I completed my reading challenge!

Hello from the sick bay!

This is a post I’ve been working on for quite a few weeks. I’m currently wiped out by a chest and kidney infection, but I’m feeling like I’m coming out of the other side now. so I thought I’d update the old blog to stop me dying of boredom. I’m going back to the doctors later on today where they will decide if I need shooting or not.

Anyway. As those of you who know me will know that I love to read. I’ve always loved reading and I’ve spent a lot of time with my head in a book. Every year I set myself a reading challenge on the goodreads app. This year, I decided I wanted to read sixty books. I realise this sounds a lot, but my biggest achievement so far was reading 78 books in 2015, so for me, it seemed manageable.

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Bloody hell, that’s a lot of pages.

2017 was a big year for us, because we got married! In terms of my reading though, this really didn’t help. I found the wedding planning incredibly stressful, and for one of the first times in my life, I found myself unable to read! The wedding was on my mind so much that every time I picked up a book, I’d just stare blankly at the text whilst my brain was tackling seating plans, or a food bill etc.

So there was a few months during the summer when I didn’t read a word. Then, as a wedding gift, my brother Jacob bought us a copy of “The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil” and it was exactly what I needed. Once the wedding dust (confetti?) had settled, I started reading again by tackling some graphic novels, then easing myself back in.

This reading hiatus left me really behind on my challenge, so I told myself “50 pages a day if you’re working, 100 pages a day if it’s a day off” and I got there in the end!

Here’s all the books I read this year. (The ones in bold were my favourites, which I’ve (very briefly) reviewed below the list, and italicised ones were audiobooks).

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  1. The Martian by Andy Weir
  2. My Dear I Wanted To Tell You by Louisa Young
  3. The Girls by Emma Cline
  4. Pretty Iconic by Sali Hughes
  5. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
  6. So Much For That by Lionel Shriver
  7. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
  8. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  9. Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden

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10) Pure by Andrew Miller

11) The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman

12) The Trees by Ali Shaw

13) The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

14) Maus by Art Spiegelman

15) Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

16) A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

17)Rose Madder by Stephen King

18) A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

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19) When The Floods Came by Clare Morrall

20) Like A Queen by Constance Hall

21) Ctrl, Alt Delete: How I Grew Up Online by Emma Gannon

22) The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins

23) How To Understand Israel in Sixty Days or Less by Sarah Glidden

24) The People At Number 9 by Felicity Everett

25) Domina by L.S. Hilton

26)Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J K Rowling

27) Beautiful Bodies by Kimberley Rae Miller

 

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28) The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

29) He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

30) Rough Music by Patrick Gale

31) Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince by J K Rowling

32) The Children Act by Ian McEwan

33) Habibi by Craig Thompson

33) The Power by Naomi Alderman

34) Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets by J K Rowling

35) The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

 

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36) The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

37) Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delise

38) My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

39) The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

40) American Gods by Neil Gaiman

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41) A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman

42) I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

43) The Mandibles: A Family 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver

44) Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

45) How Should A Person Be? by Sheila Heti

46) Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

47) Nutshell by Ian McEwan

48) Wonder by R.J. Palacio

49) The Bricks That Built The Houses by Kate Tempest

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50) The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura

52) Kaleidoscope City – A Year in Varanasi by Piers Moore Ede

53) Wool – The Graphic  Novel by Hugh Howey

54) Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

55) The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

56) Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

57) Black Hole by Charles Burns

58) Leap Year by Helen Russell

59) The Good Children by Roopa Farooki

60) The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff

DONE!

I was interested to see all the books in one place, and see what that says about my reading habits:

I read 37/60 books by women (so 23/60 by men)

I read 47novels and 13 non-fiction books

I read 7 graphic novels

 

This year, I felt I read a lot of “easy” books, and the focus felt more quantity over quality. Next year I’m going to set a challenge of less books so I can hone in on some longer, classic novels.

Here are the books I’d recommend that I’ve read this year:

If you’re looking for the audiobook equivalent of comfort food: Listen to the Harry Potter audiobooks read by Stephen Fry

If you want a true life account that will render your troubles insignificant: Read “Wave” by  Sonali Deraniyagala – written by a woman who lost her family in the Boxing Day tsunami

If you’ve been living under a rock for 27 years like me: Read “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Hilarious.

If you need an easy feel good read: Read “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. It’s just been made into a film too!

If you want a weirdly beautiful book with incredible language and imagery, read: “A Year of Marvellous Ways” by Sarah Winman (Thanks for lending me this Mimi!)

For an intriguing historical novel with a touch of the supernatural: “The Wonder” by Emma Donoghue

If you’re brave enough to have your heart blown into a million pieces (don’t say I didn’t warn you: Try “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara

For a laugh out loud, read: “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris

The best graphic novel: “Maus” by Art Spiegelman

If you want to fall in love with the characters, and then sob at the end: “A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry

For a weepy love story: ‘My Dear I Wanted To Tell You” by Louisa Young

Here is what I did to read more:

Set a goodreads challenge. This is the single thing that motivates me to read the most. For those of you who haven’t come across it, goodreads is a book app. You make a profile, set a challenge and log the books you read. I also really enjoy reading other people’s reviews.

Read what you want to read. This may sound obvious, but to read a lot, you need to read what you enjoy. Don’t force yourself to read anything because you think that’s what you should be reading. This joins onto my next point:

Give yourself permission to ditch rubbish books. I have a fifty page rule: if I’m fifty pages in and I’m still hating a book then I give up and read something else. Life is to short to read shit books (and believe me there are SO many!!!!!!)

Listen to audiobooks. Yes, in my opinion, this still counts as reading. Controversial. Tom doesn’t believe that listening to audiobooks “counts,” but the way I view it, I still know the story, and all the characters, and can discuss the book with someone who has read it.

Always have a book with you. There’s a quote by Lemony Snicket that I feel is a good philosophy for life “Never trust anyone who hasn’t got a book with them.” Similarly, I always feel a little unsettled if I go to someone’s house and they haven’t got any books. Anyway, I digress. Always have a book with you. Those minutes where you arrive early somewhere, or you’re sat on the bus staring at your smartphone can be spent reading instead.

Quit social media: I’ve read SO much more since doing so.

Variety is the spice of life. If I’ve just read a 1000 page literary award-winning piece of literature, I’ll read a trashy page-turner next. Otherwise I get fed up and loose steam.

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Challenge: Learn to sew and make something wearable

Hello!

Okay, it’s Thursday… those of you who read my previous post will know I should have posted this on Monday, but hey, no one’s perfect!

I’ve made a list of 25 challenges, and here’s the first one I’ve managed to do:

Learn to sew, and make something wearable! Drum roll please……

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Ta dah! (excuse dodgy photo – was having a bad face day, but just wanted to prove that it is in fact wearable.)

In half term, I descended upon my mum, demanded sewing lessons and said “right! I’m gonna make a top today, a skirt tomorrow, and a dress on saturday!” Three days later, I realised I’d been a little ambitious and spent around 15 hours making just the one the dress in the end. Ho ho ho.

I learnt quite a few new things. Having my mum there (aka sewing guru) was a massive help when things started going a bit dodgy, or if I reached a point where I didn’t understand what I was doing.

Weirdly, I also found myself being a lot more careful and patient under her watchful eye. When I sew alone, it usually goes wrong because I get frustrated, go really fast and wreck everything!

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Above is our sewing station. My mum was also making a dress, which she did in quadruple speed compared to me. I’ve got a lot of practise to do!

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Here’s the moment when Mishka came to help 🙂

And here’s the end result:

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I’m quite chuffed with my dress, and I wore it to the lovely Polly’s christening, which made it extra special.

Things I’ve learnt whilst making my first dress:

  1. It takes a LOT longer than I’d expected
  2. But it’s a lot quicker than knitting a jumper
  3. Sometimes you need to take a breather and go outside to stop yourself destroying your garment.
  4. You need to use an iron a lot in sewing (eye roll)
  5. Bias binding is a pain in the arse.

Onto the next challenge!

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The habit project

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Greetings earthlings!

It’s getting cold up here in Yorkshire, the windows are damp in the mornings and the cats are permanently attached the radiators (quite literally now they now have magnets on their collars to open their new cat flap. Hilarious.)

Anyway.

As mentioned before, I’ve been reading a book recently called “Better Than Before – mastering the habits of our everyday lives” by Gretchen Rubin. It’s an interesting study in how we form habits, how they stick and how they effect our lives. It got me thinking about my daily habits, and I thought I’d share some habits that I’m currently trying to implement in my routine.

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Morning Routine

  1. Get up early. I can hear my parents guffawing into their cereal over this one. But I read that the best time to implement this is when the clocks go back – perfect! The clocks have just changed, so I’ve been getting up at the usual hour, and getting shit DONE. This is always one of those things that you read in those lists of “habits of successful people” and yes, I may not always be productive during this time, but I certainly feel the benefit of having more of a day.
  2. Read before getting up. As mentioned previously, I may not always be doing stuff in this early time, but I’m getting closer to my goal of reading sixty books in a year. Gulp.
  3. Watch a ted talk whilst I eat breakfast. I used to scroll through Facebook and insta and look at pictures of other people’s breakfasts whilst I ate my morning meal. No more! Now I’m actually learning stuff! I make notes, and feel like I’m doing something amazing, even if I don’t have time to watch the whole thing and finish it the following day. Here are a few of my favourite ted talks: Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are, Your Elusive Creative Genius, and The Power of Introverts
  4. No shower until I’ve exercised. Ha. This one isn’t going that well, but I’m aiming to exercise five days a week, and a good way to encourage this is to not allow myself a shower until I’ve “earnt” it.

 

House Stuff

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  1. Keep the above plant alive. Haha. I bought the above gigantic fern plant… it seemed a suitable size in the shop, but then it just got bigger and bigger! It’s now living at the end of our bath and I am trying to water it once a week and spray it every day with water. I see it as I step out of the shower and I’m reminded to look after it. So far so good.
  2. “Power Hour” a.k.a “Operation Shit Shift” Rubin suggests in her book, that you keep a list of “nagging tasks” i.e. annoying things you need to do and then give yourself an hour or two a week, where you do nothing but power through the tasks. This reminded me of when we were little and my mum used to yell “Operation Shit Shift!” (How HILARIOUS!!) and we all ran around and tidied hahaha. Well, I think this works really well as a messy person, because giving yourself a deadline of an hour for these horrible tasks makes them a lot more doable.
  3. Take an item when leaving a room. Another good tip I’ve found that helps with my incurable messiness is that when I leave a room, I look for something to take with me that needs to be somewhere else. All those dirty mugs now slowly make their way to the kitchen, and Tom no longer exclaims “Have you been making a nest in here?!” when he finds me alone on the sofa.

 

Music

  1. One hour of practice a day. Pah. That’s the sound of my twenty year old self who practised at least three hours a day dying. Anyway. Life gets in the way, and if I don’t make myself practice every day on either instrument, I get really grumpy and I feel useless, and I can’t figure out what’s wrong with me until the lightbulb dings and I go “Ah! More practice!” Music is my meditation. I love playing something so complicated that my brain can’t possibly handle any other thoughts or worries.
  2. Improvisation each week. In terms of my playing, I’ve always been a very sheet music oriented person, it’s just how I learnt. So I’m forcing myself once weekly, out of my comfort zone. I wait until I’m alone in the house and let rip on the piano. Most of it sounds bloody awful, but I reckon it’s really good for my development as a musician.

Learning

  1. Always have a “study book” on the go. As an avid reader of fiction, I now pick out books on topics I’m interested in, or I’ve always wanted to read, (A Brief History of Time. One Day!) and devote a bit of time, where I work through and make notes. This feels amazing as someone who’s been out of the education loop for a while, as it stops me feeling vegetative.
  2. Blog on Mondays. Another “working towards” habit. When I’m not travelling, I find it hard to write. I’m aiming to post once a week here, so I’m trying to get into the habit of working on a post through the week and posting it on Mondays. Let’s see how we go!
  3. Listen to podcasts/audiobooks when doing mundane tasks. This is REVOLUTIONARY. Sometimes being an adult is shit, and you have to clean the bog, do a boringly long drive to work, etc. etc. Now I listen to audiobooks and podcasts, and I no longer feel that time is wasted.

General Annoyances

  1. Identify problems and solve them. Sounds obvious. But I’m forever going “ARGH I NEED A RUBBER!!!” or “WHY IS THERE NO TOILET PAPER” so in a bid to be more organised, I’m now aiming to…
  2. Keep a list of stuff I need. This works really well to prevent overbuying and shopping sprees. Especially now I’m trying to save money to go to India in the summer. I keep a list of groceries, clothes (Steve Jobs turtlenecks and a grey cardigan if you’re interested. You’re not. Okay) etc. that I need on my phone, and then when I’m in the shop, I buy them. Mind-blowing, I know.

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Night time Routine 

  1. Take makeup off earlier. This is a bit of a mundane one but I was always getting ready for bed absolutely knackered then being like FOR FUCKS SAKE I HATE WASHING MAKE UP OFF. Then going to bed grumpy. Well, now once I’ve finished work for the night, I put my pyjamas on, take my make up off, then go and chill out. The when I go to bed I just need to brush my teeth. Much easier.
  2. Write a to-do list for the following day. This is a really good one that I’ve found helps me to sleep. Once I’m settling down for the evening, I write a quick list of things that need to be tackled the next day. This helps my brain to not be overloaded and then I don’t end up lying there for hours thinking about what I need to be doing the following day.

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Ahh. Isn’t autumn incredible?! I took these pics in the woods behind our house. Anyway, I hope some of this has been useful. Until next time,

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May what you touch be touched

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You don’t have to eat tofu.

You don’t have to read the books that people say you should read, or watch the TV shows people think you should be watching.

You don’t have to spend an hour scrolling through someone that you went to school with ten years ago’s holiday photos.

You don’t have to go to a spin class.

You don’t have to explain yourself to anybody.

You don’t have to feel your heart rate rise when you read articles about the tango-haired sex pest who resides in the White House.

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You do have to do your tax return.

You do have to be passionate.

You do have to make something, even if it’s just a big mess or a horrible noise.

You do have to clean the bathroom.

You do have to show up to work on time when you’d rather spend the day watching Netflix and drinking tea.

You do have to get your face in the sun when you’re feeling sad.

You do have to water the plants.

You do have to spend the day doing the things you’d be happy to die doing.

You do have to take in life’s wonders.

You do have to be kind.

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May what you touch be touched.

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A new set of challenges

Hello from a very soggy Sunday morning in Leeds. We are in the middle of “Storm Brian,” which is pretty full on. I’ve been awake since 5am (great Sunday lie in) after waking up from a horrible zombie nightmare. Maybe I need to stop watching The Walking Dead right before  we go to sleep…

Parker is delighted that I’m up so early and has pushed my laptop off me and has started giving me a slightly scratchy massage.

Anyway.

When I first started my blog in 2015, I gave myself something fun to do, and also to write about by setting myself 25 challenges to complete before I was 25. I didn’t really complete them all, but it was good fun. You can click the links to read about when I tried lobster, caviar, and meditated for ten days.

Now I’m picking up my blog again, I’ve decided to give myself a new set of challenges. (With no more fishy business – now I’m a veggie)

Although I’ve just turned 27, I’m sticking with 25 challenges (seems like a more manageable number haha)

Here we go, here are my challenges for the year!

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1- Visit India

2 – Hike one of the three Yorkshire Peaks

3 – Read “Shantaram”

4 – See live comedy

5 – Watch “Gone With The Wind”

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6 – Get a tarot card reading

7 –  Take a language class

8 – Donate 200 things to charity

9 – Spend no money for one week

10 – Go to a pilates class

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11 – Learn to salsa dance

12 – Play piccolo in an orchestra

13 – Learn to sew and make something wearable

14 – Host a dinner party for my friends

15 – Go plastic free for a week

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16 – Try making my own cosmetics

17 – Go Christmas shopping in York

18- Go to Ireland

19- Go to a concert of music from another culture

20- Go vegan for a week

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21- Read sixty books in a year

22- Volunteer to help out with a charitable cause

23- Start drawing again

24- Have a car-free week

25- Do yoga every day for thirty days

So there we have it! I’m excited to get going. How nice to have a list of stuff to fall back on when I’m bored.

I’ll keep you posted with how I get on.

P.S. apologies for the photo overload! These are all photos I took on our visit to Harewood House yesterday where I had my mind blown by the dahlias. I am no longer using instagram, so you can expect a lot of photos making there way on here.

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Read a poem every day

Hello,

This is my 100th blog post! Wow! I’ve been a little (okay incredibly) flakey since we returned from our big trip around the world, but lately I’ve found more time on my hands thanks to my decision to quit social media.

I’ve been reading a book about how we can make and break habits. It’s called “Better Than Before” by Gretchen Rubin.

Usually on a morning, the first thing I’d do would be to grab my iPhone and spend a few minutes trawling through Facebook and Instagram. I felt like this was putting my mind in a bad state for the day, and so, decided to create a new habit to replace social media. I now read a poem as soon as I wake up every day.

I plonk a book of poetry on my bedside table and it’s there awaiting me in the morning, so I don’t have to move or think about it. Also, poems are usually quite short, or you can always flick through until you find a short one, so it doesn’t feel too much of a burden.

I love how I can wake up and feel a bit more inspired than before.

Before setting myself this challenge, I hardly read poetry. I’m now slowly working through my poetry books. This is great for my goodreads reading challenge, where I set myself the challenge of reading 60 books in 2017. I’m currently on book number 44/60, and it’s mid october, so I’ve got to pull my finger out!

I’ll leave you with a poem by Alice Oswald from her collection: “Falling Awake”

A Short Story of Falling

It is the story of the falling rain
to turn into a leaf and fall again
it is the secret of a summer shower
to steal the light and hide it in a flower
and every flower a tiny tributary
that from the ground flows green and momentary
is one of water’s wishes and this tale
hangs in a seed-head smaller than my thumbnail
if only I a passerby could pass
as clear as water through a plume of grass
to find the sunlight hidden at the tip
turning to seed a kind of lifting rain drip
then I might know like water how to balance
the weight of hope against the light of patience
water which is so raw so earthy-strong
and lurks in cast-iron tanks and leaks along
drawn under gravity towards my tongue
to cool and fill the pipe-work of this song
which is the story of the falling rain
that rises to the light and falls again

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On social media detox

Hello there,

It’s been a while.

Life is good in Leeds. I’m sat at the kitchen table. Outside of the window the sky is weirdly yellow and there’s a feeling of anticipation in the air, like something is about to happen.

Anyway, a quick update from over here. Life has settled down to a gently post-wedding/honeymoon monotony. We are happy as clams. A few weeks ago I decided I needed to be more productive, and removing myself from social media felt like a good idea.

Things I have learnt since quitting social media:

  1. There are so many hours in the day. As a self-employed music teacher, I have an unpredictable work schedule. Every day of the week is different, and I often have the off hour here or there which is free. I’d normally busy myself by doing one thing- like the food shop etc. and then the rest would get taken up with scrolling through instagram looking at people I don’t know stood on a beach in a bikini.
  2. I don’t know most people on my Facebook. When I look through my friends list, and think “when was the last time I had a conversation with that person?” I usually can’t answer that question.
  3. Life isn’t meant to be formed in perfect status updates or immaculate photos of your breakfast. I feel liberated now I’m no longer thinking of the way to retell an event online. I actually enjoy my experiences in the moment.
  4. Social media is a form of entertainment that is systematically designed to be addictive. I watched a TED talk that describes exactly how a little “like” of your post gives you a tiny dopamine boost that becomes addictive.
  5. Life begins when you put your phone down. I’ve been astonished how many people you see just walking along the street staring at their phones. It’s like a dystopian novel out there.
  6. You can still communicate with friends when you’re not on Facebook. Initially I was worried I’d stop speaking to my friends, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. I speak to my friends more now that I don’t get daily updates on what they’re doing.

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I’m aiming to stay off Facebook until Christmas. I’ll update you then with how I get on!

Love, peace, and internet-free time,

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Vienna

Hello again from the train! We are en route to Budapest.

I’m really enjoying writing away on these train journeys, it really passes the time. This trip will be about three hours. We paid a bit extra to reserve seats today, and I’m glad we did because the train is mega busy.

Vienna was stunning. We arrived, got the underground to the station nearest our hotel (let’s hear it for my lovely Londoner, although he did start marching at around 100mph with his backpack on as soon as he hit the underground, but he can’t help it. It’s in his blood)

The Flemings Hotel was super swanky. We did have hysterics when we opened the door to our room and found that the shower was in our room. I have no idea why.

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Tom found a walking tour of Vienna online which we followed through the afternoon, stopping at five minute intervals for alcohol and icecream.

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Vienna is definitely the most grand city I have ever been to. All the buildings are incredible. We found a beery restaurant that Tom had been looking for and I had some lovely dumplings.

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(Above is the bar in the restaurant – Tom’s idea of heaven)

We discovered that we are really close to the town hall (rathaus haha) where there is currently a film festival. Here they showed films on a giant outdoor screen every night, and that night they were showing…. a Depeche Mode concert. We don’t know any of their songs but sat and watched a bit of it and soaked up the atmosphere. Then we went back to the hotel and watched “Ex on the Beach” very cultural.

 

The next day we had the most decadent buffet breakfast at the hotel, then went out on the very very sweaty tram to the Belvedere art gallery. There was an awful lot of religious paintings, or as Tom likes to call them “Loads of eye-rolling dickheads floating in clouds and pointing at the sun.”

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But we finally managed to located the Gustav Klimt exhibition which I really enjoyed. I’ve always been fascinated by his work and was really happy to see “The Kiss” in real life. Beautiful. They also had some sections of the “Beethoven Frieze” but it was all split up and not as good as when I saw the whole thing at the Tate Liverpool. I’ve realised that art gallerys are slowly becoming like live concerts when you end up looking at what you’ve come to see through someone else’s iphone. Annoying! But we still had a great time.

We returned to the hotel, then went to a little restaurant across the road and sat in their garden for some food when the heavens opened which was quite funny. More deep-fried cheese for me and a beef goulash for Tom. We are considering an extra stop in Eastern Europe on the way home so we can both have a gastric band fitted!
We then got dressed up smart (or as smart as you can be when your clothes are bundled up in a backpack!) and went to the Mozart concert at the Musikverein, massive thank you to Mimi, Dan, Sam and Natasha for our tickets!

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We entered a wonderfully ornate golden hall, and found our pre-booked seats…. in the second row! We couldn’t believe our luck!
Eventually the orchestra walked on, in traditional Mozart dress, including grey wigs, which was hilarious. Then we got a fit of the giggles at the conductor who was like Borat in a Mozart outfit, and the tenor who had the biggest bum chin I’ve ever seen. We are terrible. It was that silent/shoulder-shaking laughter where you’re digging your nails into your palms and trying so desperately to stop. But we eventually pulled ourselves together and enjoyed the rest of the concert in a sensible manner like the mature adults that we are.

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We went back to the hotel and watched Ex on the Beach in bed (I don’t know why this has become part of our routine but it has!)

On our last day, we walked to the park that’s home to the Vienna’s iconic Reisenrad wheel. Thank you to Tim, Grace and Joe for our tickets for the wheel! We had a nice trip up which gave us some great views of the old and newer sides of Vienna.

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Then we slowly wandered around the park, stopping on benches to people watch then went to a restaurant for lunch. Tom had this gigantic “pork knuckle” thing he’s been lusting over for ages and I had a salad…. and chips.
It was a really hot day. We’ve just been reading about the heatwave “Lucifer” on the news that’s currently hitting Europe, and we can definitely feel it. It’s usually over 35 degrees at the moment, not that I’m complaining!
We went back to the hotel, and then in the evening took a picnic tea back to the Rathaus Film Festival. That evening they were showing “Swan Lake Reloaded,” which I was decidedly dubious about, but it ended up being amazing! It was a screening of a live performance of a contemporary dance version of the Swan Lake ballet. I’ve never seen any contemporary dance before and it just blew me away, I was absolutely riveted. Loved it.

In conclusion, Vienna has been one of my favourite places so far. I love the Austrian people and the food, and the grand city provides an incredible backdrop to the history of Western Classical music.

I shall leave you with a haiku about Vienna from Tom:

Lot of grand buildings

and tasty viener schnitzel

Gustav Klimt woz ere

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Mozart’s Balls

Hello again from the train, this time we are en route from Salzburg to Vienna. Most of the morning has been spent fending off questions about the trains asked by strangers in German. I have always seemed to give off the air of someone who knows where they are/where they are going and I have no idea why.

Anyway, our trip from Venice ran smoothly to begin with. We had two changes, and were congratulating ourselves saying “ooh these train journeys are so easy”…
We arrived in Salzburg train station and couldn’t find the 28 bus recommended by the hotel. We went to the information point, showed the man where we wanted to go on our phones, and he told us to get the 180 bus. The bus driver also confirmed he could take us to our hotel, so we sat down.

30 minutes later we were getting further and further away from Salzburg. We consulted the maps app, and we were literally going off the map. I went to ask the driver, who kept nodding. I had a bad feeling though, so asked if he would be going back to Salzburg, to which he said no. So we decided to get off the bus. It was getting dark. We crossed the road to see the bus times back to Salzburg to discover we’d missed the last one. It was Sunday night, and everything was closed, with no one around. After a bit of tracking around with our backpacks, we found an open Italian restaurant. The staff didn’t speak English. Eventually a couple asked if they could help us. They said “Do you know where you are? You are in Bavaria! We can’t call you a taxi from here, you have to walk back over to the Austrian border and try there.”

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We bemusedly walked until we crossed back over the border to Austria, found an open restaurant where the lovely owner spoke English, booked us a taxi to our hotel and poured us a beer while we waited. The taxi showed up, it was a mercedes and the fanciest taxi I’ve ever been in. 30 minutes later and our wallets 33 euros lighter, we pulled up outside our hotel. The staff were wearing traditional dresses with plaits and leiderhosen, showed us to our room and then we sat in the restaurant, ordered food and drank steins of beer. We could finally laugh. We’ve been lost all over the world but we’ve never ended up in the wrong country before!

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Day 1

The next day we saw our hotel in the light. We’ve been alternating planning the trip, so I booked the Venice hotel, and Tom booked the Salzburg one etc. So I didn’t really know what to expect but our hotel was in the sticks, a traditional building filled with weird objects, and it brews its own beer. Here are some of the weird things…..

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(I like to think of the above as “Muppet Jesus”)

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(The above became the “lucky toad” which we patted when entering and leaving the hotel)

Shout out to Kate, Melody, Fab and Brekke for our hotel stay, we had a wonderfully confusing but entertaining time!

We were filled with dread at the prospect of catching the bus again, but luckily we managed to make it to the centre of Salzburg without any unexpected border crossings. We wandered through the city centre, and paid a visit to the museum of Mozart’s birthplace.

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(Massive thank you to Graham and Mike) I kept getting goosebumps looking at original manuscripts and learning all about Mozart’s early years, it was really interesting. We ate some chocolates called “Mozart’s balls,” which inspired Tom to write another haiku:

Mozart’s Balls

Eating Mozart’s balls
Get on a bus and get lost
Here! Have a schnitzel.
We then got a funicular up to the top of the hill above Salzburg where a big fortress stands. This gave us great views of the city and it was nice to learn all about the medieval castle.

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We had a picnic lunch by the river, then got the bus back to the hotel. That evening we tried the restaurant across the road. We have FINALLY started to use the google translate app. In the past we’d enjoy picking at random from the menu. In the case of Japan, you’d still have no idea what you were eating even when it arrived…. but now I’m veggie I have to be a bit more careful (OMG FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS) anyway, I delightedly ended up with a grilled emmental and salad, and Tom had bratwurst wrapped in bacon with chips.

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Day 2
The next day we decided to have a “lazy day” we were pretty knackered from all the early mornings and travel. We chilled out by the pool, read our kindles.

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and then Tom decided we should walk to the supermarket for lunch. This was a nice idea in theory, but in reality it meant walking for half an hour in 35 degree heat along the motorway passing through lots of industrial parks… not very glam. But we came back with a bag full of beer so that was okay.
We sweated our way back again, then played cards and drank the beer and went back to the restaurant across the way again.

I shall leave you with a closing limerick from Tom.
A couple went into the mountains,
To explore all of Salzburg’s fountains,
After drinking some beer,
It became clear,
That they were really in Bavaria

And also this photo:

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When the moon hits your eyes like a big pizza pie…..

Well hello there!

I am writing this in a Hogwarts Express style train carriage en route from Venice, Italy to Salzburg, Vienna.

Our journey from Leeds to Venice was fairly hellish… we took a silly train to Manchester airport which stopped at every small village possible. Then the flight was delayed, but that didn’t stop them from opening the gate and shepherding a flight’s worth of people into a tiny waiting corridor. Passport check in Venice took over an hour of standing in an unmoving queue (thank god for kindles) we then had to find a boat into the centre of Venice. There was a forty minute wait here whilst I lay on my backpack, mouth completely parched (no shops were open) eating a tea of the digestives I’d shoved in my backpack. It was quite nice in a way. It felt like travelling again. The boat arrived, it was pitch black by this point, and it took 1 hour and 45 minutes until we got to Saint Mark’s square. By this time it was gone midnight and we were exhausted with pounding dehydration headaches, Tom muttering that he was on the brink of drinking his own urine.

Anyway, this ranty bit has been the only bad bit of the trip so far. We walked across Saint Mark’s square, and checked into Hotel Noemi. Thank you so much to James and Nikk for the hotel stay, it was absolutely beautiful!

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Day one

The next day we had a cheese galore breakfast in the hotel, then went to pick up our museum tickets from the Doges Palace. Shout out to my sister-in-law (!) Katie for the museum tickets! We spent a good hour gaping at the ceiling in the Doge’s Palace, then went around Saint Mark’s Bassilica, which was equally lavish.

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The rest of the day was spent in and out of museums, with Tom stopping to browse EVERY SINGLE restaurant menu en route. (This made me laugh after months of him doing this all around Asia, despite the fact that we’d usually just eaten!) Most of the day was spent wandering little side streets, stopping along the way for gelato. Massive thank you to Linsey, Lesley Richard and Scott for keeping us topped up in icecream (lemon, pistachio, tiramisu, chocolate, peanut butter in case you’re wondering) I also ate a meringue covered in dark chocolate that was so big I’ve been put off meringues for a while. We won’t be getting married again soon because there’s no way I’ll get back in that dress haha.
We stumbled across a lovely little canal side restaurant a bit off the beaten track where we had pizza, pasta, prossecco and Aperol Spritz.

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After being slapped with an obscene service charge we found a litre of limoncello in the supermarket for four euros, went back to the hotel and necked the bottle of wedding champagne Tom had popped in his backpack. We found the pub district…. (old habits die hard) and drank a few bevvies whilst people watching by the canal as the sunset. A beautiful first day! Thank you to Meg, Laura and Susie for the Italian cuisine money, we have taken eating and drinking quite seriously!

I’m interrupting this diary for a brief haiku written by my husband:

The sinking city
Made up of water and stones
Quick! Get in your boat

Day two

We got up fairly early and got a vaparetto to this island of Murano, which is famous for its glass-blowing factories. Tom was distinctly unimpressed by the glass shops saying “It’s all quite tacky isn’t it?!” But that didn’t stop me from buying a small glass goldfish in a globe…

We then got back on the boat to Burano, famous for its brightly coloured buildings. It was really beautiful, and great to see in the sun. The last time I came to Venice, it was November (I think) about ten years ago, and the light really does feel different at this time of year.

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It’s most definitely high season, there are HORDES of tourists, but it’s still beautiful. I’d just like to say that there is a special level of hell reserved for the following however:

People who stop suddenly in doorways

People with selfie sticks
People who give wheelie bags to their children

Just no.

In the afternoon, we went back to Venice, and hired a gondola. Special shout out to Leanne and Louie, and also the Bryers’ for their wedding gift. It was an absolute delight. I was concerned that we’d be just bashing into other boats but it was really serene, and so quiet compared to the rest of Venice, and a really great way to see little alleyways and entrances to swanky hotels you can only reach from the water.

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Plus, I didn’t fall in or humiliate myself in any way…. until…

We were walking across a square and I could see the back of a buggy with what I thought was a curly-haired toddler sat in it. I said very loudly “WHO ON EARTH DOES THIS BABY BELONG TO?!” And then passed the buggy to see a curly-haired middle aged woman glaring up at me.
I’m not really sure
A) Why she was sat in a buggy or
B) Why I was so loudly concerned but oh well.

We bought a gigantic four cheese pizza from a takeaway shop and a bottle of bellini and sat dangling our legs by the canal and watched the gondolas go by. I’m not sure why we’re happy as larry like this despite being on our honeymoon… maybe it was getting ripped off a bit the night before, or maybe the backpacker mentality will never leave us! We waddled back to the hotel for a lie down then went back to saint Mark’s square to watch the musicians and devour a final gelato.

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Venice was beautiful, I loved it.

Anyway, i was joking about this train having dementors on it, but there actually is one in our carriage in the form of a miserable old bint dressed head to toe in black who has just bollucked me in Italian for typing too loudly so that’s me over and out. Next stop: Salzburg!

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