Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Woah, we went to Ibiza!

... please have understood that the title of this goes to the tune of Vengaboys. Otherwise that was totally lost and thus pointless.

Back in England and it has been truly English in its grey, miserable presentation of 'summer'. Deciding to give in to the fact that we clearly already had summer, somewhere between May and June, I've actually been feeling rather excited recently by the prospect of autumn and the return of tights under my denim shorts, Pumpkin Spice Lattes and the leaves changing colour. Nevertheless, a short visit to somewhere where the summer is still in full swing did remind me how much I also love the sun, and the warmth that can sometimes come with it. Such a cynic.

This holiday has been mostly spent slaving away over my dissertation which it's beginning to feel like I've been writing forever. Ten days til I'm free and I cannot wait. I haven't written for pleasure in so long, I'm not even sure I remember how. So forgive me if this is even more long and rambling than usual. Postcards, postcards!

Made friends with an inquisitive little lizard

Despite the pressures of academia, I couldn't go the whole summer without an escape so managed to book a few days away with a most excellent travel companion, and so began our adventure. Friday night arrived and off we flew to the island, far away from 'this big town and the rain' (Vengaboys got it so right). I've never been on a flight with so much excited buzz. Time flew as we caught up on recent happenings, laughing and chatting too with other passengers. Choosing to stay on the quieter side of the island, even the bars in our hotel had closed by the time we arrived so we were straight to bed, eagerly awaiting what tomorrow would bring.

... a room with a view

Our first day was spent blissfully enjoying the hotel's facilities; reading, eating, napping, drinking, then eating and drinking some more, all from the comfort of a lounger in the sun. Only my second stay in an all-inclusive hotel, the constant food rotation (breakfast - continental breakfast - lunch - snack - afternoon tea - dinner) was a delight. In the evening we were treated to a beautiful sunset before being entertained by the sounds of the most surreal covers band complete with 'keytar' and multiple costume changes. Also tried to teach each other a few card games, which after several glasses of bubbles proved a challenge, but also highly entertaining.



The hotel sat right on the sea, with beautiful views over the bay of Cala Llonga. Only a small stretch of sand, the beach was a matter of moments away along a coastal path lined with pine trees, incredibly reminiscent of Mallorca. Here we spent a few hours napping some more, with the occasional visit to the sea for a cooling paddle and an attempt at spotting some fish in the crystal clear waters. Eventually rousing from an incredibly cosy nap, curled up in the foetal position under the shade of a parasol, it was already time for us to head back to the hotel in preparation for our impending doom. An actual night out in Ibiza.



Ushuaïa was another surreal experience; somewhere between a music festival and a club night. The first set already under way as we arrived, groups of guys and girls hung around the edges a little like at the school disco, only each one was armed with a drink that had set them back almost 20€. Lost in people watching from our chosen spot on the edge, we didn't really notice the place fill up but suddenly it did and we made our way to the middle of the crowd where we very much enjoyed dancing and singing along to the next two sets. Smoke machines, pyrotechnics, confetti and costumed dancers, all around a pool where a few of the happier members of the crowd danced knee deep in water, it was certainly a fun experience and enough to make us realise that we need to revive at least a little bit of our love for nights out. In our old age, we were glad that this one had a midnight end point so we were safely tucked up in bed with cups of tea by 1am. Perfection.

EDX's set was definitely my highlight

Already at our penultimate day, spurred on perhaps by a small taste of the Ibiza experience, we decided not to hide out around our hotel again but instead to venture to Ibiza Town (Eivissa) for an explore. I had hoped from a little research online that it might have some pretty bits but neither of us were prepared for just how pretty it actually was. Our taxi dropped us at the port and from there we wandered along to the marina, ooh-ing and aah-ing at super-yachts of the rich and famous. 


Super-yachts were yet to come...

Pretty cobbled streets wound away from the marina so we took one of these, sort of following sign posts of interest where we felt that we could understand at least some of the Spanish. So many pretty doorways, colourful flowers, and bright painted window frames all looked beautiful against the white walls of the buildings and blue sky above. Agreeing to take it slow uphill and in the heat (we learned our lesson in Santorini), we took many short stops on brick walls in shady and breezy spots. 



Our wanders took us most of the way around the walls of the old town, each battlement providing yet another panoramic view of the island's rolling hills, rooftops and the sea beyond. Passion fruit sorbet, a seemingly impossible-to-find cathedral, a busker with a beautiful voice and plenty of small gift shops to pop into for browsing and air conditioning kept us well entertained. So we headed back to Cala Llonga for the evening sun and a meal in the hotel's Japanese restaurant where our lack of subtlety in wanting to try as much of the menu as possible resulted in an extra dessert (apple and wasabi sorbet; actually so much tastier than either of us had anticipated). 




The final day of our stay came around all too quickly. It seems we built ourselves up from dozy to active as, despite the exertion of the previous day, our final day was definitely the most active. We began the day with an early breakfast followed by a serene yoga session in the dappled shade of the hotel's tennis courts. By the time we had then packed ready for check-out and got outside, there seemed to be no room for us to lounge in the sun but fortunately we found some stray loungers and pulled them together by the pool. There we enjoyed watching others exert themselves in aqua gym and a game of water volleyball whilst we made full use of hotel perks.Well rested, we made our way again to the beach where we hired a pedalo for an explore of the bay from a different perspective. Trying to navigate nude sailors, snorkelers galore and many a mysterious floating object, we had great fun and felt like expert pedalo 'drivers' by the time we were pulling up on the shore.

Not long til our departure, we decided to have a game of table tennis which proved incredibly challenging in the wind. Accidental trick shots played by the peak of a cap, our bat-free hands and other body parts which shall remain nameless provided much entertainment until it was time for our scheduled shower, one more sunset and a final go at the buffet before our transfer to the airport.


Considering I'd never been to Spain until only a few summers ago, I'm thoroughly enjoying becoming better acquainted. Ibiza is a beautiful island and true to my style I feel like we did plenty for a few days away but have also left plenty to be done if another visit arises. We shall see!

Sunday, 11 June 2017

In the garden

Time, at present, is (or at least should be) taken up by the more adult and less free-spirited things in life. The end of my Masters is in sight and life in Year 5 doesn't seem to relent much. Nevertheless, I am a true expert at making time for myself and doing the things I love but writing is one which takes care and space and the right frame of mind, in which I have not been (and am still not sure I am now) in for a long while.

Where I have been a lot lately is in the garden. In London or in Norfolk, the garden provides just the right amount of escapism to keep my happy.


Escapism for me comes in many forms. I escape in TV drama, drawn ever closer to characters and plot lines, sometimes relatable, sometimes distant, always the perfect amount of different. I escape into books, into far away places and times. I'm missing the escape into music at the moment, where there is no room for anything else in my head. There is too much in my head right now. Far too much.  I have a million different lists on my phone where thoughts go as they come to me, all with different headings in the hope that will find some kind of order down.

I get more done in the garden. Lesson planning, academic reading and even checking emails somehow seems less threatening in fresh air and the heat of the sun. I'm doing what needs to be done but I'm also doing what I love and I'm doing something purely for me at the same time.

With a full head comes a lack of sleep. This morning I woke at 6:30am, half 7 the morning before (and only after forcing myself to go back to sleep in that instance) and as hideous as it felt to be awake at such ungodly hours at a weekend, it was made an awful lot better by breakfast in the garden.


There's a certain stillness in our garden which feels especially satisfying in what is otherwise a part of London as bustling as the rest. Right now the loudest sound is the wind whipping through the leaves all around. Ties on the greenhouse are flapping and occasionally there is a creaking from the tree which leans against the fence. In the distance a dog might yap, or children might be playing. In the morning, it's birdsong; only pigeons cooing and blackbirds whistling but it's better than nothing with so few trees around.

I've begun to realise that actually, the sun does fall into our garden for the entire day. Some of the plants get the best spots (as I suppose they should) but I still gave successful chase in pursuit of a tummy tan yesterday.

With all the sunshine and rain this season has brought so far, the bulbs have given way to foliage galore as the garden is the greenest it's ever been. Flower buds are waiting to burst open and when they do, I'll be ready ♡



Saturday, 8 April 2017

Ancona

Birdsong and the distant sound of waves below; it's seriously serene here. Visiting somewhere like this out of season comes with its benefits and challenges. Pro, we're currently the only ones sitting out in the sun on the hotel's terrace. Con, the pool has no water in it even though an evening like this would be perfect for a toe dip. Pro, yesterday we had a beach entirely all to ourselves. Con, the beach shuttle doesn't run until June so we had a 40 minute hike down and then back up the mountain from said beach through forest in the pitch black (and yes, it transpires there are bears and wolves in Italy). Nevertheless, throughout our stay the pros have more than outweighed the cons.


Today we visited Ancona itself in all its earthquake, bomb and great fire damaged glory. Aside from it being a grey day with dusty winds along the port front, far too many hilly, windy roads to climb and a general sense of sadness at the town's desperate need of some TLC, we did admire some lovely buildings, panoramic views, seriously thick hot chocolate and the cheap European supermarket experience (local red wine for less than €2. Bliss). The sun even decided to make an appearance as we came to the end of our exploration.








Now back at the hotel we have succeeded in opening our first bottle of corked wine (definitely didn't think about that in all the excitement caused by how cheap it was) which we are enjoying drinking out of plastic cups from the bathroom (totally civilised, darling) while we read, write and generally soak in the sights and sounds of evenings in Italy.



Yesterday, after a hearty Italian breakfast of eggs, meats and cheeses (with a pot or two of Earl Grey, of course) we spent our first day here exploring Portonovo. Having walked the epic distance downhill to get there, we treated ourselves to lunch with a view of the sea; pasta, wine and selection of tasty breads. Energy levels restored we took to the beach for a wander. Not usually one for pebbled beaches, I was quite taken by the brilliant whites and pastel pinks, greys and greens of these pebbles, so much so that a few particularly pretty and smooth ones have made it into my pocket. The rest of the day was spent walking with intermittent rest stops and a brief paddle until it was time for dinner when we returned to the same restaurant to sample pizza from their extensive menu.








Tomorrow we plan to take a picnic (courtesy of the cheap European supermarket) to another beach nearby. Here's hoping for more sunshine!

Ok so thanks to a lot more sunshine, we are now, in true British style, as pink as proscuttio, cake in after sun and cooling down inside with no intention of venturing back into the sun today. It really wasn't even that hot which is the most embarrassing thing. Not hot to the point where we were getting lots of odd looks from locals wrapped up in coats and scarves warm inside their cars as we bravely made our way to Mezzavalle to sit beside the sea armed with beach towels and sunglasses.

Today's walk was equally as treacherous as the first; a solid 30 minutes of attempted downhill balancing to avoid the inevitable slipping and sliding followed by uphill trauma (I literally thought I was going to die as we heaved our way up the final stretch; wheezing, huffing and puffing all the way). Treacherous as it was, the walk did come with some seriously stunning views of turquoise sea through the pine trees which was why, when we finally came out onto the sand we were shocked at the masses of flotsam washed up and strewn along the shoreline. Eyes closed, laid down in one of the few clear patches of sand, we were soon able to indulge in a few hours of relaxation with a short interlude for focaccia.




Tonight there was more focaccia, hummus (very Italian), crisps and another bottle of red in actual glasses because the waiter couldn't bear seeing us drink another from plastic cups. We enjoyed our little picnic overlooking sea, sky and a glorious sunset. It was agreed that in many ways, Ancona has been exactly what we needed and expected, yet at the same time there have been many unexpected twists, turns and surprises. Either way, we leave a little more well rested, well fed, 'sun-kissed', tipsy and cultured than we were before.

Monday, 2 January 2017

One resolution for 2017

I truly am a creature of habit. Here I sit again with blog posts from the past four new years open on my laptop. and I notice an awful lot of pattern; in the nature of my writing, in the time and place and in my resolutions.

Now on one hand, reading back gives me a small sense of achievement as I almost always manage to up-hold at least one resolution. I also notice that life has moved on, no matter how stale it may sometimes feel as I edge ever further away from 20. On the other hand, each time another new year approaches, the same resolution seems to dwindle.

In 2014 I phrased it 'make time for real Laura time'. In 2015 it was 'look after myself. Rest' and in 2016, the same 'look after myself'. Now I don't want to speak too soon but I have somehow evaded illness for some time now (I actually can't remember the last time I had a cold) so I think I've just about got my physical well-being down; I generally eat well now, I do actually exercise more than a bit despite my fear last year that the mere suggestion was getting a little carried away and thanks to my lovely bed and a renewed habit of reading before sleep, I sleep well too. My emotional well-being, however, is something I'm not so good at looking after.

So for 2017, instead of making several resolutions to change, I am going to carry on doing the things that I do well and the things that I love and my one resolution is simply to tend to my emotional well-being.

I'm going to keep reading, writing, colouring, being musical, sleeping, socialising, walking, exploring, travelling, escaping, shopping, cooking, drinking, eating, watching films, painting my nails, putting on a bit of makeup or a face mask. I'm going to pre-plan and fill in my diary so that there are always things, no matter how small, to look forward to. And hopefully, at the end of it all, I'm going to be happy and I'm still going to feel a sense of achievement simply because 2017 might turn out to be another 'good year'. Who knows.

Some highlights of 2016; it wasn't so bad either.