Chello Chester

Over the weekend, I hopped coasts and spent some time in Wales and the Northwest of England. Though I saw some of the Welsh coastlines and picked up the language, well one-word “ARAF” or “SLOW,” I was mostly in Chester, England.

Chester is a lively city near the Welsh border and surrounded by walls. Apparently, it was a Roman fortress, which can be seen through its sandstone walls and excavated Roman amphitheater. I thought it was the perfect place to spend a rainy, then sunny, then rainy/windy, then sunny again Saturday afternoon. English weather, am I right?

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If you find yourself in Chester for the day, then I highly suggest some of the activities on my list.

Eating

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Not actually open, but it was funny to see this on my walk.聽

Start your morning with a proper breakfast. I dined at two local cafes and had great experiences at both. Marmalade serves up typical English breakfasts but also has a fantastic hot chocolate list. My favorite meal was at Hanky Panky Pancakes. Along with a fabulous name, this establishment also has mouth-watering pancakes. You can choose sweet, savory, and even alcoholic pancakes. Since I am horribly indecisive, I took a solid 10 minutes to create my combo, which turned out to be not super impressive.

For my savory pancake, I had spicy chorizo with goat cheese and a thick balsamic drizzle on top. Now I know what you’re thinking, savory pancakes? Gross. But these aren’t your typical pancake. They are very thin made with a simple mixture, so you don’t feel overly stuffed at the end.

I also chose a sweet pancake because I am a firm believer in dessert and treatin’ yo self. Anyhow, I’d never heard of strove day or pancake day aside from the American one where IHOP gives your a free pancake. On strove day the typical pancake is more like a thin crepe with sugar sprinkled on top and lemon. Since I’d never had one before, I decided to go for it, and add a healthy stack of cream on top.

Bottom-line, go to Hanky Panky for a meal you won’t regret. Until you try on clothes in Zara 15 minutes later with a bloated belly. I digress….

Breakfast pretty much filled me up both days, but Kurtis met me early on Saturday so that we could have lunch together. Our chosen spot was called The Burger Shed. Now I’m not huge on burgers, but my oh my did they have a delicious spread. They have burger, hotdogs, and milkshakes galore to choose from. I had a bacon and bleu cheese burger complete with poutine and an oreo milkshake. YUM! Some of the food such as the meat and cheese is locally sourced from other Chester stores, so it’s not just a dumpy burger place like McDonald’s.

Otherwise, there are plenty of little cafes to choose from and pubs with English food, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Shopping

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If you are into shopping, then you’ve pretty much nailed it with Chester. There are a variety of shops and mini-malls all within walking distance. I spent a lot of time in Zara, TkMaxx (like TjMaxx lolol), and H&M, but there are a million more to choose from. You can buy anything from artisanal cheese to hiking boots without leaving the area. Do yourself, but maybe not your bank account, a favor and snag some new clothes.

What else is there?

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While eating and shopping are some of my favorite pastimes, there are many other activities in Chester. I walked part of the city walls, which took a good amount and got my FitBit steps up. The walk includes the ancient Roman amphitheater, the River Dee, the Chester Castle and University, and some excellent sites of the city. You could spend all day roaming about and even getting lost in a nearby town.

The Storyhouse

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This was probably my favorite find. The Storyhouse is a massive library, cafe, theater, and cinema all combined into one beautiful building. I spent some time browsing and reading in the library, which has an unusual setup. It feels more like you’ve stumbled into a cafe surrounded by books than an actual library. I didn’t even notice it was a library until I saw the stickers on the book’s spines. When it was too chilly for me to stay outside/ I didn’t feel like walking anymore, I saw a show at their cinema. The cinema is just one screen and only holds a 100 people, but it was the perfect place to cozy up and watch Monster’s Inc. on a Sunday afternoon.

Exhibits

Apparently, Chester puts on a number of exhibits as well, which can be seen in the Art Centre. Unfortunately, I missed the latest one by a few days, but they came highly suggested. There’s also the Grosvenor Museum, the Chester Cathedral, and a falconry to explore.

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If you’re in the area, then Chester is definitely worth a visit. For the more adventurous, the 870-mile Wales Coast walking path begins in Chester. It’s also a short 40-minute train ride to Liverpool so that you can hop from one city to the next.

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3o Before 30

Now, I want to start off this post by saying, I’m not that close to 30. Even though I feel like I might as well be registering for my AARP card and catching the early bird special, 24 is simply not that old. Also, I’m joking.

Anyhow, I’d like to make a little list of 30 things I’d like to do before 30. Maybe in six years when I’m crying over a tub of nachos and cheese (because that sounds so much better than a tub of ice cream) about no longer being in my 20s, I can reflect on this list and see how much I’ve (hopefully) achieved.

  1. Speak Spanish! Well, learn more of it and practice speaking. And practice the basics of another language.
  2. Travel to Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia, South America, and Mexico.
  3. Meet my family in Mexico/ Visit my family again in Italy.
  4. Write every damn day.
  5. Learn how to cook my favorite meals that I love to eat out–pad thai, yummy tacos, etc.
  6. Find a cause and start volunteering more.
  7. Go back to school??? Er….or take a course.
  8. Try teaching. Because hey, I got my degree, so I might as well.
  9. Publish something, ANYTHING! An article, short story, poem.
  10. Do something that’s out of my comfort zone.
  11. Give back to my parents what they’ve given me.
  12. Sky dive.
  13. Scuba dive, surf, water ski
  14. Learn how to normally dive into a pool….pathetic, I know.
  15. Hike a difficult mountain.
  16. Improve my writing, snowboarding, public speaking, and finanical skills
  17. Visit or live on the West Coast
  18. Own a house/property
  19. Take a solo trip somewhere new
  20. Watch a broadway show
  21. Take dance lessons–preferably salsa or tango.
  22. Ride a motorcycle or scooter in another country
  23. Get a puppy or two
  24. Take a cross country road trip of the USA.
  25. Find my dream job
  26. See bioluminescent phytoplankton
  27. See at least 3 of the wonders of the world
  28. Learn how to use my camera and explore the world of photography
  29. Learn from my mistakes, make them again, but then really learn the next time
  30. Be happy! I’m already happy, but I sure as hell hope I am at 30.

 

So here future, Kayla. Here’s your little inter-web time capsule that you can reminisce on at 30.

 

Hey There…

August and September went by in such a flash that I can hardly believe It’s October already. I spent a lot of time with people I love and those who I hadn’t seen in almost a year! Even though I wrote while I was in Spain and Florida, let me break down my travels these past couple of months since it’s somehow now Fall and I haven’t written since Summer. Oops.

August

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I wrapped up my time in Italy with the fabulous family I gained over the summer. Sadly, I had to say goodbye to them, and my Scottish friend Melanie.

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Kurtis and I rekindled our love of Spain and all of their glorious food, beaches, and clubs on our two week holiday. We also were able to see my Catalan family from the previous summer on our last few days there.

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Sadly, we ended our vacation on two different flights–his headed back to England, while mine went to sunny Florida!

September

Florida

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Touchdown in Florida! Despite that messy little hurricane, which you can read about here, I saw most of my family for the first time since Christmas 2016.

NYC

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After the Hurricane Irma craziness I headed to New York City, where I stayed with my best friend Katie and her awesome fiancee AND got to see some of my hooligans. We spent the weekend eating and drinking wayyyy too much, while somehow finding her the wedding dress of her dreams!

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We also made it to a pajama party, wearing our nighties on the Staten Island Ferry.

Ithaca

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A long bus trip took me back to Ithaca, where I was greeted by my parents, crazy friends, and two new brothers. And by brothers, I mean kittens! Behold Rocco and Francesco (my mom named them)

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I spent the last bit of September catching up with my friends, eating my way through the delicacies in Ithaca (Thai, Cambodian, Wegmans, Creamery, Americana, Farmer’s Market), and soaking up the last days of summer.

England

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An exhausting trip back to NYC, then to Manchester, and finally in Kingston Upon Hull, where I will be rooted until the winds of fate pick me up again–or I find a nicely priced flight somewhere else!

So there you have my crazy couple of months spent living out of a suitcase, but loving mostly every minute of it.

 

 

Post Irma Post

Wooo! I survived Hurricane Irma 2017, and so did the rest of my family! The storm took a turn from directly hitting Ft. Lauderdale and went out West instead. Aside from some downed trees and no power/wifi/phone service from Saturday-Thursday, we were lucky not to feel the catastrophic effects of Irma.

Nothing too exciting happened since I last posted. This past week I….

-watched the hurricane blow from Saturday to Monday

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-spent a lot of time inside with my family….maybe too much 馃槢

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-taught my little cousin how to play chess

-played other games like checkers, cards, apples to apples, mario, etc.

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-read some books:

  1. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
  2. The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Noyes
  3. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
  4. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

I’m currently reading The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, which I’m loving at the moment. Ever since I caught up in the Game of Thrones book series, I’ve been looking for a replacement.

-Walked around the aftermath and was given a large avocado by some friendly woman in the neighborhood

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-I spent a couple hours at the beach with my cousin to soak up some last minute rays.

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Now, I’m heading to New York City to reunite with my best gal pal Katie and other good friends (Hi Hooligans!).

Control

As a person who spends most of their time on the computer writing, it’s been difficult to find a spare moment to write on the computer. I’ve meant to follow up on my post from last week with more fun things I did in Spain on my two-week vacation with Kurtis.

Instead, I’ve been trying to finish all of my work before this weekend preemptively. No, I’m not heading out for a crazy night, and I don’t have fun plans that will take up all of my time. I’m in Florida. South Florida to be exact, which is where the potentially catastrophic Hurricane Irma could be heading.

My flight to New York is booked for next Thursday, so there’s no escape in a plane, and almost my whole family is down here. I’m hoping that the empty shelves in the grocery stores and warnings to stay away from large cranes will all be for nothing. I’m hoping that we will be safe.

The last time I was in a hurricane was during Katrina back in 2005. Fortunately, us Floridians didn’t get hit nearly as hard as Louisiana. I’m praying that is the case too.

As humans, and especially those of us still early on in life, it’s easy to get this sense of invincibility. Children and teens have it, which is why when they combine it with a lack of good judgment it can be deadly. I certainly don’t feel invincible, but it’s difficult to comprehend death. One minute you’re there, the next you’re gone. The world moves on without you. You have no control.

These thoughts and feelings first sparked up a few weeks back when a terrorist attack hit Barcelona. Two days before the white van crashing into hundreds of innocent tourists, I was walking up and down La Rambla with Kurtis, complaining because I wanted new shoes. I made him walk all throughout the alleys, into different stores, and then back along the main street. (For those of you not familiar with Barcelona or the specifics of the attack, the assaults happened on La Rambla. It’s a famous street for tourists to enjoy the shopping, food, and even some of the architecture in Barcelona.)

On the morning of that devastating Thursday, I decided I had enough of trekking around Barcelona. I’d found my shoes, enjoyed the city and walked miles upon miles in the process. I wanted to go to the beach. Initially, we were going to stay another day/night, but instead, we hopped on the train back to Matar贸 around 1 o’clock–only hours before the massacre that occurred.

It was surreal visiting the area only two days later and seeing the temporary barriers, the extra police guarding with guns, and the memorials. There were hundreds of candles, teddy bears, cards, and notes paying tribute to the individuals who were taken from the Earth too soon by hate. Crowds gathered to mourn the losses and unite against terrorism.

I couldn’t help it. I stood there and cried. I cried for the people who were murdered that I didn’t even know. I cried because I was shaken to my core of the cruelness and evil that had taken their lives. I cried because I was scared. I cried because I was selfish for being grateful that it wasn’t me.

I’m not telling this story as a way to say, “Hey! I was just there!!!” 聽or to get a reaction. I wasn’t harmed, and I didn’t face a near death experience. I was lucky. I was lucky that I was bratty enough to demand to go back to the beach, which happened to be away from Barcelona and safe. I’m telling this story, so whoever is reading this might understand why this hurricane is bringing up the feelings and questions I have about life and death.

After nine months of being away from home, I decided to visit my family–first in Florida, then in New York. Of course, my friends and friends were relieved to see that I wasn’t near the attack in Barcelona and happy that I would be returning. I’ve been so excited to be around family that I had forgotten about the feelings I tried to process while staring at the pictures of the victims and surrounding candles on La Ramblas. That sinking “what if” feeling in my stomach. The thoughts of death at a young age from unpredictable situations. The cloak of invincibility we believe we wear from being close, but not close enough for harm.

These two events may seem disconnected–one is an act of terror and hate, the other is a naturally occurring catastrophe. There are terrorists all over the world causing hurricane-sized damage, but no hurricanes killing innocent people for an unjust cause. In my mind, both events cause damage, loss and plant a seed of despair, while also causing love and unity to bloom from the darkness. We find the strength we never even knew we had. We also reflect on weaknesses and fears we never knew existed until we were forced to face them.

Both situations represent a loss of control.

With all of these latest attacks, especially in popular tourist destinations, many people can’t help but ask: why travel? Why not stay home? Why risk it? But what else can you do? You can stay in your house, and not live your life just to survive a potential danger that you have no control over.

Now with the warnings of this upcoming hurricane, the questions become: why stay? Why not leave your home? Those who remind behind in their homes–the supposed safe-havens–stay because they’re not going to let something that they can’t control, send them hiding.

So what’s to be said for these unpredictable horrors? Do we hide? Or can we use the anxieties of something beyond our control to come together and live fearless lives?

 

How You Gonna be Mad on Vacation?

All good things must come to an end, like my vacation in Matar贸, Catalonia.聽For those who are wondering,聽Matar贸 is the largest town in the Province of Barcelona. It’s about 30 minutes North along the coast, and where I spent my summer last year.

Kurtis and I were fortunate enough to spend two weeks frolicking in the sparkling sea and stuffing our faces with delicious food. Since 14 days is a lot to recap, I’ll just throw up the highlights and some聽many pictures.

Beach Time

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We spent almost everyday basking in the sun or floating around the sea. It’s a tough life, let me tell you. 聽Kurtis was even able to get a tan after almost a year of the non-existent U.K. sun!

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We Modeled

What’s a vacation without some fire instas? Okay fine, it’s still a vacation……We did take advantage of the nice backdrop and our tanned skin to snap some shots of each other.聽DSC_0049

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The Sunsets

Our favorite past time of last summer was watching the sunsets, so naturally we continued this during the cool evenings. The sun sets behind the mountains leaving a hazy mix of pinks, oranges, blues, and purples behind.

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Bounced to Barcelona

With Barcelona such a short ride away, you might think that we’d spend most of our time there. Wrong. I love聽Matar贸. It definitely feels bigger than a town–more like a mini city, but without all the tourists flocking everywhere.

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Barcelona is beautiful, but it’s honestly exhausting to walk around day after day. In聽Matar贸, you have the beach (which is waaaaay nicer/cleaner/safer than Barceloneta), plenty of restaurants, a smaller (but still cute) collection of shops, and a handful of clubs to hit on the weekend.

I was originally going to make this one post, but as I already have a bunch of pictures up, I think I’ll continue with the highlights in my next post.