The One With The Spanish Easter

Dear Amigo,

I have successfully convinced Sam to spend the long Easter weekend with me in a warm place. (He suggested Oslo. Didn’t really understood the definition of warm, this one.)

We both decided Alicante would be the perfect destination and we loved it! We tallied down our Top 10 over the weekend and here they are!

(Please note they are not in order because if they were, food would definitely be up there. Ha. )

(1) Santa Barbara Castle

I would like to tell you that the climb up was incredibly tiring and well worth it but Sam and I took the lift and that was well worth €2.70.

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The views from up above are amazing and this one is a definite must go when in the city.

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The area is big and you can just easily wander up and down the steps and go in the little museums sporadically spread out. It’s free to go in too!

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(2) Santa Cruz

If you want a taste of real old Spain, then you will love this cute little Barrio.

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It’s a bit of a climb going up but you get to see views of the city plus the cute little homes and friendly locals.

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And friendly canines.

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(3) Mercado

Going to the market itself is an experience even if you’re not planning on buying anything. All the lined up stalls filled with meat, fish, bread and cheese- heaven.

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You can get a platter for €5 with a bottle of beer and you’re set for lunch.

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Make sure to eat it out in Plaza 25 de Mayo.

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This plaza is set behind the Market and serves as a memorial for the victims from a bombing years ago. People usually come to the square mid afternoon for drinks and its especially packed on the weekends.

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(4) Free Walking Tour

Although we’re not quite sure if we should recommend the tour we did but we do recommend going on a tour-any tour. It’ll give you highlights of the city (and you can just go back to your favourite ones after) and its remarkable history.

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(5) Explanada

This famous promenade in the middle of restaurants and the port is pretty hard to miss. We loved walking along it as there are so much to do.

     (5.1) People watching. We especially loved the oldies just chilling on the benches.

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     (5.2) Market stalls. So many bits and bobs lined up on the strip!

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     (5.3) Ice cream. We suggest the Turron flavour.

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     (5.4) Have your caricature drawn. Prepare to hold your smile for twenty minutes and have people passing by giving you thumbs up.

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(6) Beach

Why not.

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(7) Turron

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Turron is a traditional Christmas treat in Spain but because it’s known to be from Alicante, here it’s sold all year round. Our tour stopped in a Turron store called Espi and we are fans. (They also do liquor. Think Baileys but better.)

(8) Paella

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Paella is another thing Alicante is known for and you’ll see so many restaurants serving this classic Spanish dish! Surprisingly even after travelling around Spain, Sam’s never tried it. Ha ha. So we spent one meal just devouring on one and it was good.

(9) Drink

Why not.

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There is no shortage of cocktail bars or just bars in general. I know they say in London there’s a pub in every corner. But in Alicante? There’s probably 3 on every street.

(10) Tapas

No trip to Spain would be complete without having some tapas. And let me tell you, the tapas bar we went to was awesome.

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The place is called D’Tablas. You basically get a table and they ask you what drinks you want. After, every minute or so, waiters come out with platters filled with wooden blocks with tapas on it. You get which ones you want and then wait for another serving. They are all different so you can try as much as you want. After stuffing your bellies with it, they just count how many wooden blocks you have and pay for the bill. (Each cost less than a euro!)

Wild Card (11)

One thing Sam and I regret not making time for was going to Valencia. There are 11 trains that go to and from the city from Alicante everyday and it would have made a great day trip if we did not think of it sooner than on the bus going home. Bollocks.

Hoping you’ll try some of these things if you visit the city, 

Sam and Isabel (Still, mostly Isabel.)

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Budapest (Part 2)

Dear Reader,

Almost always, in any European country you’ll go to visit, you will go to a museum. (Or a church.) And that’s what Sam and I first did on our last full day in Budapest. (Which also turned out to be the most eventful one.)

As we were pressed with time, we had to pick just one and I made Sam choose and he went for the House of Terror.

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No, it’s not a scary museum. (Well it is, in some ways.) but it doesn’t involve zombies or anything.

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It’s actually a museum filled with exhibits from the fascist and communist regimes in Hungary during the 20th century. A lot of World War stuff and if you are into those things, you’ll definitely want to visit.

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We both suggest to get the audio guide as it saves a lot of time. But if you would rather read from a sheet of paper provided in every room, that’s alright too. (But really, audio guide.)

After the museum, it was finally time to check out the Baths.

There are about 7 in Budapest and we thought if we were only going to try one we would go to the biggest and most popular one-  The Széchenyi Baths.

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So what really happens: You get in, you get a locker, you change and then you head out where the fun begins. (Our favorite was the outside bath.)

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The layout inside is there are a bunch of indoor pools with different temperatures and even saunas sporadically set out. It can smell a bit weird and it can get a bit weird. People watching can be a treat or it cannot be. Main point is- it’s an experience. And one that you have to do when you’re in Budapest. No questions asked.

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We went back to the hotel to have a proper bath- just to clean all the stuff out and then we were set to head out again.

Sam’s been in Budapest a couple of years back (eight to be exact) but apparently he was too drunk to remember anything. The one thing he did remember was going up to the Citadel and he insisted that we did that to see the sunset. So we did.

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The climb up wasn’t as bad as I expected. We stopped at different points just to take in the different views.

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And finally getting to the top.

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It was like a fat kid seeing a rainbow cake for the first time. (Okay, not that intense but you know what I mean.)

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Going down, I decided that we should stop at the shoes by the Danube river.

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The shoes are like a shrine or a memorial of all the men killed by the fascists during World War II.

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We got hungry. And because it was our last night- we thought a proper Hungarian restaurant was the way to go.

Hungarikum Bisztro was just near the parliament and it was highly recommended on TripAdvisor (#10) so that decision was a no brainer.

Our life decision skills did not fail us as that dinner was pretty awesome.

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(Can we take a moment to laugh at the fact that Sam put a paper towel over him as a bib. Ha.)

Langos is a fried bread or sometimes even called the Hungarian pizza. It’s a delicacy worth trying. Especially if you love cheese. And fried oily goodness. Mmmm, cheese.

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Another thing we found interesting in Budapest was that it has a lot of Thai massage parlors. (Why??) So to end our night, we went for that and we both loved it.

To conclude: Budapest is pretty.

To remind: Do not say thank you when you give payments because they won’t give you your change back.

To emphasize: Sam and I both survived our first trip together x

Thanks for reading,

Sam and Isabel (But mostly, Isabel)

Hungary For Some Adventure

To Whom It May Concern,

If you are reading this, you have successfully made my day by adding traffic to my blog.

In other news, the boy I’ve been writing letters to has finally agreed to go on a trip with me. And we decided Budapest was the place to go. We later on realized that going on Winter wasn’t such a smart idea but we pulled through anyway.

Budapest is such a picturesque city. Sadly, we didn’t see much of it as it was foggy as hell. Ha ha. For the first night that is. But luckily, the rest of the days were pretty amazing even if we were freezing our tits off.

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We stayed over at Eurostar Budapest Hotel, which we can’t recommend enough as the location is perfect and the place itself was just really good. Rooms perfect and the breakfast was just (insert thumbs up emoji.)

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We arrived quite late during the day and once we were done settling in the hotel, it was just the right time to scout for dinner.

So many to choose from! But we found a cute little restaurant in Kertesz Utca called M. Restaurant. The feel of the place was really nice- homey, quirky and chilled out. The walls were drawn on and the tables were covered in brown paper with a cup of colored pencils so you can scribble on them.

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Sam and I give the food 4.5 stars. (And I tell you, he’s not easy to please.)

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Surprisingly enough, it was only rated #43 on TripAdvisor so it sort of gave us high hopes for the rest of the gastronomical part of our trip.

We ended our day with a couple of drinks in a pub before we retired and mustered up energy for our first real day.

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Two alarm snoozes and two big portions of breakfast later, Sam and I are out and geared up (more me, really.) for our first agenda: Free walking tour of Budapest. The thing about these free walking tours is that, most of the time it’s given by a local so it’s really authentic and you get to see a lot in a couple of hours. We really liked our tour guide! (but we can’t really remember his name now.)  He gave us a lot of insider tips and his jokes were spot on.

Fun fact: Budapest is divided in two parts. The Buda side and the Pest side. Tour Guide X took us around the Pest side first. Pest side, I think is the more modern part of the city. More commerce- hotels, bars, etc. You still have all the historical stuff of course, but it’s definitely the hipper side of the city.

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After an hour and a half we crossed the Chain Bridge and toured the Buda side of the city. I fell in love with the Buda side especially the Castle District, which just felt like being in a fairytale or something. (No matter how cliche that sounds.)

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The Fisherman’s Bastion is a must to check out to get an awesome view of the Pest side of the city and its cool castle fortress things are definitely picture worthy.

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All the walking tired us out so we crashed in the hotel for awhile before we headed out again.

Because it was less cloudy and foggy, we were excited to see Budapest at night.

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For good reason.

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One thing you must absolutely try in Budapest is going to a ruin bar. Our tour guide told us that the idea came from two guys who were bored and decided to open a bar but didn’t have any money. So they found this rundown building and chucked in a lot of unwanted furniture and voila! Now you can easily find ruin bars all over the city centre.

I would have loved to take a picture of the inside but Sam said I might look like a loser. So I took a picture off the internet to show you what it looks like.

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Hoping you’ll read more about our trip to Budapest,

Sam and Isabel

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Note: Sam edited this picture because he thinks he looks better in black and white.

The One In Brugge

Dear Sam,

One of the best things about Europe is the gorgeous little cities that you can wander around in even for just a day. Brugge is definitely one of those cities.

My ultimate top tip about Brugge is: Do not go on a Sunday.

If you’re just looking at exploring for a day, a lot of things are closed on a Sunday so you may end up sad, like me. Ha ha.

But nah, there’s still a lot of shops open. Not to mention the chocolatiers! Along the tiny streets of this beautiful medieval town are cute little chocolate shops bursting for tourists to come in.

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So I went in.

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To probably 4 or 5.

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And bought all the pralines I could get my greedy little hands on.

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Catching a break from eating, it was time to explore the city centre.

Fun fact: It’s only a hectare so it’s pretty small.

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You’ll see the belfry which is probably the tallest building in all of Brugge so it’s a great meeting point if you break up in groups or anything. Just across the Belfry is the town hall and lined up restaurants that are an array of different delicacies.

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Similar to Amsterdam, Brugge also has pretty canals.

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And some museums worth going to like the Frittes Museum, Gruuthuse Museum and this one I thought you’d like-

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The Beer Museum.

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I did a bit more walking before a bit more eating.

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This here is the Lover’s Lake, which is meant to bring good luck to lovers who visit it. But my lover was nowhere to be found.. again. Lol

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Okay, top two things that you have to eat in Brugge:

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Hands down, best waffle I’ve ever had in my life.

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Hands down, best fries I’ve ever had in my life.

I don’t know? There is something about their fries and their mayonnaise that tastes different!

I probably gained three kilos in one day with the amount of food I ate. But all worth it.

Still hoping you’d come exploring with me,

Isabel

The One Where I’m Still In Amsterdam

Dear Sam,

There is no better way to start your second day in Amsterdam than by waking up 30 minutes before call time. Thanks to my amazing shower skills, fortunately made it to breakfast. Which I Inhaled just in time to make it to the bus.

After a forty five minute drive, we arrived at Zaanse Schans- a well preserved historical site in the Netherlands. So pretty and I felt like I was transported back in time.

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It’s like a little town with little houses and little factories.

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We first went into this wooden clogs factory where some guys showed us how they made them.

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Do people still wear wooden clogs, you ask? Yes, apparently they do.

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We then went to my favorite part of the place- the cheese making factory! (Yes, I died.) Best part of the place was that it had free flowing testers.

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Our guide gave us time to wander around and go into the other shops.

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We drove back into the city just before lunch to get on a boat for our canal cruise.

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After the cruise, we all went to our little groups to do our own thing. I went with Nunthinee, Cassie and Kaitlyn and we knew exactly where to go first- Heineken Experience.

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The museum is set in one of their old factories and the entrance fee included two free drinks and lots of good fun. We learned how their beer was made, saw a couple of their machines and went to the top to see an awesome view of Amsterdam.

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We got hungry so we decided to grab something to eat. We saw a restaurant nearby and just went for it.

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We also ordered more of those Poffertjes.

Next on our list was the iconic Amsterdam sign in the Museum square. I think no one leaves Amsterdam without a picture of it.

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Anne Frank was next. Piece of advice: book a ticket online. If you don’t, you spend a lot of time queuing outside in -2 weather. Enough said.

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I’ve read the book and going through all the rooms and memorabilia just gave me a strong surge of mixed emotions. Sad mostly, but I think it’s something you have to see especially if you’re into WWII and stuff.

We got hungry again. (There’s something about being in an unfamiliar place and your stomach just wants attention all the time.) And the two American girls wanted the one thing I never thought I’d eat on this trip- Chinese. Naturally, Nunthinee and I, being Asians, were game for it. Hesitant, but game. (Cassie and Kaitlyn, if you’re reading this, I still think you guys are half Asians too. Haha)

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We ended our day in Sea Palace which is apparently the second largest floating Chinese restaurant in the world.

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They also had, in my opinion, the best crispy duck ever.. in Europe.

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Also, I failed to mention that it was Nunthinee’s birthday and I have been telling everyone all day and this is the third surprise + crappy happy birthday singing she got.

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Amsterdam was fun. 

So much more I wanted to do and see but only gives me more reason to go back. Maybe you won’t shun me next time and actually come with.

Still wishing you had come with me,

Isabel

The One Where I Go To Amsterdam

Dear Sam,

After you have brutally declined my request for your company to go to Amsterdam, I decided to go by myself-but with a tour group. (#yolo)

I booked the weekend tour with this company called International Friends who do a lot of day/weekend tours from London.

Friday started out by waking up painfully early to meet the coach at my meeting point. It came late and I was freaking out but luckily met three other girls who could freak out with me.

We drove to Dover and rode a ferry that went all the way to Calais (That’s in France, if you didn’t know. Ha ha)

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We got on the road again and made our way to Amsterdam. Can I just say that I did not mentally prepare myself for all the hours sitting down? As I’m so used to standing up all day at work, sitting down for 5/6 hours straight was a bitch.

But I made a cool new friend with an equally cool name (Nunthinee) who is equally as chatty as I am so we both talked  the whole bus ride. (I now know her hopes and dreams in life. Shall share to you when I get home.)

First thing we did when we got there was check in the hotel. Thanks to the 30 something Argentenian kids on a school trip with us, we all got upgraded to a very nice hotel. (Nice, as in, more than what I expected for what I paid for.)

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After freshening up, we headed out to the Red Light District.

Fun Fact: They used the red lights because it was easier for sailors back then who were docking to spot.

Fun Fact #2: You can’t use cameras at all because the families of the girls have no idea why they disappear from home months at a time.

After our guided tour, my new friends and I strolled around the streets. Amsterdam was celebrating the Lights Festival so it looked absolutely amazing at night.

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We’ve been walking for over an hour when we decided that we have had enough “fresh air” and needed to go inside something and because it is Amsterdam after all, we thought “Hey, what the hell, let’s watch a sex show.”

Can I please point out that they didn’t even  ID me before entering?

I took some notes, don’t worry. Ha ha. But there was really a variety of shit going down there. Obviously I couldn’t take pictures so I’ll paint a picture for you- it’s basically like a theatre where there’s a revolving stage and everyone’s seated with their complimentary drink gawking at the 5 minute sessions per “star/stars.” (Should we call them stars?)

After we’ve reached our quota for the number of punanis we could see in one night, we went out and did what tourists do best-eat.

We first went to a pastry shop where they sold classic Poffertjes which is a traditional Dutch batter treat. And boy, was it a treat.

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(But really, they’re just tiny pancakes smothered in chocolate.)

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Naturally, we had to go for some more food so we decided to try Febo. Febo’s all over Amsterdam and it’s a walk-up fast food restaurant. It’s basically just a bunch of vending machines with hot food and a counter if you want some fresh chips.

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At the end of our greasy experience, we decided we have had enough exploring and needed to get back to the hotel.

Walking back, I decided to sum Amsterdam in three words after spending half a day there- sex, drugs and (not rock and roll) bikes. There are far too many bikes chained up in their streets, it’s hard to miss them!

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Fun Fact #3: People are crazy in Amsterdam. But fun-crazy, you know?

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P.S. Yes, those are hand-shaped condoms.

Hoping you’ll still hear about my second day,

Isabel

The One About The Underground

Dear Sam,

As I am tucked under the comforts of my duvet on this fine Thursday morning on my day off, I can’t help but think about you scurrying off to get on the tube on rush hour. (Tough)

There are many fun facts about the Underground and as your fun fact generator, I feel it is my duty to bestow them to you.

1. Three babies have been born on the tube. (So i wonder on the part where they write Place of Birth, did they put in Northern line or something?)

2. An average of 2.7 million tube journeys are made every single day. (Multiply that to £2.90 = that’s how much they get just from the tube.) (Shit.)

3. 60% of the Underground is actually above ground. (Go figure.)

4. Not a fun fact: about 50 passengers kill themselves on the Underground every year.

5. Half a million mice live on the Underground. (If I had a pound for every mouse..)

Naa, but I have to say probably the funnest thing about riding the tube is seeing all the different people that go on it. London is just filled with all these different characters and people watching has always been one of my favorite hobbies.

And as I go on my tube rides to and from work, I always like categorizing the people.

The main categories being:

1.) The Reader

I think 1 out of 5 people are reading something on the tube–reading their phones, reading a book, the newspaper, a kindle or an iPad.

1.1) That over the shoulder reader trying to catch a glimpse of the headline on The Metro.

1.1.1) That over the shoulder reader trying to catch a glimpse of your new Whatsapp message. (Yeah, I saw that.)

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2.) The Sleeper  (Peak Hours: 07:00-08:30, 22:00-00:00)

Either didn’t get much sleep or drunk

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3.) That Thing You Smell

A.) Didn’t shower for a week

B.) Last thing he ate. (Shit, sat beside a guy last night who smelled like curry and it instantly made me want to eat curry.)

C.) Both (Deadly combination.)

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4.) The Really Loud Music Person

Dear person who just discovered the volume button, you don’t need sound cancellation headphones, you need one that doesn’t leak sound so we don’t know you secretly love Justin Bieber. You’re welcome.

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5.) The Tourist/Traveler

The one that:

A.) Looks totally lost (also the ones that stand on the wrong side of the escalator)

B.) Has a huge ass backpack that looks like he’s got his entire flat on his back.

 C.) Is carrying around two luggages that still has tape from an airline that says LDN.

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I can go on and on about my categories and subcategories (Person racing you to an empty seat, Candy Crushers, Snackers, Person who coughs a lot, Priority seat hogger, etc.) but I’m now scheduled to do nothing. (As it is my day off. Ha.)

P.S.

I hope that when you are done reading this, you will send me a message acknowledging my pro drawing skills. Thanks.

 

Hoping you’re not falling asleep on the tube,

Isabel

The One Where I Cook

Dear Sam,

Here is a list of the top five most common New Years’ resolutions:

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41% of people actually stick to these resolutions. Personally, I’ve always been part of the 59%. But hey, never stopped me from trying! One of my new year’s resolutions is part of #1 for healthier living where I stop myself from buying meal deals and microwaved meals and actually cook myself something. (#domesticated)

There’s been a lot of hype going on about these food boxes where you basically buy a week box of X number of meals you want and they send you the ingredients you need. They usually let you pick if the meal is good for two or four people and have a list of meals available to choose from.

In the hopes of trying to be part of 41%, I decided to kick start the year by getting one of the boxes from Gousto. I found a bunch of promo codes online and got it £25 off!

You pick out which date you want your box delivered and you pay extra if you want it at a specific time. (Of course, I didn’t pay extra. Ha.)

So I’ll paint you a picture: It’s Thursday night, I come home from a long shift and I find the box.. outside our flat on the street. (Naturally I would go ape shit but I was too tired, I just laughed it off and thanked the Gods the foxes didn’t come and eat them) (Why would they leave it on the street though? Why?)

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You get all the meat, vegetables, some condiments—everything you need to become a fake professional chef.

I first tried out the Lemon Baked Fish with Spinach Mornay.

Ingredients:

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Some ingredients they’ll expect you to have like flour, butter, milk, etc. (Which you know I don’t have so I had to go out to the shop to buy some)

Instructions were pretty straightforward. They even show you pictures on how to do them. (Perfect for people like me who have no clue. Well done, Gousto.)

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(Babe, is this how you generously season potatoes?)

(I would like to give a shout out to my flatmate for lending me this baking tray. Ha ha)

I didn’t take a picture making the Spinach Mornay!

The results:

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Reality

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(My shadow says hi.)

I think overall I would rate my dish an 8 out of 10. -2 because I messed up the sauce by not grating the cheese (Please buy me a grater) and I didn’t chop the spinach into pieces. (Please help me from being lazy). But I have to say it was really simple to make and it tasted really good with all the flavours and all.

Next dish I won’t go too much into detail.

But this is how it’s supposed to look like:

Expectation

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 Reality

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(Not bad looking, hey?)

 

To conclude: Five things I learned from my Gousto experience (Some of these are really deep, are you ready?)

(1) Add in delivery note to leave it to the flat next door and not on the street if I’m not home

(2) Expectations are always very different from reality and it’s best not to expect too much then surprise yourself in the end.

(3)Some things look nice in pictures and some things don’t but that’s okay too.

(3.1) I need to work on my food photography skills.

(4) You can achieve something if you set your mind to it and pay subscription for it.

(5) I need more kitchen tools.

 

Hoping you’ll help me stop ordering takeaway,

Isabel

 

My First Ever Letter

  Dear Sam,

There are three reasons why you should not leave your girlfriend to go to Belfast for New Years’ Eve.

  1. According to reliable source (from epicfireworks.com or something like that) London has one of the best fireworks displays in the world.

scan-9Please take note of number three.

Nowhere does it mention anything about Ireland. (I’m sorry, Irish people. I am however a fan of your St. Patrick’s Day.)

In fact, I took some pictures to prove it to you.

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2. It gives everyone (including me) perfect excuse to dress up and get drunk and you’re missing out on some crazy Asian action.

I’m kidding, I’m still on my antibiotics. (crap.)

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3. It is customary for a boy and a girl to kiss at midnight and you left me with roughly nine million people to choose from. Thank you.

Happy New Years,

Isabel