Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Solo Outings: Mishkin's and Woolf Works

I never used to be a fan of hanging out by myself. I remember when I first got to university I hated the idea of spending even a single evening on my own in my room in our halls made me feel so insecure. I don't think that's an uncommon feeling, but I definitely think I maybe took it to an extreme - I remember once stopping at a service station driving back from somewhere, and made the point of sitting at a table by myself to have a cup of tea and read a magazine. And I remember really feeling like it was an important moment (which, clearly it must have been as I still remember it now) as the idea of it didn't make me feel like a massive loser. 

Anyway, since then I've been forced into becoming more used to my own company; relationships ending have meant I have spent time living by myself in houses designed for two and anyway you gain a maturity and knowledge about yourself as you get older. Basically, you're not as clueless. For me, I think as I've got older I've realised how important it is to be able to be alone without getting agitated, and this is something that I think I will continually be trying to improve upon.

So, with this in mind I thought I'd start noting these things down more, with the hope that it will force me to push myself out of my comfort zone a bit more. 

Over a year ago I saw a story on the BBC news site about the Woolf Works ballet that would be coming to the Royal Opera House. I promptly put the date the tickets would go on sale in my diary and waited until the date rolled around. Being a huge fan of everything Virginia Woolf related, the very second the tickets went on sale I went online and bought two. And then I thought about it. And thought about who I should make come with me, and I realised that nobody I know loves Virginia Woolf as much as I do. So I manned up, and emailed them and asked to get a refund on one of my tickets (which, luckily, they agreed to as I was so quick off the mark).
The Royal Opera House is in Covent Garden, so I decided to get some dinner beforehand at Mishkin's, which is conveniently about 30 seconds away and also conveniently one of my all-time favourites. I was a bit nervous about going to the ballet by myself, so I decided to have dinner by myself beforehand as well - this is a much less scary prospect to me because I really don't care about eating by myself. Mishkin's is a good one for this anyway - they have a bar area that sits around 15 people, which they hold back for walk-ins. Perfect for solitary diners. I had the meatloaf to start and then the pumpkin cheesecake, along with two glasses of red wine. I read my book, ate my food, and then trotted over to the opera house. I got there with only a few minutes to go before the performance started as I didn't want to sit by myself for too long so that worked quite well - however in this particular performance there were two relatively long intervals which I really felt the length of. The ballet itself was fantastic though - I was so glad I went and I think I made the right call in going by myself, it would have been harder to "fully immerse" myself in it if I'd been explaining to the person next to me what story they were interpreting or whatnot. And most importantly of all - I did it. I actually felt like a proper grown-up (I'm 30 so I suppose I already am one) going to something that I knew I would love, and next time I find something I would love to see that nobody else I know would, it won't seem like such a big deal to go by myself.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

30 for 30: Trips Still to Do

I love planning holidays almost as much as I love going on them (almost). My smythson notebook is continually updated with new trip ideas, and all it takes will be overhearing someone in the lift at work talking about a recent holiday to make me furiously start googling. I don't think there are many (any?) places in the world, danger-of-death withstanding, that I wouldn't be interested to see, but there are certain places that are permanently on the list. These are the ones that if I haven't done by the time I'm on my deathbed, well, I'll be very cross with myself. In no particular order:

1) Slovenia - Maybe 3 nights in Ljubljana and 1 night in Lake Bled?
2) Texas Road Trip - Houston, San Antonio, Marfa, Dalas, Houston. Maybe Austin? Need to research this more.
3) New Orleans.
4) Mexico.
5) Boston & DC - and everywhere in between?
6) South America - Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Uspallata Pass, Los Andes, Santiago, Laguna Verde.
7) San Francisco, Portland, Hawaii - honeymoon???
8) India - incorporating the Mumbai - Goa train.
9) Inter-railing - initially planned for this year, put off due to money. Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, Bratislava, Prague.
10) St Petersburg - I totally want to stay at the W there.
11) Baltic Countries - when I was younger I went on a baltic cruise with my parents and I would love to go back to all the countries we visited and explore them properly.
12) Bath - staying at The Pig, and OBVY visiting the spa.
13) Cornwall - only been as a youngster, find this weird.
14) Scotland - as remote as possible.
15) Dublin - never been, find that weird.
16) Girls only trip - Tenerife?
17) Vegas, San Diego, Palm Springs.
18) St Barths / Maldives / Mauritius / somewhere super lush. Just once in my life.
19) Rural France - house, bread, red wine, done.
20) Thailand / Cambodia / etc.
21) Fort Lauderdale / South Beach.
22) Yoga retreat - not really my thing but maybe if I went on one it would become my trip?
23) Somewhere with a plunge pool. Somewhere, anywhere!
24) Revisiting Australia and doing a proper, all-encompassing, trip round the whole place.
25) Canada - roadtrippin'.
26) Iceland - I feel like I'm the only person in the world who hasn't visited that blue lagoon.
27) NY at Christmas.
28) Belgium - it was a family hotspot when I was younger so I feel I owe it to go back and visit again as an adult.
29) Skiing. Don't care where, but I haven't been in years and would like to go again.
30) Palm Springs. I know it's on here already, but it's my absolute fave and deserves a second mention.

NOTE! I started writing this a couple of months ago and then forgot about it. I finished adding to it today, then noticed that the first trip on my list is the one I recently went on. Good motivation to visit everywhere else on it!

What would make your list?

Monday, 13 July 2015

I Heart Paris! Paris thinks I'm "just OK"

Paris is awesome. The end. Well, not really the end - but I really feel it's worth saying as I, honestly, truly, 100% love Paris. It's a super awesome city with great food, great parks and you can literally walk everywhere. I last visited in May, a trip we initially planned after booking tickets for the French Open. As an aside - this was amazing. I'd never been before and it was everything I was hoping for. We had bought tickets for the cheaper court (of course) but actually ending up seeing both Murray and Nadal play (separate matches) so I would have been bummed if I'd been on the more 'spensive court watching Djokovic play Gasquet.

We spent the rest of our time in Paris, drinking, eating, wandering, parking (as in, being in parks, not parking cars) and sightseeing, and I could waffle on about all the lush things we did if I thought anything I said would be new information to anyone.

Anyway, my point is, I love Paris. And I'll tell you what, Paris loves me! Actually no, that's not right - Paris loves my Kate Spade purse. I'd not been off the train 5 minutes and it was gone - having been to Paris before I practically stuffed my bag up my top once on the metro so it could only have departed from me during the shuffling to get off the Eurostar / across Gare du Nord / waiting for the metro. I mean, it happens. When you travel a lot it's bound to happen sooner or later - you get to the hotel front desk, go to grab your credit card and go 'fuck, it's not here'. Luckily I was with my boyfriend who was able to pay for everything during the weekend we were there but it really made me realise the obvious importance of not keeping all your important things in one place. What if I had my passport in there as well? Losing all my money, credit cards and debit cards in one go is bad enough, but what if I had been alone? How would I have even been able to get any emergency cash? It's a shitty lesson to learn but an important one nonetheless - luckily enough I was away for a long weekend not too far from home, but it could have been a million times worse. Why did I even need to take my whole purse with me? Whoever took it is now the proud owner of my gym, nectar and boots advantage card - and all power to them - but really, I could have just left them in my beaut Kate Spade on my bed and just taken the essentials. 

Main lesson - just because you're on holiday doesn't mean everyone is going to treat you nicely. In fact, some people are probably going to treat you worse. Just chalk it up to experience, by a new (better) purse, and leave your boots advantage card at home.

What's your worse travel-theft-horror story?

p.s. I will truly have eternal pity on anyone else who has to experience the Eurostar Customer Service team, but that's for another day...