Wednesday 27 September 2017

What I miss & don't miss from the UK!

Those of you who’ve been following my blog for a while will know that I used to live in North Wales, which I think is one of the best parts of the world. After living there for more than 5 years, I came back last Christmas (stealing my boyfriend Jason from his family!), and after a short time staying at my parents around Nantes, we moved to Bretagne for a calmer, simpler life in April.

It’s really funny because I remember a conversation that I had with my friends Laura & Ben (hello there, hope you’re reading this post!) a few years back, finding it hard to find anything that was better in the UK than in France. I guess I didn’t experience the British life enough at that point, and also, now that I’m back in the country I was born with more of a grown-up point of view, I have to say I was definitely wrong in many points!

So just for fun, I thought I’d do a little list of things I miss from the UK, and obviously, others that I really don’t miss. Don’t take it too seriously as this is only my point of view. No country is perfect, and I’m only sharing my own experiences, but hopefully it’ll be quite interesting and fun to read!

Things I miss from the UK:

  • The food shows, travel documentaries and Sunday Brunch. Don’t get me wrong, French TV is not the worst and I can definitely find some good food and travel shows, but come on, the UK is doing it way better! You can’t beat The Great British Bake Off, which I watched religiously, or the 3h long Sunday Brunch show that I could not wait to watch every weekend. Although in France they’re showing more movies on the regular channels, which is great, I miss these fun, inspiring, jaw-dropping shows that we used to watch in the UK. Little side note here: I’m NOT talking about British daytime TV! That stuff is the WORST!
  • How easy the paperwork is over there. Jason has a saying for that: ‘One piece of paperwork in the UK would be 10 in France’. And it’s so very true. Everything is crazy in France. There are so many organisations and companies that you need to sort things out with, and they NEVER communicate between each other. Plus, they seem to complicate everything just for the hell of it! We’ve had proper nightmares with the French paperwork that we didn’t have at all in the UK. Both of us being freelance didn’t help much though!
  • Shops like Home Bargains, TK Maxx and B&M. In France, or at least in Bretagne anyway, the only similar shop we have is Stokomani and it’s not that great. Food and shopping in general is definitely more expensive over here and we can’t find all the good bargains and cheaper basic stuff like we used to.
  • A good old fish & chips from time to time. As I said, food is more expensive in France, but you’re also getting better, fresher food so it balances it out in the end. But there are dishes and restaurants I definitely miss from where I used to live. I miss the burgers and mac & cheese at Hickory’s and the deals at Marks & Spencer where you could get a high quality meal for two for only £10. And I almost forgot to mention the amazing choices of granola, muesli and healthy cereals that they have in the UK. In France there’s almost no choice at all! The variety of food in the UK is amazing, but the quality is not always there though.
  • British courtesy and politeness. Yes, I do miss it. People are so much more polite in general in North Wales and even though you get some rough, grumpy people everywhere, I always felt that Welsh people were nicer, polite and people actually smiled at you for no particular reason sometimes. In France, most of the time, if you smile at somebody in the shop, they’ll look at you like you’re crazy or they won’t even pay attention. Don’t know which one is worse! Oh and French people never say sorry.
  • Food festivals in North Wales during Autumn and Winter! We used to go to loads from September all the way up to Christmas. The atmosphere was always amazing, we would taste delicious food, watch great cooks baking in front of us and we always leave with something very tasty and locally made.

Things I don’t miss from the UK:
  • Obviously the weather, particularly because I was living in North Wales! I remember a year where it was grey or raining every bloody day for the whole summer and I was DEPRESSED. But then you do get use to it, and go out and about even if it’s cold or raining because otherwise you wouldn’t do much if you’re waiting for sunny and hot weather before going out of your house. Also, the mountains in Wales actually look very dramatic and moody with bad weather so it does have a certain charm. But still, I ain't made for cold temperatures and rain!
  • The expensive council tax. I’d say that the rent costs are very similar between both countries depending on where you live. If you’re in more of a rural place, you will pay less per month, and our rent in the UK wasn’t crazy, however, £100 on top every month for council tax was too much and you really don’t pay as much in France. But again, maybe it was because of the area we were living in :)
  • And whilst we’re at it, the rows of cheap post-war houses with very thin walls and rubbish insulation. I loved the house we were renting out in Glan Conwy, but you could hear everything that the neighbours were saying and the insulation was almost non-existent.
  • The typical British food that is boiled most of the time with some gravy on top of it. I never managed to enjoy it! However, I would be happy with a very good roast dinner if it’s really well done. Oh and I HATE margarine and their ‘baguettes’ that had nothing to do with a real baguette!
  • Expensive car parks. I honestly don’t remember not paying for parking somewhere except for shops in the UK. And it’s super expensive! Whilst in Bretagne and around Nantes, in the space of 9 months, we’ve only paid 3 times for parking. Once in the city centre of Nantes, and twice in the city centre of Vannes. Any other places that we’ve visited, beaches, small towns, parks, galleries, landmarks, etc. parking was free. So refreshing!
  • And last but not least, I do NOT miss carpet. British people, and the old generation more than the younger, put carpet everywhere in the house. But when I say everywhere, I mean even on the stairs! Madness. We’ve even seen carpet in bathrooms and around toilets! I’ve always hated it, but I was surrounded by it for 5 years, so I never want to see an entire house covered in carpet again.

I would be so curious to know if you guys have some other suggestions? Anybody else miss something from a place they used to live? Do tell me!

Friday 22 September 2017

Palma de Mallorca

After a peaceful day in Deià, we woke up early on Sunday to catch the first bus to buzzing Palma. Didn't regret it! Palma de Mallorca is the capital and although it's quite a big city, it doesn't feel overwhelming to walk from the centre to the port as everything is concentrated around that area. We arrived so early that there was literally no one at the Plaza Major!

We started to get 'hangry' searching for the 200 year old café Ca'n Joan de S'Aigo in the Old Town but although it's not easy to find, we would recommend it to anyone visiting Palma. All the pastries look delicious and we were tempted to order way more than three! The traditional ensaïmada is to die for.

We then made our way to the Banys Arabs (Arab Baths), the last remaining muslim monument on the island. For only 2,50€ per person, you can't go wrong. A man was playing relaxing music in the garden and it gave a really nice atmosphere to the whole place. The area isn't very big though and you've quickly seen everything, but I'm glad we visited it. Plus, you can admire some beautiful and colourful buildings on your way!

We had to stop at the Catedral, also called La Seu, but as it was Sunday, the interior was only opened for mass and there was already a queue forming way before the time we were allowed in so we gave it a miss. However, the exterior is full of details and we stayed outside of it for a good while admiring them all and taking photos!

We walked aaaall the way to Portixol, with its sandy beach and windy breakwater, and when we came back to the centre, we were literally starving! Many places that I had a look at on TripAdvisor were unfortunately closed, but we found a café inside this beautiful art deco building called Horno Santo Cristo. It wasn't the most amazing food we had but still really good and we had plenty without spending too much.

Also, ice creams, obvs.

Before heading back to the hotel in Deià, we went around the Santa Catalina area and were surprised to find it completely different to the city centre. Definitely quite arty, modern and less touristy. The parc La Feixina was very nice (we almost fell asleep on a bench!) and we liked the view the Es Baluard was offering from the top of the contemporary extension. The museum was closing 10 mins after we'd arrived so we just looked at the installations outside. Quite refreshing!

We couldn't feel our legs anymore at the end of the afternoon but it was so worth it! Now we need to go back to Mallorca to explore other parts of the island ;)

A special thanks to Charles Marlow & Bros for this amazing opportunity! It's not everyday your client offers for you to come to Mallorca for a long weekend and to pay for the hotel and flights. I can never thank you enough!

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Portfolio Update - Tales from the Woodpecker Tree

Here it is! I couldn't wait to have the printed book in my hands, and I'm so chuffed with it! I can officially say that I'm a published illustrator, and that feels very good. After all, one of the reasons why I quit my full-time job last year was to pursue my goal of being a children's book illustrator. When I finalised Tales from the Woodpecker Tree, I realised that this was my first proper book, which is available on Amazon and in a few book shops in the UK. What an achievement!

I've already talked about it a little bit on the blog during the launch so I'm not going to annoy you even more with how excited I am (!), however, if you'd like to see more of it, you can head to my website ;)

And for the ones who missed it last time, you can buy your own copy right here!

Thanks to all of you for your support, and for those who already bought one, I hope you enjoyed reading it!

Friday 15 September 2017

Deià, Mallorca

On the first weekend of September, we had the pleasure to visit beautiful Mallorca thanks to my generous client Charles Marlow & Bros. Everything was organised by the team and Jason and I could not believe how lucky we were to have such an amazing opportunity! Charles Marlow always throw a party in the summer, inviting their clients and other local businesses, and they felt that it was time for me to meet the team in person. Exciting!

We flew out on the Friday and came back on Monday, which left us plenty of time to discover a few spots on this amazing island. Not only was I over the moon to meet the people I've been working with for a year and a half, but I could never get over how beautiful Mallorca was. When we saw the view of the coast of Deià from up in the hills, I said to Jason 'We're basically in paradise'.

We instantly loved the view from our hotel room at the Hostal VillaVerde and it felt unreal to gaze at the mountains and the sun going down on Friday evening. After a good shower and a meal at Trattoria Italiana (the best pasta we've EVER had), we were ready to go to bed early enough to wake up fresh and ready to explore Deià on Saturday.

Because we knew that we had the party to attend in the evening and didn't want to feel exhausted by 6pm, we thought it would be best to explore Deià itself as well as Cala Deià. We went up the hill to walk around the church and stopped for a while to take in the breathtaking view. We also really enjoyed walking around the tiny steep streets and petting all the cats we could find that weren't afraid of us (there were loads!).

Deià still feels very untouched and has a lot of charm because of that. We didn't see many tourists there and it felt very refreshing to be in such a calm place. The sun was shining all day and we were pretty hot walking around but to be honest, it didn't feel too hot and it was just perfect for us.

Cala Deià, a small rocky beach on the coast of Deià, is about 30 minutes away by foot from the town centre, so we thought it would be a shame to miss it and headed there late morning, just in time for lunch when we arrived!

We had the typical Pa Amb Oli in Ca'n Lluc and although it was delicious, I found it hard to finish my plate! We stayed for a while on the rocks, just soaking in the sun and taking our time before heading on the footpath towards Soller. We obviously didn't go all the way as it would take us a few hours, but we went far enough along the path to see the amazing view of the coast.

Honestly, the photos don't do it justice because when you see the colour of the water and the higher mountains far away, it's just so unbelievable! I've never been anywhere similar and it really blew me away.

The last photo shows Deià from afar when we were walking back. We then went on to have a great evening meeting the Charles Marlow team, eating and drinking the night away with live music in the background.

Stay tuned for the second part of our holiday exploring Palma!