Spain Bound (Toledo, Madrid, & Barcelona)

My friend has been living in Spain for the last seven months teaching English. This provided me with the opportunity to visit her when her school was on vacation for Easter! I am so glad I made the decision to go and visit her, as I finally got to tick of “go to Europe” from my bucket list!

Here’s a few highlights from my visit, not everything is listed but it provides you an idea of my trip:

Toledo – Day One to Three

Taledo is the City of Three Cultures with major architecture influences from Christianity, Islam and Judaism. It was lovely to be able to go and see the Old City and be able to visit Cathedrals, Mosques and Synagogues. If you ever find yourself in Toledo, I recommend purchasing a cultural pass that allows you to visit 7 of these religious spots (available at purchase directly from the attraction).

Museo Del Ejército – This is the Army Museum of Toledo which is free on Sundays! Lovely views from this museum that is built from the city’s historic castle.

Museo Del Greco – El Greco Museum is a small museum which celebrates the work of the painter El Greco. It was a pleasant surprise we came across that was organized as if you were walking through his home.

We also went on a hike around Toledo. The landscape of Toledo seemed to include everything; so picturesque. Valleys, Mountains, and many historical ruins that just existed along the trail. You are also able to see a gorgeous view of the fortress and the many bridges that connect the city.

Madrid – Day Four and Seven

We went to Museo Nacional del Prado which is an art museum. The museum has many sections covering mostly Renaissance paintings from Spain, but also includes Renaissance paintings from Italy, Germany, Britain and France. The highlight of this museum for me was seeing the Goya collection – amazing collection.

The other highlight for me in Madrid was the Real Jardin Botanico. The Royal Garden was spectacular! Loved going into the greenhouse and seeing the variety of plants they had from all continents. Fantastic collection.

Barcelona – Day Five and Six

Visiting Barcelona was much different than Madrid and Toledo. English seemed more prevalent within the city and much more liberal.

There were two highlights from Barcelona worth noting. We went to the Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site. The building is a pre-existing hospital that was functioning up until 2009. It appeared not many visited the site, however it is definitely a place worth checking. The hospital consists of several different buildings that were connected by underground tunnels (haunted af). Architecture is unconventional and the murals within were astonishing.

The other highlight was visiting Park Guell which was a residential complex planning project between Guell and Gaudi. They wished to revolutionize the way the elite lived and change their connection to nature.

We were unable to visit the unfinished Temple de La Sagrada familia as it is obviously a main attraction for tourists visiting Barcelona. If you plan on seeing this Temple, be sure to purchase tickets online!

Barcelona also has a Picasso museum that hosts many of his originally works that were donated in 1970. The collection is extensive and includes many pieces from his earlier works to his later pieces. I did not know he painted more realistic pieces during his earlier years, and it was amazing to see the talent he had at such a young age.

There is also a small Egyptian museum we just had to visit given that Cady loves everything Egyptian related. We had perfect timing when visiting the museum as it was not too busy and they current had a King Tut exhibition on.

Overall a great trip!

 

Ruth Ware’s “In a Dark, Dark Wood” & “The Lying Game”

I don’t know what to say about Ruth Ware’s books. After reading The Woman in Cabin 10, I was excited to read her other books: In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Lying Game.

I have to say, I was disappointed in finishing these books. The Lying Game read like Pretty Little Liars. There were lots of trivial side story lines and it  was anti-climatic. The last 20 pages were probably the most interesting part of the novel, while the rest was rather boring.

The Lying Game

The Lying Game follows four friends with a secret they swore they would never talk about. They met at an all girls boarding school where they would play “The Lying Game.” Points were awarded based on how well they told a  lie depending on the circumstance they were in. The most important rule of the The Lying Game was that they would never lie to each other – until several years later when the secret that binds them is on the brink of being discovered.

In a Dark, Dark Wood

In a Dark, Dark Wood follows Nora who is invited to a hen party, for someone she has not seen in ten years. Nora abruptly leaves school losing touch with her past life. This premise offers more mystery because there are less characters offering the author more room for character development.

Overall, if you are having to choose your next read In a Dark, Dark Wood reads better than The Lying Game.

Ruth Ware “The Woman in Cabin 10”

Wow. What a fantastic read this is! I haven’t had a book this good in a long time, where you just can’t seem to put the book down.

I am in love with Ruth Ware’s writing style, so I will def be checking out her first novel.

Laura Blacklock has the opportunity to board the Aurora to write for her travel magazine, Velocity. After dealing with the trauma of her flat being broken into, she has trouble sleeping while on board. This leads her to hear a scream in the middle of the night, and witness a body thrown overboard, plunging into the black waters below.

Horrified, Lo tries to raise alarm to the others on board, except no one seems to believe her. How could they when they think she’s mentally unstable? She’s been taking antidepressants, was drinking the night before, and is getting over a recent trauma.

Unbelievable read.

Follow my reading adventures over on Goodreads, why don’t ya?

Ashley Graham “A New Model”

The full title of this book is called “A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like”

I have struggled with body confidence since grade five when I hit depression in school. From there it didn’t help in grade 6-8 when the boy you liked called you “a piece of blubber.” Since then, I have been learning to care for my body and realize that: yes. I am beautiful.

Ashley Graham presents a wonderful, insightful read on her confidence growing up and let’s the reader know that beauty is beyond size.

Well done.

June Self-Care

May was the month of Mental Health. And it’s okay for me to realize that my mental health is not where I want it to be. My thoughts have become negative & obsessive, I am unhappy most days, I’m lost with what I want out of life, and feel that everything has become too repetitive that I need to change something.

So for the month of June I’m working on slowly getting myself out of this slump. Here’s how:

Go for more hikes & walks.

It’s amazing how much your mood will improve just by getting out of the house and hiking/walking in nature. So, I will try to go on at least two hikes this month and walk on the trails surrounding my house when I can’t make it to the conservation areas.

Limit technology one hour before bed.

You know that endless scrolling before bed. And it’s damaging our psyche. No one posts their real life on Instagram. They post the moments that make them happy and it’s not helping us mentally because we feel we are not achieving the ideal lifestyle that THAT person has. To get over this, I am cutting off technology around 9pm at night. Airplane mode: ON.

Read More

Which brings us to #3. I will aim to read three books this month. Let’s cut the technology out and read before bed! Going to finish Thrive by Arianna Huffington, Beartown by Fredrick Backman and Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz.

Start Journal-ing again

I used to journal almost every day and I remember that it did help me mentally. You are able to write down your stresses and what felt good about the day. Let’s get back into that habit Victoria.

 

We shall start with those four self-care tips for June and see how it goes.

Be Kind.

I’m glad I kept a journal from when I was younger. But it also upsets me. The thoughts I had from when I was in elementary school are enlightening. One’s own perception of themselves develops at a young age, isn’t that sad?

May 19th, 2004 I was eleven years old when I wrote (original spelling & grammar kept):

“Thanks a lot to J.K. I’m now self concions of my weight because he kept calling fat in pizza things”

Not sure what the pizza things refers to, but I knew what it meant to be self-conscious at this age.

It doesn’t get better. One year later I wrote:

“No one is going to like me, I’m fat and ugly. U-G-L-Y ugly and F-A-T FAT! I’m probably going to marry…. No one. Date… no one. like… no one.”

Those perceptions of myself were unfortunately reinforced by what others were saying around me. Middle school kids are mean. I may be 24 now, and “should” be over the words that were said to me. But, I’m still working on getting over them. How does one get over being called “a piece of blubber?”

So please. With everything that is currently going on, let’s start by being nicer with what is coming out of our mouths. Be careful what you say to one another. Even in a moment of complete frustration, words stick with someone. No matter how many apologies that are said later, in the back of their mind, you said those words in the first place. You said those words in the first place because you knew they were going to hurt.

And that’s what the person will always remember.

 

To the little girl in Grade Five that lost herself for a while. You’ll come back. You’ll get lost again a few years down the line, but we’ll end up finding our-self again. Don’t you worry.

Arianna Huffington “On Becoming Fearless”

You know those reviews that are like “praise so-and-so for that awesome title?” And you think to yourself “wow okay calm down big-shot reviewer.” *clears throat* Well. I now understand that statement.

This will be an honest review, with personal confessions *gasps.*.

I have had existential crises in the past, but it’s been clear that my past few months have been a fog. And it’s something that you just can’t put into words. I don’t know why I’m short-tempered, on-edge and unhappy. I’m trying to get better, just give me time. I recognize it, just let me sift through it.

Which may be one of the reasons why I decided it was time to read Arianna Huffington’s book On Becoming Fearless… In Love, Work, and Life. Because gaining confidence is one area I need to work on.

Her book does help the reader reach a certain calmness. Am I perfect? No. But am I trying? Yes. Can I be fearless? Heck yeah.

The Book.

So thank you Arianna Huffington for reminding me that I am human. I may not know what’s in store

for me, but as long as I keep putting myself out there, good things will come my way. I have to seize these opportunities, make the best of the situation, and tell myself: I can do this.

“Have you noticed that worrying doesn’t stop it from happening? And indeed, that we worry about many things that never happen?” (Huffington, 43).

 

Please follow me over on Goodreads for my life of reading.

Sady Doyle “Trainwreck”

The full title of this book is “”Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear… and Why””

 

This was an excellent read! Insightful, witty, and easy to read, Sady Doyle does an amazing job illustrating how women do so little to be critiqued immensely.

I was having these thoughts before picking up a copy. I thought to myself, as one would, why do I hate Miley Cyrus? Has she truly done anything to upset me so much? And then I came to the conclusion, no. In fact. I envy her. How can she live life so true to herself? Sure there are parts of Miley Cyrus’ character that I cannot relate to, but she is living her life how she wants to live her life. Why should I mock her for her own life choices?
10/10 would recommend this book. It’s important to build ourselves up, and this book sparks the conversation.

Winter Brewfest 2017

Second year for attending Winter Brewfest: Saturday Session. Last year I summed up the event as follows:

They definitely have work to smooth out for 2017, if they want to be successful. This would involve ensuring volunteers show up, hosting in a larger venue, trying to have tokens at a reasonable price, and switching the cups to plastic. Booths for the breweries should also have better displays, felt too tight and you could not appreciate the beers they had to offer.

First Impressions

While the organizers advertised that it was in a larger venue, it was actually in the same room at the Enercare Centre from last year. They did however cut back on the carnival games which opened up some more room for vendors. Were there still lines? Yes. And despite switching to a cashless system to “make lines quicker,” I felt the lines were actually longer this year. Did we let that stop us from having fun? Heck no.

Our game plan was to get a sample, then once acquired, move to another line and drink our sample while waiting. When we were near the front of the line, we were usually finished with our previous sample! Genius.

The organizers were also smarter this year and switched the cups to an enviro-plastic cup to cut back on the shattered glass. While the cups were not nearly as cute as the mason jars from last year, it was nice knowing I could not shatter this glass as easily in the event a good song came on.

Last Thoughts

At this point, I’m not too sure if I will go in 2018 as the organizers are still relatively new and – despite changes made this year – they still have work to do to make the whole event enjoyable.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a grand ‘ol time. I’m glad I was with people who were just as ridiculous as me. We made the concrete our dancefloor, when everyone was too serious standing in lines or sitting down to eat. They were so concerned how they presented themselves to others, it made us laugh.

This life is for living, and if I feel the need to dance? Boy, you better be ready because I’m going to dance.

Overall, I give the event three beersteins out of five. I had a fantastic time, there were improvements, but it felt that with the improvements that were made, did not actually change much from last year.

Refreshing Album – Milky Chance “Blossom”

Milky Chance have grown and it would seem, they have become more of their own with the release of their second album Blossom. A fitting title for the band, indeed the group have blossomed with their sounds. A cleaner album, in which I listen to the album in full without skipping any songs. Each song transitions so lovely to the next track. When a band can accomplished that, it’s quite something.

The return of Milky Chance happened a few months back with the release of their single “Cocoon.” I listened to this song over and over again. And still do. Next was the release of “Doing Good” which had me wanting more.

Oh and they delivered. My favourite tracks off the album are: “Ego,” “Stay” and “Bad Things.” Be sure to check out the deluxe edition, however, as there are acoustic renditions of select songs.

Getting through to you/Is what I’m aiming for
Won’t you hear me now/ Like you’ve done before

I think really what works with this album is the electronic reggae sounds. It’s refreshing for a band to bring it back to good beats, guitar riffs that stick with you, and powerful lyrics that have you nodding your head.

Milky Chance have two shows in August at the Danforth Music Hall. If you like what you’re hearing, best to buy some tickets fool.