The Peak District is a pretty special place in winter, with emphasis on the pretty. Here’s a few shots taken on my Canon 100D with a 50mm lens, all in or around Curbar Edge…
The Peak District is a pretty special place in winter, with emphasis on the pretty. Here’s a few shots taken on my Canon 100D with a 50mm lens, all in or around Curbar Edge…
2017 has been the most tumultuous year of my existence, and has marched forward with such a pace that I’ve had to force myself to reflect upon these rushing days, and how they have fluctuated so wildly between the macabre and the wonderful.
The year began with a slither of hope; having left university due to various circumstances, I was ready to embrace January for its metaphorical clean slate, and set about trying to organise my life. After a rather chance conversation with my best friend, I suddenly found myself booking all of September off to travel around Europe, which, if I’m being honest, flooded my veins with an unshakeable feeling of dread and fear. I was concerned that I would be unable to get through it without the shadow of my anxiety swallowing me whole, and the image of me experiencing that panicky, illogical mindset somewhere in the middle of Prague wasn’t going a long way in regards to calming me down.
With that in the pipeline, I thought it best to revert from my usual reaction to such worries, and fought against the urge to shut myself up in my room, eat unhealthily, and refrain from human interaction as much as possible. I went out for daily walks with my camera, met up with friends as often as I could, and went on a beautiful trip to Pisa with my girlfriend. The latter was actually an event more significant than I originally thought; I had planned and actually enjoyed a trip abroad without any major incident, and besides from one little episode prior to the flight over there, it showed me that my month long trip would be nothing to worry about, and I let positivity control my brain for once. Upon our return, I worked part-time, and found that to be great too – I was interacting with strangers all day, and enjoying it, and I suddenly found myself free from my burdens.
However, I was pulled back down to reality rather quickly when we realised my grandmother was dying. I know a lot of my friends aren’t that close with their grandparents, yet Grandma was, ultimately, my best friend. Throughout my childhood, I had spent 5-6 days a week at her house, talking extensively about pretty much anything we could, and forming my life-long love affairs with cooking, literature, music, and cinema. She was an outrageously funny, incredibly fashionable, independent lady with a seemingly bottomless wealth of knowledge, and I am blessed to have even known her let alone be related, but that made it all much harder at the end. Watching such an energetic individual slip into their illness, unaware of anything around them, and ultimately become dreadfully frustrated with a life they can no longer enjoy, was possibly the most traumatising thing I have ever witnessed. I think a small portion of myself died with her that day.
The aftermath of the funeral was not great. By my own admission, I am pretty terrible at facing such things, yet I think I was more concerned with my mother to think too much about anything else; in a way, I count myself lucky that I was with Grandma in her final weeks, right up to the very end, as it enabled me to mourn in a gradual wave, rather than experience what others in the family had to. I just felt that everything was becoming a little bit too much, and that I had to get away.
Luckily, Europe was closing in. Before I knew it, Jacob and I were boarding our train for Paris and the journey had begun. I don’t know why, and perhaps I never will, but I did not experience one iota of anxiety throughout the entire trip (which you can see the photos from on my travel page – here). I think it was the relief of being somewhere so excitingly new that left me no time to dwell on anything from home, other than my girlfriend, but she was beginning her own adventure at university. It was, without a doubt, the most enjoyable month of my life, and I think I’ll be able to dwell on the inspiration for my writing for many years to come. More importantly, by the end of it, I was so glad to see Derbyshire, and be back in familiar territory that no longer felt like it was suffocating me.
On the day I arrived home, however, my dog passed away. It was weird to leave a trip and return from it surrounded by elements of death, but Truffle was extremely old and frail and had given us so much love throughout the years that it felt strangely right she had gone; dare I say it, I was weirdly relieved. The next few weeks were spent writing and roaming around, visiting my girlfriend in York and reading good books on slow trains, and then I had one fateful weekend that has twisted the road of my future once more.
After attending an interview for what I thought was a two-week volunteering position, I accidentally left the room with an internship and, looking forward, the prospect of a full time job in something that enables me to work with the terminally ill, conduct creative writing groups, and work within PR and marketing. This should all start in January, and because of all that has happened this year, I don’t think my anxiety is going to fuck this one up. I am much stronger, happier, and healthier than I was this time last year, and I can’t thank the people around me enough.
Let me know in the comments how your year has been – what were the ups and downs, what affect do you think it has had on you?
Anyway, here’s to another metaphorical clean slate, may it forever be chalked with positivity.
Here’s my one month trip around Europe summarised into numbers:
Trains caught: 21
Trains missed: 1
Steps walked: 409,271
Miles walked: 63.47
Books read: 5
Pictures taken: 3,943
Time on trains: 70hrs 8mins (2.9 days)
Novel ideas thought of: 1
Poems written: 11
Pizzas eaten: 12
Wallets lost: 1
Wallets found: 1 (thank God)
Series of ‘The Walking Dead’ watched: 3
Men seen shitting in the street: 1
Men seen pissing in the street: 5
Men seen talking to pigeons: 1
After a couple of nights in Florence without any sleep, we were so tired yesterday morning that we sunk regretfully into our beds until 13:00PM, yet without this monstrous rest we would have been unable to enjoy the day.
Our first stop was a 2 mile walk to “The National Roman Museum” ; it’s just outside the main train station so if you have some changeovers in Rome with an hour or two to spare, you could easily pop over the road to this cheap and interesting museum! There are three floors of frescoes, statues, mosaics, and sculpture, and it’s only EUR 3.50 for the entrance fee! I actually saw two exhibits here that are my favourite pieces of the whole trip; the first is entitled ‘The Boxer’, a statue of exceptional quality depicting a post-fight boxer resting his battered body. Sitting with his legs apart, his hands are clasped together and still in gloves, and the way in which he is positioned draws the viewer’s gaze to his face. He concentrates with intensity from empty eye sockets, his cheeks and eyebrows covered in blood, bruises, and scars. It reeks of the brutality of combat and is really a sight to see.
The second, and best, exhibit that I will mention is “The Portonaccio Sarcophagus”. Found in 1932, the piece shows the progress of Roman horsemen as they annihilate those in their path; in a collage of soldiers, spears and devastating blows, the sculpture seems to leap from its bounds and re-enact each swing of the sword, stab of the spearhead, and crush of the fist as if it’s happening before your eyes. It’s absolutely incredible, and will definitely be remembered for years to come as a highlight of the trip.
Next, we trotted off to the “Capuchin Crypt” . Now, this place has no end of regulations that I’ll list so you don’t get caught out like the woman in front of us: no camera, no phones, no bare shoulders, no shorts, no smoking, no food, no drink. Who says the Church isn’t fun, right? Anyway, after paying EUR 8.50, we walked through the small museum rooms depicting monk’s clothing, religious artwork, and other interesting exhibits relating to their lives. We, however, were there for more macabre reasons, and swiftly made our way to the crypt itself. When the monks arrived at this church in the early 1600s, they trucked 300 cartloads of deceased friars with them, and packed some 3,700 skeletal remains into arrangements contained within the burial crypt. It’s really, really fucking weird.
Apparently, according to the Church, it isn’t macabre but rather an uplifting demonstration of the passage between life and death. For the monks, who lived lives of poverty waiting to earn their reward of being with Christ, that may have been so, but don’t ask me to walk into a dark room of decorated skulls, pelvic bones, and all sorts of deathly imagery and expect it to raise me up into some ecstatic state of freedom. It’s definitely worth visiting, as I suppose everyone will respond in different ways, but I found it a tiny bit unsettling, a tiny bit amusing (I have no idea why), and extremely interesting nonetheless. In the final crypt a sign, in five languages, declares: “What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be…” Spooky.
After a little stroll about the place, we wanted some dinner and a good night out, finding both at “The Meeting Place”. This is one of my favourite night spots and was rammed with students dressed up for a fun night of drinks and food; their menu of cocktails, beers, and wines is given to you as a newspaper, and after ordering two glasses of Old Fashioned, we paid our EUR 10 each to access the buffet and cracked on with dinner. Forget the image of lukewarm shitty food in dirty bowls, this buffet was amazing; one corner held a sushi chef creating eleven different types of sushi and sashimi, which all tasted divine, and led to a bar top counter with paella, fresh pizzas, cold wheat salads, cold rice salads, pastries, and pasta. Everything was of amazing quality and prepared on the spot, and after a few runs we were stuffed.
After a couple of hours, there was barely room to move. The students had descended in their hoards and turned the spot into a vibrant space of conversation, drinks, and good music; if you want a few cocktails in a brilliant environment, then I’d definitely recommend going. Cocktails are about EUR. 8 each, and there’s even a room selling cigarettes in there if that’s something you’d need.
Today, I woke up to find out my dog had died, so wasn’t feeling too adventurous. As luck would have it, Jacob was also feeling pretty tired, so we’ve sauntered around in the sun, read our books, and had a bit of decent grub, ready for the two days of 12 hour trains that begin tomorrow, and will result in us being home.
It’s been an amazing month, it really has, and I’ll be posting some summaries and reflections as soon as I can. You guys have helped us find some incredible nights out, fantastic restaurants, and enjoyable day trips, so I can’t thank you enough. Special homage paid to Rebecca as she’s travelled near enough everywhere and is a walking encyclopaedia when it comes to this stuff. Check out her blog!
Hello there bloggers and esteemed guests; my travel blog from yesterday will be posted slightly later than planned due to me receiving news my beloved Dog Truffle has died this morning. She’s been with me since I was 5 years old and was the friendliest chum I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.
She went peacefully and without pain, and she’s given me a lifetime of love and memories. 💖
I’ve never written a list like this before, and I’m relatively new to this blogging lark, but some of these guys have made me feel right at home, others have inspired me, and the some are just bloody fun to read through. These are in no particular order at all, so I’m not comparing them against each other, it’s just a list of blogs I’m enjoying at the moment because I think they deserve some more recognition.
There are loads more that I love to read through, but it’s getting late here in Rome and I’ve got a bottle of wine waiting for me downstairs. I hope you find these as enjoyable and rewarding as I did, and urge you to check them out as soon as you can!
The train to Rome was short and sweet, leaving us a near full day to see some sights. We then made a rather poor decision to dump our bags in the hotel and set off to see the “Colosseum” just as the sun was reaching its hottest.
After three miles of walking through the heat, the 48m high colossal goliath of the colosseum walls had come into view, and it somehow made it worth the trek. Situated just east of the “Roman Forum”, this incredible feat of architecture dates back to an astounding AD 80 under the rule of Emperor Titus. At full capacity, it could seat up to 80,000 spectators eager to see some blood spilled upon the central stage. Aside from gladiatorial contests, there were also dramatic plays, mock sea-battles, and executions, so it provided a violent yet varied set of activities for those wanting to be entertained.
We paid the discount price of EUR 7.50 (as we are under 25 years of age and EU citizens) for tickets, and although told by every single guided tour representative we would have to queue for 45 minutes, we were through in about 5. There are three floors open to the public, and you can see everything right down to initial foundations. It’s a surprisingly cheap and entertaining little visit.
Just outside is the “Arch of Constantine”, which is yet another example of the wealth and genius the Romans had at their disposal. Erected in 312 AD, it’s the largest Roman triumphal arch and commemorates’s victory over Maxentious; it’s situated on a road called “Via Triumphalis”, which is the route the emperors took when returning from a victorious campaign. Standing at 21m high and 25m wide, it literally cannot be missed, and coupled with the colosseum at its side, the two certainly make you appreciate that Roman’s were the masters of their craft.
With the same ticket, you can also enter “The Temple of Venus and Rome” which is a short stroll away, the “Foro Romano”, and the “Domus Aurea”. It really is worth it to spend at least half a day here as there’s so much to take in, and don’t do what we did and go when it’s hottest, as you will swiftly suffer.
After regaining some energy in the cool of the hotel room, we headed out for some dinner, choosing the nearby “Senba” Japanese restaurant. They have a really good menu of sushi, rice dishes, teriyaki, and tempura, all of which are some of my favourite dishes; they provide you with a small pen and piece of paper which you write your chosen food upon, and it’s EUR 19.99 a head for all you can eat. We tasted: Chicken Katsu, Ebi Tempura, Tora Kara Age, Teriyaki Skewers, Teriyaki Sushi, and Spring Rolls. Everything we ordered tasted wonderful, and with a EUR 15 bottle of white, it came to EUR 50 for the both of us.
There’s a strike tomorrow for all metro and bus workers, so we will try and find something near the hotel to occupy ourselves with, and failing that I think we’re going to try and find the catacombs. Either way, I’ll be sure to wear my hat this time so I don’t feel like climbing into a freezer by lunch.
Florence – Our See, Eat, Visit Shortlist
Hotel Review – Hotel Sempione
We had one of the best days of the entire trip in Florence, but some of the worst nights sleep. The hotel has a lot of faults, yet I still maintain that it’s fine for those looking for a couple nights crash like we did. Under no circumstances, however, should you book this for a family or anyone expecting comfort – it’s nice enough, but nowhere near the level of others we’ve experienced. Here’s the lowdown on the room:
Rates – we got this much, much cheaper due to booking way in advance, but a twin room tonight would be EUR 150.
Beds – tiny, uncomfortable, and with pillows so shit I’d have preferred to use rock.
Shower/Bathroom – the bathroom itself was actually quite good, although very small, yet the shower was about as effective as a dying man spitting on you from across the street.
Storage – There was one giant wardrobe and a couple of drawers; this wardrobe was the cause of the room being so cramped, and I think they need to rethink their storage solutions.
A/C – effective, but extremely loud. I’d rather have a leaf blower.
WiFi – horrendous, so it’s not very useful for those needed to keep on top of business or submit anything online.
Notes – the room was cramped, yet still wasn’t as bad as our experience in Paris. It had a mini-fridge, was kept clean, and has sky on the television for those interested.
Staff – absolutely amazing. They were one of two highlights of the hotel, and were some of the friendliest people we’ve encountered. They’re also the reason I’d ever consider staying there again.
Food – not tested but breakfast is included.
Location – other than the brilliant staff, the location is the only other fantastic element of Sempione. It’s literally a two minute stroll to the Duomo, and a short walk to the Ponte Vecchio, Museums, and San Lorenzo Market. It’s one block down from the train station, so for interrailing it’s great, but be warned the streets around are busy from dawn till dusk.
To conclude, Hotel Sempione wasn’t the best hotel we’ve stayed in, but it certainly wasn’t the worst. The friendly staff make you feel extremely welcome, and the location is unbelievable; if the room wasn’t as cramped and the beds weren’t as shit as they were, I’d give this place a higher score, but for now we’ve decided upon a 3*/5*.