Paris, Capital of Paris

10848639_10204704615968193_550734084656364956_o

Many people think of Paris as the epitome of French cities; a prime example of fine foods and haute French fashion, laced with stunning Haussmann architecture and a healthy dash of culture. It’s not untrue that the French capital is representative … Continue reading

31 Reasons Never to Move to Another Country

10922553_10155060217000284_6911673352655401157_n

Obviously it’s a terrible idea… 1. You’ll be forced to sample all sorts of new and exciting foods…   2. …and you’ll probably get fat as all the delicious food moves towards your mouth, like a moth to a flame.   … Continue reading

The Collier English Dictionary for British-American Translation

7383835386_3371d148e2_o

I have a few American friends and it’s fair to say that, on more than one occasion, things I’ve said have got completely lost in translation. My English accent has, of course, been admired by our transatlantic allies, but my … Continue reading

La Vie en Beige

IMG_1571

From the streetlights to café lighting, the buildings to the bridges, and all way down to the lighter end of a Parisian’s fashionably appropriate colour scheme. Paris is beige. The Palace of Versailles is beige. The Louvre is beige. The Musée d’Orsay … Continue reading

Ten Free Things to do as a Tourist in Paris

IMG_1594

Let’s face it, Paris is expensive. With some museums charging entry in excess of €12 a ticket, and the average meal (main course + drink) costing approximately €20 per person, not everyone can fund their dream trip to the City … Continue reading

British Expatations

wsmith paris

Oh the Parisian dream! When I was little I wanted nothing more than a Haussmann-style apartment overlooking the Jardin du Luxembourg and to take my obscenely small dog for walks along the Seine. I envisaged my twenty-something self rolling around around … Continue reading

‘My Little Box’ – My little beauty revolution!

Just a few of the goodies I've received, spread out on my DVF scarf

My Little Paris (not to be confused with My Little Pony…) is probably the most adorable and stylish company ever created. Much like its spin-off versions in Lyon and Marseille, the company deals in all things Paris and Parisian. Online, … Continue reading

The ELA List

brit

Being an English Language Assistant in a foreign country is entirely comparable to being a C-list celebrity. Going shopping, eating out or generally walking anywhere near your school at the weekend triggers a series of resounding “HELLO HEATHER”s and “BONJOUR … Continue reading

#JeSuisCharlie

charlie-hebdo-2

Je suis Charlie because radicalism and terrorism have poisoned the Parisian dream I have striven for since I was a child. Je suis Charlie because Paris is my current home and it came under attack. The events that occurred this week now … Continue reading

NYE in Gay Paree

Paris-New-Years-Eve

As the capital city of the most visited country in the world, Paris is a hot destination for travellers looking to celebrate the New Year (or Nouvel An) in style. In France, New Year’s Eve is traditionally celebrated with a simple but … Continue reading

What is Fluency?

fluency_anchor_chart_8

To the untrained tongue, fluency is the idea of speaking a language without error or miscomprehension. The mere sound of the question “Oh, so are you fluent?” strikes fear into my heart, because such a question would never be asked by person … Continue reading

Broke in Boulogne

Boulogne_billancourt

For the past two months I’ve had the privilege to live and work in the Parisian suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt. The commune is basically everything you’d expect from Paris (sans Tour Eiffel) except with 112,000 people squeezed into its two and … Continue reading

Send My Bag: 2014 REVIEW

SMB Tags

Send My Bag: The Hassle-Free Way to Transport Your Luggage Whether you’re moving to university or embarking on a year-long Erasmus adventure, you’ll probably be considering how to move all of your belongings to your new home. For some people, … Continue reading

Why LGBT People and Their Supporters Shouldn’t Boycott the Sochi Winter Olympics

Love-Always-Wins-feeldesain-open

Today, Friday 7th February 2014, saw the opening ceremony officially kick off the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, but as you will no doubt be aware the games have already been shrouded in much controversy and unrest, both at … Continue reading

Turning Back the Clock on Equality in India

enhanced-buzz-17784-1387137850-0

(Originally for Platform Online) Last Wednesday 11th December India’s LGBT community suffered a great blow when the Indian Supreme Court recriminalised certain sexual acts that it deemed to be “unnatural”. Back in 2009 the Delhi High Court overturned a ban … Continue reading

Out and About in Andalusia: Granada

441859_Granada_Spain

In an attempt to briefly escape the rain cascading down on Madrid for the entirety of the month of May, my flatmate and I headed south for a long weekend. Andalusia beckoned with its beautiful beaches, quaint cities and the … Continue reading

REVIEW: sendmybag.com

Send My Bag is a friendly, fast and reliable shipping service based in the UK that allows you to send baggage ahead and avoid the stress and sting of “cheap” airline luggage fares. Whether you’re moving between home and university or shipping internationally, you can send sports equipment or even pack up your life in boxes and cases to take the hassle out of travel. For £29 you can send up to 20kg, and for an extra pound you can send up to 30kg! That’s more allowance for less money than you’d find with the supposedly “budget’ airlines AND you don’t even have to haul it around with you. Genius.

So how does it work? First of all you visit www.sendmybag.com where there are all sorts of FAQs, videos and brief Twitter reviews outlining what the company is all about and the kind of service they offer. On the homepage you will find a Quick Quote calculator that allows you to calculate the cost of your desired shipment based upon collection and delivery destinations, date, and the weight of the item to be sent. As an example I have completed the form as I recently did for a shipment from Madrid (Spain) to Lincoln (UK).

Quick Quote Calculator SMBAs you can you see, for just £30 I can send up to 30kg baggage, and that’s exactly what I did. Twice.

When I first looked into using the Send My Bag service I was a little dubious about the security and reliability of the company owing to its relatively small size and the fact that I had never even heard of it, but I was not disappointed. My first shipment went absolutely perfectly and without the slightest hitch. My back-breaking 27kg suitcase was collected from my apartment in Madrid at 1.30pm (CET) and was delivered to my new address in the UK at 11.30am (BST) – that’s not even 24 hours! – and the service is fully trackable allowing you to keep tabs on your goods from door to van (to plane) to van to door. Well worth my £30 for an even more relaxed British Airways flight (I treated myself to a minor luxury for my final flight home).

My second shipment wasn’t so smooth sailing. Due to a minor computer glitch I ended up needing to reschedule my collection in the middle of the night which proved particularly difficult owing to the fact that I was flying out of Spain at 7am the following morning. Usually a rescheduled collection (due to absence) would incur a small fee to cover the driver’s return, however the Send My Bag team were very understanding and accommodating and helped me to rearrange a collection at a time suitable for my flatmate.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the only glitch, but fortunately SMB weren’t to blame. As I later discovered upon recovering my tracking number from Spain, DHL had somehow managed to put my box onto the wrong plane and it had ended up in Barcelona before passing through Gatwick and eventually arriving at East Midlands Airport. One whole week later, after a European mini-break, my box and I were ecstatically reunited much to the bemusement of the DHL delivery driver and thanks to the outstanding support of the SMB team who made numerous calls to DHL in order to locate my shipment and who then tracked it all the way to my house.

All in all Send My Bag is an absolutely fantastic service offering value for money, reliability and outstanding customer service and support. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to cheaply and stresslessly ship excess baggage abroad or to university. They have pretty much saved my life. 10/10, 5 stars, A+, 100% amazing. THANK YOU.

Click HERE to sign up and earn a 10% discount on your first order!

Check out my new 2014 review of Send My Bag’s updated website and features!

Majestic Marrakesh Part 1: Where to stay and what to eat

_selman_hotel_and_stables_marrakech_morocco7

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to begin writing about this, but way back in January I embarked on one of the most eagerly awaited trips of my life so far, and in the following weeks I was … Continue reading

IBIZA: La Isla Blanca

San Antonio, Ibiza

San Antonio, Ibiza

It’s astounding how one place can be so paradoxically exquisite and outrageous. Ibiza, the White Isle, la Isla Blanca, is one of the most stunningly beautiful places I’ve ever visited where white houses reflect the sun against a backdrop of glistening turquoise sea. At night the mountains form charcoal silhouettes against the lilac sky and the cool, white waves lap gently against the still and silent rocks. Yachts, ferries and cruise liners come and go from the island’s numerous harbours while onlookers catch rays upon the hot, white sand. 

Ibiza’s reputation preceded it and the combination of party and paradise seemed like the perfect end to my Erasmus year in Spain. It was everything and nothing I’d expected. It was every bit as crazy outrageous as I’d imagined, yet far more breathtakingly beautiful than could ever have hoped for. The parties are big and the prices are bigger with the average club entry fee rolling in at a jaw-dropping 40 euros; don’t even get me started on the drinks… Every cloud has a silver lining, however, and boy did I cash in on those silver linings! On island plagued by boisterously ignorant teenage British binge-drinkers, a British-born resident of Spain with a decent grasp on the language is certainly a novel and welcomed guest. If I had a euro for every time someone expressed shock/confusion/gratitude at this little gringa’s language skills I’d be…well I’d only have about five euros but that’s beside the point. Respect, empathy and a little cultural understanding can take you a lot farther than the Balearic Islands, but in this instance the gratitude of an Ibizan bartender for my speaking Spanish got me 24 euros’ worth of free shots. ¡Toma!

Watch this space for my Ibiza mini guide!

The Final Countdown (I’ll miss you Spain! But also not…)

Mario-Vaquerizo_54238534531_53389389549_600_396

DISCLAIMER: If you are Spanish and easily offended, it’s best to stop here. RENUNCIA: Si eres español y fácilmente ofendido, es mejor parar aquí. Exactly three weeks from now I’ll be back in the UK and probably attempting to navigate my way … Continue reading

Top Five Holiday Destinations for Foodies

turkish-flag-closeup

(Originally for Platform Magazine) My first double-page spread! (May 2013)

Dancing With Death

“Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter’s honour.” – Ernest Hemingway (Death in the Afternoon)

5651359746_c7e3676030_z

Part 2: El Tercio de Banderillas

It’s a hot May evening in the Spanish capital. The sun blares down on you with 30 degree (celsius) heat and a bead of sweat rolls down your back. Down in the ring the air is thick and dusty and two bodies are locked in a standoff. The banderillero, clad in glorious red and black, puffs his chest out and raises his arms in a fantastic display of alpha prowess; the bull scrapes its hoof in the sand.

A tradtional bullfight (Spanish: corrida de toros) is every bit as dramatic and flamboyant as it sounds, and it doesn’t get much bigger than at Las Ventas, Madrid. Last Sunday night I attended such an occasion in a bid to gain some insight into Spanish “tradition” and “culture” and it was simply something that I felt I needed to do. I’m no fool; I knew exactly what I was letting myself in for and, as expected, I despised it. However to a certain degree I couldn’t help but be intrigued by it, which begs the question: is bullfighting a dying art, or simply a barbarous blood sport?

A Spanish corrida is a drawn-out and sensual affair consisting of three parts. The first part, called el tercio de varas, allows the matador to observe the bull as it chases the thrusts of the pink and gold capes of the banderilleros. He observes the way it moves, reacts, its speed and its preferences before being joined by two picadores. Los picadores enter the arena and lance the bull from atop heavily padded and blindfolded horses, thus provoking an attack on the horse and causing blood-loss that weakens the bull. During the second part, el tercio de banderillas, the banderillos one by one attempt to plant two colourfully adorned spiked sticks (los banderillas) into the shoulder muscles of the bull causing further blood-loss and weakening of the animal but simultaneously provoking and further angering it. By the third part, el tercio de muerte(literally ‘the third of death’), the bull is exhausted and slowly and tortuously edging towards certain death. The matador re-enters the ring armed with a small red cape (muleta) in one hand and a sword (estoque) in the other. The matador, using his cape, entices the bull into a series of passes, flaunting his control over the animal and casually dicing with his own life. The third part ends with la estocada, the act of fatally plunging the sword between the bull’s shoulder blades, severing the aorta or heart, however the bull may take a while to die and therefore a coup de grâce is carried out by el puntillero who pierces the spinal cord, finally killing the animal.

What I witnessed throughout the “performace” was an animal, undoubtedly drugged and starved for days, released into arena to be ceremoniously taunted and murdered in front of 23,000 spectators in the name of tradition, culture and art and it was nowhere near as magnificent as I was lead to believe it to be. I envisaged a one man, one bull face-off between two alpha-males dancing to the death with nothing but sand and a red cape between them. I expected an equal and balanced display of nerve, power and stamina when in fact what I actually watched was an eleven on one attack which ended in the bull’s limp and bleeding corpse being dragged out of the plaza by three mules. There was no display of power, only cowardice, and certainly no respect for the noble bull. The matador waited until his cronies had weakened and tired the animal before he dared face it, and even during the first third the banderilleros would cower behind fences while the bull grunted and scratched at the ground.

Sitting in that arena surrounded by cheers of “¡olé!” and cries of “¡mátale ya!” (“kill it already“) I’d never felt more foreign and detached from Spain and Spanish culture, not even when I first moved to Spain and couldn’t get my tongue around the language. People were startlingly entertained by what they were seeing and the vast majority appeared to be seasoned regulars. The horror, anger and disgust that erupted from within me upon the first strike in the bull’s shoulders made it impossible for me to fathom how a person could get enjoyment from watching such a thing. I spent two-thirds of the “show” hoping that the bull would muster up some god-like strength and gore the matador right in the crown jewels. That would serve him right, right?

Ten days have passed and I’m still numbed by disbelief in what I saw, and particularly by the fact that I was sat in a full house (although I hear they’re not usually that full these days). To my eyes, I saw no evidence of a decline in popularity or indeed aversion, however this is just once aspect of Spanish “culture” that I cannot and absolutely will not get on board with. Is it a dying art? Or is it dying for art? I can’t make that choice for you, but I can perhaps shed some light onto why the ladies continue to attend…

l