My top 10 Academic Reads

“So, you’re at uni. What are you studying?”

“I study English Literature and Creative Writing”

        […]

Awkward pause (If I had named a Science/Engineering/Business degree, the pause would have been replaced with exclamations of ‘wow’, ‘that’s cool’ or ‘you’re so smart’ etc.)

Instead I continue with: “It’s great, lots of reading though! But I love it….”

The conversation of course doesn’t always go like that – just most of the time. But the funny thing is, I’m not lying when I say English Literature is lots of reading and I love it. I have thoroughly enjoyed it. So much so, that when I finished my last academic set-text two weeks ago, I didn’t throw a party and swear to never pick up another book again. Instead I turned to the long list of books I’ve accumulated on my wish list over the years and hit the library and book shops.

Studying English Literature hasn’t made me hate reading, instead, it’s only served to invigorate my love for books and I will continue to be the girl who has more books than anything in her room, who spends hours browsing in Waterstones, or Foyles. Of course, I won’t miss the heavy, rambling theory, essay deadlines and exams as much. Or the books I was assigned that I didn’t enjoy (trying to get through Lolita and Heart of Darkness to name a few were excruciating) thankfully the nature of my degree meant that I could skip most of those ones…

Instead here’s a list of my favourite set-text books over the past four years:

 

  1. The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin 

An ambitious novel of anarchist utopia, The Dispossessed is my favourite assigned text I’ve read for my degree. It was on the list of one of my favourite modules – Alternative Lifeworlds Fiction (Science Fiction and the Weird). Sci-fi and dystopian narratives are my favourite genre to read as well as write in, and Ursula K. Le Guin being the Queen of sci-fi, I’m surprised it took me this long to discover this novel!

  1. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde

I had already read this novel for my Extended Essay when doing the International Baccalaureate. Returning to it in my second year at uni, for my 19th century literature module only confirmed the text as one of my favourites. Oscar Wilde is famous for his personality and witticisms as well as his writing. With many interesting theories about art and life, I think the final line of the preface to A Picture of Dorian Gray, ‘All art is quite useless’ – is a challenge to the reader. For studies or just for a good read, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of reading The Picture of Dorian Gray.

  1. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz

This novel is the heart-breaking story of Oscar, who lives with his Dominican family in New Jersey. The novel is humorous, sad, moving and deeply poignant for our time, raising important questions about the tenuous historical relationship between the Dominican Republic and North America and the life of the Dominican diaspora in America. I quickly read Diaz’ other published works, his short story collections, Drown, and This is how you lose her – both of which I’d highly recommend.

  1. A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry

Similar to the previous title, I recently read A Fine Balance for a new module about Global cities. Mistry’s novel is set in an ‘unidentified city’ with many hints that it’s Mumbai. The long epic novel, is about how various characters from very different backgrounds come together in a turbulent time in history. A Fine Balance takes you on an emotional rollercoaster engaging you so deeply in the characters’ struggles its hard to put down, even through their most devastating moments.

  1. Accelerando, Charles Stross 

Accelerando is unlike any other science fiction novel I have ever read. It’s title refers to the speeding up of time and development of humanity as the novel charts three generations of a family into the future. Despite the complex themes and concepts the novel handles, I found it a mind-blowing enlightening read and will definitely have to revisit it at some point as there’s so much to get out of Stross’ complex, world.

  1. The Female Man, Joanna Russ

The Female Man is a  radical feminist, science fiction. It cleverly  deconstructs many myths concerning gender. The novel follows four different women living in parallel worlds. The contrasts between the worlds and the way the women’s lives intersect not only made it a dream to analyse but also a great read.

  1. Midnight Robber, Nalo Hopkinson

One of the great things about the Science-Fiction module I studied, is that it interested me to Afro-Futurism. In the future, seven-year-old Tan-Tan Habib finds herself travelling through time to an alternate universe version of her city called New Half-Way Tree. Recently I read this great article that says: “In order to find purpose and affirmation, a Black artist must undermine time and space as we know it to find a place for his or herself.” It’s novels like Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber, that achieves this and more.

8. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi

I don’t normally read comics and yet I thoroughly enjoyed Satrapi’s graphic autobiography. Persepolis is the story of Satrapi’s early adult and years in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. The comic is not only educational but it’s very clever in how it draws the reader in through the images to engage with the author’s emotional journey growing up in a world of revolution.

  1. Ilustrado, Miguel Syjuco

I tend to get frustrated with unreliable narrators, however the narrator in Ilustrado leads the reader deep into the lives of the two protagonists, Miguel Syjuco and his dead mentor. On the surface Ilustrado is a mystery, focused on Miguel’s search for his dead mentor’s missing manuscript, however this search becomes about so much more.  

  1. Bleak House, Charles Dickens

With over 800 pages, Bleak House is a trek of a novel, and yet it’s completely worth the read. It’s often described as the first murder-mystery novel. But what really sells the novel for me is Dicken’s unforgettable, hilarious and well-developed characters.

 

Some honourable mentions that almost most the list, and I would definitely recommend to others are – My Brilliant Friend by Ella Ferrante and Ursula K. le Guin’s short story, “Those Who Walk Away from Omeleas”.

My favourite discovery on my course was the incredible poet and activist Audre Lorde. While her collection “The Black Unicorn” wasn’t assigned to me, I thoroughly enjoyed writing about her and soon went on to read her alternative ‘biomythography’ – Zami: A New Spelling of My Name.

Being assigned books has meant that I’ve of course had to study books I didn’t enjoy but it has also forced me to read outside my comfort zone and there’s nothing like enjoying a book you wouldn’t have come across of your own volition.

What books have you studied or that were recommended to you and you ended up liking?

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New Years in Lisbon

 

Three years ago, my friends and I were celebrating new years in Cardiff, when we met some people who told us that every new years they travelled to a different country. Three years later and I find myself arriving in Lisbon with the girls, our fourth new year’s destination after Cardiff, Amsterdam and Cork, Ireland.

Over the years, we’ve learnt a lot…

  • Don’t book the holiday at the last minute. Travelling at new years is expensive and you have to be smart about booking club nights in advance.
  • Or don’t book a club night at all. This new years we planned to spend the special moment on the streets in Lisbon’s famous Comércio Square and then find somewhere to party.
  • Go somewhere warm… or as warm as it can get mid-Winter. Amsterdam was freezing and this year we were looking for somewhere slightly above 0°

With all these things in mind, we had a pretty successful trip. We stayed in GSpot Party Hostel, a place that is exactly as you can imagine it is from its title. They were fully booked on New Years Eve and had a nice programme all planned out for us.

We paid 25 euros for a 12-course dinner buffet, all you can drink sangria, and our own bottle of champagne to take with us to Comércio Square to see the fireworks. And in case you were wondering, the buffet wasn’t the usual standard hostel food – it was proper buffet that did not leave us disappointed. With their free pancake breakfasts and dinner meals that included, tapas, flaming chorizo, Portuguese stew and mash, it was suffice to say I kinda fell in love with the chefs at GSpot.

The atmosphere was amazing on New Years Eve. In the hostel we met people from all over; America, South Africa, Italy, Australia… It’s one of the reasons why I love staying in hostels, because of the cultured experience and opportunity to meet new people, even if its only for the couple days they’re in Europe.

The fireworks display at Comércio Square was amazing. It was fully packed though which meant that it was very easy to lose people and our group quickly broke up. Nevertheless, I made it to Barrio Alto, a street near the Square which has apparently been published in the Guinness World Records as a place with the most concentrated number of bars.

As most clubs were closed after New Years Eve, Barrio Alto was a place we returned to on the other nights and every time we went, we found somewhere with a different vibe and different music. Lisbon is definitely a great place to party, and the drinks were very cheap as well which is always a plus.

 

Cristo Rei (Jesus Statue) in Almada

During the day we visited a couple sites. We were nearly swept off the ‘Jesus Statue’ in Almada due to the rain and wind on Monday.

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Maritime Museum in Belem

Belem is a small town, just under an hour away from Lisbon. We didn’t have enough patience for the queues in Pastéis de Belém, a café with a 200 year-old pastry recipe that comes highly recommended. Instead we tried Portugal’s famous ‘Pastel de nata’ in a café outside the Maritime Museum after having a wonder inside, and it was still delightfully delicious.

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Castle dos Mouros in Sintra

On our last day, we took the train to Sintra, a beautiful resort town that has many beautiful gems like Sintra’s National Palace. As it was our last day we spent all our time exploring Castle dos Mouros which provided us with a great view of Lisbon.

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After five days the end of our trip came only too soon. The moment we stepped out into the cold English winter air outside Stansted I instantly wished I was back in Lisbon with its mild 18° weather.

What did you do this New Years Eve? Do you have any strange traditions?

5 Useful tools to begin the journey of querying

In January I finally finished a novel length project I had been working on since 2013. Soon after I managed to muster up enough courage to take the tentative steps into the world of querying agents and hopefully start the long journey towards publication. Writing is my passion and after finishing the novel project I felt many things; relief, happiness, dread (for the long editing process ahead), and excitement at being at a stage I had never been before – mildly happy and satisfied with the finished project.

I’m only at the beginning of a long process, just dipping my toes into a very vast, wide pool of which I still have much to learn. I still hesitate to call my finished piece a novel. I still have so much editing to do. And I still find myself thinking, what on earth were you thinking April!? – when I read through it.

And yet I’ve already learnt so much and couldn’t help but formulate a list of helpful tools I wish could have been at my fingertips when starting.

 

  1. Blogs and sites by authors and literary agents.

One of the best ways in which I’ve been educated about the world of publishing is from the horse’s mouth, namely blogs where literary agents reveal what they like to see in a query, their pet peeves and a place where they answer all big and little questions from; how long should I wait before nudging an agent about my requested manuscript, to what is the best etiquette when communicating with agents.

The blog I cannot recommend enough is by US agent, Janet Reid. She regularly updates her blog with a wealth of invaluable information about writing, querying and publication.

 

  1. Useful sites to help with querying

Kind of similar to my first point, here I just really wanted to promote another one of Janet Reid’s sites: Query Shark. This site is an absolute must for consultation when attempting to formulate your own query.

 

  1. The best and (least expensive) agent databases

How to find your own agent? – is a frequently asked question from debut writers. And here I’m attempting to answer; How to find your own agent through the most least expensive route? There are few sites out there that require quite substantial descriptions. And there are some that require none, such as Query Tracker.

Agent hunter falls somewhere in between the two extremes. It requires a subscription fee depending on how many months you want to use the database. However, I’d recommend it because the fee is quite minimal. Agent Hunter allows you to search for agents via genre, so that you can find an agent who is looking for novels like yours quicker than it would take to look by making individual searches of random agents.

In addition, it focuses on UK agents which is very useful if like me, this is what you’re looking for. And often the agent’s page on the site might have more information about what they’re looking for and what kind of clients they represent, than the agent will have on their own agency page.

 

  1. Twitter and other social media sites

Search, #MSWL in twitter and you’ll find a stream of tweets by agents tweeting their Manuscript Wish List of what kind of manuscripts they’re currently looking for. There’s also an accompanying website, with further information about the agents who are posting topics for their wish list. The only slight problem with this method of looking for agents, is that they tend to be American, which again is a positive or negative depending on what kind of agent you’re looking for.

 

  1. Your own book!

I conclude my basic list of advice with probably quite an obvious factor that helped me in looking for agents and querying, and that is of course my novel. The first slightly more positive rejection I received, in which the agent expressed the fact that she liked my query and sample but it wasn’t right for her current list, was an agent I found because she represented an author whose books were very similar to mine.

I think it helped to begin with quite a straight forward approach of thinking of books that were similar to mine, in genre or writing style, I then looked to see who represented them through google and finally, I checked if the agent might also be right for my novel and was open to queries. I imagined if my published novel was on a shelf in a bookshop, what books would be standing next to it?

 

Do you have any recommended useful tools for querying? Any particular sites or methods that have worked well for you?

Hometown Holland

Firstly, I’m aware that I have chosen alliteration over geographical truth in my title – I live in the Netherlands not Holland which is a small region in the country and not the official name for the country. And while my ‘hometown’ may not qualify as a new place I’ve travelled too, I’ve been feeling a lot of love for the Netherlands recently. So I thought I’d blog about the top five reasons why I’m glad that my family still live in the Netherlands and I can visit them in the Summer.

  1. cycling

This is what I miss the most when I’m living in England and studying at University. The Dutch are crazy about their bikes, something my family and I quickly learnt when we moved to the Netherlands in 2002 and our neighbours expressed their astonishment that at age 8 and 7, my older sister and I did not know how to ride a bike. This was soon remedied as my neighbours had my sister out on their bike, somewhat roughly, somewhat kindly, insistently teaching her the way to do it. I learnt the following year and then in secondary school, no matter the weather, (and I really mean no matter the weather, come rain, snow or hail) we were out cycling the fifty-minute route to school. It gave us the kind of freedom we would never have had growing up in South-East London. We could get ourselves to and from ice-skating and swimming lessons, meet up with our friends in town and even cycle home safely and easily after a night out without having to disturb our parents.

Years on and one of the best things about coming home is still being able to get out and cycle in Waalre and Eindhoven.

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  1. The People

Dutch people are very chill. And not because weed is legal, but because I believe it is part of their culture. They’re often described as being quite ‘blunt’, meaning that they’re very open and direct which can sometimes be perceived as a bad thing. Mostly it’s nice to be around people who say hi to you on the street, strike up a chat while you’re shopping. I remember trying on a coat in a shop and a lady coming up to me and abruptly helping me into the coat, sorting out the collar and declaring I had to buy it because it really suited me. When I got into a minor accident with my bike and a car, a couple cars were quick to stop, pull up on the side of the road and make sure I was okay. I’m aware that I’m generalising here, but based on my experiences, Dutch people are more often, incredibly nice and welcoming. Which brings me to my next point…

Waalre

Waalre

  1. Safety, NL is childhood heaven

The Netherlands regularly tops the list of the safest country to raise your children and I can easily see why. It was great growing up there. I had much more freedom to go out cycling and rollerblading in our neighbourhood without any parental supervision, something we would never have been able to do in London.

High-Tech Campus in Eindhoven

 

 

  1. The countryMy street leading from Waalre into Eindhoven

My family lives in Waalre which is a tiny, suburb like village, which means we get all the peace and qui

et that comes when you live in a small town, but we also reap the benefits of living twenty minutes away from Eindhoven, a much bigger town that has lots to do without having all of the intensity of a bigger city like London. In addition the small nature of NL means that Amsterdam is just over an hour train ride away, a city that is so picturesque it almost feels like no matter where or when you take a snap over a canal it always ends up looking like this the picture below; unfiltered, natural, city beauty.

 

Canal in Amsterdam

  1. Dutch pancakes

I have a confession to make; I prefer Dutch ‘pannekoeken’ to french crepes and American pancakes. Crepes can be too thin and small. Give me a thick, pizza sized dutch pancake with apple, bacon and cinnamon and I’m happy. Proffertjes – tiny pancakes are delicious as well.

Bacon and apple cinnamon Dutch pancake

So there you have it, five reasons why I’m going to miss the Netherlands in October when I head back to England for my final year at University.

Do you miss your hometown when you’re away? What makes it special for you?

‘Teaching my mother how to give birth’: a thought-provoking, essential collection of beautiful poems

I came across the name Warsan Shire through Beyoncé’s visual album, Lemonade. As I’m sure many others have been, I was intrigued to find out more about the strong voice behind the poetic interludes in Beyoncé’s album. I soon ordered Teaching my mother how to give birth and her poetry pamphlet did not disappoint.

From reading the quote on the first page of the collection I was already hooked. The quote is by one of my favourite poet’s, Audre Lorde. The quote, “Mother, loosen my tongue or adorn me with a lighter burden” comes from Lorde’s poem, “Call” and it is a perfect opening to Shire’s collection. Teaching my mother how to give birth explores the relationship between a daughter and her mother as well as touching on themes of identity, race, religion and migration.

Lorde is more than an apt figure for Shire to gesture too, as Lorde is something of an expert on writing about identity, race and feminism. She was a radical feminist and civil rights activist whose poetry and essays I cannot recommend enough.

The Lorde influence is clear, as many of the poems delve deeply into the experiences one has with their mother and the cultural tensions that come with being black in the Western world. At the same time Shire clearly has her own style and voice. Her poetry ranges from softer, sensual images, such as in, “Grandmother’s Hands”:

“Your grandfather’s hands were slow but urgent.

Your grandmother dreamt them,

 

a clockwork of fingers finding places to own-

under the tongue, collarbone, bottom lip,

arch of foot” (11)

 

And then, sometimes her poetry is colloquial, brutal, refusing to shy away from abusive sexual experiences and the harsh realities women face every day. Like in, “Birds” which opens with the line, “Sofia used pigeon blood on her wedding day” (14) referring to a woman who uses pigeon blood to hide the fact that she has already lost her virginity. And in “Your mother’s first kiss” which has the opening line, “The first boy to kiss your mother later raped women”.

One of the poems that I found most inspiring was, Shire’s three-part prose poem entitled, “Conversations from Home (at the deportation center)”. The topic of migration continues to be a central issue in the UK and Europe since the beginning of the migration crisis. Somehow Shire manages to adeptly explore a highly political topic through the art of poetry. The line, “no one leaves home unless the home is the mouth of a shark” is arresting and genius in how it manages to attack the other side of the migrant question, achieving one of the essential qualities of poetry; its ability to express political and dense matters in a beautiful, evocative manner.

As Lorde writes in her essay, “Poetry is not a luxury”, poetry is for some, an essential medium, a, “relevatory distillation of experience” that acts as a mouth piece for minorities; people of colour, women and in this case refugees and those who have migrated to another country due to dire circumstances in their departure country, and have experienced racism because of it.

“Conversations from Home” demands a lot from its readers. In part 4 she writes:

“Are they really this arrogant? Do they not know that stability is like a lover with a sweet mouth upon your body one second; the next you are a tremor lying on the floor covered in rubble and the old currency waiting for its return.” (27).

After reading this line I couldn’t help thinking of the recent image that went viral of a boy who has just survived his home being bombed in Aleppo, Syria and the many people who are so quick to dismiss claims that refugees have valid reasons for leaving their homes.

The final poem, “In Love and In War” reads almost as a warning: “To my daughter I will say, / ‘when the men come, set yourself on fire’.” (34). It is a beautiful, haunting ending to a great collection of poems that I find, like Audre Lorde I will now also be adding to my list of recommendations.

 

Lorde, Audre. “Poetry is Not a Luxury”. Strong Words. Ed. Herbert, W.N. and Hollis, Matthew. Northumberland: Bloodaxe books, 2000. 137-140.

Shire, Warsan. Teaching my mother how to give birth. The UK: Mouthmark series, 2011.

Goodbye Paris, Goodbye EU

Two weeks ago my parents drove to Paris to take me home. We had chosen the worst day and worst hour to move out as France were playing against the Republic of Ireland and the fan zone in the Eiffel Tower Park was crowded with hundreds of football fans. Nevertheless, we eventually finished carrying all of my boxes and bags down the seven flights of stairs, I said goodbye to my lovely landlords and to the small chambre de bonne in which I had been staying in for the past nine months and finally, goodbye to Paris.

I’ve had an amazing year. Paris is expensive and working part time as an au pair and having the Erasmus grant gave me some breathing space. It’s also meant that I’ve had privilege to travel to Ireland, Bordeaux, Valencia, Brussels, Germany and Italy from Paris.

IWP_20160207_21_00_22_Rich‘m going to miss a lot of things; seeing Parisians carrying and already eating their baguettes on the streets (back home they call them French sticks…?), the fresh bread, pain au chocolat, art museums, sitting by the Seine, the French brasseries, the crêperies, the tiny, but very chic Parisian bars where my and friends and I often ended up drinking over-expensive glasses of wine on the terrasse, being in the fan zone for the free David Guetta and Zara Larsson concert, the two girls I looked after, the Versailles gardens… even just having to constantly try to speak French. I think my brain will miss the extra challenge! But most of all I’m going to miss, walking down Avenue de Suffren in the evening, after a long day and seeing the Eiffel Tower light up and sparkle on the hour.

It was strange seeing many of my friends who chose not to do a year abroad post on Facebook results of their degrees and how they are relieved their dissertations are over. I still have to go back to Warwick for my final year and yet I know choosing to do a year abroad was the right decision for me. It wasn’t always easy, being in Paris when the attacks happened and my friends and I have had our fair share of disagreements with how some of the ways things are done at Paris-Sorbonne. But it has always been a learning experience, through the highs and lows.

For anyone considering doing an Erasmus year; if you’re looking for a bit of an adventure, a time when for once your studies do not have to be your priority, the chance to travel, to experience a new culture and meet people all over the world then I cannot recommend this experience enough.

We live in an increasingly globalised world where unlike hundreds of years ago, it is much easier for some people to jump on a plane and cross continents in a matter of hours instead of months. Growing up in an international school at Eindhoven has definitely shaped my perspective on how I view the world, but I think it was the first time that I travelled without my parents to Spain, for a volunteering camp where I helped Spanish students with English, that I first really caught the travelling bug.

I was devastated to find out on the morning of 24th June that the UK had voted to leave the EU. Two days before officially ending my Erasmus year it was very sad to know that in the future, other UK students may not have the chance to be part of the Erasmus programme anymore. In such an increasingly globalised world it seemed shocking that the UK were taking steps away from unifying with other European countries in terms of valuable trade and services, instead it feels like we are taking fatal steps back into our past stances of isolationism.

I don’t want to go on a political rant, however I felt that I could not write my goodbye post to Paris without mentioning the referendum. I of course voted Remain, and it seemed that most people in my social circle, young people, students and English expats voted the same.

Because I am:

  • An ex-English expat,
  • A student at Warwick University where a large portion of the students and staff are EU and international students,
  • An Erasmus student
  • And the grandchild of grandparents who moved from Jamaica to London in the ’60s in the hopes of a better life,

I voted Remain. I stand by that vote after Boris and Farage suddenly left their posts as head leaders of the leave campaign and several of their promises have revealed to be lies. I stand by that vote after hate crimes against immigrants have been seen to be on the rise in the UK.

I don’t think the EU is perfect and I’m aware that serious changes need to be made in the EU and in the UK; with the NHS and poorer areas of our country where unemployment is leading people to desperation.

I don’t think that leaving the EU was the right change we needed to make. And so I will head back to the UK in October, slightly scared and worried about the divided country I will return to. Hopefully we are only going through the worst of it now, and things will pick up politically and economically for the UK. Now that the deciding vote has been cast we can only wait and see. I am just thankful that I will have my many, warm memories of ‘Pah-ree’ to look back on when I return.

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Four days in Roma

Every traveller has that special country they have always wanted to visit. For me that place was Italy, mainly for the reason that I am a big pasta eater and never say no to an Italian restaurant choice for dinner.

So when I found out I would be doing a year abroad in Paris, knowing that France is not too far from Italy I knew this had to be the year I finally made the trip. Fast forward nine months after my arrival to Paris and the trip was actually happening.

Early on Sunday morning I set off for Rome, Italy to join seven my friends in Campo de’ Fiori, just south of Plaza Novana. I was immediately impressed and enchanted with Rome. I had expected crowds of tourists on every street and a bustling city for the capital of Italy. Instead Rome was a smaller and more village-like than I expected with endless beautiful narrow streets and a quaint, calm atmosphere. Except for the bus we took from station Termini to Campo de’ Fiori we were able to easily walk to all of our destinations.

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At the Vatican and Colosseum, we were of course faced with the crowds of tourists, it being June. However, we had come prepared by booking our tickets online which meant we were able to skip the long queue. For the Vatican I would recommend booking tickets with their official website as they are cheaper than the Rome-Museum site, which I would advise to use for the Colosseum.

The Vatican and Sistine Chapel were stunning. The real treat was being able to go almost straight into St. Peter’s Basilica next door which has to be one of the most impressive, grand religious buildings I have ever been in. The photos cannot do justice to the actual experience of entering the church.

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The Colosseum was just as amazing. Instead of grandeur it was the history behind the monument that intrigued us. As the guided tours were quite expensive, averaging at 18 euros per person we brought a 5-euro guide book from a bookshop inside the Colosseum and this provided us with plenty of the gruesome facts of the many fights and killings that had taken place there.

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The food was of course delicious. My mother warned me not to get my hopes up as I rattled on about finally trying an authentic Italian pasta. Nevertheless, I was not disappointed with my first meal; Pasta allo Scoglio (Pasta with shellfish). The bruschetta was a lovely starter and for the main, the tomatoes tasted fresher and so did the spaghetti. It may have been due to my naiveté and sheer excitement but it felt like I could taste the fact that the spaghetti was homemade.

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The restaurant was in a lovely square near our Air BnB apartment and we could hear beautiful music being played in the background. Instead of cringing as I usually did when another singer or accordion player stepped on the metros in Paris, the street music we continually came across in Rome was more pleasing and subtle.

As quite a large group of English speaking girls we were often victims to the Italian waiters who are eager to fill their restaurants. However, their attention was mostly charming and we were often offered free prosecco. Everyone we spoke too was nice and helpful. Eventually I stopped being thrown into temporary panic every time an Italian person said the word prego – a word that seems to mean everything from ‘your welcome’ to ‘there you go’ and just learned to simply smile and say it back.

A mid-day gelato break quickly became a routine, as way to take a break from the 30 degree heat and relax before continuing with exploring. The best gelato I had was on the last day when we stumbled on the sight of a massive slab of chocolate in a shop window. On the corner of Via S. Simone, Gelateria del Teatro prepare their ice cream behind a massive window that allows us to see how they make it. Once hooked we walked inside to discover a wealth of delicious favours. My lemon cheesecake, garden sage and raspberry and passion fruit gelato was by far the best of the trip.

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On Wednesday I was very sad to be leaving Rome. I had enjoyed seeing the major sites such as the Pantheon and Fountain de Trevi as much as the long walks we took through the Trastevere area and in Villa Borghese. I can’t wait to return to Italy, maybe to Florence or Venice next…

What is your ideal travel destination?