travel

6 Similarities Between Madrid & Manchester

Having lived in Manchester for two years, and spent a lot of time there growing up, I would say I know the city quite well. Having lived in Madrid for five months, maybe I know it less so, but it got me to thinking how Manchester and Madrid differ, how they are alike, and what elements they have in common. When it comes down to it, there are a few ways in which the cities are similar to each other, and I thought it’d make an interesting read!

  • Unique, quirky areas: Manchester is renowned for its Northern Quarter, where you can find an edgy vintage shop selling reconditioned denim on one corner, and a cocktail bar selling drinks of all strange concoctions and creations on the opposite. Madrid has areas like this too, such as Lavapiés which is an area made up of mainly immigrants, so if you want to sample some real, authentic and extremely tasty food from differing cultures, this is definitely the place to go. There are also eccentric little cocktail bars here, not unlike the ones in La Latina. You could even take the metro to Tribunal and wander in the surrounding area, where you’ll find amazing street art similar to that of Manchester’s Northern Quarter, and where, most like Manchester, you can find groups of bloggers taking photographs with the oh-so-edgiest of graffitied walls and authentic houses.
  • Football: football is such a big part of Manchester culture. Derby day is horrific for anyone who needs to pass through the city centre, use the metrolink or in fact any of the public transport systems. But theres something uniting and powerful about being apart of a football team, and in Madrid, it’s much the same as Manchester United vs. Manchester City. The city is divided into two: Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid. The city experiences the same excitement and the same anticipation on match days, and it reminds me a lot of Manchester’s love for football.
  • The LGBT community: it makes my heart burst with pride to walk around Manchester and see such support for the LGBT community. It’s common to see stickers/posters and other such materials popped around the city in support of the community, and Manchester is home to one of Britain’s largest ‘Gay Villages’ – Canal Street. I love nights out on Canal Street, and similarly Madrid has Chueca, their equivalent ‘Gay Community.’ The metro station is my favourite thing, clad in all colours of the rainbow. Nights out there seem to rival that of Canal Street, and Madrid’s support and acceptance of the LGBT community is both similar to that of Manchester’s, and also heart-warming.
  • The student atmosphere: Manchester is home to six universities, plus more subject-specific college centres, and so the city is absolutely full of students. Being an undergraduate student at the University of Manchester, I can fully comply with the thousands of articles that brand Manchester as the best UK student city, the atmosphere is incredible, and also very comfortable for young people moving away from home for study. Madrid is home to at least 15 universities, some of them international, public, private: there is such a huge range. Like Manchester, the city is full of students, and gives off the same exciting, comfortable feel for both home and international students. There’s nothing quite like it.
  • Shopping: one thing I adore about Manchester? The shopping. The Trafford Centre is my saviour – it has everything I need, in one place. It even has cocktail bars, and a place to eat sushi. Literally, what more could I ask for? Aside from The Trafford Centre, Manchester city centre is unreal too: the Arndale has a Topshop superstore, and besides that, there is a huge, 5-floor Selfridges too. You couldn’t want for anything in Manchester, because everything you’ll need is there! Madrid is much the same, from Fuencarral and Gran Vía to The Style Outlets and Plaza Norte in northern Madrid, you really cannot ask for much more. Madrid is home to one of the biggest Primark superstores in Europe, and on the opposite end of the scale, you can find boutiques with handmade clothes tucked away in the streets of Tribunal. Like I said, everything you could need.
  • Food: Manchester is home to some of the most amazing food places: from Almost Famous to Home Sweet Home, from Rosso to Panama Hatty’s, whatever type of cuisine you’re looking for, Manchester has something for everyone! Madrid is much the same, as previously mentioned, Lavapiés is home to some amazing Indian restaurants, amongst other amazing cuisines. If it’s traditional, authentic Spanish tapas you’re after: visit Tribunal. And if you’re looking for a tasty brunch on a Sunday morning, Federal has eggs benedict that is worthy of rivalling that of Manchester’s Moose Coffee. You won’t be disappointed!

Disclaimer: all images, if not my own, are taken from weheartit.

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books

5 Great Books I Recently Read #2

  1. The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan: The structure of this book is something which caught my eye and part of the reason I picked it up. Written from the point of views of various students, this book is an insight into the world of high school, and an insight into the minds of the modern adolescent. Being a modern adolescent myself (although I could technically be classed as an fully grown adult now, sob!), I found the book relatable. I found the description of the high school atmosphere nostalgic: the gossip, the friendships, the arguments. It’s a book that discusses the struggles of high school but isn’t a book that dismisses them, Levithan conveys the importance and struggles of young people, and for this I think the book is brilliant.

  2. If I Stay by Gayle Foreman: I had high hopes for this book, as I’ve wanted to read it for a long time; I wasn’t let down! Truth be told, I wanted to read this book in desire for wanting to watch the film. I hate watching films that are based on a book, without reading the book, is that just me? So I picked up a used copy from a charity shop, and I loved it! The style of writing and the plot very much reminded me of ‘The Lovely Bones,’ which is a book that I’ve read over 20 times, (if you have never read this book, I highly recommend it, its super special to me!). The character development in this book is really good, and the story too is gripping. Would highly recommend!
  3. After You by Jojo Moyes: I’ll start by saying the obvious: it wasn’t as good as the first book. But I really don’t hold it against Moyes, ‘Me Before You’ was a masterpiece, and super hard to follow, and for all other soppy romance novel lovers like me, I think you’d all agree that a sequel wasn’t even really needed to this book. I say that with the greatest of intentions, because ‘After You’ was still a brilliant book. I still found myself encapsulated in the lives of the characters, which seems to be something that Moyes does really well. While I think a sequel wasn’t wholly necessary, I simultaneously think that Moyes rounded off the story of Louisa Clark’s life really well, and I’m super glad I read this book.
  4. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini: Okay, so this book was a little out of my comfort zone, I’m known for reading either as many tear-jerking, soppy romance novels as I can get my hands on, or a classic, a book from years ago which is studied in English Literature classes all over the world. But I decided to pick up this book because I’d heard it was highly acclaimed and praised as being a masterpiece. The praise wasn’t wrong, I read this in a day, and I found myself completely attached to Craig! It reminded me of ‘Girl, Interrupted’ a little bit, which is one of my favourite books and films. I liked how Vizzini took a taboo subject, and made it relatable, he wrote about suicide in such a way that it took away the fear of asking for help, as Craig did – a review on the cover of my copy says ‘this is an important book,’ and for my generation, and generations to come: it truly is.
  5. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: this book gives me vibes of ‘The Virgin Suicides’, in that the style of writing seems to be voyeuristic like that of Jeffrey Eugenides, the book is confined to one space, and we see the unfolding of events through the eyes of Cadence. The thing about this book was that it was a short read, but it was a read that had me turning page after page until an hour later, I was done. I couldn’t put it down. By the end of the novel, my jaw had hit the floor! The ending was completely unexpected! Giving an insight into both the world and the prejudice of the rich, this book truly transports you.

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travel

The Barcelona Diaries | Part Five: Park Güell

Today I post the fifth and final part of The Barcelona Diaries, and I’m even a little sad that they are over! I had the greatest time in Barcelona, even though at this point in June, my holiday to Barcelona was a little under 3 months ago! I have definitely saved the best for last, as this place was not only my favourite place that I visited in Barcelona, but possibly in the world. The beauty of Park Güell is as undeniable as the beauty of La Sagrada Família: Gaudí is a genius. I absolutely fell in love with his architecture at this point, and his style and technique was consistent with the artistic elements of La Sagrada Família.

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If you are planning on going to Park Güell, you should note that the nature reserve part of the park is open, and free to the public, but should you want to enter the central reservation of the park which contains Gaudí‘s architecture, you need to buy a ticket. You should book them in advance, online as it is quicker and easier, and much like the Sagrada Família, it saves a lot of waiting time. The ticket cost around €7 per person, and if you show your email confirmation when you arrived you will be permitted entrance. It should be noted that only 400 people are permitted into the park at a time, and so with each ticket you are given a half an hour window to enter the park (the timings are your choice).

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books

It by Alexa Chung

When Alex Chung released ‘It,’ I was sceptical. Curious, but sceptical. I adore her, I think her gamine figure and androgynous style make the perfect combination, and should I ever ask for anyone’s face other than my own, it would be hers. But what could she possibly write about? Fashion? But how would her book differ from any of the other coffee table books you can find sitting at the back of your local Urban Outfitters? I was doing what we are always taught not to do: judging a book by it’s cover. I also understand that I am very late to the party with this one, but I finally took the leap (years later) and purchased the book.

So here I am; eating my words, if you’ll pardon the (extremely bad) pun, because the book was amazing. A brief, but significant read. Alexa takes us through a list of her favourite things, her wardrobe staples, her thoughts, snippets of her childhood. Whilst learning about her, we also learn of her development: how she became who she is today. I love her mocking tone of the model industry that centres around size 0 women, I love her positive attitude toward heartbreak and how one day, it will be overcome. I love her listing of essential wardrobe pieces, and I too find myself sharing her penchant for leather jackets and admiration for Jane Birkin. I earlier referred to the book as a ‘coffee table book’ and I say this with the best of intentions: the images are gorgeous. From doodles from Alexa herself, to 90’s photographs of the Spice Girls.

She speaks of everything in the book with a happy heart, a positive attitude and it was a breath of fresh air to read. From lists of movie stars and music artists that inspired her, to lessons her mother taught her during childhood, Alexa’s life and thoughts make for an interesting read. My favourite page in particular was the one in which she described her grandfather, and his eccentric style. I loved how she fondly reflected on memories of his whacky shirts and jumpers gifted to him at Christmas that would always be left unworn, as he had a particular way he liked to dress. Memories such as these make her, and the book itself,  more relatable. My scepticism was misplaced, and she completely disrupts the model stereotype in that she is an ordinary, everyday girl. And it seems that this, in turn, is what makes her extraordinary. Not only did I fall in love with Alexa Chung’s book, I too, fell in love with Alexa Chung.

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thoughts · travel

Travelling, Wanderlust & Bucket Lists

wanderlust
ˈwɒndəlʌst/
noun
1.  a strong desire to travel.
“a man consumed by wanderlust”

Being a 21 year old with the prospect of graduation fast approaching, my ‘goals’ and ‘aims’ have been on my mind recently. What do I want to do? Where do I see myself in 5 years? I have considered so many options: masters degrees, translation school, another Erasmus placement. But the one thing that I cannot get out of my mind? Travel. Spending a year abroad has given me the bug, the addiction, I’m in possession of Wanderlust. I have spent the last nine months hopping on and off planes, trains, buses and exploring as many Spanish and Portuguese cities as I can. Collecting post cards from each place, breaking through language barriers and finding myself lost in the most quintessentially Spanish/Portuguese streets. While I haven’t travelled too far, I haven’t even left Europe, its still given me the desire to take the leap and travel as far as I can. My bucket list has expanded hugely. Now I’m considering interrailing, volunteer work and even just saving as much as I can and hopping on and off planes for as long as I can afford.

Don’t get me wrong, I still want to complete a Masters Degree, I still want to continue studying. But I want to squeeze in as much traveling as I possibly can. My bucket list has expanded greatly, and now I find myself dreaming of visiting every country possible, every continent possible and ticking off as many landmarks as possible. I recently read a quote which said ‘travel is the only thing you can buy which makes you richer.’ I really believe this is true because I’ve gained so much just from visiting different Spanish and Portuguese cities: knowledge, history, culture, language. There’s nothing more rewarding than being able to communicate in a tongue other than your own. I guess what I’m trying to convey in this post, is that I have fallen in love with traveling! With seeing the world, and while as a young adult, I’m expected to have a direct, specific plan for forseeable future, the only thing I know I definitely want to do is discover more of what lies beyond.

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travel

The Barcelona Diaries | Part Four: Sunset

Part Four of the Barcelona Diaries surrounds a time of day, rather than a place, because I’ve never seen more beautiful sunsets than I did there. The sky was almost a milky-lilac colour and I loved it, and as the sun was just about to drop it turned the deepest of blue. I generally watched the sun set on Barceloneta beach or at Port Vell: two amazing places for anyone who is planning on going to the city. There is not much else to say for this entry, I shall let the photographs speak for themselves!

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books · language

El Tiempo, Todo, Locura by Mónica Carrillo

Wanting to delve into the world of Spanish poetry, preferably more modern than the usual Pablo Neruda I’m used to reading, I saw this beautiful book in a bookstore in Madrid and had to pick it up. While I’m not sure you could categorise this book as ‘poetry,’ it’s certainly thought-evoking and conveying of emotions. Carrillo describes the entries in this 431 page novel as ‘microcuentos‘ which directly translates as ‘micro accounts,’ but more naturally I would say snippets – short insights into her thoughts, her experiences, her musings.

‘Te quise como si no me fueras a romper el corazón’

 

The book is split into three equal parts, which are all separated by the title – el tiempo (time), todo (everything/all), locura (insanity). The musings seem to depict her battle between heart and head, of wanting but at the same time not wanting someone, it’s full of contradictions, juxtapositions – but that’s the beauty of it. It leaves double meanings, it’s confusing but clear at the same time. Her self conflictio, the separation of her head and her heart, while confounding, is relatable.

‘Y, al final, la espera fue el fin’

The book itself is absolutely gorgeous, a hardback complete with covering sheet and two silk bookmarks attached. My copy is looking a little bit worse for wear after taking it on the metro with me during commutes to the city – yes, I really did carry that huge book around with me. It was definitely worth it, and my Spanish has radically improved after reading it.

For those who don’t speak Spanish, I thought I would just leave a couple of my favourite snippets from the book, alongside my translations of them, so you can get a feel for the book and what I’m trying to convey in this post. Please note, I’m not a native speaker and my translations may not be 100% correct!

(213): ‘Olvidé que para quererte bien tenía que enamorarme de mí antes’ / ‘I forgot that to love you well, I had to fall in love with myself first.’
(225): ‘Ella tenía tantos defectos que le parecía perfecta, él era tan imperfecto que no resultó defectuoso, perfectamente imperfectos’ / ‘She had so many flaws that she seemed perfect, he was so imperfect that he wasn’t imperfect, perfectly imperfect.’
(293): ‘Qué culpa tendrá mi corazón si no esta bien de la cabeza‘ / ‘How guilty my heart will be if it is not right in my head.’
(315): ‘Te quise, creer, te quise, querer, y de tanto que te quise, olvidé quererme
hasta que me quise, y olvidé quererte‘ / ‘I loved you, believe, I loved you, want, and I loved you so much, I forgot to love me, until i did love me, and I forgot to love you.’
(341): ‘Contigo tuve el superpoder de enredarme en mil pensamientos y el defecto de no saber desanudarlos‘ / ‘With you I had the superpower of being tangled in a thousand thoughts and the problem was that I didn’t know how to untie them.’

‘Te eché de menos cada día de más’

Below are a couple of photographs of snippets from my copy, which I also love. You can see the shortness of them, and often the senseless locura of them, but in this way, they gain meaning:

 

‘Y llegó la temporada de tormentas, y mi tormento, tú’

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travel

The Barcelona Diaries | Part Three: El Barrio Gótico

Being that we were staying in the Gothic Quarter, it was the first place we explored in Barcelona, and so with part three of The Barcelona Diaries comes my photographs of the gorgeous medieval streets of El Barrio Gótico. It was an absolutely gorgeous place to stay, and I would definitely recommend it to anybody who is planning on going to Barcelona. Aside from the gorgeous, stony alley ways of the barrio and the high stone walls of the cathedral, the Gothic Quarter has many authentic tapas, cocktail and wine bars to offer. You can find small trinket shops selling banal souvenirs, but also edgier places such as vegan deli cafes and juice bars. It’s one of the areas of Barcelona with the most character, and hopefully my photographs convey this.

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books

The Magic of Khaled Hosseini

After hearing so much about The Kite Runner, I thought it was finally time to pick up the book and give it a read. I did it on a complete whim, hoping that it’d be a good book, and in the end I was absolutely blown away. It lead to me researching his other books, and hunting them out in any bookstore I ended up passing by. In the end, I finished all three of his most famous novels, and absolutely fell in love. I couldn’t help but write a blog post about it.

‘I suspect the truth is that we are waiting, all of us, against insurmountable odds, for something extraordinary to happen to us’
– And The Mountains Echoed

The Kite Runner
My flat mate picked up this book on a complete whim, from an outlet bookstore near our house. We wanted to read something and this seemed like the most appealing book in the English language section: what an understatement. From start to finish, this book was a page turner. I couldn’t put it down, and even when I had put it down for a break, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I cannot relate to the context of the book: Afghanistan, 1963 is where the book begins. The book spans from 1963-2001 and crosses 3 countries: Afghanistan, USA and Pakistan (briefly). Yet somehow, the book made me feel like I’d visited these countries, I felt like I was truly there with the characters. Speaking of which; the character development in this book is unreal. I started the book by taking a disliking to Amir, for his cowardice and for his jealousy of Hassan, but by the end I found myself strangely attached to him. In fact, I formed an attachment to most of the characters, even characters with less of an importance, such as Farid. The book evoked so many emotions in me, I laughed, I cried and most importantly the story stayed with me for weeks after putting the book down.

‘One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.’
A Thousand Splendid Suns

And The Mountains Echoed
I read this after The Kite Runner, and so had some very high expectations, and I was definitely not disappointed. The book is like a cycle, it spans a lifetime – the lives of Abdullah and Pari. The attachment I felt to these characters was unreal, and I felt like I spent the entire book waiting for them to meet again. The book tells the stories of fragments of different characters lives, stand-alone chapters if you like, and with each chapter comes something new. As fast as you become accustomed to the characters, they change with the coming chapter, and each becomes a part of the jigsaw puzzle. Much like The Kite Runner, this book transports you from your settings, whether that be to Afghanistan with Nabi, Paris with Pari or America with Abdullah and his daughter. It truly is a book that you can get lost in. The thing I like about this book, which is too similar to The Kite Runner and seems concurrent in all of Hosseini’s work, is that the characters are not perfect. Much like the shame of Amir in The Kite Runner at having ignored the tragedy that happened to Hassan, in this book Abdullah’s daughter, Pari, expresses her desire to leave her father and spread her wings even though he is ill: she isn’t perfect. But it is these flaws that make the characters so relatable, loveable almost. In all, I fell in love with not only the book but each and every character.

‘For you, a thousand times over’
– The Kite Runner

A Thousand Splendid Suns
Arguably, this is my favourite one. I definitely saved the best one for last, it took me little under 48 hours to finish this book and I absolutely fell in love with it. You can really see Hosseini’s skill and expertise in his writing here, with the way in which he constructs their characters and takes their stories through time. I think I enjoyed this book more than the others, because the two main characters are female. I felt they were more relatable, but at the same time, I learnt so much about gender roles in Afghanistan through these two women, and also much about their culture. I learnt a lot more from this book than the others: there were many historical references, and cultural references too. This was definitely a tearjerker, the book is split into different parts, and at the end of each part I held in suspense, wanting to move onto the next part as soon as possible! This was definitely a page turner, and a book which I quickly grew really attached to.

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