Not again…

Unfortunately, yes again.

I have neglected this blog for what seems like forever. Before I spoke of life getting busy but I had no idea what was in store for me.

Busy is the one adjective that describes my life adequately at all times. 2017 brought happy, ecstatic, tired, stressed, ill and also lots and lots of sad too. I am a completely different person now than I was at the beginning of last year. Probably a better person (read: more grown-up if I’m honest) but I still prefer last year me.

I’ve dealt with some sad situations that I never saw myself dealing with, ones we are never taught to deal with. I live with a little extra prickle of sadness in my heart regarding one in particular that I hope will fade within a few years as I learn to move on. This is really where I’ve grown as a person- coping with the fact that life does have to end. (Wow! Look who has a bit of an answer to her grief post, which you can read here!)

As a result of said sadness, I really have become a bit of a bundle of paranoia about the safety of my loved ones. It is starting to be all-consuming at times so I have got to be more on top of stopping it. It helps nobody.

I’m learning to deal with levels of stress that I’ve never quite had before as well as learning to live on a lot less sleep at times. No, I haven’t had a baby. Yes, I would happily take that as an alternative sometimes.

Socially I’m learning to balance myself with new people which is a little but fun but mostly makes me feel nervous and anxious about whether I’m doing ‘the right thing’. It has resulted in me zoning out a little bit more than I’d like to in social situations which is just frustrating more than anything else, but I’m on a mission to change that. I still have my ‘old people’ and spending time with them is the most incredible, healing thing that I can do.

Within the craziness there have been some ridiculously high highs.

  • Dearest friend travelled for 12 hours to surprise me for my birthday. One of the world’s best people, I can assure you.
  • Somehow reached dizzying heights work-wise that I am very proud of.
  • Partly moved to a new city, which I adore.
  • Did so much travelling. I was so so so lucky and I had the most incredible times and I will post about them here because if not I’d get very annoyed at myself.

I realise that nobody reads this blog (although a few people see my travel posts which I love) but this has become a bit of a travel highlights diary for me. When I put my mind to it, that is. So I do intend to continue, at some point…

Just have to find the time!

Mari x

Firenze

Well, would you look that that. Appallingly, I haven’t written since October (classic Mari).

But apart from that, the next installment from my Italian adventure is here. I’m sure you’ve been waiting with baited breath for over 6 months.

So, Florence. What a beautiful city!

My companions and I took a train from Venice to Florence which was a very economic, clean and quick way to do it- I would definitely recommend Italy’s rail network. Very efficient!

Upon arriving at our apartment (we somehow managed to locate ourselves right on the Piazza della Signoria aka the heart of the city), we took a short break and basked in the direct path of the air conditioning (Florence is hot.) before exploring the city a bit further.

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You know this beautiful building (Palazzo Vecchio) on the Piazza della Signoria?
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Well, we looked straight at it from our window!

(The other side of our room had a view of the Duomo. How we managed to score such a gem of a place I do not know. Highly recommended!)

We are not the biggest art-fans, but we knew that being in Florence and not visiting at least one gallery is practically an Italian crime/sin/treason. The Uffizi it is, then!

The queues were long but we had pre-booked and didn’t have to wait too much. The art was beautiful, albeit a little same-y (a companion did remark “If I see another Madonna and Jesus I’m going to scream” after a while), and there are some recognisable pieces in there even for a scientist like myself.

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The detail is just wonderful. Also, so much gold.
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Primavera. I actually knew this one!
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My favourite. Baby Jesus honestly looks like a source of light. How on Earth is that painted?!

I loved visiting the gallery, even though it was just a liiiittle bit boring. Plus it had gorgeous views!

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Oh so quaint.

The Cathedral in Florence is breathtaking. The colour is incredible (although my colour-blind companion could not understand why we were gushing so much over ‘grey’ walls) and the intricacy is wonderful.

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And Florentine sunsets are the most wonderful things you will ever witness.

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I love me a good sunset

DOs:

  • Walk up to the Piazzale Michelangelo at sunset. You get beautiful views over the whole city from the other side of the river in the evening light and the walk is pleasant.
  • Book everything you can in advance (galleries, Cathedral/Duomo entry etc). Remember that places require a printed version of your ticket so do this well in advance, or you might find yourself bickering in a tiny Western Union for decent internet access that can be used with a printer.
  • Enjoy the ice cream.
  • Take a day-trip to Pisa! Regular trains mean that this is such a good idea as you can avoid staying in the ridiculously overpriced city of Pisa…more on this to come.

DON’Ts:

  • Stay for only 2-3 days as we did (one of ours was in Pisa). Just one more day would have been enough, but we didn’t get to go inside any of the churches, including the Cathedral with the iconic Duomo. We went to the Piazza di Santa Croce but not into that church either, which I hear is stunning.
  • Stay out all day long. We came back inside at around 2 and stayed inside until 5ish. The heat was just a bit too much, and this meant that we enjoyed the evenings more. Those sunsets, you know.
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Grazie Firenze!

Next stop, Pisa!
(And hopefully you’ll be able to read all about it before 2018!)

Mari x

 

Venezia

So, back to my travels.

I was lucky enough to be able to go to Italy this summer, and I spent just over 2 weeks travelling between cities and then in Sardinia for some beach-y, pool-y sun.

First stop was Venice. I was excited about visiting, but I had heard that during the summer it was overcrowded, smelly and just a bit bleugh. WRONG!

Yes, it was crowded, but not more than the busy parts of London. And my word was it beautiful. I was totally blown away, and have since decided that it could be a very romantic potential honeymoon destination. Not that I’m getting married anytime soon, believe me.

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Immediately immersed in Venetian architecture from the water taxi
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So aesthetic!

The Campanile di San Marco is the bell tower on the square. I don’t think the bells ring anymore, but when you’re up there you can still see the magnificent metal beauties. €8 per person to take a lift to the top for 360 degree views. Worth every penny!

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Campanile di San Marco opposite Doge’s Palace
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Views from the top

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Gotta do a Gondola. Our gondolier even sang to us.

One of my absolute favourite things in Italy- the takeaway pasta places! Fresh, piping hot pasta in takeaway boxes, to be eaten wherever you can perch nearby or taken home. I, like many others, ate my delicious pasta on one the steps of one of the many bridges crossing the little canals.

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Another lovely thing was going and watching a performance of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons in the Church of San Zaccaria. The façade of the church itself may have been covered in scaffolding and a huge designer advert, and the musicians not the world’s best, but it was lovely hearing Vivaldi in his hometown.

 

DOs:

  • Take a private water taxi from the airport, if you can. The views are incredible, and if you don’t want to do a Gondola ride this saves you all the hassle! A bit pricey but well worth it.
  • Take a Gondola ride if you can! They seem to have set the prices in all places at €80 for a half hour (€100 at night) which is extortionate, but not as bad as it has been before. It’s a once in a lifetime event, and Venice is extremely overpriced anyway.
  • Go up the Campanile in St Mark’s Square. The queue moves fast and it is reasonably priced. The views are unparalleled.
  • Watch out for pickpockets, especially on the Rialto Bridge.

DON’Ts:

  • Go anywhere without a map. All the roads (or rather, alleyways) look the same, and they all end at water. Screws you over big time if you don’t have a map, let me tell you. Try and get a good map.
  • Buy anything on St Mark’s Square. You can probably find the equivalent for much less within a 5 minute walk in any direction.

Overall this was a brilliant, hot, cultural and beautiful beginning to Italia for me.
Next up: Firenze!

Mari x

August and September Two Thousand and Sixteen

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Beautiful Devon

More photo monthlies for you.

Italy, Devon, London…you name it, Mari seems to have been there.

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Venezia
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Arched windows everywhere
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Firenze di notte
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Lesser photographed parts of Pisa
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Firenze di notte II
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Attention to Detail: Uffizi
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The beautiful London
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Pantheon, Roma
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Florentine mornings
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Watched the film Notting Hill straight after this

Until next month,

Mari x

Comfortable

Right now in my life I am comfortable. Very comfortable. I have a routine, I live somewhere that I know very well, the people in my life are people I love and care for and- most importantly- know very well. My work is varied, but I know it and I know the people I work with.

That’s not to say that I don’t have diversity. I travel (see here, here and here), and I do enough things on a small scale to push me out of my comfort zone and keep me mentally healthy and challenged. I like it like this.

However, sometime soon I will probably be experiencing a big change. A lifestyle change, an uprooting, following a natural path that can be followed and it will change everything.

This is not a post to tell you about how excited I am to push my boundaries, to make a new life. No. Because I’m bloody terrified. Absolutely bloody freaked the hell out. It isn’t even that soon, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Writing this is making me want to cry. I’m scared.

I have no wish to lose this comfort. People argue that you can get ‘too comfortable’ in a workplace etc, or even life, but I enjoy the comfort. It’s good for my mental health and all-round wellbeing.Everywhere on the internet, change and ‘changing your life’ is depicted as a good thing. People actively seek the loss of comfort in order to find a new sort-of one. And I don’t know why. Why do people pretend that the deep fear of the unknown isn’t there? Is it cool to be emotionally detached? Why don’t people like their lives all comfortable and happy?And, mostly, how do people cope? What would you say to me to help me through the loss of this comfort? Because right now it is rather daunting.Mari x

Languages

Hi all.

This will be a chatty post from me, which is a first in 2016, probably. I’ve been doing so much travelling (Croatia, France and Italy to come!) that my posts have mainly been about that, but I did create this blog to be a travel-thoughts blog. That means that every now and then I’ll chat a little about this, that and the other.

I try to keep it cultural or thoughtful, because those are the things that I feel are lacking in the media scene of the 2010s. Now, I’ll read the odd beauty blog post or something, and I want people to write what they love, but I feel like genuine thoughts and unscripted chatter is not present enough.

So, languages.

I am fluent in English only, a great shame. I was raised around two other languages, but I cannot speak them. Blame my parents. They used these languages to communicate when talking about things that they did not want little ears picking up on. Naturally, I didn’t pick it up- much. I can follow a conversation in these languages if I concentrate really, really hard.

I learnt Mandarin for a while. It hasn’t completely left my brain but it isn’t bubbling.

And from a young age, like any other British child born pre-2005 (now they’re more adventurous which I love) I was educated in French, and only now do I truly appreciate it.

I speak decent French. My vocabulary is lacking, but I speak rather well if I do say so myself. At least, many French people tell me so (the barrier for Brits isn’t exactly set high though, is it? Ha).

I think, in some part, my ability to pick up spoken French had something to do with being exposed to languages from a young age. Even if I wasn’t speaking anything other than English, people around me spoke other things. Being raised in London, I heard new languages daily. I had friends and acquaintances who could speak French, Dutch, Hindi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Cantonese, Mandarin, Croatian, Serbian, Armenian, Greek, American (!)…and it has helped me.

Recently, whilst in Croatia (you can read about my trip here), I was sitting at a restaurant listening to a friend of mine yatter along with a waiter in Croatian, a language I don’t know. And, somehow, I understood pretty much all that was being said, and could give a translation to another, baffled friend. What even?! That’s cool!

Languages are more than words. Languages are intonation, stresses and culture. Slavic languages bear little resemblance to Germanic languages when it comes down to it, and yet I could find myself nodding along to this pleasant restaurant chatter.

Through my French studies I have made a lifelong friend. She’s great at English (very passionate about it!) and is a lovely person. When we’re chatting together (or being silly, or watching TV, or laughing…) we get along insanely well. We slip in and out of the two languages, tending to be more biased towards the language of the country we are in (we haven’t tried meeting in any other country than England or France yet. Watch this space!), and there is no language barrier.

To sum this friendship up, I like to say that I’ve got to know her in two languages. I have seen more of her personality because I’ve seen it from two different angles. When we’ve had issues with comprehension (it happens! We’re not perfect.), we take deeper note of body language and facial expressions (as well as silly gestures). I know her better than some others that I consider close friends.

I’ve made a lifelong friend because of languages. I do not wish to ever lose the ability to learn languages, and I want to learn so many more.

Mari x

P.S. If you are thinking of raising a child bi/trilingually and are erring towards the side of no, please rethink. I know it is hard work. You might have to try a bit harder with teaching them their colours and animal sounds, but there are often books that can be bought and nowadays apps and whatnot.

The benefits it will bring your child are endless. And every parent wishes their child to have the best.

 

 

Normandy take two

Last year I visited Northern France (which you can read about here), and this year I was lucky enough to visit again. I stayed once more with the most wonderful French family who I now regard as close friends.

Normandy is such an underrated place. When Brits think of taking a summer holiday in France, they tend to think of walking the streets of Paris or sunning themselves in the French Riviera. They might stretch to visiting Les châteaux de la Loire, but that’s about it.

And I get it, Normandy is basically like the south of Britain when it comes to the weather, and all the must-sees are so spread out that you have to drive a fair amount. But it’s so very close to us and it holds so much, and it most certainly does not look like the south of Britain.

One thing I never, ever got over was the fact that these photos are taken by the channel. The English Channel. That brown-grey-green mush we see in Brighton.

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Look at that sand, practically the Caribbean
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The channel was the most incredible mix of blues and greens almost the whole time I was there

And Normand sunsets are the best in the world. There is something so peaceful about them.

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Don’t swim at this time. It’s still the channel, and it is still cold…!

Once more I visited the city of Rouen. I hold this city deep in my heart, and so was even more devastated than normal to hear about the horrific killing of the priest in St-Étienne-du-Rouvray, on the outskirts of the city. It took place a few days after I had been there, and it really hammered home how these disgusting attacks could be anywhere, anytime. Of all the places, Rouen is definitely not somewhere I’d think a terror attack would take place. It is crazy what these disgusting creatures are throwing at us.

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They do a smashing chocolate fondue cake. Mmmmmm.
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The spectacle, a light show on the cathedral each night during the summer.

The most adorable shop ever, full of quaint little button tables and small pendants and whatnot. Not in Rouen, but in a small village about an hour from there.

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Normandie, je t’aime. Après tout, est-ce qu’il y a des cieux comme celui-ci n’importe où?

Mari x

Čevapčiči

Hello all, long time no see (although nowhere near as long as my previous breaks so go Mari!).

I hope you’re all well. I am. I am, for the first time in a few years, relaxed. Did you read that correctly? Relaxed? Yes, you did. I, Mari, am relaxed. And that is in no small part due to my travels. I’ve been doing a fair bit of travelling, and I won’t be stopping here. Nuh-uh.

Naturally, I have some photos that I’d like to show off. So whilst my travels will be covered over a number of posts, let me begin here.

Croatia

I’ve been to this beautiful country many times. However I usually go to the South, Dubrovnik to be precise, right down by the borders to Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina. This time I was able to visit the North, right up by Italy and Slovenia.

Let me tell you: CROATIA IS BEAUTIFUL ALL OVER.

All over. My word, I’m so hopelessly in love with this country.

I visited (and stayed in) Opatija, then drove to a number of other places- Rijeka, Rovinj, Poreč, Krk, Cres, Pula and the Postojna Caves in Slovenia.

Without further ado, here are some photos along with a few tips.

Opatija

I stayed in Hotel Opatija, a two star hotel not far from the beach. It had a great central location in the town, close to a supermarket and the waterfront (just a few stairs to get there!). Half of the hotel has air conditioning, and I was lucky to stay in one of these rooms as Croatia was mid-heatwave (think 26 degrees celsius at 9pm…).

The buffet breakfast and dinner were nothing special, but also nothing terrible. Given the chance I would stay here again.

The biggest positive was the terrace with the loveliest views.

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Terrace view with absolutely no filter. Swoon.
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Opatija also had the most incredible sunsets
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A touristy but pretty town

Rovinj and Poreč

I stopped here only for a few hours each, perused the trinkets and souvenirs on sale and had lunch or a drink in a café or restaurant. Poreč is a much more Roman town than Rovinj, and resembles Dubrovnik a lot more. The area was once under the rule of Italy not that long ago (less than 100 years), as well as being part of Old Yugoslavia and then Yugoslavia and now modern-day Croatia, so you can see different cultural influences everywhere. Most interesting was that Italian is the first language of a lot of locals up here!

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Rovinj
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Rovinj
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Look at these little streets!
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The church at the centre of Poreč

 

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Croatia’s best kept secret…

Čevapčiči! These sausages that aren’t just sausages. They’re an experience. My mouth is watering just thinking about them…
They go perfectly with a glass of Ledeni čaj (iced tea, but again not any old iced tea. Jana’s peach ledeni čaj is something special).

Krk and Cres

We took a boat out for a day, visiting the islands of Krk and Cres (although we went to the town of Krk by car another day, crossing the bridge). So gorgeous. That is all.

Warning- there are often sea urchins by the concrete parts of the beaches!

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Boat life
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Stunning boat views that are insanely difficult to capture on a camera
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View from the bridge to Krk
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Another view, this time from the town of Krk

 

The town of Krk was a real holiday destination and was (predictably) full of Brits, but still beautiful!

Pula

Pula has an amazing amphitheatre. Worth a look, and the entry fee is reasonable. Lots of Italian influences here.

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Postojna Caves, Slovenia

The most wonderful caves I’ve ever seen! Not more than a two hour drive from Optaija (less, I think) is Slovenia. The drop in temperature was a blessing, and the limestone formations were breathtaking. Some looked so very much like cloth that I couldn’t process the fact that they were rock.

Tip: don’t forget that you need Euros for Slovenia. Not that I did that or anything…

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It’s Harry Potter worthy, that’s for sure

That’s about it from Mari and Croatia (watch out for Mari and France next!)

This was truly an amazing trip, very chilled sightseeing and lots of relaxing. The heat worked wonders and I came back from 5 or so days feeling extremely refreshed.

Just a last tip- see as many churches as you can. They’re mostly Catholic churches, all amazingly intricate and almost gaudy inside, filled with paintings and sculptures and lots of colour. Lovely to be in, and you only need five minutes to see them. Plus they’re usually cooler than outside!

Until next time,

Mari x

Listing, part deux.

Last year I made a list of things I wanted to do. I did not really keep to the list much.

This year I’m going to try and list again, in the hope that I stick to it.

Mari’s not-so-ambitious list for Summertime 2016

  1. Read three fictional books.
  2. Read two books relevant to my current area of study.
  3. Watch three French films, and maybe start one of them off without subtitles (then inevitably give up, but still)
  4. Continue to drink more water like I have the last month or so.
  5. Write more.
  6. Be strict with my working and research hours so I actually get things done.
  7. Find refills for my gorgeous Cross pen that was a gift and use it to write beautiful things.
  8. Watch Mad Men.
  9. Take more photos.
  10. Keep encouraging a good sleeping pattern for myself.

Here’s hoping.

Do you have any summer lists?

Mari x