Lively Lisbon

Kicking off 2016 with a bite from the travel bug, we left Marrakesh and made our way for a quick trip to Portugal’s capital. The rain created a biting chill that had us nuzzling further into our coats. It did nothing to dampen our spirits. With all of two days and two nights to enjoy Lisbon, we were eager to make the most of our time. After dropping off our things at the hotel, we made our way to the Rua das Portas de Santo Antão, A broad street lined with charming restaurants on either side, we were spoiled for choice. The weather conditions had discouraged many a potential diner, evident by the empty interiors of numerous establishments. Promoters stood in front of each eatery, using cheery smiles and tantalising description to try and lure us into their restaurants. We were won over by a charming elderly man who offered us a free bottle of red wine for our patronage. It was the best decision we could’ve made.

The restaurant, whose name escapes my memory, was a cosy set up with vintage family photographs and kitschy knickknacks that gave the place a homey feel. While we enjoyed our complimentary wine and waited on our orders, a talented operatic singer serenaded us. Her voice, mellifluous and haunting, was an absolute joy to experience. When the food arrived, she took a break and was substituted by a young woman with a voice that was just as enchanting. My meal, oven-cooked fish with baby potatoes, had the soft texture of butter. Its flavour palette was invigorated with spices and oven-cooked sliced onion.


Running on an essay deadline, I stayed indoors and worked feverishly while my friends went exploring. Thankfully, I managed to finish the work with time to spare. Meeting up with them in the downtown area, I have never been so grateful for Google Maps. Wandering through winding cobblestone streets, we skipped over the tram lines and made out way to the city’s imposing fortress.

Castelo de São Jorge, offering a 360˚ view of central Lisbon, has history dating back over four hundred years. Arriving at the castle a mere half hour before closing time, I made my feet work as I frantically rushed about, desperate to soak up as much as possible. Divided into two sections from the twelfth and mid-thirteenth century respectively, much of the landmark is restorative work undertaken in the 1920s, made necessary by a devastating earthquake in 1755. My favourite part of the castle was the wide courtyard. Lined against the perimeter of the fortification, the courtyard offered the optimal view of the bustling city below.


Even with the wind and the rain, Lisbon’s food, history, and wonderful locals made the trip worthwhile.

Good Food in Guangzhou

*Photos to be added soon*

Of all the sights and sounds we enjoyed in Guangzhou, I remember Nan Yuan restaurant the best.


While waiting for our table, we decided to wander around the space. A large koi pond sits in the middle of the area, dazzling fish shimmering in the light. From the marble hallway, a roofed veranda provides a comfortably sized space for groups of people to admire the pond. If you take your time, you will discover tortoise steadily moving through the waters, chasing after fish tails. Ornately carved wooden chairs were provided upstairs, offering waiting customers a luxurious siesta in the meantime.


In what felt like no time at all, we were seated. Fitted with a wall-sized television; many of the customers were captivated by the boxing match that it displayed. Our attentions were focused on more pressing matters – our ravenous appetites. We ordered enough to satisfy an army. Choi sum, duck, stir fried beef noodles, char siu pork was just the beginning. The food kept on coming, and thankfully our stomachs were able to keep up. Between the five of us, we finished the food, five large bottles of Tsing Dao, and two pots of tea in a little under two hours.


Taking a long stroll afterwards to work off the delicious meal, Nan Yuan was the golden standard for local eateries during that trip.

Magnifica Valencia

Visiting Valencia during the Easter of 2016, the cool weather and beautiful cityscape made my first non-family trip an empowering experience.

Our accommodations were situated just before the Playa de La Malva-Rosa, a pearly beach strip located on the city’s east side. Even with the brisk April breeze, walking from end to end of the beach became one of our favourite pastimes. When the sun came out, we enjoyed ourselves at a beach side restaurant. I’d learned enough Spanish to request an English menu, and minded my p’s and q’s in the local dialect as much as possible. Ordering a rabbit paella, we paired it with red wine. The meal was a feast for the senses. The rabbit was unbelievably tender, richly paired with complimentary herbs and spices.

Wandering through the city centre, the only issue we had was constantly reminding ourselves not to spend too much time admiring any one structure. Graffiti brought the buildings to life, and their complex characteristics had me salivating. Rushing through the city, it was surprising that my eyes actually managed to catch sight of a product in a window display. A pair of sunglasses, a white backdrop suffused with blooming purple flowers, called my name. And who was I to ignore its siren call?

Leaving Valencia, we began planning our next trip abroad.

Living the Leeds Fest Life

*Photos to be added soon*

Attending my first weekend festival at the age of twenty-two, I was not disappointed. Immediately drawn in by the fantastic lineup – Panic! At the Disco and Fall Out Boy each have a piece of my heart – 2018 Leeds Festival was something that I could not pass up. From the moment we stepped foot on the venue grounds, we were caught up in the feverish energy and enthusiasm that was radiating off of our fellow festivalgoers.


As expected, our days never started before one in the afternoon, and our nights never ended earlier than two or three in the morning. Familiar with only a quarter of the acts, I was exposed to many talented acts during our three days at the festival. On Friday, we struck audience gold at the cost of our bladders. But oh, was it worth it! Setting camp at the main stage all day, we were standing front row to brilliant acts. The Joy Formidable expressed a fiercely hypnotic energy onstage, even when they faced technical difficulties. Billy Talent was just as good as my teenage self remembered, spreading that Canadian joy and vitality to their loving crowd. The sun was setting during Courteeners’ set, adding an ephemeral twist to their already enchanting performance, which included live footage of the audience.


Saturday’s highlight is a tie between Fall Out Boy’s set and dancing at the festival’s legendary Piccadilly Party. Performing on a sloping platform that captivated the audience with stunning visual effects, the boys gave the crowd all the energy they could muster. We didn’t disappoint them. Fireworks and pyrotechnics added to the show’s unforgettable aspects. High off of the energy of their performance, I was in no mood to say good night to the day’s experience. Heading off in search of a party, I found one at Piccadilly. There, hordes of dance-fevered youths were jumping and moshing to the music provided by a DJ nestled safely in his dark tower. Switching between dancing and throwing my body against others’, I finally called it a night at five in the morning.


Sunday night met a perfect end. Brendon Urie brought in a refreshing energy to the festival, beginning with his newest album’s hit single, (Fuck A) Silver Lining. Alongside the typical bass guitars and drums, violinists, a piano, and saxophonists occupied the stage. And joy of joys, they performed a cover of Queen’s legendary Bohemian Rhapsody. Opting to watch Kate Nash’s performance to satisfy our twelve-year-old selves, the vivacious woman brought smiles to all of our faces. She even went into the audience, dancing and singing and crowd surfing with the best of us.


Euphoric from all the beautiful memories we’d made, we parted in good spirits and looked forward to the next festival.

Manchester’s Hogwarts

*Photos to be added soon*

With a day in Manchester before our flight to Dublin, my friend and I wasted no time in exploring the sights. Visiting such facilities as the Science and Industry Museum Manchester Art Gallery, we agreed that John Rylands library was our favourite.


Designed in 1889 in homage to the Gothic Revival movement, architect Basil Champneys’ vision came to life a year later when the stunning monument was opened to the public. A romantic way to honour her husband’s memory, Enriqueta Rylands ensured that the people of Manchester would not forget her husband’s name, John Rylands.


The interior negotiates between postmodern minimalism and Neo-Gothic love of intricate details. Upon entering the stunning building, you are ushered into a wide space with a colour palette restricted to white and slate grey, opening up the already considerable space. A sleek staircase leads you upstairs, transporting you back in time to Champney’s work of art. The most breathtaking part of his work lies in the Reading Room. Consisting of two floors of stunningly bound books, the long hallway directs your eye to a bronze statue of John Rylands, located at the end of the stunning space. Mirrors are provided to allow visitors to fully appreciate the ornate designs of the vaulted ceiling.


Spending over an hour in the library that brought our minds to magic and mysticism, we left with cameras full of classic beauty.

Hardwick Hall: More Glass than Wall

Even now, the flamboyant and spirited nature of Bess Hardwick is one to be admired. Born into a minor gentry family in 1527, Bess’ life unfolded into a series of personal tragedies that she never allowed herself to succumb to. Instead she persevered with grace and dignity, her situation and station improving each time. Over the course of sixty-six years and four marriages, Bess elevated herself from the daughter of a ‘gentleman-yeoman’ house to an exorbitantly wealthy businesswoman and close friend of Queen Elizabeth.

Located in the Derbyshire countryside, Hardwick Hall stands as a glorious symbol to Bess’ lifelong ambitions and achievements. “Hardwick Hall – More Glass than Wall” is a popular saying associated with the spectacular estate. It is more than a cute rhyme. All four sides of the three-storey building are neatly lined with grid windows. Back in the Elizabethan age, windows leaked out indoor heating like no man’s business, making the act of heating an entire home even more costly.

Following the disastrous end of her fourth marriage to George Talbot – the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury – the now Countess Elizabeth Shrewsbury moved back to her family estate of Hardwick. From 1587 to 1597, she supervised the construction of the two Hardwick Halls. Money was no object, and both buildings stand as lavish displays of this great woman’s wealth.

Hardwick Hall, a seven year endeavour, spreads over three floors. A pioneering structure, the estate was one of the first in the country to be designed by an architect – in this case, Robert Smythson. Diamond pane windows range in size between floors to delineate the purpose of each room. The interior provides no less of an affluent air. Set in the second floor, the Long Galley runs through the entire east side. Displaying tapestries and portraits with immaculate detail and a plethora of colours, these intricate pieces would have signified the depth of Bess’ wealth to all her guests.

The windows, both grilled and diamond paned, pour sunlight over the ornate decorations. And it is not only the wall art and windows that help Hardwick Hall maintain its classic style. The floor of the Long Galley is fully carpeted with rush matting. Handwoven and sturdy, plaited rush matting was a staple of Tudor households. Made of bulrushes harvested from reed beds, the dried material is interwoven with camomile, lavender, herbs, and wormwood to subtly perfume the space. When fraying, the matting in Hardwick is either patched together and reused or given new life as mulch for the garden or bird nesting support.

Standing at the foot of Hardwick Hall’s grand façade sits its gardens. A mosaic of rectangular courts, the gardens grow both culinary and medicinal herbs. More than being aesthetically pleasing, the vegetables and herbs grown in the gardens are used in the Great Barn Restaurant. During the months of July and August, visitors are able to sample all the flavours the garden has to offer with Taster Days. Great lawns dotted with crab apple trees have comfortable lawn chairs provided by National Trust. With a cool breeze running through the trees and plenty of shade provided by trees and archways, it is the perfect place for an afternoon stroll.

Continuing the stroll through the estate, Hardwick Old Hall hangs at the periphery. Only five years younger than Hardwick Hall, the old hall drew on contemporary innovations in Italian design. When Bess died in 1608, her son William Cavendish was left in charge of the estate. William resituated the family in Chatsworth, which became the family’s preferred seat over time. By the 1750s, the family commissioned for the partial dismantling of the old hall. Vulnerable to the elements, many of the original overmantels still stand to the this day. The ruins overlook an endless horizon of countryside on all sides. When construction for the new hall began, the old hall was still incomplete. This is not to say the first hall was abandoned. The two were intended to complement each other. And though it stands a shadow of its former glory, the remains of the Old Hall are still a sight to see.

Leaving with a neck sore from marveling at tapestries and architecture, I left feeling inspired by the sheer grit of Bess Hardwick, a remarkable woman who faced the odds and came out victorious.

Woolsthorpe Manor: Not Just About the Apples

Located near Grantham, Lincolnshire in the village of Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, Isaac Newton’s childhood home is perfectly preserved for generations to walk through and appreciate this little piece of history. Lush countryside surrounds the humble estate. A sturdy apple tree grows near the entrance, offering a sneak peek at what’s to come. Wild mushrooms with tabletop heads bend and flow, in much likeness of the mushrooms from Carroll’s Alice. Surrounded by all these natural splendors, it is no wonder Newton’s mind was a creative and expansive resource.

Before entering the quaint house, we pass by a pay-what-you-can bookshop. Located in the former stables, the timber-enforced ceiling, combined with stone walls and floors, create a space that is at once rustic chic and a perfectly cool oasis from the summer sun. Heading into the house, we headed right into the kitchen. Typical of most yeoman farmhouses, the kitchen had a large space that would have served as the stove – cooking area, and banisters above your head where vegetables and meat would be hung. Like the rest of the household, the kitchen was arranged with furniture comparable to that of the seventeenth century.

The dining room and the study were decorated with simple wooden furniture. Several windows peered into the rest of the estate. All of the windows were plain in design, offering unimpeded looks into the world outside. Most notable of these views were the ones into the garden. The famous apple tree associated with Newton’s law of universal gravitation lives on. By growing a tree with part of the original, Newton’s legacy lives on.

Not only is Newton’s tree preserved, but so are his doodles. What would have us yelled at by our parents is carefully protected by the National Trust. Sketches, carvings, and notes written on the wall have been uncovered by archaeologists over the years and fiercely safeguarded by the use of glass cases overlaying these historical gems. Newton was notorious for scribbling on surfaces and objects that were not meant for writing. His mind was a whirlwind of ideas, working too fast for organized thoughts of parchment and ink. One notable sketch, the first on the left, depicts what National Trust guides suggest could be a soldier, as Newton would have seen them marching by.

Setting our thoughts on Newton back down to earth, Woolsthorpe Manor was an enchanting look into a great figure’s past.