Exploring Spain

3 weeks back into school and I’m really in need of some sunshine, so I thought this was quite a fitting post to write. I visited Benalmadena at the end of August and I won’t lie, I had some preconceptions – I was imagining an English-tourist-ridden place with skyscrapers right next to the beach, but I was very pleasantly surprised!!

I want this to be primarily a photo post, because I feel like words can’t do the entire holiday justice to be honest, but here are a few of the highlights:

  • We hadn’t planned it at all but we found out that La Vuelta (the Spanish equivalent of the Tour de France) was passing through very near to where we were staying, so we decided to go and watch that – we made it briefly onto Spanish TV too which is cool!!
  • Benalmadena is split into 3 sections – there’s the coast, the Pueblo and Arroyo de la Miel, which is where the station is. We visited all three; the coast, obviously, was beautiful despite the sea being approx -8°c, the Pueblo was a pretty little traditional whitewashed town, and Arroyo de la Miel (which literally means Creeks of the Honey – how cute!!) had a lovely market, shops and restaurants. I had the nicest tapas ever there in a bar called La Alternativa – defo recommend.
  • We took a cable car up to the top of a mountain!! I think it was around 800m high and the tracks passed right over one of the motorways. It was a little bit terrifying but definitely worth doing, the views are incredible.
  • Being able to wake up, go to the window and see the sea from my room was ridiculously cool. Everyone should be able to experience that, it’s the best thing to wake up to.

Finding Your Voice Online

Blogging is a weird thing. It’s like having a conversation with a person who you’ve never met before and who you really don’t know – literally anybody could be reading what you’re writing. And that’s scary.

Since I began blogging, which I think was in 2015, I’ve not told anybody I know that I have a blog. Nobody. A few people I know from school have found my blog (I think – they’ve at least found my instagram and Twitter, which have my blog’s URL in the bios) and that terrifies me. I really don’t understand why; partially I just want to keep the two worlds separate, and I’ve never liked other people looking at my work, but more recently I started to wonder whether I subconsciously think it’s too much of an almost-taboo subject to be a blogger. There’s a lot of debate going on at the moment about the significance of blogs, especially since that advert that the internet went ballistic over. Today I decided that I wanted to write a letter of sorts to people I know in real life who will, eventually, find my blog; to tell them why I blog, and why I don’t talk about it.

Finding your voice and your identity in a real life scenario is hard enough, particularly in your teenage years when you want to simultaneously fit in and stand out. You know, you’re trying to figure out your body, your likes, your dislikes, your clothing and music taste and stick to what you want, whilst also maintaining that slightly distanced persona every cool person seems to have. It’s hard, and it’s made ten times harder when you don’t even know who you’re communicating and speaking to.

Writing and publishing takes some confidence, I won’t lie. Your blog is like a Horcrux, a little part of your soul. Sorry for the Harry Potter analogy but honestly, it does feel like it – whatever you say online, you know that someone, somewhere in the world will read it, reply, help if needed, comfort, joke…they’ve got you.

In this incredible online community there is a place for everyone. You know when something feels so good that you don’t want to talk about it to anyone, because then it’ll feel somehow less good? Blogging fits exactly into that category. It’s hard to start with, like when you’re at an event on your own and have to find someone to talk to, but so quickly, you become part of an online family.

This is why I blog. It’s fun, I love writing – I always have and I’m fairly sure I always will, although English Literature essays?? Maybe I’ll give them a miss – and you grow as a person. Often I’ll be writing, the words pouring out, and I’ll type something that I didn’t even know I thought. It’s like an extension of yourself, where you can say exactly what you want.

Why I don’t talk about blogging? It’s private. It’s like a diary, although published to limitless numbers of people. Contradictory, huh? I love it, and I love you if you’re reading this.

Also, if I know you in real life, please don’t mention my blog because I will turn bright red and possibly cry. Pretend you haven’t seen it. Read from afar 😉

June, July and August book club

I’ve sorta maybe kinda missed out on a month of book club posts because in June I only read about half a book, which wouldn’t have made a very interesting post. Over summer though i’ve read a lot so I’m just going to share my thoughts on a few books!

I watched the film of Paper Towns not long ago when it was on TV one night and seeing that inspired me to read the book again. I love rereading my old favourite books; it gives me such a sense of nostalgia and I just get so engrossed in the characters and their lives like I used to when I was younger. I think I’ve only read Paper Towns out of all of John Green’s books but I recently also bought Looking for Alaska, and so rereading and loving Paper Towns has made me excited to start that too.

Next up, another old favourite: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. It’s just a YA modern classic, I love it, and there’s not much more to say really – if you want a slightly cliche romance with an unusual context, this is the one for you.

You might have seen if you followed my old Instagram account that I became slightly obsessed with book thrifting over the summer holiday – I used to get so many books from charity shops, but then for some reason I just stopped? Anyway, I bought 8 books for £8 (!!) from the British Heart Foundation I think, 3 for £1 at Cancer Research (winner!), one for £1.45 and another for £1.99. I definitely don’t need to buy any more books for a while, haha.

David Nicholls’s “Us” was one of the 8 for £8 books and quite honestly, if I’d paid £8 for that book alone I would have been happy. It’s so good! It’s about 2 of the things I love most – travelling and art – Douglas, a scientist, is trying to win his wife back, and so he takes her and their son on a huge, slightly disastrous interrailing trip around Europe, stopping off at galleries and sightseeing. It was so cool reading about art galleries I’ve been to before and places I want to visit – ahhh, I recommend!!

I’m writing my personal statement at the moment, so I decided to reread some classics: Pride and Prejudice was my first. I read it whilst I was sitting my mock exams and I think in some of the wordier parts where there’s not a lot happening in the plot I got a little bit distracted lol, but saying that I already knew the story and overall I enjoyed it regardless!

I think I mentioned it in a book club post a few months ago but I’m going to use The Picture of Dorian Gray as my English lit coursework so this summer I reread it; tbh, I killed two birds with one stone there as I’m using it for English and I can write about it on my personal statement! (We love life hacks!!!) Again, I love the plot, I love the way the book’s written, I love the philosophical monologues; I love everything about this book. Just read it. Please.

Another book for school – we’re starting Hamlet in English lit so over summer I read the play. I find Shakespeare so interesting but I really struggle understanding what’s actually being said when I just read it to myself, so I listened to the audiobook as I read which helped so much. I’ve never read Hamlet before, I started it once and then gave up pretty quickly because I wanted to read something more lighthearted but it was more enjoyable than I thought. The plot really gripped me actually and I’m excited to study it more in depth in class.

Ok, down to the last two; Huxley’s Brave New World was SO good and I think I’m going to reread it again quite soon tbh. I was reading this as I was reading Hamlet and there are hundreds of references to Shakespeare in the characters’ speech and let me tell you, my mind was blown on several occasions – I read one line in hamlet, it goes something like “treacherous, lecherous, mindless villain” (although I may have got the order wrong there) and then a few minutes later when I picked up Brave New World, I read that exact line! Crazy. I love references in books to other books because when I recognise them, I feel really smart haha 😉 if you’re a fan of dystopian novels and haven’t read this, give it a go – as a quick summary, the world runs on drugs, recreational sex and everything you learn is taught to you in your sleep.

It’s not shown in the photo above but today I finished Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall which I enjoyed but I feel like I was reading it for weeks and didn’t really do it justice. In a few months I’m going to give it another read since I think I had forgotten parts that happened in the beginning, but, when I got into it, the plot was quite intriguing and satirical (which my dry sense of humour appreciates) and yeah, I definitely just need to reread it.

That’s all for this month’s post – I feel like I’ve actually read and written about a substantial amount of books for once!

Dear future me: stress self-care tips

I know that this academic year will undoubtedly be the most stressful and pressured year I’ve ever had so I thought, whilst I’m still relatively calm about exams, I’d write this post to Future Cara, because something tells me I’m going to need a few of these tips.

1. Exams are not the end of the world

Although it certainly feels like it, they’re not! There are other ways to where you want to be and everything will work out in the end so just…calm down.

2. You’re allowed to have a break

I used to feel guilty when I took breaks from revising because I felt like I needed to be revising and wouldn’t do as well as I could if I just carried on, but actually now I think it’s the opposite. Your body needs a break and you’ll feel so much better for letting it have one.

3. Completely switch off for a day

Sort of similar to point 2 but I’m going to plan to take full days off revision when A Levels come round – once a fortnight or something, not like every other night don’t worry! Have a movie marathon, go for a run, blog all day, have a day shopping, just do something that will completely take your mind off everything.

4. Stress is temporary

As soon as exams are over, you’ll have completely forgotten about them – the stress won’t last long in the grand scheme of things. Keep it in perspective!!

5. Have a set sleeping schedule

Because there’s nothing worse than being tired and knowing you have another 20 pages of revision to do. Set a time to finish revision, have 2 hours to yourself then go to bed early and you’ll feel so much more refreshed and ready.

6. Make sure you’re reading for fun as well as for school

If, like me, you read regularly, ensure you keep a book aside that has no relevance to school work. Reading is arguably one of the best forms of escapism.

Q&A: study edition

On my old Instagram account I used to receive a fair amount of questions relating to school, and after reading Hebah’s post (hebahpervaiz.co.uk) I decided to just compile a few of the questions I’ve most frequently been asked.

What GCSEs did you take and how did you do?

I took my GCSEs last summer in English Language, English Literature, Maths, Spanish, Geography, ICT, Art, Core Science and Additional Science. On results day I got 9, 8, 8, a*, a*, a*, a, a, a (in that order). I also got half a GCSE in Preparation for Working Life, literally the most pointless waste of time.

Which A Levels are you doing now?

I take English Language, English Literature and Geography.

Did you stay at your school for sixth form or move elsewhere?

I actually wrote a post about this a while ago (which you can read here) but I stayed at the school I’ve been at since Year 7, which was definitely the right choice! But take into account all the pros and cons of staying and moving, because for some people moving will be a lot more beneficial.

What tips do you have as a current sixth form student?

Stay on top of your work! Keep yourself organised!! Revise as you go!!!

What are your career ambitions?

Ahhh the dreaded question! I honestly wish I knew for definite what I’d like to be – some days it’s a journalist, others I wish I could just blog for a living, I’d also love to work for the UN…I just don’t know.

What is the best way to revise?

This is a tricky one because different methods work for different people. The way I revise best is copying notes and summarising them as well as using flash cards, but other people will find that the least helpful method, so I can’t speak for everyone! The best way to stay motivated to revise, I find, is making to do lists – I wrote a post on how I make them here.

What plans do you have for after school?

University hopefully, provided I get the grades!

So that concludes today’s post, I hope you enjoyed and maybe you found out a little more about me than you knew before. Are you still at school or sixth form? What subjects are you taking, and how are you finding them?

Cara xx

A life update

At the start of the summer holiday I said to myself that I was going to upload a blog post every other day 😂 whilst that hasn’t happened, rest assured I have been doing equally important things.

I’m currently in Spain on holiday and having such a good time, but I just got the urge to write something – a form of procrastination? Yes. I’ve brought some books I want to read for school as well as for my personal statement but ya know, it’s the holiday…I don’t have a lot of motivation right now. Anyway, blogging/writing counts?? I take 2 English a levels, surely it’s at least a relevant form of procrastination!

It’s Saturday as I write this, which means I have one week and 2 days left of the summer holidays, and I still have a lot to do. However, I’m also promising myself (and vowing that I will definitely not break this promise!) that I’m going to write at least 2 posts before the end, as a mini back-to-school series. I’ll definitely do a study-oriented Q&A and I have a few ideas for another post, but is there anything you’d be interested in hearing my opinion about? For context, I’m studying in the UK and about to go into year 13, and I study English lit, English Language and geography and I took my GCSEs last year. Leave me a comment, I’ll answer it regardless of whether I also write a post about it!

I bought my first bullet journal the other day and I’ve got to say, I’m possibly too excited about it. As soon as I get home (I didn’t bring it with me) I’m going to start setting it up because I just can’t wait until 2019! I’m hoping it’ll provide some motivation throughout the year and give me an accurate record of what’s possibly going to be the biggest year of my life – the year I turn 18, sit my A Levels and go to uni!

So…next year. I’m disappointed in myself, to be honest, that I don’t post on my blog more than twice a month or so, and I’m going to change that. Next year is going to be more pressurised but I also need to bear in mind that I’m allowed to switch off from school and indulge in hobbies, and therefore I’m going to be making a really conscious effort to post at least once a week. I think I’ll have a set day where a post will go live and then there may be extras throughout the week, so watch this space 😉

I’ve also set up a new Instagram account which may be a little drastic but I was just feeling a bit trapped with my other – if you’d like to give me a follow, you can find me @avo.cara.

Hope you’re having the best summer!!

Boilin’ in Berlin

Hallooooo, wie geht es dir? (As they say in Berlin)

At the moment, if you asked that to anybody, whether tourist or resident in Berlin, their reply would be something along the lines of “bloody hot”, or the equivalent of that in German. I thought I’d learned to adapt to the heat since we’ve had an actual heatwave here in England, but throughout our entire trip the temperature was constantly about 32°c in the daytime. Pffft.

Incessant and suffocating heat aside, my trip to Berlin was lovely – it was a holiday, after all 😉 – but unusually for a holiday, it also was really quite a depressing place to be. Wherever you go in the city you’re reminded of the atrocities that took place there, some of which only happened in very recent history, and that was quite a terrifying thought. There are hardly any older buildings, because of course they were bombed in the war; the only old ones you’ll see are commemorative ruins (such as the Anhalter station which was used to deport Jews) or new buildings built in an older style.

Our hotel overlooked the Ministry of Finance and a huge tethered balloon, so that was pretty cool. We were about a 10 minute walk from the Topography of Terror (one of the few remaining sections of the Berlin Wall that’s still in nearly perfect condition that’s now been turned into a museum) and, in the other direction, Potsdamer Platz (where the Mall of Berlin and first ever traffic light are located!) so our hotel really couldn’t have been much more central. On the first day we wandered over Potsdamer to the Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate (obvs – if you want to find the tourists just go to Brandenburg). The Reichstag is home to the German government and there’s a huge glass dome on the roof that you can walk up, which would have been made much more enjoyable had it not been 37°c outside; it felt like a huge greenhouse lol.

We went also to the East Side Gallery, the longest section left of the Wall (which was knocked down only in 1989, how scary!!) that now has been turned into a graffiti art exhibition, so that was cool. Around a mile’s walk from the East Side Gallery is the Molecule Man statue which, if you can be bothered (it felt like a lot longer than a mile, although maybe it was just the heat) is really interesting – it’s basically just a sculpture in the river but it’s funky. I recognised it but I couldn’t think where from, but when we’d got back to the hotel I remembered; there’s also one at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which isn’t too far from where I live!

If you have a spare 3-4 hours and are willing to spend those hours in a museum learning about Hitler’s rise to power and the War, I definitely recommend you visiting the Hitler – How Could It Happen? museum – one of the coolest/most nightmare-inducing parts of the whole museum is that it’s held in a WW2 bomb shelter with walls 4m thick. Despite being more interested in arts and humanities subjects I couldn’t help being engaged in the museum; it’s so terrifying to see how such a huge amount of people could be indoctrinated, and the victims of this.

I’ve only been to Germany once before in my life, and that was on a coach to Austria so this holiday was pretty much my first impression of the country. Everyone we spoke to was so friendly and nice, and also the food was amazing (and really cheap!) if you’re ever in Berlin and looking for somewhere to eat, I recommend:

• prinz bistro, near Anhalter bahn (I had a halloumi doner kebab!)

• Berlin burrito company – I think there are two in the city but the one we visited was near the Rosengarten

• grand rocka cafe is definitely a more touristy choice – it’s in the hackeshe markt, for a start – but their spinach pizza is literally everything omg

• nafi’s is a hidden away Iranian restaurant which I think is more residential than tourist but nevertheless the food was amazing!

Have you ever been to Berlin, or would you like to one day? I think there’s a lot more to do so I’d definitely like to return one day!

Cara xx