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!

The ultimate summer bucket list

I have precisely 6 more lessons until summer, but sadly they’re spread out over 3 days…ugh, nearly there!

To get into the summery vibe well and truly (I say that as if I’m not already haha, I’ve literally done no school work this past week since my mocks have finished!), I thought I’d write all the things I’d like to do this summer – my purse may not allow everything haha, but hopefully I’ll achieve a lot.

  • Book tickets for a concert
  • Read 50 pages of a book per day (at least!)
  • Rebrand my blog (ooooh, exciting!)
  • Go book thrifting
  • Go alpaca trekking!!!
  • Write my English language coursework (fun fun fun)
  • Get started on English lit coursework as well as geography (again, fun!)
  • Explore towns and cities nearby
  • Go on trains!
  • Plan an interrailing route
  • Try at least one new food
  • Run more
  • Start drawing again, especially mandalas and portraits
  • Go shopping for clothes
  • Have a huge clear out of stuff (I’ve come to the realisation that I am actually a hoarder)
  • Try at least one new cafe
  • Visit at least one new place
  • Buy some posters for my wall
  • Get up early enough to see the sunrise
  • Learn Spanish again
  • Write blog posts every other day (let’s see how that goes!)
  • Do some baking
  • If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen (or will soon see) that I’m temporarily deactivating my account. I feel like Instagram has changed and I’ve not completely adapted to this new version; I’m not drawing as much as I used to, which is what I used to feature mainly on my account and so I’m struggling for photos; I’ve lost so many followers in the last couple of days because of the stupid algorithm and I’m just generally not enjoying posting. I’ll probably only be gone a couple of weeks, just so that I can get back into the zone, but I’ll be focusing much more on my blog and twitter (hint hint: if you want to keep up with me, follow me on here and on my twitter!)
  • 12 things I’ve learned in Year 12

    I think some apologies are in order.

    I haven’t posted in what feels like about a month – it may be more to be honest – because I’ve had one of the busiest months in the history of humankind. Ever. But it’s nearly summer, my hectic few weeks have died down and so I have some time to write at long last!

    Since the school year is winding down (finally!! I need a break) bringing my first year of sixth form to a close, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned from it: academia aside, I’ve learned a heck of a lot.

    1. Your friendship group will change so much.

    If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know that around the end of year 11 I had a few friendship issues so naturally I was apprehensive about starting sixth form with really, only good acquaintances instead of a group of best friends. I was also worried about who would be in all my new classes, and whether I’d be able to fit into a group – I can only speak from my experiences at my school, but there were definitely some very defined cliques in my year, and if you weren’t originally part of them it was kind of hard to be accepted. However, a lot of the silly childish pettiness of year 11 diminishes and actually people are a lot more willing to make friends with each other – I’ve become part of a completely new group of friends and I hardly see or speak to the people I thought I was friends with in Year 11 (wow how snakey does that sound!?)

    2. It will go SO quickly.

    My teachers kept telling us this at the start of the year and I didn’t believe them to be honest – I thought with the increased workload it would drag! But they were so right; it feels like it should still be about February time!! I’d say to just enjoy every day as it comes because even though some do drag, the first year will fly by.

    3. A lot of the pettiness and judginess will have gone.

    From my year 11 class of around 250 students, only around 120 have stayed for our sixth form (some went to colleges, some went to other sixth forms etc). You’ll find that it’s mainly the mature and sensible people who’ll stay which makes it a nice environment to be in, and it’s a lot less judgemental than year 11 – people now are more like “hey, whatever, you know, she wants to wear that, let her wear it” if you get me?! Everybody seems to accept each other a little bit more, which is SUCH a relief, let me tell you!

    4. Start your uni application early!!!!

    Trust me, your teachers will start talking about university on the very first day, but if you actually take some notice of that (I didn’t haha, big mistake) you’ll find the whole UCAS process much easier. Yes, there’s a limit to how much you can do in preparation – it depends on when your school gets the UCAS buzzword sorted, for starters – but start researching early and begin your personal statement ASAP. As well, for some unis (especially for competitive courses or Russell Group unis) you need to have work experience before a uni will even consider your application, so get going! I’m currently in the slightly sticky situation of knowing exactly where and what I’m applying to, but I haven’t even started my personal statement…😅 I’d say try to get a first draft done in May or June time and then you know you’re on the way to getting sorted.

    5. Another thing every teacher will tell you – organisation is key!

    I have a few quite simple (I think) tricks that’ll hopefully help you to stay organised:

    • colour code your folders – I have 2 folders for each subject, one for my notes in school and one for revision and past papers, and each subject has a specific colour. This makes it so easy to grab a folder when I’m late (often) and saves me getting confused.

    • Have a completely separate notebook to record all of your homework and other deadlines in – then you know exactly where everything is written down.

    • When revising, start early; there’s more to get through than you first realise! Also make plans of exactly what you’re going to revise and when, because then you see the full extent of what you need to do, and you’re able to plan it around your days.

    6. Classes are small, but that doesn’t mean they’re not fun!

    During the summer after my GCSEs I had this terrifying thought that all of the fun people would have left and so lessons would be really boring. This isn’t the case at all! Class sizes are a lot smaller (or they are at my school, at least), but we still laugh and joke around, it’s not just work, work, work.

    7. Revise what you’re learning as you’re learning it

    That sounds a little bit paradoxical, even to me as the writer…but as you learn things in class, make your notes, ensure you understand the concepts, make flash cards etc as you go. It will make revising for mocks or the actual exams a lot easier, because you’ll just have to remind yourself of the content instead of learn it for the first time.

    8. The academic jump isn’t as terrifying as everyone makes out.

    Honestly, it’s not! I’d heard horror stories of people who’d got all A*s at GCSE failing each and every one of their A Levels…it’s not true! There is, admittedly, a jump – but that’s expected! From my own personal experience, I haven’t found that the content itself is much more difficult, the issue is there’s just so much more of it, although I think that’s quite a subject-dependent view: a lot of my friends take maths a level (they’re the complete opposite to me, haha) and it just looks like a foreign language, IMHO. Some subjects (I’m thinking STEM subjects particularly) will have more of a step-up in the academic level, whereas some, like English, will just have pages worth of content (pun intended!). Nevertheless, don’t let that put you off – you have free periods, remember, and teachers know that you have other commitments too.

    9. Punch hole reinforces will change your life

    I’ve got to give my mum some credit for introducing me to these, because otherwise my folders would have been in a right state! They’re basically small vinyl circles (a little bit like sellotape) that you stick around the holes in refill pads to make them stronger and they’ve saved me and my notes so many times!

    10. You become a lot more aware of what you can do.

    In Year 11 I definitely thought I’d be the stereotypical head girl next year, volunteering 3 days a week, running the school newspaper, working 8 hours each weekend and doing charity work whilst simultaneously getting all a*s – you know, that girl haha – but sixth form really teaches you how to prioritise and not to bite off more than you can chew (and actually, I don’t do a single one of the things I thought I would!) yes, the social life/fun stuff of sixth form is great, like the opportunity of running clubs for lower years etc, but at the end of the day you go to school to learn and eventually pass exams, and they should be the priority. By no means am I saying ‘do nothing but work’, but you learn pretty quickly that actually, A Levels are time consuming and you need time off too, so you’re not going to be able to fit everything in – don’t aim to be doing every single extra-curricular activity going!!

    11. Read around.

    This is one of the phrases that teachers will say repeatedly, throughout your entire time at sixth form, so you might as well concede to what they’re saying early as it is quite helpful! For each subject you’ll probably have a textbook that your teacher/school recommends, but maybe also buy another or borrow a different book from the library so that you have multiple resources to reference in your notes. It also really helps if you don’t quite grasp something – often, if you read it written in a different way it’ll just click instantly (lol this has happened loads to me with geography)

    12. You will honestly have such a good time.

    Enjoy it; I know sometimes it’ll be a bit of a drag, but you’ll look back and think that it’s been amazing. I only have one year left and I’m already dreading leaving.

    The book club: April and May

    It’s been a while, hasn’t it?!

    Over the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling kind of swamped in school work – we have mock exams coming up at the beginning of July, which I know sounds like ages away, but I have a fair few uni open days, school trips and a 5-night holiday to contend with, so I don’t feel like I’m going to have a lot of time to prepare! Plus, these mocks contribute to our predicted grades, which could affect which universities will offer a place – eeeekk…

    Anyway, one of my favourite forms of procrastination is reading and so talking about reading felt like another equally enjoyable way to put off the mounds of revision I should be doing – so here I am! I didn’t post a Book Club post last month because I was in the middle of a book, and I hadn’t read much that month anyway; from now on though I think I’m going to do two-monthly posts as they’re just more substantial, ya know!?

    I’ve enjoyed some r e a l l y good books recently, including The Picture of Dorian Gray. I want to read more classics and I thought this was a good place to start, as it’s an A-Level text in some schools (although not mine) so I figured it’d be a challenge but still something to read just for pleasure. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did to be honest! The philosophical, poetic monologues throughout are so beautiful and I just found the plot really gripping – I’m hoping to actually be able to use it for my English lit coursework too (but I’ll explain more about that in a while.)

    The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: I have to say, I didn’t like this much as I thought I would – not because of the story (even though really, it’s not a story, it used to be real life) or the characters, but simply because it took me a while to get into. I don’t know about you but I like to always start a book when I know I’ve got an hour or two to really get into it, but unfortunately I didn’t have that with The Underground Railroad so I just didn’t feel as connected to it as I do with other plots. Nevertheless, it was a good, yet harrowing, read, and I definitely recommend; in the not-too-distant-future, I’m going to have another read of this because I felt that I really didn’t do it justice.

    Girl, Missing by Sophie McKenzie was my favourite book when I was about 9 or 10 and I found the series on my bookshelf when I was tidying it the other day (it’s got to that point where I have to get rid of some books to make room for my new ones 😫). Since I haven’t read any of the series in about 6 years, I thought I’d take a trip down memory lane and reread them, and even though the font size is huge and the plot is now incredibly predictable, it was still interesting, and even more so to see how far my reading and book choice has progressed in a few years!!

    For my English lit coursework, we have to write a 3000-word essay comparing The Great Gatsby to another book, so I think I’ll probably choose The Picture of Dorian Gray although that’s not definite. I loveloveloved The Great Gatsby (and the film’s pretty good too, made 10 times better by the fact Leonardo DiCaprio stars in it 😍)

    One of Us is Lying is a relatively new book I believe, I think it was only published either last year or the year before, and to be honest, I haven’t heard much about it – but honestly, if you haven’t read it, you need to! It was the perfect escapist read: a YA thriller/mystery in which a boy dies from being poisoned by peanut oil in detention. The spiralling events are so clever and detailed and I really loved how information is slowly drip-fed through to you buy the 4 different narrators; a must read!

    And finally, I’m currently reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – I don’t have too much to say about it so far as I’ve only really just started it, although I have immediately warmed to Eleanor. I’ve seen a lot about this book particularly on Instagram so I’m hoping it lives up to the hype, but so far so good 😉

    I’m going on holiday to the Netherlands tomorrow so my posting, if existent, will be sporadic – but let me know, either in the comments here or on my instagram, would you prefer to see an Ode to My Younger Self or a Skincare Routine post? I hope things are good with you, sending my love as always! Xxx

    Talking: books.

    The only thing better than reading a book is talking about that book with somebody who loves books equally as much as you! And recently, I’ve had the pleasure to talk to Eleanor, from eleanorclaudie.com, and the lovely M, from cadmiumxred.

    I didn’t write my book club post last month for April, simply because I was in the middle of a book and I didn’t know whether to include it or not, so later on this month/early next month I’m going to write a combined April + May post. I finished The Picture of Dorian Gray and have since recommended it to everyone, M included – and although she hasn’t read it, I can forgive her, since she said “I’ve been obsessed with theatre plays lately, especially Shakespeare’s work! I find just find his way with words fascinating!! I’ve read a Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet.” Me and you both 😉❤️

    Now, I’m not one to gravitate towards a non-fiction book to read in leisure time – sure, I will read some, but I just prefer a good story to delve in to! Saying that though, Eleanor definitely persuaded me to have a look for When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi “because it was so inspiring and touching and I could’ve cried at various points in the novel”. I’m a weepy person anyway so I’m not quiiite sure if I can face the emotional trauma reading this autobiography will bring, but maybe one day I’ll have a grip on my emotions and decide to face it. As a plot though, it sounds truly moving and devastating yet inspirational.

    Fun fact: there are around 134 million books in the world (I bet Gutenberg never thought his idea would take hold like it has done haha). It can be a little overwhelming to decide what to read next, or at least it is for me, but recently I’ve found that YouTube is a good place to start – and Eleanor has too! “Estee Lalonde recommended ‘A Little Life’ on her YouTube channel a while ago so I really want to read that [and] Ariel Blisset (❤️ her) recommended All We Shall Know”. I personally want to read some of Sunbeams Jess’s recommendations, although a lot are quite text-heavy so I’ll save them until summer, when I have unlimited time!

    From our conversations, a few other book recommendations came up which I’ll list here if you’re stuck on what to read – I’ve got my to-read list updated already, hehe 😊

    — Fahrenheit 451: What I love about F451 is how deep it is even though the story is simple, it’s very philosophical! – M

    — The Underground Railroad

    — Leviathan: because Thomas Hobbes is a political philosopher that we look at for the Stuart’s in history. – Eleanor

    — If This Is A Man: I think I’m going to read a few more history books during the summer for my uni application such as if this is a man by Primo Levi (it’s about someone who survives the holocaust). – Eleanor

    — Frankenstein

    A big thank you to both M and Eleanor for talking books with me, and if you have any time, check out their blogs (they’re both very very cool people!)

    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