Unraveling Traveling: Rome

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Most people think of Rome as a romantic get-away, which of course it totally is. However what I did in Rome, was walk the entire city on a self-planned tour, visited the Vatican on the day the Pope resigned and got really drunk on Limoncello and danced on a bar in a student union on a Sunday night. Not to mention prancing around The Colosseum with a cat, eating my body weight in tortellini and getting lost in the amazing central Zara store between sightseeing trips.  I was 21 and with my best friends, so it was fine to have many alcohol and shopping stops and it was SO MUCH FUN. Couple, friends, family getaway, whatever the situ, if you’re considering Rome or not, please just go.

You don’t have to think of Rome as marriage proposals and posing as a couple in front of famous landmarks. You can totally get a group of friends and jump on an Easy Jet flight for a cheeky 5 day frolick. I say 5 days because this was how long I went for and it was PERFECT. We did everything you can possibly think of to do in Rome and more, without rushing and still writing off one morning because of a hangover.

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Firstly, accommodation can be scarily expensive. When we first started looking at where to stay on the usual sites like booking.com and Agoda, we were a bit traumatised. With a very limited budget, we wanted to be central but weren’t worried about too swanky. Well, central doesn’t matter all that much, believe me. Rome isn’t massive so don’t worry about staying virtually in the Trevi Fountain. We stayed in a hotel which marketed itself as being a bit further from the main sites, but we walked to EVERY attraction. I mean, we like walking, and we definitely walked further than the average sole might be up for, but do not fear, because public transport is easy and cheap. Less confusing than the London tube and Paris Metro in my opinion, we just opted not to use it much because it was sunny and we had trainers. This is the hotel, it’s called Cinquantatre and is tucked away on a quiet little street, about a ten minute walk from the main bus station and about 15/20 minutes from The Trevi Fountain.  I recommend looking into it for amazing off-peak prices. They’re even pretty reasonable during the school holidays, which a lot of other hotels in Rome aren’t. Breakfast is good, you can take snacks for during the day, the rooms are clean with good showers and there was no virtually no outdoor noise to disturb us. Oh and the reception is manned 24 hour. Perfecto for your base.

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The best way to really plan a good trip to Rome is to do it beforehand. I booked a tour of The Vatican online, saving about 5 Euros at the time on this website, and I got a reply when I emailed the ticket office with a query. You also get to skip the queues that can form inside. Beware, this is a LONG day and there is a lot of walking, if you have a bad back, go for the shortest tour possible because I ached like a mother after the Vatican and Sistine Chapel tour. You can also find out about walking tours online, or book bus transport from the airport to avoid VERY pricey taxis. If you need to get from the airport to the centre of Rome then try Terravision. I booked a return bus trip online a week before I went for £7.

If you want to make the most of the weather, go to Palatine Hill on the nicest forecast day, the views of the city are lush but I saw it on a really grey day, which wasn’t the best. Also I recommend wearing sensible shoes for this as there is MUCH walking to be done. Best to arm yourself with snacks or a full on packed lunch too. There are loads of nice places to sit down and eat outside and if it does rain there are little museum buildings to duck into. You can easily do this and The Colosseum in a day if you get there early enough, but I recommend Colosseum first thing, as again, long queues and many school trips from mid-morning. Oh and if you want to indulge in some souvenir t-shirts and tacky snowglobes, which I totally did, then the best stalls are around this area.

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It’s really nice to have a day with no actual attractions planned to just wander around, and the day we did this was the nicest we had. We started, as we did most days, by passing by the Trevi Fountain just to check it was still there and functioning and took a few more photos of it. We walked from the hotel (where you can get really good maps) to the Porta Portese flea market, which took about an hour, but was SO worth it. If you are a flea market, vintage loving, crazy jumper hoarding kinda person, this place can’t be missed. You can haggle literally everything, and get some seriously cool clothes. Do keep an eye on your bag though, as we warned by the receptionist at the hotel and read online that pick pocketing is rife. I got a 100% cashmere tartan scarf here for 4 Euros. Best day. It’s also a lush walk over the river and through some quiet, rustic Italian streets on a sunny day. So much Instagram potential. You get to see a lot more of the city this way too, so if you can walk there from the centre I really do recommend.

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Speaking of photo (Instagram) potential, try and pick a good sunny day to do the Forum, or Foro Romana as the locals say. It’s so beautiful. Perfect place to saunter around near sunset and then grab a coffee after. If you are on a budget, put yourself together a picnic and head on down to Piazza Del Campidoglio, it’s a seriously impressive looking building and so white it’s almost blinding.

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For nightlife, there are lots of bar crawls and clubs you can go to, or for something a bit more relaxed there are a lot of late night cafes and bakeries, which all do cocktails and amazing pastries. However I do not recommend a Limoncello hangover because it is unlike any other I have experienced. However if you do succumb, there’s a nice little McDonald’s by the fountain to ease your soul. You’re welcome.

I had literally the best time in Rome on a girly get away. It’s fun, there is plenty to do inside and out and as you can imagine, food that will complete you every time you clear a plate. We went at the end of Feb and it wasn’t horrendously busy or packed at every attraction, and we had sun most days meaning it was warm enough to ditch heavy coats and scarves. You can get some bargain flights from London, especially before the peak summer season, so really, you have no excuse not to book and go immediately.

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Organic, freshly blended and yoga- fueled morning routine? I don’t think so

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Scanning through Bloglovin over the weekend (while still in bed obvs) led me to read several ‘my morning routine’ posts. Er, are these real? The fact that people manage to get up 3 hours before work starts is amazing enough, but squeezing in pilates, homemade breakfast, blending up smoothies, doing washing and meditation? Surely not. That picture above of homemade granola, yogurt and berries is maybe the most ambitious I have ever been first thing. Most mornings I set my alarm a full half hour before I crawl out of bed, eyes still half closed and without the ability to talk. Basically my snooze button takes a bashing and I have just enough time to do what I really need to.

I would love to have the motivation and discipline to get up early enough to go to the gym and then make a super healthy breakfast. Getting in any kind of chore like washing would be an enormous bonus but basically, it’s unlikely to ever be that way. The most taxing thing I do in the morning is pick what to wear. I usually put my hair up, wash my face, dab concealer on spots and badly apply some mascara. I then stop by housemates room and we have a conversation that goes something like this: “How is it morning already, Ella? HOW?” “I don’t know Lauren, but I am furious about it.” So yeah. That happens.

The real morning routine happens at work where I get in and complain for a good 15 minutes about the appalling service on the tube. I then compare notes on how many episodes of Parks and Recreation I’ve watched with my friend, and then stumble up the street to buy a skinny something with a shot of flavoured something. Usually when I get back I eat porridge while I read emails and unsubscribe to GroupOn AGAIN.

By this time it’s usually 9:15 and I have to do something work related and concentrate on things that don’t involve peanut butter or anger at Transport for London.

Massive respect to the people out there that have a serious amount of get-up and go at 6am, but I just can’t stomach it. I happen to like my haphazard, non-organic and definitely not freshly blended morning routine. It’s served me well for three years.

14 useful things for a girl to decide on

IMG_23151) Do you like what you spend most of your time doing?

2) One thing to change, no matter how small, to boost your happiness. Even buying a caramel latte instead of just a skinny latte because this just makes mornings more sugary and delightful.

3) Are you making the best of your time? Like really, are you though?

4) Who do you need to see the most on your ‘must contact and make a date’ list? You should probably see them SOON.

5) Do you really need to leave the house on this Saturday night when you’re pre-menstrual and all you really want is a bath full of Dairy Milk and Bridget Jones? You probably don’t. Stay under the covers.

6) A really good, relatable book to add to your list to read. Try The Still Single Papers by Alison Taylor.

7) Where do you want to be in a year?

8) Can you get to where you want to be in a year? Maybeeee adjust it to be more realistic because no one likes to feel like a failure and end up in a duvet fort binge eating M&Ms. (Although I would like to do that on most Sundays just because)

9) Have you eaten enough colourful fruit and vegetables this week? (me either, going to get on that, like NOW. Think of your skin)

10) Which day each month you will check your breasts for lumps. DO IT. YOU ALL NEED TO DO IT.

11) What the best thing that’s happened this year? Think about that more while you listen to 1989 for 1939485th time.

12) Which mascara really is the best? Let’s just buy that again instead of wasting money on colourful tubes of disappointment that will gather dust forever more.

13) Hair up or hair down? Seriously, big life choice.

14) Can you find that thing you want in TopShop from a charity shop in a very similar form? Er, yeah probably. Think about how much cheese you can buy with the leftover money.

Why you should write down your feelings

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So blogging has really blown up. I know so many people who do it. I have a friend who does it as a job full time. I do it for work. My colleagues now do it for work. It is the age of the blog. I remember when I first started one a few years ago, I had no idea what I was doing, I just started writing about a rare health condition I have and didn’t really expect anyone to read it or for it to last that long. Fast forward to now, and that blog pretty much landed me my current job, has it’s own social media account and is used by relevant charities. It even makes a small amount of money.

So yeah, blogging has been good to me.

I started this blog at the end of October last year, basically to get some experience writing about stuff outside of health, which is what I do for work. I wanted to just have a chance to write about whatever the hell I wanted, and just because I LOVE WRITING. I don’t pay an awful lot of attention to who reads this, or how many people, (I mean, I did once drunkenly ask a man on the bus if he liked my blog and he ended up reading it on his phone, so there’s that) I just like to write stuff.

This whole lifestyle blogging thing has turned into a diary of sorts, which I suppose is the whole point. In the last six months I’ve had a really stressful time, as my dentist confirmed a few weeks ago by shouting ‘OH GOD YOU MUST STOP GRINDING YOUR TEETH!!!!’ Life, eh? So now whatever I am thinking about, if it’s friends, fruit, shoes or even the dry skin on my hands, I just write about it. I actually write LOADS. All the time. I do it on my phone while sitting on the tube or early in the morning at work when no one else is around and I am shoveling porridge at my face. I do it late at night when I can’t sleep. I once did it while I sat on some grass and let my dog sniff a tree for ten minutes. I don’t publish it all on here because seriously, who wants to read about my period pains? Do I really want to share my period pains? No. Probably not. I Still write about them though. Mostly like: OUCH WHY HELP WHY OUCH UNFAIR.

What I can say about this whole experience though, is that I now have somewhere to dump my thoughts and it’s SO therapeutic. It also has proved that I am not alone in a lot of things I worry about regularly and end up questioning my sanity over. My social media following has gone up thanks to a few fairly popular posts, and I get some good feedback. so overall, blogging has been completely worthwhile. I also now get inspired by everything I see. I pay more attention to things because I never know what will lead to a good blog post. It’s quite nice to be more aware of what’s happening around me and reflecting on it properly.

I write a lot for my job, and I like it a lot, but it’s not the same as just taking a blank page and filling it with whatever the hell I fancy. If I want to ramble on about how much I love mint sauce, I can. If I want to list everything I love about the month of April, I can. Talking to people is helpful when you want to clear your mind, but so is writing. I couldn’t recommend it more if you feel like you need to dump the contents of your brain and refresh your head but aren’t sure how. Just write it all down. Write it in a notebook. Write on your phone. Write on your walls (maybe not if you rent). Just write it somewhere.

My blog is basically like my mate who just accepts whatever I think, and the other stuff that comes with it is all experience.

FOMO: Fear of missing out

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FOMO. Fear of missing out. Also just generally quite fun to say. I introduced FOMO in my office and after explaining seven or eight times that it was an abbreviation, I got a chorus of ‘ahh I hate missing anything but life, money, sleep, life.’ Life, money, sleep, life indeed.

Not an easy lot of things to balance. I think I’ve just got over FOMO. I think i don’t care as much anymore and what a great time in life it is. There literally is only so much of you to go around, and when you have more than one friendship group, a job and a limited bank balance, the fear of what you might miss out on that one night or one trip or one holiday or even one meal can be all consuming.

I used to tire myself out by constantly having plans. I’m now at the stage in life when coming home after work, maybe going to the gym to feel better about my three breakfasts, and having little else to do is basically the dream. Getting up early every day of the week to work, getting some stress at work and having to use a lot of energy caring and emailing and meeting and discussing and meeting some more takes it out of you. After a long day at work I have a strong love for laying on the sofa and dipping various foods in Nutella while thinking about what I can actually cook.  Who really feels dandy on a Friday after a packed week of work followed by socialising every evening? Not me. Good grief. I can barely find it in myself to wash my hair sometimes. But it’s fine. Working hard at this stage of life is kinda the best time to do it. I think so anyway.

I also think you gotta just let it go when you can’t make the party. By party I mean anything from mid-week drinks to a week away in the sun. What’s actually the worst thing that can happen if you don’t go apart from Instagram envy and maybe a lack of tan?

I feel like realising this worry of not being part of everything is stupid and letting it go has allowed me to actually move on to what I want to do. Me. Meeee me me me me. I want to save money and move house. Current plan. Current feels. So that’s what I’m doing. If it means saying no to Sunday brunches and missing a birthday tequila marathon or two, then so be it. I like to think I’ve developed a surrounding of friends who understand when you turn down plans. Some of the happiest people I know certainly don’t have FOMO, and I’m pretty happy to join the club.

6 stress-busting pictures to make life a bit prettier and calmer

Basically life in one word right now is STRESS. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have a clenched jaw. I’ve also developed an extreme resting bitch face, just so everyone on the tube knows I mean business and absolutely do not want a chat about the meaning of ‘good service.’

I will actually do something soon to alleviate said stress, but until then, here are 6 pictures that relate to my life that make everything feel calmer, nicer and a bit more acceptable. I suggest anyone else feeling a bit ‘OMG WTF WHY’ makes a similar collage to look at while drinking a gallon tea.

Mirissa Beach in Sri Lanka, where I am going in four weeks to do nothing but eat roti and look at lush scenery:

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Bedroom things. Since deciding on moving I am more obsessed with Pinterest than ever:

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Printing Photos. Because it’s nice to wake up and look at happy times on beaches with people you love:

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Watching sunsets. One of my favourite things to do, thanks to the pretty urban view from my flat:

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Coffee. One of my true loves in life. Pret coffee in particular even though the queues are always SO long:

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Baking. Because stress makes me hungry. These are beetroot and orange juice brownies btw, ❤ ❤ :

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The London Blitz Party

If you’re looking for something different to do in London with your friends- go to The Blitz Party. I’ve been twice now, in two different venues and it is all of the fun. You do have to dress up 40s style, but actually, the likelihood you have something in your wardrobe that will fit the bill is high. Think collared dresses, shirt dresses, shirts and culottes. This is one of those events where people really do make the effort, so if you do it, do it right.

Aside from the dressing up element, it’s also a nice excuse for girls to really go to town on hair and makeup. This is literally the perfect event to bust out your Mac Ruby Woo and do some serious winged eyeliner. Victory rolls are HARD, so don’t be too upset when you try to do them from eight different YouTube tutorials and still like you have a head of poorly executed quiffs. You can just go for the large, loose curled look and stick in a nice hair clip. It’s also an instragram dream, so that’s always nice.

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The party itself is decked out to look much like a bunker, with seriously cool props and war time food and drink. The bar serves Raspberry Collins and champagne and spitfire ale, so literally every element fits the theme. This year had a hair and make up stand too, in case you get too tipsy to really pull off some sort of land girl look on your own.

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The music is very much swing and you can’t help but move constantly. It’s definitely worth a go if you’re looking for something new to try. It also helps to really enjoy dressing up, and if you do, then this is a must. It doesn’t come cheap, with tickets this year priced at £26 and a fairly expensive bar, but it’s worth the money for the real experience and effort put in by the organisers. You can find out more here and get dates of the next party, which is usually monthly.

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Hangovers: I’ve officially had enough

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So let me tell you about today. Today I woke up at 9, wearing one sock, a top with a dancing burger on and had a headache the size of the world. Not a good time in my life. I then rolled around in bed groaning, gathered up enough strength to go to my housemates room, then rolled around in her bed groaning. I then sung some Ronan Keating to her because I was definitely still drunk and she seemed to enjoy it.

We then ended up, inevitably, getting a Mcdonalds, because there is nothing on this earth better for a hangover than those salty, skinny chips. Fact. Post-Mcdonalds was not the best time either. The three of us (me, Ella my housemate and my boyfriend) sat in stunned silence for a while contemplating life and trying not to look at the empty wine glasses littered around the room. Oh and we watched a video of a kangaroo being really grumpy while wearing a hoodie.

Hangovers are hard. By 1pm I had gone through a rollercoaster of emotions. Pain, regret, hilarity at nothing, excitement about Mcdonalds, guilt about Mcdonalds, upset about the lingering smell of Mcdonald’s, anger at having wasted half a sunny day holding my head in pain and drinking gallons of squash under various blankets. SO MUCH EMOTIONS.

Now I’m showered, dressed and feeling sort of almost human again I am seriously thinking about pursuing a life without hangovers. Now, I know that a bad hangover and feeling like life as you know it might just end often leads to people claiming they will never drink again, but that is not what I am saying. I bloody love drinking. I love wine and I love getting a bit loud and outrageous listening to Britney circa 2001. It’s a good time all round. HOWEVER. I am sick of hangovers. They are just AWFUL.

I don’t know if this is because I am outgrowing feeling like crap and eating a chicken legend meal in bed half naked while laughing manically at a cushion, but whatever it is, the feeling is strong. I will never give up drinking, but now, from this day, I am going to actively try and avoid hangovers at all costs. Yes, I had a bloody fantastic night last night with my friends, and it was funny and dancey and a nice way to spend a Saturday night, but I just don’t want to spend mornings feeling sorry for myself and asking repeatedly if we have any paracetamol.

When I hear people say they are growing out of drinking, or they don’t get drunk anymore or don’t go out and just don’t really socialise, I think GOD HOW BORING. But you know what, I am so over being hungover. I am so ready to just actually be a responsible drinker like those wise people tell you to on alcohol adverts. I’m over having gaps in my memory and not knowing where my shoes are and finding receipts for a million tequilas. I don’t want to make my life more boring, or less wine filled, I just want to feel like a kind of, sort of, normal halfway adult after a night out with friends, rather than a shell of a human with chapped lips and a mouth as dry as the centre of the sun.

Getting old, yo.

International Day of Happiness in pictures

I love photos. And I love happy. Happy is good. I jut put together something for International Day of Happiness for my work blog, which is about people who give up time to help work on HIV projects, so now I feel all inspired.

So for no other reason other than happiness and it’s sunny and why the hell not, here are some of my favourite happy photos.

1) Dipping my feet in the sea in Croatia at Unknwon festival

2) Hanging out with an elephant and my boyfriend in Thailand

3) Graduation day with my family

4) Pretending a mop is a broomstick with one of my best friends in a gross club toilet

5) Being squinty on a romantic getaway to Paris with my oldest friend

6) My favourite thing on this earth: fizzy pick and mix. BABE ❤

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London tired- a whole new kind of exhaustion

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I just emailed my friend about something and finished it off by saying I felt like I could crawl under my desk and sleep for ten hours. This is becoming a more frequent feeling, even when I get a good amount of undisturbed sleep and have early nights, eat healthily and exercise, I still feel really done in most afternoons and evenings in the week. In fact, the weekends too.

I wrote a post before about living, working and playing in London, and it’s the most read post on my blog. I think this is because so many people can sympathise. London wares you out. A lot.

I’m not sure if it’s how busy everything is, or how loud, or how constantly on the go. I can’t pick any one thing to nail down my problem to, it’s probably just a combination (and of course work is tiring). I went home (about 40 minutes out of London) to stay with my parents for a couple of nights last week and felt unbelievably rested after a short time. Everything is just a bit quieter and there are so many less people and hell of a lot less noise. It was a bit like being in a little bubble of peace, and when I got home and went back on tube I immediately felt a bit agitated and annoyed at people around me for no real reason.

Since Christmas I definitely haven’t had a long enough break to get away from the buzz and the packed tubes and the impossibly busy streets and the traffic noises that wake me up at night.

I think everyone who is a full-time Londoner knows what it’s like to be ‘London tired’. I think we all need to remember to take a bit of time and out and have a detox from it more often, even just one night away somewhere. As much as I do love the comfort of having everything on my doorstep and a wide net of transport and many branches of H&M that open late, I also really miss strolling along at a normal pace and not being constantly ‘jostled’ everywhere. Jostled is a good word.

For the rest of 2015, I want some more breaks from the big city.

It’s so nice to not be disturbed by sirens and night bus noises or bumped into by multiple people and their suitcases for a day or so.