Friday, 7 August 2015

Piza: not to be confused with pizza. Mmm pizza

In all of the travel magazines that detail Italy, they always recommend a visit to Pisa and having been here for a a few days now, I can definitely see why. There's just something about the place. It's bustling with tourists but still manages to maintain that modest cultural feel. There's a few things you should definitely do should you ever decide to pop by:

1) Check out all the market stalls. Full of postcards, bracelets, bags, hats, handmade jewellery, mini Pisas

2) Visit a quintessential Italian restaurant off the beaten track. It's usually cheaper prices as it's not full of tourists but you also get that true Italian feel.

3) Go to the top of the tower. For a bargain 18 euros, you can walk to the top and soak up the beautiful views and feel the slant of the tower whilst you're walking up it.

4) Take a stroll along the river. Not only are the views very Venice-like but the breeze really gets you from this point which is always brilliant when there's not a bit of wind anywhere. 

The view from the top of the leaning tower of Pisa- I just wanted to stay here all day.

There's nothing better than chilling out in the shade by the Pisa. Temperatures are soaring at the moment so it's a great way to hide away from the 40 degrees looming sun for half an hour or so.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Florence: the land of the beautiful

Despite its rich history, parts of Florence are surprisingly modern.You step out from the train station and it's almost like any other Italian city. But it's when you get to the centre and you see the Santa Maria Cathedral and the ancient streets that you feel completely lost in this whole new world. It's my favourite thing about Italy; the history of it is literally everywhere, reflected in everything that surrounds you. You feel completely immersed in another culture and that's what inspires me about travelling. You realise that outside your little bubble of a home town, there's a vast world out there, each part a bit different from the next. Florence has remained true to its routes, embracing its history and welcoming the millions of people that visit each year. Tourists everywhere take pictures of something so simple as a water fountain. It makes me wonder that if people from the other end of the world visited my home town, what would they catch on to and think was so different. Probably everything. You see, in this world, there are lots of other worlds, each completely different yet almost the same. 

There are street artists who are so dedicated to their craft that they sit there for hours at a time under the blistering sun. I complimented an artist who was painting small canvas panels of ancient streets from memory. He asks me if I'm an art student here in Florence and I reply with "oh I wish." We talk about the weather and his art and eventually I wonder off to buy an ice cream. That's what I love about adventure. Meeting people who are having different adventures, but still having an adventure. The fact is that when you pass someone in the street, you're completely unaware of their life story. But we're all aware of Florence's life story. Because it's been documented so heavily by us all. That's the beauty of it really- the people. 

Friday, 24 July 2015

Partaaaay: nights out in Foligno

The best food in the world
Italy really is home to some of the best food in the entire world. On the second night we went to this lovely restaurant shown in the picture below. I thought I'd really branch out and try the Italian cuisine. So I ordered a curry...before you laugh, it was some sort of fancy smanshy Italian curry I can assure you. It also tasted so healthy. Just the general atmosphere was enough for it to be an amazing night, but the company and the food, aswell as the great location and humidity made it a truly wonderful experience.

Dancity Festival
After the meal, we headed out into Foligno centre, where the buzzing ambiance certainly put us in the party mood. So instead of heading to bed at midnight, we went to the Dancity Festival which was bloomin' epic. Picture this: me, Chris and Shaun dancing with our arms in the air, bopping up and down and doing the robot to some music that consisted of bumbumbumbum. That was the night in a nutshell. But to describe it so simply would be unfair to describing its awesomeness. It was a mental night/morning and if you ever have the opportunity to go to a festival abroad, I certainly recommend it. 

Umbria Jazz Festival
A few weeks ago, we went to the globally renowned Umbria Jazz Festival where Lady Gaga was performing. I was just wondering around with Rita and a bunch of adorable girls and their mum toodled up to me thinking I was Lady Gaga! Their mum asked if they could have my autograph and I got this wonderful picture with them. 

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Oh it's a good life: relaxing summer days

It's a weekend. It's 40 degrees. The sky is a beautiful baby clue colour. There's not a thing in the world to worry about, except remembering to put your sun cream on. Unfortunately, I got stung by a wasp....twice. I'm not sure if it was two different wasps or the same vengeful wasp coming back for more. But apart from that little incident, my mood is literally on cloud 56. Well, it would be if there were any clouds.

Chris, Shaun and Zara came round and we played a game of volley ball in the pool: Italy Vs. England. Then we played our new favourite game, Smash Three followed by a good ol' relay race which btw, we won! 

Rita has to be one of the best cooks in the world. She brought out the loveliest food every single day. Today, we took into an assortment of organic, healthy, fresh Italian food either grown or made in Umbria.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Teaching in Italy: the best kids in the history of kids

It's a truly wonderful experience teaching at a summer camp with such a bunch of energetic, comical and lovely kids. It's also a wonderful feeling growing close to children despite a language barrier. It's just like I always say: laughter sounds the same in any language. It's simple acts of kindness, as Chris told me, that make all the difference. 
The Summer camp was 3 weeks long and every week had a different theme, culminating in the end of the week performance. The day was filled with an English lesson, sport, art, drama, games and surprise activities. And the occasional water fight here or there...

I feel so inspired to learn Italian and continue learning French. So many English people are so lazy when it comes to learning languages. It's great that English has become a global language but I think learning languages helps you connect with the world and certainly enhances your prospects. 

The kids have taught us so much. There's this game that's super popular here in Italy called Smash Three which is basically like volleyball but on the third hit you smash it at someone and if it hits them, they're out of the game but if they catch it, you're out. It's unbelievably competitive and addictive. These wonderful children also have so much energy: they can go for hours running around and playing handball or Chinese football in blistering temperatures. Being here has definitely inspired me to eat healthier. The kids have such amazing lunches of pasta with tomato and mozzarella or salad rice. For desert, they always have melon or chunks of peach. 

It's such an intense experience: we're up at 6am and camp starts at 8am then finishes at 5pm. But I wouldn't change it for the world. I feel so incredibly lucky to be here spending time with such a smashing bunch of characters. 

Monday, 6 July 2015

Umbria: the green heart of Italy

The funniest thing happened when I arrived into Rome...
So I step off the plane ready to meet Chris, expecting him to be amongst the guys holding signs. No Chris. So I wait at the side expecting to bump into him.No Chris. I ring him and his phone was off. So I casually sit down pondering what to do. About 10 minutes later, Chris rings me telling me that as soon as he stepped off the plane, his phone died. So he had been wondering round the airport for half an hour trying to ask people for an iPhone charger. One man sent him to the toilet! He tried to offer a police officer 40 euros to borrow his iPhone charger to which the officer said no. Eventually he found a nice Chinese woman who let him borrow her charger. Which led him to some random terminal bar where he had no idea where he really was. So I told him I'd wonder round and see if I could find him. No Chris. We eventually found each other having figured out that we were in completely different terminals. So all was well. We chatted away on our way to coach to go to the train station. I asked Chris where his suitcase was and his face dropped: "I left it in the airport!" So we casually legged it back and found it. Phew. When we were finally on the coach to Roma Termini, we chatted away and when we got off we headed straight for McDonalds to meet Shaun. Half way queuing for some chicken nuggets, Chris put his hands over his mouth in shock. We'd left our suitcases on the coach. 
"I don't know whether to laugh or cry" I said
"No seriously I wanna cry, my hair-dryer's in that suitcase."
We dashed back to the coaches but about 7 of them all said "Roma Termini" on them. We had no idea which one was our coach or if it was even still there. Eventually Chris saw his suitcase in the open compartment and we picked up our luggage. Wow. What a start!

Later, we went to this lovely restaurant opposite Zara's house. After our meals, Zara ordered a big bottle of lemoncello that you're supposed to sip as a liquor. So me and Chris, being me and Chris, decided it would be a great idea to shot it. About 10 seconds after we did, I ran to the toilets. Not the best idea...

This is my home for the next month. This beautiful wonder of the world. The green heart of Italy with its spectacular views and spectacular organic food and spectacular weather and spectacular local community. Spectacular everything really. I wouldn't change a thing about it. I'm staying in a small town called Foligno and it's the type of place where you can step out of your doorstep and feel inspired. I'm teaching children at a summer camp in Trevi and I'm so excited to start. I feel truly blessed to have been given this opportunity and I couldn't be happier. 

Sunday, 28 June 2015

The Peak District- Gold Duke of Edinburgh expedition

This is one of the most challenging things I have ever done. Physically and mentally. But boy, I'm glad I did it. You see, being me, I sign up for anything, thinking "ooo that'd be cool." Having achieved the Bronze DofE award when I was 16, I figured I would give the Gold award a go. It's so challenging because you're trudging through fields, rivers, forests, swamps and marshes literally all day. It's incredibly difficult to cast yourself in the mindset of "it'll all be worth it" because you're in so much pain and you're unbelievably tired. But I couldn't have asked for a better bunch of people to do it with. We've made so many fantastic memories and we all encouraged each other to keep going. Despite having a fair share of 13 blisters between us, we troopered on and all 7 of us achieved our Gold. 

We were incredibly lucky with the stunning location we were given; we walked around the beautiful Peak District, specifically Derwent Valley and Ladybower Resevoir. The location was the sort of place where you feel incredibly inspired and I guess, "at one with nature" as these fancy wildlife people so often say. But it's difficult because you're in the middle of nowhere, so we didn't get much wifi signal. 

The weather was actually sort of okay- I say "sort of" because I remember very clearly one night it started absolutely pelting it down and everyone jumped in their tents but being me, I'd just started cooking my pasta, so I had to rough it up and sit there in the pouring rain on an incredibly soggy patch of grass stirring my cold pasta that wasn't really heating up any time soon because of the cold raindrops casually landing on the pan. But it's the sort of memory you look back and laugh on. It's character building isn't it I suppose?!

All in all, it was an absolutely magnificent experience with truly lovely people who made it so much easier. Shout out to "team swaggy hat and hairbrades"! 

For those of you who don't know about the Duke of Edinburgh Award, you can find out more here.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Paris: the city of luuuurve

Plane conversations
Having woke up at 2am on Saturday morning for the flight to Paris CDG, I pretty much made a zombie look like an elegant ballroom dancer. I really wanted to do the whole sophisticated travel thing where you sit in Costa with a coffee and the Daily Telegraph, but I was so exhausted that I just laid across 3 seats in a random waiting area and played Temple Run to stay awake!

When I got sat down on the plane, this guy who looked about 20 politely asked if I could scooch over so he could get to his seat which was next to mine. I really wanted to make conversation, but I thought I'd play it cool and pretend to be really engaged in the flight safety card and those flight magazines which detail prices for the extremely expensive mini coca colas and kitkats. But the longer the silence went on, the more difficult it was to casually make conversation. I was sat there like 'oh my god Kate, all the bonkers stuff you've done and you can't even make conversation with a guy on a plane.' Instead, we just sort of smiled at each other occasionally. 
Now I wish I'd have made conversation with the guy next to me because it would have made much better blog material and I could have like, even got a selfie with him or something. 
So the moral of the story: make conversation with people sitting next to you on planes!

"All the bonkers stuff you've done & you can't even make 
conversation with a guy on a plane"

Promoting Bonds Beyond Borders in Creil Town Hall
Recently, some friends and I have set up our own international youth organisation called Bonds Beyond Borders with our contacts around the world. Our aim is to promote intercultural understanding and international friendships and to prove that peace and friendships amongst young people of different nationalities can always overpower conflict and hatred. We believe that young people have the power to change the world and as the next generation, we want young people to aim as high as physically possible and believe that together, we can make a difference in this world. We made a speech about it in front of twinning officials from England, Francce & Germany. At the moment we're trying to raise as much awareness of our group as possible, before deciding on our all important next steps.  I'm going to be posting more on BBB along with links to the website I'm currently making. Our ultimate aim is to change the world. 

"Young people have the power to change the world"

La ville de l'amour

We may have performed a kind of criminal act. Well not really criminal, but still a bit badass. We basically didn't buy tickets for the train to Paris, mainly because we were too busy legging it to make it in time, but when we realised the conductor was nowhere to be seen, we did what any normal badass would do and just not bother buying tickets for the way back either. So basically we got a free trip to Paris- not bad ey? We only had a few hours, but we managed to squeeze in all the typical touristy things in. We giggled our way through the tube journeys and took plenty of photos, before watching a few street acts and befriending a lovely woman Californian woman who was touched at English, French & German youngsters having formed such solid friendships. 

One big happy family
Throughout my time in France, I stayed with my friend Anissa and her absolutely wonderful family. Anissa has an absolutely incredible bunch of brothers and sisters and I felt instantly at home. I remember one evening, we all played the act-out-an-an-animal-and-everyone-has-to-guess-what-animal-it-is game, which probably has a shorter name but we'll go with it. Aside from it being an utterly hilarious game, I absolutely loved making everyone laugh at my crazy animal impressions. I'm gutted I couldn't have stayed longer; they're a beautiful family. We even watched the French Bridget Jones film and ate popcorn and Coca-Cola before falling asleep at the bit where Bridget goes to Thailand! It felt so special when Anissa said to me: "you bring so much joy to our family." That's something I love doing; spreading dollops of joy. It's an incredible feeling. Thankyou. 

"You bring so much joy to our family"

The festival
The Creil festival was an absolute pleasure to attend. There was an abundance of food and drink stalls with those samples things which basically give you an excuse to eat as much as you possibly can in under 30 seconds! Unfortunately this was the day that I left my camera at Anissa's and so couldn't actually snap any of the awesomeness. There was a bouncy castle to delight the little ones, but me and Finn, being the ultra mega mature 18 year olds we are, decided to just, yuno test its goodness. We basically spent 20 minutes giggling like 7 year olds and going "watch, watch!" as we tried different moves or flew down the slide face first. 

Some fellow Pendle-ers, Jordan and Becci performed at the festival and did everyone from the United Kingdom bloomin' proud. Together they form the duet Red Rain and perform in local bars and restaurants, and I've no doubt they can take their music global. Despite both only being 20, they are incredibly talented- Jordan plays the keyboard and Becci sings. They're the sort of musicians where you can completely just zone out and daydream at their beautiful sound. You can stay tuned with their journey on Facebook