Amsterdam Day 1|Don’t trust Em to give directions (I got us lost oops)

amsterdam (1)

Hello! Or should I say hallo as I’m writing about my trip to Amsterdam last week. 🙂

A couple of months ago, two of my friends and I spontaneously decided to book a holiday in Amsterdam. Well, it wasn’t quite like that – we didn’t just rock up at the travel agency and book a holiday on a whim. In fact, we almost didn’t make it to our appointment at the agency as we got the times muddled up and got carried away eating pizza (and our parents still trusted us to go abroad by ourselves?!?). We were hoping to go on holiday in the UK and stay in a caravan or something, but we actually discovered that it would be cheaper to go on a European city break than holiday here, especially as not many places in the UK will allow groups of teenagers to stay, so going abroad was sort of a last minute decision. As one of my friends went to a Scout and Guide jamboree in the Netherlands last year, we thought Amsterdam would be a good option as at least one of us was (kind of) familiar with the city already.

I’ve wanted to go to Amsterdam for a while now – not only because I’d have a greater chance of bumping into my bae Douwe Bob 😉 – but also to explore Dutch culture too. I didn’t expect to have the opportunity to go so soon though!! To be honest, it still hasn’t sunk in that I’ve actually been, haha, but I’m looking forward to documenting the trip here to look back on in the future.

Anyway, we left the UK last Monday to head off on our adventure. I was actually quite stressed beforehand as airport security really stresses me out and I was worried I’d packed something that I wasn’t allowed to take (like my Harry Potter pin badges on my denim jacket – I would have been so sad if they had confiscated them, but luckily they didn’t). Funnily enough, I actually had to be patted down both times we went through security as I apparently had something metal on me which set of the scanners?? But it wasn’t as intimidating as I thought it would be and we were soon through security and waiting for our gate to open, so it worked out okay in the end.

The actual flight only took 55 minutes from Bristol to Amsterdam, which is mad because that’s shorter than the amount of time it used to take me to get to college everyday on the bus!!? I clearly should have just gone to college in the Netherlands instead 😂 As we were flying with KLM, we did get free sandwiches and drinks which was cool as I’ve only ever flown with EasyJet before where you don’t get any refreshments, also the packaging was really cute!

Clouds outside airplane window

We’d tried to organise the holiday as much as possible beforehand, so we’d already bought our tickets for the bus that would take us from Schipol to the city centre. However, it took us a good 30 mins to actually find the stand that the bus was leaving from because the departure board kept sending us to different bus stands – one of which didn’t exist??? We had to get on at stand B17 but we couldn’t find any bus stops past B14 which resulted in us running around like headless chickens along with two other travellers, who were also looking for the same bus, until the bus we needed happened to pull up next to us, so I guess we’d found the invisible B17 stand without realising? It was confusing.

The chaos continued when we got off outside the Rijksmuseum 40 minutes later. I’d printed out a map and attempted to lead my friends to our hostel but everything looked different in real life and we ended up walking around in circles before we actually found the street we were staying on. I think we must of arrived in rush hour or something as well because the roads were so busy with cars, trams and bikes so it was a nightmare trying to walk through the city with all our luggage. So what should have been a 10 minute walk ended up taking over 30 mins due to my bad map reading. Oops. We landed in Amsterdam at about 4pm I think but it was past 6pm by the time we arrived at the hostel.

Looking down a street
Our hostel on Kerkstraat

We were lucky enough to be staying within the canal belt near to Museumplein and although our hostel branded itself “the worst hostel in the world”, it actually turned out to be rather good compared to other hostels I’ve stayed in! We were on the 4th floor so the view we had from the window was amazing. I spent so much time with my head stuck out the window looking at all the different buildings whenever we came back to the hostel. It really was a great view though.

Dutch houses
View from the window

After unpacking and having a rest, we headed out for dinner. Unsurprisingly, we again ended up walking around in circles trying to get to the Leidseplein area to find somewhere to eat, but we managed to find a shortcut on the way back which we remembered for the following days. We strolled along the canals after dinner and it was beautiful – I really wish I hadn’t left my camera in the hostel but I did manage to get a few (bad quality) photos on my phone!

Canals with flowers in foreground

Yellow car beside canal

Fountain

Multi-coloured Dutch houses

Canals with street lamp in foreground

Hard Rock Café sign

I think we ended the day by playing UNO and Irish Snap in the hostel, and of course I kept looking out of the window trying to get photos of the street at nighttime (I was obsessed with this window ahh I miss the view!).

Most of day 1 was spent travelling to Amsterdam, as you can tell, as we had an afternoon flight. However it was really relaxing to have the evening to settle in before our busy second day of the trip!

Hope you enjoyed reading about our first day in the city, stay tuned if you want to see what else we got up to. 🙂

(p.s. I drew all the featured images for this mini-series myself so apologies if the drawings aren’t great haha)

A Place to Escape

As bloggers, we often find inspiration in the most unlikely of places. Today I was so inspired by a place that the words for this post were forming in my head as I was walking home from visiting it. I was in such a daydream that I actually twisted my ankle on a lump in the pavement and made fool of myself in front of a group of teenagers but I’m just happy I’ve found the inspiration to write again.

I wanted to write about the place that inspired me today as it has become an important part of my life recently. As some of you may know, I live in Somerset which is well known for its farms and countryside. I’m lucky to live on the edge of a suburb, so farms and nature reserves are just around the corner.

A habit of mine is to stroll through the lanes and fields as it helps me to clear my mind and put my problems into perspective. A few months ago, whilst on one of my “walks”, I noticed a little gravel pathway disappearing between the reeds by the river bed. I hadn’t seen this path before, however I knew over the past year or so the local council had been creating a nature reserve and flood plains by the river behind my house, so I assumed that this pathway was a new addition along with that.

As I soon discovered, this pathway continued right along beside the river, lined with reeds and grasses and trees and since then it has become somewhere that I visit often.

It’s quite a winding pathway, and often you have to push branches aside to recover it’s route. In some places, the reeds are taller than me and I feel immersed in the wildlife. It really is a beautiful place.

I love hearing nothing else but the sound of wind blowing through the leaves, birdsong and crickets. Occasionally there are ducks too. The river and pathway are sort of sunken below the pavement, so when I walk along I feel sort of hidden from the rest of the world and I find a blissful peace within myself.

As I mentioned, this place as become very important to me over the past few months. Anytime I’m feeling stress or overwhelmed with life, I go there to escape and relax. Nature has this sort of calming effect on me, making me realise that there is a world outside of my head and that it is thriving. This long, winding path has experienced some of my biggest breakdowns and the wildlife there has listened to my unspoken thoughts, given me time to contemplate before they are whisked away by the wind. It has heard me practicing for exams, going over and over French speaking questions, reciting essay plans and dates of historical importance.

When I walk here, I feel lost. But not a bewildered, disconcerting sense of lost. A comforting lost. I feel separate from the pressures of society, even if just for a small amount of time. My problems feel insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and that brings me peace.

I guess everyone has their “escape”. Sometimes it’s a person, an object, music, sport or a place. This place is my escape. Maybe – it’s impossible to know – but maybe it is someone else’s escape too.

Summer’s The Word #2: what I’ve been up to so far!

Summer's The Word

Hello and welcome to the second installment of my summer series. As my summer holiday officially started on the June 20 after my last French exam, I have had almost two weeks off now. As the weather has been lovely, I’ve been quite busy with friends and family. Although, most of the time I’ve just been lazing around watching Netflix because I still haven’t recovered from the mental and physical post-exam exhaustion I seem to suffer from at the beginning of every summer. However, I thought I’d share with you a few exciting things I have done so far. 🙂

The first thing I did was meet up with two of my oldest friends as I hadn’t seen them properly for about a month due to exams and we really needed to catch up. We went up to Bristol for the day and did some shopping for summer, although I managed to restrain myself in Primark and only buy two tops (which I’m pretty proud of 😂). We also went out for lunch to an all-you-can-eat restaurant with foods from around the world. However, due to exam exhaustion, I wasn’t feeling great so couldn’t make the most of the all-you-can-eat part, but I still enjoyed it! It was a great way to start summer and I was so happy to be in Bristol, as it is one of my favourite place (I even wrote an ~artsy~ travel guide if you’re thinking of visiting – which you should!!). However, on the way home our bus journey was delayed by 90 minutes and what would usually be an hour journey turned into 2 hrs 30 mins sat on a stuffy bus in boiling heat. Gotta love living in the countryside where there’s no alternative roads for buses to take detours!

The following day, my family and I went to watch two women’s T20 cricket matches at our local ground. Watching cricket has sort of become a summer tradition of ours, so I was really looking forward to it. We watched England vs. South Africa and then England vs. New Zealand as part of the summer tri series. It was actually really busy at the ground so the atmosphere was great and as it was an England game, we got loads of freebies, including some cool blue hair/wig things??!

The day after that (such a busy weekend AHH) we went to our town’s annual air festival. This is probably the only decent thing that happens here, so I was determined to go as we missed it last year. As it was so hot, we just decided to take chairs and sit on the beach all day, watching the planes. The Red Arrows were the highlight as always, however I loved the wing walkers too (yes, they actually strap people to the wings of planes and fly around??? Crazy). I did get sunburnt though, and it STILL hasn’t faded despite it being over a week ago now. The curse of pale skin!!

Red Arrows flying over beach

Red Arrows flying over beach

After such a busy start to the summer, the next week was more chilled. I had my friends over for a BBQ (the two I went to Bristol with) as we needed to finish planning our trip to Amsterdam (1 week away ahhh), and choosing our seats on the plane. We also played board games and I think that’s the first time I properly felt relaxed after A Levels. My sister and I also decided to visit our town’s museum (which I helped to refurbish a few years ago) last week as they had opened some new exhibitions, and turns out Doctor Who had decided to visit on the same day so that was great. We attempted to stroll around the beaches but it was soooo hot we ended up just getting slushies.

The TARDIS

Glass museum roof

Slushies and sea view

This week so far has been even more chilled than last week. I met up with another friend to have a catch up and watch films, and we’re hopefully going to have a beach day tomorrow. But apart from that, I’m just planning to relax so hopefully I can get over this exhaustion before I go away on Monday and I also need to start packing!

I expect the next time you will probably hear from me will be after Amsterdam next week. I can’t believe I’m actually going g after months of planning??? And I can’t wait to write about it and share photos (if my camera doesn’t give up on me, I mean, it’s already half-broken and held together with an elastic band oops 😂).

Au revoir pour maintenant, mes amis!

Waiting for Adventure

Some of my happiest memories stem from summers spent exploring the British coast and countryside. Waking up to birdsong, under canvas, and morning dew settled precariously on blades of grass. Driving through country lanes, sun blaring through the windows, music blaring through the speakers, smiling from ear to ear as we drove to the coast. Abandoning flip-flops and dashing towards the sea and jumping the waves, full of love and life. Playing cricket on the beach under the hazy sun. Sure, sun burn and sleeping bags never ended well, but that’s how life is, in the summer time.

Wandering through little fishing villages, marvelling at how simple and happy a life here could be – a breeze in the relative storm of modern life. Sun reflecting, fragmenting over the oscillating ocean that stretches as far as the eye can see. That sense of peacefulness as the wind tickles your skin and wraps round your hair. For a moment, the Earth stood still.

Climbing up headlands and hills – to admire the view or just for the thrill? I never knew. Watching the sun turn the sky into a frenzy of redorangeyellowredpink as the evenings dragged out and campfire embers died. One day, I hope, summer will last forever, and every day will mark a new adventure. But for now, I’ll just count down the days until the sun blazes hot in the sky and I can live this life again.

Study With Me: Easter Edition!!!

Hello! Although I – uncharacteristically – have lots of inspiration for blog  posts at the moment (namely philosophical musings about life inspired by public transport and weather and all sorts of other not-very-exciting-things-which-keep-leading-me-to-consider-deeper-meanings), I’ve decided to do another study with me, because I don’t have enough time to do any of these thoughts justice, but I still wanted to write a little update. Hope you enjoy 🙂

8:30 – Wake up (to the annoying sound of my alarm because otherwise I’d sleep until 10am lol). I had some breakfast, got ready and made my to-do list for the day.
Sticky note reading: USA flashcards and quizlet, geography coursework, la famille vocab and la famille speaking mock
I’m actually a day ahead with revision, because I did all of today’s scheduled revision yesterday, so I decided to do tomorrow’s today.

10:00-11:00 – History flashcards

I managed to get through half of the unit I’d planned to make flashcards on because it took a lot longer than expected, but that’s okay because I’ll finish them off tomorrow.

Flashcards
11:00-11:20 – History Quizlet

I typed up the key polices, dates and statistics from my history flashcards into Quizlet – which is quickly become one of my favourite revision resources. It basically allows you to create a virtual set of flashcards which you can complete various activities and games with to help you learn them, it’s particularly useful for language vocab but works for history too!

11:20-1:00 – Geography coursework

My coursework dealdine is in 8 days, so I’m trying to use any non-revision time to work on editing it. Somehow my word count keeps increasing even though I’m trying to make it shorter?? I’m already over the 4000 word limit so it’s going to take a lot of time to get it below that.

4:45-6:00 – French speaking practice

I had a bit of a break in revision for lunch then I had to go to town to do some shopping and visit the bank. When I got home I was so tired I had a nap (#studentstruggles). But! Once I started French revision I got a lot done. I went through all the vocab for “La Famille” unit on Quizlet, then read through all the key facts/statistics and responses to “unpredictable” questions for that unit. After that I did a mock exam using a speaking card like the one’s we are given in the first part of our exam. We get five minutes to prepare (hence my scruffy handwriting pictured below) then have to give our responses and answer a few unpredictable questions for a total of 6 minutes. I recorded myself speaking as well (although in hindsight this wasn’t a great idea – listening back to yourself trying to speak a foreign language is the worst thing ever).

French revision guide with annotations
6:45-8:15 – Geography coursework

After dinner I went back to my coursework and tried to make some progress. I did a bit of editing but mainly sorted out my bibliography and positioning of photos (because aesthetics are important clearly). In the end I was too tired and kept going round in circles so I gave up for revision for the day and did a bit of yoga to wind down.
Thank for reading and, as always, hope you are well! 🙂

Thoughts on Leaving Home & University

Hello! Before I start, can I just say how much I am loving this spring weather?? Finally, the snow and cold has gone and we’re experiencing proper spring here in England. As I’m writing this, I’m sat on my bedroom floor watching the sunset through my windows – it’s beautiful!

Today we went for a bit of a drive through the countryside to pick up my mum from a Cub Scout event and it was like I’d almost forgotten how beautiful the rolling hills of Somerset looked in the golden sunlight. We drove past the farm where my family buys eggs from now and again and I felt really nostalgic about all the times I went with my parents as a child to collect the eggs. We also came across a couple of tractors and farmers just casually chatting in the country lanes – it really made me realise how much I’m going to miss living here.

Ever since the prospect of going to university became a reality, I’ve always said that I’d go to university on the coast. It may sound silly, but I’ve lived by the sea all my life and for a very long time, the thought of living away from the sea seemed impossible. For me, the sea represents so much more than just the mass of water that it is. When I stand on beach, looking out into the – albeit brown – sea, I find freedom in the horizon that stretches out further than the eye can see. It represents endless possibility and, most importantly, that there is more to life that I’m living within this bubble. When I feel trapped and claustrophobic under the blanket of pressure from college, friends or family, even just thinking about the sea gives me hope and ignites my spirit of adventure. I always thought that if I lived inland, I would feel trapped and swamped by society, so therefore when thinking about university, 15-year-old me decided I must live by the sea.

However, a few years down the line, I applied to university with none of my five choices being located on the coast. What happened? Well, as I’ve been exploring different pathways and possibilities, I found myself pursuing – unexpectedly – a rather niche degree in the UK comprised of (roughly) European politics and French. Therefore, the selection of universities I had to choose from was sadly quite limited.

I think that’s why it’s taken me so long to decide where to go to university – I received all my offers back by early January but was torn between them all because none of my options seemed the obvious choice. Sure, each one had it’s benefits but none of them would allow me to continue living under the safety blanket that the sea provides me.

Surprisingly, I’ve finally settled on going to London, which if you know me well you’d be shocked at as I’ve always said I wanted to go anywhere other than London. However after my travels in London last summer and going to various open days and applicant days, I fell in love with city and the prospect of living in the hustle and bustle of it all started to appeal to me. Also, the university I’ll be going to offers me some really exciting opportunities for the years to come, including spending a year abroad working, studying or teaching in a French-speaking country.

I think, in all, this decision to move to the capital has come from my growing self-confidence over the past few months. I felt confident enough in my decision-making skills to accept my university place and was pretty sure that, in five months time when I move in, I’d still feel as though it was the right decision. I also felt confident enough to leave behind the sea that I love so much as I no longer need it to act as a source of optimism about future adventures in the wider world. University is the start of my adventure after all, so I could finally stop dreaming and get ready to start living it.

Although the thought of leaving home thrills me and terrifies me in equal parts, I know it’s the right decision for me. So many great opportunities lay ahead, and I’m so glad I’ve found the courage to let myself experience them. I will miss home very much, which is natural of course, but I know the sea and rolling fields will always be here waiting for me to return.

 

The Power of Talking; breaking mental health stigma

(I’m living life on the edge right now trying to type this out before my laptop restarts for yet another Windows update).

I met up with a friend today, spontaneously, but messaging her and asking if she wanted to meet up was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while. I think I wrote in this post, about how I haven’t been feeling at my best for some time and of how I started isolating myself from people, being trapped in my mind and quite honestly driving myself mad from overthinking. I made a promise to myself to get out of that phase, to interact more with my friends, to be more open and honest about my feelings, but since half term started, I’ve become more and more isolated and lonely and have just generally been feeling awful.

However today I decided to reach out to my friend, who I haven’t seen in quite a while, but for a moment I stopped overthinking that I wasn’t worthy of anyone’s time and sent her a message. When we met up, I didn’t want to pressure myself to talk about how I was feeling – even thought that’s why I wanted to see her, just to be able to talk to someone who has been by my side for a long time and who I trust – so I just said to myself that whatever happens, I must be honest. And I was. I almost had a breakdown in the middle of a park but we had some really deep conversations about overthinking and anxiety and social pressure, and I’m proud of myself for actually giving an honest answer when she asked how I was, instead of the usual “good, thanks”.

Through talking to each other, we discovered that we’d been going through similar things and we understood eachother, which really meant a lot. As I’m used to bottling up my emotions, the world can sometimes seem a little mad because I overthink so much that nothing makes sense in my head and eventually nothing makes sense in real life either. But talking, casually, about mental health whilst walking in the fresh air – and eventually over a box of chicken nuggets – made it seem normal and okay.

Some of the advice my friend was giving me really made me think. She can be very philosophical in her outlook on life, and although it probably won’t have as much as an impact once translated into my words, I want to try to share some of her insights in life here, so maybe it can help others too.

One thing we were talking about was the pressure of social media, because I explained how social media is becoming a huge source of overthinking for me. It’s the pressure of being constantly social, and active and talking to other people. This need to be constantly in touch with the virtual world can make us presume that if someone hasn’t replied to a message then they automatically don’t like us, don’t want be friends with us and don’t care about us anymore. This is becoming a big problem for me, because I almost constantly pick apart all my friendships based on people’s activity on social media – it’s a downward spiral, a trap. Sometimes if a friend doesn’t reply to a message, but I can see they have been active on social media, I will think that’s it, the friendship’s over, they don’t care about me anymore, I’m not worthy of anyone’s time, there’s no point contacting other friends stop because they won’t want to talk to me either, I’m just being annoying, none of my friends really like me and so on. It’s ridiculous that social media controls my emotions in such a destructive way, and that my friend – and probably many of you – could relate. Although it’s hard to avoid social media and the pressures that come with it in the world we are living in, I need to find a balance between real life and the virtual world to be free from this pressure. I do want to have social media in my life, because I have met some amazing people as a result of it, but I also want to live in the present and for social media to be a positive addition to my life, not a negative obstacle that holds me back.

I admitted that some of the problems social media was causing me were due to the fact that I don’t feel like I fit in anywhere, because I don’t really have a set friendship group anymore and I’ve been feeling a bit lost. But I know now that that’s okay, because people come and go through our lives and I understand now that, to borrow my friend’s analogy, even if you keep watering a dead flower, it won’t come back to life. That is to say, you can keep trying to hold onto friendships that are falling apart and friends that are drifting away, but there comes a point where you need to let the flower die – for both individual’s sake – because this makes room for new flowers – or friends – to come into your life and blossom. I may feel like I’ve lost a lot of friends, but I still have a few “flowers” who I can always count on, and that’s what matters. I will meet new people and make new friends, just as the people who have slipped out of my life will or already have.

We also talked about anxiety and the stigma surrounding mental health. I explained how I’d been suffering with anxious feelings for the past month or so, probably the result of stress and pressure from college combined with social pressures, all of which has contributed to this constant overthinking and worrying about what other people think. It’s tiring – draining – to feel this way; it’s been a long time since I felt like I could do something with ease, in a relaxed way without my mind constantly racing with all sorts of irrational scenarios and thoughts. It was comforting that my friend understood and we could talk about it freely, it really showed to me that it was okay to talk about mental health, because we all have mental health and the sooner we break down the stigma around discussing it, the better it’ll be for everyone. No one should have to face mental health alone – we are so much stronger if we tackle it together.

Now I feel so much lighter after discussing all this with someone I admire and respect a lot, and I think it helped her too. Although I don’t see many of my friends often, I am now a little bit more reassured that they still do care and the friendship is still there. I can’t express enough how much today has changed my perspective on life. Although my thoughts aren’t coherent and I’ve still got a long way to go, I took a risk in reaching out to a friend for help, and it paid off. Life’s all about taking risks, we don’t always know which ones will be worth taking until we’ve taken them, but we always learn in the process.

Here’s to more opening up about mental health, on my part and yours.