Tuesday, 25 April 2017

How To Spend 72 Hours in Barcelona | Solo Travel

I very rarely have trouble sleeping. More often than not, I have trouble staying awake past 11pm. However, one night in January, for reasons I cannot remember, I found myself tossing and turning in to the early hours. With James fast asleep next to me, I picked up my phone, absentmindedly browsing in an attempt to make myself sleepy. I know, I know, phones make insomnia worse, but it was starting to get light outside and my delirious, sleep-deprived mind told me it would work. The fool. Somehow, at some point, I found myself booking a short city-break to Barcelona.

I fell asleep shortly after the confirmation email had fallen in to my inbox.
Barcelona had been on my travel hit list for as long as I can remember so I'm not sure why it took me so long to get round to visiting. I’d fallen in love with Gaudi’s architecture during a GCSE art project (mad thanks to Mrs CT for pointing me in that direction), and I'd always assumed I would love the City just as much. And oh boy, it did not disappoint.

It was also the first holiday I'd taken on my own, so I thought 3 nights / four days would be ample time to chill out and see the sites. I’ll write about my thoughts on the ‘solo travel’ aspect in a separate post, because if I'm honest, I took far too many pictures to fit in to one.

On instagram, I’d put a call out for suggestions and annoyingly, I didn’t get through nearly as much as I wanted to. I concentrated on Gaudi this time but I for sure will be heading back soon, to see the rest. So without further ado, here's how to spend 72 hours in Barcelona (if you like buildings and beaches)...  
Sagrada Família & Casa Batlló
Before jetting off, my niece Chloe, suggested pre-booking tickets for the Gaudi attractions. Upon arrival, I can confirm that the queues were crazy loooong so that was indeed, a good tip. Even if you get lucky and manage to avoid peak times, it makes it so much easier to plan your day out (especially if you are only there for a weekend) having that allocated time-slot to work around. I don’t believe there were any restrictions as to how long you could spend there once you were inside. The tickets weren’t too pricey and most of the money goes back into the restoration of the building, which is quite nice isn’t it.

That said, if you didn’t fancy purchasing tickets for everything, all the architecture looks beyond breathtaking even from the outside. I still can’t get my head around the scale and intricacy of the Sagrada Família, it was phenomenal. From there, I walked to the Casa Batlló (I think it took about 20 minutes?) and got some close-ups stood underneath the ‘skulls’. Obvs. 
I’d planned to do a free walking tour the second day, to find out some stuff whilst getting my bearings  but I woke to find it chucking it down outside. I’d stupidly forgot to bring a raincoat so I switched up my plans and headed to the aquarium on the harbour, because I wanted to see some sharks. 

The one mistake I made was forgetting that it was half-term. After a very difficult and tense fifteen minutes of being a nice person, standing back to let all of the excited Under-10s push in front of me so they could look for Nemo, I decided I would reach contentment by pretending that no-one else in the world existed so I could watch the seahorses bobbing about. And I didn’t feel guilty. I mean, c’mon, I didn't once see them stop to read about the varying temperatures of the Mediterranean Sea. The brats.
I always enjoy a good meander around a flea market when exploring a new European city. The food markets in the City are insane. This particular fair of treasures and trinkets popped up for a day in the square outside between my hotel and the Cathedral. Reminding myself that I had only brought one hand-luggage case with me, I distracted myself taking pictures to avoid any return suitcase conundrums.
Park Güell
I have just typed out a mammoth paragraph about the park only to delete it all because JUST LOOK AT IT. It was even more beautiful and peaceful and magical than I’d imagined it would be. I think I did about five loops of the place before plonking myself down on the tiled serpentine bench to sketch for a little while. Yup, I turned in to one of those. 
The Beach
Let's go to the beach, each, let's go get away. Story-time: I really dislike that song, but what I DIDN’T dislike during my time in Barca was my trip to the beach, (they call me the queen of the segue). 

My hotel was very close to the Catedral de Barcelona, so I took a slow walk down to harbour, stopping in to few independent shops en route. Fortunately, the weather was absolutely beautiful that day and the only thing I had to worry about was whether to stop at the churro bar or the gelato stand. Cheers for the heads up on this one Jamie C! 

Like I said, I still have a list as long as my arm of things I want to see and do in this City and I am hoping I may be able to squeeze in another trip before the end of the year. If you have any other recommendations (particularly for good vegetarian food) leave a comment below.

Similarly, if you have any questions about solo-travel, I’ll be talking more about my (albeit small) experience of it in the next post and hopefully try and answer all the questions I was asked (mostly "WHY?") as well as the questions I had beforehand (mostly "HOW?"). 

See ya then.

Much love,
L xo

Thursday, 20 April 2017

"I think you've still got lightning in you..."

Na’ then. I need to begin by saying a blooming enormous THANK YOU to everyone who read my last post, I was seriously blown away with the response.

I was genuinely surprised that it prompted so many messages from girls (and some guys too) who’d experienced similar feels – whether it was directly relating to the idea of engagement or general life guilt.

The post was such a slog to write because somewhere along the line, neurosis had led me to believe that there was something wrong with me, no one else was having these thoughts, and that was the reason why I was feeling out of sorts with it all.

It was kind of selfish of me to think that, but I suppose that comes part and parcel with moments of introspect.

Never under-estimate the power of hearing someone else whisper a simple: “I get it”.

To the guys and girls who reached out to share their own stories, to tell me that it’s ok, or just to give me a nudge of confidence on the old writing front, you’re the best.

I AM going to stop gushing now but I wanted you to know that it meant the world and you warmed my silly little heart.

“I think you’ve still got lightning in you.”

Back to business and from one outpouring of love to another… Wes Anderson.

I’ve steered clear of posting many outfit / style posts on this space for quite a while now. Mostly because, I just don’t feel like it would make a very interesting read.

I like posting snapshots on instagram (so go follow me there) however if I'm honest, deciding what to wear is the very last thing I do before I leave the house in the Morning (or more often that not, as I leave the house in the morning). I rarely pre-plan what I will be masquerading as, the night before so I really can’t pretend that much thought goes in to it.

Of course, I do buy in to trends now and again – all about those Jane Birkin baskets bags and slogan tees rn – & once in a blue moon, I’ll have a little splurge on a few new pieces… and then I’ll wear those same things day-in day-out, until there’s tears in the knees and holes in the soles.

However, what does excite me is taking pockets of inspiration from things I love and incorporating that in to a look. This usually consists of 1960s French girls, Wes Anderson Films, favourite fictional characters, Wes Anderson Films, David Bowie, Wes Anderson films.

The same goes for décor.

When we were preparing to move house last year, I vowed that I would keep the interiors minimal and the colour palette neutral. Light and bright.

I said that I would go for a grey sofa, because grey goes with everything and that would be sensible.

Well, that swiftly changed when we moved in and I propped our Grand Budapest Hotel print on a shelf in the living room and declared that the only sofa that would fit the bill would be a blue velvet number, because all I could think about was how nicely it would go with the print.

So the initial grey idea escaped completely and instead the room was filled with a mix of rich navies and shades of blush and vintage yellows - a theme that has seeped through to the rest of the house.

Family & friends tell us it’s very “us” – a description which feels both sweet and like a bit of a neg.

The only room that we hadn't touched was this one: the spare room.

In the few weeks after the move, we began peeling back the wallpaper, got bored and prioritised elsewhere; leaving the room as a menagerie of yoga mats, paints, suitcases, a drum kit and everything else we hasn’t yet found a place for, for the best part of a year.

Then a month or so ago, we got the balls to venture in for a tidy, clearing out the majority of the junk out and I realised that I kind of loved certain elements of what was going on already.

From the blush pink carpet to the absolutely incredible 1920s wardrobe, left behind by the previous owner. I have developed a proper soft spot for the kitschy messiness of it.

It feels like the perfect room to be creative in.

We will still ‘do it up’ – it definitely needs a lick of paint and some sense of coherence in the furnishings – and with that initial spark of inspiration there, I’m excited to get stuck in to it.

Much love,
L x

Wearing: Beret - We Are Cow, Gold Glitter Top - Primark & Cigerette Pants - Orla Kiely

P.S. If you're in the UK, register to vote in the General Election, here

Wednesday, 15 March 2017


Here’s a conversation I’ve been putting off for over two years now.

In Sept 2014, my boyfriend proposed to me. It was unexpected, but lovely. Personal and intimate. The only way I'd want to be proposed to.

The strange thing was, no sooner had I gained this new ‘fiancée’ designation, I rapidly came to realise that something about it made me uncomfortable. And it was disorientating.

In hindsight, I can see that I reacted oddly from the get-go. I insisted I wanted some time to enjoy it myself, before we announced it to the World, when in fact, I needed the time to process it. Even in those first few weeks, when everyone around me wanted to ask about potential dates, possible venues and dress shapes, I felt like I was struggling to match their excitement.

I would dread it coming up in conversation, which it did, regularly. I thought it was just in films where couples would start planning a wedding five seconds after getting engaged, but nope, apparently, that happens in real life too and it was mildly shocking that people assumed we would follow suit. Questions such as "Have you set a date?" and "Have you been pinteresting?" came thick and fast.

I had been pinteresting. I was pinning images of James Franco in his role as Allen Ginsberg for outfit inspiration and scoping out interesting new dinner recipes, but I don’t think that’s what they meant.

After two years when my ‘No” responses got boring, the question changed to “So, have you been thinking about starting to think any more about a wedding?” I felt like my answer was a let-down: “not yet”.

It wasn’t because I didn’t want to get married. I’m just not in any rush. For both of us, engagement has never been the end-goal. Together we are settled, content, and comfortable both in our space and with our pace. To me, we, as we are, feels more than good enough.

It seemed that there was an unspoken synonymy between eagerness to plan a wedding and the level of validation in a relationship and that was at odds with me.

Then there’s the whole matter of the ring itself.

After a while I’d got used to wearing it until one eve I took it off to apply hand-cream and forgot to put it back on. James was working away at the time. It didn’t take long for people to notice the next day: “Where are your rings?” “Oo whilst the cat’s away…”

It was said without any hint of malice. A wind-up muttered between three women who I admire and confide in daily. However, it caused an immediate pang of guilt. I felt icky. Is that what it means? If I don’t wear this piece of jewellery, I’m causing suspicion to creep in to the minds of others? Am I throwing a question mark over the trust and loyalty which has hung around so naturally for the past seven years?

I found myself folding my arms self-consciously, hiding the fact that I wasn’t wearing it for the rest of the day.

I love the ring. I adore that James took so much time and attention, visiting antique jewelers on his travels through America to find the perfect piece that I would love. And yet, rather than feeling like a treasure, it started to feel like a prelude to a scarlet letter – a sparkly beacon that suggested that, as a female, I was on a relentless mission to prove myself, not to him, but to everyone else.

Knowing that James wouldn’t have questioned it, it felt utterly ridiculous to even entertain any analysis over what it all meant, but I couldn’t help but ponder how odd it was that he would never have to justify himself in the same way.

There’s a balance in our relationship that I adore. We’re both independent and together at once. Before-engagement, we were equals. Marriage, I hope will be a partnership. To me, engagements feel imbalanced. I simply don’t enjoy the feeling of ‘belonging to’.

At first I thought that the new addition on my finger made me feel a little less me.

I realised that I never heard anyone admit to feeling like that – not in films nor fiction.

And it was this disparity between how I thought I should feel and how I felt, that continually played on my mind.

It became an elephant in the room – a catalyst of guilt and endless self-reflection.

In the days after the “ring conundrum”, an existential crisis ensued. One friend listened patiently as the unhelpful comparison hit fever-pitch: "Maybe something IS wrong with me? Why can't I do these things like everyone else?” "Why didn’t I rush out to buy a wedding magazine? They had the plans ready to go before she said yes!” “What does this mean? Am I a shit person?” “DO I EVEN DESERVE TO BE ENGAGED RN!?”

The self-reproach was driving me a bit insane. Soon after we’d got engaged, my beautiful, lovely godmother had so so so kindly kicked off our wedding fund. Two years later, the money is still safely stashed in a planner. I told my Mum: “I’m going to have to get in touch and return this money. I can’t keep it for the future, when I haven’t even started a pinterest board!”

She told me to stop being a dick. Not quite in those words. Thankfully, my mum is much less foul-mouthed, but she re-assured me that there's no rush.

Really? It didn’t feel like it.

Yesterday, on a phone-call that stretched across the Atlantic I shared my thoughts with James "I feel like a fraud and like I don’t deserve you because I don't feel ecstatic about being engaged. That said, neither of us are fussed about rushing in to the wedding planning, so why am I freaking out about this?"

Why do I feel like I am constantly explaining myself to arched eyebrows?

Understanding and agreeing he reasoned, “Why are you even worrying what it might make other people think? That’s never what you've been about, that’s why I like you. It’s just as valid to feel more excited about a trip or a book you love. "

It’s true. We’ve never done anything the traditional way. An engagement shouldn’t be the only thing we hold up on a pedestal. What about the smaller, day-to-day achievements?

After explaining my I-think-I’m-doing-it-all-wrong meltdown, another friend questioned: "What is it that you think you've fucked up though? As far as I can tell you've kinda nailed it."

I didn't ask them to elaborate but I fathomed they were referring to the metaphorical notches I'd knocked off the Ole Great Big Check List Of Life - A job I enjoyed, a roof over my head, a fiancé. yada-yada-yada.

But are those things the holy grail? I mean, yeah, those things do all make me happy but it’s not all that makes me happy. Maybe part of my quandary lies in the fact that I don't know what my personal big life check list is. It’s an ongoing thing.

I am all too aware that this is such a terribly wonderful problem to have but it’s something I’ve needed to try and articulate. If only, to release the whirlwind of thoughts that continually make me question myself. It was James’ idea to write it down.

I’ve been so scared of hitting publish on this post. Once it’s out there, it’s out there.

I worry that people will scan read and come up with their own conclusions about what this all means. I worry that it will deter people from asking me about anything ever again. I worry that people who have been so generous and so kind about it will think I'm ungrateful.

I worry that it will make people who don’t feel confused in the same way as me, feel like I’m judging them. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

There's no final conclusion to this. I know my internal monologue is convoluted. The funny thing is, I'm half-expecting to change my mind on this whole thing as soon as this goes live. My brain is partial to a sudden U-turn. Like I said, I'm still figuring it out, but if I’m okay and the person I love is okay with the way that we’re doing it, that should be enough.

If this time tomorrow I find myself excitedly browsing Rock N Roll Bride, I’ll embrace it warmly. In the meantime, I’m going to stop putting myself through hell for not making it a priority right this second.

If there's one thing I've learnt in this past year - from experience, from others and from reading a shit ton of articles and literature by women I admire, it's that the world sometimes struggles with what to think about complicated, indecisive women. So easily are we made to feel ashamed if we are seen to slow-down or take a side-step when the traditional rule-book dictates, that we should always be pushing full-steam ahead.

I think that pressure applies in all areas of our lives.

Humans are by their very nature, complicated and fluid and indecisive. And I’m working on letting myself believe that it's ok to be that.

I am engaged but today I've removed the ring from my hand and added it to my necklace.

A small change, that means nothing and everything all at once.

L x
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