Photo Journal: St Albans

I felt the need to get out of London for the day, so I consulted this list of day trips and planned to go to St Albans for some English countryside entertainment. St Albans was beautiful, and I definitely had a lovely day wandering around. I do indeed love London, but sometimes it’s nice to get out for a bit and see other areas of this beautiful country.
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stalbans15   stalbans8stalbans20
stalbans19   stalbans11
P.S. I am happy to announce that I had an article published on Thought Catalog for the first time! It’s not travel related, but if you’d like to read it, click here 🙂


By the Kilo: A Vintage Sale in East London

Back to Bethnal Green I went today, when I revisited the York Hall location, which is where the vintage fair I posted about previously, was held. This Sunday’s sale, put on by Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair company, was a great followup event to the last, with the premise this time being that you purchase by the kilo, rather than individual items. At £15 pounds a kilo, that’s an amazing deal. Some of the items on their own should cost that much, so it’s incredibly refreshing to be able to pair a few objects together for the same price!
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I arrived right as the early bird time opened. There were quite a few people there, obviously very excited to fill their purple bags with racks and racks of clothing. I was happy to see that this sale had all sizes of clothing. Sometimes, as a plus size woman interested in fashion, it’s a gamble to go shopping for vintage clothes, as it’s usually hard to find things that fit. But I was definitely not disappointed by the large selection of garments filling the room. It was lovely to see people so happy to find an item, whether it be jewelry or a clothing piece, that made them light up upon pulling it off the rack or picking it up off the table and trying it on.
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After an hour of searching, I ended up only like two items enough to take them home with me. I struggled with some other choices, but ultimately decided on two pieces I know I’d end up wearing a lot. A denim tank, and a lovely green cardigan, to which I changed into in the bathroom at the hall to take advantage of the full-length mirror (which I still need to get one for my own room). My bag only ended up weighing half of a kilo, so I could’ve gotten more, but am very pleased with the two items I got, since I’ll get a lot of use out of them.
To find out when the next event is, follow the Vintage Clothing Kilo Sale Facebook page. They’re held all over the UK, so if you’re not in London, you don’t have to miss out at all.

Disclosure: I received free entry and a complimentary kilo of clothing for this post, but was intending to attend despite these gifts and loved every minute of the event.

West End Review: Shakespeare in Love

Shall I compare this play to its movie equivalent? Thou art not my favorite adaptation, as much as it could have been. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting when I went to see the stage version of one of my favorite films, but I’m not sure if I expected this. With any cross-platform adaptations, there is a lot of change to make it more suitable for the medium, but transferring this Tom Stoppard screenplay onto the stage should’ve been easy (with Stoppard being first and foremost a playwright more often than a screenwriter). I found the entire play to be very rushed, as if they were trying to fit the entire plot of the film into the span of 2 and a half hours, which usually works as a good length for a play, but with a plot that is slightly complicated like Shakespeare in Love’s is, I wish the information had come at the audience a bit slower. Let’s just say that as someone who knows the film very well, I was even confused at what was happening.

Photo by Johan Persson

Now, I shall get to what I did enjoy about this piece of theatre. The stage design incorporated the Shakespearean feel of the late 1500s and early 1600s theatres we don’t conform to any longer. Using the stage as sort of an allusion to the globe, the multiple levels made out of wooden pathways, definitely gave feel to the era the play is set in. And with this play, “All the world’s a stage,” truly applies, because the way it was set up makes it easily transferable from a story space to a theatre space when needed in the plot. The costumes were period-appropriate and beautiful. The acting was also very top notch, especially from Tom Bateman, who played the titular character. The night I went, Lucy Briggs-Owen, who played Viola, had very obviously taken ill with her voice, which lead to a very scratchy, strained performance, but she still played the part with conviction.

Photo by Johan Persson

Some of the changes made to the plot were things I did enjoy. In the stage version, Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe are actually very close friends, unlike in the movie, which gave them a deeper relationship I enjoyed watching. They made good use of the repetitive line, “and a bit with a dog,” which made it much funnier later, when there actually was an entertaining bit with a dog. Some scenes were switched around, giving a bigger build up to when Viola reveals she’s been masquerading as Thomas Kent to be able to act on stage. Overall, it was quite a fun play, and I was happy I got to see it, and a different way of putting forth the story than I was used to.

Prague: A Fairytale City Full of Comfort Food

My only regret from this past weekend was that I did not get nearly enough time in Prague. It’s truly a travesty that my time there was so limited, which means the positive outcome of that is now I know I want to come back and spend many more days here, and bask in this enchanted city. Prague (or Praha) has two of my favorite things; very tasty, filling, comfort food and buildings that look like a European fairytale. I was happy to arrive and at least get a few hours of sunlight.
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I feel like I don’t need to explain Prague too much, just because I didn’t get to spend enough time there to get the full picture on the place, but Levi and I just leisurely walked around the city, ate some great, tasty food, walked across the Charles Bridge, felt very happy to be in such a gorgeous place, and watched the sunset. It really was a perfect day. Our hotel room was also very nice and comfy, included a large buffet breakfast, and featured the most amazing shower I’ve ever been in (a place to sit and let jets of water massage your back). I was actually quite sad to leave the next morning, but I’m at least comforted to know that I will definitely be coming back soon.
praha6   praha4

A Bit of Budapest & Vienna

New travel rule for myself: Don’t try to fit three gorgeous, European cities into three winter days, lest be disappointed when you don’t see any of the city in daylight, and miss out on a lot of exploration time. I stupidly tried to fit Budapest, Vienna and Prague into three days and failed miserably, but… I am happy I at least got to visit these cities briefly, because now I know I want to go back to all of them and spend more time in each. I took another early morning flight from London, this time from Stansted Airport. I booked with RyanAir this time, and ignorantly didn’t read my entire boarding pass, because apparently non-European citizens have to go to the check-in desk for a visa check, which I missed, but thankfully the nice lady at the boarding desk let me on the flight, as I panicked about this misstep. I arrived in Budapest and figured out my way to get into the main part of the city.
I hopped on a bus, which took me to a metro station, and then I got on the coolest metro train I’d ever taken to get into the city. Seriously, I love Budapest’s metro trains. Each of them are different and unique. I found my way into the city so I could meet my boyfriend at the Buda Castle, where we agreed to meet. Little did I know that the castle was up on a hill, and that it was not a simple trek to get to the top. Using the promise of a great view at the peak, I huffed and puffed up the pathways and steps and finally made it up, 50 minutes after my original meeting time. Thankfully Levi was waiting patiently for me, so we reunited and set off into the city to find our Airbnb location for the night.
My first impression of Budapest was how beautiful it was. The architecture is pretty uniform and while there are a lot of crumbling buildings, the city has a certain flair that I really liked. I definitely want to come back here and spend some time exploring, because after Levi and I got to our accommodation, we were so tired that we collapsed and spent the rest of the night in the flat, drinking wine, talking and then heading to bed very early.
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The next morning, we walked around for a bit, before heading to the station to catch our train to Vienna. At the station, I tried to buy my ticket, but the machine wasn’t showing any options even close to Vienna (or Wien as it is also called). I started to get really frustrated, because we had got to the station early for a reason, and there was no information booth anywhere to buy tickets. Unfortunately we missed the train because I didn’t want to get on it if I didn’t have a ticket and then have to pay a fine. We decided to go to another station, and that one did have a ticket office, but the line was long to purchase tickets for out-of-country travel, but thankfully I got one in time, and we boarded a 4.5 hour train to Vienna. I was really upset, because we didn’t arrive until 6pm, which meant it was dark and allowed little time to be a tourist.
Vienna seemed nice from the very small amount of it I saw. The hotel we stayed in was through Airbnb and was quite fancy. Fancy enough to charge 34 euros the next morning for our measly breakfasts (which the listing made seem was included, but oh well, not staying there again). After we arrived and took a taxi to the hotel, we set our stuff down and then walked around for a bit, as far as we could get in an hour or so, but it was very cold and dark, so we headed back to the hotel and vowed to leave early enough the next morning to catch a train which would get us to Prague in time to actually see the city in daylight.
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The next morning, we took another taxi to the train station, which was super far from the hotel, barely made it in time for the train. Again, the ticket machine was not showing me any Prague options, so I bought a ticket to somewhere else in the Czech Republic and hoped that the ticket inspector would accept it. Well, he came around to check tickets, looked at mine, asked if I spoke German, then told me in broken English that the ticket machine was only for inner-country travel and that he’d let me slide for buying the wrong one, but they might not accept it in the Czech Republic. This revelation was mostly annoying because the wrong ticket I bought cost a lot of money, but thankfully at our first stop, which was a city right inside the Czech border, I ran off the train, and as quickly as possible, found the ticket office, bought a new ticket to Prague, and then jumped back on the train, all within 5 minutes, and then was on the way to our final destination.

Look out for my post on Prague, coming very soon!

Second Time’s the Charm: My Roman Holiday

After opting for a slower train so my boyfriend could take full advantage of his EuRail pass, we took a 4-hour, scenic trip from Florence to Rome, and arrive in the afternoon, ready to go out and see Roma. This is actually my second trip to this city. The last time I was there was in 2011, and although I liked Rome, I think the tiredness from traveling around Europe for a week made my overall impression of it not as good as it could’ve been. But second time’s the charm for this journey, because I very much enjoyed Rome this time!
Levi and I walked around for as long as we could with our tired feet, until we had to head to our accommodation for the night. It was nearing the golden hour, so the streets were lit up with sun as it fell behind the horizon. We stopped to get some dinner around 6pm, ate some pasta, and then headed back out into the night. We walked to the Trevi Fountain, which I was sad to see was under major construction, so much so that the water wasn’t running and it was practically all covered in metal rods and fabric. At least I’d seen it before, uncovered and thriving.
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We were so tired and had no idea how long it would take to walk to our B&B that we grabbed a taxi and had it take us to where we were staying. It was a bit pricey, but for us confused tourists who don’t speak Italian, we didn’t feel comfortable walking around all night, trying to find a bus that would take us there. We arrived at the place to check in, and were greeted nicely by our host. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the listing, but it was cheap, so that’s why I chose it. And I’m glad I did. It was in this lovely building with a vintage elevator that took us up to the third floor, where there were two rooms inside an apartment, made-over to be a bed and breakfast. Not only was our room huge and we had our own bathroom, there was also breakfast included in our stay. The way they set out everything was so cute and it was perfect to fall into bed and then be able to wake up and go feed ourselves with the selection of cereal, toast and coffee. After having stayed in a few different AirBnb locations now, I am so fully in love with that way of accommodation that I might never use a hostel again!
After a great nights sleep and stuffing ourselves full of the free breakfast, we headed to The Vatican to see St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum. Everywhere were people trying to sell us stuff to skip the line. We were content with not paying extra for that, so we got in line to go inside the Basilica, which look less than 30 minutes, saw the beautiful and regal inside, and then went around the corner to the museum. That’s when we understood why they were trying to get us to skip the line. It took us three hours to get inside. The first hour and a half of that was standing in the very hot sun, and then we turned the corner to be in the shade, but still were stuck in a never-moving line. I’d been inside before, so I was okay with not going in, but I didn’t want Levi to miss out on it, so I persisted and we finally made it inside. It’s not really my kind of museum. Just a lot of religious relics and statues. I was happy though, to go inside the Sistine Chapel again and sneak a photo of Michelangelo’s artwork on the ceiling.
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The rest of the day was seeing the other sights that Rome has to offer, such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona and anything else along the way. I was just happy to be back here again, and to enjoy it a lot more this time. Rome is a very beautiful city, and even all the street sellers, trying to make me buy their mobile phone long-handled selfie contraption wasn’t enough to bother me. It was weirdly less annoying than it was in Paris. Perhaps because hearing them walk up to you and say, “Selfie?” is funny and endearing in a way. The (non)perfect ending to my trip was missing my flight the next morning and having to rebook for one 6 hours later, which wasn’t ideal, but I’m trying not to be too negative about it, because it definitely didn’t ruin my trip. I still had a wonderful time in spite of it, and hope to enjoy the beauty and ancientness of Rome more in the future!
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Florence: A City Frozen in the Renaissance Era

You can’t walk off the train in Florence and not wonder if this city has got stuck in a permanent 16th or 17th century loop. After all, the city was the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, and the architecture and ambience of the city still holds that nostalgic feel that you don’t get in many other cities in the world. I can’t imagine living here and stepping out of your flat each morning into this historic city. It would be too much for me. I had always heard how amazing Florence was, and now I got to experience that for myself.
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Everything in Florence is so close to each other, making it a very walkable city. You can’t walk more than a block without seeing some old building or religious structure. There’s statues and fountains everywhere, and the past shows through even the newer parts of the city. All I really have to say about this place is that it’s the the city where I’ve felt most enveloped into a time bubble. You can go to London or Paris and see old things, and they are beautiful, but right next to it is something completely new to juxtapose it. In Florence, it’s almost all old and historic. You look down at the ground and wonder if these are the same stones from hundreds of years ago.
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Levi and I walked around a lot. We saw the Santa Maria del Flore, the Palazzo Vecchio (with a replica of Michelango’s David, which both of us were too cheap to pay the admission fee to go into the museum where the real one is housed), the whimsical Ponte Vecchio bridge over the Arno River, and everything in between. We opted not to go to any museums, but to just enjoy the free sights outside. I think this a good choice, as we weren’t there for very long.
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We headed to our AirBnb location (which was a lot further from the center of town than advertised), and we were both so tired from all the walking that we crashed from 6pm until 8pm. We felt bad for wasting time to sleep, but it was much needed. We decided to not go back into town that night, but get up the next morning and explore. We went back out, via a bus, walked around some more. Fully drew in more of the beautiful vibe of the city, and then made our way back to the station to catch a train to our final destination of Rome. I will definitely be coming back to Florence in the future, and hopefully spending more time in the museums and streets, trying to enjoy more of this place.
Watch out for my final post from my Italian weekend when I post about Rome very soon 🙂

West End Review: The Play That Goes Wrong

For my playwriting class this semester, we’re meant to write a 60-90 minute play as our final project. As I am a theatre person with a strong passion for the play-within-a-play format (I’ve been in two of these type of shows), I decided that I would tackle this for my own writing. My professor suggested two plays for me to see before I started. One being “Shakespeare in Love” (which I will review soon), and “The Play That Goes Wrong.” Having a full, free day last Thursday, I decided to go see both in one day and fill my 24-hours with as much theatre as possible. “Noises Off” was my favorite play-within-a-play I had seen, up until seeing this show. “The Play That Goes Wrong” was everything I needed from a outing to the theatre. Coming from a theatre background, having played every part, from actress on stage, to backstage crew, to spotlight operator, to front-of-house staff, I’ve been fully engrossed in any and everything that can go wrong in a performance. It was amazing to be able to sit back as an audience member and see everything go wrong in such a perfectly, practiced way. Without giving too much away, you can assume from the title of the show that what you’ll be seeing will be an absolute disaster. Every performer has the “actors nightmare” before, during and after a show, and with this play, you get to see everything you dream about happening in two hours, and it’s surprisingly refreshing. When it’s not happening to you, and rather someone else, it’s hilarious! I was laughing, out loud, the entire show. It’s hard for me to actually laugh out loud for anything. Yes, I may chuckle to myself when I find something funny, but it takes a lot for me to open my mouth and exude a verbal noise of enjoyment, and with each moment in this performance, I was roaring. When you’re performing a play where you’re supposed to be a “bad actor,” you actually have to be a very good actor to be able to pull it off. The cast of this show are obviously very good actors, who can pull off “bad” very convincingly, without going overboard. It takes perfect comic timing to do what they do, so I can tell they’re all very trained in the art of farce to have pulled this off so well. The lines alone must’ve taken a lot of rehearsal to perfect, because with some of the gags, including mispronunciation and lines being out of order, it takes a lot of skill to have done that, and I was very impressed. And of course, the set (and the invisible people backstage) were the true stars of the show. For everything to “go wrong,” there has to be everything backstage going right. From objects falling off the wall, to items being misplaced and set pieces breaking, this well-rehearsed cast must’ve had many run throughs with the set and crew to make sure the timing was down perfectly. In fact, if something did go wrong, it would be impossible to tell, since everything is going wrong anyways. And that’s what I really loved about this show is that because everything goes wrong the entire time, you’re never bored wondering if something exciting is going to happen, because you don’t have to wait a moment for it to. This show gave me a lot of inspiration for my own work, and I will be drawing a lot from it (not plagiarizing of course), but using the themes and possibly some of the things that go wrong, to give my piece some life. “The Play That Goes Wrong” is playing at the Duchess Theatre and its run just got extended, so there’s plenty of time to see it, which is great for me, because I really want to go again. I knew I was in love with it before it even started, because the pre-show activity from the actors included trying to fix a door that just won’t shut properly, and that hit a soft spot in my heart, after using a door much like it in my acting classes. It never stayed shut or sometimes didn’t even open properly, causing a lot of stress in class scene showings, which is one of those many things that can go wrong in the theatre.

A Few Hours in Pisa

For budget travelers, flying directly into Florence isn’t always the cheapest option. To save some money, flying into the Pisa airport is just as effective, and you can do a quick stop and walk around the city before taking a short hour-long train to Florence. After waking up at the ungodly hour of 4am, I finished getting ready and left my dorm to get to Gatwick airport. After a nervous flight (when will I get over my fear of flying?) I arrived in Pisa to meet my boyfriend at the Tower of Pisa. Of course, with my luck, I bought a ticket for the wrong mode of transportation, so I ended up taking a bus from the airport to the train station, instead of the one I wanted, that would’ve taken me straight to the center of the city. This wasn’t a big issue though, as I walked out of the train station, and got to walk along the beautiful streets of the city to get to my final destination.
Before arriving in Pisa, I did some research to find out what there is to do there, and sadly really the only result was the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which was alright with me, because I was more excited to get to Florence, but it was still very delightful to walk around the small city and see the architecture and sights. I love how parts of Italy are trapped in time. Pisa is in the Tuscany part of Italy, which is so beautiful and I can understand how it gets so many tourists every year.
pisa4   pisa2
After walking for 30 minutes, I finally came upon the Leaning Tower and was even more excited to spot my boyfriend from across the piazza and be reunited with him after he was on his own for a few days. We laughed a bit at the tourists doing the traditional holding up the tower pose, walked around the city some more, and then headed to the train station to find our way to Florence. I was glad I finally got to go to this historic city and see a landmark much spoken about. I doubt I’ll return, but I’m happy to cross the location off my list.
Keep a look out for my posts about the rest of my Italy trip to Florence and Rome.