eighteen

It was my birthday on Tuesday and since it was the big 18, I wanted to write a post acknowledging it and honouring my new status of ‘wise old person’. I’ve been in Madrid this week with my family and I also had a little celebration with my pals the week before, so this birthday has definitely been one to remember. I think that’s good though – honestly, in previous years, I’ve not made much of a big deal out of birthdays because I just didn’t have the friends to celebrate it, whereas now I have such a solid group of people around me. Also, I’m starting adulthood as I mean to go – partying and travelling 😉

This will sound morbid although it’s not intended in that way, but I never really expected to reach 18. I think when you’re younger, being 18 is equivalent to being an adult and somehow it never clicked that one day I would be an adult. I always felt like I’d be a child forever, and even though I can do pretty much anything I want now (sorry mum and dad 😉), I also still feel about 3 years old.

I’m going to stop rambling now and start compiling a list. I want my future self to look back on this post and think ‘wow, I was smart and down-to-earth and not embarrassing’, which is quite unlike how I see my past self. I know full well online (and often in real life) in the past I’ve put on this persona who is so dissimilar to me, and looking back now, I really regret doing that. I hope I’ll look back and think ‘wow, she had her shizzle together’, and therefore this post will serve as a reminder to get my future shizzle together. I hope I’ll look back and remember how much I grew as a person in my later-teen years and how much I experienced, and realise how much more I’ve grown in the next few years.

Me indulging in the last few hours of my childhood in Retiro Park, Madrid

Be yourself

Something I’m still working on, but something that in the last few years (in 6th form especially) has been so important to me. As I said before, I know I used to put on this cool, cocky persona to try and fit in, but I must have looked so embarrassing and ridiculous because cool and cocky are the complete opposites to what I actually am. I’ll be the girl in the library or the bookshop, reading or writing or listening to music, or the girl at the back of the classroom thinking about where to travel to next. Instead of forcing myself to be loud and assertive, I’ve started encouraging myself to be more confident, and that’s the way to improve. My problem before was that I didn’t have enough confidence to show the real me to my friends/classmates, whereas now (with a little bit of encouragement) I’m much happier being myself, and I know I fit in because I’m being myself.

Be comfortable with yourself

I’ve already mentioned it really, but you have to accept yourself before others can accept you. Had I kept projecting this cocky persona, my life would have been so different – I wouldn’t have the friends I have now and I still wouldn’t like myself, because I’d know it wasn’t really me.

If you’re not happy with something, change it

I’ve realised now that life is incredibly short and so you might as well fill it with happiness. I’m constantly trying to improve myself and make myself the best I can be and whilst I think I’m still quite a way off my ‘best’, it’s satisfying knowing that I’m heading in the right direction. And the same goes for school/friends/relationships – if you’re not happy doing a subject, change it, if you know your friends aren’t really your friends, change it – it’s hard, but you might as well be happy. Short term pain, long term gain.

You might as well do what you want to because life’s so short

A few of my points so far have been quite similar, but when my friend died aged 16 it really hit me how precious and temporary life is. Since then, I’ve realised you have to do things you want to do because tomorrow is never guaranteed.

Do what you love because you love doing it, instead of doing something because of other people’s views/what they want you to do/what’s cool

Again – be yourself. Do your thang in life for yourself and for your own satisfaction, instead of being told what to do. Make your own way, do what you want and I think that’s how you become happiest.

Fringes and frizzy hair don’t mix well

Not as profound, but still very significant. I never seemed to learned that my hair type doesn’t suit fringes and never will, because over the years I’ve had several cut in, each time thinking ‘oh it’ll be fine’. Spoiler: it won’t be fine and you’ll look stupid.

Educate yourself on important matters instead of believing everything you’re told

Something I still need to do more of. When I first wrote that, I meant what school/teachers and parents tell you (saying that, 99% of the time my beliefs are the same as parents – not because they’re my parents though) but then it occurred to me that this also applies to the news. Watching the news does not give you the full story most of the time and even when it does, a lot of the time it’s biased which is why I think it’s so important to research important events/happenings yourself and form your own opinion.

Don’t immediately assume you can’t do something just because you’re not good at it the first time around

Exams aren’t (and shouldn’t take over) your life

As you probably all know – because it’s all I talk about on twitter and on here – I have my A Level exams soon (my first one is a month today…:/). I handled my GCSE exams badly. I completely put my social life on hold, I very rarely took breaks because I felt so guilty when I wasn’t revising, my whole life was consumed by revision. I still remember the first night of summer when I just watched TV and it felt so amazing to relax, and to relax knowing that I didn’t have to worry about exams and grades for the next 4 months. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a perfectionist (very much so!) and I’m trying really hard to get grades I’m proud of but I know now that you need a balance. Even though these exams effectively determine the rest of my life, I’m not too worried about them; naturally I’m nervous but not to the extent of GCSEs (which seems counterintuitive since A Levels are undoubtedly more important). I know that I’ve tried so hard and hopefully my grades will reflect this, but working 14 hour days isn’t healthy or beneficial, and I don’t want to look back on my A Levels (like I did for GCSE) and think I spent way too much revising, and too little time having a life. I’m also just trying to make the best of exam season – yes, it’s a pain, knowing that I should be revising probably more than I am and naturally it’s a stressful time (not just with exams, with uni/social life/trying to book things for summer/getting ready to leave high school behind) but it’s so temporary. In 2 months I’ll have finished and I’ll be free, so I’m just giving exams my best shot but trying not to damage myself in the process.

The right people will end up in your life – don’t try to hold onto people who don’t want to be there

I’ve not talked about this at all on my blog and I’ve only mentioned it indirectly a few times on twitter but *drum roll please* I’ve had a secret boyfriend for the past 3 and a half years. Or (more accurately now) I’ve had a secret ex-boyfriend. Because we had been together so long, I really struggled when he said he no longer wanted us to be together and looking back on my messages to him in the days (and weeks, tbh) after he broke up with me I was so disappointed, to the point of looking desperate frankly. Partially it was just adapting to being on my own, but more painful was having to face the fact that it’s the end of a big chapter of my life – we’ve both liked each other since we met in year 7 (I’m not joking), started going out in year 9 then broke up around Christmas in 2018, which is a long time of being friends and being together. To not really have either of those things now feels odd and unnatural to be honest. I’ve started to come to terms now with it – I’m fine with being single, I just don’t want to lose him as a friend too, which unfortunately I think is happening but drifting is probably inevitable haha – and again, I’ve realised that wasting my energy wanting people who don’t want me back isn’t the best use of my time. Onwards and upwards! I’m looking forward to meeting some fit English Lit guys at uni 😉

If you fancy someone, tell them

Kind of related, but just go for it. You might lose a tiny little bit of dignity or pride if they say no but hey…is that really such a big deal? In a few years we’ll all be old and we’ll have forgotten all this – you might as well try.

Read as much and as widely as possible

Set as much time as you can aside for friends, family and self growth

I’ve tried to set a rhythm or formula to my life at the moment because with exams coming up every minute is important. 60% of my energy is concentrated on school, and the remaining 40% is focused on friends, family and self-growth (whether that’s a hobby, a new habit you’re trying to implement or doing something to better yourself). Obviously that’s not a hard-and-fast rule and it differs day to day, but I find it helps put into perspective what I’m doing and if I’m spending enough time/too little time on one certain area.

How short life is

It’s so bloody short!!! Do I need to say any more? I’m writing this post at the ripe old age of 18, but I was still in year 5 yesterday, I swear. I can’t comprehend it. Time flies, honestly.

The right decisions are sometimes the hardest to make

And additionally, the right decision doesn’t always feel like the right decision. I know full well that pulling out of my Cambridge interview was the right decision to make, but that didn’t make it any easier. However happy I am at uni, I think I’ll always wonder what my life could have been like, if I had gone to the interview and got a place (which of course is a massive if!!). I think if you can feel in your gut that something isn’t right though, you should trust it, because life has a weird way of working out.

Dreams can easily be goals, and are also not static

Linking on to the topic of Cambridge, last year made me reflect a lot on what I thought was my dream. I realised dreams can change, and can also become goals that are accessible. Since I was about 10 going to Cambridge University was my dream but actually, it was just that – a beautiful dream. A much more realistic dream is going to the University of York and it’s also completely my goal – just 7 exams and AAB in my exams between us 😉

Don’t be embarrassed to tell people about what you love doing

I’m such a big hypocrite for saying that because I love blogging, but I’ve told literally nobody that I do it. I think some people from school have found out but they’ve never mentioned it to me, which I’m perfectly ok with. When I first started, I didn’t tell anyone because we were at the age where doing anything creative or unusual was immediately uncool, which to me at the time was exactly what I didn’t want. Now I just like having a platform that’s completely separate to my school and home life. I’m sure people will find my blog and other social accounts and probably at uni I will be more open about sharing them, but I know that if it came to it now, I wouldn’t be embarrassed to say I blog. I’ve had some amazing things to come from blogging – new friends, nominations for awards and travel inspiration to name just a few! – and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Tie your happiness to places and things instead of people

Because people are unpredictable and can be rubbish, sometimes. However, places can’t let you down, and neither can pizza and chocolate…

I still have a week of my Easter holidays left so I’m going to try and get a few posts prepared for the next few weeks, including my Madrid travel guide. The next 2 months are going to be hectic and I’m going to be stepping up the revision a lot but that’s okay – it’s temporary and it’ll pass so quickly, I know that.

I hope everyone’s ok, and happy Easter!

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.

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

Exploring Den Haag

This post has been a long time in the making: I went to the Netherlands on 27th May, and it’s now late July. Hey ho! Here we go 😝

I’ve been to holland many many times before, although never to Den Haag so it was lovely to explore a completely new place, although I feel that a lot of Holland looks quite similar so in a way, even though I’d never been before, I felt like I knew it.

The streets of the Netherlands all feel so warm and welcoming, and Den Haag’s were no different. In contrast though there seemed to be two quite distinct areas – the modern, businessy side of the city, then the more historic, typically Dutch-style buildings. The Sting’s building (also know an the candy box because of its funky colours!) is home to a really nice shopping centre and if you’re in Den Haag, definitely have a look inside – aside from the clothes (obvs I bought some), it’s spectacular and the roof is a beautiful stained glass dome!

The government buildings were absolutely beautiful too, and what’s really cool is anybody was allowed to meander through. We also stopped off at the Mauritshuis (the yellowish building on the left of the photo right above) which is the current home to The Girl with the Pearl Earring and The Goldfinch paintings – I was so excited to see The Goldfinch after reading the book by Donna Tartt, hence the cheesy grin on my face 😉

On our second day we visited Scheveningen on the coast, which is only a 10 minute tram ride out of the city centre yet had a completely different vibe about it. I can’t begin to stress how hot it was that day and how much of a relief the freezing cold North Sea was (despite the look of slight pain I was enjoying myself, I promise!).

I’d like to think I’ll live in the Netherlands at some point in the future, and I’ve got to say I wouldn’t be too unhappy if I ended up in Den Haag!! Despite it being the 3rd largest city in the Netherlands it felt more like a town in some places, very friendly and welcoming yet brimming with culture and diversity and things to do!

Midlands Trek (pt. 2)

Ok so first of all, clearly I can’t keep promises! I was ready to write this post last night after work, but my friend called me and asked me out so I went and didn’t get back home until quite late. Hey ho, it’s here now, so feast your eyes 👀

On day 4, we were moving on towards Hereford where we were booked into another hotel for two more nights, but on the way my dad wanted to stop off at a town called Ledbury (which I had misheard and kept calling it Lebra haha). We literally had an hour to see the entire town because we could only find car parking for one hour, so we rushed around, saw some cute streets, had some lunch and got back into the car to finish off the journey to Hereford.

When we arrived at Hereford, we quickly unpacked then went to the Cathedral to see the Weeping Window – the tour of the ceramic poppies that were displayed at the Tower of London to commemorate WW1.

The next day, we visited Ludlow after stopping off at some of my family’s house. Ludlow is so pretty and historic; we went through the market and the castle and they were both gorgeous.

We also had a delicious meal in Ludlow at The Church Inn, so if you’re ever near definitely try it there!

After that, we headed back to the hotel for our last night (cry cry :(). The next day, we called in on a few places on the way back home – first of all Shrewsbury.

I feel like I didn’t get enough time in Shrewsbury to do it justice, so I really would like to go back there, but what we did see was beautiful (I also had a slice of lemon drizzle cake which was just 👌)! Everywhere we visited on the trip was really pretty and the weather, for once, played to our advantage as it was quite sunny for most of the days! After we left Shrewsbury, we drove to north Wales to see my grandparents, and then carried on back home, so I think all in all that day we were in the car for about 5-6 hours…fun…:)

Xxx

Midlands Trek (pt. 1)

During the Easter half term holiday (which went so quickly by the way, can you believe we’ve been back at school for a week already?!) I travelled down to the Midlands with my family, and we stayed in Warwick for 3 nights and Hereford for 2. I’ve never been to either place before even though I have family and friends who live down there, so it was a cool experience (and we got to see some pretty views, eat lots of good food and meet kind-of-long-lost-family too, so what’s not to love!)

Our first stop was Kenilworth, mainly to see my mum’s auntie and uncle, but we also went to the castle there. I obviously had to get a few photos for the ‘gram – the first photo, of me with the ‘no climbing’ sign is the most rebellious thing I’ve probably ever done, and I’m not even joking there – and then after we’d been caught in a brief-but-heavy hail storm, we decided to go out for some tea. I have to give a shoutout to Zizzi here – your pinoli pizza is incredible 😍

Day 2 dawned very gloomy which was a bit of a pain, although it didn’t stop us from doing anything – after breakfast, we drove over to Stratford upon Avon to do all the essential touristy Shakespeare attractions which, being an English lit student, I liked a lot. Heheh.

I’m just going to share this Shakespeare conspiracy theory (kind of) that we learned when we went to the church where he’s buried, because it’s so weird that it just has to be true! I can’t remember who it was exactly, but a king or a lord at the time asked Shakespeare to transcribe some of the Bible from Latin to English, because he wanted religion to be more accessible for non-Latin speakers. So he did this, aged 46, and if you look at Psalm 46, the 46th word in is ‘shake’, and the 46th word from the end is ‘spear’! I don’t know how true it is, but I just feel like maybe that’s too much of a coincidence to be completely made up.

After we’d visited the Shakespeare Birthplace (which is arguably way overpriced but if you’re into literature, it’s definitely worth a visit – they have actors who take your requests and launch into spontaneous scenes from his plays, which is incredible!!) we had a hot chocolate and some dinner – I had a sweet potato and feta lasagne which was beautiful. I feel like this post is going to be equally as much about food as the holiday haha…

We had dinner in a little bit of a rush as we had tickets booked for the Swan Theatre that night, to watch a new play called The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich. Again, definitely recommend, but be prepared because the storyline moves so quickly! I think one of the coolest things about it was being able to recognise some of the actors – most have been in programmes like Doctors and Eastenders which I don’t watch, but I still recognised a few of them!

Day 3 now, which consisted of driving to Leamington Spa and exploring there, and visiting the centre of Warwick. My grandad was brought up in Leamington Spa but me, my brother and my dad had never been so we decided to have a look around and, guys!!

They had a Tiger shop!!

Ok, so, Tiger shops are very rare in England, normally I think they’re only in bigger cities, so I was very pleasantly surprised to see one and of course, I had to go in! I restrained myself from buying anything though, which I was proud of myself for (but look at everything! I literally could have bought the entire inventory of the shop 😍)

Literally the most pointless sign ever, but I’ll be disappointed if my future house doesn’t have one similar!

We stayed in Warwick for an hour, visiting the church and just generally having a look around the town, and then we had some dinner and drove back to the hotel.

I’m going to end this post here, even though there are another 3 days of photos and stories to be uploaded. As of late, time management hasn’t been my strongest point – hence why I’m writing this at 9.30pm on a Friday night – but self-care is also important, and a girl needs her sleep 😉 I promise I’ll write the rest of this post tomorrow! I also have some more ideas for posts, so if I sort myself out in time, watch out for those in the next few days.

Xxx

The enchanted forest

It was Mother’s Day on Sunday so my family and I took my mum out to the seaside, primarily just for a walk, chips and a slice of gluten free cake – mine was churros flavoured, and delicious 😋 we went to Redcar and whilst there’s not much to do there normally, during the Beast from the East storms a petrified forest from thousands of years ago had been uncovered on part of the beach which is so so cool!!

It was kind of other-worldly, it felt like we were walking on another planet! The lumps in the ground that you can see are actually tree stumps and barks from this forest, and a shipwrecked boat had also been uncovered, although the tide was too far in when we visited so I unfortunately didn’t get to see it.

It was quite a surreal experience if I’m honest – I never imagined I’d stand on top of an ancient woodland! My mum kept saying it was magical and that it was an ‘enchanted forest’, and I actually really like the sound of that, hence the name of this post 😊