2016, Expat Life, Life, norway, Uncategorized

What is “Home” to Me?

I never quite know how I feel about my hometown. When I am away, I long for the mountains, for the food, for the friends and family that I left behind. When I am home however, all I do is dream about interailing and flying and going away to the farthest corners of the world.

After living in Newcastle-upon-Tyne for three years I feel too foreign for Norway. I can’t quite settle down and the travelbug is bugging me (Ha.) more than I thought it would. Is this little town in Northern Norway still my home? I don’t know. I know that it is where I came from. But I lived in over 15 different houses/flats/apartments in two different cities growing up so I don’t have much of a tie to the place other than my family. I don’t have a house that I’ve lived in all my life and a room that still has toys from when I was a kid on the shelves. I have boxes and suitcases and a lot of books and clothes that I have unpacked, but most of my stuff? It’s waiting for me to decide where home is as much as I am waiting for figure it out.

I guess looking back it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that I struggle to find peace and a true feeling of home anywhere. I grew up on the go, shuttled between places and schools and parents. I was loved and spoiled for attention, but I grew to love the change of scenery too. The new room, new decorations, new sights and sounds and routes to school.

I thrive on new situations and new places because for a large part of my life that was all I knew. I don’t know how to stay still. I can feel at home and I certainly consider where my family lives for home… but I don’t think it will be my permanent home. I want to live in more countries. I want to see more of the places I have read about. And make no mistake, when I can’t travel in flesh, I travel in mind. Thailand, India, Italy, Australia, Narnia, in my mind I have visited them all.

I read a lot as a kid. As much and as many books from remote countries and imaginary magical realms as I could get my hands on. I scoured the library and spent any and all savings on books. The pattern seems to be that the constant in my life was movement and imagination and travelling the only way I could at the time.

What “home” is to me then, are the people I love and the few things I bring with me wherever life takes me. It is the things I treasure, the values I have and the lessons I learn. It is the comfort and peace of mind I, like many other travellers, seek when we go abroad. Home is the paved road, the gravel path and the rough rivers that bring me to and from moments in life. Home is the little smiles, the warm fuzzy feelings of reunions and the knowledge that a small town as a home is in no way limiting, but inspring. Home is the roots of who I am and the safe and loving web of family who will support me wherever I go. Home is not a place to me, but a concept and a feeling, and to find the peace I seek while spending some months at home this is what I need to focus on. Wanderlust and a travellers “home” are often juxtaposed as people forget that where you came from is why you belong in more places than one.

 

 

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2016, Expat Life, Scotland, Studying Abroad, The United Kingdom, Youtube

MOVING HOME TO NORWAY : VLOG

A blog from our brief time in Edinburgh where me and Dan hiked up to Arthur´s Seat and then a brief flat tour as I was preparing to leave England after three years.

2016, Expat Life, Other, Studying Abroad

Oh, time how you pass too quick.

Hey, ya´ll. It’s been six months. I wrote a bachelors dissertation. Explanation done. No, but really. I have missed blogging and writing down the details of my journeys both big and small so much. There just hasn’t been enough time or energy or mental health left in me to do so. So let’s update you all on my life now, and then start the actual blogging again next week with a post about Dublin in February.

University
I finished university! I am graduating! I gave myself anxiety and a panic attack in the process but I got there! The past six months were draining. That is all I will say about the subject for now. Draining but in hindsight a valuable experience and definitely something to learn from. University has for me been a wonderful and adventurous time, but I am looking forward to the new chapter and new challenges.

Long Distance Relationship
So I have written a couple of posts in the past about my LDR and how to deal with the sadness of it. I am still in an LDR and still dealing with the sadness of it, but also the joy of it and the happy moments in between. Once our current four weeks of summer time together comes to a close I will share some of my other thoughts on the subject, because dayum, it is hard.

Travelling
I did a fair bit of traveling in the past six months, hitting up Dublin, Copenhagen, Rio De Janeiro, Eurovision and Stockholm, York, Scarborough and some home time in between lectures and seminars. Posts about all of these to come in time. 🙂

What’s to Come

I am currently sat in my flat in Newcastle upon Tyne, counting down the days until graduation and moving. I am not moving anywhere exciting, I am moving home. Home to family and friends, home to a job offer, home to help and grow and reconnect with everything I was so eager to run away from when I moved abroad. For a few months anyway 😉 In 2017 I am off again to new places and new adventures, hopefully feeling a lot more settled and a lot less confused about what I want to do with my life.
I don’t know what the future will bring, but the next six months are sort of sorted in terms of what I am doing. I will be graduating, I will be moving home to Northern Norway and I will continue the journey that is being 22 years old and down with a serious case of wanderlust.

Love, Cat xxx

 

Youtube

HOSTEL ESSENTIALS. Ft. My College Friend Heidi

We were hanging out in our hostel in Dublin and decided we should make a video together about what out hostel essentials are. For those of you who prefer it in a handy list form :

  • FlipFlops
  • Travel Towel
  • Padlock /Lock for Backpack
  • Eyemask & Earplugs
  • Comfy Clothes
  • Cleansing wipes & AntiBacterial Gel
  • Entertainment (Book, E-Book, Netflix, music, cards +++)
  • Universal Travel Adapter
  • Sleep liner
  • Flashlight
  • Water bottle

Hope you found this useful! What is on our hostel essentials list?

 

Books & Films, England, Youtube

Dreams Came True On The WB Studio Tour – The Making Of Harry Potter!

Earlier this year a dream came true when Kostas (a Greek friend of mine who takes amazing instagrams) and I decided to go down to London for a weekend to do the Warner Bros Studio Tour, aka HARRY POTTER EVERYTHING ERMAGERD HELP IT’S TOO MUCH. He hadn’t been to London for a long time so we spent  a day seeing the sights by taking the Tube around and popping up for cheeky selfies here and there. I’ve visited London quite a few times, but every time I go back it charms me a little more. A post of the what to see if you only have 24 hours in London coming on the blog soon-ish!


We opted to stay at the Covent Garden Travelodge Hotel, which came to about 30£ a night for the both of us, but gave us a bit more privacy than a hostel would have done. We booked our tickets to the studio tour through the Warner Bros website and our transport through Golden Tours well in advance and after getting on our bus on the day we were off!

After a pretty long bus tour that  showed informational videos about Leavesden and the studio we arrived and walked towards the building.  Seeing the big stone chess pieces outside and the Harry Potter Studio Tour sign made the butterflies spread throughout my stomach and for a minute I couldn’t believe I was there. For as long as I can remember I would watch the Behind-The-Scenes DVD bonus material and documentaries about how the films were made, desperately wanting to understand the magic. I  had dreamed of going to see the sets and now the day was here and I couldn’t believe it.

The experience started as soon as we were queuing to get inside, as Harry’s cupboard under the stairs was there for us to view. It was a little cupboard tangible and detailed. It was THERE. Right there in front of me.  I kept gawking at everything, wide eyed and  starstruck. As we walked into a little cinema and got to see introduction videos and little behind the scenes clip the butterflies stayed. And when the screen made way for the entrance to the Great Hall I marveled at the craftsmanship of it all.


We walked through the Great Hall and came into the big studio itself. Information, interactivity and complete fangirling came together and I felt like a hopeful little 11 year old again. It had been years since I considered myself a hardcore fan (the fanfic writing kind), but Harry Potter is what made me fall in love with reading and what made me fall in love with England and during the tour I fell back in love with it. Harry may not have been as cute as I thought he was when I was 13, but the magic was still there and the feeling of nostalgia was strong.

It’s difficult to imagine the detail that actually went into the films, even the many details you never see, especially in Dumbledores office and the Weasley Burrow. So many little things make up a set and many of them never even make it on screen, but still had to be hand crafted. The scale models, the concept art, the green screen techniques and the animatronic creatures were all amazing pieces of work within their own fields.  We got to wander through a scale model of Diagon Alley, complete with fully stocked shop windows and moving effects, which made my day, and then we got to the huge model of Hogwarts. Wow. I have no words and can only bow down to whoever created such a magnificent piece of art. Because there is no doubt that the Harry Potter films are art. People can argue “mindless entertainment” if they want, but they would be wrong. The stories J.K. created are beautifully complimented by artists within many many fields.

It was honestly one of the highlights of the year for me, but oh how I wish it was all real and that my letter from Hogwarts had arrived when it was promised. I bet I wasn’t the only heartbroken 11 year old who had to realise that she would forever be a muggle and realised it even more so when she found herself standing in front of 4 Privet Drive, wishing with all her might it was real and not imaginary.

I got a photo of myself in front of the Knight Bus and Privet Drive, got to walk through the wibbly-wobbly bridge from Deathly Hallows and drink Butterbeer, and even snagged a few goodies from the (arguably overpriced) gift shop. I did the whole tour, but I didn’t  wanted to leave.  I felt like I could have been there for hours upon hours, just wandering the sets and trying to keep my curious hands away from all the beautiful props.

We visited Leavesden before they had the Hogwarts Express set and they also have wonderful seasonal themes for the tours so I do think I have to go back sometime, but what an experience!  Have you been to the WB Studio Tour? What was our favourite part? 🙂 Xxx

Europe, Italy, Travel

Exploring Northern Italy – Tuscany, Assisi and Venice

With our base in Florence for 10 days we took the opportunity to explore other cities in Tuscany as well as Venice and Assisi. This seemed to work well as it allowed us to have a steady base, but also see so much of the nature in lovely Northern Italy as we crossed back and forth by train 🙂

Assisi

It wasn’t our first day trip, but it was certainly the most emotional one so this gets go first. We got there by train and local bus, but while we were there we saw quite a few tour buses so it shouldn’t be difficult to find a company doing trips there. Assisi is a tiny village in the Umbria region in Northern Italy. It is famous for being the birth place of Saint Francis of Assis as well as several other religious figures. For such a tiny village, it sure has a lot of churches (notably Church of San Pietro for examples) , and for this reason as well as visitors being able to visit the tomb of St.Francis it has become a place of pilgrimage.

Must Do: Walk to the very top of the village, next to a fortress of sorts, and take in the view. It is breathtaking.

It is a beautiful little village, quiet and traditional, despite the occasional souvenir shop. Or maybe not souvenir shops, but more like shops for religious mementos and figures. It was very clear that though small, it has been, and still is a religious centre. This said, I have never considered myself particularly religious, always believing in “something” but never God as we know him. A higher power yes, a man who created all of earth, no. I still had one of the most emotional experiences of my life when I entered the Holy site of St. Francis tomb. Laura and I  walked into the round room and sat down, a little way apart from each other. It was quiet and I thought of my late Grandfather and sent some thoughts his way. I sent some thoughts to my friends and family. And then I looked at the tomb and started crying. Not hysterically, and not audibly, but tears were running at a steady pace down my face and I felt so much grief. Overwhelming grief. Like the entire room contained the grief of centuries of people mourning the loss of the patron saint of Italy.  I won’t go into it more than that, but I will say this : I walked out of the room and out of the church and felt lighter than I had in years. That silent church room felt peaceful and safe and the emotional release that happened in it stayed with me for a long time.

Monterosso – Cinque Terre Coast

We were only going to go to the beach one day to relax a little by recommendation of Nadine (our host at the B&B) but once we got there we decided to go back for another day. Who knew that such a tropical looking and feeling beach could be found so far north?  Monterosso al mare is the biggest of the five villages that make up the Cinque Terre coastline. Now, we had spent so much time exploring other cities that when we got to Monterosso we spotted the beach and decided to just stay there. It didn’t help that it was very very warm for the season and lying straight out soaking up some sun seemed like the best plan of action. We enjoyed it immensely, despite me getting a severe sunburn on my legs after going for a dip, and I know I want to go back there and see more.  Only this year the Cinque Terre coast line and the villages along it have become the “it” place to be and now everyone who is anyone have explored the five villages and my Instagram timeline is all Italy. It has become evident that we missed out on some spectacular views, but that just means I have an excuse to go back. As if I need an excuse 😛

Venice

One of the cities we really were looking forward to visit was World Heritage Site Venice. The city that is not a city exactly, but rather hundreds of little islands that all together make up the rocky foundation of a city. Gondolas, the architecture, the picturesque river “streets”, it all came together and offered a wholly romantic experience. I didn’t question the honeymoon destination stamp for a minute, because everything screamed romanticised nostalgia and historical grandeur. It was gorgous, but quiet, if one walked out of the steam of tourist (the Norwegian herring in a bucket metaphor has never been more appropriate).

It also felt like a ghost city. We took a wrong turn on purpose and ended up in no mans land. Only old buildings and quiet waters. No life in the windows and no life in the streets. The historical grandeur was still present, but it became aerie. The emptiness of the vast city compared to what it must have been like was loud and intrusive, but an experience in itself. Venice was an odd mix of bustling tourism and absolute silence, but it was all together beautiful.

Lucca and Bologna

The other two cities we visited were Lucca and Bologna. Lucca is known in particular for the historical Renaissance city walls. We spent hours walking the pedestrian paths on the wall and enjoying the view of the architecture. When lunch time rolled around we had followed the maps to the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, a square that used to be an old amphitheater, but is a shopping and food centre today. We sat down at a café and spent time people watching, soaking up the smells and the sounds and the rapid Italian flying around all around the square.

Must Visit Tip : Piazza dell’Anfiteatro is a wonderful square full of life and colour, cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops if you go looking for postcards.

Bologna is another historical city, but this one is arguably most known for the use of arches in the architecture. Bologna is also the place of origin of Bolognese, but arguably not the Dolmio kind, as when we had some bolognese in Bologna it tasted heavenly. The food we ate in Bologna was as Italian as it gets and there were so so many places to choose from. If you prefer a menu in English some restaurants do offer that, but often restaurants that cater to locals more than tourists are cheaper so take that into consideration!

Our 12 days in Rome, Florence and Tuscany were some of the best days of my life and we couldn’t have asked for better weather or better hosts. Impressions for a lifetime, but just a taster of what Italy has to offer.  I can’t wait to go back one day, hopefully not too far in the future. Xxx

Europe, Italy, Travel

Italy: Florence Is My Favourite

After a couple of wonderful days in a sunny Rome we caught a train up north to Florence, the biggest city in the Northern region of Tuscany and the birthplace of the Renaissance. We stayed in a little Bed&Breakfast called “My Friends Guesthouse” run by a lovely young woman called Nadine. She gave us local  tips on all the best places to get food in town, told us about the little hidden treasures we should look for and helped us out with everything from maps, getting our laundry done and booking train tickets when the website was only available in Italian. The guesthouse is close to the train station and had such a lovely atmosphere that I would definitely recommend it to anyone traveling, but maybe especially for women, as it felt very safe.

We stayed for a week and a half in Florence, using it as a base for day trips out to  a number of different cities, but we also spent a significant amount of time exploring the city itself. With under 400 000 inhabitants it’s not a very large city, but it can boast with being one of the fashion capitals of the world, its historic centre (centro storico) is  a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it  is arguably one of the most architecturally beautiful cities in the world (oh how I wish I knew I would eventually start a travel blog and had taken more and better photos).

Must-See Tip: Piazzale de Michelangelo. Catch a bus or walk up to this lovely square that offers a brilliant view of Florence and the surrounding area, but make sure to bring a camera because you will want to capture it!

After being tourists in Rome, we needed a change of pace so the slightly less hectic Florence was just what the doctor ordered. Where we in Rome rushed around to do as much as possible in the few days we had, we took it rather leisurely in Florence and it felt like we were getting even closer to the authentic Italy.

While in Florence we visited the Accademia Galleria, home of the famous Michelangelo statue David. It was a lovely gallery, albeit a little underwhelming, despite David being about three times bigger than expected. We had to queue for a long time to get tickets and the queue stretched on for almost two  blocks so if I were to go again I would probably have gotten the tickets online (see link above). Another famous gallery in Florence is the Uffizi Gallery, but this one we sadly didn’t have time to visit. We did however see two of the main attractions: the medieval Ponte Vecchio (literally, “old bridge) and the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Walking through the streets of the historic centre where both are located is like walking back in time. Gorgeous, breathtaking, awesome, they all apply.

Best Pizza In Town Tip: Gusta Pizza  the best and most authentic italian pizza in Florence. They cook the pizza from scratch with good quality ingredients and despite being very very busy, this little restaurant is well worth a visit! Keep in mind that on especially busy times or days there may not be enough places to sit, but there is a piazza (square) right around the corner next to the  Basilica San Miniato al Monte which makes for a lovely lunch spot!

Though there are many things to see as a tourist in Florence, it’s not a city that screams tourism and it doesn’t take much to get away from the crowd. It doesn’t  take much to find quiet little areas that are imbued with a calm Italian soul and is rather busy just being a city and not a tourist machine. It doesn’t take much to go from city-break to small-town idyll and I loved that about Florence. In our almost two week long trip, there is no doubt in my mind that Florence was my favorite city by far and I can’t wait for a chance to return.

In between touring the ever-charming streets of this quintessential Italian city we spent our days exploring  Venice, Assisi, Lucca, Bologna and Monterosso on the Cinque Terre coast . We took local trains and it was a wonderful way of seeing a lot of Northern Italy, but not having to move around all the time. A post about our time spent exploring Tuscany will be up soon! Xxx

Europe, Italy, Travel

Italy: Sightseeing Rome & The Best Gelato In Town

Oh, Rome, oh Rome, how I love you!  Right after my Epic Ireland Adventure last year I packed my bags again and headed off to Italy for 12 days with my Brazilian friend Laura (the one I will be visiting in Rio de Janeiro next year whiii). Our first stop was Rome and we had three days to explore the city. Neither of us had ever been to Italy or to Rome before so we came open to any and all impressions and was delighted by everything we saw.

Our first day was spent doing general sightseeing and getting a feel of the city and the public transport. We quickly checked off the Spanish steps, the Trevi fountain with its surrounding cobblestone streets, the Pantheon and a couple of famous Piazzas (squares) from our “to see” list and of course we ended the day with a pasta dinner.

Rome is romantic from top to bottom and was made for wandering. We walked from place to place between the little signs around the city, reading maps and often just following the stream of people. We visited the city outside of the high season, but as it happens it was Easter so the streets were packed with religious pilgrims and excited tourists wanting to catch a glimpse of the Pope anyway, and the Metro was busy.

We quickly discovered that Rome is a tourist city. Everywhere there are streams of tourists visiting the top attractions and it takes a little walking to get places if you want to avoid the Metro. Walking the streets of Rome turned out to be one of the best decisions we made however, because exploring outside of the touristic paths meant we got to see a calmer Rome. A Rome slow in tempo and an everyday life kind of Rome, like the Trastevere district. I preferred the outskirts of the city to the endless queuing of the main attractions, for example seeing the Trevi fountain in real life and tossing a coin into it was a bucket list moment, but it was slightly dampened by feeling slightly claustrophobic among hundreds of other people doing the same thing.

Gelato Tip: The best gelato in town according to pretty much every local we met was the Gelateria La Romana. Mindblowingly tasty natural flavours and a really lovely warm atmosphere that doesn’t cater to tourists (with english translations and such) but instead comes across as authentically Italian – we ended up going back every single day we were in Rome for a tasty treat!

On our second day we headed off to the the Roman Forum, the historic city centre,  to soak up some history. As part of the Roman Forum round trip you can head up on Palatine Hill, the location of the ancient settlement that eventually become Rome and gaze upon ruins that looks straight out of Hercules. It was beautiful. It really hit home the magnitude of what used to be the Roman empire as well as the sheer “oldness” of it all. I touched a stone wall that was thousands of years old and it took my breath away.

Our last day in Rome was spent exploring the Colosseum and seeing the Vatican city as well as walking through the city for our last round of Gelato at La Romana.  We also wandered into Orange Park, a green area located on quite a steep hill that gives you an excellent view of the St.Peter’s Basilica. When we visited the Vatican, we ended up not going into the basilica due to the queue being several hours long, but we enjoyed exploring the grounds around it and the striking image it made against the city backdrop.

Colosseum Ticket Tip: Get your tickets to both the Colosseum and the Roman Forum at the Roman Forum entrance. The queue is about 3 times as long to get tickets at the Colosseum so we saved a lot of time! Another option is getting them online, just make sure to avoid the queue to get your tickets as the queue to get in also takes time!

3 days of exploring this historic city was not nearly enough time to get to know it properly, but we thoroughly enjoyed it and covered most of the major tourist attractions in only a few days. It’s odd how a large capital city can feel entirely quaint and not really large at all, but Rome did it.  I absolutely can’t wait to go back and sorely wish we had had more time there, but after Rome we headed straight up north to Tuscany and explored the region for a week and a half  – so we had no time to lose! A  post about that will be up next week. Hello, Florence,  you beauty! Xxx