Lovely Ljubljana

Everything I’ve ever read about Ljubljana, Slovenia is true – it is an amazing little city and is highly underrated. I truly think it’ll become extremely popular in the next five-ish years.  It reminded me of the European version of St. Petersburg, Florida – in the best possible way. It is so modern, relaxed, fresh, beautiful and trendy.

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Cacao – superb gelato!

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Fantastic gelato-eating views

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View from Ljubljanski grad (Ljubljana Castle)

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Funicular down from the castle

We unfortunately only had a half day in Ljubljana (and the previous night), but easily could have spent a few days meandering and eating our way around the city. It is a very clean, small, walkable city with tons of beautiful, trendy restaurants and cafes.

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The impressive Triple Bridge

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My favourite thing about Ljubljana is how welcomed you feel when you walk around. Unlike most major cities in Europe and around the world, there is no separation between locals and tourists. There isn’t a “touristy area” of the city where tourists tend to eat and drink. You will find locals and tourists together all around the city.

I fell in love with it instantly and immediately got the sense that I’d be happy living there. Definitely worth visiting!! My only complaint is it is so difficult to get to. I wish there were direct flights from Dublin!

Next up: Bled!

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Peaceful Prague

There is no one in the world who is a more compatible travel companion for me than my sister. My sister, rather spontaneously, decided to book a trip to come visit me and attend my Master’s graduation, but also to spend just over a week of my Easter break travelling with me to Prague, Ljubljana and Bled. It was an absolutely fabulous trip and just what we needed, since we hadn’t really had much one-on-one sister time in a couple years. The trip was not without its bumps and was far from perfect (e.g., we found ourselves trying to translate items in a Czech pharmacy and sadly went to bed hungry our first night in Prague), but I wouldn’t have changed a thing (except for we would have liked to sleep in Bled, more on that later).

First up – highlights of Prague!

We stayed in a lovely, spacious Airbnb apartment right on the riverbank near Anděl for 3 nights.

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Dancing House

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Lennon Wall

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We enjoyed a wonderful lunch on the terrace of the Lobkowicz Palace cafe at Prague Castle and this was the view. While it is rather touristy, I would highly recommend eating here. The service was friendly and fast, they didn’t rush us and the food was really nice.

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Trdelník

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I still dream of trdelník! This is a Czech pastry made from rolled dough that is wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with a sugar and almond mix, with optional chocolate on the inside. If you don’t have an extremely high tolerance for sweets, you may want to split one of these with someone – they are huge! So so delicious. Eat as many as possible.

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St. Vitus Cathedral

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Malá Strana

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nakládaný hermelín (pickled cheese) @ U Fleků

While the pickled cheese was gorgeously delicious, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend U Fleků. I loved this restaurant when we walked in, but as soon as we sat down, we were put off quickly. They serve you alcohol without even asking if you want it and while I understand it’s a smart sales tactic, it’s pretty unfair when you don’t want to drink. The staff got extremely annoyed when we said we didn’t want the drinks, so that really ruined the experience for us. Having said that, if I had to do it all again, I’d still go back for this dish!

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Old Town Square – Easter market

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Church of Our Lady Before Týn

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Perníčkův sen

We were on our way to this precious bakery (cutest one I’ve ever seen in my life!) when we realised they closed in 15 minutes. We trekked across Prague to make it in time and to try a couple of their gorgeous cookies.

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Malá Strana

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Kampa Park

I had zero interest in seeing Kampa Park because these statues really creep me out. We had a good laugh when we accidentally passed through Kampa Park on our way back to our apartment.

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Jindřišská věž – Zvonice

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Sauerkraut soup

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Zvonice

If you go to Prague, ensure you go to Restaurant ZVONICE. This was by far our favourite experience of our whole trip, and we still talk about it on a regular basis. Zvonice is located on the top two floors of a Gothic bell tower and is an absolutely stunning restaurant, with wonderful views of the city. It is one of the most unique places I have ever eaten. The staff was incredibly friendly and welcoming.

We went for the sauerkraut soup and oh my dear Lord. To this day, it is one of my favourite dishes I have EVER eaten. Ever. Description: traditional South-Bohemian fine sauerkraut soup with roasted chanterelas, baked mashed potatoes and sour cream. Neither one of us likes mushrooms, but if you’re like us, don’t let that put you off. I’ve also read reviews of those who don’t even like sauerkraut and they still love this soup – I can see this being possible. I cannot describe this soup but I’ll tell you it’s an experience we will never forget.

When we were leaving Prague, we were squashed like bugs against the windshield of the airport bus literally next to the bus driver for 40 minutes because the bus was that full. We had to remain standing like that the whole time but funny enough, we found the whole experience quite amusing and the bus driver kept laughing at us.

Prague is a magnificently beautiful city and we really fell in love with the people and the Czech culture. We adore the city’s rule of no noise after 10pm in apartment buildings and really noticed Czech people are pretty much always quiet. You can barely hear any talking in restaurants! I loved this.

Next up: Ljubljana and Bled, Slovenia!

 

Best of Barcelona

I used to think teachers had the life – work shorter hours and get the advantage of having all school holidays including the whole summer off!? I never knew, until I began my career as a secondary school guidance counsellor (and teacher), just how badly teachers NEED these holidays. And shorter work days? HA! We never stop working. Constantly planning what we are going to teach in class the next day or the next week, etc. Work never leaves us. My point of saying all of this is: yes, teachers genuinely deserve the holidays they get. And I will admit, it’s an incredible perk of working in a school.

This past February, on our mid-term break, I decided to go to Barcelona for the first time. It was only for 3 nights / 3.5 days, but I can honestly say, to this day, it’s probably the only proper (relaxing) holiday I’ve ever been on. And I had doubts before going – did I really want to go to Barcelona? Whenever I think of a relaxing holiday and my go-to place: it’s Italy. It’s always Italy. I agonised before booking my flight, but in the end, there are no words to describe how happy I am that I went to Barcelona.

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Plaça Reial

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Yurbban Trafalgar’s Rooftop – my home in Barcelona

Dublin in February is pure misery. Barcelona in February; however, (at least the few days I was there) was heavenly. I know, I got really lucky! Though I deserved it, because the Irish rain usually follows me everywhere I go. I never saw a cloud the whole time I was there. It was 17 degrees Celsius with full sun every day, which is my idea of perfect weather (I am not a fan of heat). I stayed in the Yurbban Trafalgar hotel (shoutout to the lovely Nuria at reception!) and I cannot recommend it enough. It was absolute perfection. The location was ideal, the room was modern, beautiful and quiet, the staff were so lovely and helpful, the breakfast made me excited to wake up every morning, they gave free portable wifi devices to take around the city with you (!) and best of all: THE ROOFTOP!! This was the main reason I booked this hotel, because I knew I wanted to spend a good bit of my time relaxing on a rooftop. The view was a panoramic view of the city and you could see all of Barcelona from it. Since I was there in February, it was never crowded. In fact, I was often the only person on the roof (to my delight), but there was never more than a couple others. I spent a lot of time up there relaxing in the sun, defrosting my Irish bones, eating fresh fruit and reading The Penguin Lessons.

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Barcelona is a truly beautiful city and has everything you could ever want – beautiful sights, stunning architecture. friendly people, the beach, unbeatable food and gorgeous weather. I had the best time wandering the lanes and many streets of Barcelona in search of different sights and beautiful meals, but I perfected balancing this with a lot of relaxing downtime in the sun.

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Enjoying the golden hour with La Sagrada Família behind me

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Ceviche at Sabes Una Cosa

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Yurbban’s truly exquisite rooftop

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Part of my breakfast @ Yurbban Trafalgar

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La Sagrada Família

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The famous Pinotxo bar in La Boqueria was my favourite meal (and favourite experience) in BCN

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My seat was reserved for staff, but the kind lady took “pity” on me for being alone and took great care of me.

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Octopus salad – I never liked octopus before having it in BCN!

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Park Güell

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La Boqueria – easily my favourite market I’ve ever been to

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My favourite item at the market – the fresh fruit juices and fresh fruit!

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Gaudí’s Casa Batlló

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This photo does not do this meal justice, but it was stunning! Pa amb tomàquet (Catalan tomato bread); Escalivada (a Catalan dish: Roasted red pepper, aubergine, onion); Xoriço a la sidra (Chorizo cooked in cider) with a glass of cava @ Vinateria del Call

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Park Güell

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More of Yurbban Trafalgar’s breakfast

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Park Güell

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Suís con xurros at the famous Granja M. Viader – the richest hot chocolate I’ve ever had in my life! There was a queue out the door for this place and when I was there, I didn’t see another tourist, locals only.

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Park Güell

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Passeig del Born

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Golden hour on the rooftop

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Park Güell

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El Born

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El Born

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Plaça Reial

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Plaça Reial

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Five constructions workers enjoying their siesta

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Don’t know what happened to my camera the last few hours I was in BCN; however, this lovely meal was pimientos de padrón, patatas bravas and cava sangria @ Bar Lobo

Next up: My adventures in Prague, Slovenia and Tuscany!

Reflecting on 2016

As I write this, I have been awake for 33 hours straight and my head feels like it is swaying from exhaustion and jetlag, half of my heart is broken into a million pieces, while the other half is whole and my hands are so cold I can’t feel them. But I am still feeling so very blessed. 2016 was a year full of blessings for me, so I would like to take some time to reflect on my year.

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Flying over Florida

I feel like a lot of people feel that 2016 was a rough year, but I am not one of those people. 2016 was overwhelmingly positive and quite literally life-changing for me.

It didn’t start in a great way. I was in and out of agony from gallstones for 13 months and was scheduled to finally have my gallbladder removed on the 11th of January. I stupidly did not have private health insurance in Ireland (I do now – I learned my lesson!) and the public system is awful here. They cancelled my operation. Thankfully, a new team took me on and my surgeon fought for me and I finally had my gallbladder removed on the 24th of January. I never thought I’d be so excited to be taken in for an operation. Life without a gallbladder is glorious and I am so lucky I have not suffered any repercussions.

In April, I was very busy interviewing twelve guidance counsellors around Dublin for my Master’s dissertation. I thoroughly enjoyed this process and feel I learned an incredible amount from them.

In May, I surprised by sister by flying home for her college graduation. It was a very quick trip home, but so worth it. I will forever be grateful that I was there for this special day.

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I started Sean Nós dancing in July and in less than two weeks, I am moving up to the advanced class! After a 6-year hiatus from dancing, my soul needed it again. I missed tapping the most, so I figured I would try something similar (but also very different) and a style that would allow me to dance to beautiful traditional Irish music. Now I never want to stop!

I went to the Fleadh in Ennis. Enough said. (Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann is a traditional Irish music competition)

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I celebrated my 28th birthday in Oxford with my life wife – an unforgettable, perfect weekend!

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I visited my dear friend H in Galway for 24 hours and we went swimming in the sea – my first time swimming in the sea in Ireland!! The water was 14C/57F.

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For Thanksgiving, my favourite day of the year, my life wife and I celebrated with 21 friends in our apartment. This was our 3rd annual Friendsgiving that we’ve hosted together in Dublin and our hearts were warmed more than ever with the turnout and enjoyment that was had that evening. In 2016, Thanksgiving helped me realise that, more than ever, the support system I have here is truly incredible. (I still can’t believe we squashed 23 people in our sitting/dining room!)

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Two hours after I submitted my dissertation, I got a call for my very first “career” interview – at the best school in Ireland. I didn’t get the job, but the interview went well and was great practice for me. I got the second job I interviewed for and it’s the perfect job for me. I am so happy. I am so incredibly proud of myself for beginning my career in another country.

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I took this photo right before I went in for my interview – St. Stephen’s Green

I went to northern Germany for a long weekend with my dear friend H in mid-December. She is from the small town of Schönberg, where we stayed with her loving parents. They welcomed me and treated me like one of their own for the whole weekend and I had a wonderful, relaxing time. We explored 3 different Christmas markets together and this was my very first time in Germany.

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Weihnachtsmarkt Stockseehof

I recently found out that I passed my dissertation with no corrections… meaning I am officially finished with my Master’s degree! I was also invited to present my results at the annual conference for guidance counsellors in March.

I was able to spend Christmas at home with my family. After spending two Christmases away, it’s not something I ever want to do again. I am so grateful that I was able to fly home this year, especially since I just started my new job in mid-November (perks of working at a school!). I had the most beautiful time at home, though it went way too quickly. This was a family focused visit; I unfortunately did not have enough time to see any friends on this trip.

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Christmas in Florida – Shephards at Clearwater Beach

To elaborate on my opening paragraph: I returned to Dublin yesterday from Florida and it was a longer journey than it should have been. As always, I had to take a red-eye flight, which I despise because I cannot sleep on planes, EVER. Half of my heart is broken into a million pieces because I had to leave my family. All expats can relate to this – it never gets easier. Ever. In fact, I think it only gets harder every time. I rarely feel lonely when I’m alone, but currently do, big time. I miss my family desperately and especially miss the little moments with them. The other half of my heart is whole because I am back in my favourite place in the world. I never thought I’d say this, but I am really missing the Florida sunshine and beautiful weather because my hands are so cold I cannot feel them. How quickly I forgot how perpetually cold my bones are here thanks to the dampness!

2016 was a year full of blessings for me and I am really excited to see what 2017 brings. Definitely on the list: enjoying my last guaranteed year in Ireland, hopefully travelling somewhere with my sister, graduation in April (and my parents are coming!), long weekend in Italy with my parents and enjoying my last months living with my life wife/best friend. The rest is still unwritten.

End of a Chapter

Today, I ended a big chapter in my life and on Monday, I will start a new chapter.

Today was my last day working at the hotel, a job I’ve had for the past 25 months. On Monday, I start my career… words I never thought I’d ever say!

I am feeling very thankful and loved today.

More updates very soon.

Emerging Adult

I am no longer a student.

I cannot believe I just typed those words! I submitted my dissertation exactly one month ago today, on the 12th of September. I am only just now starting to feel some relief and am quite surprised it took this long. I was extremely busy immediately after submitting but as soon as I could, I spent four days in a row doing absolutely nothing. I literally spent each of those days lying in bed and staring at the ceiling and out the window… and it was absolutely glorious. It is exactly what I needed to reset myself mentally and physically because, as expected, the last two weeks of writing my dissertation were extremely intense.

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Exactly two and a half hours after submitting my dissertation, I got a phone call and received the news that I had my first guidance counselling job interview. My very first interview for a career-focused job… my very first interview for a job I actually wanted, not simply needed. I could not even believe the timing – I was on the most incredible high that day. The interview went well and I am very proud of myself, even though I did not get the job. I know there is something out there for me and I still have a very positive outlook on my job search. I’ve been spending my days applying for jobs, relaxing, spending time with friends and generally being excited about autumn’s arrival in Dublin. I’ve already enjoyed multiple pumpkin and butternut squash dishes with my lifewife/bestie and we started officially planning for Thanksgiving on the 1st of October.

Since I have finally had some much needed downtime, I have had a lot of time to think. I feel like I officially became an adult over the last month. It’s of course been a gradual process and much of it has been evidenced in my blog, but I feel it really happened sometime between the 12th of September and today, the 12th of October. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be an adult, and, while I’ll never really grow up by choice, I’ve thought about these changes in myself and it’s fascinating to think about. On my 21st birthday, I tried various alcoholic drinks and hated everything I tried and remember thinking “I will never drink alcohol” (this obviously changed). The same goes for coffee. I remember, in my early and even mid-twenties, my dad telling me that I would enjoy coffee one day. I smile to myself thinking that one of his greatest joys in life is enjoying a coffee with some sort of pastry or sweet. This is now one of my greatest joys and consider myself to be a coffee connoisseur. I used to laugh at my dad and shake my head when he told me this. I am also officially tired of not knowing where I will (physically) be in one year’s time. I am ready to settle somewhere and have a place I can call my own. I want to be able to buy things without thinking about how I will transport it across the Atlantic Ocean if needs be. I am also very eager to begin my career and look forward to the day that I am hopefully settled in one job that I love. Another very adult thought as of late: I have realised I generally do not believe in soulmates (though there are exceptions). When it comes to romantic relationships, I don’t think there is only one person on this earth you are meant to be with. I think it depends on timing and where you are in a particular moment of time. And I have realised that friendship, companionship and compatibility is more important to me in a relationship than romance.

I am excited to see how I change and progress over the next couple months. I cannot believe how quickly October is flying by! Things to look forward to: lots of time with friends, new Gilmore Girls episodes (!), Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving (our 3rd annual and it means the world to us that our friends are as excited as we are!) and hopefully going home for Christmas.

Oxford Birthday

I had the pleasure of spending my birthday weekend in Oxford with my best friend/life wife/flatmate. She did her Master’s degree at Oxford and I’ve wanted to visit with her ever since we met. It was everything I imagined and more and I can certainly see why it is her favourite place in the world. I was really impressed with how friendly everyone was and not to mention the obvious: the gorgeous architecture!

Highlights:

  • Staying in Exeter College – our accommodation was a room where Fellows stay, absolutely STUNNING and massive! It was honestly the size of an apartment and we had 4 different rooms! The light was incredible and the room was so quiet.
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Entrance to Exeter College’s Dining Hall

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  • Fellows’ Garden at Exeter College – favourite spot in Oxford, you cannot beat the views! Not to mention the privacy and the beauty. There’s not a better spot when the sun is shining.
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The view from the Fellows’ Garden at Exeter

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  • Cream tea at Vaults and Garden (located in the garden of St. Mary’s) – we didn’t waste any time when I arrived, we pretty much went straight to V&G for tea and scones!! Their house blend is easily the best black tea I’ve ever tasted. I already miss clotted cream…

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Vaults and Garden

  • Climbed St. Mary’s – the views are incredible! Well worth the £4 and the 25 minute wait.
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View from the top of St. Mary’s

  • Iced dirty chai at the Missing Bean – my first dirty chai (chai latte with a shot of espresso) and I’m addicted! Not to mention I completely fell in love with the Missing Bean – it is definitely in my top 3 coffee shops I’ve ever visited!

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  • Pimm’s at The Bear – such a great pub! We didn’t eat there but I was very impressed with their menu. A big step up from normal pub food!
  • Blue cheese burger at Turf Tavern – some of the loveliest outdoor seating areas I’ve ever seen
  • Bagel (with a gorgeous amount of cream cheese) and iced latte to start my second day at the Missing Bean – this place knows how to do coffee. Easily the best iced latte I’ve ever had! So smooth.
  • Touring some of the other colleges: Christ Church (the dining hall is unbelievably impressive), Merton, Magdalen (the gardens!!! most impressive grounds)
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Christ Church Dining Hall

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Magdalen

 

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  • Exploring the Covered Market and buying 3 different cheeses (Oxford Blue!) and fruit for our light picnic-in-bed dinner that evening (the weather wasn’t great and our room was so comfortable!)
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Perk of being an adult:  being able to eat just this (+ a baguette and a nectarine) for dinner!

  • Champagne High Tea at the Old Parsonage Hotel – K surprised me with this for my birthday. This place is absolutely STUNNING and this was my first ever proper high tea!! I was so impressed with everything about this place: the interior, the exterior, the staff, the lovely royal blue ‘princess’ sofa I got to sit on, the champagne, the tea, the clotted cream and jam, all of the sweet and savoury foods (except for the macarons). We were sickeningly STUFFED afterwards, mostly from all of the liquid… we each had 2 pots of tea!! I physically couldn’t sit up towards the end of the experience but it was SO WORTH IT.
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The Old Parsonage Hotel

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  • Drinks at The Morse Bar (in the Randolph Hotel) – we originally went just for a glass of white wine (we are poor students + we were still full from high tea) but while we were drinking our wine, we were watching Jose the bartender/artiste make cocktails for other customers. I’ve never been SO impressed by a bartender’s care and passion for making cocktails. We were intrigued by a certain cocktail he made multiple times – he carefully peeled a lemon and daintily wrapped it around the outside of the glass and propped it inside the drink and for the grand finale, PERFUMED THE COCKTAIL!!!! We later found out he was perfuming it with vanilla, but oh my goodness did this blow our minds. We decided right then and there that we had to have whatever that drink was. Best £13 I’ve ever spent! It was the Morse Bar Champagne Cocktail and was invented by Jose and I’m convinced it’s my favourite and the most unique cocktail I’ve ever had. It was visually stunning as well – very fitting for a birthday girl! “An outstanding pre-dinner fizz – combines Calvados Apple Brandy with Champagne and a hint of lemon and vanilla”

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  • Breakfast at Turl Street Kitchen – my first time having ‘bubble and squeak’! I had never even heard of it before and absolutely adored it. Great inventive way to use the leftover veg and potatoes from the previous night’s roast dinner!

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  • Tour of the Bodleian Library– I did the 1 hour standard tour of the 15th-century Divinity School, Convocation House, Chancellor’s Court and Duke Humfrey’s medieval library. Absolutely stunning and well worth the £8 – our tour guide was fantastic. It seems like they limit the groups to 15 people. Be warned: these tours DO sell out, so get your tickets in advance!
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Divinity School

  • Exhibition at the Weston Library – we went to see one of their special collections and it was stunning! My favourite was Charlemagne’s purple and gold manuscript (mid-9th century)… so unique!

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  • Exploring various shops (Blackwell’s bookstore and Blackwell’s art & poster shop; Pod; leather shops)
  • Lunch at Vaults and Garden – veggie lasagne (exquisite!) with a salad
  • Cake (elderflower and poppyseed // avocado and lime) and iced dirty chai at the Handle Bar café (formerly known as Zappi’s) – absolutely loved this place!! It is located above a bike shop.

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It was really relaxing to not worry about anything other than my next meal and to explore a beautiful city with my best friend (except for the fact that I almost missed my flight back to Dublin – details in my next post). I cannot think of a better way to start my 28th year! On that note…

Is it just me or does the jump from 27 to 28 seem massive?! I feel like I just jumped from my mid-twenties to proper adulthood. This is probably because it coincides with finishing my Master’s degree but still. As sad as I am that today is the last day of August (WHAT!? Is it just me or did this summer fly by faster than usual?!), I have a fire in my belly and am so excited to begin my career and see what this next year holds for me. The next few months will very much be a transition period for me. I was hoping to submit my dissertation today but am (hopefully just) about a week and a half behind…nearly there!

I am going to enjoy my last few days/weeks of being a student and my very last month of student discounts. The next time I post, I won’t be a student anymore!