Sunday Seven: Places you should visit!

Is it summer time yet? No? I can hear the collective groan as so many of us have to wait for the summer to roll around so we can go away and have a little break. I’m very lucky that my family liked to travel when I was growing up, I’ve seen some beautiful countries and hope to add to the ever growing list. This week I wanted to share with you seven places I loved and that you should visit!

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Paphos, Cyprus 

I’ve been to Cyprus a few times with my family and I absolutely love it. We’ve been going since I was quite young and my last visit was just before I started uni. We’ve stayed at the same hotel each time, but the town itself is constantly changing. There’s also a great waterpark, great excursions you can do and a lot of history around. One day I really want to take Ali and show him one of my favourite holiday destinations.

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Sorrento, Italy 

Ali and I first went away together with his family all the way back in 2009 to Sorrento. In the picture above (excusing my awful choice in ‘fashion’) we are standing at the top of Mount Vesuvius. We’d spent the day walking around Pompeii and looking at the history of it. Aside from that Sorrento is very tourist friendly, which means it can get busy but it’s also easy to get around. Also, the food? To die for, I loved it. You can also go over to the Island of Capri which oozes glamour. I want to go to different areas in Italy but Sorrento was a good place to start.

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London, UK 

I’ve been in love with London for as long as I can remember. I was taken to Oxford Street with my Mum and Nanna more times than I can count. London to me means excitement, it’s where I see shows, meet friends, go to events, explore the rich history of a wonderful city. London will always be special to me and I couldn’t just say one place, I love it all!

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Amsterdam

I went to Amsterdam just before my 21st birthday. While we stayed closer to the Red Light District, it was on the last day we found the real beauty of Amsterdam in Vondelpark, if I were to stay again I would definitely pay the extra to stay near the park, also their Hard Rock Cafe is incredible.

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Greece

I’ve been to Greece a lot. The first holiday I  went on with my parents was to the island of Crete, we went time and time again and I fell in love with it. I wanted to use a picture from then but couldn’t find any in digital. Fast forward about 18 years and I’d gone back to Greece, this time to Athens with Ali  for a week long class, and looked at the history of one of the greatest civilizations to have ever lived. Oh and for an Ouzo or two.

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Orlando, Florida 

Anyone who knows me, knows Florida was going to be on this list. My parents have taken me to Florida at least 3 if not 4 times. I was very lucky. I like going and acting like a kid, going to Disney, Universal, shopping in the outlet malls. I can’t see myself going for a while but damn right I’m going back.

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Harry Potter Studio Tour – Watford 

A must for ANY potterhead or anyone who just liked the films. Seeing everything up close, admiring the artistry and the detail on even the smallest things. I need to go again at some point, it’s only been a few years since I went but it’s already changed so much from pictures. It really is a must.

What are some of your favourite places to visit? Let me know in the comments below!

Athens Day 6: Adventure, Adventure, Adventure! Picture Special!

We had nothing planned for today, absolutely nothing. We thought we’d grab some food and wander around for a bit before seeing what we felt like doing before an early night tonight. It turned out to be a fantastic day of smiling and happiness. After eating we walked past the Happy Train, another tour of the city that looked fun. I asked Ali if he wanted to try it, paid the 12 Euros and took a seat. It turned out to be one of the best parts of the trip.

The Happy Train is different to the buses, because of it’s size you can take a better route. You go down little streets and see more of the beautiful city. I wanted to use this post to share some of the amazing pictures I got today. I honestly can’t wait to go home tomorrow, see my family, my hamsters and finally a bed that is good for my back!!

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Athens Day 5: My Last Class

Hello!

Much like yesterday I had to spend a lot of today resting, that and we hadn’t planned anything because of the decision on Greece’s financial state was due today and staying so close to parliament square made me feel a little uneasy. Luckily there were no protests and all was calm, well apart from loads of police being around at the moment. I hate to admit that I slept for most of today, once I fall asleep the pain is gone for a little while, which is good.

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          Ready for my final class and the British Council building where the magic happens! 

Tonight I mostly wanted to write about my course and the excitement and sadness of it being my last day. I’ve loved the course and interacting with other young writers as well as my mentor being amazing. I have ideas that I’d never thought of before and more confidence about my writing. Tonight we read a lot of short stories, talked about things we wanted more depth on like relating to the reader, dialogue, how much to tell in a story and how much to let the reader imagine. At the last part of the evening we met another class and had the opportunity to read, I actually wanted to do it. I was excited and terrified and people seemed to like my work!

While I’m excited that I have the tools to start working, I’m also a little sad that it’s over. My class had lovely people in it but we haven’t exchanged contact details, so I doubt we’ll stay in touch. I’m back to mostly writing alone, which I don’t mind but I’ll miss bouncing ideas off of people every evening. I’m so grateful that Kingston gave me the opportunity to take part in this, it was incredible.

To celebrate me completing the course, Ali and I headed to our hotels bar to have some dessert and a cocktail for me (Ouzo special mmmmmm!). I’ve really loved having Ali here with me, overall we’ve had a great time together and honestly I just feel like I love him a little bit more after everything he has done for me.

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As for tomorrow, I have no idea. We’ve kind of just left it open for us to take a wander and do what we feel like! Sounds like a good idea to me!

Athens Day 4: Spine Strike, Stalker Pigeons and Writing Inspiration

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Hello and thank you for understanding my late writing. Today was a very different day to what I’ve been used to in Greece. My Spine decided it had, had enough and I spent nearly all day lying in bed watching BBC World news and trying not to sulk. Yep, I over did it so for the next few days I’m going to have to go very easy until I get home. Ali and I took a short trip downstairs to grab a late lunch in the hotel bar, where we were stalked by hungry Pigeons! Despite my protests he didn’t leave me on my own, he stayed in the room with me working on his laptop and helping me any way he could.

Of course I still had class and that was something I wasn’t willing to miss, even if it took me ages to get up there. So I stocked up on my pain medication and made the trip, my walking was a little better after all the rest but like hell was I going to push it. We spoke about another student’s piece before being sent to do our assignment of the day.  I went to fit somewhere to fit and be inspired and ended up under a tree. I had this overwhelming sense of loneliness sitting there. I looked around and just missed London so much.

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I want to go and explore different cities, obviously, but none will stay in my heart like London. It’s a part of my heart and the Thames goes through my second home. Even when I was younger days to London were my favourite and I was always caught up in the city. I really did miss home, but didn’t let it show in my writing.

In the lift down after class, a woman was blunt she was older and American ‘You cracked your spine?’ she asked. I told her I had fractures, she looked at me (I sound so damn British here!) and told me she’d cracked her spine twice within 2 months of each other and wished me a speedy recovery. She was the first person while I was here to ask about it and I didn’t mind, it was better than staring.

Ali was waiting for me as usual and we decided to try and find some kind of food and returned to a restaurant we went to a few days before. They remembered us and we laughed through dinner where I finally got some traditional Greek food, Gyros Chicken with Pitta and Seasoned Chips. I’m so happy I’ve gotten to share this with my favourite person in the world, Ali’s so much more than just my partner he’s one of my oldest friends as well as my best friend.

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I don’t know what the plan for tomorrow is, it really depends on how my back is, but if I can’t explore again I’ll try and take the opportunity to write again.

Athens Day Three: Open Top Bus Tour, The Acropolis and working with my novel

I made it! I made it out and got to see some of the sights. After filling up on breakfast we slowly made our way to buy tickets for the bus. City – Sightseeing Bus Top Tours are all over the world, I’ve often seen them around London but now I want to actually go on one. The deal was you buy one day and get another free, we’re hoping we can use the other day later this week, because there is a lot too see it’s just really spread out. IT cost us 18 Euros for the bus, so not the cheapest and I didn’t get as many photos as I wanted too because the sun was so damn bright. We sat on the top deck, with our headphones plugged in, melting in the heat of Athens. If you do any of these tours then water is a must, and a hat which I bought before we got on board.

The bus travels around the city, giving you a mix of historical information, opportunities for walking tours and photo tours and top tips for the city, all included in the price. I knew I couldn’t do much walking so the tour was a nice way to catch a glimpse of the city and it’s beauty. The columns standing after thousands of years, statues of the Gods mixed with modern touches too. Children shouted hello and waved to our bus and we waved back, laughing at their excitement.

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In the city gardens

Our method was to stay on the bus the whole way round, which took an hour and a half, before getting off at the Acropolis. It didn’t take long to realise my hopes of going up the Acropolis weren’t going to happen. Most of the city was too uneven for my wheelchair and there were a lot of steps surrounding, Ali promised we’d come back later on when I could do it, but I was heartbroken. I did, however, get to go to the Museum where most of what was inside was moved to, or casts of them anyway. Seeing what had survived and the detail of the ancient world was breathtaking, unfortunately you’re not allowed to take any pictures while inside. There was even the old streets under your feet that you could look at through glass.

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The Acropolis Museum, (l) Stadium, (r) The best picture Ali and I could get together on top of the bus and he’s actually smiling!! 

As we got off of the bus we were lucky enough to watch the changing of the guard, the outfits are amazingly detail with 400 pleats and take 80 days each to make. The 400 pleats represent 400 years of occupation. They have a special march and guard the tomb of the unknown soldier.

Today put a lot of strain on my spine, we came back to the hotel for an hour or so that both of us could drink a lot of water and relax before having to head to class tonight. I was upset with my spine, fed up of the pain and still wanting to do everything. Even going to class this evening was a struggle, but I’m glad I did!

As well as discussing another piece of work by a fellow student, I also had my 1-1 meeting with my tutor. We sat down and worked through my submission piece and discussed where I was going to go with it, how I felt about ideas that had been put forward, things like that. Katherine is a brilliant tutor. I have so many ideas and directions of where I can go with my novel now, it’s actually becoming real!

As for tomorrow, it very much depends on my spine and how I feel but I’m hoping to go out and explore again (fingers crossed).

Athens bound!

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We are in Athens!!! I’m writing to all of you after hardly any sleep, so keep that in mind while you’re reading! At 1am my family and I were headed to Gatwick Airport to meet Ali (who’d had to come straight from work bless him). Ever since I was little I’ve loved the trip to the airport, watching the lights on the motorway, the darkness, everything.

I found Ali in the airport with his Mum and her partner Andy, who had dozed off waiting for us. And so I was dropped off in my wheelchair and after goodbyes I just had to sit and wait until bag drop. Excited didn’t even cover it I was going on HOLIDAY! Plus it’s the first time I have been abroad with Ali alone, something I’ve wanted to do for years. London being London meant the special assistance lane at security was closed. So I had to wait while people worked out the best way to check my wheelchair and push me through (they didn’t have enough staff). People were generally nice, although the woman searching my chair was chatting to me a lot, her daughter rides and what had happened to me was ‘one of her worst nightmares’ but as she said it’s just something that can happen to riders. She was surprisingly cheery for 4am, but then again so was I.

Then it was on to the shopping, I already had ideas of what I wanted to buy in Duty free and it was made even more fun by Ali now running with me through the airport. We zoomed around World of Duty Free, Ali teasing by going straight past what I wanted to look at before pulling me back. I must have looked slightly mad laughing so hard. We soon found the MAC counter…I might have treated myself.

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Well, they were discounted…how could I resist my first MAC make up

Everything then went really quickly, then we were on the plane ready to GO! It was only 6am though…so I dozed quite a few times and the flight was ok although Ali and I were both ready for a nap. Athens Airport was completely different to Gatwick.  I was met off of the plane and taken straight through, our bag was the 5th on the belt and we were personally put into a taxi by a lovely man.

The hotel is cute and right on the shopping street (uh oh) and tomorrow we’ll be taking a slow walk around to get used to the place and find the British Council before my first class in the evening…eek! Right now though I need to go and get some food before crashing and finally getting a full nights sleep before class tomorrow!

Why I’m going to Athens

In less than 12 hours I will be on my plane heading to Greece, eek! This week I will be visiting the beautiful city of Athens for the first time and I’m stupidly excited. I wrote a little while ago about being accepted on a course that was thankfully being paid for by the university as a part of my work with the Kingston Writing School. While I wish I was going to simply lay around and enjoy the sights of Athens, instead I will be working on my creative writing skills!

Every evening I have a few hours of class with two other students, working on each others pieces and getting feedback on our own. It’s an international writing school, so it’s a great opportunity to network with people from all over the world as well. I really have to thank David Rodgers for the opportunity!

So tonight my family are driving me to meet Ali at the airport. Initially I was going on my own as this crazy, fun and scary adventure travelling on my own, then of course the accident happened and Ali’s Mum stepped in so that he could afford to come too! Now I’ve just there are about 4 shops open before security at 2am, so there’s going to be a lot of Cafe Nero before we can get our big Spoons breakfast. I’m a little nervous because I will be of course wearing my back brace and in my wheelchair through the airport, something I’ve never done before.

That said, it’s such an incredible thing for me to travel to another country for something academic and be honored with an invite to it. I’m planning to make the most of my writing time, as well as seeing the beauty of Athens and spending some much needed relaxation time with Ali. So off I go and I’ll catch you all in Greece!