Monday, 1 January 2018

Reflecting Back On 2017

Happy New Year!

Now that 2017 is behind us and we welcome in 2018, I seem to find myself once again in a philosophical mood. 
Looking back over the year, and seeing how far I've come in 12 months has made me reflect on many things, including how the whole year seems to have flown by in the blink of an eye!
As with any year, there have been highlights and low points, but all in all I think it's been a pretty good year for me and I definitely welcome in the year feeling wiser, more experienced and more accomplished than I did back in January. 

Here's a little retrospective photo diary down memory lane:

2017 was a pretty good year travel-wise for me, I managed to go on 3 trips abroad, including a couple of UK staycations as well as several day trips. 
The feeling of wanderlust seems to be deeply imbedded in me, and I never feel quite myself unless I've managed to go on holiday and discover somewhere new; after all, adventure is good for the soul.
In July I went to Porto, which had been on my wishlist for quite some time. I absolutely loved the laid-back atmosphere, the fact the sleek tiles contrasted so well with the crumbling aged mismatched buildings, the hidden alleyways, the buskers, the smell of freshly caught seafood in the air and the bustling city centre. It's an amazing city and one I'd highly recommend.
Next, in September came Lisbon (to carry on with my Portuguese theme). Again - it was filled with interesting architecture, including the strange little fairytale castle town of Sintra, which was my personal highlight. If I'm honest Lisbon itself held less appeal, but the neighbouring villages of Cascais, Estoril and the aforementioned Sintra were definitely worth visiting.
Finally - I jetted off to my second home of Nice in October. Nice has always held a special place in my heart, and always makes me feel like I'm perfectly at home the minute the plane wheels hit the tarmac. This short break was to celebrate my birthday when I felt like I needed a few days away to relax and organise my thoughts, and as ever the beautiful city did the trick.

The last 6 months seems to have spun by in a whirlwind of days out, festivals, local exploring, making new friends and weekends away. I celebrated my best friend's wedding with her as her Maid of Honour which was an incredibly beautiful and emotional day. She also moved away to start a new job in Yorkshire, so I had a couple of trips up to see her and got to finally try the legendary champagne afternoon tea in Betty's. I also met loads of new people, ticked Festival No.6 off my bucket list and last but not least - became a homeowner!
I also grew in confidence, fought my corner in work and won, dipped my toe back in the dating pool and dyed my hair pink.

Seeing live music has always been a passion of mine, and I've been lucky enough this year to experience plenty of that. In May I saw KT Tunstall who was possibly one of the best - and most inventive - live acts I've ever had the opportunity to see. In June my Mum fulfilled one of her bucket list moments by seeing Robbie Williams as I bought her tickets for her birthday. He put on an incredible show and in the aftermath of the shocking Manchester Arena terror attack, the positive attitude of solidarity in Manchester was quite sobering. In July I saw Bryan Adams who rocked my socks off (wasn't expecting that but my god the man still has it!) before going to Festival No.6 in September and seeing Rag n Bone Man, The Bootleg Beatles with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Arab Strap and The Flaming Lips in the beautiful surroundings of Portmeirion.
In November I FINALLY got to see The Killers which has been a massive goal of mine for the last decade (they were AMAZING!) as well as seeing a childhood favourite - Steps and The Vengaboys, which was one of the campest and most fabulous shows I've ever been to!

Christmas was quiet and family-filled, and last night I saw in the New Year with good friends, and the remnants of a nasty virus that's been plaguing me since Boxing Day.
I'm now more than ready to move onto 2018 and see what new challenges and experiences are in store for me, which is a pretty wonderful feelings.

Bring on 2018!


Friday, 8 December 2017

2017: 12 Month Goal Review

So it's been pretty quiet here on the blog front of late...

Life has been pretty hectic, mostly good in fairness, but I've definitely had some bouts of just not feeling like posting, and so I haven't. 
Sometimes in the past I've posted just for the sake of posting, but that doesn't always feel natural. So I decided not to force things, and instead to dip my toe back into the blogging world when the time felt right...

With having such a long break, I missed out my 9 month goal review altogether! 
So as I'm feeling inspired to put pen to paper, now seems a good time to update on my goals as the year draws to an end.

Be Better With Money
So I'm going to start on a positive note, not least because I'm pretty bloody pleased with myself but: I BOUGHT A HOUSE! At long last, I finallyyyy saved enought for a deposit, and found myself a little two-bedroomed, sea-facing apartment which has just gone through, meaning I now have the keys in my mitts. I actually can't believe I've done it at last, and I definitely am going to blow my own trumpet over it because not only have I had zero help financially, but it's testament to how much can change in a year, as this time last year everything felt a little hopeless and I was feeling lost after the break-up of my long-term relationship, and to be frank it just seemed like an impossibility. But finally I have a place I can call my own, and I'm so excited to start a new chapter of my life. 

Think Less
Well, I can't expect miracles in a year, so I'm still a chronic overthinker. I have phases where I'm better than others, and since the flat has gone through I've felt a bit of a shift in my attitude and have been feeling more accomplished than I've felt, well ever really. But having another knockback in my personal life over the summer when things seemed to be picking up hit me quite hard, and I needed a couple of months to lick my wounds and re-assess my priorities. Finally though I'm feeling better about things, so now I'm mostly just worrying about money and whether I'll ever be able to afford to eat anything other than beans for tea ever again...

Keep Active
Apart from being a potato every since November 1st when the nights became too dark to do pretty much ANYTHING after 4.30, I've been doing really steadily well with this. Over the summer I bought a bike having been re-introduced to cycling and remembering how much I loved it, and it's been an amazing investment. I've definitely slacked over the past few weeks, but I know things will pick up again after Christmas. I'm still fitting in as many walks as I can in a week so it's not all doom and gloom.

Less Phone, More Living
Hmm, yes and no with this one. During the day in work I'm not bad about checking social media, but I'm still pretty bad for obsessing and comparing myself to pretty much everyone who's ever lived of an evening when I have some downtime. This is still a work in progress and not something I'm gonna beat myself over, particularly as I've crammed loads in over the past 6 months, so I think I'm striking the phone/life balance quite well in general.

Be Kind To Myself
I haven't dedicated quite as much time to looking after myself as I probably should do lately, and who really does at this time of year?! I've been run ragged and haven't been getting as much sleep as I need, but I know this'll change after Christmas. Plus once I'm in my new pad I'll probably just move into the bath so there's plenty of time to rectify this one.

All in all, I'm pretty pleased with how my goals have panned out this year, and I'm definitely in a much happier space than I was this time last year, so I'm going to crack out the wine....

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Porto Photo Diary

Way back in July I headed to the beautiful city of Porto for a few days.
Porto has been on my travel bucket list for quite a while and it definitely didn't disappoint.
It's an amazing combination of old meets new - a vibrant, bustling city with so many extremely old beautiful buildings, cobbled streets mixed with high street shops and crumbling aged sections contrasting against the clean tiles.
The architecture is just incredible, and blue and yellow seem to be the predominant colour schemes in the city. There are beautiful old churches on nearly every street corner, each one incredibly ornate. The stunning Chapel of Souls above is a perfect example, it was built in the 18th Century and is situated in one of the busiest shopping streets in Porto.
One of our favourite places to head to was Ribeira, which is the old town that runs alongside the banks of the Douro. It was so lively and busy, with cobbled streets, buskers, old fashioned boats and plenty of streetside cafes where you can sit and watch the world go by.
Porto is definitely a foodie lovers paradise. Seafood is very prevalent as expected, but there are so many amazing culinary experiences to be had, and the tapas is out of this world. We stumbled upon Antiga Leitaria down a side street, which is a small unobtrusive bistro serving the most amazing local food. 
Other highlights include the huge indoor market, brunch in the iconic Majestic Cafe, the wonderfully ornate Porto Sao Bento train station and a boat trip along the Douro. We went early evening when it was slightly cooler, and just in time to see the magnificent sunset. 
Finally, no trip to Porto would be complete without some Port tasting! As we're not the biggest fans of Port we opted not to do a full day tasting tour (as amazing as it looked) and instead booked a city hop on-hop off bus tour which threw in a free mini Port tour. We headed to the Southern side of the Douro river (Vila Nova de Gaia) which is connected to Ribeira and Porto by the Ponte Luis I Bridge, and is where all the Port houses are situated. We tried some rose and tawny Port which were actually really nice, but not being a Port connoisseur I wouldn't be able to say if there was better out there.  
I really, really loved Porto and would return in a heartbeat. There's so much to see and do, and I'm sure if we went back we'd be able to find numerous things we didn't manage to squeeze in on this trip. 
There were a few 'tourist traps' we avoided, such as the cable car over the Port houses which to us seemed a waste of money as walking through Vila Nova de Gaia provides you with the same views, just without the price tag.
The other thing we wanted to do was Livraria Lello; a traditional bookshop with a huge sweeping spiral staircase and glass ceiling that looks beautiful, but due to the fact that JK Rowling used it as inspiration for Harry Potter, was overrun with tourists queuing as far as the eye could see. I didn't think I'd be able to get a single decent photo inside as it was so packed, so we reluctantly gave it a miss.
Have you ever been to Porto?
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