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Showing posts with label lifestyle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lifestyle. Show all posts

A Weekend at Home in Belfast

Well haaay! Firstly, I'm so sorry I haven't posted much in a while, I've been buried chin-deep from a relentless barrage of uni work and it hasn't been fun but I'm back now, thank goodness, and ready to bombard you with my usual biweekly ramblings! Also, apologies for the poor image quality, I left my camera back at uni this weekend because it was a bit too bulky to fit into my bag so all of these photos were just taken on my iPhone.

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Winter Wanderlust | Tenerife *


As some of you may know, particularly if you've ever read my first ever blog post which was on my experiences working as an au pair in Spain, I am a freaking Spanish nerd. I love the language, I love the culture, and I especially love all of Spain's weird and wonderful customs and traditions.
 With the weather getting colder by the day now and my thoughts drifting to dreams of warmer climes, I thought I'd talk a little bit about the things I love about Spanish culture, particularly in one of my favourite Spanish islands, Tenerife.

1: You can siesta all day, and fiesta all night
If one thing is true of the Spanish, they love to party. In fact, Spain is home to more bars and pubs than anywhere else in the world. The Spanish penchant for parties was something I took a little while to get used to on my first visit to Spain, what with me and all my granny-ish tendencies (early nights are kind of my "thing"). On my arrival I suddenly found that lunchtime had become dinnertime, and bedtime? Well, there's really no such thing. In Spain, partying literally until the sun comes up is standard practice, and fortunately, so are very lazy mornings (and by "mornings" I mean "mornings, but also well into the afternoon").


Tenerife in particular is one Spanish island known for it's buzzing nightlife, especially in the infamous Playa de las Americas, a popular party destination for Brits for its bustling stretch of bars and clubs. However, if like me you prefer a taste of the more traditional Spanish nightlife, there's the unassuming Puerto de la Cruz where when the sun goes down, its quiet streets and plazas become a hub of night-time activity.   

2: I genuinely believe Spanish dance music is a wholly superior listening experience
This may be just me, but it would seem that with the ability of the Spanish to host a most excellent "fiesta" also comes, in my opinion, it's ability to produce some of the worlds most epic dance tunes. Spanish music makes me want to dance like my life depended on it (I mean, everyone loves a bit of Enrique in their life though, don't they?) Also, excuse what may well be my poor taste to a more attuned ear but while I was working in Spain the two little girls I was looking after introduced me to Abraham Mateo (who as far as I can understand is basically Spain's answer to Justin Bieber) and now his song "Señorita" will forever bring me back to times spent dancing along to it in the apartment's living room with the girls.


3: Churros (for breakfast)
Just in case you're unfamiliar with what churros are, they're basically long, thin donut-type pastries, (often coated in sugar and eaten with hot chocolate) and in Spain, not only is it normal to eat them for breakfast, it's encouraged. 
Now if that doesn't sell you on the joys of Mediterranean living, I don't know what will!

4: Spain has the most outrageous festivals
Spain is the mother ship of celebrations and there are an absolute multitude of festivals and holidays held all year around (some being stranger than others). My personal favourite is 'La Tomatina', a giant tomato fight held each year on the last Wednesday of August in Buñol, Valencia, and then there's the 'Running of the Bulls', where crazy folk volunteer to be chased by angry bulls through the streets of Pamplona. Though really you can't have a proper festival without building a castell (i.e. a giant human tower), which is common practice at various festivals throughout the year in the region of Catalonia.


Like most other Spanish regions, Tenerife also has its fair share of annual celebrations. In fact, it boasts one of the world's largest carnivals, Carnaval de Santa Cruz de Tenerife (The Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife), held each February in Santa Cruz, the island's capital. The festival is a dazzling display of music and colour which lasts five days, ending on the final day in an enormous and spectacular parade.

5: The lush landscapes
Spain is rich in beautiful and diverse natural landscapes, from golden beaches in the south to striking mountain ranges in the north, not to mention the picturesque towns and cities featuring an abundance of awe-inspiring architecture in between. Tenerife is no exception to this rule, as a volcanic island it boasts a contrast of rocky volcanic mountains, forests and natural beaches. Teide National Park is popular with those hoping to experience the most rugged of the island's landscape. The national park is also home to El Teide, the 3rd largest volcano in the world.


6: El Corte Inglés
The ultimate shopping experience. That is all.

For more information on holidaying in Spain or Tenerife visit the First Choice website.

Disclaimer: this post has been contributed by First Choice though all opinions expressed have been my own and do not represent the views of  the company. 
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Weekend Roundup


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A Day in Pictures | A Meeting in Manchester

I love reading these kinds of 'day in the life' posts and I've been meaning to do one for ages but I haven't really had very many very interesting days recently, just a lot of lectures and uni work! Yesterday though I ended up taking a short trip to Manchester to go to a training session for working as a student language ambassador in the North West and thought since it was something a little different I'd take a few little pictures of my day.


I know for a lot of you English folk, especially if you're from the North, trips to Manchester may be somewhat of a regular occurrence, but I'd never really been before (except one time for a couple of hours when I got hopelessly lost) so hopping onto the train yesterday morning I felt as though I was embarking on a very exciting adventure indeed. One thing I can therefore definitely say after yesterday is that the novelty of living on "the mainland" really hasn't worn off me one bit- you mean I can get the train to London or Edinburgh from my local station?!- because whenever you're in Ireland, you're just you know, in Ireland. The public transport at home really isn't that great, for example, the train lines only cover about half the country so if you want to go to a more obscure location you're pretty much screwed. One fine example was a time my friend and I wanted to go to this little place called Moneymore to go llama trekking (yes, that's a thing), it was only about an hour away by car but we had to cancel due to the fact it would have taken us a good three hours to get there on buses and trains with a few changes in between, and obviously a six-hour round trip to spend 40 minutes walking a llama wasn't really feasible nor a sensible use of our time.




Anyway, when I got off the train at Oxford Road station I literally hadn't a notion where I was going. How people survived without Google Maps I do not know. The event was at Manchester Metropolitan University which thankfully was really straightforward to find, it was just straight up the road from the station. The trickier part was finding the right building once I got to campus since the one I was looking for was sort of tucked away behind the other campus buildings, though I did manage to find it quite easily once I'd gotten myself in the right direction. 
I wish I'd taken a photo of the inside of the building the event was in because it was so cool, it kind of looked like an airport departure lounge. I actually really liked the whole campus in general, it's got a nice buzz about it and is circled around a little park which was looking really pretty and autumnal yesterday as I was passing through.



The meeting ended up wrapping up a little early so I took my time strolling back towards the train station, appreciating the sights and sounds. I'm not at all accustomed to big cities because frankly, we don't really have them back home. I'm not sure if I'd call Belfast a "big city" by the rest of the UK's standards, so I always find cities like London or Liverpool really interesting and exciting and sometimes I'm kind of taken aback by it all, like I'm almost surprised places like this actually exist.

I arrived home around half 7, later than expected as my train was delayed by nearly 15 minutes... (not ideal). I then ended up heading out in Lancaster with my friend Louise where I danced like a freaking maniac, fell on my ass in the club at one stage (and have the massive bruise to prove it!) and then polished off a McDonald's quarter pounder meal and 6 chicken nuggets on the walk home. Oh, and if you have yet to hear of "the Great McDonald's Fanta Spillage Fiasco of 2014" you might like to check out my twitter feed. There were many tears. In fact, I still haven't fully recovered.

But hey, that was my day for you all, I hope you all had a very good day yourselves and are enjoying the October autumness as much as I am these days (unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, in which case I hope you're having lovely Spring).
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Saturday Roadtrip | Walled Gardens & Wild Flowers

Last weekend my cousin Jenny and I took a little roadtrip around the Causeway Coastal Route around the north Antrim coast of Northern Ireland. The route has some really stunning views and its also a very very long drive, I think it took us around 7 hours and we didn't even go the whole way around! But roadtrips are basically my favourite thing ever so I was in my element.


We set off around 12, stopping for lunch at a lookout along the way, and then as we were driving along we saw signposts for Glenarm Castle Walled Gardens and Tearoom. Neither of us had ever been there before so we decided to stop and I'm so glad we did. The garden was beautiful, it was just filled with so much colour particularly from the thousands of wild flowers growing everywhere. I think that was my favourite thing about it. There were also apple and pear trees, water features, statues and a mount where you could look out over the garden. It was a really misty day and you could see the fog settling over the hills and trees in the distance which I think added to the atmosphere. I just wish my camera was able to capture it better! Jenny had brought her DSLR with her so we both wandered around for a while taking photos which was really relaxing, we both even managed to snap a picture of a butterfly that was sitting on one of the flowers.


After about an hour we heading off again and started noticing that there were quite a few cyclists on the road, then a few cyclists turned into a couple dozen cyclists and then eventually we were stuck behind hordes of cyclists before realising there was actually a huge cycle event around the coastal route. Just our luck! On the bright side, we were moving so slowly we really had time to appreciate the scenery haha.


Along the road we also stopped at Dunluce Castle, a medieval castle that sits basically on the very top of a cliff plunging down into the ocean. It's one of the more famous castle in Northern Ireland and is really very striking. We didn't go in this time as it was about to close but we took some photos from the cliffs overlooking it. It's been a really long time since I've visited properly so I desperately want to go back soon and have a proper look around.

And so we began the long journey home, though not before stopping for dinner at a restaurant on Portstewart promenade. Can we just take a moment to appreciate the sheer size of Jenny's filled Yorkshire pudding? Because it's pretty massive! One thing I love about the fact Jenny and I have grown up together is being able to reminisce about our childhoods and family, especially the ones who aren't around any more, it's nice to be able to sit and chat about everyone and just remember, which is what we spent a lot of time doing in the car and at dinner. Then, on the way home in the car we just had the music blaring, soundtrack for the day being 'Chandelier' by Sia, which is one of my favourite songs of the whole year, and also by far my favourite music video. I've probably watched it about 26 hundred thousand million times.

I know it's a bit late to say now but I hope you all had a lovely weekend yourselves!

follow me on twitter? @alphabethblog
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Coastal Adventures in Dundrum, Co. Down


Over the weekend a couple of my friends and I went on a little adventure to a place called Dundrum in Co. Down, a little town on the coast surrounded by the Mourne Mountains. We went up in the early evening on Saturday night so we were there whenever the sun started to set, which was beautiful, especially because the moon was so bright. We parked the car and headed down the pathway through Murlough National Nature Reserve towards the beach. It started getting dark quite quickly after we arrived so that was the only part of our trip I really managed to capture (my camera isn't great in the dark), but since Robin Williams's death my friend Chris (who was still a nutcase before this) has been moved to "suck the marrow" out of life- a reference from Williams's role in "the Dead Poets' Society"- so as soon as we reached the beach, he stripped down in the pitch black and ran half-naked into the sea. He has since caught a cold, but fair play to him I guess, I think we could all do with sucking the marrow a little more, because let's face it, life is short! I think Robin William's sudden death has really proven that to all of us in these last few weeks. I've certainly been thinking about it anyway.

When Chris had enough of frolicking around in the water and had dried himself off we headed back and up to Dundrum Castle which sits on a grassy hill overlooking the town. The castle was built by John De Courcy, an Anglo-Norman knight, during his conquest of Ulster around the turn of the 13th Century. As like many of the castles in Ireland, Dundrum Castle is now in ruins but at one time it was a strong and imposing structure, passed through the hands of kings, knights and earls over the course of its time, and so is seeped in history. If you'd like to read a bit more, I found this little PDF from Northern Ireland's Department of the Environment. I'll confess, the castle is pretty creepy in the dark and I was a little bit nervous but we still went up and had a good wander round anyways! Because it was so dark though the stars were really bright which was nice.
After that little adventure we headed back home (though not before stopping for a cheeky McDonald's!) and I went straight to my bed. It was a really lovely, fun night though, I really want to do it again soon!
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Read in August

I read a lot of the current popular young adult fiction books this month, which was a bit of a change for me, but a change I very much enjoyed! So, I just thought I'd give you a little breakdown of the different books I read during the month of August and what I thought:


If I Stay - Gayle Forman
I've already written a review of this book here which you are very welcome to read! But long story short, I adored this book, and I love it even more so now after having seen the film last night which by the way, was totally and utterly amazing. It was every bit as good as I was hoping it would be and Chloe Moretz was great in it as well!
Rating: ««««

Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell
Again, I've already written a review of this book here and it's another one that I just really really loved. I'd definitely say it's up there among my favourite books of all time now. I just completely fell in love with the characters and just found this book so lovely and warm and touching. A must-read if you haven't already!
Rating: «««««

We Were Liars - E. Lockhart
The blurb for this book is as follows:

'We are liars
We are beautiful and privileged
We are cracked and broken
A tale of love and romance
A tale of tragedy
Which are lies?
Which is truth?
You decide'

Purposely ambiguous, since it's just one of those books that's better to go into blind, so I'm not going to say much more other than that the story revolves around an extremely wealthy, privileged family who spend their summer holidays each year on a private island. 

I decided to read this book mostly because of the ridiculous amount of hype surrounding it and thought I may as well jump on the bandwagon. It took me a really really long time to get into (basically the entire book) and I very much disliked all of the characters- even the righteous Gat managed to rub me all the wrong ways- but I do feel like that was kind of the idea with this book. Also, at times I found the writing style extremely pretentious. However, the ending did manage to redeem this book in my eyes and I'd urge anyone reading it at the minute who feels similarly to me to read on until the end, it is worth it. 
Rating: «««

Where She Went - Gayle Forman
This is the sequel to 'If I Stay', continuing the story between Mia and Adam and how their lives pan out in the years following Mia's accident. I was reluctant to read this book, just in case maybe things didn't work out well and it ruined how I felt about the first book, but I went for it anyway and I'm so glad I did because I thought it was actually even better than the original book, which I had never expected! The writing is just a lot more mature and the characters more developed. The story itself was so beautiful and heartbreaking, I felt like I was right there living it. If you're a fan of 'If I Stay' I'd definitely say don't hesitate to read this book, it's really brilliant!
Rating: «««««

Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell
This book is just about a girl called Cath- whose passion in life is writing 'Simon Snow' fanfiction- and her experiences starting college and having to survive on her own for the first time, separate from her twin sister Wren who she's been close to all her life.
Again, a big reason I read this book was because of the hype and all the great reviews I'd read recommending to read it, but also because I'd enjoyed 'Eleanor & Park' so much I was really looking forward to reading more from Rowell. I did like this book, don't get me wrong, but it just wasn't on par with 'Eleanor and Park' for me. I found the plot a little bit thin and the characters didn't grip me and tug on my heartstrings the same way they had in E&P. However, what I did like about this book was the fact that Cath and her college experiences are very easy to relate to- particularly if you're an introvert. She's basically a poster child for all us introverts out there which was nice to see in such a popular young adult novel.
Rating: «««
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Seaforde Tropical Butterfly House

It was quite a nice day yesterday so my family and I decided to take a trip to the Seaforde Gardens and Tropical Butterfly House, which as the name suggests is a sort of estate with beautiful gardens and a butterfly house where they have all these exotic species of butterflies, birds and reptiles. My mum used to take my sister and I there all the time when we were little but we hadn't actually been there for years and years now so it was a bit of a blast from the past, and a nice little break from work since I'm off at the minute for the bank holiday weekend!


Inside the butterfly house, as well as all the butterflies, in a beautiful array of bright colours, there's also an abundance of gorgeous tropical plants and flowers, it almost has the look and feel of a jungle or rainforest, especially with the sound of the water features and the birds chirping and whistling. It would be my absolute dream to own a garden as beautiful as this someday. 

Also, in one of the sections there was a koi pond full of fish with all these turtles just laying around on the rocks looking very thoughtful, as well as lots of beautiful exotic birds in enclosures around the outside. They looked happy enough and very well cared for, but it always makes me kind of sad to see birds in cages. 


When you come out of the butterfly house, on the grounds outside there is a maze and a beautiful vast walled garden with lots of nooks, crannies and hidden pathways as well as all these peacocks just wandering about! 

When we were going through the maze my mum started "doing a Hansel and Gretel" as she called it- i.e. picking leaves off the bushes and leaving a trail so we could find our way out again apparently- so very dramatic! Haha


How are you spending bank holiday weekend?
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