Friday, 27 October 2017

when in rome

Behold, the Pantheon

So, I seem to be two seasons behind with my blog posts... But once upon a time, I had the perfect getaway romancing in Rome and over-indulging in gelatos (5 in 3 days, oops). A plethora of architectural landmarks, Rome is home to one of the current seven wonders of the world and is currently probably my favourite European city.

My photo of Trevi which honestly does it no justice

The Trevi Fountain is the most mesmerising and romantic spot in Rome. Although constantly surrounded by flocks of tourists, it is surprisingly tranquil and just so serene. At least two visits are a must - once in the day and once at night. A nice spot to just sit and do nothing but enjoy the prettiness.

My next favourite place in Rome was the Pantheon. It is an amazing, monumental landmark and I was completely in awe - how did they build such a complex and detailed grandeur of a structure thousands of years ago, and it still remains intact?!

The Pantheon sits in a little square adorned with a pretty fountain and makes you feel like you stepped right out of a movie (aka Troy). We managed to dodge the crowds on a weekday and enjoy a quiet wander round, but expect insufferable crowds at the weekends. TV star Minh was also interviewed by Sky News right outside as he told the UK public his insightful opinion of the EU.

The Colosseum | Somewhere that looks like Gringotts | Vatican ceiling

The Colosseum was interesting, albeit eerie - it was a battleground for gruesome deaths after all. We bought a 72-hour transport pass that included entrance into one tourist attraction and used it here. (Watch out for the African men who loiter around here and try to con you into buying their souvenirs though)

Other notable mentions include Piazza Navona, the Roman Forum (although we only drove past this and then completely forgot to actually visit. THE REGRET) and the Vatican, which is a complete maze. We kept getting lost inside and ending up in the same spots, but the Sistine Chapel inside Vatican City has the most amazing, intricate ceiling of all ceilings.

Giolitti | More Giolitti | Fatamorgana

Apart from admiring all the spectacles Rome has to offer, we hunted for popular gelateries like Giolitti and Fatamorgana. Gelato shops are everywhere, but some are overpriced and don't taste that good. Really nothing beats Giolitti though - we went three times and the chocolate gelato was actually one of the highlights of my trip. Can they not franchise it out to the UK :(

Cantina & Cucina | (Overpriced) Pataclava | Bad photography of the best spaghetti alle vongole at Sora Margherita

 Most of our food endeavours were average at best despite rave Tripadvisor reviews. It wasn't until our final pre-airport lunch and stumbled upon Sora Margherita that we had the best, authentic meal. Kinda unfriendly waiters speaking minimal English with no English menus, but my random pick of the spaghetti alle vongole (vongole I later discovered = clams) made up for the previous lacklustre meals and restored my faith in Italian food. We didn't really meet the friendliest of Italians on the trip, but the service was friendliest in Catina & Cucina and tried our first Limoncello shots.

In my pledge to be more well-travelled, I typically wouldn't want to visit a European city more than once, but I'd like to visit Rome again one day (and hopefully find better food places).

Thursday, 7 September 2017

a day in the life of... me

So recently, I felt like I had to write about it because it's such a prevailing issue that dictates my life that I look back and think about how I haven't mentioned it more. Or ever.

For the handful of friends who know - well, you guys already know. And if you didn't know, it's probably because the occasion didn't really arise to talk about it and bring down the mood.

How does one casually drop this into their conversation? I just thought you might like to know that...

I am going blind.

A sentence I never say out loud, in fear of its reality, and because it feels like a taboo. If I don't say it, then it's not true.

Diagnosed as a teenager with RP - a genetic condition and incurable disease with not a lot of background and insight into its progressive nature - it all sounds like the perfect foundation for a tragic drama. Trust me to inherit the faulty chromosome.

Over the years as my sight has failed me and my peripheral field decreases, I face annoyances such as brightness hurting my eyes, having to live in sunglasses ("but it's not even 'bright'"), enduring head rushes every few minutes and complete blindness in the dark. I can no longer function in the outside world on my own without someone's assistance (unless the street is void of people 'cause then woo, no one to walk into). I can no longer get that London job that I always thought I would have when I was younger, because no one is going to hold my hand and take me to the door of my work. I can no longer pop next door to Sainsbury's on my own because the idea of navigating anywhere where there are people is just too stressful. I can just about do a train journey on my own, but then it feels so bothersome that you always have to get someone to meet you at the stop.

The list goes on.

I don't talk about it, not because I don't like talking about it , but because it's very much an awkward conversation topic for the recipient to respond to. Because people don't want to listen to sob stories where they don't know what they can say to make you feel better. And like with any illness or disease, it's the kind of thing normal, healthy people won't be able to fathom because they've never experienced it.

And maybe I am tuned to be acutely aware, but there isn't the same level of sympathy and compassion for the visually impaired as there is for, say, a cancer patient. We are not dying and we are not sick and we are not in physical pain.

Just YouTube Andrea Begley on The Voice for a slew of blind jokes and puns. And whilst John Green romanticised cancer in The Fault In Our Stars between the two mains, the supporting character was dumped by his girlfriend because he went blind. How's that for optimism.

And whilst I power on through the day like I'm fine, mentally I feel very drained. I have felt mentally drained about this ever since I was a teenager and realised that I was not being a hypochondriac about weird things that started happening to my vision.

And it's the little things in life. The little things in life that make you happy, but also the little things in life that bring you down. Like being really good at table tennis and badminton and then never being able to play again. Like how I just want to rest my eyes, but have no choice but to sit in front of a computer screen for 7 hours everyday because that is my job. Like looking at a bunch of colours and then realising that slowly they all look the same when I know they're not. Like the time I accidentally walked into a man and he was so furious, he shouted in my face and called me a bitch. Like the time I walked into the woman who retorted 'ARE YOU BLIND?!' Like the time I crashed into someone else and bruised one side of my face. My life is full of moments that rain on my already-drowning parade. Sometimes it feels like I'm stuck in a nightmare - like one day I'm going to wake up and it's all going to be ok.

But it's not. Because when your sight goes, it just goes. Whilst the doctor tries to reassure and tells me I'm very young still so there's chance that in this lifetime there will be a cure, I also raise one eyebrow to the fact that the hospital I'm an outpatient at are currently funding research and focused on a very specific type of RP "that affects Saudi Arabian men".

But this isn't a pity story. Because pity is the exact opposite of what I've ever wanted. I want people to understand, and show understanding. I want someone to tell me I'm doing a good job. I want to live like my life is normal.

Whilst I'm having a hard time, there's a lot that keeps me going - the rays of sunshine peering through the grey clouds. When my friends take my arm and tell me to mind the step. When I have holiday buddies to travel with. When my boyfriend waits for me at the door of my bus when I get off and takes my hand. When he always tells me "I've got you"...

It's the little things.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

goodbye... forever

Last night I erased your number from my phone.

Sometimes I'm ok when I talk about it, because life goes on. But sometimes when I think about you, the memories choke my throat and prick my eyes. Sometimes I will feel completely fine, but then suddenly I will really miss you, and your voice. Like tonight - a bout of sadness is shrouding me again. And I wonder how long I will feel this way. I wonder how long the grieving process takes...

It's hard thinking about life without you. But the hardest part was seeing you alive and suffering, and frail and weak. I will slowly try to forget those last memories of you, because they were the most painful and you wouldn't want us to remember you like that.

Sometimes I replay that video of you singing Happy Birthday out of tune, because that's the only recording I have of your voice, and I never want to forget how it sounds.

I hope it's nice up there, because it still feels strange and empty without you down here...

Thursday, 2 March 2017

lisbon | portugese adventures

Rossio Square fountain and a nice absence of tourists

I need to stop writing blog posts like half a year after I've been on holiday because I keep forgetting everything I did... Anyway, our 5-day getaway to Portugal (in the Autumn!) was full of sporadic sunshine, typical tourist ventures and Portugese tarts. It was a surprisingly quiet capital and a lot more vacant than I had expected, with a certain quaint vibe that European cities always have (and London is kinda devoid of). Lisbon was fashioned with cobbled sidewalks, grand and intricate landmarks and old buildings.

We stayed at the contrastingly modern Sheraton Lisboa, with its atmospheric lighting, dark, sleek rooms and very naked, glass-paned bathrooms. We also lived off Lidl baguettes and pâté in the mornings because who pays 30 Euros for hotel breakfast?

The best lobster bisque I've everrrrr had | The best bacauhal of the trip | Smoked salmon with capers and Charcuterie board at Artisan Wine Bar

Food is always the highlight and quest on a good holiday. Our ventures included Salsa Rosa Bistro, Artis Wine Bar, Pastéis de Belém, some amazing lobster bisque and bacalhau in I-can't-remember-the-name-of-the-restaurant (but it's on the same Belém road), Manteigaria and probably a few others that I might have remembered the name of if I had only bothered to write this post sooner. And my favourite dinner place Frade dos Mares, a little seafood restaurant tucked off a main street.

Belém | Lagareiro style octopus at Frade dos Mares | Manteigaria

And if there's a Pastéis de Belém vs. Manteigaria debate, Belém wins hands down. Manteigaria wasn't even close. Belém was the perfect amount of sweet. It is Portugal's number one after all. I remember the first time that I had a pastel de nata was in the Venetician Macau and it tasted so good that I'd been nostalgic ever since, and Belém satisfied that completely -throws confetti-

Praça do Comércio | Tram 28 | Jerónimos Monastery

Our checklist:
  • Rossio Square - a huge, ornate fountain with Cirque de Sardine across the road (a tinned sardines emporium)
  • Praça do Comércio - very picturesque, but I almost died from the heat and Attack of the Flies. One flew on my lip, FYI
  • Castelo De São Jorge/St. George's Castle - also land of wild peacocks
  • Jerónimos Monastery
  • The aquarium Oceanário de Lisboa
  • Tram 28
  • Rua do Diario de Noticias - trekked around this ambient area for some restaurant hunting

And that concludes our relaxing, little city break. Next stop: Rome.

Sardines anyone? 

Thursday, 5 January 2017

hello 2017

My 2016 was a whole loada fluctuations of ups and downs. Bad health was ongoing, private healthcare was expensive, a lot of physical pain, some emotional, and continual struggles with inner demons, but I also had a lot of highlights and special moments which flew by far too quickly. It's a shame life has no pause button.

A recap of the good:

• Landed my first proper Marketing job which I love
• Saw Queen Bey on her Formation World Tour
• Visited the bucket list ultimate Santorini
• Went pastel de nata hunting in Lisbon
• Scored the Friday Forty and watched Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
• Lost the title of cat lady heh heh

And because it's the new year, I'm going to attempt some resolutions:
• Exercise at least 3 times a week (not to lose weight, but because I'm unfit af)
• Read a book every month
• Blog at least once a month (quite optimistic this one is)

Happy New Year!