off the train we walked 25mins to the Airbbnb we were staying in.


HOW WE GOT AROUND:

WALKING – We walked a lot, got achey legs and backs as you do and had very grateful end of the days when we took our shoes off.

METRO – We used the Metro a good amount, I’m not sure the ticket we bought was that helpful for us because of how much we walked but it definitely helped us get around. We got the Paris Visite Pass for 3 days which cost €26.65 and then a day pass for one day on the last day. Single trips on the Metro cost €1.90, I think I’d probably just get the single passes if I were to go back.

BOAT – We had a little river cruise the first day, my mum had been advised to do it by a friend. It cost €14 per person and they took you from Pont Neuf up to the Paris’ Statue of Liberty and back down the Seine.


AIRBNB

We stayed in a lovely Airbnb in Montmatre. It was smaller than the impression the pictures gave but still very nice to spend time in and had a lovely view. It was a nice area, very artsy, lots of local places to buy fresh baguettes and cheese and lots of stuff going on around. It was super close to the three metro stations. I literally picked it because I remembered when we did Secret Cinema Moulin Rouge last year it was set in old fashioned Montmatre and it was the only name I knew when researching.

If you can’t be bothered to read all of this the video can be your TL:DR fix.

DAY ONE : ARRIVAL & PORTRAITS

My mum came to London first and then we went to get the Eurostar, leaving Mikee to look after three little doggies. It was a little bit like going through airport security in the train station, just you’re allowed liquids which was very handy. The train was relatively boring. I don’t think you’re under the ocean for that long really because of how fast the train is going, you don’t even really notice the change in pressure. Anyway, when we arrived in Paris we walked to our Airbnb. Our host was away so his friend met us and we had a very smooth check in. My phone doesn’t work in other countries for some reason, so I had to download Offline Google Maps to navigate us around.

When we were settled we took a little walk outside and walked up the hill towards Sacre Coeur, which we only saw from a short distance away as we stumbled upon Place Du Tertre and we were approached by a little old man with a clipboard who started drawing me and said we could take it or leave it if we didn’t like it. We weren’t entirely sure but being polite we stayed and my mum and a bunch of other people stood around when he started drawing me. Then another artist came over and started drawing my mum. My mum’s portrait was really nice, mine was a bit questionable but my mum paid the asking price for both.

If we were to go back I would be more adamant to say no thank you or ask for examples of work before agreeing to stand there. If I wanted a portrait I’d walk around a bit more and find an artist I liked the style of. I also read if you don’t want to pay what they ask for leave the drawing and walk away and the price might come down. I think the drawings can be anything from €35 to €80 with €60 being an average.

We walked a bit more, admired the view and I practiced my poor French by ordering us a baguette and we got some cheese and pasta to have as our dinner. The bread and cheese were amazing. Standard.

DAY TWO : CATACOMBS, WALKING AND BOAT TOUR

On our second day we got up early and made our way to the Paris Catacombs. A few friends had advised going and having read the queues were a bit mad we thought we’d do it first. Apparently the day and time we went the queues were an ‘average’ wait time… and we waited for 3 hours.

Now, online you can purchase skip the queue type tickets which are about €70-80, which to me is madness. Though there looks like there are some for about €30 per person.  Definitely pay it on a day when it’s freezing and raining or roasting to the point you’d be burnt to a crisp and become a part of the museum by the time you get in there. Otherwise – if you’re happy to queue, take some snacks, maybe a book and maybe a small fold out chair and you’re sorted for the next few hours, and the ticket price is only €13 if you are happy to wait.

Only 200 people are allowed in there at the same time so that’s why the queue can be super slow but it’s definitely worth it. You’re probably only in there for an hour, but despite the obvious morbid nature of being there it’s incredible to try and comprehend just how old the tunnels are and how many peoples bones are down there. The ossuary that contains the bones is only takes up 1/800th of the tunnels that run underneath Paris and the ossuary contains 6million peoples remains from mass graves. You have no idea who they were, and at time by the way the bones are arranged you could forget they were even bones at all and just think it to be a pebble wall. I would definitely take the time to go to this if you visit. You can see buildings, gardens and take river cruises all over the world but it’s only a one off where you might be able to see something like this.

After we were done in the catacombs we walked. We walked through a flea market that was bit like a boot sale, we walked up to the Palais du Luxembourg and through the gardens there where a sausage dog was playing with a labrador and it was the cutest thing. We stopped for a bite to eat because we were getting hangry. Then we walked up to where the Notre Dame sits, had a look at the outside as the queue was again super long and walked around the building. We walked past people enjoying themselves with friends sitting next to the Seine. And we found ourselves in a little shop next to the river that was built into the wall, I got myself a little ring, a portable bamboo cup and a Paris postcard.

As we found ourselves next to the river my mum suggested we do a river cruise, so we rushed over to the only boat point we could see and had a little trip up and down the the Seine which was nice. It was probably the closest we got to the Eiffel tower.

DAY THREE : THE LOUVRE, WATER LILIES & PASTRIES

We decided to go to the Louvre on the third day. It was lovely and sunny out so it was a shame to be indoors but the building was amazing and we got to see lots of cool stuff. Before we got in I wanted to take some photos outside and while I was doing that a woman approached my mum with a clipboard saying ‘it’s for the deaf’ my mum signed and another woman came up to me getting a bit too into my personal space. I signed but then it came to a column that said ‘Amount’ I said I had no money on me and my mum offered to pay €5 for me and her. Another lady came over and they were asking for change for a 20 and the latest lady put her clipboard over my mums purse and tried to nab some money, luckily I was watching and stopped her. They walked off pretty fast after that and we were a little bit shaken but after that London me took over – otherwise it was very clear people will take advantage of you. I was still quite angry about it in the evening and it took me a while to get to sleep that evening and I never really get angry about anything.

Moral of the story, don’t talk to random people who come up to you with clipboards or who stand too close to you. They’re there to mug you.

Anyway, after another queue of about 30mins to get through security into the Louvre we made it in and bought our ticket which I think was around €19. We went around looking at the French Sculptures, decorative arts, the Greeks, the Egyptians and Napoleons quarters which were actually really interesting to look at. We skipped the Mona Lisa because we’ve seen the picture before and quite frankly she isn’t that interesting. Though it did get me thinking about what it would be like to have someone create your portrait and that become one of the most famous portraits in the world with people going to see it for hundreds of years after. As the creator that would be amazing, as the subject, would it be flattering? Would it be embarrassing?

Anyway, we walked down to Musée de l’Orangerie which is a lot smaller where they hold Monet’s Water Lilies among other paintings by very famous artists. This is very dumb of me but I never realised that the Water Lilies were a series of paintings, there are about 250 paintings that he did and in the gallery they had about 8 of them. They were huge, the colours in them were so vivid and rich. They were rather beautiful to see in real life, and luckily with the Eurostar ticket the entry into the museum was 2 for 1, costing us about €10 to get in. This was definitely worth the visit.

Afterwards I was dying to get some macaroons and some pastries because cake is my life. So we went to Pierre Hermé and I got two boxes of macaroons. One for while we were still in Paris and the other to give to Mikee as a present. They weren’t cheap that’s for sure but they were definitely worth the cost. You could tell the ingredients were high quality, they were delicious and completely delicate. Then we went to Angelina’s and picked up an eclair, one famous praline mont-blanc and a pear jelly pastry. The classic eclair was probably my favourite, could definitely have eaten about ten of those, an the pear one was my second favourite. It had pear jelly on the outside, and was filled with a chantilly cream and pear chunk filling with a hard pastry base with nuts on the outside.

DAY FOUR : L’AURORE & JEU DU PAUME

We’d booked a scented candle making workshop through Airbnb Experiences at L’Aurore which was super fun. Justine, the owner, talked us through the manufacture of perfumes and the history of perfumery. We learned that leather was the first scent to be made, to fragrance leather clothing so it didn’t smell bad. It can take a long time to train in perfume making and you have to take the same career path as someone studying pharmaceuticals. We also learned that natural fragrances can change year to year depending on the crop yield so the creators will hold back batches from previous years to blend together to create an average in the smell – the same thing happens with Champagne. Also many floral scents are man-made, think sweet peas and lily of the valley. Iris can be made naturally but the scent is taken from the root of the flower, say whaaat. And rose has hints of citrus/lemon in it.

She made us really delicious tea and provided some typical French pastries. Then with Justine’s guidance five of us worked together to blend the fragrance for the candles we’d be making. First blending the synthetic ingredients together, then the natural, then mixing those two together to come up with a citrus, cedar and cinnamon scent. We then mixed that in with our wax and placed a wick in the candle and waited for it to solidify.

Mum and I bought some wax melts from her at the end of the workshop and she advised us where we could get food. It was a really great experience, so nice to have a little keepsake at home that we made and she also had a super cute dog called Pins in the back.

After we’d had some food, mum and I decided to try and go to The Grand Palace, which looked like it several really cool exhibitions on, but they were having a special ticketed event so we couldn’t get in. So we walked to Jeu Du Paume, which is a photography museum that sits opposite the Orangerie museum, and has the same entrance deal on. We saw the work of Raoul Hausmann who was important to the Berlin Dada movement. He had very different stages of work and I quite liked the early stuff.

Then we saw the work of Susan Meiselas, who documented a lot of conflict in Nicaragua. The images spanned from early days in New York and photos of a friendship group growing up. To her conflict documentary. To a more recent series on domestic violence. Again, pretty morbid stuff but some of the photos were incredible. So also worth a visit. Though it’s worth noting that while they’re all in the same vicinity, The Louvre, the Orangerie Museum and Jeu Du Paume are all closed on different days.

Fun trivia fact: Jeu Du Paume was in Sex and the City in the last season. It’s were the Russian has his exhibition.

LAST DAY

On our last day we left our Airbnb, dropped our luggage off into storage lockers at Gare Du Nord and went to do one final bit of exploring. We went to Centre Pompidou but the queue again was massive so we skipped that and just looked in some shops, I found a cute one called Bobart where I got me and Mikee some lose leaf tea, a box of pencils and a little orange bracelet to remember the trip. I also bought myself a summer dress from another shop.

We went back to the station, collected our luggage and went through to the Eurostar waiting area. We got some food and I bought Mikee a fancy Easter egg from Le Chocolat by Alaine Ducasse with my leftover euros. It was definitely worth the money: super rich chocolate, layered with praline, more chocolate, praline, and then more chocolate again. It took us a week and a half to eat haha. Finally we got on the train again and made our way back home.

Now I think I would go back to Paris but it wouldn’t be top of my list of places to visit as I feel we have very similar things in London. It would be nice to go for a long weekend at the end of the summer maybe. I appreciated the art and the architecture, I loved that people were just chilling by the Seine in the evening even though it was mid-March. The Catacombs were amazing. But I’d be more savvy next time: be aware of what to look out for so people don’t take advantage. I’d want to eat more food and go and see more galleries and exhibitions but hopefully with less queuing at some point. That being said, with the terror attacks France has had over the last few years it was reassuring to see the security everywhere and knowing that those queues were for everyones safety. I’m not sure if it was the atmosphere there or just seeing lots of art but I also left feeling rather philosophical and thinky, maybe I’m just weird. I think our next trip will be to Scotland, that’s where mum said she fancies going.

If you want to visit Paris I hope you’ve found this a useful guide (if you even got this far). I know I ramble on, I mainly do these posts for me to remember what we did and if it helps other people that’s a plus. Au Revoir for now.

50 // Wes Anderson Isle Of Dogs

Hope everyone is well and that anyone reading this had a lovely Easter. It’s been a busy month, I finished up at The Body Shop, I’ve worked on another project for Cineworld and I went to Paris with my mum, turned 29 and had a pretty amusing long weekend with friends, family and lots of cake.

I’ll do a Paris post next week but really wanted to get this one up incase anyone wants to go to to the Wes Anderson Isle of Dogs pop-up exhibition on The Strand. Mikee and I went on Easter Monday and we really delighted to discover it was a dog friendly exhibition (as long as you can carry them) so we could take our little Pig along to meet her pupper counter-parts and not leave her at home. Thankfully a lot of people were very happy to see her little face in the space, I just wish it could happen more often.

For those who don’t know anything about this, Wes Anderson, film-maker extraordinaire, has a new film out now called Isle of Dogs. I’ll put the trailer below. I have absolutely loved all of his films, Mikee and I binge watched all of them a few years ago and in the past I’ve even tried making the pastries from The Grand Budapest Hotel (which are delicious). We haven’t seen the film yet but description according to Wiki is as follows: Set in a dystopian near-future Japan, the film follows a young boy who goes in search of his dog after the whole species is banished to an island due to an illness outbreak.  

When you enter the exhibition you’re greeted by a full scale Ramen bar where you can get drinks and noodles, unfortunately when we went they were all sold out as they only make a couple of hundred bowls a day but luckily for us we were stuffed from lunch anyway. The ramen recipes have been created by the head chef at Engawa in Soho so should we fancy some tasty food that will remind us of the movie perhaps we can visit the restaurant.

After entering the main space you go through to the main exhibition, where you can see the sets, the puppets and hear some of the film score by Alexandre Desplat. There are 17 sets and over 40 puppets that were used in the movie that you can see, all of them hand made, and the detail is incredible on every single little thing. I even watched a how they made it video and they had to make the dogs hair move for each frame so it looks natural. And after having spent 12 hours at university making a simple 1 minute animation out of square pieces of paper moving around, I can only imagine how time consuming it must have been to work on the film and how precise each element would have to be in that process. We were given a leaflet at the start of the tour that said that the film took over 400 days to animate and it was largely filmed at 3Mills Studio in East London.

Once we were done looking around we stopped and had a little something at the Noodle Bar, Mikee had an Asahi and I got some sake just to round off the Easter weekend, although probably not the best idea to drink that before I had circuit training in the evening when we finally got home. Piggy enjoyed herself, she got lots of attention, we got to see some amazing creative work – I really want to go and see the film now, I think having seen only a fraction of the work that’s gone into it I’ll appreciate so much more how much time and effort went into the making of it.

If anyone wants to go the exhibition is on till Sunday the 8th of April which means you’ve got 3 more days to go, it’s at The Store, 180 The Strand, and is open from 11am – 7pm every day. Last entry at 6.30pm. It’s completely free to visit, there’s no booking – if it’s busy just queue and you’ll get in pretty fast. You can take photos and post on social – it’s all good promo for the film AND most importantly you can take a dog inside if you can carry them around. If you have the time and can make it I would highly recommend going… Now to find a dog friendly viewing so we can take Pig to the cinema.

49 // WORK UPDATE

So I did no work updates last year, tut, tut. Mostly because I was just doing the work, and because I was a bit overwhelmed with everything that I was trying to deal with. But it is important to me to share this stuff, I want to make the time to recognise what I’ve actually achieved. I want to be able to look back myself in the future and remember these things, and the blog feels like the easiest way to do that. I’m back in London now, and already back on the madness of the merry go round of work, exercise, friends, food, Netflix and sleep, but I want to take a look at what have I actually been up to.

THAMES & HUDSON FOR THE V&A

Well, I started off last year by illustrating another book for Thames & Hudson. I went in, got briefed and collected the Art Deco colouring book I had illustrated. I then spent a month working on a creative workbook on wallpaper patterns. The idea being you could colour in some patterns, complete the repeat and also design your own creations. I got a copy of this one a few months ago and the hard work paid off. The book looks great, the intricate drawings of some of the most famous patterns look incredible printed. 

SAGITTA

I also spent the whole year working on Sagitta which has come to mean such a lot to me and it’s such a privilege to work on. The reason Sagitta was started was to inspire people to take care of their own health through preventing sickness. The products they make are there to stop you from getting ill in the first place and the tips and advice that we share on the website are there to stop any problems you might come across happening or from getting worse. The idea is to enable people to live their best lives without any major health issues. I spent the whole of last year working on a healthy habit each week for the blog, trying things and seeing if they stick. Some definitely have and my life is better for it, working on this brand is working its own magic on me. Which just leaves me to believe in the idea behind it even more. I can’t wait to see what we come up with in the future.

RAWKIN VEGAN & MIA LAAKSO

My favourite projects are always branding projects. I really love thinking about the creativity behind a new name, and thinking about building the best looking and most relevant identity I can and trying to see how that can work as part of a strategic vision for how they come across to the world. I had the pleasure of working on Rawkin Vegan, which is initially looking to start out by creating incredible vegan burgers for the world to try – which I can’t wait to see become a reality. I was really proud of this work as everything has knit together to create something super inline with the brand and there’s so much to build on there. I also got to work on some branding for Mia Laakso, a sustainable textiles brand (though the name may change) but I’m absolutely loving where the logo design for this is at the moment as well.

CINEWORLD

One of the biggest projects of the year that I had was being commissioned by Cineworld to concept and design their gifting range. I brought Olly who I worked with at Ogilvy onboard to work with me as a creative team, and while it was quite a beast of a project I feel like we absolutely smashed it – both pushing each other to work better. It went on for a lot longer than we initially expected but Cineworld took on an idea that both of us believed in. We had to come up with the creative idea, all the designs, copy, artwork etc for the gift card range and surrounding promotional pieces – the wallets, the carriers, the posters and stands all just in time for Christmas but with a whole year of assets planned out and created. It was a bit of a knackering process but I’m pretty proud of what we’ve achieved.

BUZZFEED FOR TESCO & WORTH IT UK

Antonia, the lovely art director at Buzzfeed, brought me in to photograph a post for Tesco where people spoke about their family traditions at Christmas. She briefed me the initial concept and we both worked to push the idea and art direction further and worked like an absolute dream team during the shoot days. It was so much fun working with her: we went to uni together and we’re totally on the same wavelength. It was so much fun shooting and I got some really wonderful portraits as well as great feedback from the client.

Antonia also recommended me for an illustration brief for Buzzfeed Worth It UK. It was a very random, quick brief but it’s really cool to see that something I’ve drawn is on a video that’s had over 1.5M views. I’m also currently wrapping up another quick illustration brief for another video project for them. 

THE BODY SHOP

Early in the year I freelanced at The Body Shop and had the pleasure of working on Christmas concepts with the team. It was mad to see that something I thought up, had been photographed by Rankin. And when the time came, I got to see that poster front and centre of the stores I visited. I’ve spent the last two months of the year working there on one of the biggest product launches of next year, absolutely knackering but very exciting. I’m currently back there for another fun stint with the lovely team. 

CATH COLLINS

I’ve worked with the Cath Collins team again to create their Christmas catalogue for the second year running, alongside some promotional material for the brand. I’m so excited to continue working on this and can’t wait to see where we can take the brand as I really believe that there’s something special to the fragrances they offer and believe that the people I’m working with have got a great vision under their hats. 

GOOD.LOOP

I also helped out on Good.Loop. Amy – a brilliant girl who I worked with at Ogilvy started working on a project to use advertising for good. You watch an advert for 15 seconds and a brand donates money on your behalf to a charity of your selection. We have been working on an array of designs & ideas for digital ads to catch peoples eyes, testing & refining these to see what people engage with the most. We’ve also been testing the video player designs and it’s been really interesting to work with a team of people who really believe that advertising can have a positive impact. I’m excited to do more of this this year. This one was one of my favourites. 

FIRST STORY

I also continued to work with the lovely charity First Story. These guys were the first people to ever give me a freelance job on the side setting me on course for this journey. I had the pleasure of working on their annual report and also did one or two book cover designs for their Anthologies that they produce with the students they get involved with.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY

My friend Clementine teaches for General Assembly in London and she connected me to a lovely designer called Susi in New York who was looking for help producing illustrative assets for the brand. She has definitely provided the most thorough briefs I’ve ever come across which made my job extremely easy.

KIRELI

I’ve also been working on the branding for my own studio which I really, really, really want to get started this year. I’ve worked in some places where I’ve felt the names have been a little questionable… So I’ve tried to put a lot of thought into the one I’ve picked. I wanted it to sound nice when you say it but not necessarily be a recognisable word, and I also wanted it to be memorable. So after playing around with some meaningful things I’ve decided to name it after my mum: taking inspiration from her first name and middle name. She’s someone who has given me the absolute best start in life she could, despite having the troubles of trying to keep everything afloat on her own. She taught me the value of hard work, supported me in everything I’ve done even if she not been 100% sure about it – like doing art instead of triple science. She inspires me to do good by people: She’s a carer for the elderly and I admire her so much for her empathy, compassion, good humour and integrity when she’s doing the work she does even when it’s so hard. She’s given me life in several senses of the word, so I want to be able to continue her legacy and the values she instilled in me – in my studio. Because without her, I wouldn’t exist and I wouldn’t be doing the work I’m doing. 

I also was lucky enough to be interviewed by a lovely girl called Megan for her blog where she’s doing a series of interviews with creative women. That’s it pretty much for last year. I know roughly what I’m up to till May, working with clients old and new and loving that everyone I’m working with is aspiring to do something positive in the world. Whether it’s by doing something small that leaves an impression on people that makes them feel good, or by trying to do something to change it a little for the better. I’m excited to see what 2018 has to offer.

48 // LAKE GARDA & VERONA

So this is extremely late but here’s what we did in Italy when I went with my mum in May. We stayed in Garda, Lake Garda for 3 days and then Verona for 2 days. I accidentally deleted all my photos off my camera so all I have are my photos from my phone, which is why this has taken so long. I just booked a trip for us to go to Paris as neither of us have been, I’ll make sure I don’t delete my photos then.

HOW WE GOT THERE:

We flew with Easy Jet to Verona, from Gatwick. I met my mum at Gatwick, getting the train from London, and her from Eastbourne. Our Airbnb host picked us up from Verona and drove us to Lake Garda. We got a coach back to Verona.


 

HOW WE GOT AROUND:

WALKING – As usual our legs were a reliable mode of transport.

COACH/BUSES – We got a day pass for the bus so we could go from Garda to Malcesine (roughly 45mins) and Riva Del Garda (roughly an hour from Malcesine) and then back, the bus pass costs about €10. We got the coach from Garda to Verona for €10 which took an hour and a half.

BIKE – We cycled from Garda to Bardolino and back.

CAR – Our lovely Airbnb host in Garda picked us up from the airport and drove us to Garda, in the car it takes about 40 mins.

FERRY – We visited Sirmione via the ferry with a return ticket about €20, it took about 20mins to cross to get there on the fast service, and about an hour to get back on the slow service.

AEROBUS – On the last day we got the airport shuttle bus from Verona train station to the airport €6.


 

AIRBNB’S

We stayed in two Airbnb’s, one in Garda and one in Verona. The Airbnb in Garda was lovely. Camilla our host was super kind and picked us up from Verona airport and drove us to Garda for the check in. The apartment was on the top floor of an old building which used to be her family home. They’d renovated it and turned it into two airbnb flats. We were really close to the bus station, and really close to the lakefront, and some super markets so we could have enough food at our base.

In Verona we stayed in the city centre where it was easy to walk around. The Airbnb was very modern, comfortable and in an old historical building. We were so close to everything it was amazing, but we were also on a quiet street so we didn’t have much noise from outside. We must have been right next to a music academy as we could hear people practicing which was such a lovely thing to listen to while getting ready for the day.


 

DAY ONE : LAKE WANDERING & DINNER

We arrived in Garda in the afternoon, once we were settled and all checked in with our lovely airbnb host we went to the supermarket and bought some food and giggled at the penis shaped bottles of limoncello. We went for a wander to go and see the lake, the weather was perfect for springtime – clear, sunny, not too cold and only a slight breeze coming off the lake, the water was super still and super clear and it was just a really pretty evening. We got some gelato, and we just had a little walk for about an hour before settling for some Italian food and wine from Il Giardino Delle Rane.

DAY TWO : MALCESINE & RIVA DEL GARDA

The weather was a bit crappy on the second day but that didn’t stop our plans for exploring. We got the bus from Garda up the lake to Malcesine. We wanted to see the market so mum wanted to get herself a new bag. I also got a pretty mint green faux leather bag, and we got matching wooden sunglasses. Mum managed to find herself a sign that said ‘Warning Entering Woman Cave’ which absolutely tickled her. We explored the Castello Scaligero (the castle) in Malcesine, which had some pretty spectacular views. We could also have got a cable car from there up to the top of a mountain which would have been incredible however my mum flatly refused to even entertain the idea. Once we’d explored there we got the coach up to Riva Del Garda at the top of the lake. The architecture in that part of the lake is really quite different from the southern parts of the lake and have a more Austrian influence. It had started raining pretty heavily by the time we got there, we walked up to the lake front, I took some photos as the weather had created a pretty beautiful atmosphere around the lake within the sides of the mountains, and we went and had some respite from the rain by grabbing some pizza and having dinner before getting the coach back and chilling out in our airbnb.

DAY THREE : BARDOLINO & CLIMBING LA ROCCA

The weather this day again wasn’t fantastic but at least it didn’t start off raining. We wandered around Garda a little, exploring the shops and seeing what was on offer. We stalked a family of ducklings who had a little blonde duckling in amongst the rest of the brown ones. They were super cute!! We had some lunch from a tiny cute Italian place before deciding to hop on the bikes our airbnb had provided and cycle down to Bardolino which was the next town down from Garda. It was a really nice gentle bike ride and we had some more gelato in Bardolino before heading back. Now there’s a little mountain next to Garda called La Rocca. I’d said to mum it would be amazing if we could climb a mountain while we were there, and she thought the idea was ridiculous and so I figured there would be none of that. But, as fate would have it, we stumbled across the pathway that led to the top of La Rocca… And we decided to walk up it a bit, only partially up the mountain you’re met with some amazing views. Mum wasn’t sure if we would make it the whole way, but we persisted for an hour and a half and managed to get to the top for the sunset, before we decided to hurry down so we didn’t have to navigate a rocky path in the dark.

DAY FOUR : SIRMIONE

We decided to explore Sirmione and see the lake from the peninsula. We took the ferry over and had a wander around the historical centre. The South of the lake is a lot flatter than the mountainous North part of the lake in Riva, but Sirmione was still rather hilly with lots of ups and downs. We unfortunately went on a day when everything was closed, but there are Roman ruins right at the tip of the point which would have been amazing to explore. There is also Scaliger Castle which is built in the water, again it would have been amazing to explore but we just had to marvel at it from the outside. We did however see a natural hot spring on the edge of the lake, explored the town, we saw pugs in prams and I fed a bird out of my hand. We had some bruschetta and we got to try some of the best gelato while there. Once we got back to Garda we had another little walk around the waterfront, stalking the little ducklings again – mum even managed to feed a duck out of her hand. And we returned to the same restaurant from the first night, it had started raining but we had a farewell meal while watching the sun set over the lake while the sad sky dispersed

DAY FIVE : VERONA EXPLORING

On day five we set off for Verona on the bus. It was very easy to get on, and get off at the correct stop – right outside the arena in Verona. We walked about fifteen minutes to get to the next airbnb and checked in to the lovely building and pretty much set out as soon as we could. We walked around the outskirt of the historical centre and it started thundering and raining so we went to the Natural History Museum and it was pretty much just me and mum inside so we got to see everything without any issues. They had some incredible things inside.

Once we left it had started to get sunny. We saw some archeological places, and we found Juliet’s Balcony – my mum joined in with everyone who touched her boob for some good luck, I felt weird about groping a statue so didn’t. It was amazing to see the love letters stuffed in the cracks of the wall, and oddly the messages on love on chewing gums all over the place too. It was very touristy (especially with the shop there selling rather tacky items) and a bit weird but also kind of nice to see.

We also saw some incredible crypts of a family who clearly wanted to be remembered, and saw the set up of concert happening in honour of European music. They had a flag for the European Union draped over the side of the rail, and we listening to a violinist practicing for the performance later on. I think it would have been an incredible concert to attend. Mum and I sat and had a couple of drinks at a cafe in the square nearby, and then went and had dinner in a typical Veronese restaurant. I can’t remember what I ate but I definitely had chocolate salami for dessert for the first time since my colleague made it about six years ago.

DAY SIX : THE ARENA & FLYING HOME

We didn’t have that much time to kill on the last day but we managed to explore the Arena. It was incredible to think that these spaces were built such a long time ago and have seen thousands of people through the doors for so many different reasons, while still remaining to be these stunning structures. Currently it’s used for open air opera, they were setting up for the opening of the season when we were there in early May, but it must be such an amazing spectacle to see a performance there. We had a little wander around some shops, I got myself a jacket and a dress, and then we proceeded to make our way home – stopping to get some last gelato with our luggage before finding the bus to the airport.

I really enjoyed the trip to Italy with my mum. I think if the weather had have been less rainy it would have been better but it was still enjoyable, and lovely to spend time with her exploring a new place and seeing new things. I’d probably recommend going to Lake Como over Lake Garda, just because it is a bit smaller, but both are stunning places where you’re going to fund delicious gelato and Italian food.

I’m excited to see what Paris has to offer us in March although I’m going to go with no expectations as I’m finding it to be the best way to approach seeing a place.

47 // 2018 MOODBOARD

I remember when I was applying for university in college, my foundation teacher told me he wasn’t sure I was ‘edgy’ enough to go to Central Saint Martins but he wasn’t going to stop me from applying if I wanted to try. Now I’m the kind of person that if you tell me you don’t think I can do something I will prove you wrong. Any disbelief in me fuels me because I’m stubborn and believe that anything is possible when you put your mind to it. I wrote on a piece of paper that I kept next to my bed that said ‘I am edgy enough’… and I guess it worked because I got in.

Later on in university I was having trouble with inspiration and ideas and my tutor suggested getting the things that sparked my creativity out of my book and surround myself with these things in the places where I spent a lot of time. So I stuck everything up on my walls even though it meant painting over blue tack marks at the end of the year to get my deposit back. And again it worked, I felt more inspired and ideas came better.

With the new year I want to set myself some intentions for what I want. As I mentioned in the new year post I’ve spent a lot of time feeling pressure from all sides, and I’ve been left feeling a bit depleted. Which is why I’m not going back to London immediately after ringing in the year and won’t be heading back till I’ve figured some things out both personally and professionally. Last year as part of my healthy habits for Sagitta I had to think up what I’d want to do for a bucket list. I ended up with about 70 items but cut it down to 10 and now if I tick one off I can replace that item with something from my back up list. It was a really nice thing to do to think about those things that I want to achieve in the bigger picture and so I thought I’d sort of do the same thing and think about what I want from the year to come to hopefully add some of that sparkle back in. Hopefully having this stuff in front of my face and surrounding me will remind me of whats important at those moments when I’m overwhelmed.

I’ve looked at some different aspects that all feel pretty important, so here goes.

WORK

I’d love to set up Kireli, my studio, this year. I’ve decided to name it this in honour of my mum – taking inspiration from her name. I have reached out and arranged some mentoring so I hope this will help me figure out how to bring my practice to the level I want to achieve. I’d love to spend a month or so just nailing the branding, the website and how I present my work and figuring out a business plan and strategy for the future. I want to transition from being seen as a freelancer to having a studio that does things to help the greater good.

I also want to work on my confidence with regards to work. I’m pretty confident in my creative abilities but I need to work on presenting and pitching, and improve and flex how my mind works when coming up with really creative ideas and solutions where concepts simply convey what’s needed in a fun and human way.

I want to be more hands on and do more concept development, brand building, art direction and photography because these are the things that make my brain tick.

HAPPINESS & BEAUTY

Nature, music, creativity, stars, sunrises and sunsets. These things all make me happy. There’s that quote from ‘Wild’ that everyday we have two chances to put ourselves in the way of beauty with every sunrise and sunset. Granted in the UK it’s grey quite often, but there’s so much out there in addition to these things.

I want to make a point of going to see beautiful things. Interesting things. Things that make you think, and feel, and realise that you’re a part of something bigger. And I want to focus on feeling beautiful and happy within myself.

I want to keep writing. I want to create things for myself. I want to read more and spend time with people who add happiness and beauty into my life. Which brings me onto…

RELATIONSHIPS

Relationships should be places where you can be vulnerable and honest. And this is something that I have with my closest friends and family but sometimes I get caught up in making everything appear hunky dory when it’s really not because I don’t want to bother others. But that’s not authentic and I need realness.

I want to spend more time with these people, making memories doing enjoyable things (that don’t solely revolve around eating food or drinking), or doing absolutely nothing but having the most interesting conversations about the strangest topics.

I want more passion, openness, laughter and soul lifting exchanges with the people I love and the people I come across.

TRAVEL

I want to see more of the world and that’s that.

I want to explore my own country more. I want to see New York and I should be exploring Paris with my mum.

PRIORITY & BALANCE

I need to start putting myself first, which is what all of this is about really. But I need to recognise when I’m stressed or overwhelmed with anything from work to my relationships with others, or anything beyond my control and ensure I bring in some boundaries and take moments to breathe, to be still and alone and remember what’s important. In those moments I need to create clarity for myself and make sure that my life is balanced and not all just crazy chaos taking too much on.

I also need to get better at recognising how I feel, and stop rationalising other peoples actions because I can understand why they did them. Understanding why doesn’t make them acceptable. And recognising what my emotions are (which I’m not very good at) is an important thing to do to make sure I’m looking after myself.

I also want to make more time for the things that make me feel good at home. Spending time with Mikee, snuggling and playing with Piggy. Cooking and looking after how I eat and making my environment better: keeping it clean, bringing in more plants, replacing the rooms that need work doing. I need to save up and prioritise these things… And look after my finances.

HEALTH

I want to learn more about nutrition, and I want to cultivate in myself a person who loves eating healthier because my body is the only one I have and I need to look after it. Chocolate and cake make my soul happy, so include those too as treats but treats aren’t needed everyday.

I want to carry on keeping fit through swimming, exercise classes and walking Piggy.

I also want to tick off an item on my bucket list – learn to do a handstand again. I need to improve my arm and core strength before I even try, but it might be worth picking up yoga or gymnastics so I can get to this point. I also want to improve my flexibility, I used to be really flexible and it shouldn’t be as tough as it is now.

I also want to learn how to skateboard even if it’s just feeling totally comfortable standing on it while going along, because I’ve been wanting to do this forever.

 

AND BECAUSE IT’S IMPORTANT FOR ME TO REMEMBER, HERE’S THE BUCKET LIST

I don’t think I’ll manage to do everything on this list in one year but as a reminder of whats important big picture wise here it is.

  1. Visit the Amazon.
  2. Live in a different country.
  3. Learn to do a handstand again.
  4. Write a song.
  5. Build a company that people like working with and for.
  6. Cycle the Pacific coast.
  7. Name a star.
  8. Learn to fight like Buffy (I’m a nerd)
  9. Have your tarot read in real life.
  10. Fly in a hot air ballon.

Images either mine or from Pinterest.

46 // TIME TO REFLECT 2017

It’s that time to take a look at what’s happened over 2017. If you’re going to read, make a tea – it’s a long one again.

2017 I feel can be defined as period of pressure which is both good and bad. Some of the aftershocks from previous years have been felt throughout this year and made it quite hard. There’s been a lot of work which has been stressful. I’ve also taken on a lot of other peoples emotions and stress which was very hard to manage emotionally and I find it very difficult to switch that off. I wouldn’t say life is much different from the outside but I feel like a very different person now and I feel like I’ve lost who I am a little along the way. I’ve also found some contrasting aspects of myself which has been throwing me through a loop. The biggest thing I’m taking away from this year is I need to occupy some space and put myself as a priority. I need to reconfigure and rediscover who I am and really think about what the important things are to me.

Without further adieu.

2017:

What was the single best thing that happened this past year?

Personally… travelling and exploring. I visited three countries: Gran Canaria, Italy & Portugal. And those moments spent with people I love exploring new places were such a highlight. The more time I spend at home in England, honestly, the more trapped I’ve been feeling. I’m itching to see new places and these little trips have been little spots of joy in the year.

What was the single most challenging thing that happened?

Communication. Either I’ve been too scared, worried, overwhelmed, upset or too pissed off and annoyed to communicate effectively with the outcomes that I was intending. I’ve spent a lot of time getting wrapped up in things that felt like unnecessary drama because communication was poor, and I’ve also spent a lot of time processing everything in my mind which has basically been brain soup; everything in there has been disconnected and disordered.

I was reminded about personality types and got a bit obsessed. I’m an INFJ on the Myers Briggs test and it’s the rarest personality type. I discovered when this type gets overly stressed (which I think I have been this year) we can pretty much go full on robot. Stuck in an introverted intuition and introverted thinking loop which doesn’t involve any feelings whatsoever, and if pushed we can shut people out pretty instantaneously with this mental doorslam. I feel like both these things have happened this year, and I feel like this has also hindered communication progress. To fix it I need to start getting my feels on but I’m not sure I’m ready yet.

 What was an unexpected joy this past year?

Exercise. I started exercising about half way through the year. I wasn’t really intending on it becoming a thing – I ridiculously thought I could do a 6 week course and end up feeling and looking amazing, but soon came to realise 6 weeks of exercise isn’t really going to undo 6 years of eating whatever I want and sitting on my arse. So that soon turned into 6 months.

I wouldn’t say I enjoy the act of exercise, but the process is making me feel better within my body which I’ve been feeling a bit insecure about for the last few years. I like feeling healthier. And I’ve enjoyed the feelings of accomplishment: going from being able to hold a plank for about 8 seconds, to being able to do a full minute… or realising I can do 80 press ups in 5 minutes even if they are on my knees. The people in my classes have been fun and the groups have been small. The teachers are great and on occasion I’ve felt really upbeat and like I can take on the world after class. It’s taken up a lot of time this year but worth it.

What was an unexpected obstacle?

Turning vegetarian. I’ve was only really eating meat for the last few years to keep harmony in my relationships, and frankly I was being lazy and making the most of convenience by not giving it up sooner. I discovered my cholesterol was too high, and so I wanted to lower it. After reading studies and watching documentaries and videos about animal agriculture it made sense to me to give up this thing I didn’t particularly enjoy anyway. I want to feel healthy in my body, I want to reduce my impact on the environment and not inflict the psychological pressure of killing these creatures on other people, and I had to look honestly and see these animals for what they are – which to me is really no different from my dog. They are sentient, they feel emotions, they love, they get scared, they have personalities, and they want to survive.

And diet wise it’s been perfect, I’m not fussy, and I’m happy to take whats available. However, it has made others around me uncomfortable which was never my intention – from figuring out meals at home, to how people react when eating out. And I’ve been eating this way for the majority of the last three years, without anyone seeming to pay any attention. Not a terrible obstacle but managing other peoples feelings about it have been rather unexpected.

Pick three words to describe this past year.

Highs & Lows.

What was the best thing you read this year?

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. And it was inspiring as anything to read something written by such a powerhouse of a woman and relate to her insecurities and fears; and see how saying a simple yes can add such a great deal of value to life.

Who were your most valuable relationships with?

My mum, Aaron, Audrey and Juliette were probably there for me the most and have given me support when I needed it. I was so appreciative to work with Olly again as he was really reliable and we both pushed each other to be better at our respective jobs.

I also love how because of Mikee and my brother I’ve now got three almost sisters who I’m discovering are all just incredible people.

What were your favourite moments spent with your friends & family?

Gran Canaria with Mikee – finding the secret pool, exploring sand dunes, having a spa day, swimming and seeing the most beautiful sunset from the mountains and star gazing being the most magical experience. Cook ups with the Reed family, eating all the food and drinking all the drinks. Spring rolls and pizza galore. Seeing Zola Blood, Cathy and Bonobo perform. Seeing the books I illustrated for Thames & Hudson in print and feeling immensely proud. Cathy teaching me basic ukulele. Clearing out a lot of unnecessary things and having a boot sale with my family.

Swimming with Mikee, and having walks with Piggy: to the Thames Barrier, to Polpo in Central, over the downs, in Richmond and through Bermondsey. Doing an animation workshop while hungover AF. Making donuts and pasta and falafels and even more spring rolls. Ripping up the floor in our hallway, doing some DIY and feeling productive. Hanging out with Juliette: Afternoon tea at the Barbican conservatory, Rough Trade photos and exploring Shoreditch during the design festival. A trip to the seven sisters, getting lost in East Dean and having dinner in Brighton. Unplanned BBQs, ramen, drawing at the Horniman Museum and having drinks with the queen at Lil Nan’s Bar. Park hangs and wine with Aoife. Working and fun with Hussain. Ice cream and silly beach picnics with Emma at home.

Greenwich, silly photos, Pride, lino printing with stolen artwork, veggie dinners and skateboarding attempts with Audrey. Watching Death Note and talking for hours and hours with Dan. Working, ideas, burgers and chats with Olly. The shard with Christina and Dorian, meeting up with Uni peoples. Drinking way too much Prosecco in the park with Aaron, embarrassing myself at James’ and sobering up with pizza. Playing with tarot cards, wearing facemasks and laughing our butts off at horror movies. Sleeping Beauty Ballet buns, drag bars, Halloween flashings, looking fly and seeing art with my favourite old housemate. Facetiming with Dad. Passing out in my mums garden in the sunshine because I was so exhausted. Getting soaked under the most amazing weather while at the beach, at home family blood tests and new doggy additions to the family. Grandads 91st birthday at my Aunties house and getting to talk to my cousins. Italy with mum where we ate lots of gelato and climbed a mountain.

Dancing into the morning with Antonia on multiple occasions and being a sucky wing woman to my sister from another mister. Being incredibly happy for her when meeting her new lady friend. Being a dream team while photographing things for Tesco & Buzzfeed, 5ive at Pizza Pilgrims, Puppy Pilgrims, office dogs and Antonia’s mums hilarious 50th birthday where Aaron was ‘one of the girls’. Not forgetting the incredible night at the Moulin Rouge where we had far too much champagne and Antonia had to dance in a cage and shove her face in my sweaty chest for fake money.

Tom and Kerry’s wedding, walks with Maria and Josefine, Massages from Ariana and cracking the Rawkin Vegan branding for her. Veggie food with Swedish Emma. Lunch & Gelato with Kasia, seeing her and Oli off to Denmark. Working with Sara at The Body Shop and just generally joking around with the guys who work there. Working with Alice and Aleksandra at home – the beautiful talented girls who helped lighten my load over the summer. Seeing Stefan Sagmeister talk at CSM, and lending a hand with the third years. Three day Christmas’ with family, Star Wars with Mikee and Sarah and treating Grandad to lunch and hearing all about his time in India during the war.

As I said, it’s not all been bad.

What was your favourite compliment that you received this year?

It isn’t so much a compliment, but I sent a present to a friend after they received some bad news and they phoned me up to say thank you and that the parcel arrived at the time they needed it the most.

In what ways did you grow emotionally and physically?

Physically. I started exercising more which means I’ve hopefully shrunk some fat and grown some muscle. I also cut my hair and donated it to the little princess trust. It felt good to cut my hair, like a weight had been lifted.

Emotionally. As mentioned I feel a bit more lost so I guess I need to find myself again. But I also spent a bit of time talking to a therapist this year, and while I’ve barely told anyone about this, it’s helped me figure out certain boundaries I need to put in place and it’s made me consider the value we all give and receive in our relationships with others.

What was the most enjoyable part of your work?

I’ve probably most enjoyed working with incredible people who are fantastic at their jobs. I’ve also enjoyed seeing myself succeed a bit further than the previous year when I decided to make the jump into this adventure. I’ll do a separate post summing up all the things I’ve been up to.

What was the most challenging part of your work?

Work/life balance for sure. Working too much. Feeling exhausted.

What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?

The trains. Bloody delays, delays, delays. It took me three hours, two trains, walking and two busses to get home one evening.

What was the best way you used your time this past year?

Focussing on my health. I understand what’s going on in my body. I physically understand myself more. I also have made it important to spend time relaxing. I just need to spend more time focussing on my mental wellbeing alongside that now.

What was biggest thing you learned this past year?

I need to occupy some space and put myself as a priority.

2018:

What do you want the overarching theme for your 2018 to be?

Balance and clarity. Figuring out who I am again.

What are you looking forward to next year?

  • Figuring things out.
  • Working on our kitchen and bathroom and making improvements to our flat.
  • Spending weekends doing cultural things, exploring and going to exhibitions.
  • Going to Crazy Golf and learning to Lindy Hop with Mikee.
  • More gigs: Already have Little Comets and Django Django lined up. Maybe even Ronnie Scotts Jazz Orchestra.
  • Working with a mentor.
  • Going on a little getaway with Mikee thanks to his sister Fenella, hopefully it’ll be in a treehouse.
  • Exploring Paris with Mama Buggins.
  • Hopefully exploring New York with Mikee.

Who do you want to spend more time with in 2018?

Mikee. My family. And just generally people who are important to me, and who challenge and inspire me.

Which personal quality do you want to develop or strengthen?

My confidence and ability to generate and share ideas rapidly – I’ve been a bit rusty.

What do you want your everyday life to be like?

Balanced and not chaotic all the time which is how this year has ended.

Which habits do you want to change, cultivate or get rid of?

Learning to say no and understanding myself better.

What do you want to achieve career-wise?

I want to set up my studio and level up my practice.

How do you want to remember the year 2018 when you look back on it 10/20/50 years from now?

I want to remember it as the year I started to get my shit together.

What is your number one goal for 2018?

My forever goal is happiness and positivity.

Happy new year dears! I hope you all have a balanced time too.

45 // TOO MANY PASTEL DE NATA // PART 1

Jesus, it’s been a LONG time since I did a post. Not intentionally, I’ve just been burrowed away working my ass off for the whole year and have finally got some much much needed quiet time.

I’ve been meaning to do so many posts about work, life and a trip to Italy I took with my mum in May but here we are with Portugal. From the 4th to the 7th of October Mikee and I were in Setúbal and from the 7th to the 11th in Lisbon. I’ve split this into two posts to save you from scrolling through a million photos.

HOW WE GOT THERE:

We flew good ol’ Ryan Air out there and back – from Stansted to Lisbon. I think the flights cost about £80 per person with one piece of luggage between the two of us.

It was super easy to get to Stansted and back – tube to Liverpool Street and then a train out. They seem pretty frequent and I believe you can get a coach or a bus if your flight is at an awkward time.


HOW WE GOT AROUND:

WALKING – Wear good walking shoes. There is a lot to see, a lot to explore, lots of great views and LOTS of hills. It was almost like going to San Francisco again.

TRAIN – We got the train to Setúbal from Entrecampos in Lisbon. It cost €8 for a return ticket + 50c for the physical ticket too. The journey there took about an hour and half… It is a 40min drive but we don’t drive.

We also got the train out to Belém from Cais do Sodre which took ten mins, although we walked back and it took two hours!
And the train out from Rossio to Sintra and back which took 40mins, both journeys didn’t cost more than €4 I believe.

METRO – We used the metro a couple of times during our stay, it seemed to work pretty well and was a quick way to get around. Very easy to navigate the four lines as well. We did get an Aerobus which cost €8 the first journey from the airport, however we really could have just got the Metro from the airport to the station we needed. I think a single journey on the metro costs around €1.60 plus the cost of the card which you can top up. We ended up with about three cards – not sure how the loading of money works for different journeys as it didn’t seem like you could use one card for both the mainline trains plus the metro. That was confusing as they all look the same.

TUK TUK – They’re literally everywhere. We got one in Sintra to get to the top of a hill. I think the costs of these vary and you could probably haggle.

BOAT & CAR – We went on a boat trip to see Dolphins in Setúbal on our second day which cost €35 each. And Our Airbnb host picked us up in her car in Setúbal which we were really grateful for after a day of travel.


AIRBNB’S

We stayed in two Airbnb’s, one in Setúbal and one in Alfama in Lisbon. Both of the apartments we stayed in were in the older parts of each city, though Setúbal felt quite like a seaside town.

The Airbnb in Setúbal was amazing. We had the loveliest host, she was so on it with arranging things with us and as mentioned above she came and met us from the station which was great. The apartment itself was small but so well designed that it felt spacious, there was a good amount of stuff in the kitchen so we ended up cooking together a lot. The bathroom was compact but the shower had great pressure and it was well lit. Overall it just felt clean and calm. There was a restaurant literally outside the front door and dogs that were hanging out on their balconies along the road so it was a little noisy but we really had such a nice stay there. It was £35 a night so if we ever go back we’ll definitely look to stay here again.

In Lisbon we stayed in Alfama which is the historical district of Lisbon. Alfama was really nice, very hilly and small winding paths so it felt like a little labyrinth. The apartment was a bit basic – they only had one mug for example, but we mostly used it as a base for sleeping and then spent our time exploring. When we arrived we were shown the apartment and given some pastel de nata which was sweet. It was just above a Fado restaurant, so we had some people singing and playing traditional Portugese music until midnight all nights except Sunday, so this place wouldn’t be for early to bed people. The airbnb cost £50 a night which was good but bit steep as I’d seen some nice places for less, I just hadn’t booked them in time ’cause I was super busy.


 

DAY ONE : BEACH DAY

We had technically arrived the day before but only had enough time and energy to go and get food and cook before passing out. So let’s call this the first day. We made ourselves a breakfast and then had a little adventure to Pingo Doce the supermarket to get some supplies for our beach day. We’ve both been working quite hard (I had literally just delivered work for a big deadline the day before leaving) so a proper chill day was on the cards. We made our way to the closest beach. Setúbal actually has a beach that was voted the most beautiful in Europe this year, we absolutely would have loved to have gone there but unfortunately it was too far for us to walk to. Maybe one day we’ll be able to drive. We managed to walk to Praia de Alberquel. We took Polaroids, chatted, ate pastel de nata, and picnic food, watched people, boats and paddle boarders. We attempted to swim, collected tiny shells and soaked up some vitamin D – we were super lucky as they had a heatwave and it was about 30degrees every day… We also witnessed a man sunbathing behind a curtain but we were privvy to his bare back side – delightful. We walked back after the sun started going down, had a little shower and went to the restaurant in front of our airbnb for food. The food was good and affordable, there was a lot of it, our eyes when ordering were definitely too big for our stomachs!

DAY TWO : EXPLORING, SAILING & DOLPHIN WATCHING

I had seen that dolphin watching was something that you could do there as Setúbal is home to a pod of around 26 dolphins that live in the wild. We hadn’t managed to pre-book so we wandered down to the harbour and found a place that luckily had a service going out in the afternoon that wasn’t full (hooray for going in off season), we booked to go on it and went to find some breakfast. We stopped by Moscatel de Setúbal Experience, ordered some fresh pastel de nata (more Portugese egg custard tarts), Mikee got a coffee and I had a freshly made pear juice which was amazing. The staff were super friendly too. We wandered around the city centre, up little alleys and found a good viewpoint before walking back to the harbour where we managed to find a food truck next to a tall ships festival. We had a look around one of the ships, ordered some fresh chips which were the best chips we’ve both had in a long time. And went to our meeting point for the dolphin tour.

The dolphin tour was amazing. Highly recommended. We were on a catamaran which had nets to relax on at the front. They spent about 30mins watching the dolphins so as not to bother them or to overly pollute the water there, and then they sailed up the coast for about an hour before heading back. In the pod there was a 50 year old dolphin and three new dolphins – 2 were a couple of months old and the other one was only 7days old at the time. It was tiny. The guide told us there are only three pods like this in Europe living wild, the other two are in Scotland and Ireland, so we might have to go on an adventure closer to home. The journey up the coast was lovely and relaxing. I just sat and listened to music, while enjoy the sunshine, Mikee had a little nap on one of the nets. When we got back we went and got more chips – they were just too good, we wandered around the centre a little more before calling it a day.

DAY THREE : LISBON EXPLORING

We got up early again, sorted out our stuff, had some food and went to get the train from Setúbal back to Lisbon. We checked into our second apartment after walking up a lot of hills, and then set off to explore again. We decided to wander around Alfama as that’s where we were staying, we found some views. We then wandered to Fábrica Coffee Roasters as we’d heard good things, Mikee got to enjoy some coffee and I got some pastel de nata to take away. We then went to see the sunset from Park bar, it was quite busy so we left pretty soon after but it looked like it would have been a nice place to hang out. I really fancied a burger for dinner (so adventurous) so we found a place close by that had a veggie burger option. Weirdly some teenage girl who was dining in the restaurant came up to me and spoke to me in Portugese really quickly, before going and sitting down with her family again, and I have no idea what that was about.

So that’s that the first half of the trip! Read part two of our little guide to Lisbon here.

45 // TOO MANY PASTEL DE NATA // PART 2

Read Part 1 here if you have’t done so already for a breakdown of transport, airbnb’s, and things to do in Setúbal and Lisbon.

DAY FOUR : BELÉM, ART, TARTS & LX FACTORY

This was such a cool day. We got the train to Belém, a friend had told me to go there as this is where the custard tarts originated from – nuns used to starch their clothes with egg whites, they then made the tarts using the yolks. When we arrived we wandered to the Belém tower which was pretty, there was a long queue to get in so we skipped going inside. I got some frozen yoghurt, nom. We then went to the Museu Berardo (entry €5) which houses some contemporary art. It was a pretty nice gallery! Afterward we sat in Pastéis de Belém, there was a massive queue for both take away and sitting in and luckily we got a table in their nice courtyard. We ordered a cheese toastie and 6 custard tarts, 4 of which we could take away. I also got a hot chocolate while Mikee had a coffee. The place was really beautiful outside. The food was delicious. Inside you could see them making all these pastel de nata which was incredible. We left and walked for about an hour and found LX Factory which was a cool little trendy area where a lot of nice restaurants and artist studios seem to be based with a market. I bought myself some simple bracelets as my one from San Francisco broke after two years of non stop wear. We found ourselves a rug for our hallway and we went and sat on top of a rooftop bar and watched the sunset while drinking some cocktails. We then walked back to Alfama which took forever. It was late and a Sunday and we didn’t have any food at our airbnb for dinner so we decided to go get pizza (I know) after a recommendation from a girl at Fábrica. We went to Casanova Pizzeria and it was honestly one of the best pizzas ever. I got a mushroom one and it came with ALL the mushrooms. The atmosphere was really nice, modern and relaxed and super close to the airbnb so we could roll ourselves back after eating way too much.

DAY FIVE : SINTRA, QUINTA DA REGALEIRA & CASTELO DOS MOUROS

Everyone we had spoken to beforehand and all the guides on Pinterest and Google say to take a daytrip to Sintra, so we did! And it was totally worth it. I’m sure there’s more to explore in the area but essentially there are a lot of beautiful palaces, estates & a castle, all concentrated in this one small spot. You can’t fit it all in in one day but there are some really beautiful places to see. We decided to go to Quinta da Regaleira, which is a decorative 20th century residence and it’s got the most beautiful garden, some of it is structured and some of it is left wild – there are two wells which were used for Tarot initiation rites, with a bunch of underground tunnels to explore, a waterfall, grottos and a labryinth of caves that go around a small lake. The building itself is beautiful and it was just stunning to explore the whole area. I think entry in was about €6

After we grabbed some lunch nearby, and thought about going up to the castle next which was right on the top of a mountain. There was a bus we could have taken up but while waiting for the bus a tuk tuk driver stopped next to us and asked if we’d be interested in going up. It looked fun and it cost us €5 each which is expensive but what the hell – we were at the top ten minutes later. It was actually such a blast going up this massive hill in this tiny rickety vehicle. The driver pointed out a huge rock that was under the castle and said it was called the boulder of friendship, where people can go climbing.

The Castle of the Moors was really cool. Entry was about €8. It still had all of its surrounds and you could climb up to two of the turrets. It was originally built in in the 8th/9th centuries and had history of Muslim and Christian settlers. The view was amazing, you could see all the way out to sea, and it was just really fun to explore such a beautiful and historical place. Afterwards we found the pedestrian path back down the hill (we were so glad we got the tuk tuk up), and got the train back to Lisbon.

DAY SIX : ALL THE VIEWS

Our last full day in Lisbon was quite relaxed. Our feet really hurt from all the walking so we took the morning quite easy before walking more. When we did get moving we stopped by Fábrica Coffee Roasters again, we wandered over to the Elevador de Santa Justa, a beautiful lift which was built in the 19th century to transports people up the steep hill from the Baixa district to the Carmo Archaelogical Museum, which we explored and which was amazing (entry was €4). The museum is a former medieval convent that was ruined during 1755 Lisbon earthquake, it’s really quite impressive. Afterward we walked all the way up to Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte to watch the sunset. It was a small climb after literally walking up hills for days, but you could see views all over the city. Afterward we slowly walked back to Alfama – stalked some sausage dogs, found some presents, bought some more pastel de nata and went back to pack.

DAY SEVEN : OCEANÁRIO DE LISBOA & HOME

Our flight wasn’t till the late afternoon and we needed to check out of our airbnb by 11, so we decided to drop off our luggage at the airport before doing one final bit of exploring. We decided to go to the Oceanarium as it was only two stops away from the airport and we’d heard good things. When we arrived we checked out the waterfront and watched some seagulls fishing which was fun. We then headed in. There was a really beautiful aquarium designed by a Japanese photographer who had died not long after making it. It was designed to represent the tropical forest water habitats using design principles of wabi sabi, it was there in part to highlight the immense importance these waterways hold for us. It was truly stunning, very moving, they’d even created a special piece of music for the exhibition. You can watch a little video about it below.

We explored the rest of the aquarium which had a central aquarium housing all sorts of fish, sharks and rays, and this was connected to external aquariums where you could see puffins, penguins, otters, amphibians… all sorts. It was really awesome being able to see and explore such a cool building with such incredible inhabitants. They also made it abundantly clear how important it is to take care of and protect our oceans, to avoid polluting them. It was educational and fun and a really great way to spend the day before flying back to chilly London.

Both Setúbal and Lisbon were far cooler than we could have imagined. We went without any expectations really, ate far too many custard tarts which we were both very happy about, and had an amazing time walking around seeing all the sights, chatting to random people and just enjoying being in the sun knowing full well we probably won’t feel anything similar on our skin till April again. Sigh! I need to move somewhere with a warmer climate.

44 // Stargazing, Sand Dunes and Sunburn

Back in January Mikee and I went on a 4 night mini trip to escape the gloomy British winter and spend some time topping up our lack of vitamin D in the lovely and warm Gran Canaria. The end of last year was pretty tough to say the least and the quiet of Jan made for the perfect opportunity to make up for that. I booked it as a Christmas present, not really having considered visiting the Canary Islands before, but it was the only place that was around 20 degrees in January so figured why not. It was a really lovely break and the perfect time to go. If you’re planning on going I’ve added some info at the bottom of the post incase it might be helpful.

DAY ONE: SUNBURN AND STARGAZING

We’d arrived the day before and after we’d had breakfast and a wash we got changed and tried to find the secret pool. I found where it was in location, Mikee figured out the trick to get there #teamwork. We read there for a bit, Mikee tried to get in but it was extremely cold at that time of year despite it being a lovely warm day. A German couple were there already and the man just got in and swam around like it was nothing. Total Boss. We both really wanted to swim so we went and investigated the Sunset pool on the top floor, which was thankfully heated. Pure joy apart from being a bit nippy getting out of the water.

I’d read about someone going on an astrology tour on a blog while researching what to do, I thought it sounded neat so visited the AstroGC website and put in the dates we were there. They check the weather and decide if they’re going to go on the day and we got a text saying that we could go that day! It was absolutely the best thing we got to do on the entire trip and I would encourage anyone going to book. There was a good sized group of us who went and we were picked up from our hotel by the lovely Carmelo.

We were told to dress warm and were picked up at 5pm. We went to a local fruit shop to have prickly pear smoothies. They were bright pink and amazing. We were going to miss our dinner at the hotel so Carmelo called ahead and arranged sandwiches for us so we didn’t go hungry. We were so grateful for that because the room service food was obviously ludicrously priced.

After a quick stop for smoothies, we drove the tiny winding road up the side of the mountain. The views were incredible going up and we stopped at a lookout point on the way to the top to watch the sunset over the valley, sea and mountains before heading to the top.

We loved every moment. We were given a small presentation by Gauthier the main astronomer before using the telescopes. We learned the names of constellations, we saw planets and star clusters and galaxies. We were most amazed by seeing two nebula – one where stars were being born and one that had followed a supernova. Everytime I’ve spotted Orion in the sky since I’ve remembered seeing the cluster of gas and stars in the telescope. We were given a photo at the end which was a lovely touch and a genuinely wonderful keepsake to have from the experience. It got a bit chilly by the end and they had even considered to provide the group with fresh warm mint tea at the end before heading back to the hotel. I 100% recommend going if you visit. I took some really crap photos of the stars propping my camera on the top of the car but they give you an idea of just how clear the sky was.

 

DAY TWO: SAND DUNES AND SANGRIA

On our second day we decided to get the free shuttle that runs every hour from the hotel to Maspalomas, it stopped right where we needed it to for our adventure to the sand dunes. It felt like being in a mini desert next to the beach which was amazing. I loved it despite it being quite difficult to walk on when you’re really not used to it. Mikee ran up a couple of them which is a lot harder than you would imagine – I tried and failed getting about a quarter of the way up before sinking down to my knees. After about two hours of walking around we decided to walk along the beach and go and have a couple of drinks before heading back to the hotel and having dinner.

 

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DAY THREE: SPA TIME AND SLEEP

Our last full day we decided to go to the Spa. We had three hours of free use of the spa and we booked a couple of treatments. I’ve only had one spa day before last summer with a friend, which involved a really amazing Baobab massage and smelling really really lovely after. We swam in the spa’s pool – again it was a little cold but my Finnish skin made the most of it. There was a sauna which I loved, a steam room, this shower that turned hot and cold which was quite invigorating and a room with really clean air which was nicer than you’d imagine. I’d booked the Aloe Experience which involved a scrub, a massage and a facial followed by an aloe vera drink. It was really nice but I did feel a little uncomfortable as they provided these teenie tiny mesh pants for you to wear and it’s the only thing you wear. I didn’t know what way to wear them and totally put them on the wrong way round… Embarrassing. The scrub was amazing – it was a combo of salt, volcanic rock and aloe vera gel, it was a little painful because of my sunburn from the first day but I felt soft as pillow after. I had to have a quick shower to get rid of all the debris and then put on another pair of tiny pants – still the wrong way roundand then got the massage which was pretty standard. My lovely friend Ariana from Spirited Away Massage in London does excellent massages so my expectations were high. The facial was nice and soothing and the drink was nice. I’m not sure I’d recommend it wholeheartedly but it was a nice part of the trip. We were pretty happy and relaxed by the end of it. We got dressed, watched the sunset from the top of the hotel and then went to dinner before finishing our trip with some foreign TV and packing up our stuff ready for the morning.

HOW WE GOT THERE:

I booked the trip through Inspired Luxury Escapes as a package. I would usually go and do everything myself but due to the last minuteness of the booking it made sense to book it all in one go. I had initially found the deal on Conde Naste Traveller Secret Deals but it was cheaper to look on the booking agents website. We went in the low season which made it quite affordable. They booked the hotel with half board, transfers and flights for us.

We got the train to Gatwick, Easy Jet leave from the North Terminal. Once we arrived we found our transfer and they took us to the hotel.


HOW WE GOT AROUND:

WALKING – We didn’t venture that far but we walked to a mini supermarket at the entrance to the hotel. We also walked around Maspalomas beach.

TRANSFERS – As I mentioned before the booking agent arranged hotel transfers with a local company who also seemed to offer day trips around the Island.

HOTEL SHUTTLE – We used the hotel shuttle to get to Maspalomas for one of the days as the hotel was quite isolated (which was perfect).

CAR – One the first day we went stargazing and the company picked us up from the hotel and drove us up to the middle of the Island.

(Mikee’s sister has also been with her partner and they cycled around the island so that could be worth doing if you want a more active break.)


SHERATON GRAN CANARIA SALOBRE

We had booked the Sheraton which was close to Maspalomas but set back from the hustle and bustle in the hills. It seemed to be a very popular place for older Europeans who like to golf which meant the hotel was quiet which was perfect. There’s a big golf course, a spa, a few bars and resturants, 7 pools, a secret swimming pool (which we were very pleased to find) – if you’re going a hint is that it’s on the 4th floor. It’s quite small and pretty chilly but it’s nice and private. The infinity pool on the top is heated which is lovely until you want to get out. They have bali beds to rent which looked great to relax on but we just used the standard seats around the pool which were perfect. There’s also a gym and they run a daily schedule of exercise classes around the hotel – we tried aqua yoga which was pretty funny.

Half board gets you breakfast and dinner in the Gofio restaurant – there’s a giant buffet at both meals and you can stuff yourself to sleep if you so desire. I preferred breakfast and Mikee preferred dinner, most of the food was delicious – it was pretty rich though. You could stock up on breakfast and not need lunch so that worked out quite well.

Our room was a Deluxe on the 10th floor. It was perfect for the two of us, big enough to spend time in together. Lovely balcony overlooking the golf course. The rooms are staggered so it feels like you’re in your own little studio apartment rather than in a hotel. There was a bathroom with a big bath and shower (and a strange window from the bathroom to the bedroom just incase you want to go travelling with a friend – it might be a bit awkward).