I Moved to Paris and Everything is Different. // Year Abroad Diaries #001

As they say at gigs, here we, here we, here we fucking go.

Your favourite unavailable and chaotic blogger is back. Nobody asked, I highly doubt anyone wanted, but when has that ever stopped me? As is concurrent with my life I’ve run out of other things to do and so I’ve come back to writing as a form of entertainment. I wish I could say it’s going to last this time, but we all know the reality is far from that. I’m opting for a much less “professional” “lifestyle blog” approach this time though, which should make it more sustainable. I love writing, I don’t do it enough, and I have far too many opinions to express, so here we are. 

Since I last wrote in February, a lot has changed. The big thing being that I now live in Paris, France; aka I’ve added another country and another house to the chaotic mess of half-nested places I inhabit in the North of England. That’s right, I have finally made it to my third year of university, and thus the ever-looming and slightly terrifying year abroad. And because I’ve moved to a completely new place, and because I’m interning rather than studying, I have absolutely zero friends to hang out with, so instead of telling them my thoughts I’ve ended up putting them here.

I’ve only lived in France for about 3 weeks, but already I don’t think I’d be able to sum up all the strange differences and bizarre learning experiences. Instead of being greeted by a napping housemate on the sofa with whatever shitty daytime TV is on at the time in the background when I get home, I’m now greeted by a 3 year old, whose incessant babbling I rarely understand. Instead of waking up 10 minutes before a lecture and arriving in a caffeine-infused haze, I wake up over an hour before work to catch rammed commuter trains across central Paris, and grumble when they’re inevitably delayed every other day. Instead of being able to get a pint for less than 2 quid in the SU every day of the week I treat myself to one €7.50 beer a month, because who the fuck can afford to get drunk in this hellscape of a capital? I only moved one country across but literally everything feels different. 

I am, largely, enjoying myself though. I’ve gone into it with an open mind when it comes to all of this chaos, and I’m treating it as a kind of sabbatical year, even though here in France I’m working a 9-5 internship everyday. However, that “grind” doesn’t feel like as much as it sounds. I spend most of it in an office, doing fairly simple tasks and learning something new everyday. It’s mentally demanding sometimes, sure, and I feel awkward from time to time interacting with my colleagues in my second language, but at least so far I’m finding it really refreshing. When I left England I left my third summer in my current job, and I think what must be my fifth or sixth year working in customer service. I was so exhausted and jaded by dealing with the general public day in day out, being on my feet for 8 hours a day and never having a routine. I grew too accustomed to that life, and it didn’t me anything in terms of personal or professional development anymore. Paris is.

Literally every day I have to deal with some form of bullshit that is forcing me to develop as an individual, and whilst at times it feels frustrating, it’s ultimately extremely rewarding. I haven’t really had to do anything that pushed me too far out of my comfort zone since going to university, beyond what I’ve done in student politics. In comparison, even the most basic of things are a learning curve here. I’ve had to battle with 4 different banks, figure out how to buy and cook a meal that isn’t canned beans and bread (vegetarians in France have been done dirty), navigate my way around the biggest place I’ve ever lived by far and adapt to everything closing at 13h on a Sunday. Oh and all that’s happening in a second language that it turns out I distinctly lack confidence in. So, basically, I feel like superwoman when I do a basic human task without fucking up somehow. It’s like being a really stupid baby again, only your parents aren’t around to conjure up your rent in cash when your bank won’t let you make any more withdrawals. 

In some ways it really should be getting easier from here. I’ve done all of the base set-up tasks and I’m starting to figure out what my routine is. I’m even getting back into running after my injury, and that in turn is helping me get to know my neighbourhood. However, I still don’t have any friends, which for now is fine because my girlfriend is here and I’m still enjoying the newness of it all, but when she and all my other pals go back to Durham in October I’m going to have to find someone to talk to, or risk living vicariously through Instagram and Snapchat until I can visit. So, that’s the task for this week: find friends that aren’t the 3 year old I now live with.

Hopefully by the next time I write I’ll be able to tell of all the new friendships I have blossoming. What’s more likely is that I embarrass myself in front of the first person I attempt to befriend and decide that maybe hanging out with 3 year olds isn’t so bad after all.

 

-Megan, listening to the new Taylor Swift album (you could say I’ve changed for the better yes)

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My Relationship With Reading

I learned to read long before I went to school. My parents used to drive to our seaside holidays down South overnight in hopes my brother and I would sleep on the journey, yet I read in the light of car headlights driving by. By the age of 10 every librarian in my local library knew me by name. Yet since I started second year I’ve only read 2 non-academic books; what the hell happened?

As a child I was completely addicted to reading. I remember sitting up until midnight just trying to get to the end of whatever book I’d checked out of the library that week. My Dad would hear that I still had my radio on (because I was a weird kid that listened to the radio to fall asleep) and see my lights on when he was heading to bed, only to be met with the excuse of “I’ve only got a few more pages”. Sunday afternoons were reserved for going to the library and coming out with an armful of books, to the point where I was bored of the kids section and had moved onto the teenage section way earlier than was probably sensible. I loved escaping into a different reality and learning about different lives as I went, feeling as if I were worlds away from the very homogeneous environment that is rural Cumbria.

When I eventually got to secondary school I was suddenly made aware that I was a massive nerd. Reading a lot was a bit of an add on to the fact that I succeeded in school and was a tad of a teacher’s pet at times. For a while I flirted with the “yeah God reading is so uncool” thing and followed along with everyone else in denouncing books (which probably coincided with the emo phase I’m definitely not secretly still in). It obviously didn’t last very long, because I found social media and a whole community of people in Booktube that adore reading as much as I did.

But, since Sixth Form, I really haven’t read that much. I struggle to get through more than a couple of non-academic books in a term, which is quite surprising considering that a large part of my degree is reading, it just happens to not be in English anymore. In 2017 I only read 13 books. When I was 13 I’d have gotten through that in 2 months.

The thing is though that I don’t think I’ve necessarily fallen out of love with reading. When travelling I usually spend all of my flight time with a book in hand, and tend to take one out on my Metro journeys. I love waking up on a Sunday morning with a small workload and rain outside lending itself to lazing around in bed with strong coffee and a good read. I think the honest truth is that I just need to make more time for it, rather than spending the little time I have at home watching Netflix and oversleeping.

In conclusion: books are good and I want to read more of them in 2019. For some reason, I’ve pledged to read 40. If you want to watch me fail at that then you can check out my Goodreads, and if you’re interested in book-related posts; let me know!

-Megan, listening to The Wombats on Christmas Eve like a 15 year old anti-festivity indie stereotype

2019 Goals

I wish I could say I hated clichés, but the reality just isn’t true. Surely if millions of people do something they can’t be wrong, right? (I mean, thousands of people elected a Tory government and they certainly weren’t right, but the idea fits the narrative of this post so forget the actual logic here)

Today’s cliché is making goals for 2019. I’m writing these out on the 2nd of January, as for New Year’s Eve I ended up choosing to go to a party with Alex at the last minute. It was a fantastic night and I had a great time, but unsurprisingly had a little bit of a bad head yesterday and had to wait until today to start on my goals. I feel like that’s not just me though, New Year’s Day definitely doesn’t count.

1. Complete dry January
One of my friends from back home has done this before and is choosing to do so again, and this year I’ve decided to join him. As a university student drinking culture is literally everywhere, meaning I usually waste a lot of time and money on being drunk or hungover, and I’m getting a bit bored of it. There are certain situations I enjoy more with a drink sure (clubbing Meg, you mean clubbing, because you’re far too anxious to do it sober), but most times I don’t really need to be drinking. I also have a lot of uni work due in at the end of this month (which I definitely haven’t started oops), so I don’t have time to be spending days hungover at the moment.

2. Run 10k
I’ve been into fitness for quite a while, but over the winter period I abandoned running completely. Back in the summer I was capable of running around 7km and was really building up to getting to my longtime goal of a 10k race. However, now I’m struggling to even do a basic 5k, because I’ve been neglecting cardio and opting for weights and toning work. I loved running when I was into it though, so I’m going to get myself signed up for a 10k race and start training.

3. Read 40 books
This is a very silly goal. In 2018 I read 29 books, the most in a lot of years. So obviously the most natural thing is to decide to read way more than I’ve read in a year since I was probably about 14. Amazing job Megan.

4. Stop buying from Amazon
Amazon are an absolutely terrible company. Their record on workers’ rights is nothing short of shocking, and since I finally got around to joining a union on New Year’s Day (really it was about all I achieved that day) I’d feel like a huge hypocrite if I kept supporting such a parasitic company. They’re also horrifically bad for the environment. I’m going to finish reading what books I’ve already bought on the Kindle app then hopefully find a new option for ereading, if anyone has any ideas let me know!

5. Take a photo everyday
This time last year I decided to post everyday on Instagram. It lasted a few months, but I soon learned that my life really isn’t exciting enough to make it Insta-worthy every single day. As a result I just stopped taking pictures, which is quite frankly a bit dumb for someone like me who spends half of their life looking back at old pictures because they can’t remember what happened yesterday, let alone years ago. So I thought fuck it, I’m taking photos for me now, the sillier the better.

6. Become a better activist by learning from others & campaigning more
I’m a bit of a lefty guys, it’s no secret if you follow my Twitter. At the end of last year I started campaigning for the Labour Party and I absolutely love doing it. It’s fantastic to get out on the doorstep and talk to people about why I believe what I do, and with the likelihood of a General Election this year it’s going to be more important than ever if we want to elect a Labour government. I’d also like to keep being involved in student politics before I head out on my year abroad, and hopefully get involved in the trade union I just joined. I just want people to have better lives, it’s really quite simple.

7. Practice my languages more
For someone who’s probably moving to South America at the end of the year, my Spanish really isn’t all that great. Or rather, I have zero confidence in speaking it whatsoever. I need to read and watch more in my non-native languages, as well as try and seek out more opportunities for speaking practice (I’m looking at you Amy, we need to reinstate cuppa & French/Spanish chats). I wish learning a fourth language was on this list, because after Milan and Berlin I’m absolutely dying to learn Italian or German, but I need to be patient and get good at the three I already speak.

 

I think that’s all. It sounds ridiculous to say this at such an early point in the year, but I have a good feeling about 2019. I’m in a very good place, and have so many exciting travels planned, which is all I could ever ask for really. What are your main goals this year?

-Megan, listening to a playlist entitled “Alternative Love Songs” (no, I’m not sure why either)

2018: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

We’ll talk about where I’ve been for a month and a bit in the next post, because before I truly start 2019 off on the blog I want to look back. I get weird and nostalgic at this time of year and tend to tweet too much and post too many pictures of what’s happened throughout my year. I thought the best way to relaunch my site would be to write about all of that, crazy emotions, highlights and lowlights included

The year started not with a bang, but a whimper. The lovely Alex hosted a fantastic New Year’s Eve celebration, before I went back to working for the rest of Christmas break. In January I got my second ever tattoo and saw my first ever premiership rugby game. My return to Durham included snow, Burns Night formal, and more Friday night Klute (if you know you know).

 

February was a very low month. It mostly consisted of walking miles and miles in hopes that I’d fix the mess in my head and generally struggling a lot. On the plus side The Feast of St Cuthbert happened, so I got a nice break from myself with added black tie, and spent a weekend seeing both Dead! and Marmozets.

March began with a breakup, and for some reason running back to the very hometown that was so intrinsically central to that old relationship in a snowstorm so bad that I almost got stranded. Looking back is so strange now, because I honestly think it was for the best and that I’ve grown exponentially as a person as a result, but it was obviously a difficult time. Anyway…. despite the sadness most of March turned out ok. I planned summer holidays with my friends, threw myself into Durham life, finally saw Moose Blood live and went to France on my final ever exchange. Before that trip I was struggling a lot with being back home and my identity, but after a social media break, immersing myself in French and meeting some fantastic new friends I began to stand a little taller once again. That was probably helped in part by starting therapy, and in part by starting to exercise and focus on myself again.

 

The last term of first year soon rolled around, a term essentially of two halves. To begin with obviously it was exam season, and whilst the exams themselves weren’t overly terrible I had periods of real low mood and spent a lot of time crying or sleeping. Not pretty, but it taught me that recovery is a process rather than a solution. In Durham we all stay around for a little while after exams, and I had such a great time! I had probably one of the best nights of my life at a college Eurovision party, saw Twin Atlantic, went to my first ever pride, visited Edinburgh, Cuth’s Day happened, we went to the seaside and I had visits from home friends. I also started this blog back then, something I’ve loved working on and being creative with ever since. On the last morning of term in June myself and my flatmates woke up at 4am to watch the sunrise together and it was everything.

 

This summer was chaotic, at times crazy, but downright fabulous. It all began with travelling to Berlin, Prague and Budapest with the best team I could ever hope for. After a week straight of work after landing back in the UK I headed down to Dorset to hang out with the same great pals. We enjoyed some rare British sunshine by the sea for a few days, and then headed up to Oxfordshire for Truck Festival. It was a bit of a beer-infused blur but I saw some amazing bands and got a questionable tan. I came home, got a recovery themed tattoo and went fully vegetarian because I’m a walking stereotype. I also climbed High Spy & Catbells, went on a good few nights out and took a trip to York.

 

I moved into my second year house in Durham a little earlier than most at the start of September, and I won’t lie, it was quite lonely. To solve that problem I quite literally ran away to Italy. I went to Milan for a few days on my own, and genuinely really enjoyed seeing a new city from the perspective of being a solo traveller. I also visited my school friend in Edinburgh (again) and went down to Manchester to finally see Halestorm live, after a lot of years of waiting. These trips were a good approach to feeling better in the short term, but my overwhelming memory of September is that of depression. Luckily, it didn’t last long.

 

Not long after I returned from Italy I started second year, and oh man it’s been good. I adore (most of) what I study this year, get to live with my best friends and love my city. I got involved in student politics for the first time this term, being elected LGBT+ officer of the Labour Club and helping with an NUS delegate elections campaign team, which has brought me a whole group of lovely new friends. I saw countless gigs, meaning I spent a lot of weekends in Manchester and nights driving to Newcastle and back. This term has definitely been the best one yet, and I honestly can’t wait to go back to Durham.

 

Since coming home between working and studying I haven’t really been up to all that much. I had a lovely quiet Christmas with all of my family and I just feel very lucky at the moment. I’m properly excited about what I do, (mostly) healthy, (mostly) happy, and (mostly) living my best life.

So apologies for the very long post, but 2018 has been a huge year for me. It’s had some highlights that I’d even consider life highlights, but at the same time has been a hard year in many respects. I feel like it’s been a year to progress, deal with things, and prepare for making 2019 the most kick-ass year ever.

-Megan, listening to Placebo (and wondering why I haven’t listened to them in a long while!)

My Top 10 Albums Of All Time

Hello lovely people!

Now that I’ve discussed how broad my music taste is I thought I’d go a little deeper. As much as I love the personal approach to creating my own playlists I also love getting in artists’ heads. As a result I’m big on albums; I love seeing thematic progression, concept albums and development over the years. So I thought I’d choose my top 10 albums of all time, which may have been some of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made.

top 10 albums

1. Courteeners – St. Jude (2008)
What a debut. From the moment I heard it this album was on repeat, as it’s filled with quick and catchy songs that I can’t help but adore. The references to places in Manchester and Liam Fray’s unashamedly Northern vocals also mean the album feels homely for me, as it always brings me back to my North Western roots. More than anything I love this album because it reminds me of my friends, feels somewhat coming of age, and has big Truck Festival memories.

Top lyric – “Can you play the guitar my boy? Can you fuck” 

2. All Time Low – So Wrong, It’s Right (2008)
I am still bitter that I didn’t see this live when they played it in full last year, because this album truly means everything to me. It’s been in the background of every heartbreak, party, breakdown and celebration for the last 8 years, and for that I had to include it. Every song is the epitome of classic pop punk and I love that. Also, I have lyrics from Dear Maria, Count Me In inked on my arm forever (a song about a stripper, aka my favourite way to introduce my tattoo), so I guess it makes sense that I love it.

Top lyric – “Take a breath and let the rest come easy”

3. Enter Shikari – A Flash Flood of Colour (2012)
This had to be included for its lyrical content alone. From my own understanding the underlying theme of this album is that our society is being destroyed by the systems which govern it and it’s up to us to stand up to that. The mix of metal vocals and drum & bass is the perfect way to convey this – Shikari are angry and it’s very obvious. This album always fires me up and reminds me what I believe in.

Top lyric – “Fuck all borders and fuck all boundaries, fuck all flags and fuck nationalities” & “Money is made when bombs are dropping in Afghanistan, when white phosphorus falls in Palestine” (I just had to pick two)

4. Moose Blood – I’ll Keep You in Mind From Time to Time (2014)
Oh boy, here we go. I’ve touched on this before, but I’m going to be honest here. This album was what kept me alive in 2015, which sounds very dramatic, but it’s true. I went through a very dark time with my mental health and this album was on repeat throughout the whole thing, to the point where I really struggled to listen to it until this year. It has a very different meaning to me now, as I’ve recently bonded with a lot of people over the band and their music, but my initial connection still stands.

Top lyric – “Let me hold your hand, we can talk about our favourite bands and how nevermind still blows me away”

5. Twin Atlantic – The Great Divide (2015)
In the words of my friend Callum “every song is a banger”. This album has been a constant favourite for the last year especially, culminating in seeing the band live the day after I finished my exams. It’s a good old fashioned perfect rock album, with Twin’s personal Scottish twist.

Top lyric – “Music is my therapy, I could listen to it all night long”

6. We Are Scientists – With Love and Squalor (2005)
This is an album I first listened to in order to impress my ex-boyfriend, no shame. I’m so glad I did listen though, because I love every single track on this album. I think the songs perfectly represent the band’s fun (drunk) approach to life, and I love the heavier undertones that has been a little lost in their more recent albums. There’s some real crowd pleasers in there too, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of these songs live. I also associate a lot of them with the happier memories of that past relationship, which is always nice.

Top lyric – “I would really love to kiss you, but I guess I’m in no condition to”

7. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977)
3 words: Ultimate Breakup Album. It conveys perfectly every different side of falling in and out of love, along with some top quality musical style at the same time. Obviously you’ve got some really iconic songs on there too, that have been and will continue to be covered for many years to come. Also it reminds me of my college wife Oana so there’s the soppy meaning (ain’t never gonna stop loving you… biiiiiitch).

Top lyric – “Open your eyes and look at the day, you’ll see things in a different way”

8. Rent Original Broadway Cast Recording (1996)
I’ll admit that this doesn’t really count as a stand alone album, being that it’s essentially just the musical in CD form, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love it. For the last year I’ve been absolutely obsessed with Rent, because I love everything from the characters to the way it portrays AIDS and it’s diversity. At the time of it’s release it was one of the first rock musicals, so the fact that Jonathan Larson took my favourite genre and incorporated it into broadway is probably the main reason I’m so into it.

Top lyric – “To faggots, lezzies, dykes, crossdressers too”

9. Alter Bridge – Fortress (2013)
Alter Bridge are arguably one of the most underrated bands in rock at the moment, and Fortress has to be my favourite of their pretty extensive back catalogue. It’s one of their heavier albums, and contains some of my favourite riffs of all time from the guitar God that is Mark Tremonti (Cry of Achilles, what an opener). I also love that we got vocals from Tremonti for the first time on Waters Rising, as he’s definitely shown through his solo stuff that he’s got a real talent there too.

Top lyric – “There’ll come a time you’ll look back and regret when it’s gone,
you’ll look back and regret when it’s gone”

10. My Chemical Romance – Welcome to the Black Parade (2006)
Absolute guilty pleasure and I’m not even afraid to admit it. Once you get past it being a complete emo classic, this is genuinely a very good concept album. That whole era of the band was really well designed and sustained, and of course you’ve got some classic songs to go along with it. And of course, it reminds me beautifully of being 14 and it “not being a phase” (I mean, it clearly wasn’t considering I’m still sat here 5 years later).

Top lyric – “And though you’re dead and gone, believe me your memory will carry on”

Now, I’m going to have to do an “honourable mentions” list too, because narrowing it down to just 10 was far too difficult. Most of these albums are oldies but goodies, stuff that doesn’t mean as much to me now but for a lot of my life really did.
AC/DC – The Razor’s Edge
Metallica – Ride The Lightning

Whitesnake – 1987
The Wombats – Proudly Present… A Guide to Love, Loss and Deperation
Stromae – Racine Caree
Guns n Roses – Appetite for Destruction
Halestorm – Halestorm
Panic! At The Disco – Death of a Bachelor 

This may have been the hardest post to write so far, but has sparked quite the debate in my house, so that’s made us not die of boredom today. I’m tempted to get the housemates in on a post soon, so let me know if you’ve got any ideas for that!

Obviously my comment question of the day is what’s your favourite album?

-Megan, listening to Larkin Poe (who aren’t even on this list, but they’re a sick Southern rock duo)

 

 

 

 

Travelling Alone For the First Time: Frightening or Exhilarating?

Hello lovely people,

After making the decision to travel alone to Milan I had a mixed response from my family and friends. Some thought I was insane for undertaking a week of loneliness and danger, others thought it was a great choice to explore a new place exactly how I would want to. Regardless of what people thought though it felt like the right decision. I’m a pretty seasoned traveller at this point, and I don’t want to restrict myself from seeing new places just because I don’t have anyone to travel with at that point in time. So, here’s how I feel after my first trip alone.

travelling alone

My journey to Milan was, quite frankly, a bit of a trek. I had to take a 2.5 hour train to Manchester Airport, go through the airport experience on my own for the first time, fly to Bergamo, take a 1 hour bus to Milano Centrale, and take the metro to my hostel. It was time-consuming, but I can’t say I found anything too difficult. It’s really not that different to being in a group, you’ve just got to have more awareness of your surroundings. My main tip for this part is to account for the possibility of things going wrong, because when there’s only one brain working solving problems can be more difficult. My train to the airport was cancelled whilst I was on it (love our fully functional privatised rail network), but I was able to get on another one and still had time for a drink in the airport because I’d accounted to have spare time.

I opted to stay in an 8 bed mixed dorm at Meininger Milano Lambrate for a number of reasons pertaining to being a solo female traveller. I know and trust the brand, so I had the peace of mind of going to somewhere I knew would be safe. This particular hostel was located across the road from a train station too, so it meant I never had to walk too far at night. Staying a dorm was a new and interesting experience. I didn’t feel unsafe or uncomfortable at all, as most of the other people in my room were young solo travellers too. I even got chatting to a few of them, shoutout to the linguists from Oxford who quizzed me on my degree a bit too much for it to be normal. I obviously kept my belongings padlocked away at all times to make sure nothing was stolen or lost.

Being able to do exactly what you want whenever you want is such a liberating way to travel. I’ve travelled in a big group before, and whilst it’s obviously so much fun to hang out with your friends, it’s also enjoyable to be completely on your own agenda. I was able to go to museums that my friends perhaps wouldn’t have enjoyed, and didn’t feel like I was ever letting anyone down by things like getting up earlier or later on a certain day. I was also a big fan of sitting on benches or in cafes and watching the world go by for far too long, something I doubt other people would tolerate!

Eating and drinking surprised me as being one of the hardest things. I didn’t eat out very much as I felt the social stigma of being in a restaurant alone and I have a bit of anxiety surrounding ordering food (sounds ridiculous because it is). I also didn’t like that I couldn’t drink as much as I usually would on trips, because I definitely didn’t want to be even slightly drunk whilst alone. I did save money as a result of this though, so it wasn’t all a loss.

Now for the important bit – safety. I don’t think I once felt at risk. Obviously Italy is a very safe country, but it’s still dangerous to be alone anywhere at certain times of day or in certain places. I was catcalled a little bit here and there, but the sad fact is that I almost expect that now when I’m in a big city, regardless of if I’m alone or with female friends; #whyimafeminist. To stay safe I just took the normal precautions you would expect – not being out late at night, not having valuables on show, not walking around with earphones in and not giving away personal information. It can be more dangerous to travel as a woman alone inevitably, but I think as long as you take suitable measures to protect yourself you shouldn’t let it stop you.

I actually thought I would be a lot more lonely than I ended up being, as in the end I really enjoyed my own company. I was still in contact with friends and family back home as well which helped, but I was mostly distracted by all the culture and exploring so I never really got lonely. I also chatted to a lot of people in my hostel. I spent most of my evenings chilling in the communal areas, and got chatting to travellers about where they’d been and where they were headed – my favourite kinds of conversations. If I had spoken Italian I’d probably have spoken to more people when I was in the city, so perhaps socialising would’ve been more likely if I had been somewhere I spoke the language.

img_20180919_110636917
Look at me with all my pigeon friends

So if I were to sum it up – travelling alone was the best thing I’ve ever done. I learned a lot about myself and how I cope with things, as well as growing in confidence even after such a short length of time away. It really was the best bit of relaxation before university and spending almost all my time with other people. Have you ever travelled alone? Would you, or would it worry you too much?

-Megan, listening to Brave New World by Iron Maiden (I rediscovered this album today and remembered how much I love it)

Milano, Italy; The Ultimate Travel Guide

Hello lovely people,

Milano is considered the fashion capital of Europe to many, but I think it’s Italy’s best kept secret when it comes to backpacking. Situated in the Northern Lombardy region it is a vibrant and thriving city, with everything from urban neighbourhoods to Italy’s largest church. Whether it’s relaxing with an aperativo or taking a ride to the nearby Lake Como, Milano has something for everyone.

Quick Facts
Currency: Euro
Language: Italian (very few people speak English, which is great to see!)
Airports: 3 – Bergamo, Linate & Malpensa
Public Transport: Metro, buses & tram (€4.50/day)
Safety: 4/5, I travelled here alone and never felt at risk, except a few catcalls

Visit Duomo Cathedral
Duomo is far from underrated. The building is quite the feat to behold, with some beautiful white architecture. You can enter the cathedral and attached museum for €3.50, but I chose not to because whenever I looked the queues were always pretty long. I still loved sitting in the square and just taking in the architecture instead (because we all know I love a nice building).

Walk around Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Now, you can probably tell by the way I dress myself that I know virtually nothing about fashion, so it might seem unusual for me to reccomend the main high fashion shopping mall. However, to bang on about architecture again, it’s a stunning building. I adored the glass roof and intricate wall design, so just walking around was definitely worthwhile. I’d also reccomend going to the nearby streets for cheaper shopping, you’ll find the awesome European brands Bershka, Pimkie and Pull & Bear.

Explore Santa Maria Delle Grazie
I love me a good church, always necessary to pray the gay away (too spicy?). This one is much smaller than Duomo (obviously), so I was able to visit the quieter interior and grounds easily. Inside there were lots of different Catholic shrines and art, which I actually found really interesting.

 

Eat & walk in Semipone Park
This is a fantastic place to eat a picnic lunch and watch as people cycle through the park (why do Europeans cycle so much?). After eating my lunch I wandered a little and it was really lovely to be back in a green space after the bustle of Duomo.

Discover Isola’s street art & the Bosque Verticale
Isola was one of my favourite districts. It’s a working class area with a huge community feel that has progressively been gentrified with the introduction of industry. The Bosque Verticale is a pair of residential towers that appear to have trees growing out of them, and it’s so cool to see nature in the middle of an area dominated by skyscrapers. However, the real gem of Isola is the street art. There’s some truly stunning pieces that are best discovered by wandering, but if you’re short on time head to Porta Garibaldi station and see the way artists have made it their own.

Eat gelato at Artico Gelateria Tradizionale
Could you really go to Italy and not try out the ice-cream? Located in the heart of the Isola district, this gelateria is family-run and classically Italian. There’s lots of choice and the gelato is so tasty!

 

Visit Lake Como
Como is around an hour away by train, and definitely worth a day out. I want to write a full post on this truly stunning location, but for now I’ll just say DO IT.

Drink aperativo (tbh I’d go just for this)
The Italians have got this one right. At around 6pm bars and pubs begin to fill with people going for a post-work cocktail, but there’s an amazing catch. Buying a drink means that you’re entitled to a pre-dinner buffet! I don’t understand how this only happens in Northern Italy, because it’s fabulous. I paid anywhere from €2.50 – €6 for my aperativo depending on what drink I ordered and where I was. You cannot miss this one.

 

Head to the Navigli district to see the canals
Fair warning, this area has become a little overrun with tourist traps, but the canals were so worth it. I visited at sunset and loved seeing the sunlight reflect on the river, truly stunning. There are also a lot of small artists’ studios alongside the river to watch out for. This is considered a “good” location for aperativo, but I found that the prices were ridiculously inflated in comparison to less touristy areas, so I’d say it’s one to avoid when you’re drinking.

Learn something new at the Museo Nazionale de Ciencia e Tecnologia
This was a really interesting museum, and absolutely huge. I specifically loved their exhibits on nutrition, the history of CERN and television. As a pansy humanities student science is usually quite foreign to me, but this place was very accessible for those of us who aren’t scientifically minded. Furthermore it was housed in a great building, and I loved the way the exhibits were laid out. Definitely one to remember your student card for, as the entrance fee goes from €10 to €7.50 when you present one.

 

So it’s safe to say that I absolutely loved my trip to Milano. It was the perfect balance of relaxing and adventure before university begins again, and I would really reccomend it. Aperativo has absolutely ruined me though, when is the UK going to wake up to that one?

Have you ever visited Milano or Italy? Where should I go next?

-Megan, listening to Radio X and writing with my housemate BECAUSE I HAVE HOUSEMATES NOW AND IT’S EXCITING