Dreams of Travel

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

The world is huge, wonderful and amazing. Those are only the first three adjectives that came to mind. It is so vast but when you point to your location on the map, your finger covers it. Only a small speck on the globe.

I wonder about the other specks. Their different languages, buildings and ways of doing things. I am not content with images, not matter how vivid and detailed. I want to be there. I want to explore.

Where do you want to go? Anywhere. Somewhere different. Somewhere new. Somewhere that will make me feel foreign and lost but allow me to enjoy every moment of it. I haven’t done that in a while. I always visit the same few countries and whilst I’m sure they hold their own magic, it is not to be found in the same places I am obliged to stay at. Duty calls and when you live far from any extended family, it ties you down, every school holiday.

I’m not even sure if I love travel. It could just be the idea of it. A right of passage for the young: a desire to explore, to find where you truly belong. A common cliché of life. Maybe it’s just a passing phase, or maybe it’s just the boredom of being home for the summer, but right now I want to travel, somewhere, anywhere.

Big cities full of lights and shopping centres, or small rural villages where locals make traditional handmade crockery- I have no preference. Hot or cold, snow or dessert- as long as it is not British climate. Or if it is to be in British climate, not London. You can travel in your country; there are many places within a few hours drive that you have yet to see and wonder in awe at. Ever since studying a poem about Romney Marsh, I’ve been wanting to visit the lyrically described scenery in Kent. I am also attracted to Italy; the language, the Mediterranean atmosphere, the small villages by the sea, the history and the architecture left for us to see.

I’m tired of my little speck of the world. I want to travel.

Anyone else want to travel? Where to? Or are you lucky enough to already be abroad?

 

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Cambridge Excursion

Yesterday, in an effort to inspire the youth to aim higher and motivate them to take their studies more seriously, my class was taken on a school trip to see Cambridge University. Our lack of initial enthusiasm was evident; the coach journey was two hours long (I slept both hours) and we all just really wanted to go home as we had just completed a science exam that morning.

Cambridge University is always regarded as one of the most prestigious educational institutions, inaccessible to many. However, upon seeing it, my classmates were sorely disappointed and it was nothing like they had expected it to be. When asked, they had envisaged the university to be one ginormous ancient castle resembling Hogwarts. What we did not know was that the university is actually comprised of thirty-one smaller colleges scattered about the town, some fairly modern in comparison to the older buildings of much more impressive architecture.

The town is small and old-fashioned, with cobbled streets and narrow alleyways, and the main mode of transport is clearly cycling. Parked bicycles littered the pavements and there were very few cars. I suppose for university students who have little money to spare, bicycles are convenient and practical with everything being within a small distance.

We saw no cloaks and nobody walked around with a pile of books but you could feel the brains working as soon as you exited the coach. Even their pubs have an intellectual touch; one was named The Sir Isaac Newton! So affected was my friend that she started speaking in a ‘posh accent’ at the top of her voice, attracting stares by everyone that passed by.

They must really love Sir Isaac Newton in Cambridge because his mathematical bridge was pointed out to me by a rather enthusiastic student. It is a curious looking bridge and the story goes that Newton built it without the use of any screws, nails or bolts. It was taken down, however, when they tried to rebuild it the same way, they were unable to and had to fix the wood together with nails. Even Cambridge myths have an intellectual theme to them.

Newton's Mathematical Bridge

We were given a talk about the university and the application process and it was informative and frightening at the same time. I don’t feel completely discouraged, just a little nervous about the future. I learned that they don’t really care what you wear to an interview and that they will never ask you to define a banana. At least that’s what they want you to believe….they could just want to catch you off guard.

The admissions man was hilarious and told as that Oxford, their rivals, are a university whose existence they ignore; they are there but we do not talk about them. He labelled them the Voldemort of Cambridge University. I asked a student and she replied “what’s Oxford university?” Apparently, the main cause of this split is competition between sporting teams, particularly rowing and they feel extremely sore about their consecutive losses to their rivals.

I doubt I will ever apply to Cambridge University; my Daddy will miss me too much and there are plenty of universities here in the capital. I wouldn’t mind though, in fact, I think I would quite enjoy living on a campus and attending lectures. If I study medicine, my time at university will be much prolonged… I can’t wait!

Camden Curiosities

Yesterday, I went exploring around London and discovered Camden Town. There were many people (mainly Spanish-speaking tourists and spiky-haired punks) to push through, in order to see many different peculiarities and as such pictures were a hassle to take. This, in addition to the stall keepers’ unreasonable aggressiveness in shielding their showcases from the lens, makes every single photograph a valuable mark of my struggle. So, enjoy and appreciate!

 Camden Fashion!


 

Like something out of Dracula, many outfits were a little too vampiric for my liking…

 

 

 

but if I were to buy every hilarious slogan t-shirt I laughed at, I would be penniless.

 

 

 

 

 
Every odd shop was a tattoo and body piercing parlour and at every corner stood a sign twirler, male and surprisingly clear skinned. I stayed well away from them. No man was going to drag me into a chair and stick coloured needles into my skin for me to moan about in my old and wrinkly age!

 

 

 

 
If tattoos and piercings weren’t painful enough you could also take part in fish feeding and stick your feet in for 15 minutes, at a cost of £8. Their nibbling at your feet is apparently painless, but I have my doubts.

 
Then, if feeding fish builds up your own appetite, there is a food stall for every single country on the map. As you pass by, the vendors stick out a plastic fork with a morsel on it and wave it at you to try. (Tip: don’t pay, just have a taste and move on to the next.)

Mexico
Spain
India
Morocco

Many different aromas wafting from every stall, mixed in with all the different tunes blasting from their speakers created a real, upbeat vibe to the market and a perfect atmosphere to curiously browse through the interesting things there were for sale.

Fruit and veg candles- pour in the magic salts and light up!
How motivational…

However, despite all the things that caught my eye, there were too many of them and as soon as I saw one thing, I was drawn to another and so forth. I was so caught up in the novelty that I didn’t buy anything, but for next time, watch out Camden!

Indian Summer to the Max

Mid October, and the news reporters are calling it an Indian summer and because we are not easily influenced by the media, us girls headed off to the beach. With winter jackets and my father’s best wishes we were off. Always the optimist, he shook his head in disapproval and announced that he would not be buying anybody medicine when we all came back nursing dreadful colds.

With that in mind we cozied up into the car and enjoyed the lengthy 2 hour view, sleeping against each other and cringing at my mothers version of Queens’ Bohemian Rhapsody. She made for a terrible singer and a most interesting travel companion. She takes the prize for quote of the ride, which surprisingly was not are we there yet, but “I miss the London pollution.”

Once we had passed the motorway, we drove through the New Forest, and saw wild horses in their dozens; black, brown and white; bathing in the rays of sunlight peeking through small clearings in dense forest. We hurried a few snaps as we passed the brave mares at the roadside, inches away from the open windows.

Then, we drove through a quaint little village, complete with thatch roof cottages and funnily named pubs. We exclaimed at all the village sights that one does not see on the London High Streets. Oh look, it’s an apothecary. Oh look it’s an old sweet shop. Oh look it’s a tea room. Oh look it’s a Costa coffee?

Oh look it’s the sea! My mother spotted it first and we all squealed in excitement, anticipating the waves crashing against our bodies as we jumped up and down, getting ready to the build the tallest sand castles.

Well, not me. I didn’t even touch the sand.  I lay my pink snuggly blanket down on the rocks, and slipped into a book. Yes, I could have done that in my garden but the fresh breeze, salty smell and symphony of waves created a better reading atmosphere. I entertained the thought of dipping into the freezing October sea for the duration of an entire page but rid myself of it as soon as I imagined the sand sticking to my wet skin as I tried to get changed under a flying towel. Not worth it.

I was content to just to watch my sisters splash about in the water and return not shortly after, teeth chattering and jumping into their dry clothes. Anyway, I got up to my own fifteen minute adventure, looking for fossils in the cliffs with the only tool available, a fork. No luck, except for a few pin sized shells, but I couldn’t really expect to find the ancient remains of an extinct species on my first go. Maybe on my next.

Stand up for the elderly

Usually when I take the bus, I always ignore the first few seats at the front and make my way towards the back even if they are empty. It is not that I prefer the back as it is usually the stuffier, noisier and smellier part of the bus and depending on how packed the bus is it can be quite difficult to navigate through the crowd and make it out of the doors. However, I am ashamed to say, I do not like giving up my seat to old people.

When you’re old and wrinkly, access to the front seats becomes a right of passage and as soon as you enter you expect them to be vacated immediately, especially if the person sitting is a lazy, able-bodied teenager. I have no problem with that and I try to give up my seat as often as I can but sometimes, I don’t know why,  I just get embarrassed to do so even though I know I shouldn’t. Why feel embarrassed in doing a good action?

I suppose sometimes I fear that I may offend them so I feel awkward and get stuck for what to say when offering up my seat. Umm… excuse me, you look great and really fit even though you have reached a mature age and to congratulate you for such an amazing achievement, not because I think you look frail or tired, I think that you deserve my seat. Somehow, I don’t think that would go down too well. Many old people are in denial and still see themselves as sparkling fit youths, not liking to be treated the age they are. I’m terrible at judging age and I know that the day will come when I offer my seat to a proud mutton dressed as lamb and live to regret it.

Then, you have those old ladies that tell you to keep your seat because they’re not going far even though you can seem them leaning against the yellow bar, supporting their balance. What do you do in that situation? You feel bad and would like to insist but really don’t think you should argue with someone five times your age. See the dilemma?

This morning, I took the bus with my mother and unlike I would usually do, we filled the two front seats. Coincidentally, an old lady came on at the next stop and stood in front of us, expectantly. My mother immediately offered up her seat and insisted about five times before the lady would accept it, telling her that she felt bad. Now, that’s quite commendable of her and I would love to be able to do the same but I don’t think I could as I am a generally quieter person and not as out going as her. I don’t like to be under the spotlight, in a bus full of spectators.

Someone must have been trying to test me because right at the next stop another old lady hobbled on, taking the previous position of my neighbour. She too claimed not to be going too far and I pretended not to see her, but the old lady on my right pointed at the “priority seats” sign besides me prompting me to get up and evacuate.

So, damned if I do, damned if I don’t; either way I get embarrassed. Therefore, next time I will get over my fear and do the right thing…. or I could just sit at the back.

What do you think? Am I just being irrational? I can’t help it.

San Sebastián: A city of contradictions

During my short holiday in Spain, I enjoyed an afternoon out with my mother in the small city of San Sebastián. It’s a beautiful city in the north of the country that is a popular tourist destination because of its picturesque coastline and lively atmosphere. There is always something to capture your interest, whether you’re exploring the local shops and restaurants, snoozing on the beach or cruising the waves. Even just sitting on a bench and watching the people go by can be a source of entertainment. (A.K.A people-watching)

With so much going on around me and so many interesting things to see it was also a great opportunity to capture the moments using my trustworthy camera. Walking around like a first-time tourist in a city I had visited many times before, I had fun discovering San Sebastián and recording my excursion, following a theme of contradictions or paradox. It was not my intention to begin with; my finger reaching for the snap button was simply an automatic reflex responding to my fascination; but somewhere between the snaps and flashes the coincidental theme emerged and I fully immersed myself into it.

The most obvious contradiction/paradox was land and sea. The coastal city is outlined by hills and mountains and on a good sunny day its three beaches are swarmed with people soaking up the sun and small boats and canoes decorate the sea bay. There is also a small island (Santa Clara) that we took a boat tour of despite my mother’s obvious preference of land. She bravely ignored the unsettling swaying motions of the boat that brought a clenching to her stomach and was rewarded with the most amazing view.

Land & Sea
Santa Clara Island
“El Peine del viento” by Eduardo Chillida- abstract art or a lump of metal?
“La Concha” beach

Old and new is another paradox that is a prominent feature of San Sebastián. Although it is a modern metropolitan city and you could easily spend your day shopping for the latest trends at H&M before stopping for lunch at McDonald’s, you could just as easily travel along narrow cobbled streets, from bar to bar, trying traditional tapas and fresh seafood in the “old part” (Parte Vieja) of the city. Most of the buildings in the Parte Vieja trace back to the 19th century and much of its original architecture has been kept the same creating a stark contrast between the old part at the core of the city and the modern area that surrounds it.

La Parte Vieja
“Buen Pastor” Cathedral

As we wandered along the city harbour, the sound of drums alerted us to another unusual contradiction. We followed the loud beating to a small crowd encompassing a group of uniformed, drum-bearing  children. They were celebrating a festival, dressed in Basque clothes and playing traditional Basque instruments, but instead of the expected Basque flag, we were surprised to see the Libyan flag carried proudly by a small Libyan boy. It seems support for the Libyan people is wide-spread and not contained to just the neighbouring Arab countries.

Finally, here is the picture that started off my entire theme of contradictions and paradox. Imagine our amusement and confusion when my mother and I walk into a bakery full of sugary treats to find a public weighing scales with a sign that translates to “observe your weight” right next to the large slabs of chocolate. Is this meant to be good for business or is it a new government initiative? I’m not sure what it says about the Basque people’s eating habits but it says a lot about their sense of humour.

Overall, I had a fantastic afternoon of “mother-daughter bonding” and can not wait to go back to San Sebastián and perhaps have a look at some of the museums and places I didn’t get a chance to see. San Sebastián may not be as well-known and popular as other cities in Spain such as Barcelona or Madrid but nevertheless it is a superb place and definitely worth a visit.

I had a great holiday but I’m going to rant about it anyway

I’m back!! Back from a speedy one week holiday in the Basque Country, which is an area in the North of Spain whose sketchy history I am not going to go into. Basically, they have their own flag and language in which I can count up to twenty-nine, but they are not an independent state, although if you call a Basque person a Spaniard you are insulting their entire family tree and they will retaliate with patriotic aggression. Perhaps, this is just from my experience but nonetheless I wouldn’t suggest it unless you enjoy entering into arguments in which you can never win.

I had a pleasant trip and I did enjoy myself at times but because I’m a teenager instead of sharing all the fun I had and highlighting the good parts of my holiday, I prefer to complain about everything else. What is the point in going on holiday if you are not able to rant about it afterwards?

At the heart of every bad holiday there is a terrible travel tale and unless you own a private jet, travelling is usually a stressful, hectic and excruciatingly irritating experience. The journey there was all right, mainly because I was so tired that I slept the entire way through making it the shortest flight of my life. I dozed off so quickly that I didn’t even feel the plane taking off. However, coming back was a whole different story. Firstly, the airport in Bilbao is the most depressing building I  have had the displeasure of waiting in. There are only a few small shops, compared to the shopping centres incorporated into most London airports as a scheme to exploit the boredom of travellers, and they do not even have the decency to stay open past 10 O’clock! To make it worst, once we had boarded the plane we had to sit waiting for a whole hour, staring out of the window into complete darkness, because of “air traffic”. We were the only flight scheduled for the rest of the day due to the crazy hour yet somehow we were to suffer the result of “air traffic”, with only a glass of water and an apology to compensate for the discomfort. Then, finally, to top it all off, because the train to the terminal building decided that it would not carry poor stranded passengers past midnight and someone had the misconception that a plane full of poor stranded passengers wouldn’t mind waiting an extra quarter of an hour, we impatiently attended the arrival of a bus. I do hope I have made my annoyance perfectly clear.

Despite the popular stereotype of a holiday in Spain consisting of sunny days lounging in the beach, soaking up Vitamin D and developing skin cancer in addition to an awful sun burn, the weather was also a disappointment. It was no different from the typical British summer, a few rare days of cloudy sunshine followed by heavy showers. When one goes on holiday, to Spain of all places, one would expect to be able to enjoy the lovely sunshine however I have returned from my holiday with nothing to show for it, tan-less.

Now that I have finished my mini-rant….it wasn’t all bad. It was nice to wake up in the morning, breathe in the fresh air and look out of the window to admire the beautiful scenery of lush green mountains, instead of tall buildings along the skyline. At night I could look up into the silent sky and see tiny glimmering star, instead of aeroplanes accompanied by the sounds of loud sirens. I stayed in a quaint little village, complete with an old church and a town square, with many of its original buildings still remaining, perfect for afternoon strolls along the cobbled streets and… pictures!

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