The musings and misadventures of a girl unprepared

Friday, 30 August 2013

Madeira and the Canary Islands

Our first four port days were spent in Madeira, an autonomous nation of Portugal, and a few of the Canary Islands: La Palma, Tenerife and Gran Canaria. 

Madeira was our first port of call and a welcome venture for someone who isn't used to staying in one small space for days at a time. Although there are hints of the tourist industry creeping in, as in most Islands with a tropical-esk climate, it has not yet completely taken over. Whether pottering around the more central area or exploring a little further out, you could really get the authentic Portuguese flavour of the region. New builds are sandwiched between older constructions and it is easy to wander from one of the bright and spacious main squares into the higgledy-piggledy maze of winding side streets, giving the whole place a rather homey feel, as opposed to the common clinical and uniform feeling that is slowly encroaching on many major cities.

I just love this pic :)

The fish market that Stephen insisted on visiting... ew ew ewwwwwww!

Chilling with the Aurora.

My favourite street was a little way out, on which each resident had painted their front door with various different images. It seemed to be in celebration of something, since they were all signed and dated around the same time, but unfortunately we couldn't work out what it was. Here are my top three...

Oh and I don't know if you were watching the news around 15th August, but Madeira was actually on fire on that day we visited. It was kinda crazy actually, I couldn't help worrying about the locals as we watched the flames growing and spreading throughout the day.

Pretty scary eh?

The siblings, Grandad and I spent very little time on shore in La Palma because we're massive wimps and just couldn't take the intense 38 degree heat. All we could manage was a little while on a volcanic beach with BLACK sand (which was kinda cool but extremely hot underfoot!) before heading back to the ship to cool off in the pool. Dad and Stephen did report that it was quite a lovely little place, less touristy than the other Canaries and insanely cheap. I also got told off by a good friend for not exploring the volcanoes in the area at all, apparently they make for some really interesting excursions.

My one picture from the beach in La Palma, not too shabby really.

My absolute favourite day of the entire holiday was the day that we spent at the Siam Water Park in Tenerife. I'm a big fan of water and swimming anyway, but this park was just fantastic. There was absolutely no stone left un-turned when it came to attention to detail and the slides were perfect for an adrenaline junkie such as myself. There was even one where you went under a shark tank in a dingy! And the wave pool was EPIC. My only complaint was that we didn't get long enough there, which really isn't much of a complaint at all.

Aren't we just the coolest?

It was SO BIG. That slide in the background was literally like 40ft high!

I think I'm correct in saying that Gran Canaria is my Dad's favourite place in the world. It's where he and Stephen want to retire to and I can see why. It wouldn't be my first choice, it's a perfect spot for people who just want to chill out in the day and party at night. Plus although the new part of town isn't particularly unique or exciting, the old bit really is beautiful and the weather is apparently fab all year round.

We went to visit the Cathedral and paid just €2.50 to climb to the top of the tower. The view of the city was pretty incredible and really colourful. I like me a good view, so we spent quite a while up top taking pictures, though the top of the tower was rather a tight squeeze, so maybe plan your visit before a meal time ;)

This picture doesn't really do it justice, but you get the idea.

'Let's do a silly one!'

After that we strolled around a few of the shops, spending a little too long in a children's toy shop because the air conditioning was just that good. Us Brits really aren't built for extreme heat. Honestly, I found myself praying for rain at this point, much to my Dad's disapproval. I don't even burn like my ginger relatives - heh heh heh - I'm just not a big fan of skimpy clothing (see above) which makes for some difficult compromises on extra warm days.

I rather enjoyed all these taster sessions, it gives me an idea of where I'd like to revisit in the future. On to another sea day before the day I am most anticipating... our final stop in Lisbon!

Saturday, 24 August 2013


It seems that being at sea makes it incredibly difficult to connect to the internet, thus causing problems on the blogging front. But never fear, I have been writing about my experiences as the days went by so I can share them with you now I'm back. You simply have to pretend that I've only just gone away, ok? Brilliant.

I should probably start off with pointing out how cruising (if you haven't already guessed) wouldn't usually be my first choice for a getaway, owing to the restraints on time for exploring and the excessive amount of organised fun. However when my grandad asked if we'd like to go away with him, I was hardly going to turn down the chance for some quality family time, let alone a free trip to five places I've never visited before.

The Aurora! My temporary home :)

After an extremely early get up we finally arrived in Southampton to set sail at 4.30. I've quickly had to adjust to the importance of promptuity during sea travel. Not just for sailaways but also for on board activities and meal times; my fashionably late-ness isn't so fashionable on here it seems. 

The average age of the passengers is probably around late 40s/early 50s, so as you can imagine, me, Rach and Josh are in a bit of a minority (Rach being 19 and Josh, 17). We're trying to convince Josh to give the kids club a go, though maybe calling it the 'kids' club isn't the best persuasive tactic we could use... Luckily we are all quite introverted at some level and get on pretty well, so really I have no quarms about whether or not we meet other passengers. Usually I love to make friends and get to know other people's back stories etc, but since everyone on this ship is English and rather posh, I'm happy spending time in the company of my own family :)

Our first three days have been at sea, the majority of our time being consumed by swimming, sunbathing and eating far too much. Unlimited buffets are both a blessing and a curse (specifically on my waistline). At first I found it quite difficult to relax, as I'm not particularly good at doing nothing, but it's fair to say I'm starting to appreciate the break from the madness that is London. I've also enjoyed being able to catch up on recent film releases, since I haven't really seen many in the past two years.

Why are we all so fit?

Tomorrow is our first port day, I'm itching to get off and explore! First stop, Madiera.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Next Adventure

Tomorrow I set off with the family on a cruise around the Canary Islands and parts of Portugal for 12 days. Not the type of get away I've gotten used to but I'm super excited to chill out with some good books, spend time with fam and practice my Spanish :)

Any early get up of 6am tomorrow so we can catch the coach to Southampton where our ship sets sail. I just read the itinerary and apparently there are three formal and three black tie evenings. I don't know how they'll react to dreadlocks at these dos, let alone a girl who didn't know there was a difference between formal and black tie... At least there's an on board buffet with unlimited pizza as a back up :D

Friday, 2 August 2013

Feeling Restless

At the moment I'm finding myself feeling incredibly low at the prospect of spending three+ more years at university before I'm free to do as I please. Most people my age seem to LOVE university and are quite taken aback when I say that I'm really not a big fan and cannot wait to get away. It's not that there is anything wrong with my uni, course, tutors or friends, in fact I think I've hint the jackpot on all these fronts. Rather it's the overwhelming feeling of being trapped that seems to leak back into my life every time I return from a trip. Now I've heard of the post-travel blues before, but I can't help thinking that this is much more than that. This afternoon I've found myself debating with my best friend the reasons for staying at university, after she'd sent me a link to a youtube channel 'FunForLouis'. Unfortunately (for her I suppose, since she now has to deal with my incessant whining) she didn't watch the home page video before sending it to me. For context, here's the link:

I think we'd all agree that this dude is pretty inspirational. He'd achieved an incredible amount before he'd even turned 21 and I've found myself re-evaluating my life considering my 21st birthday is only a month away. Stupid quarter life crisis rearing it's ugly head again. Although it may seem silly, this video initially brought me down rather than elevated me, for reasons only evident to myself and those who know me pretty well. 

I've always been someone who has been ahead of my age with regards to ideologies and certain ways of thinking. For example: when I was 16, two of my older friends decided they wanted to live in tents for a few months to experience life free from the modern dependence on man-made technology, such as electricity and TVs and unnecessary material possessions in general. I went to stay with them a few times but was too young to be allowed to join them full time. At this point my beliefs were leaning towards the more radical end of the modern Christianity spectrum, so the idea of selling all my possessions and living off the absolute minimum was something that really appealed to me. Throughout my teenage years I also took part in a lot of events for various charities, always being the youngest and often being too young to help out for the first few years that I applied. Throughout this entire time I had an internal struggle between what I wanted to be able to achieve with my life and what my age restricted me from doing. I decided that as soon as I was old enough, I'd start doing all the things I'd wanted to do before but couldn't.

However the world and life had different ideas. I fell out of love with Christianity for various reasons around the age of 18, which ended up pushing me away from my group of 'radical thinking' friends completely. Although I did and still do have a very close knit group of incredible friends around me to this day, most of them tend to label me as the 'crazy hippy' and mostly I keep my ideas to myself. Not being able to voice or discuss certain topics has in turn pushed a lot of my youthful ideologies to the side lines, as I decided that whilst I'd still keep them close to my heart, sometimes it's easier just to get on with things and fit in for the time being. The time being. How long even is that? It's been nearly three years and I'm still living in the time being, becoming more and more materialistic and immersed in ways of thinking that I wholeheartedly disagree with. I've started swearing, eating meat and drinking excessively, forgetting the reasons why I used to be against all three.

Watching this video brought up a whole host of emotions for me. As a person who is extremely disillusioned with society in it's current state, I'm finding it very difficult to live within the average bill-paying, wage-earning, every-man-for-himself lifestyle that we are conditioned to believe is the only way to live and this video proves to me that a) that isn't the case and b) some lucky dude is managing to live it! I'm both angry at myself for being sucked into a lifestyle I never wanted and in awe of the fact that the alternative seems to come so naturally to some people. I think it's hit me that I can't just be hanging around in the time being any longer, as it is finally becoming difficult for me to continue to suppress these aspects of my personality. But now I'm so far immersed in my current lifestyle that it is going to be a slow transition between the two.

Despite my doubts however, I think I'm going to be sticking out the duration of my university course. I vividly remember a conversation I had with my mum during my gap year about applying to university. Now a few years older, my struggle had developed from being too young to achieve what I wanted, to simply having to be patient about it. I remember tears streaming down my face as I said that I wasn't sure if I wanted to go to university because whilst I was studying, people would still be dying and homeless and starving and I wasn't exactly much use to them whilst cooped up in a classroom for another four years. I can't remember exactly what my mum said in reply, but between herself and my hero Mr Nelson Mandela, somehow I was convinced to go.

'Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world' - Nelson Mandela

I hope you're right Nelson and that this new found zeal for the future persists. I might feel trapped and restricted and hungry for things that I can't achieve right now, but if I look back just a few years I can learn a lot from my younger self on doing as much as I can within my means. And even though my emotions at the beginning of writing this post weren't particularly pleasant, I'm hoping I'll eventually reap the benefits of harvesting and allowing these mixed feelings to push me forwards towards greater things.