Flat Tour

We moved into our flat back in early November, but due to engagements and 30th birthdays and the holidays, we are really only now getting properly settled in. Our sofa arrived just after we got back from the states, we ordered a dryer(!) and are trying to figure out how to make the kitchen more practical for us.

We’re also sorting out all the decor, which has been super fun! I’m really enjoying trying to make everything look nice and well put together – something that can be challenging on a budget and in often wonky old Victorian flats.

I’ll do a quick tour of the flat on move in day and where we’re at now – but this is just a starting point – loads more to do!

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10 year wrap up

Well, the decade is over – and just about my 20s with it! As of writing this, I have exactly one week left of being 29. Seems an appropriate time to reflect back on the past ten years…

2010

January, 4th I landed in London for the first time, where I studied abroad, turned 20, met some amazing, life long friends, and most importantly… Gareth

I also travelled to France and Spain for the first time and ignited my love of travel!

2011

This year was mostly the depths of college and working (at a brew house in Harvard Square with basically all of my friends and roommates), but the highlight was the three weeks Katie and I spent in Guatemala and El Salvador!

2012

On January 1st, Katie, Sam, Jussie, Faye and I set off for a cross country road trip for our move to Los Angeles! The trip was amazing, and on January 10th I arrived in LA for the first time – a city that become home in the most real way. I still plan to end up back in Southern CA some day…

I also  graduated college, interned for Steve Carell and Shoemoney (The West Wing!), and got my first proper industry job at Gersh.

2013

This year I worked a lot, made Los Angeles my home, and ADOPTED BRADY!

2014

I left Gersh and got my first job with writers on a TV show, between that ending and starting my next job I went back to London in October to visit my old study abroad friends… and fell in love with Gareth. Went back to spend Christmas with him in December and we officially started dating.

2015

After the show I was working on ended, I spent a few months living with Gareth in London, getting to know what daily life would be like together. Also Lee and I went to Turkey and Katie visited and we went to Iceland (one of my top trips ever) and Morocco (one of my worst).

2016

To start the year, the Patriots won the Super Bowl on my birthday.

This was the year I said goodbye to LA, something that was horrible and so hard and scary. Just before leaving I remember sobbing in Katie’s new kitchen (I was crashing at her new apartment, where she was living without me for the first time since January 2012) and wondering why I would ever leave a life I loved so much.

But leave I did and I spent one of the happiest years of my life in Spain! In 2016 I went to Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Poland, and Czech Republic. Also my mom visited me in Spain! We went to London and spent Christmas in Cornwall with Gareth and his family – thank god, because it means our moms were able to meet.

2017

The year of two halves…

The first half was wonderful, with visits from Lee, Rachel and Faye, a Super Bowl win, trips to BelgiumItaly, Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia. I also finally got my Italian citizenship.

And the second half was extremely difficult with the sudden illness and death of Gareth’s mom. It also had me move to London unexpectedly, which was stressful and definitely took some adjusting to as I had not planned to settle down, especially in London, so soon.

But! It was also when I got hired at Marie Stopes and sent me down a career path I love and of which I am so proud! I also took some Autumnal/Christmas trips to Norway, Sweden and Finland.

2018

We went to Egypt, South Africa, and Greece, which was incredible. I started my Masters of Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and moved to Madagascar as a Project Development Officer! 

2019

January: Gareth came and left, and honestly I mostly spent this month feeling very unwell with various tropical illnesses

February: I turned 29, and celebrated with nearly all of SEED at my favourite pizza place in Fort Dauphin.

March: We celebrated International Women’s Day, and I went to Addis Ababa and Nairobi – and Spain with Gareth 😉

April: I spent two weeks in France, studying French which was booked last minute when for health reasons it was decided I couldn’t go back to Madagascar. I also went back to LA for the first time since leaving in 2016 for two of my friends’ wedding.

May: I started back at MSI, this time on the South and East Asia regional team.

June: I took (and passed) all my finals – which was really, really hard!

July: I went on a work trip to visit our country programme in Myanmar, which was wonderful and so inspiring.

August – October: I worked a lot?

November: We bought our first flat! And got engaged! And celebrated Thanksgiving/Gareth’s 30th birthday with most of our favourite people in the world.

December: We went to Boston and hung out with my family (and Katie for a weekend!) for two weeks, saw some snow, and ate a lot of delicious food.

I’m really excited to see what the 20s will bring. (Also is that what we’re calling it?? What about the flappers? The great depression?)

We’re having a wedding and attending a few as well. Quite a few of our close friends are pregnant. We’re slowly fixing up our house, I’m working on the second year of my masters, and I’ve also just had a big promotion which is equally exciting and terrifying.

2020 is going to be a huge year!

 

Fjords, Bergen, Norway

A Weekend Bergen, Norway

Last Autumn a friend came over to Europe from LA, and we decided to visit Bergen, because Norway is amazing, and tickets were shockingly cheap–an occurrence I’m finding less shocking the more often I look up flights out of London (lucky me!).

Getting There

Getting there was an adventure, because when does travel ever go smoothly?? An evening that began with Megan getting on an express train to the wrong destination and nearly missing the flight, ended with us huddled in the pouring rain at midnight, desperately trying to get one of our phones to turn on in the freezing air, 50 metres from our airbnb and completely lost. The plus side is getting to/from the airport is incredibly easy, regardless of when you arrive. Top tip: Buy a round trip ticket from the machine right next to the bus stop at the airport–it’s cheaper than buying on the bus (which is possible if you’re in a rush/would rather deal with a human).

Bergen, NorwayThe place we rented was the definition of hygge, to steal a Danish word. It was tiny, but so cosy and well decorated I honestly considered becoming a furniture thief/smuggler. After my flight out on Sunday, Megan was able to meet with the woman who lived there. She is studying for her Master of Philosophy at the University of Bergen, and I’m mildly obsessed with her life (and decorative skills). I’d highly recommend her flat, available here (unfortunately no longer available to rent).

We only had around 36 hours there, as we had to leave after work on Friday, and my flight back was at noon on Sunday. While more time would have been nice, and I do want to return to experience everything in nicer weather, Bergen is a small, a gorgeous city surrounded by stunning natural beauty. Everything we wanted to see was within a 5 minute walking radius, and it was easy to fit everything in.

Itinerary

Food

Breakfast

Start with breakfast at Godt Brød, where you need to try the traditional cinnamon rolls and delicious tea/coffee.  Everything there is delicious and perfectly placed for a trip to Mount Floyen after.

Lunch

We stopped for what was meant to be a quick lunch at Kaf Kafe Bryggen. This place is super cute and is a lovely way to spend the afternoon – which we basically did, as our (delicious) soup took over 45 minutes to come! We ended up having to eat the soup in under a minute because our Fjord tour due to begin. Definitely not a place to go when you have a strict schedule, but an incredible cosy place to warm up and relax!

Fishmarket Dinner

Fishmarket, Bergen, Norway

To start, this isn’t a budget option. But, oh my god, if you find yourself in Bergen you have to go. It’s so lovely – set up with the cosy blankets and heaters G and I saw everywhere in Copenhagen last year and just so atmospheric. We had wine, and a meat and cheese platter (HIGHLY recommended, though consider asking them to not include whale), and salmon and mashed potatoes. It was a lot of food, all delicious, and an all-around great way to end the trip.

Things to do:

Mount Fløyen

Mount Fløyen Funicular Mount Fløyen, Bergen, Norway

As the Fløibanen funicular is right outside the cafe, as is the walking path (which I believe takes about 30 minutes if you choose to hike), I’d go right after breakfast. The funicular is about 8 pounds round trip, and as a big funicular fan who was short on time, I opted for a round trip service. Mount Fløyen offers some incredible views of the city and harbour. It’s a great welcome to Bergen, as you can see everything from the top. We were luckily enough to get some blue skies while up there, and after taking in the views, we walked through the woods for a bit, which were well marked and felt quite magical. Try to find the “warning” signs hidden around the forest!

Mount Fløyen, Bergen, NorwayMount Fløyen, Bergen, Norway

Shopping

After the nature walk, take some time to explore the shops in Bryggen, which are filled with some incredible clothes and furniture and decor. I could have easily spent hundreds, thousands of pounds there, and it got to the point where I just had to stop going in, because the window shopping was hurting my heart.

Julehuset, Bergen, Norway
Julehuset, Bergen, Norway

Though all the stores were incredible, my Christmas loving heart has to give a special shout out to Julehuset. We happened upon this Christmas themed heaven by mistake, and it was probably my second favourite part of the trip! Anyone who knows me knows that the holiday season is my absolute favourite time of the year. Thanksgiving, pumpkins, snow, Christmas music and movies. I am that obnoxious person who can’t get enough. Julehuset did not disappoint. It’s huge, four floors, filled with every Christmas decoration you can imagine. I almost bought a wooden truck that had little drawers that made it an advent calendar, and still regret not doing it on a near daily basis. Instead I settled for a few ornaments, and a pull string wooden toy that reminded me of one my grandparents used to have. If you are as obsessed with Christmas as I am, do not miss Julehuset!

Fjord Tour

Fjords, Bergen, Norway Fjords, Bergen, Norway

Also do not miss a Fjord Tour! It was the highlight of our trip. We booked one that lasted for 3 hours and it lived up to our high expectations, even in the pouring rain. In fact, I’d say the rain made it feel even more epic, like more of an adventure. We would alternate between going outside until we were soaked and freezing, going back inside to dry off/try to coax our phones/cameras into turning back on, and then doing it all over again. The little villages we traveled through were incredible, and it felt a bit like we had gone back in time–the slightly eerie, foggy weather didn’t hurt either.

Fjords, Bergen, Norway Fjords, Bergen, Norway

Eventually we came to the end, went right up to a waterfall where they stuck out a bucket and we were all able to drink some waterfall water. I’m a bit neurotic about drinking water, but had decided as soon as I’d heard about this part of the tour that I’d try it, and it was super delicious. Sometimes water just tastes good, and this was some good water.

Bergen, Norway

Norway was unexpectedly wonderful. Having now been to Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland, I can confidently say I am a huge fan of Scandinavia. I want to go back to Bergen, but also go farther north – I’d love to get to Tromso and have a shot at seeing the Northern lights! But until then, my weekend in Bergen was a wonderful introduction to the country.

Wroclaw, Poland, Christmas Market

Wroclaw Christmas Market

Back in 2016, the year before we went to Finland, my Spanish roommates and I went to Poland in early December. This was part of a larger trip I was taking (bless the Spanish school system and their many holidays) – first into Berlin and Amsterdam with G, then Prague with Vera, and then Vera and I took a train to Poland to meet up with Shaina and the Wroclaw Christmas Market.

Wroclaw Christmas Market

Wroclaw, especially in December, is insanely charming. We stayed in an Airbnb right on the square, so were perfectly positioned for the market. There were hundreds of stalls, surrounded by the cutest, almost gingerbread styled houses, and there was so much to do. Unlike any other market I’ve been to, this one had a little carnival – a mini (but shockingly fast) rollercoaster, talking (and slightly creepy) puppets acting out Christmas scenes. It was all old enough that it didn’t feel modern and gimmicky, more like being at a (tiny) old world fair.

Wroclaw, Poland, Christmas MarketWroclaw, Poland, Christmas MarketWroclaw, Poland, Christmas Market

We took a gorgeous walk through the city after it got dark, stopping at FC café for some cake, and then checking out the university, Cathedral Island and Ostow Tumski, Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Lover’s Bridget, the botanical gardens, and gorgeous views of the Odra river. Everything was stunning all lit up and it was such a scenic, lovely walk.

Be sure to be on the look out for the dwarfs around the city – they each have an individual story, and we loved spotting them – some are quite funny.

Wroclaw, Poland, Dwarfs

There’s so much to see in Market Square as well – Church of Saint Elizabeth, the Town Hall. The city is so picturesque and seems almost caught between two ages – there’s the young university students that have a vibrant energy, but there’s the historical surroundings and easy to find nuns and older, traditionally dressed people in the streets as well.

Wroclaw, Poland, Christmas MarketWroclaw, Poland, Christmas MarketWroclaw, Poland, Christmas Market

For food, we basically only ate perogies and managed to spend about £3 per meal which was a great deal after places like Berlin and Amsterdam. Poland was unexpectedly great – not that I expected it to disappoint, but it surprised me how homey it felt. I’d really like to visit Krakow and Warsaw at some point as well.

https://goo.gl/maps/PxLDYyECwUkrnJpH9

A weekend in Helsinki at Christmas (with Reindeer!)

During the Christmas of 2017, a year after going to Prague and Poland together, and after almost a year of living apart, I travelled to Helsinki to meet up with my roommates from when we lived in Spain. At that point Shaina had been living in Italy, getting Italian citizenship, and Vera was spending another year in Spain, this time in the Granada in the south.

I’ve heard Helsinki is boring and there’s not much to do in Finland. I can’t speak for other times of the year, but we did something awesome in Finland – we went to see the reindeer.

An easy half day trip from Helsinki, you can get to Nuuksio Reindeer Park. It’s about an hour on public transport, and so worth the trip. I’d never seen reindeer before, and in the environment in Nuuksio it does feel so magical and Christmasy.

Getting to nuuksio reindeer park:

You can take commuter trains U, L, E from Helsinki Railway Station to Espoo (8 stops/25 min) and then bus no 245 from Espoo to Nuuksio. The bus stop at Espoo is right next to the train station. Ride the 245 bus until the Punjobsuo stop (27 stops/23 min). Walk a little bit forward and turn right after the crosswalk – you’ll see a sign advertising for the Reindeer park!

Nuuksio Reindeer Park, Finland
Nuuksio Reindeer Park, Finland
Nuuksio Reindeer Park, Finland
Nuuksio Reindeer Park, Finland
Nuuksio Reindeer Park, Finland
Nuuksio Reindeer Park, Finland

Getting back we had a bit more trouble as we had looked up the 245 bus schedule and obviously written it down wrong. The bus doesn’t run very often and we were waiting in the cold for about 45 minutes. I’d suggest asking the people working at the reindeer park to advise on the next bus, so you can avoid this.

The park itself is small but so lovely. When we went it was just the three of us and one other small group. You can feed the reindeer, pet them, and there’s a candlelit hut with a fire pit where you can warm up and enjoy some warm cider or mulled wine. I think I recall being given some chocolate as well.

Nuuksio Reindeer Park, Finland Nuuksio Reindeer Park, Finland    If you have more time (and money) than us, I would have LOVED to stay on site in one of the two iglu huts. These handcrafted huts are made from natural materials and look so cosy. You can feed the reindeer right from your window – there is a national park trail just around the corner that is meant to be a gorgeous walk as well. If I ever go back to Finland in the winter, I’ll definitely do this as a night in nature would be so wonderful.

The rest of our time in Helsinki was spent wandering around and taking in the city slowly. We went to Stockmann Shopping Centre, as it was quite festive and I bought a few decorations from that I look forward to putting out every year. We ate at Restaurant Savotta and spent an afternoon wandering around the stalls in the Helsinki market where there were tons of adorable handcrafted items.

Where to eat:

We had dinner at Restaurant Savotta, which was delicious and the place was adorable. It was like having dinner in someone’s house – traditionally decorated with Finnish furniture and rya rugs and the table settings were perfect. I wouldn’t miss this place on a return trip!

Helsinki, Finland

We also had dinner at Café Engel, which had great food and was perfectly located just across from Senate Square – where the Christmas Market is.

Christmas Market, Helsinki, Finland Helsinki, Finland

For breakfast, going to Regatta Café is basically a requirement. Traditionally Finnish and is right on the water, full of decorations, a fireplace, candles and is possibly the cosiest café I have ever been to. Go here and get the cinnamon roll – you won’t be sorry!

Cafe Regatta Helsinki, Finland
Cafe Regatta Helsinki, Finland
Cafe Regatta Helsinki, Finland

Logistics:

We stayed at Eurohostel, which was a cheap and cheerful option with a free sauna in the mornings. It’s a five minute tram ride to the city centre, and the trams are so easy to use in Helsinki it made getting in and out super easy.

Tram Helsinki, Finland

To/from the airport: This is really easy as well. It’s one train that takes about 30 minutes between the city centre and the airport. Two trains connect the two: Line “I” train: Runs via Huopalahti to Helsinki Central Station. Line “P” train: Runs to Helsinki Central Station via Tikkurila. See their schedule here.

Though we only had two days in the city, we packed in so much and had such a lovely time getting in the holiday spirit. One thing we didn’t have time to do but wished we had was visit the Winter Garden. It’s meant to be a bit of an oasis in the middle of the city and we were sad to miss it.

Devastatingly, I haven’t seen Shaina in person since, PROBABLY TIME TO SORT THAT. Instead of Africa 2020 maybe London-for-my-wedding 2020?