First Long Distance Date of 2017! | Cambridge, UK

My boyfriend and I have been in a long distance relationship for 2/3 years, and Joah has recently just moved even further away for a studentship (selfish).

I have just graduated from my postdoc  (roughly 7 hours away by train or 4 hours away by car) and this was the first time I’d been able to see him in 2017. I was so excited! One of my friends Lizzie is from Cambridge and she lives a fabulous life of poetry readings, kayaking, and life-drawings.

He picked me up from the train station and we were off to explore one of England’s most beautiful and historic cities.

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The Oxbridge prestige can honestly be felt in the air; a smog of self-importance and privilege. The beauty of the campuses and city itself transports you back in time, a time where only scholars and doctors wanted a liberal education. You had to be bright, especially bright. The sort of intelligence that liars say they can see in newborn babies kind of bright.

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It was interesting to see how this ancient city had tried to integrate itself into modern times. What they had kept vs. what they had rejected. For example, higher end high-street stores like Whistles and Reiss inhabit most of the non-university / non-religious buildings.

Cambridge kept the high-street.

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Customer service or general pleasantness to seemingly anyone. They are not so interested.

As someone who spends half of their time in London, in which resides over half a million more people than it was built to accommodate, and Exeter, one of the countries richest suburban areas, I feel like I have a pretty low standard for customer service/people in general. Rarely am I aghast from others rudeness. Cambridge was another level. Groups of students smack into you if you don’t get out of their way and a number of homeless people were openly mocked and ridiculed.

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That being said, Stephen Fry went to Cambridge University and he is a national treasure! Despite our negative experiences, we were on the look out for some of the positives which had drawn Stephen Fry, amongst others, to their cobbled streets and Kings College would definitely be near the top of the list.

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Kings College lies beside the River Cam and is considered one of the great examples of late-English gothic architecture. Their chapels stained-glass windows are thought to be the finest of their genre and the college as a whole is thought to be emblematic of Cambridge.

Tour books and Wikipedia do not offer a quality in which Kings College is meant to represent, so I’ll leave that question open to you.

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By this point, we were pretty hungry. After exploring the restaurants by the River Cam for any vegan food we settled on Côte Brasserie for brunch. The food was fine; I got the impression that they may have been taken aback by their popularity that afternoon. On a quieter day, they may be more attentive.

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Still, we were on our brunch date and goddammit if we weren’t cute so I didn’t really care that service was a little slow.

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While walking off brunch we stumbled across a beautiful wedding dress store. Joah rushed ahead like the stereotype he is, but the layout and hidden quality of the store made me pause and take a photo. It was the most instagrammable store in Cambridge!

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Finally, our day was drawing to a close but not before we went into the Cambridge University Press (where our love for non-fiction was fully realized like the nerds we are) and Hardys Sweet Shop!

 

I love sweet shops like this, they are reminiscent of that Candy Man scene in the beginning of Willy Wonka; jam-packed with every kind of confectionary fancy. Plus, given the rise of free-from diets both Joah and I could indulge a little. He picked up a sugar-free milk chocolate bar, and I grabbed some vegan chocolate with honeycomb *drool*.

 

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Although I probably would not return to Cambridge to continue looking at the buildings, I loved our explore around the city. I’m sure we only scratched the surface of what Cambridge has to offer and I want to believe that we just caught it on a bad day — fingers crossed.

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Italian Travels: When in Rome…

Deadline. Junkfood. Deadline. Panic. Deadline. Coffee. Deadline. Hand in. 12pm. Packing. 4pm. London. 7pm. Stanstead. 3am. Flight. 6am. Italy. 8am.

 

The first week of my Italian travels was spent in Puglia, down near the heel of the boot. Puglia was the vacation for a foodie like me so I was excited to see how the rest of Italy, especially the northern states, would compare. From this point on I traveled alone, which given my eye-watering history (Prague anyone?) was pretty nerve-wracking.

 

Rome is the perfect city to wander aimlessly around. There is a timelessness quality which makes the city feel simultaneously ancient and modern; the plethora of history at every turn is juxtaposed with the selfie-stick jungle.

I headed in the general direction of the tourists big three: the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Forum, and the Trevi Fountain. On route, I stumbled across the San Pietro in Vincoli, a minor basilica which famously houses Michelangelo’s statue of Moses. Unfortunately, I am a complete moron and missed the statue! I was too busy focusing on the classically beautiful ceilings and the prayer candles. A couple of hours later, when reading ‘Top Things to See in Rome’ I realized my stupidity and rushed back only to find that the church was closed for the day!

 

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On of the most striking things about Rome is its recent revamp; everything was a sparklingly white and the city center was (mostly) graffiti free. Never had Italy looked more like Germany — a fact I’m not sure they’d be too happy about?

 

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Once I had gotten to the Colosseum it was like stepping back in time. The once political and socio-economical hub of the Roman empire sprawled across the center of the capital in a kind of grandiose district of columns and bricks. The Colosseum is still haunted by the people that used to flock to the games and the museum on the upper levels has collected the knick-knacks and souvenirs from the crowds. You can even see the ancient graffiti carved into the brick: gladiators, swear words and declarations of love.

 

These two pictures of the graffiti are probably two of my favourite pictures from Rome. They were not born from blueprints, nor from the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. They depict neither politics nor socioeconomics. The graffiti forms a connection between us and them; between ancient Rome, the Globe Theatre and a standard football ground. We have always wanted to make a mark, to say that we are here. Plus we are inherently narcissistic enough to think that others will care who our top gladiators are (mine is Judy Simpson btw).

 

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At this stage, I had wandered around Rome in the classic Italian sunshine for over 6 hours with only one 500ml water bottle (filled up twice!). Feeling a little light-headed, I was trying to find somewhere to sit down when I came across a Barbie exhibit at the Complesso del Vittoriano. Close to deliriousness and with a solid millennial enjoyment for ‘ironic’ entertainment, I decided to seek shelter in Barbies Dream House.

I decided to not take any pictures inside the exhibit because it was creepy. A Silent Bones-esque murderer would have been comfortable. Although to be fair, a 5-year old would have probably thought it was *goalz*, (and a 5-year old murderer would be staring at you through the holes in the portraits).

I managed to escape through the rather anti-climatic exit door at the end of the exhibit and continued to drift until I found a little restaurant/cafe between the Trevi Fountain and the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a church on the way back to the station. The decor was charmingly rustic, the coffee was strong and the chill of the mango sorbet was very much appreciated. Although the cafe I went to did not boast a broad vegan menu, there were several eateries around the city centre with a wide list of vegan options. I swear that Italy, the home of cheese, pizza and pasta was easier to navigate as a vegan than the UK.

 

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Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola (Sant’Ignazio Church) was originally dedicated to the Founder of the Society of Jesus to be used as the college chapel. The inscription over the door (according to the tour guide I was sneakily trying to listen to) reads ‘School of Grammar, Humanity, and Christian Doctrine. Free’. Yet, as you enter the church you enter a space of pure luxury. The ceilings are intricately designed and painted in typical renaissance style with the theatrical focus on the painted on dome towards the back. Yeah, the church was too poor to commission a real dome, so the painter Andrea Pozzo painted a seemingly 3D dome. The optical illusion only really works from certain angles; if you are unaware of the trickery, the dome appears to bend and wave like a Dr Seus drawing.

As well as the coloured columns and unusually gothic statuettes, St.Ignatius had recently commissioned an art installation of a number golden trees. The trees, the leaves on the trees, and the apples that hung from the leaves on the trees were all cut and molded out of metal. They are meant to represent the relationship between man and nature and therefore between us and God. Planted at the base of columns and archways, the trees were used to divide the large darkened hall into a series of intimate (read: even darker) ‘rooms’. Due to the hush of the shadows, St. Ignatius was one of the few churches I had been to which felt like a place of worship rather than simply a tourist interest.

 

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No one can be lost in Rome, primarily due to the volume of tourist destinations. I left to stop off in Naples and Latina before finishing off Italian travels in Milan. Keep an eye out for the next post!

 

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<— Click here for my last post!                                              Click here for my Puglia post! —>

AutHAM | Exploring Ham Hill

Ham Hill is one of my favourite places in Somerset, and I love to take people from London or other cities here (so I can stand back smugly as they scat about how green everything is).

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Ham Hill is a national park in Somerset generally used as a massive dog park. My friends and I used to cycle there and waste time back when we were all fit enough to cycle up those hills! This time we headed up, again to waste time, but predominately to take photos and film segments for my friend Sam Cleal‘s short film.

 

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I honestly love Ham Hill. It’s just a big, well-kept patch of land surrounded by all the beautiful, picturesque local villages. It also has the BEST (albeit not the cheapest) dog-friendly pub called the Prince of Wales. My camera ran out by the time we got there, so look out for those pictures next time!

 

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Is there a local area you guys love from your hometown? Or alternatively somewhere that is the perfect autumn day out? Let me know!

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Italian Travels: The food in Puglia

Two days after handing in my Master’s thesis, I was sleeping on the floor in Stanstead airport, waiting for my flight to Brindisi, Italy. I was going to spend the next two weeks speed travelling around Italy.

First stop was to Puglia down in the heel south Italy. People travel to Puglia for a chance to see a snapshot of rustic Italy. I went to Puglia for the food. Puglian food is best represented as cucina povera, otherwise known as peasant food (or the kitchen of the poor, although that sounds ever so slightly entitled!). Their food is straight from the soil to the pot, a fact you can taste in every bite!

 

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Most days we lunched at home; it was so easy (and so cheap!) to eat light, healthy meals here especially when compared to the UK. A typical lunch featured a large mixed salad, and chickpeas and cannoli beans with fresh lemon juice. Freshly made focaccia with sun-dried tomatoes or sometimes we’d share a packet of frise de grano, a local delicacy. Of course, Lucy-La Lingua would never forgive me if I forgot to mention the stracciatella,  burrata’s sexy-yet-sloppy cousin! I wish I could eat like this every day!

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Otherwise, we would venture out to try the local restaurants around Racale. As we were in Italy, we had to try the pizza! I tried two pizzerias in Puglia, Bella Napoli in Racale and this little place we wandered into in Alberobello, which I unfortunately forgot to check the name of. I was too hungry! The pizza in Alberobello had a fluffy crust, a thin, crispy base and drizzled with olive oil similar those found in Naples (which is considered by many to be the king of pizzas!). In Bella Napoli on the other hand, the crust was the same height as the base which made for a crispier pizza. The main selling point in Bella Napoli is their metre-long pizzas, which can be made up of four different pizza toppings (limiting the arguments about who wants what!).

As a vegan, I was a little worried about going to Italy, the land of cheese, meats, and egg pasta. I needn’t have worried. Every pizza was made fresh on site, so it was so easy to ask for it without cheese, there was a wide variety of pasta’s, and veganism is more obviously catered for. Wandering through the streets, there were restaurants and cafes which advertised vegan-friendly foods. There were other restaurants and cafes who catered for vegans but in a far more discrete way. For example, the beautiful patisserie Murrieri in Racale. They bake fresh pasticiotti, a local custard-filled sponge, as well as gelato, or pastries. I had resigned to just grab a coffee and maybe some fruit later on when Lucy came back with news of a vegan croissant. I nearly tripped over my chair in a rush to the counter!

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On our last night, we went for a meal out to Il Giardino Segreto, a vegan-friendly restaurant with a tree growing in the centre of outside seating area. They also had this adorable one-eyed cat purring between and around tables! The only downside, in my opinion, was the lack of salt and pepper on the tables. I had this delicious houmous style dip made with cannelloni beans on a bed of green vegetables. Although delicious, I wanted to sprinkle a little pepper on top, but without insulting the chief! Their flavours were delicate and the food was ultimately delicious. For dessert, I had slices of this great vegan tiffin with chocolate sprinkles. Yumyumyum.

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All pictures are either mine or Lucy’s. Speaking of, if you want to read a blog with a more concise layout I would definitely recommend her blog la-linga.co.uk!

Il Giardino Segreto
Via Antonietta de Pace, 116, 73014 Gallipoli LE, Italy
+39 0833 264430
Hours: 12–2:30pm, 7–11:30pm

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