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Saturday, 16 December 2017

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose...

Where have the past 3 months gone? It is 3 months to the day that I boarded the train at St Pancras with my one-way ticket for Paris Gare du Nord, terrified of what I was about to do. How has that gone so fast? So much has changed since I left in September and now I'm coming back to the UK for Christmas it is fair to say I can't wait. While Paris is amazing, beautiful and sexy as hell, it is also loud, smelly and brash and there are always times when I sit at my window, still amazed at the fact I actually live in this crazy city.

Yet, in typical British fashion, there is always something that is not quite right with living abroad. Heading back to London I'm excited to buy fruit and vegetables that don't cost the earth and go mouldy within a day, to not be dodging dog-shit every 5 steps down the street, not to have the constant smell of piss on the metro, to be able to get a coffee or a drink without breaking the bank. I can't wait to see baked beans, cheddar cheese, Nandos, (not that I don't appreciate French food).

And while it is going to be lovely to hear English everywhere once again, and to be able to completely understand everything - not just half of everything, I will miss speaking French, or trying to at least! I apologise to everyone on the tube when I automatically say 'pardon' or 'excuse-moi' over the next few weeks and I'm gonna have brain fudge moments when I forget the English word for something because I am so used to it in French. I know just as I get used to being back it will be time to return Paris and do it all over again. Next term there is going to be the added fun of beginning to tackle my dissertation, which I can't wait to be over already, and I'll have to decide when to leave this wonderful city for good. But before that, I'll have to complete my things to do in Paris list, along with going to Calais with Harley to work with the refugees with Utopia 56 and basically completing my masters. It's a terrifying prospect because come 30th August when my dissertation will be handed in, I'll have to decide what to do next - travelling again or get a real job? So much is going to happen within the next few months and living in Paris going to go by in a flash so here's to making the most of it but also too exciting things to come (once I've tackled these horrible essays that is).

Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx


Thursday, 7 December 2017

Czech it out: A Prague Getaway

First off the bat, apologies for the pun in the title of this post, I'm sorry, not sorry, it has to be done.

As you might be able to tell, I'm in Prague! I've finally left Paris for a few days and travelled over to the Czech Republic, a place that has been on my European visit list for a long time now but I haven't had the chance to go as many of my usual travel companions have already been here and aren't as enthusiastic about doing a weekend break to a place they've already been, which is fair. But wow, Prague is gorgeous. There aren't many places which I go to where I could see myself living but Prague is certainly one of them. It is so beautiful and magical and even though I don't know a single word of Czech, the people are lovely and so willing to help - they're probably used to the huge amount of English-speaking tourists here, but still, it's great.

Lennon Wall, Prague

The city might be small (although not compared to the likes of Ljubljana, Slovenia) it has plenty to offer and coming in December is a perfect time, while it is cold and if you're lucky there might be a dusting of snow on the roof-tops, pre-Christmas you are guaranteed to find a Christmas market around every corner in the city. From the cobbled streets to the permanent smell of cinnamon and mulled wine in the air, it is safe to say the Czechs know how to do Christmas right and you will not be left disappointed with a taste of Prague - both cuisine and souvenir gifts - on offer.

Old Town Square Xmas Market
If Christmas isn't your thing then take a tram ride up to the top of the hill on the other side of the river and wander around Prague's castle which is also where the Czech President lives apparently, so is still pretty much functional. There's also the Old Town Square and Peace Square which both have beautiful churches to admire. Head to the Communism museum to learn about the torrid history of the Czech Republic and how recent some of the atrocities actually were. It sounds a bit dark for a holiday but I think it is very important to know even a little bit about the places you are going to, or learn it while you are there.
View from the Castle of Prague


I would highly recommend going to the infamous Lennon Wall on the other side of the river. As you can see from the pictures, the vivid colours are amazing and it is a wonderful representation of peace in a place that has seen so much unrest. The little streets around the river here are great just to wander and enjoy being in Prague, so definitely walk back over the Charles Bridge to get a full view of Prague from the river.

Practicalities:

The Czech Republic is part of the EU so it is relatively simple to travel to, with a flight of approx £80 from the UK or €100 from Paris and a flight time of about 1.5 hours it is an ideal weekend getaway.
Do what we did and embrace the Airbnb lifestyle in Prague, it is probably the most practical and cheapest way to stay in the city. Our apartment was £23 per night and was only a very short bus ride into the city centre. You can also use Prague as a base a take a day trip to nearby Vienna, Dresden or Bratislava and is pretty much in the centre of Europe.

Prague: My #1 European Destination

Let me know where you think I should explore next or if you have any recommendations!

Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love Kate xxx

Sunday, 26 November 2017

A Parisian Tour Guide

This past weekend and two weeks ago I had my first weekend visitors in Paris and I assumed my role as a Parisian tour guide. While I don't claim to know all of Paris at all yet, I think I have started to know my way around the areas I spend most of my time. Having people here also means that I start to get to tick things of my Paris list, it also means I have an excuse to try some of the hundreds of amazing restaurants in Paris!

Venus de Milo
While Elliott was here I finally had an excuse to go to the Louvre, I mean considering I live right next to it, it was about time! It was great because it is free if you are under 26 and have ID from the EU - just got straight through, don't bother with a ticket - also top tip, go to the entrance in the carousel du louvre, the shopping centre under the louvre because there is a direct entrance into the museum with no waiting time, unlike the entrance through the pyramids outside which has an average waiting time of 2hrs. Also, we both decided that the Mona Lisa was very underwhelming.

Place des Vosges 

Another stop on Kate and Elliott's tour around Paris was maison de Victor Hugo, one of the place's Victor Hugo lived. Again, another free one for those under 26, and although it is not very big as it is just his apartment, it is very interesting, for me anyway cause I have a slight obsession with Les Mis. It is also in the area of Paris called Le Marias which is full of very pretty cobbled streets.

Champs Elysees

While Elliott was here we also made it to the armistice ceremony at the arc du triomph as it was 11/11. It was very atmospheric and although we got caught in the cold and rain and didn't quite get to see Macron laying the wreath (apart from on the big screen), my housemate Hannah bumped into Sarkozy, casual. 11/11 is more of a big deal in France as it is a public holiday so it was really interesting to see how it is 'celebrated' or remembered differently.
Ell and I also went to a restaurant (widely recommended by my housemate Jake and my mum) called Boullion Chartier in the 9th which is a classic French bistro with cheap, traditional food and wine. You can't book here so be prepared to queue, especially on a Saturday night when we went, but they serve Sangria in the queue so it is not all bad! - also it seems to help if you speak a little bit of French to the host as they will get you through the queue quicker.

Hotel des Invalides
Madeline Girls!

With it being Beth's first time in Paris we literally had just Saturday to try and see the whole of Paris - and I think we seemed to manage it! First stop was a wander through Tuileries, followed by trying to avoid the rain in Jardin du Luxembourg and a walk down to the Catacombs - which we didn't make it into because the queue was so long, that will be one for another day (it is still on my list). Next stop was over to Notre Dame for lunch before heading over to Hotel des Invalides to see Napoleon's tomb where we encountered a group of French school girls just like in Madeline!

prive de desserts - my new fav place

From there it was a short walk over to the Eiffel tower so Beth could get a good photo up close before we headed over to the Christmas market a La Defense. Our last stop of the day was my new favourite restaurant, prive de dessert at the top of the 9th (Metro: Anvers). I've been wanting to try this place for ages, ever since I saw it on Time Out and it didn't disappoint! The concept of the restaurant is that your main meal is a dessert (I had a banana split) and it looks like the dessert but is actually made out of main meal items (my banana split was actually sea bass and potatoes) and your dessert is a main (I had spag bol which was actually lemon tart). Although it wasn't particularly cheap, it was worth it!

Big Love, 75003
In Paris, Sunday's are for Brunch. Never has this been more true today as bright and earlyish we walked over to Cafe Big Love in the 3rd for Brunch. Big Love is part of the Big Momma chain of French-Italian restaurants which are great because they serve amazing food (we had the wild pancakes with blueberries and Chantilly cream and the truffle, Parmesan eggs) served at great prices. It looks super cute too!

All in all its been a lovely couple of weekends that has really helped me to appreciate Paris and helped my knock some things off my list which still stands at:
- Disneyland Paris
- Catacombs
- Sacre Coeur (still haven't been)
- Ernest Hemmingway Cafe
- Pompidou Centre
- Musee Rodin
- Go somewhere to eat Raclette

Let me know if you have any must-dos in Paris that I can add to my list!

Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Winter in Paris

So I think it is safe to say that as it is now certainly mid-November and that winter is officially here. In Paris, winter brings the freezing cold days in January when the wind whips off the Seine and makes you feel cold in every single part of your body and you can never wear too many layers but winter at the moment means the beginning of the build-up to Christmas. Today I have taken a couple of hours this afternoon to have a wander around some of the streets around the area where I live to appreciate some of the Christmas displays that have been going up. Christmas music is being played in the cafes and decorations are everywhere so it is finally time to get Christmassy and excited for the holidays.

(Made of Balloons)
Galerie Vivienne 

Galerie Lafayette's infamous tree


While wandering around Galerie Lafayette, well I say wandering, trying to get around all the tourists, I was amazed at the pure luxury of the place, the opulent wealth, which got me thinking about something I have wanted to write about for a while now. While the beauty of Paris at Christmas is exciting, and I can't wait to go to the markets and embrace all the Christmassy activities, it is hard to ignore my privilege at this time of year when I'm walking around the streets of Paris and there is a homeless man, woman or family on every street corner begging for money. All I want to do it give them something because it breaks my heart that I get to go home to a warm bed and these people, who are people and deserve to have a home as much I do, don't have the safety of a roof over their heads or know when they will next eat, but with so many homeless in Paris, it is hard to know where to begin.
Christmas is a wonderful time of year for those that have families to go to and warm places to share food around the table, but this year, as every year, I want to remember, and to remind myself that it is not all fun and games for everyone, and that when I'm feeling overwhelmed and don't know where to start, giving my spare change to even one person on the street will make that much difference to that one person and very little difference to what I can or can't afford in the long run. 

Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

Saturday, 28 October 2017

The Paris Syndrome

I know it hasn't been long since my last post and last time it was a bittersweet goodbye to London and a welcome back to Paris but I was excited. After what happened on Thursday evening I have been left with a taste of the less pleasant side of Paris that is not all beautiful museums and old streets. Paris is very well known for pickpockets and thieves, especially on the metro so you are always warned to be careful, and I thought I was, but as I was walking up the steps out of the metro station Palais Royal, on my way home from class, I had just put my headphones in and put my phone in my pocket when some pathetic excuse for a human had the audacity to steal my phone out of my pocket off my headphones. Obviously, I noticed as soon as the music in my headphones stopped and I turned around, assuming my phone had just fallen out of my pocket, but clearly this cretin had already disappeared with my phone.

Losing, or having your phone taken kinda makes you feel like you are missing a limb because the first thing I went to do was call my phone company to cancel my phone, but clearly, I couldn't do that. Then I wanted to look up the nearest police station to report it, couldn't do that either. I won't bore you with the minute details of the events of the rest of that night, but in short, I went to 4 different police stations, two of which were closed and the last one refused to help me. I was shaking from being so shocked at what had happened and this French policewoman shouted at me and slammed the door in my face, refusing to help on the basis that they didn't want to because they were understaffed. I quote 'if your phone is stolen now it will still be stolen in the morning'. I was shocked at her attitude, yes I know this happens every day, and yes I know the likelihood of them finding my phone is zero, but still, let's keep up the pretence that the police actually are in some control of this.
After the stress of Thursday evening, it was all I could do from getting back on the Eurostar and getting out of here, my illusion of Paris was broken. I came back to my flat and had a comfort cheese toastie with the cheddar I brought back from the UK and seriously re-considered why I am actually here, why am I putting myself through this.

Now, a couple of days later and a bit of distance and perspective, I'm kicking myself for putting my phone in my pocket in the first place, and I do now realise it is not the end of the world, I have insurance for a reason and I can get a new phone, the awful pit in my stomach from being a victim of theft is slowly fading and I'll forget about it soon enough.

However, what this has done is shatter the illusion of Paris that I think I was stuck in. Going on about the beauty of the city is all well and good, but in reality that doesn't mean much. In reality, this city is loud and noisy and dirty and full of people looking out for themselves. Sometimes there is a glimmer of hope when you meet people who go out of their way to help, but ultimately they are few are far between. Just one example of this is the amount of visible homeless people in Paris, yes, the homeless are in London too, I might be wrong, but I feel like this is something we care about in the UK, and something we want to change - if I ever see anyone selling a big issue I always buy it, I always want to help, but in Paris I don't get that same feeling, and that breaks my heart. There is so much inequality here, the homeless, undocumented migrants, the vivid racism, problems that every city suffers from the world over, but I don't feel like anyone really cares here.
I'm not branding Paris and saying it's all bad and I hate it here, that's not true, but the romance period has worn off now, and I'm left with the brutality of the city which in some ways makes me more aware of what I've got to do, but also means I'm pretty sure I couldn't come back here on holiday.

The Paris Syndrome is supposedly a real condition, and while I don't suffer from this, I understand the premise because once all the hype has died down of the first few weeks, what you are left with is a place that is pretty much like everywhere else.



Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Dis-placing Me

I'm writing this as I'm stuck on the Eurostar on the way home after one of the best weekends away. Yes, I mean stuck, the train is literally not moving because people are on the track - thanks Ashford, so now is as good a time as any for a new blog post. This post is called Dis-placing Me because, after a weekend away - and by that, I actually mean back in London, I've decided I wanted to write about the difficulty of living in two different countries - two different worlds. I'm so lucky to have the opportunity of living in Paris, but it is not always a bed of roses.

The biggest challenge I've realised is that home no longer a place but the people that make it so. Of course, my home is my family, but my family is more than just parents and siblings, they are the friends who are now stuck with me for life (you poor people know who you are) and the ones I've only just begun to get to know.

However, I say all of this, nothing compares to the feeling of home I get when I step off the train into London - there is just something about the huge, sprawling, magical city that lets me know I'm back where I'm meant to be. It's a strange feeling and something that I didn't quite realise until the end of this year, and considering I have never actually lived in London proper, I'm not too sure where it has come from but I so don't care - London is home now, London is me.

Now that I've realised London is where I'm meant to be for the foreseeable future, and even though I've only just moved to Paris, I'm so excited to get my own proper London flat that isn't a student place and that I can begin to make my own. I feel so adult and so lame that this is what I'm getting excited about - picking out sofas and china patterns (already decided by the way) but I don't care. I think I'm so excited to be in my own little sanctuary partly because, while I'm starting to feel more at home in Paris, it is not quite my base, and I think knowing that I am really only going to be there until next summer (I'm thinking end of May at the moment) means that I'm slightly hesitant to become more invested and established, which is silly but takes time I know.

I am feeling more at home in Paris with every week that goes past, I've met some amazing people (again you know who you are) and I'm so pleased I've found them to make this transition so much easier. I'm not going to lie though, leaving Elliott at the station to get the Eurostar this evening I did have a little tear up, sat on my lonesome from Bromley South to St Pancras I had happy tears that I was so lucky to have now got two amazing places to split my time for the next 7-8 months and many incredible people, but it doesn't make it easier leaving, saying goodbye to the people in the UK that actually mean home to me.

The only picture I have from the entire weekend - Elliott winning (again)


It was so strange, we went back to Egham last night (for any new readers this was the town I went to university in for 3 years) for the first time since my graduation in July. I knew I was going to have to go back at some point and I was slightly apprehensive because this place meant so much to me as an undergraduate, this place really was my home 100% for the last 3 years and leaving it was one of the hardest things I had to do. Yet, being back last night and today it hit me again that this place was no longer home because most of the people that made it home had changed or moved on, it was sad but also a good realisation that actually the memories I'd made will always be with me but it was time to move on and that coming back actually wasn't going to help me at all, so I don't think I'll be back for a while.

I've finally made it back to my flat now so I'm going straight to bed, but I hope you enjoy my ramblings and I'll make a more concise post about the first half of term in Paris next week.

Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx


Sunday, 15 October 2017

de la nouvelle reine de Versailles...

This past weekend has been pretty warm in the city of Paris, around 25 degrees at times - not great for global warming as it is most definitely mid-October but it provided me with beautiful weekend weather to see another side of Paris.

Ironically, one of the most touristy full days that I've had since being here wasn't actually in Paris. On Saturday, me and a few others caught the train out of Paris to Versailles and we weren't disappointed. I have decided in my next life, or this one if it works out, I will be the next Queen of Versailles (granted they haven't had one since the 18th Century but still). There are no words to accurately describe how beautiful this place is, but I'll try - and some pictures might help too.

The Gardens at Versailles (credit: Morgan Amsrud)

As we all agreed, living in the heart of Paris is incredible, but sometimes, like yesterday, getting out the city the is needed, a chance to see some trees, grass and fresh air and the gardens at Versailles is the ideal peaceful escape. While entrance to the palace itself is free for EU students under 26, entrance to the gardens is 8 euros, but personally, I think it is worth every penny.

(credit: Morgan Amsrud)

The gardens are huge, you can walk for miles and miles and still not have even walked half way round. Around every corner there is some beautiful walkway or elaborate gold fountain or lake, and the classical music that is alternately played throughout the garden is not only peacefully relaxing but transports you back to a time when ladies in royal dresses would have wandered through the trees. There is always the option to rent a row boat up one of the lakes, or get a golf buggy to give you a bigger opportunity to see more of the garden, but as it was such a beautiful day, an ice cream by the water was all we needed.

All the selfies (credit: Mafe Cera Torne)
The Palace itself is worthwhile a visit, but be prepared to be surrounded by thousands of tourists, as we were, but even in a place as big as this you can't help feeling like cattle being corralled from room to room. My favourite room was obviously the infamous hall of mirrors, but you can see why the peasants weren't too keen on the royals when everything is laced in gold while the people were starving...
The Hall of Mirrors (credit: Morgan Amsrud)


All in all 10/10 day, while Paris is breath-taking, sometimes taking a break from the hustle and bustle is needed to appreciate it even more. 

Below is my list of things I want to do or places to go while I'm here to make the most of it, so expect various blog posts on all of these places and more - let me know if you think there is anything missing or you can recommend! 
- Visit the Louvre
- Tour the Catacombs 
- Day trip to Disneyland
- Go to Maison de Victor Hugo
- Walk up the steps to Sacre Coeur 
- Have a Paris Christmas party with secret santa
- Visit Ernest Hemingway's favourite cafe
- Take a tour of some of Paris's markets
- Have a meal at prive de desserts

Already ticked off:
- Versailles
- Drinking on the Champ de Mars under the Eiffel Tower at night
- Visit the Musee d'Orsay
- Go to Shakespeare and Company bookshop
- Walk along the Seine and pont neuf

Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

Friday, 13 October 2017

Bienvenue à Paris

Welcome Back!

I know it has been a while and I know I owe you all avid readers a huge apology for the silence the past month, so sorry!


As you might be able to tell, I have finally moved to Paris! After months of huffing and puffing, to-ing and fro-ing and winding literally ALL of my friends up with my indecisiveness and then my completely overwhelming nerves the week before I left, I finally made it here and have somewhat been settled in the month that I've been here - I can't believe it's been that long already.



Walk to The American Library in Paris, Sunday morning
Paris itself is amazing and beautiful and sexy as hell if a city can be all those things. I walk out my front door and in one direction is the Place des Victoires, in the other direction is the pyramids of the Louvre, all within a 2-minute walk. There is a boulangerie around every corner and the Seine is a stone's throw away. Although Paris is not all romance and baguettes, its pretty close - my walk to uni takes me through the Louvre, the Tuileries, across the Seine, right past the Musée d'Orsay, how this is normal?!

Vive la France!


While it has taken a while to adjust to life in France, and there are definitely a few little things I miss about the UK (Dairy Milk, cheddar cheese, fresh fruit and veg that doesn't cost a fortune), it's not so bad here. One thing I love is that I get the chance to practise my French - I am no way near fluent and doubt that will happen anytime soon, but it is great to most of the time be able to understand people and at least attempt to respond - although this can also backfire when I can't understand someone and really need to - so don't underestimate the power of hand signals and body language at times! I hope that my French will be better by the time my course is finished, but that does take effort as I spend much more of my life in English than I thought I would.  My flatmates are English, my course is in English, my uni is English and my friends are all English-speaking because it is our common language...so it will take a bit of effort on my part, but I'm gonna keep at it.

Walk to Uni
I'm back home next weekend which I'm actually really looking forward to, but I know Paris will still be here when I get back - and so will the mountain of work that a Masters degree seems to require - shocking, eh? International Relations is a completely new subject for me which makes it slightly harder to catch up on things like theories and concepts, but I do enjoy the change of pace from undergrad life - however, I am now 100% sure that at the end of this masters I will be done with education for a while - yet still not time to hit the real world I think!

I'll try and be more regular with my posts from now on, all probably unapologetically Paris themed. Let me know if there is anything you want to know about Paris or want me to write about, otherwise, you can look forward to another Paris post hopefully by the end of next week!

Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

Monday, 21 August 2017

Travelling or Therapy?

I know I haven't written a post in a long time, and the last time I did write was about the more downbeat, but very real issue of the post-university blues, and I said I don't write posts unless I have something to say. Well, now I have something to share. When wrote that last post, as I mentioned before, my heart was broken because I was leaving my home of 3 years, and while I still miss it and everyone there with all my being, it has become easier to deal with.

For me, travelling has not just been something amazing and a chance to see the world, but it has become a form of therapy. Sometimes travelling may seem like running away from your problems but looking at something from 8000 miles away can certainly give you a different type of perspective. I know this might sound very obvious or airy-fairy, but last time I was writing I was struggling a lot with a very big life decision - whether to attempt to find a job, stay at Holloway for another year or be brave and go to Paris. I was still struggling with this decision when I left over 5 weeks ago on July 17th to head to Central America.



There's nothing like leaving alone and attempting to tackle 8 countries in 5 weeks without knowing a word of Spanish to clear your head. I hadn't been travelling alone for 2 years to this point, and although I was absolutely terrified about leaving, (and my best friends will attest to this), once again, as always, it was the best decision ever.

Going to the other side of the world made me realise I could do it, I could do anything I wanted to, and that, while all my fears about leaving and moving to Paris for a year were legitimate, they also made it part of the appeal. Moving abroad can be exciting and terrifying at the same time, and they both go hand in hand, but leaving for 5 weeks showed me what I already knew but seemed to have forgotten, that I can completely rely on myself and that I am in control of my own life. End of story.
I'm still beyond nervous about leaving, and in 4 weeks time when I have to leave for good I probably will not want to go, but I will be so proud of myself for going, and I will be able to do it.



Deciding this was finally a decision for me. I stopped faffing around and chose to not make my decision about anyone else but me, and it felt so good, it was such a relief. I was so caught up before about what to do that I couldn't see a way out, I was winding myself up so much I couldn't hear myself think. Travelling allowed me to understand what I really wanted, and while it is probably a more expensive solution than therapy, its a hell of a lot more fun!

Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

Monday, 12 June 2017

The End of an Era: Post University Blues

To my lovely readers,

It's breaking my heart having to write this, but I have now come to the end of my time as an undergraduate student at Royal Holloway, the place I have happily come to call home. I hate to admit it but as I write this I am fighting back the tears because more than anything I don't ever want to say goodbye to this place. It is my home and the people here are my family. We have lived, loved and laughed together more than I could have ever imagined. I was terrified when I was driving up here from home, scared out of my mind that the place I was going to have to stay for the next 3 years would be horrible and would make me want to count down the days till I could go home.

How wrong I was.

And I'm so pleased I was wrong. This place and these people have provided me with the best 3 years of my life. So far. And I'm going to say so far because I can only hope that the future years are going to be just as good.

While leaving is painful, thinking about the future is just as hard. I can't imagine waking up without my best friend just the other side of my bedroom wall, and honestly, I don't know how I am going to do it.

My options for life now are terrifying me because whatever I choose to do it will still be a massive change. I could go to Paris and do my masters there as has been the plan up until last week (I've done more U-turns on that than Teresa May!) or I could move to London and find a job, or stay here and accept my masters' place. Yet, even if I take the easy option and stay here everything will have changed. I won't be living in the same house with the same people anymore. I won't have the pleasure of walking through Egham or onto campus and knowing at least 50% of the people there. I will know what I'm doing, I will still have my job, I will still have the security of feeling comfortable, safe and at home for another year, even if I am without some of the people which make this place home. But then I will have this problem all over again next year and have the same feeling of being totally and utterly lost. I'm aware having these amazing options open to me is very much a 'first world problem' moment but it doesn't make it any easier.

In a way, I want to just go to London and get a job because it is simple. While finding that job will be challenging, and setting up in a new place, finding new people to make it home will be near on impossible, London is so close to everyone and everything that make me me at the moment so it feels like it would be a step forward from leaving RoHo but not such a giant leap as moving to Paris.

But then Paris. Honestly, I don't know why I want to go, except not going would feel like a massive failure. Admitting that maybe I can't do it is so hard because I've never liked to take the easy way out of anything. I want to be myself, I want to be that person who can just up and move to Paris and have the most amazing time that is beyond Instagram-worthy and is something that people talk about with wonder. But truthfully, I'm absolutely terrified. Terrified that I'm going to hate it, terrified that by going somewhere I know nothing about or no-one there that I will end up more alone that I have ever been, more isolated than I have ever been and more forgotten than I have ever been. Yet, the potential for going is so much greater too. I can finally be fluent in French like I have always wanted. I can get a masters, I can have lived in Paris and experience some of the greatest things it has to offer.

I feel like, with this, I am standing on the edge of a cliff and if I jump into the unknown that is Paris I may either find that there is actually a beautiful ocean at the bottom in which I can swim or jagged rocks that will hurt. Or I can take the sensible steps down to the bottom by getting a job, or I can just turn around and say 'I'll try again next year' and walk away by staying at RoHo.

I love my life here so much that I never want to have to give it up, but it is changing, everyone who makes it what it is are moving on and I have to push myself to make sure I am moving on with it, however much it hurts.

In some ways, I wish I had been more prepared for the Post-University Blues. I wish it is something that we are warned about. How hard it is to let go and move on from something that has been a big portion of your life as a student. I wish it is something that is more openly talked about, because the concept of separation anxiety from university and the people is a real thing, and it can be really scary, and as reassuring as it is to hear that you are not the only one feeling it and that it is something that everyone experiences at one time or another, it still doesn't make it go away. The only way to combat it, that I've found, anyway, is to stay busy. But in the downtime the time when you have nothing to do but think about how much you are going to miss everything and how you don't want it to change, well then what do you do?

I know this is all a bit heavy for a post considering that I haven't written much in a while however it is something that is playing a big part in my life right now.

I have two weeks left in this house until I have to leave. Elliott just left for the week (to be back at the weekend) and I'm already upset so what the fuck am I going to do when we both actually have to move out for proper. I'm going to be a mess. I can't walk past his empty bedroom without the prick of tears at the moment, and that's not helping anybody right now.

Lots of Love to you all, and to my fellow third years who may be feeling only a fraction of what I'm feeling right now, it's scary but it's going to be okay, at least that is what we must believe at the moment.



Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

Friday, 28 April 2017

What now?

Sorry for the long silence apart from the occasional radio posts my lovely readers - I simply haven't had the time and I've had a little bit of writer's block. I don't want to write a post just for the sake of it so I only try to write when I really have something to say.

Well, I have finished. Yup, that's it. Done. Finito. No more exams, no more essays. End of. And that is absolutely fucking scary. I can't believe how fast my time at Royal Holloway has gone, and how much I have loved it. As much as I have had my days when I have wanted to run kicking and screaming out of Egham, I'm really going to miss this place and the people here. Don't get me wrong I am so looking forward to going to Paris (I did tell you guys I am moving to Paris to do a masters degree right!?) - I am, but at the same time I'm sad that I've only got two months left in Egham before I lose my house and have to move on.

So many people I know are growing up and getting jobs and I'm really happy for them, but I don't want that part of my life to start just yet. So, therefore, Paris, and why I have also booked for a month to go travelling around Central America: Mexico-Belize-Guatemala-Honduras-Nicaragua-Costa Rica! It's going to be epic. Yes, it's fucking expensive but I've worked my ass off working 4 jobs this year to be able to afford this so I'm going to damn well enjoy myself, I've earned it. I'm so nervous excited for this!

Planning fun
I'm so looking forward to the summer and next year and what adventures it brings, but at the same time I really want to savour my time here and make the most of the moment - cause I'm gonna really miss RHUL and the people I have come to consider my family now.

Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

SPOTLIGHT ON: LJUBLJANA

Welcome to #traveltuesday once again here on Insanity 103.2FM and today we are going to Ljubljana, one of the most under-rated cities in Europe in my opinion. Slovenia is one of the most amazing countries in Europe as it is relatively undiscovered in travelling terms - it is not on the typical travel route (although it usually features as a stop for most interrailing students) and it is definitely on the rise as a popular place to go. This is most likely because of its beautiful city, welcoming people and very affordable prices. The fact that Slovenia is also only a 2hr plane journey away makes it pretty popular too. Sandwiched between Vienna, Italy, Slovakia and Hungary, Slovenia is pretty much in the centre of Europe, and it is the centre of my top ten European travel destinations.

Easiest way to get there:

  • By Train: interrailing or by train from wherever you are coming from on your journey
  • By Bus: from Croatia or Vienna etc. buses to Ljubljana are as cheap as €22 
  • By Plane: from London Gatwick or Stanstead EasyJet flies once a day direct to Ljubljana for as little as £60 return - the Hungarian airline Wizz also flies there too for similar prices

Riverside Ljubljana

Where to stay:
  • Ljubljana - is so small there is not much to choose from: I stayed in a great Airbnb above a bar called Liquid for £52 per night for the entire apartment and it is a really cheap option because it can take up to 5 people and includes a free breakfast while being right in the centre of the city so you literally walk outside the front of the bar and be next to the Dragon bridge
  • Hotel Mrak: £69 per night, and right in the centre of the city
  • Hostel Tivoli: £13 per night, includes a basic breakfast, 10-minute walk to congress square and right next to the bus station 
Lake Bled


What to do:

  • Visit Lake Bled: bus ticket from Ljubljana bus station for €12 for 1h30m bus journey to one of the most beautiful lakes and scenes - take a walk around the lake and enjoy the gorgeous sunshine
  • Take the funicular up to Ljubljana castle and wander around the restored castle and prison - tickets are €7 for students - get a spectacular view of the city 
  • Take a free walking tour of Ljubljana leaving from outside the Pink Church in the old town at 11 am every day - worth it to spend a couple of hours wandering around the city - although as it is so small there is not much walking involved. The best part is you get all the history of the city but don't forget the guides rely on tips so leave them a couple of euros 
  • Sit by the river and enjoy a cocktail at many of the riverside bars
  • Wander around the open and covered markets to pick up some memorable souvenirs and food

Pink Church
Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx
  

Saturday, 18 March 2017

SPOTLIGHT ON: AMSTERDAM

It's #traveltuesday once again here on Insanity 103.2FM and today we are getting on a plane and heading towards the wonderful city of Amsterdam in The Netherlands. Amsterdam is known across the world as a city of hedonism, partying and good times, but there is more to do in Amsterdam that just party (although it is pretty great here too). Spending a long weekend in the city is a must for any traveller and it is a perfect starting or ending point for your Europe interrailing journey too. Enjoy a stroll down the by the canals in the summer, pop into one of the many museums that scatter the city or browse one of the markets in one of Amsterdam's many parks.


  • STA: offers '72 Hours in Amsterdam' Tour which includes 2 nights at St Christopher's at the Winston hostel with breakfast, the Amerstdam Combi ticket - one-hour Canal Cruise and Heineken Experience, Amsterdam city bike tour OR the Amsterdam pub crawl and the Red Light District Walking Tour. 


Easiest way to get there:

  • Fly: from London, it is only a 40-minute flight to Amsterdam Schipol airport for as little as £60 with EasyJet from Gatwick or British Airways or KLM from Heathrow 
  • Coach: with National Express from London Victoria to Amsterdam for as little as £15 one way although it will take you close to 20 hours to get there!
Where to Stay:

  • Airbnb: You can find some great and interesting places to stay on Airbnb - from eco houses to houseboats, Amsterdam has it all!
  • St Christopher's at the Winston: centrally located hostel with free breakfast, a place in a dorm room costs £21 per night. The hostel also has a nightclub which is located right next to the hostel so this place is not for the light sleeper!
  • Hotel Vondel: for those who would like to splash out this hotel is a small, boutique hotel set in the heart of the city with a beautiful breakfast patio, this place is £73 per night for one person or £37 per night for a twin room between two.

What to do:
  • Head to one of Amsterdam's famous 'Coffee Shops' and see what they have to offer, not like your average Starbucks, similarly, Smart shops in Amsterdam aren't that smart...but you'll have to go there to find out yourself to know what I mean
  • Go to the Flower Market and buy some of Amsterdam's famous tulips
  • Join the masses queueing at Anne Frank's House for a peek at where the Frank family hid out 
  • Wander around the museum quarter, and especially check out the Van Gough and Rijks Museums and take a photo with the famous 'I Amsterdam' sign 
  • Go to the Heineken Experience and taste the world famous beer
  • Visit Dam Square where all the shops and clubs are, visit the sex museum here or take a boat tour around Amsterdam from here. Admire the architecture of the churches. 
  • Meet in Dam Square for the Free Walking Tour of Amsterdam. Book here in advance. I would highly recommend these tours as they show you all of Amsterdam in a couple of hours, they will show you all the sights and the guides are knowledgeable and fun. The guides rely on tips, so tip at your discretion, but great on a student budget!
  • Wander around the Red Light District - enough said! 


Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

PRE-RECORD - SPOTLIGHT ON: USA

So as I am pre-recording for my summer show which is to be aired 12-2pm on 7th July I thought, considering I have 2 hours to fill, that I would tackle the travelling beast that is the USA. There is no way that I am ever going to be able to recommend and cover every place in the USA, mainly because that would take all day and I haven't been to half the places in the States to adequately cover it. Therefore, today's show is going to focus on the North East corner of the USA, mainly because that is the part of the USA that I have been to, I will dedicate other shows to the South and the West Coast, mainly because there is so much to cover here and they are places on my bucket list too!

Places to Visit in North East:

  • New York, duh! 
  • New Haven, Connecticut 
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Cleveland, Ohio
  • Chicago, Illinois 
These are all the places in the States that I have been to and although it is just a tiny portion, and some of the places you wouldn't normally pick to go, I would highly recommend them all. 

Easiest way to get there:
  • Each of these cities has its own airport (except New Haven) have their own airports so direct flights are readily available from the UK. Peak time is August and Christmas when flights can be up to £900 but at the cheapest time of year which is January you can get flights into New York for as little as £300 return. 
  • Airlines to look at are: BA (don't forget those airmiles!), American Air, Delta and Norwegian Air have started doing some really sick deals. Keep a look out for the airline sales after Christmas as this is prime time to book, flights to the USA are often some of the most discounted ones.
  • Flights leave Heathrow for BA to New York up to 6 times a day.
New York
Realistically New York should have its own show as this place is like no other. I have been there twice for a few days each time and hit up all the tourist places, which of course you have to do the first time you're there.
  • Stay in the Doubletree by Hilton for about £100 per night each for a shared room for a luxurious and affordable place to stay, in the area of Chelsea you are right in the heart of Manhattan, in perfect position to see and do everything easily. 
Where to go in New York:
  • Empire State Building
  • Rockefeller Centre
  • Times Square
  • Ground Zero
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Take in a Show on Broadway
  • Walk down Wall Street
  • Central Park - and Central Park Zoo
  • Shopping on Fifth Avenue
  • Grand Central Station - head to the red-fronted cafe opposite for a cheaper meal and a famous film spot.
TOP TIP: Get the New York City Pass it is quite pricey at $200 for 3 days, (although you can get it for 1, 3, 7, 9 etc. days) but it really does save money for over 90 attractions in New York and fast-tracks you for many of them too!

New Haven, Connecticut

So I've only included New Haven as a stop off along the way to Boston from New York. I would not recommend staying overnight, however, do make it part of your journey if you can. The beautiful campus of Yale university is a must see and the leafy surroundings are worth taking a break to see. Grab a coffee in one of the independent coffee shops that line the streets and wander round the town at leisure.

Yale


Boston, Mass

Boston has so much to offer so take at least a few days to explore Boston as much as possible. On the coast, Boston harbour is the place to find the famous New England Clam Chowder that you have to try whilst in the heart of New England. 

Yum!

  • Stay in the Ramada Inn, although it is not in the centre of the city, it is only a short walk away from the end of the line of the subway and it is worth staying there for the price, £100 per night between two. It is basic but has a pool and is a good bolt hole whilst exploring Boston.
What to do in Boston:
  • Get the Boston Trolley around town
  • Visit the 'Cheers' Bar
  • Get a boat around the harbour and learn about the Boston Tea Party
  • Visit Quincey Market and hit the shops
  • Catch a Red Soxs game at the oldest baseball stadium in the US, Fenway Park
  • Get a tour of Harvard University

Harvard

Cleveland, Ohio

I only stayed in Ohio for one night but this place is worth a stop on the way to Chicago. Cleveland is a strange place, it is a bit like a wasteland, there are not many people around. However, it is worth stopping off there just for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the biggest collection of Rock and Roll memorabilia in the USA outside of the South. 
  • Stay in the Comfort Inn Downtown for a comfortable and cheap stay for £90 a room
Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame


Chicago, Illinois

Chicago has to be one of my favourite places in the States. There is so much to do here and the city itself is just beautiful. In the summer it is warm but in the winter it is below freezing as the winds coming in from Lake Michigan make it bitterly cold. 

Home of the Cubs
  • Stay: Grant Park Best Western - at £100 a night this place is comfortable and very central whilst also being on the edge of the beautiful Grant Park.
Chicago at Night


What to do in Chicago:
  • Visit a working Amish Community just outside the city
  • Eat a deep pan Chicago pizza
  • Catch the Cubs at Wrigley Field - now the champions of the league 
  • Head up the Willis tower for the most amazing views of the city 
  • Visit the Bean
  • Grab Cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory
  • Get caught in a Chicago Downpour
  • Bike around Lake Michigan
  • Take a tour of the old Mafia hotspots of Chicago and learn about Al Capone
  • And so much more...!

Yum
Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

Thursday, 9 March 2017

SPOTLIGHT ON: NEW ZEALAND

This #traveltuesday on Insanity 103.2FM in 'Around the World in 80 Shows,' the spotlight was on the wonderful country of New Zealand.
New Zealand is probably one of the most naturally visually stunning places in the world and the Kiwis know how to show it off. If you are lucky enough to find yourself in this part of the world, visiting both the North and South Islands are a must. The North Island features beaches at the Bay of Islands and smelly mud baths in Rotorua while the South Island has skiing in Queenstown and some of the most stunning landscapes at Mount Cook and Wanaka. If you can, head to the most southern point of New Zealand, a place called Dunedin, in the Winter it is as cold as the arctic - it is the closest you can get to the Arctic without actually going there.
In the summer weather in New Zealand is warmer than the UK but in the winter it is colder, however, the weather is very similar to what we experience. Don't forget when you decide to travel that the seasons, as everything else in New Zealand, is back to front. So winter time runs from June-September and summer is over Christmas. Although there is always plenty to do in New Zealand whatever time of year you go. 

Whales of Kaikoura


Easiest way to get there:
  • Obviously flying is the only way to New Zealand, and because it is at least a 24-hour flight away, it is going to be pricey. Depending on what time of year you go flights can be anywhere from £900 upwards. As it is such a long way you will have to do at least one stopover, either via Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong or LA which is why I would recommend making it part of another trip. I flew with Qantas which meant I also had to change in Sydney but it was much cheaper, other airlines that fly are Singapore Air, New Zealand Air, British Airways and Cathay Pacific
Yes, this is actually my photo


Where to go:
  • Auckland: City of Sail - hit up the shops and go up the sky tower and see the lights of the city
  • Bay of Islands: head to the beaches of Pauanui in the warm sunshine and collect Pauna shells
  • Rotorua: Find the mud baths and geysers 
  • Wellington: Dance the night away in the clubs of Wellington before getting the ferry over to the South Island from Picton
  • Christchurch: observe the devastation left by the 2011 earthquake and pay your respects by shopping in the shipping crate shopping centre and put some money back into the Garden City to help it get back on its feet
  • Kaikoura: visit the coast and take the chance to go whale watching, a once in a lifetime experience
  • Queenstown: an amazing party town and high point for skiing in the winter, head up the cable car to catch a glimpse at the top of the city, don't forget to try a Fergburger, infamous in New Zealand for being the best burger. 
  • Wanaka: another great ski town, and while you are here be sure to head to Cinema Paradiso, an amazingly cute find of a cinema that is composed of many sofas and armchairs showing the latest films with homemade cookies served in the interval and pre-order your dinner for a lush lasagne
  • Mount Cook: take in some amazing sights and go hiking if weather permits.    
  • Abel Tasman: National Park that looks like somewhere out of a picture book. Hike through the park or have fun on the water 
  • Franz Josef: explore the ice glacier while you still can!
  • Hobbiton: well, duh!
Where could this be?


Where to Stay:
  • Depending on where you are going in New Zealand, but there is a chain of hostels in New Zealand called Nomads or Base which I would highly recommend, both are approx. £12-£13 per night for a bed in a dorm room and WIFI
  • To see the Islands I would advise hopping on a Stray Bus or Kiwi Experience Bus, both of these companies run a service by which you purchase a specific journey pass with different stops at which you can hop on and hop off. Accommodation is not included but you can book hostels with the driver each night you want to stay.   
Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

SPOTLIGHT ON: ICELAND

Today's show was all about the wonderful country of Iceland that has become a very popular holiday destination recently with more flights in and out of Reykjavik. With so much on offer, Iceland is a place that will leave you wanting more (according to the guidebook). Although I haven't been there yet, it is on my bucket list, but with nearly zero hours of light in the winter, I think a summer trip is on the cards.

The biggest problem with Iceland is that it is expensive, there is no getting away from it. Although it is only a 4-hour flight, it may as well cost the same as a budget trip to the States at the wrong time of year.
  • STA Tour: 48 Hours in Reykjavik: includes 1 night at Kex Hostel (with breakfast), Northern Lights Tour, Blue Lagoon Tour and Airport Transfers. Prices starting from £178pp
Wow...

Easiest way to get there:
  • Flights with British Airways or Iceland Air direct from Heathrow, Iceland Air leaves twice a day while British Airways is 3 times a week. From £200pp
Where to Stay:
  • Kex Hostel: £20 per night for a dorm room or £45 per night for a double room
  • IcelandAir Downtown: Hotel from £115 per night for a single room or £64 for a twin/double. Great downtown location
Light Reading Material...No pun intended


What to do:
  • Northern Lights: Obviously the main attraction of Iceland and the reason you've saved up your pennies is the chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Tours run from Reykjavik most days but are more frequent in the winter. There are plenty of companies to choose from but I would recommend the STA one if you pre-book, otherwise ask at your hotel/hostel but get one with a guarantee. Most come with the promise that if you don't see the lights the first night, they will take you back again and again until you have seen them. Also, try to choose one that will pick you up from your hotel, many of them do it so why not make your life easier. 
  • Blue Lagoon: Another famous trip is to the Blue Lagoon, again there are different ways of doing this but it is on your way to the airport or to the city depending on where you come from so it might be easier to make this a stop off on the way home. Book tickets online and get the city bus over there for a relaxing experience.
  • Whale Watching: another once in a lifetime experience that would be worth spending the cash on, although you are better off going in the summer as you are more likely to see the whales then. I did this in New Zealand and although it is expensive, it is so totally worth it - not for those that get seasick though!        
Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

Monday, 6 March 2017

Writing about Writing

Last week I went to a careers seminar with a selection of alumni from the English department who came back to speak to us about careers in writing and the publishing industry. I went along because I wanted to see if they had an advice and top tips on how to land yourself a job in publishing because it can be really hard. I was so pleased with the work experience placement I managed to land myself at Scholastic last summer so I was hoping to see if these alumni could also help me decide if publishing would be something I would actually want to do full time.



Although it did not get me any closer to deciding what I want to do all it has slightly made me question my decision about doing a Masters degree straight out of university. My big news, that many of you already know, is that about a month ago I decided that I was going to accept my offer to study International Relations at ULIP in Paris for a year. This is still what I am planning to do. However, the prospect of applying for a job at Scholastic where I did my work experience is more than tempting. They currently have an Editorial Assistant's position available which would be ideal for me. Working in Children's books would be so much fun and it would be really great to not study anymore and actually earn some decent money for a change. So part of my wants to do this and sack off the Masters for a couple of years, but on the other hand I keep thinking that I can always work at some point and as I'm going to be most likely working for the next 50 years of my life why not take a year to do a Masters, live in Paris and travel a bit, I wouldn't do it otherwise, would I?



So you see, dear readers, I am in a bit of a pickle. Don't get me wrong, it is a lovely problem to have, but a problem nonetheless. Although I am getting ahead of myself, I haven't even got the job yet! But is it worth applying... One thing is for sure, though, that the careers seminar did remind me is how much I like writing. I don't mean writing essays or stories or anything, I mean writing chatty blog posts and vaguely informative travel pieces. I mean that would be my ideal job, to be a travel journalist but I'm not sure I could deal with the lack of stability within my work, not knowing where the next pay cheque is going to come from. Anyway, it's food for thought...

Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

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