Finding myself in Europe. What if people think I am Lost?

finding myself in europe

FYI. I’m not trying to find myself. I already know who I am. Well I know most of who I am. Most of us do. Most of us know most of who we are (for real)
Sometimes.
Most of the time.
A lot of the time.
We are not allowed to be who we know we are.  We are not allowed to be most of who we are. We are not allowed to be most of who we know ourselves to be.

Just a thaught thought. Anyway. Have a nice sleep

Art in the Principality of Andorra

Andorra, wait, what? Is that even a country? Yes. Andorra is a country. Like the Vatican City landlocked within Rome. Andorra is a micronation landlocked between Spain and France. During my Winter Wonderland 2018 trip. I took a day trip from Barcelona to visit the landlocked country.

 

 

From YouTube videos and reviews online, Andorra was painted as a country that was not worth visiting. Some people event went as far as to suggest that you should only visit it, if your aim is to visit every country in Europe. Well, I spent one day there, and would I do it again? Yes. Why not? Snowboarding lessons have been halted, when they restart I hope to take a snowboarding trip there, and revisit some of the art work that I mention in this post. 

 

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Getting there

Travel in and out of Andorra’s capital, Andorra la Vela was very easy and straight forward. I brought my ticket online the night before. There were not many travel companies that provided direct travel to Andorra from Barcelona. So I decided to travel with ALSA, one of the more local bus companies.  A return ticket cost me £32.92 and the journey was 3hr 15min.

 

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 7 Poetes by Jaume Plensa

This was the first work of art I saw. Each of the seven figures represent the seven parishes in Andorra. When googling things to do prior to this day trip, this didn’t really take my fancy. However when I saw it, I was taken aback. Primarily because I didn’t expect to see it. Also because there is always something special about seeing something online, and then being able to see it with your own two eyes. The 7 Poetes blended in with the scenery. I say that because I was only able to count six. Watch my YouTube video to see my initial reaction. During the night the 7 men light up.

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Each figure was facing a different direction. Looking back, it would be interesting to know if each figure was positioned to face the Parish it represented.

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Paris Bridge

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My least favourite out of everything. Simply because it wasn’t anything fancy. The name ‘Paris Bridge’ invokes more of a feeling than the bridge itself. If you ever get the chance to walk across it you will understand exactly what I mean.  When I think of Paris, I think elegance, cold, sophisticated, delicate and strong. Paris Bridge was more cold and strong. Whilst it did serve its purpose. It was not comparable to actual French monuments. i.e. the Eiffel tower and the Louvre. The name Paris Bridge sets that expectation in your head, so you can’t blame me for being slightly underwhelmed when I saw it. The water underneath is okay.

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Paris Bridge can be seen from a distance, so I imagine many people don’t take the effort too get any closer. I crossed Paris Bridge on route to my next stop in Andorra. Pont dels Escalla.

 

Pont dels Escalls    (Escalls Bridge)

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Before we go any where else, I feel the need to  highlight what art is. Some of you may be thinking it’s just a bridge. If Paris Bridge is anything to go by, why is this bridge so special?

art1

/ɑːt/

noun

noun: art; plural noun: arts; plural noun: the arts

1.

the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

 

 

The reason why Pont dels Escalls is so special is because of how overwhelming it is. Being on the Bridge sends so many of you senses into a frenzy. Your sense of sight, smell and hearing are sent into a sensory overload. It’s fair to say I’ve never had anything make me feel the way this Bridge did. Hear me out. The smell: it was so damp, a really weird mix of mould and freshness. As I took a deep breath in, I felt every single one of my olfactory nerves light up. My brain was also trying to figure out if I’d ever smelt anything like it before. Tactile, for I while I was scared, holding onto the cold bars did not do much to alleviate this. People always ask me if I ever get scared traveling alone. To tell you the truth I don’t. But being at Pont dels Escalls was certainly the most fearful I have ever been during my Winter Wonderland 2018 trip. Acoustically, I couldn’t here myself think. I’m happy I vlogged my experience because at the time I’m sure I could not here what I was saying.

 

 

Barcelona is not Spain. I’ll tell you why.

I expected the typical. Flamenco dancers, bull fighters, and football players. My expectations of Spain were based on what I had seen in the media. I’ve never read any Spanish books, don’t know any Spanish people particularly well, and I know that Paella is a big thing. So you can imagine how taken aback I was when I arrived in Barcelona, and felt like I had been here before. The familiarity of it was refreshing. I don’t want to say it was disappointing, because it wasn’t. It just wasn’t very Spanish. Upon further exploration, I learnt  that It was because Barcelona isn’t the most Spanish place in Spain to be. Barcelona is the capital of Spain’s Catalonia region, not the capital of Spain itself! That explains why the ‘Spanish’ I could hear people speaking sounded ‘unusual’. It sounded ‘unusual’ because they were not speaking Spanish, they were speaking Catalan!

 

20181203_102015kCatalonia vs Spain

Catalonia and Spain are not the same. This is not a political commentary, but my time in Barcelona made it very clear that the two are not so fond of each other. A fusion of resistance and nationalism is definitely present. I would loosely compare it to tensions between the UK and Scotland. If you know you know. If you have no idea then too bad. Catalonia is engaged in gaining sovereignty and independence from Spain. ONE of the reasons why this is such a big issue is because financially, Catalonia is a treasure chest for Spain.

 

 

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La Sagrada Familia, La Boqueria Food Market, FC Barcelona Museum and Parc Guell are all located in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia.

 

 

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Inside La Sagrada Familia

 

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Catalonia is a region where a lot of Spain’s commercial and industrial facilities are located.

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Read NOTES ON NATIONALISM by GEORGE ORERLL.

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La Boqueria Food Market

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La Boqueria Food Market

 

Based on my observation of Barcelona, would I visit again. Yes. There is so much I didn’t get to experience or see. Picasso Museum being one of them. Before I go back I would like to take a trip to Valencia. I’ve heard it is not as touristy as Barcelona and has more of a Spanish feel.

 

Paris.One budget. Two days. Seven things to do.

Two days in Paris, no problem. In this guide I share seven budget friendly things you should do while you’re out there. I feel as if I was in Paris for one week, when in reality it was only two days. I kept busy and I kept moving. Paris was the first stop of my Winter Wonderland 2018 trip.

My place of rest  while in Paris was St Christopher’s in by the canal. Yes, I stayed at a hostel, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I did say this was a budget friendly guide. Staying at a hostel was as ‘extreme as it gets’ in terms of visiting Paris on a budget.

 

1. Notre-Dame de Paris

 

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Notre-Dame de Paris

Situated on ile de la cite, one of the many islands in Paris. Notre-Dame de Paris reminds me of York Minster, equally as breath-taking when you approach it. For about two seconds I was lost for words. Notre-Dame de Paris is one of those monuments that you have to see up close before you can appreciate how grand it really it.  The inside of the Cathedral is okay. The outside is stunning.

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Notre-Dame de Paris

 

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Notre-Dame de Paris

 2. Love Lock bridge

You may have seen the headlines. ’45 tonnes of locks removed’. If you are caught attaching a lock to a bridge you may be fined!

3. Eiffel Tower

I mean, you kind of have to see it in the flesh. Let me be the first one to tell you. It is absolutely massive! The Eiffel tower is located right by the river Seine.

 

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Paris!

4. Seine River Cruise with Bateaux Parisiens

For a two for one experience, start you mini cruise thirty minutes before sunset. That way half of your cruise will be during the day, and the second half will be lit by the Eiffel tower during the evening.

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Seine River Cruise with Bateaux Parisiens

 

5. Louvre Museum

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Its free to entre if you are under 26 and are a member of the EU. No need to wait at the ticket office, just go straight to the exhibitions (with your passport of course). Before going to the Louvre, have a plan of action. My plan was to see the Mona Lisa and I did just that. IN 2 HOURS. Yes, I was there for a while, not because of the long waiting times, but because of all the other pieces of art that I had to stop and stare at.

While I was in Paris I visited the Louvre twice. The first time was with Sandeman’d Paris. Watch my vlogs below.

 

6. Galeries Lafayette and its observation point

For a stunning view of Paris, visit Galeries Lafayette. French version of Harrods is the only way I can describe it. Make your way to the top and you’ll find a stunning view of Paris.

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 7. Arc de Triomphe

Shop till you drop then visit Arc de Triomphe, easily accessible from all twelve of it’s radiating avenues. If you plan on visiting more than one European country, you will find several versions of the Arc de Triopmphe. Barcelona and Lisbon have one!

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Five things I learnt when I traveled solo| STORIES FROM NEPAL

Solo travel. For me, it gives me time to breath. Space to re-calibrate my mind. Space to think about the most fulfilling way for me to live my life. In 2013 I completed my first Solo trip to Nepal. It was a long time ago, but the lessons and memories made will stay with me forever.

 

1. Fear pushes me further than hunger or exhaustion ever will

The faster you trek. The earlier you can order a Dal bhat. Sit down. And eat. If only that logic was enough to get my thighs to move faster.

Nepal is basically built upon mountain ranges. So ascending Poon Hill wasn’t like any other hill you would find in the UK. I was crossing waterfalls, hugging rocks so I wouldn’t slip down the edge. Watching out for Big foot (in my head). Looking for bridges so I could cross gapes in the ground safely. Hacking branches; helping to establish new paths close to where the old ones had broken off into the abys. Stopping every 2 minutes because the air was getting so, so thin. Checking my calves to ensure I wasn’t being sucked by leeches. And standing in awe at Gods creation. I saw the most beautiful clear blue springs. Enclosed by what I could only describe as the purest natural rock formations. The greenest planes. The varying scenery was just amazing. None could fathom. Words cannot describe the beauty I laid my eyes upon.

The varying landscape made for an extremely challenging trek. The energy I was using surpassed the amount I could refuel myself with. So, for a large amount of the trek. I was hungry and exhausted. I’m not talking about hungry like ‘I could eat a sandwich right about now’. I. Was. STARVING. My guide kept telling me move faster. But I couldn’t. Then I saw the donkeys. They were transporting goods from the city below to the villages in the mountain range. I am not scared of donkeys. But when sharing a path, that is about 1-meter wide, with an animal that is ready to risk it all. You really start to get moving. Fear kicked in, and my thighs as if by magic started to move really quick. ‘If I can get on top of that boulder out the way, before the donkeys get to where I am, I should be fine’.

Boy if it weren’t for them darn donkeys, I’d probably still be climbing Poon Hill.

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2. I don’t like the dark. I mean, it isn’t natural

For the first night in a long time I had to sleep in the dark. In the complete dark by myself. As I laid my head on the mat, extended my neck, and stared through the wired window. I could kind of see the moon. I laid for about 30 seconds before I was like I can’t deal with this. I mean. Not even a night light. She is brave, but she is not stupid. Sleeping in the dark has never come naturally to me. So, I got up, the floor was still cool, and asked one of the ladies to share a room with me. The younger kids were confused as to why I couldn’t sleep in the dark by myself. So, they offered to give me even more company. They were excited to be sleeping in a different room. I am just thankful that they understood how much of a scaredy-cat the thought of sleeping in the pitch dark made me. Thank you.

 

3. My mum is hi-key obsessed with me

– Your mum has been calling me every day.
x What, what do you mean? She has been calling me every 2-3 days. I knew she called you a couple times, but not every day. Are you sure?
-Yes, I’m pretty sure. She has been calling me every day. She just wants to make sure you are fine. When the phone is ringing. I know it is her. How is she calling me all the time? Her phone bill must be very high.
X Mate, I have no idea. Phone cards I guess.

At Dinner
/ Your mum calls Bicky all the time, my dad hasn’t called me once since I’ve left.
X Lol. That’s probably because I’m 18 and you are a bit older. I’m sure when I get older she’ll calm down a bit.
/ These chips. I should have got some Dal baht.

 

4. Loneliness is an actual emotion

I had never experienced loneliness on such a deep level. How was that even possible? I was around people constantly. I never did anything ‘alone’. Yet, at times I felt like the loneliest person in the world. Looking back, I think it is because I didn’t know how to be all of me. I was lost. Despite everyone being so welcoming. I felt like I couldn’t be all of me. The decision to go to Nepal was a last-minute decision. It was based on so many emotions that I had to support myself through. My theory is that when I moved myself from a familiar to an unfamiliar environment, it gave me more space to try and reconnect all the dots. I quickly realised that a lot of the dots were either missing or not strong enough. Consequently, all the strings came back to me. I chose to burn the ends over tying them back together.

 

5. I am super brave

I mean. How many 18 year olds do you know have traveled across the world solo. Not many?
Brave: showing no fear of dangerous things
And I believe I did just that. Reflecting on the experience, sometimes I’m just like how or why you did that? You absolute nutter!! In the space of one month I experienced my only two near-death experiences. Arrgghh, it’s the worst feeling ever. The first time It happened I was floating in a river. The second time. I was sat on a bus. I was sat in the passenger seat in the driver’s cabin. Winding our way down mountain ranges to Kathmandu. I could see the steep drop down and it wasn’t forgiving. Still, it made for beautiful scenery. I had my head stuck out the window most of the journey, with my arms perched on the bus door. The bus that I was in tried to overtake on a one-way road. Let’s just say the lady sat by me flew into the windscreen. I had my seatbelt on.