Views for days in the Cotswolds

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A few weeks ago we were supposed to be jetting off to Italy to spend a long weekend eating carbs, looking at architecture, eating carbs, sauntering around with ice creams, eating carbs, drinking Aperol and eating carbs. We didn’t make it to Italy. We didn’t make it anywhere near Italy – however we did have some carbs, so not all was lost.

The theme of ‘very stressful’ that early 2017 took on continued and we couldn’t leave the country as we were so close to completing on our flat. So instead of pizza feasting, we loaded up our car and drove to the Cotswolds. I’ve always wanted to go to this little part of England with it’s ancient cottages and beautiful little streets but it never surfaced to the top of the travel list until we needed a two hour-ish drive, countryside, nice views and fresh air on tap with very little notice. Praise the Gods of Airbnb.


Out of all of the UK staycations and long weekends I’ve been on, this was the most serene. I was worried it would be a bit busy (and a couple of the bigger tourist destinations were) but it was peaceful to the point of feeling like you were on another planet. The sun shone for three days, there were lambs everywhere, flowers growing in every space available and we walked for miles without seeing more than a couple of people. I cannot recommend it highly enough if you want a quick, easy escape in the south of the country. It’s also a photography dream. Note though, you need a car!

If you go you must visit:

Cerney House Gardens – One of the most peaceful places I have ever been and a hidden gem. Our Airbnb owners directed us here, and we arrived to no noise but birds, gardens brimming with every kind of flower imaginable, blossom everywhere, shady woods to walk through and a kitchen full of brownies and tea.

Upper and Lower Slaughter – These two villages are about a 25 minute walk apart through winding country lanes and are easily the prettiest places I’ve been to in England. The houses are like something from a classic fairytale, there’s a river running through surrounded by flowers and full of ducks, there are blossom trees, brightly painted doors, little bridges and the tiniest of cafes and cake shops dotted about.

Bibury -This is where you’ll see the classic Cotswolds postcard row of cottages. in the middle photo at the top. It’s impossibly cute here, and though it was full of tourists when we went (22 degrees heat in April will do that to a place) it’s a sort of must visit.

Calmsden – You likely won’t see Calmsden coming up on any lists of must-see places in the Cotswolds, but we stayed near here and it’s stunning. It was deserted, surrounded by fields of flowers, crops and farm animals and had the prettiest little houses imaginable. You can also stroll through here to The Bathhurst Arms, a pastel pink pub sat by a little river and eat chips, which is pretty much Sunday perfection.

Bourton-on-the-Water – Also known as Little Venice in this part of the world. For all your cafe, tea rooms, ice cream, river front, Instagram and Sunday roast needs. This is a little village surrounded by rivers and bridges, and famous for having a model village that has a model village (I know). As gorgeous as it was here, the hot weather brought out pretty much every person in the region so it was very busy, but still worth a little visit just to enjoy the views.

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London- sacrificing the simple life

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I never really imaged I’d work anywhere but London when I was growing up, or when uni was coming to an end and I needed to think about jobs and being able to afford more than one pint of milk at a time. I grew up on the London/Surrey border, never more than half hour from Big Ben and all his attraction mates, so it felt like it was bound to become my working home- which it did and it still is.

It’s been about five years now since I went out and bought sensible shoes and a collection of black cardigans that have been periodically lost and replaced every few months since 2012. That time feels so fast that it could have been last week, but at the same time it seems long enough to make me feel like I’m getting on a bit. Time is weird.

When it comes to living in London, everyone knows you need some serious dollar tucked away to set up house in a nice family home you can grow into in any of the ‘nice’ bits, but that’s just how it is. I’ve happily grown up on the sidelines, happily lived in zone two, and am now preparing to move out into the ‘Greater London’ commuting belt. Hoping this will also be happy, fingers and toes crossed.

I love London, really I do, but it’s tested my patience plenty of times these past five years, being part of the daily grind and the rush of folk off to work, off to lunch, off to buy street food. I’ve gotten angry, distressed, poor, confused, sad, weepy, exhausted and grimy (thank you underground dust), but also it’s been a bloody blast. I couldn’t think of a better place to call home or to go to work in every day and that’s probably because I’ve become so used to the place that I just let it wash over me. I guess that’s a kind of coping mechanism, but after all this time it’s become more of a personality trait. You have to accept that life in a city like this is never going to be easy and it certainly won’t always be simple, but once you’ve taken that in you just adjust. You kind of mould yourself to fit in with all the complexities (and to fit on the tube in rush hour) and London-proof yourself.

On the plus side though, the city has made me ambitious, made me money, given me options, hosted many memorable weekends, made Friday nights gin-soaked and brilliant and it oozes culture and history, which I love.

It frustrates me to the moon and back that the housing situation is screwed, that I’ll never be able to live in an area of London that I love, or that it’s pricing people out left right and centre, but there’s good and bad side to every story, and it sometimes take a little effort to find the good.

I understand how a person could feel like the bad overpowers the good at times when it comes to London, but it’s all about balance. If you can get the balance right, it’s an incredible place to be, but it’s most certainly not for everyone and I get the make or break thing- it really happens. I know people who’ve been broken. They’ve come here with a picture of what life will be like and then the harsh realisation sets in that they don’t have the resource, can’t keep up with the competition or can’t bare the crowds and pace and have promptly left again for a happier, simpler life elsewhere. Different strokes for different folks. I also know others who have moved here from all over and never want to leave. Whatever London is, it has it’s positives and negatives, like everything and everywhere.

I also find that very small things determine how my day will go here. For the most part it’s the transport. Commuting from one part of London to the other feels like it should be easier than it is.

My first commute into the big city was a long one, going into East London every day and getting down with the moustaches and flat whites of Old Street, but it was also on the sturdy and mostly reliable northern line, stoic and bloody long. Over-crowded by Balham, mostly empty by Colindale, it’s had my back for many years and I have few complaints about the service. When I moved to Fulham with some friends to lessen my commute (read: have two new nail varnish collections to raid and pub partners to come home to) I was instantly horrified. If you’ve ever had to rely on the District Line going from the south into the city, you’ll know my pain. A terrible commuting time all round, but it was what it was. I read Game of Thrones, got good at sudoku and observed many rows about how much space there was to move down.

The transport is just another one of those things that you have to factor in to the balance. I find that all the negatives get outweighed by the pace that new stuff pops up to go alongside the classic London experiences. There’s such a wealth of stuff to do and see and eat and you can say that about every city I’m sure, but it’s what I love about London.

It isn’t an easy life, it isn’t simple and it takes some sacrifice but I wouldn’t want to call any other city my home.

14 things to do, eat, drink and see in Brighton


Brighton is my boyfriend’s home town so I’ve spent a lot of time there over the past five years and it’s one of my favourite places.  It makes the seaside seem effortlessly cool and there’s endless amounts to do, not just a pier and pubs- though take a good amount of time for the glorious pub scene, you won’t find much else to rival it. Here’s some stuff you should find time for:

1) Visit the famous Lanes and look at all the pretty jewels in shop windows. There’s also loads of little independent shops, sweet shops, craft shops and plenty of pubs. It’s also an Instagram dream if you’re that way inclined.

2) Also go the The Lanes for dinner- particularly if it’s warm enough to sit outside.  I recommend the Giggling Squid for killer Thai food.

3) Eat the best vegetarian food imaginable at Terre A Terre. I’m not veggie but this place is a foodie dream, as are the churros.

4) Take artsy photos of the West Pier ruin.

5) Go to many, many pubs. Brighton has more pubs per square mile than anywhere in the country, so no excuse. My faves are The Mash Tun, Fishbowl and I once spent a good six hours loving life in The Evening Star.

6) Eat all manner of bad-for-you food on the pier. It’s kind of compulsory to go to the pier even just for five minutes. The doughnuts make it worth while.

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7) Get brunch at Kensingtons Balcony Cafe then go shopping in the streets around it. These little streets are lined with vintage shops, second hand clothes sales, stalls selling weird and wonderful jewellery and plenty of seriously good cake and coffee.There’s also a place called Snooper’s Paradise that you should check out just for the experience.

8) Walk around the gardens of the Royal Pavillion. Also prime picnic location if you snag a nice day. You can get a tour of the inside too if it’s not so much of a nice day.

9) Visit Beyond Retro and buy something much cooler than you really are.

10) Go street art spotting.

11) Eat fish and chips in OHSO and watch the sun go down.

12) Go to Choccywoccydoodah and look at chocolate sculptures and probably gain weight through your eyes.


13) Get tea, cake or breakfast at Blackbird Tea Rooms. I like it here because it’s decorated like a Victorian child’s bedroom and because the cake slices are like triple portions.

14) Head into Hove if you get the time, mostly to just admire all the beautiful houses really.

 

6 hidden little corners of London you need to explore

Okay, so they’re not all exactly hidden, but I didn’t know about these places until the last year or so. The more I spend my weekends aimlessly wandering around London, the more I realise how much aimless wandering there is left to do. I’ve never lived outside of zone 4, but I still find new places all the time. My favourite way to find them is to just stumble upon them on walks, but if I want to head off with a plan, I always turn to Instagram. It’s my favourite travel tool for looking up hidden gems, even in my home city. If you find yourself with a day spare to spend out on the streets of London town, I highly recommend these little gems.

1) Shooters Hill

In all fairness, this place is quite out of the way, and until I went there recently I’d never even been to this part of London. It’s out past Woolwich, and if you’re into views, then it’s worth the trip. There’s also a little builders tea cafe looking out on acres of green a couple of minutes walk from the hill where you can get coffee, ice cream and toasties. We were visiting a friend’s new flat by Woolwich station, so we went here first (it’s a very short bus ride from the town centre), and then I decided I kind of wanted to live there because there were loads of lovely whitewashed houses with flowers everywhere, and this view just casually hanging out in the background. Hiya London.

2) St Dunstan In The East

This is one of my favourite little corners of the whole of London. Secretly nestled inside the city, not far from Monument Station, are the ruins of a bombed out church. It’s SO cool. There’s nothing to do here but look and take photos, but we went on a Saturday mid-morning and it was so peaceful. It’s been planted with vines and lots of greenery so it looks like something totally lost in time, and pretty amazing when sun shines on it. So worth taking ten minutes to pass by, especially on a really sunny day.

3) More London

Good for lunch, very central, and quiet enough on a weekend when the surrounding offices are empty to hang out without feeling trapped by thousands of tourists. It’s also a good cut through between London Bridge and  Tower Bridge and has a weird little urban stream running through it. Oh and there’s a Leon’s.

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4) Hay’s Galleria

My Friday night haunt last summer for post-work night drinks. This place is like a little square, under cover, with a giant fountain, bars, places to eat, cafes and market stalls in the day. It also looks out across the river directly on the city and has lots of twinkly lights at night. Balls Brothers is worth a visit, plus they do a really good cocktail happy hour AND you can play petanque- seriously, look it up.

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5) Bermondsey Street

If money were no object and I could just casually drop a mil on a nice little studio flat like a Kardashian or something, this is where I would do it. I love it so much. As far as streets go, it’s got everything. Quirky little cafes, bottomless brunches, independent book shops, restaurants, flower stalls and it’s not manic, despite being so connected to so many big tourist hot spots, like Tower Bridge. I need to get super rich and live here.

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6) Shad Thames

Another place I wouldn’t mind living if I happened to find a fortune on the floor one day. Around the Tower Bridge area, this is like a little series of alleys containing the coolest looking flats, connected by walkways in the air. I went here not long ago with my friend for tea and cake (important business) and then went back about four times just to walk around and look at all the little wine and produce shops and peek-a-boo views of Tower Bridge.

Why you should book a winter staycation in the UK… Like right now 

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It’s cold outside. It’s late October. It’s dark before 6pm. Let’s call it winter.

What do you want to do? Go away? Have a holiday? Not be at work? CORRECT.

I’m as much into sun, beaches, pool side cocktails and all that other holiday jazz as the next person, but there’s more to travel than getting tanned and being miles away from home as I have discovered in the past couple of years.

Not so long ago I would have told you where to go if you suggested a staycation to me… I probably would have put you directly in the sea if you further suggested I do it in winter. HOWEVER, it turns out jetting off to tropical climates and beach resorts isn’t the be all and end all. There are actually other ways to holiday.

Who knew?

We have a lot going on in this United Kingdom of ours, and we should learn to ignore it less. I have friends who have always sung the praises of choosing to travel around the UK rather than further afield and while I’ll never stop globe trotting, I can finally see their point. The UK is bloody glorious. It’s got everything you could want in stunning views, pub experiences, sporting activities, cottage stays, camping locations, amazing roads to drive, cities to tour and sunsets to Instagram the hell out of. Or just look at. That works too.

We’ve also got heritage sights on top of heritage sights, the National Trust, a shed load of history and every sort of landscape you imagine.

If you want some winter sun I have some good recommendations, but how about staying here, doing it for a good price and being all blown away and amazed and refreshed? Very good. You absolutely should.

Since the rise of air B&B, the staycation has become a lot more enticing. You can check into cosy cottages or big, magazine worthy homes in idyllic locations for amazing prices. The more of you that are in on the trip, the better the price will be.

These sorts of trips have provided me with the most amazing views, sunsets, pub lunches, relaxing weekends and actually, been really educational without being a total bore. It’s nice to see more and know more about the country you live in. We don’t do it enough here, and that’s probably a lot down to lack of suitable beach days, which is why you may as well do it in winter.

Prices are likely to be lower, you can drink endless cups of tea, light fires, lay around under blankets, go in search of snow, prance around in your thermals on mountains and you can get there in your mates car and split the cost of petrol.

I’m never going to put a dampener on anyone’s enthusiasm to jet off to sun. NEVER. In fact I would like you to take me with you, but if you are looking to get away this winter, try staying here. It can work out rather beautifully.


  

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How are we meant to afford you, London?

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So this is more of a rant than a blog post. I’m feeling a bit annoyed today for no particular reason, and i’m currently on the tube which doesn’t help, I’m also a tiny bit hormonal, so you know how it is. Basically, I am a grump. However, this is a serious rant because it’s about young people like me. Young people who live and work in London. One of the most diverse, amazing, opportunity-filled cities in the world. A city that people who aren’t in, want to be in, a city that people travel from far and wide to study in, a place where people are desperate to live. So why do I feel so utterly fed up and actually quite disgusted by it? HOW DO WE AFFORD TO STAY?

Someone please tell me how? So my current situation is that I live with my boyfriend (who took the amazing photo above) in a flat that we rent in Fulham. We are lucky in that we have a good landlord and get it for a really good price with our friends. I’m 25 and he’s 28, we’re both graduates and we both have pretty good jobs. In a few weeks our combined income will be over £60k a year, and I guess that if we got promotions and job changes over the next five years, that will increase. That sounds loads doesn’t it? Like, a really good amount of money. It also sounds like a really good situation, which it is, we aren’t complaining, we know we are lucky to be earning over the average wage and to do jobs we like. But the bottom line is, we don’t have anyone to borrow money from, and we aren’t set to inherit anything remotely soon, so if we want to buy our own place, we need to save. You need to save so much to buy in London, it’s almost laughable. It’s basically not worth it.

You need a shit ton of money to buy a house in London. So MUCH money. We could stay where we are and put away as much as possible every month and stop having holidays and cut down massively on socialising and we would still be here in a few years. Young people are getting priced out of London. Renting is SO expensive. If you are fine with renting and you don’t want to buy, that’s fine. It’s fine, yet you still have to deal with being taken into flats that look like hovels and need a million things repaired that probably never will be, and be asked to turn over something in the region of £1200 a month. Then you pay your bills, then you pay your travel, then you buy food and you try and have a social life and then there’s money for some sort of treat or luxury (like buying meat once a week or a new face wash, nothing really luxurious at all), and if you even get that far, it’s all gone. If you can’t afford to have a flat on your own or rent with one with your partner, you house share. House sharing is bloody great at times. It means you pay less rent, it can be fun, it fits a purpose and you can generally find somewhere that won’t tie you down forever. But how long do people want to house share? Into their late 20s…into their 30s…older?

Young people in London, unless you are incredible lucky to be given or lent money, are stuck. They are trapped and the outlook is not good, in fact it’s getting worse. I’m sick of hearing about it now because it makes me feel depressed. This city, where I live and work and where my life and all my friends are, is making it impossible for me to stay in. In a few months I’ll be leaving me flat and taking my boyfriend home to my parents with me so we can save some money and have our own place, so we can get on with the rest of our lives…out of London.

It’s unfair, elitist and absolutely bloody ridiculous. I know I’m not alone. I know the same applies to so many people. I know that so many others will have to turn their back on the place they so dearly want to call home. Well, it’s your loss London. It’s your loss and it’s a Damn shame it’s come to this.

28 things Londoners just don’t have time for

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1) People who just keep on tapping that oyster card despite the fact it clearly isn’t working. MOVE ALONG.

2) 5 minute waits between tubes. They should arrive every 3 minutes at the most to minimise head-to-armpit touching.

3) Suitcases in rush hour on public transport.

4) The queue that ends in Northern France in all express supermarkets around 12:30pm everyday. Lunchtime in London Bridge Sainsburys? No thanks.

5) Panic about smog. We know, we aren’t blind.

6) People giving out weird things that isn’t free food at tube stations. If it’s edible, gimme, if it’s not DON’T COME NEAR ME.

7) Cafes that don’t accept card payments.

8) The District line. I can’t even.

9) ‘Severe delays through Clapham Junction’

10) People who say ‘Can you move down please, I can see 4 millimeters of space over there.’

11) Pigeons with no fear.

12) Being thrown off a night bus because someone has vomited.

13) Leicester Square on Saturday nights.

14) Being reminded of the house prices and how little financial stability the future holds.

15) Boris Johnson.

16) That emirates Air line thing. What even?

17) People who stop to photograph The Shard in peak times, slap bang in the middle of the pavement. ON AN IPAD.

18) Another block of luxury apartments that normal Londoners can barely afford to walk past.

19) Missing the last tube.

20) The wait for the ‘last tube’ scenario to no longer be a thing.

21) Really sitting down and thinking about the price of travel. Why would you do that to your mental health?

22) The tropical heat of the Central Line.

23) Signal Failure.

24) Paper travel cards.

25) The Thames Clipper.

26) The wait for lifts at Covent Garden tube station.

27) The regret of taking the stairs at Covent Garden tube station.

28) People who dare slag off London despite all of the above. SHUT UP.

How to take on a working day in London and come out winning

Yesterday was a struggle. A busy, smoggy London struggle. And it was Monday, which never helps any situation. I left the house almost an hour before I usually do to get into work and tackle the immense to do list, but of course the tube line I use was suspended, my back up line had severe delays and I swanned into work later than normal. LOVELY. This was all accompanied by the fact I was wheezing from the high air pollution and walked into the back of a tourist photgraphing the pavement. Deep breaths everyone.

I’ve developed a survival method for working and living in London and it goes mostly like this:

-Wake up and immediately check TFL even before you check Twitter. The transport system is a beast that can’t be tamed. You need as much time as possible to plan your alternative route and swear repeatedly at your phone.

-Practice deep breathing while on your way to work. Someone’s elbow in your spine on the tube? Breathe. Several million suitcases blocking the barriers at Paddington? Breathe. Realising your High Cost living allowance doesn’t actually cover more than two months rent? Breathe. Paying around £5 for a sandwich that looks a bit like roadkill? Breathe.

-Start the day at work with something nice. Have a sit down. Have a chat. Don’t think about how much money you spent on a pizza last night. Get a nice coffee. Enjoy your cuppa pre-email checking. Anything you fancy. You need to recover from the commute after all.

-Take advantage of stuff. Look up if anything’s going on outside at lunchtime, go listen to some cool buskers, see if anyone handing out freebies. It’s London. There’s always SOMETHING you can fill a ten minute break with. It’s not good to stare at your screen all day and listen to that person in the office who talks only about themselves and their cat.

-Excercise. I could go on about how I go swanning round trendy bars after work in Oxford Circus getting merry on cocktails, which DOES happen sometimes, but it’s not the regular end to a day. After commuting home and being exhausted from work, resisting an invitiation to go out drinking or to cash in a Pizza Express deal which isn’t really good value at all, you need to burn off steam. Take your tube delay, money and over-crowding anger out on the rowing machine. THINK ABOUT YOUR THIGHS.

-Appreciate the views. There’s often entire weeks that pass in a blur of stress, deadlines, delayed transport and double G&Ts, so when you see a view like in the photo above (massive credit to my boyfriend @dannyboyjnr insane Instagram skills) you need to take a minute to appreciate it. It’s London after all.

-Reserve an evening treat. You pay over the odds for rent, you work hard, you play hard, you travel to work touching body parts of strangers you would rather not, you deserve it, yo. You SO massively deserve it.

If you happen to be in the market for a new little treat, this drink I discovered yesterday is the absolute dream. You’re welcome. Excuse the chipped nails.

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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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.