We Put a Ring* on It!

A few weeks ago, on a random Wednesday night when we were home painting the living room, Gareth asked me to marry him. It was very sweet and homey and low key and perfect.

We drank some wine we’d been saving since our trip to South Africa a few year ago and spoke with family and friends and celebrated for most of the night.

*Because I convinced Gareth he has terrible taste during our move, he bought me a place holder ring so we can design one together. And though he has terrible taste in home décor, the ring he chose was perfect and will be something I wear and treasure forever.

Now onto planning the wedding!

Christmas Market Sibiu, Romania

Christmastime in Europe

If you know me, you know Christmastime is my favourite time of year. I try to go to a Christmas market or two each season – though Christmas was a bit different last year!

This year, as we are running out of locations we haven’t yet been in Europe, and because we are broke, we bought the cheapest flights we could find – and will soon be heading to Sibiu, Romania! It’s meant to be a gorgeous Christmas market in one of the most picturesque areas of Romania. G and I have wanted to visit the country for a while, and £50 flights to one of the supposed best Christmas markets in Europe was impossible to pass up!

As we get ready to head out (trip is still two weeks away), I think it’s time to start a new section on the blog – European Christmas markets!

I’ve already written about Berlin, Prague and Amsterdam – however I’ve yet to write about Sweden, Finland, Norway, or Poland, and that is a travesty.

So to kick off December and celebrate the lead up to what I hope will be a wonderful Christmas season, let’s look back on celebrations of years past!

And honestly, everyone thinks you need to visit Europe in the summer, but I truly think there’s nothing better than a December spent sipping mulled wine and looking at local/handmade crafts. If you get the chance to visit in December don’t pass it up!

Buying a Flat!

I know it has been radio silence over here for so long now. Part of that is because life has been so busy I really haven’t had time to do anything with this blog – every time I try to start writing, I have such a small amount of time to fit it in that what comes out is rushed and of such low quality I can’t do anything but throw it out and mourn the wasted time!

But ALSO I’ve had a lot of really exciting things in the works for months, and I didn’t want to share them until completely official. And the first one finally is so here we go…

We’re buying a flat! In South East London (where we’ve always lived), right next to Crystal Palace Park, and the commute will be fantastic, and it’s got two floors and three bedrooms and two bathrooms. And it’s finally official!

Did you know buying a flat in the UK takes an average 6 month to complete? Because I certainly didn’t, and when our offer was accepted back in June I expected to be in end of August at the latest. Very naïve, I have since learned.

Buying a flat in the UK is also different to the states in that it’s not legally binding until the very end. Meaning you can get months in and right before you expect it to be official (and after paying lawyers fees), you can be “gazumped”.

Per Google: Gazumping occurs when a seller accepts a verbal offer on the property from one potential buyer, but then accepts a higher offer from someone else. It can also refer to the seller raising the asking price or asking for more money at the last minute, after previously verbally agreeing to a lower one.

Basically it’s all verbal up until you exchange contracts, which doesn’t happen until the end of the process. Our offer was accepted in June and then July – October our lawyers sorted out the legal stuff, and we finally exchanged October 23rd, which made it all legally binding. We will then “complete” on November 4th, which is the day we get keys and officially own the house.

Another major difference between buying a flat in the UK vs the US are chains. The system here is legally set up so it’s not just your one purchase, but the sellers forward purchase, and so on, down the chain until you find someone “chain free” – ie moving to rented accommodation, moving abroad, or not buying for another reason. Depending on how long your chain is, it adds so much time. For example, we have been ready to exchange with our sellers for about a month, but there was an issue between their negotiations with their sellers which held things up. Then we were meant to all exchange on the 22nd, but the contract hadn’t been received from the people our sellers were buying from, so we had to wait on that. Nothing to do with our purchase, but legally it all happens on the same day. We were lucky in that our chain was just the three of us – the people our sellers are buying from are moving to rented accommodation. But there can be chains of 6 or 7 people, and if one of the purchases falls through, it delays completion for months for the entire chain. As such, a friend’s home purchase took over 12 months. And statistically, an accepted offer only leads to a completed sale 2/3 times in the UK (I’d imagine this is even closer to 50/50 in London).

We’ve been anxiously awaiting exchange – as desperate as we are to move in, we were more desperate to know nothing would fall apart last minute and no gazumping would transpire. And it has all finally happened! We’ll be in so soon – and with enough time to plan and host Thanksgiving!

We want to do a lot of work on the place but have very limited funds at the moment. So I’ll share photos of the “before” and then slowly share the “after”. We currently have a bed and an old, dilapidated sofa a friend has kindly bestowed upon us, and otherwise virtually no furniture. What a fun and expensive and terrifying adventure this will be!

Krka, Croatia

Krka, Split & Plitvice, Croatia

It’s been far too long since our epic journey around Croatia for me to write a proper post about it. However, it was one of our best trips we’ve ever taken, so solely so I have it to look back on, a photo diary of our time there!

Plitvice

This gorgeous national park has 16 lakes that are joined by waterfalls. It’s incredibly beautiful – though the photos make it look quite wild – expect lots of people and clear walkways you can’t deviate from. There is (paid) parking nearby, and depending on when you visit entry is anything from $8 – $26.

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia Plitvice Lakes, Croatia Plitvice Lakes, Croatia Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Krka

I actually preferred Krka, and if you visit between June and September you can swim in the water! Note that parking is tough to figure out. It seems like the two official options are to drive to Skradin and catch the boat or to Lozovac where you can walk about 2 km to the park – note that this way you don’t see Roski Slap, only Skradinski Buk. We couldn’t figure it out, ended up wandering around a completely unrelated town for a bit (but got some ice cream out of it!) and then just drove as close as we could (it seems like probably to Lozovac), were very lucky to find parking, and walked about 30 minutes each way, along with dozens of other people. Entry is about $20. Well worth it!

Krka, Croatia Krka, Croatia Krka, Croatia

Split

Split was fantastic and we spent an entire day playing cards and drinking at what is probably my favourite pub in all the world. I have no idea what it is called, but it was full of locals and old and wonderful. We also went up Marjan Hill and had some pretty epic views of the city.

Split, Croatia View from Marjan Hill, Split, Croatia Marjan Hill, Split, Croatia View from Marjan Hill, Split, Croatia

This was part of a larger trip I took over Semana Santa (Easter) in 2017. I went to Italy (Florence with Rachel, Venice alone), Slovenia, and Zagreb before meeting up with Gareth and driving down the coast of Croatia, into Bosnia to visit Mostar, and finally to Dubrovnik. Easily one of the most epic trips of my life!

Zagreb, Croatia

Four Days in Zagreb

Before going to Croatia, I was most looking forward to spending time on the coast, in places like Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik. However, my friend Lee had spent three weeks in Zagreb in 2015, and insisted it was one of the best places around. Our original itinerary didn’t plan for any time there, so instead of cramming in Belgrade or Sarajevo after Slovenia, I decided to spend four leisurely days in Zagreb, and I am so happy I did!

Zagreb, Croatia

I spent my time in Zagreb before Gareth arrived, and it was the perfect city to do solo. It was small, safe, walkable, and oh my god so cute. I LOVE Zagreb. In an alternative life I never left and am hanging about, still as enthusiastic and in awe as I was when I first arrived.  It was my favourite part of Croatia. Perhaps if we’d gone in warmer weather, when swimming was an option, I’d feel differently, but we went in April and Zagreb was the hands down winner.

Where to stay

I stayed at Hostel Chic which was exactly what I needed after being in crazy (bed bug ridden!) hostels for the last week. I’d only recommend Hostel Chic in the right circumstances. Unlike any other hostel I’ve ever stayed in, I was the youngest person there. It seemed to have about a 50/50 mix of people there for a short time, and people there longer term. Each night I planned to leave to find somewhere a bit livelier, but I ended up staying there the whole time. Zagreb is known for its amazing hostel scene, which is definitely worth looking into. But Hostel Chic was quiet, and each bed had its own lamp, plugs, and a half wall, so no one could see anyone else from their beds, and the bit of privacy was so refreshing!

If you’re looking for something a bit more social, I’ve heard great things about Swanky Mint Hostel.

Things to do

Zagreb is so beautiful and so walkable. The city isn’t very large and it’s easy to explore. It’s also home to my absolute favourite museum in the world, the Museum of Broken Relationships. I spent hours in there—I wish they would open a place in London so I could go back all the time. It was so interesting and healing in a way, to see all the different experiences people have had. It wasn’t just romantic relationships, but familial, friends, everything that once meant something. A lot were decades in the past and it was like getting to skim the book of someone’s life. I really loved it and could not recommend it more.

Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb, Croatia Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb, Croatia

I also went to the  which was smaller, quieter, and fairly inexpensive to visit. The art inside was gorgeous, and I loved getting another tiny taste of Croatian culture.

Museum of Naïve Art, Zagreb, Croatia

St Mark's Church, Zagreb, Croatia

Be sure to visit St Mark’s Church which is maybe the most vibrant and fun church I’ve ever seen. On the way up I stopped into some really cool art shops, and picked up a hand painted canvas depicting Marija Jurić , the first female journalist.

Marija Jurić , Zagreb's first female journalist

After leaving, keep heading away from the church and you’ll end up at an incredible outlook, with great views of the city. You can order drinks and sit, which I did, spending a few hours reading and writing. It was one of the best days, and I basically repeated it again and again —just changing up where I ate, and adding in a few new hang out spots—the Botanical Garden, the little café next to the Museum of Broken Relationships, and the other parks around the city. There’s also Dolac, a big market open daily from 7-2, a great place to pick up fresh produce and souvenirs. And while Zagreb was very relaxed, the city still felt really vibrant and alive.

Zagreb, Croatia

I feel awful Gareth missed it, but it just means we have to go back to Croatia—what a not terrible problem to have!

Food Recs

Definitely do breakfast at Otto & Frank. I went there two of my four days, and nowhere else compared.

Eat at one of the places above the market. I went to PLAC and had their mixed grill plate, which was pretty good, though some of the other food looked better.

Make sure to try a fritule, a yummu donut-like Croatian pastry made for Christmas (but available year round).

Dolac market has fresh fruit and veg, which is a nice snack for a day spent wandering.

Croatia

Zagreb was just the start of a fantastic week and a half in Croatia, but I maintain it was the best part. Don’t skip it just because it isn’t on the coast!