Post no. 2

It’s been a fantastic two weeks, although I’m recovering from a cold. I’m currently working on two assignments due on Monday, Feburary 22nd. One is a position paper for Children’s Rights and the other is a policy brief for Educational Politics and Policy. I signed up to be class reps for both of these (it’s essentially a TA position).

I spent last weekend working on these papers, but the weekend before that, I went on a trip hosted by accommodation services to Roslyn Chapel and Glencenkie Distillery. Our first stop was Glenkinchie Distillery for a tour and whiskey tasting from 11:45am-1:30pm.

Then, we traveled to Roslyn Chapel where we sat for a tour and grabbed an afternoon snack.

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Taken before the tour.

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Taken at sunset, 5 mins before we left.

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THE CHAPEL HAS A CAT.

This bit caught my eye before we left. Check out the caption:

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Well that escalated quickly…

Last Saturday was the start of Chinese New Year festivities in Edinburgh. My friends and I attended the lion dance in Waverly Station, which resembles a cleaner, smaller version of Grand Central. Afterwards, we went to a dim sum place about a block away. We definitely weren’t prepared for the bill, which was about 3 times more than what we would have paid in New York, but it was worth it.

Random things:

  • Visited a cat cafe. Found out I was still allergic to them.
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This cat is me at social events and family functions.

  • I’m taking a 6 week French crash course and I’m absolutely terrible at it. It seems as though I have a penchant for learning languages but stopping during or after the introductory level.
  • Joined Wine Society (Bless my obsession with Olivia Pope or I would have never appreciated wine as much as I do now)
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Being naturally awkward at my first (Romanian!) wine tasting

  • Passed by St. Andrews Square on my way home to find this fantastic light installation, KEYFRAMES.
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Stood in the rain for 10 minutes to get this shot. Pretty sure that’s the reason I’m sick now.

New York to Edinburgh

Hi everyone!

My name is Sylvia and I’m a visiting student from New York. I’m currently finishing up my last semester of my undergraduate degree at Edinburgh, so this semester is particularly meaningful to me. However, the studying does not end simply because I’m abroad. I’m taking three courses this semester: Introduction to Criminal Justice, Children’s Rights, and Educational Policy and Politics. On top of that, I’m studying for my teacher certification exam in London this April (I received a job offer from Teach for America three hours before I left, to my parents’ relief). On the bright side, I’m going to be meeting up with a friend who is also studying abroad in London and who I haven’t seen in about two years!

We’re currently in the middle of our third week of class and I’m finally settled in my cozy room on East Newington Place, a street tucked away behind blocks of small businesses. It’s typically quiet, with the exception of occasional sirens. Here’s a picture of my room:

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(Taken with my back against the door. The collage aka mess on the side of the wardrobe are photographs I’ve taken through my travels. This room is still a work in progress.)

The past two weeks have been exciting. Upon arriving in Edinburgh, I was informed that the airport couldn’t locate my luggage, so I was without my belongings for about two days. The only bright side to not having my bag with me was that I didn’t have to lug it through the rain from the reception center to my room. On the first night, I skipped the orientation event to compare the prices of local grocery stores (Lidl is hands down the cheapest, but the only store that carries silken and firm tofu is Starlight Chinese Supermarket) and to check out the the Royal Mile, the National Scottish Gallery and Princes Mall.

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Soy sauce was a staple in my childhood diet, so this cushion holds sentimental meaning. (Unfortunately, this was not for sale.)

 

Since then, I’ve gone to the Royal Mile, Craigmillar Castle, Salisbury Crags, Arthur’s Seat, and the Hermitage of Braid. I typically try to schedule in a trip or two every week. I may not love nature, but I do have a penchant for getting lost, which is how I ended up at Craigmillar Castle and Hermitage of Braid (Travel apps hold a special place in my heart- they have 3 folders on my phone).

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An early morning walk through Holyrood Park.

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Entryway of Craigmillar Castle. (note: there is a MASSIVE tree)

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Arthur’s Seat, taken from Crags. (I’m creeping on my friend, Katy)

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Arthur’s Seat from Hermitage of Braid.

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My RA ordering £60 of pizza on the way down from Arthur’s Seat.

Currently, my favorite part of Edinburgh is the plethora of cafés I pass on the way to and from class. I’m the type of person who always has my laptop with me, so it’s very convenient for me to plop down somewhere to grab a bite and work. In fact, I’m currently sitting in Edinburgh Coffee Cake as I write, and I just had the most delicious slice of rosewater cake (I’m also the type of person who takes photos of food before a meal).

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HI RITA. (My cousin asked me to post this.)

Anyways, here are several random things I’ve learned/noticed:

–       Scottish things: Ceilidhs and reeling balls, haggis, Hogmanay

–       Squash is a basically concentrated juice that’s meant to be mixed with water, unless you really want an intense, sugary high

–      McVites’ Digestives. When I first arrived in Edinburgh, my flatmate Millie introduced me to Digestives, which are denser versions of graham crackers. They get their name from once being prescribed to aid digestion.

–       Old College is especially magnificent at night

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Old College aka the law school.

Apologies and thanks for reading this excessively long post. This has been sitting on my to do list for the past two weeks but I’m hoping to update every other week from now.

 

Cheers, Sylvia

The Holidays while on Holiday

December in Edinburgh is an interesting time. Heaps of snow and frozen lakes that I was used to was replaced with rain, sometimes hail, and overpriced yet joyous ice-skating rinks. Despite the typical rainy weather of Scotland, people were everywhere, all of the time, flocking to the popular Edinburgh Christmas Market, Princes Street ‘sales’, and various Hogmanay (New Years) celebrations. The simple beauty that Edinburgh lacks regarding a white Christmas was replaced with a city-wide happiness and merry holiday cheer that I enjoyed immensely. Here, unlike in the tundra of Minnesota, people do not have to limit their time outdoors based on how high the wool content of their socks are or plan ahead to drive on the roads when there is not black ice likely. I have taken out a fire hydrant due to this unfortunate situation and believe me, it is not a thrilling experience.

 

Some of my favorite elements of Edinburgh over the festive period include:

  • The slowly rotating carousal that seems like an unnecessary use of space until you realize it is an adult attraction, complete with a bar serving warm alcoholic beverages. My favorite was an amaretto infused Bailey’s hot chocolate. You never cease to amaze me Scotland.
  • The mass number of people out on the town on Christmas Eve. Traditionally, at least in the States, it is a time for being with family and going to bed early in heightened anticipation for a feast and presents. Here, some may choose to go that route but many people also go out to the pubs and bars, toasting Jesus’ birth and dancing to live music with merriment. These people are a wonderful kind of people. They also proved to be very generous and filled with holiday spirit, offering drinks and dances aplenty.
  • The Hogmanay torchlight procession, on New Year’s Eve, eve. Streets are blocked off. People flock. With giant torches. And just walk down a path. At first, I tried to ask around, to figure out exactly why this procession happens and it’s origin. After I didn’t figure it out instantaneously, I decided it’s better to accept and appreciate that it is simply done to celebrate and that is all there needs to be said about it. Whether this conclusion was out of laziness on my part or lack of resources, it causes me to feel as warm as the air did that night, knowing there are thousands of people who come together to acknowledge each other, the beauty and culture of Scotland, and the opportunity-filled New Year.
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  • The Hogmanay Street Party. I honestly did not know how many people lived in or even knew about Edinburgh until arriving at this festival. Multiple stages, streets, all jam-packed with people played out a very diverse range of music and so much spirit that one could not have a bad time there. Unlike other festivals, the Street Party was attended by people of all ages, as I noted seeing many people old enough to be my grandparents, mixing in with the rowdy crowd and enjoying a very lively atmosphere. However, I did witness a woman being pushed and then stepped on, so this event is not for the faint of heart. (She was indignant but physically OK).
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    Sometimes you just get the urge to climb on tall things in a crowd of thousands of people.

Christmas time wouldn’t be complete without a second trip to Wonderland, aka Amsterdam.

Experiencing Amsterdam for a second time was necessary and quite possibly the best decision of my entire year. In just four days, my boyfriend and I experienced a ridiculous amount of delight and beautiful sights. Anne Frank House was definitely worth the visit, and provided some historical balance to the whirlwind of fun that is Amsterdam. The city of Utrecht, outside Amsterdam was absolutely incredible. Away from the commercialism and touristy feels of Amsterdam, Utrecht had it’s own local charm yet still provided all if not more beautiful architecture and parks. We went to Beatrix park and felt transported right into a storybook, complete with bumbling characters speaking gibberish (happy Dutch people on their bikes). That day was the only true immersion into a culture different language I have had yet this year (although everyone was fluent in English) and when you get stuck in a residential area, on foot, and need a bathroom, language is key. Luckily a very random and hidden stockroom of a grocery store eventually provided me with my needs. I am somewhat convinced it is the real room of requirement. Renting bikes is a must if you want to see more of the city than just the tourist downtown, plus it is so nerve-racking and fun to figure out the bike traffic system on a cheap, rickety, old Dutch style bike! The markets are wonderful, and can provide some of the cheapest delicacies for food if you are looking to be thrifty, yet still do not want to sacrifice taste. Simit Sarayi (or something like that) is also a great option, a delicious fast-food deli downtown–don’t give into Macdonalds. I have also heard that Burger King is much more enjoyable in Amsterdam. America has some figuring out to do. Free samples of Dutch cheese at all of the many cheese shops, and they don’t even make you feel bad about not buying any. although it is likely worth it, with the advantage of the understanding Euro over the evil British Pound. One night in downtown, we stumbled into what seemed to be a free Christmas concert, right in the square, with a huge stage and live musicians televised for our enjoyment. Standing and listening to Christmas tunes I recognized being sung in a different language, surrounded by all kinds of people, stopping where they are going to celebrate and warm each other up definitely held a true meaning of Christmas. Amsterdam also does not cease to amaze me. These random events make a city more beautiful than most architecture or festive lighting (although much appreciated as well).

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Backpacks make traveling so much easier. So do best friends 

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Rent a bike. And get lost.

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Centraal Station at Christmastime 

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The entrance to the wonderland of Beatrix Park in Utrecht

London also called to me. So I answered. Two days in such a  massive and diverse city is really not enough time to get all of the feels, yet Niilo and traversed as far as our feet, resources and time would allow. We sampled at Borough market, discovering delicious smoked sausages and oh, so much cheese. If you ever come across a truffle infused sausage, do take a nibble, it is exquisite. We visited the British museum, and really could have spent our whole time there in it’s many floors and exhibits. I highly recommend to anyone interested in their own evolution as a species and history of virtually every culture. Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey were beautiful and as majestic as it has gotten, and when Big Ben chimes, you are reminded to not waste a second in the great city. People are right to say that London boasts tasty cuisine, and we did not even have to empty our wallets to enjoy it. We visited an Indian restaurant and had some of the best flavours, in the Bombay style but with some sophisticated London flair. We also checked out the Tate Modern art museum, but most of the real art was right outside as we walked along the beautiful Thames.

 

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The irony of capturing the Rosetta Stone with an iPhone.

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Westminster at dusk

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Death Eaters have nothing on this bridge

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What is going on in those lit rooms in the Palace? Probably Netflix and chill.

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St. Paul’s Cathedral

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And now it is back to Uni, as I take a break from travel as Edinburgh and reading takes over my life. I will be continuing on with Scottish Lit this semester, as well as taking The Philosophy of Well-Being (who knew that was a thing) and a glorious Shakespeare course.

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Afternoon at Portobello Beach

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With the rain comes…coincidentally shining on a cross on Calton Hill O_o

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From Arthur’s Seat at sunrise, after an eventful all-nighter. It is well worth the hassle.

 

 

 

Books about Burgess Hill and not only

Hi, it’s been a while since I wrote a post here. Happy 2016, the first term is behind me and the new one is nearly here. After five cheerful days in Burgess Hill hosted by my wee egg Ellie, I have all the energy to start this new semester in the best way possible.  My flight landed yesterday at 2:30pm but I hardly realised the moment because we were surrounded by whitish-gray clouds, and the sky was smokey – it was well and truly raining. Welcome back to the Scottish weather. You have to get used to this weather change as soon as possible. I give you a tiny tip, don’t buy any umbrellas. They are useless and a waste of money, instead a good purchase is a fluffy coat with a cosy hood. ( I bought mine one month ago, and it is one of the best purchases I have ever made).  If you want to buy something nice, but not really expensive, with a view to achieving value for money, “Primark” is always a good option. “John Lewis” is another alternative, but get ready to spend a tiny bit more. Of course, they cannot be compared, but they are both great stores to have a look in!

Buying new books nearly every day has become a routine in these months, but as you will notice the amount is massive and they are not very cheap. it doesn’t matter which courses you are taking they will always ask you to buy new stuff. Buying new books or well, finding shops to buy them is not as frustrating as it would appear. Edinburgh has plenty of second hand book shops, and please don’t be fussy, they are amazing and the books they sell are usually in great condition. My favourite is in the Grassmarket and, ladies and gentlemen, it is called… “Edinburgh Book”! Yes, I know, a sillier name it cannot have. To follow: two black and white photos of it.

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Cows everywhere!

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Cosy chairs to sit on and browse through many books.

It’s divided in two floors, and you can reach the second one thanks to stairs. Before paying don’t forget to have a look at the thousand of post cards they sell, which have different themes such as “Alice in Wonderland”, and remember that being a student you have a 10% discount on all the purchases.

In the same street there are others shops like this, that should be the largest in Edinburgh, called “Armchair book” (Photos below):

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I hope that all of you have spent a wonderful and jolly Christmas/Hogmanay with the people you love most.

See you later,

Lots of love,

Martina

 

One Semester down, one more to go

Helloooo! Its been over a month since I have posted here, so I’d like to quickly apologise for that and get to the good bit! Semester one is behind me and semester two is quickly approaching. Looking back, I can’t help but smile at what a delightful time I had. One thing I have begun to do at parties since Im home over the winter break is repeatedly go around to friends and acquaintances urging them to take a year abroad for Uni. Admittedly I am usually a few drinks in so my advice to others is rather sloppy and comical HOWEVER, it just goes to show how impressed I am with my erasmus experience, which is thankfully not over yet!

So I see a few of my fellow bloggers are writing lists with some random points outlining their time in Edinburgh, so I’m going to do the same..!

  • Hopefully not too bleak to start with but: ambulances. If you don’t hear/see one at least once a day then your not in Edinburgh. Maybe this is usual for cities (I have never actually lived in a city, only suburb), but it is something I have noticed!
  • The weather, it is cold, it is grey, it is wet and windy. I want to say I’m used to this as growing up in Ireland offers the same climate but even still, I get a shock when I step outside and am blown away. More interestingly, the lack of daylight. Again, I am from Dublin, it gets dark pretty early in winter, around 16:30. But it Edinburgh, it is pitch black by 16:00. It was my brother who always pointed this out to me, saying he missed Dublin only for those extra few minutes of daylight. It just goes to show how further north we are in Edinburgh. On a trip to Kerry (south of Ireland) over the winter break I experienced it becoming dark only at 17:00 or so. Safe to say I am not getting much vitamin D. Ok rant over..
  • Friends. I do not have any Irish friends here, which is weird having only had (mostly) Irish friends up until now. I won’t lie, we have a particular humour which of course since I’m biased think is incredibly funny and witty. But let me be the first to say what a pleasure it has been to accustom myself with some of my friends humour. Of course there are similarities which are great, but I love that moment when I laugh at something bizarre my friends have said that strike me as very funny material. I must give a shout out to my Chinese friend Karen who makes me laugh constantly when I am around her. She is one gem among many others I have met in Edinburgh. And if its not laughs I am sharing with friends, it is inspiring conversations, interesting and different point of views and then all the shared experiences and adventures. Seriously guys, erasmus can be anything you want it to be, but its the people you meet and share it with that will impact you greatly and make you beyond the happiness you thought you could reach.
  •  Fun fact: some people are rude. But not just like hey they didn’t hold the door for me, more like oh someone just keyed my car and left me a very aggressive note on my car bonnet. Yep that actually happened. I had parked my car outside my brothers house near Uni so he could collect my parents from the airport as they were visiting one weekend. But one of the residents really didn’t like that and decided to key both sides of my car. Makes for a funny story looking back, but I cannot forget the rage I had when I found it out.
  • Nightlife y’all, its pretty sweet. Firstly, when you live in the city (or close enough), there is no excuse not to go out for a few scoops. There are plenty of bars which has really shaped my nightlife into many nights of casual drinks and then either the option of dancing the early hours of the morning away at clubs or happily retiring but not before grabbing a good ole bag of chips from the nearest chipper. And if your not into the drinking scene, the Christmas lights and markets in Edinburgh are like nothing you’ll have seen before (in Europe.. I’m sure Americans can go pretty hard too).
  • Exam season.. In all honesty it can be a time you feel a bit down. The workload can seem unbearable to get through and you might feel as though you don’t even have enough time to run out and grab a red bull, never mind prepare a meal. But last semester I tried to be more lenient with my time and as well as studying a whole lot, I allowed time to see my friends, chat on the phone and even have a drink to take the edge off.
  • “Whats your chat?” Not going to lie, only picked up this phrase recently from a match on tinder.. Get out there and learn more Scottish phrases while you can!
  • Goodbyes. As one of my closest friends in Edinburgh said to me “count your blessings we are only losing one”. It was hard saying goodbye to a close friend, tears were shed at 4:00am after a night out and we dispatched from a dear friend, while a random bus waiting chap commented on our embrace. I don’t doubt I will see my friend again though, so at least it was only goodbye until next time.

Semester one was a dream, with many experiences unfortunately not listed here. After being home a while it is exciting but a little scary to go back for various reasons including the fact that I will miss my family and friends here but also the fear that this is the last semester for me in Edinburgh for now. I have so much to look forward to, with finally some plans to travel Scotland and even visit other friends on erasmus around Europe. Although my bed it stiff and my room is a shoebox, I’m looking forward to be back in Edinburgh, you just can’t beat it.

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This is the view from my window, its alright.

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When my parents came to visit my brother and I!

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Christmas market

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Surprised my brother on his birthday with a hand made card and other treats!

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Karens first night out partying with the big girls

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Study group pic with some special ladies

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Karen gets excited for Christmas

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Le Fabuleux (drôle) Destin…

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Good evening everybody,  I am chilling in my bed. I feel really happy today, all my essays are over and I have time to focus on Christmas and what to do during it. This morning I had a long walk, and a thorough tour of the Christmas market. I went to Santa Land where I haven’t been before, because well….  it’s just for children, but I am like Peter Pan inside so I felt in the right place at the right time.

For breakfast I baked pancakes. Yesterday night I watched some videos by Jamie Oliver who taught me how to not be a complete disaster! For it being the first time, they weren’t so bad! I put marmalade and honey on them (The recipe is on his web site if you want to have a look!)

Two of my flatmates are in Paris, I really envy them. I love Paris, or well, I love talking in French. It is such a beautiful language, but unfortunately my level is not so good! I promised myself to improve it sooner or later. A friend of mine once asked me, what is your favourite language between the ones you are studying? I felt really troubled answering it, I don’t actually have a language that I like more than the other, but if I had to choose I would say that English and French are at the same level. I enjoy learning both of them! A few days ago I had my “Amélie Poulain” moment, you know what am I talking about? Have you ever seen “Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain” ? starring Audrey Tautou. It’s one of my favourite movies. I love watching it in French without subtitles and listening to how wonderful this language is. How can you not fall in love with a language which has the adjective “drôle” to mean “funny” (dreamy eyes)? I could stay here talking about the French language for ages but I would bother you so it is better I move on…

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Sometimes I feel like Amélie, “I like noticing details that no one else sees”; and trust me, Edinburgh is full of details… a good place to start noticing them is the left side of the National Scottish Gallery where there are many benches, but you can also sit on the grass if you want (personally I prefer it). I don’t want to tell you anything more… it’s up to you where you want to start your “hunt”.

Here below are some photos of the Christmas market that I forgot to post before:

 

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Two of my favourite things in one room!

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That’s a happy me!

Hope all of you are spending a drôle evening!

Lots of love,

Martina

 

Singin’ in the Rain!

Good morning everybody, I am writing from a room in 50 George Square where I am trying to study but clearly it doesn’t work. I am here with Natasha who is working so hard on her readings and notes, I should do the same but…. well, I cannot find a plausable excuse to tell you. I am just out of charge although I rested a lot yesterday night!

Yesterday evening was my turn to cook in my flat, and with help, I made “Macaroni and Cheese” which I found out to be one of the “Christmas dish” in Canada.  It is cheesy, tasty and crunchy ( I put it in the oven for 15 minutes before serving it to my flatmates and one more guest (the lovely Niamh) who liked it. It is not a hard recipe and it takes just a few minutes! Not being a really great cook that is the perfect recipe. Please, don’t tell me that you thought I was amazing at cooking just because I am italian! I am so sorry to wreck your dreams but… not really! I am italian, I love coffee but the cooker and me are not strictly linked! Anyway, I enjoy cooking especially if I am surrounded by special people and good music (Christmas music is always the right way to make me happy).

Stop talking about what makes me happy, and move on to our tiny but wonderful Christmas tree that we decorated with candles, lights and two cute Christmas decorations by Ireland. We also have a Christmasy table-cover with reindeers, snowmen and Santa Claus on it! I cannot deny that it was different than being in my living room with my parents who “quarrel” with each other to decide what baubles are nicer on the tree, but great anyway. My flatmates made that moment special! Our kitchen now is like Santa Land, only Christmas elves are missing!

It is really windy, not really news for being in Edinburgh! You have to be aware of this city’s weather; walking to a lecture wearing damp denim may be pretty dreadful, but arriving with a droplet teetering on the tip of your nose could be enough to make you question why you moved to Scotland and not to Spain. In my opinion this is the best weather ever, but I can see that not all of you will have the same point of view. Perhaps it’s time to help you find a few ways to enjoy it!

  • Go out for a walk.

Just because it’s raining doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy a relaxing walk. Throw on some wellies and, open your umbrella (or go without, Gene Kelly’s style) and start walking, you may discover how beautiful this city is under the rain.

  • Stay in!

There is nothing more enjoyable than having a cosy day, all curled up in bed with Christmas movies and a cup of coffee (or tea if you prefer)! Ask some friends to join you, the more the merrier!

  • Enjoy the city!

There are lots of places you have not popped in yet! It is the perfect excuse. Arrange to do indoor activities. Meet your friends and take a trip to the Scottish National Museum, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery or spend few hours at the cinema (by the way, today at 9:00pm at the Cameo’s cinema “ELF” plays…  tears of joy). Remember: even though it is chucking buckets outside this does not mean you cannot have a great time.

Hope you are all having a magical and joyful day!

Lots of love,

Martina

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