Thursday, 31 December 2015

Happy New Year! Have a fabulous 2016!

I started this new year with joy and happiness, close to dear members of my family and full of dreams and love in my heart. I wish you all to feel the love in your hearts. Whatever you do this year, remember to love and let yourselves loved. Start every day with the enthusiasm you start a new year, start fresh and give it another go each day. Don't wait for new years to have resolutions, do it every morning. Be happy for every sunrise for it brings you a new chance. Remember, there's no bad year, just a bad day, maybe. And when the morning comes, let your face be illuminated by light and your soul inundated by warmth. Keep the hope alive and follow your dreams every day of every year. 2016 will be beautiful if you make each day matter. 

N.B. I was wearing a QED London dress and a River Island collar necklace.


Sunday, 27 December 2015

Aren't the festivities over?

Almost Christmas ready

Warm lights

The festive season is quickly unfolding in front of our eyes and, although the weather keeps tricking us into believing it's Easter, I still want to take this opportunity and send you my best wishes and a warm hug for you to start the new year equipped with positive vibes. Christmas is now gone, it was short and sweet this year - I wasn’t in the most Christmassy mood, because I simply empathised with Anita who announced at the beginning of December she was having none of that stuff this year. Well, I put a few Christmas decorations up (very few, to have an easy task undoing them, because from tomorrow I will have to start preparing for work), I made my "sarmale" (and ate some), I met some relatives, I opened a few pressies, I offered a few… I did my part. I even wore a new Christmas jumper, all fury and fluffy and gave up wearing a cute dress. I now feel ready to put everything in order and I would even pass on any party to celebrate the New Year. It’s been a weird mood we had at the end of this year. Blame it on work, blame it on stress – we simply want these festivities gone without big efforts or drama. Tomorrow jogging needs to happen ( I devoured some chocolates that clearly left a mark, I can feel it), my house needs to get some TLC and I have to start organising things for me to commence 2016 with the right foot. I owe Anita a trip to Bristol in the meantime and I'm actually looking forward to our day together this week. She is too. We always get along ... when there's any opportunity for her to do some shopping in the process. If Mum pays, the day is great. I hope you are having a good time too, doing the things you like, relaxing, spending time with your family or simply vegging out. We all need to restore our levels of energy and enthusiasm to be able to dive into the new year's challenges. I'd like to know what you're up to, so please leave some comments. Stay tuned, for there might be another post about our road trip coming soon, if I manage to dig successfully through my five thousand pictures or so to select the ones I need to illustrate our adventures in Austria. Stay serene and don't let the festivities get to you.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Looking forward

I’m so happy to say “Hello!” to you again, my dears. I almost have the blank page blockage, considering how long it’s been since I last had the time to write anything. I have been busy living, my life has taken a turn that requires all of my time and dedication, but I am happy and thrilled. I was finally offered a full time, permanent job in education and I’m a fully recognised teacher in England, which has been my goal since I moved to this country. I didn’t have time to drink the champagne or go out for dinner to celebrate that, because I’ve been swimming in seas of paper work and climbing mountains of books to mark, but, hey, great things are great because they require all of your energy and achieving anything with effort makes it worthwhile and so much more gratifying.
Tomorrow is Christmas and the year is about to end. For me this has been the best year ever. I have accomplished marvellous things - I started this blog, I went on an epic, unforgettable road trip, I won a poetry competition with a trip abroad attached, I had all my diplomas recognised in the UK, I obtained my full time, permanent job as a teacher and I didn’t want this year (that my Mum predicted was going to be MY YEAR) to end without me taking the tests for my British citizenship. So I did. I scheduled it 2 days before Christmas, because that’s just so me: I couldn’t relax and enjoy anything knowing that I still had one thing on my mind. I left my house lamenting for my attention, I postponed the making of our traditional “sarmale” (stuffed cabbage), without which our winter celebrations are inconceivable, I took Anita with me promising her a fun day in Exeter and after a sleepless night, all packed with “Life in the UK” tests, we embarked on the train - my daughter’s most recent passion (yes, she finally overcame the anxiety of travelling by train and she’s now loving it).
The sun was invading the cabin through the train window and all I could think of was that it HAD to be a great day, I had to pass the exam and end the year positively. I arrived at the testing centre an hour early, I went in straight away, I took the test in less than half the time allocated, because I simply couldn’t wait another second. Then, there I was, out of the room, with the receptionist holding the paper with my result in her hand, telling me that it was her birthday and that she would get home in Southampton at 8 pm, where her daughter was waiting for her with a nice cake. “But ... did I pass?” I whispered timidly. Time felt suspended in the air for a few long moments and then she smiled gently and replied “Oh, yes, sure you did my dear!” I felt like jumping up and down with joy, but instead I continued listening to her stories about visiting my country 25 years ago and how awful it looked, how she had found our people hospitable and kind. Our conversation ended with me promoting my country, inviting her to go visit it again with the certainty she’ll find it completely changed, although in my heart I know we still need a century or two to get to where I'd like it to be. I couldn’t wait to grab my paper and run out to tell Anita the good news.
A big hug outside, as soon as we met again, smiles and high fives and then she switched quickly to "Lets' do some shopping". You see, she doesn’t quite grasp the fact that 25 years ago I was her age and I was coming out of an era when I didn’t even dare dream I could go out of the country, I could visit any place abroad, I could talk to people that were living outside our borders. She doesn’t understand that I accomplished a dream that seemed impossible and now I am/ we are a small step away (1800 pounds for me and her) from becoming citizens of a country I have always loved and admired. A memorable day for me, a day out shopping in Exeter for her. She’s relieved she won’t have to do all this “test thing” herself though and I’m happy I can spare her from it. I think she deserves to enjoy a serene, happy teenage, just like all her British friends and feel she’s equal to them in every way.
We bought a few items on sale, admired the shops’ vintage décor, enjoyed the Christmas decorations in Exeter, took a few cute pictures that I’ll allow you to take a peek at here and then the rain sent us home. Back on the train, back home, back to reality. I can finally relax for a couple of days and enjoy the festive season. No Christmas tree this year, but I feel I have baubles and fairy lights in me. Very few decorations in my house, but I sparkle inside. Happy festivities, darlings! I hope you had a good year as well and I wish you all a serene, tranquil Christmas, with your dear ones near you or in your hearts. My heart is full of joy and love and I embrace this warm feeling that I’d like to take with me in the year to come. I am looking forward. I’m so looking forward to all the other great things I’ll bring in my life next year, because I do believe it’s up to us to make good things happen if we strive and persevere. Ho, Ho, Ho and holidays to remember to you all!
P.S. I was wearing Wrangler jeans, my one and only Christmas jumper inherited from Anita who stopped liking it and an adorable little jacket from United Colours of Benetton that I bought in Italy. Casual for a day out shopping, accessorised with a big and heart-felt smile for a very memorable achievement. J

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Put your money where Switzerland is

Goodness, it’s been two months since the road-trip was actually happening and I had started to tell you a bit about it. It came to an abrupt end when I realized I wasn’t getting any sleep and I wasn’t enjoying my trip after all because of the exhaustion. So, I gave myself a break. And you. I hope you didn’t mind… although, secretly, I hope you missed us and my recount.
So, a short reminder: I had stopped where the narrative described to you our voyage in France. All nice and sweet. Nostalgia, hidden dreams I would live in rural France one day, anonymously and serenely (with the money I would ideally have earned from writing). Deep sigh and let’s drive on!
It was pouring down with rain the day we left France and headed for Switzerland. We crossed some mountains, had some road work deviations, felt a bit lost and silently scared. The houses began to change aspect, they were bigger and bigger, to the point where they became colossal and I didn’t understand the reason behind it: were these people living together with their huge extended families, were they all into tourism, what was it? It was an overwhelming trend though. 

The weather got bitter and bitter until everything got terribly sour – we got to the border and, straight there and then, had to pay the Swiss vignette for the whole year! YES, A WHOLE YEAR for simply staying one night! Swiss style, I was about to find out. In Switzerland, it’s all about the money. If you don’t have it, you’d better stay away. Just plan your trip around it.  One more thing: we discovered Visa wasn’t good enough for them! “Ohhh (in disgust), we don’t accept Visa!” How outrageously snob!
We visited Lausanne to start with and we were quick to do it because there were very few parking spaces and at 4 Euros per hour, you speed up your steps straight away. Did I like Lausanne? Would I ever go back and revisit it? Did I feel any buzz? No. It was raining, the buildings were massive and intimidating, the streets wide and impersonal, the shop windows bland, on the whole - truly uninspiring. Even Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) didn’t make me change my dismal mood. It was expanding there, hidden in the mist, unfriendly and a bit menacing - I felt - and all we had left to do was go back to our car. Shocked on our way back by a pair of flip flops in a shop window costing as much as our rent for a month, we thought “Wow, what sort of country is this?” Surely not one for us to hang in for long.


We arrived in Zurich late in the afternoon, after a  multi hour ride, gazing at the perfectly trimmed fields, in a perfect hue of green, surreal almost; we checked into our hotel and didn’t feel brave enough to get out of our room before doing some detailed research about how much they might charge us for the air we breathed. Okay, I exaggerate, obviously, but that day I felt fed up with this country. A good night sleep in a clean bed performed miracles, alongside with a sunny morning, because I woke up to a bright and vibrant city, charming little streets, beautiful churches, smiling people, some of them actually shopping in those terribly expensive shops where I didn’t dare let my eyes go in, let alone my feet. Yes, there were these awfully extravagant ladies coming out of the most expensive cars - chauffeurs regularly left outside to wait standing by the car, in their posh uniform - stopping for a chilled out shopping session, like you do… It wasn’t just one! I saw at least five, bang in the medieval inner city where I thought the pedestrian zone was. Clearly, the Bentleys must have a concession made for them: they are not cars, they’re vehicles to stop the fine ladies of Zurich from walking in their high hills on the cobbled streets of that pedestrian zone. OO These are supposed to be my eyes popping out of their orbits, if I were to make a comic strip out of this story. Ok, we’re not this lucky and never will be… I was lucky enough though to enjoy the lovely weather that day, to enter The Fraumünster Church and to admire the marvellous stained glass, to walk on the Augustinergasse, and adore the beautiful shop windows, to admire The Haus zum Rüden from the other side of a calm and crystal clear Limmat River. The most elegant men were walking nonchalantly, probably on their lunch breaks from their jobs in a bank, clearly, because otherwise what would they live out of when everything is so outrageously expensive!?! And I promise you, I didn’t see one woman or man that looked like they might have been a cook or a cleaning person, no way! They all looked like bankers and their posh, well maintained wives who live in the city with the highest standard of living in the whole world. It must be so! Go and see for yourselves. Zurich is worth visiting, I loved every corner of it, I would go back or even live there, if I could ever afford. That was it for me and Switzerland: hot and cold, hatred and love, quick and sweet. Never going back though, until they stop this absurd road taxing for a whole year with no intermediate payments or until I marry a banker. Au revoir! Aufwiedersehen! Adio!
Next stop: Austria. Stay tuned!