Saturday, 29 August 2015

Pink Glitter Shoes, Mud Masks And Being Washed By A Turkish Man

Bonjour and hello!  It's been a little while since I last blogged - the spontaneity of summer has certainly interfered with what I pictured to be the seamless birth of this (so far rather disjointed) blog.   The above certainly marks the beginning of what is for me, the final chapter of summer before I go back to Uni.  I'm feeling rather sheepish confessing that I am on holiday again, this time just outside Dalaman in the beautiful country of Turkey.  Via the miracles of watsapp and online banking, Josh and I somehow managed to book a last minute two week getaway with one of our favourite couples, Jason and Fleur, while I was away in Spain.  And now here we are!

While we were here, I was very keen to try out a traditional Turkish Bath experience, having always been curious about the mysterious but famous treatment.  The Turkish Bath, according to Wikipedia, is a method of 'cleansing and relaxing' - and from my experience, that could not be more true.  The day before yesterday, the four of us had a 'Classic Package' at BCSpa in Dalyan, this included a traditional Turkish Bath, 20 minute back massage and a mud facial, all for 80 Turkish lira which is around £18 or so... bargainous.  We didn't really know exactly what to expect, as many things we'd read had been either slightly dodgy translations or just a bit misleading... 'While this is all happening, there are some big, muscular bath attendants waiting to rub you down.'  But we weren't put off!

We got to the spa about 45 minutes before our treatment, and were given locker keys and shown to the changing rooms where there was a variety of 'spa shoes' to choose from.  Putting thoughts of fungal infections and verrucas to the backs of our minds, Fleur and I opted for the pink plastic glitter wedges... obviously.  We were then told to take 10-15 minutes each in the sauna and steam room, in order to help prepare our skin for the main event.  Following this, we were called into the 'Hamam', and told to lie down on our backs at the four edges of a big marble slab in the middle of the room.  At this point, I did feel slightly like we might all be sacrificed there and then, but I closed my eyes and tried to relax as the four bath attendants assumed their places to begin the treatment.  

First hot fragrant water is poured all over your body and head in small bucket fulls.  This is followed by the scrub: they use some kind of loofah (I'm not 100% sure what it was to be honest) to gently exfoliate your skin.  Now, I had my eyes closed pretty much the whole time but Josh said he had a little look at this stage in the treatment and saw clods of black dirt and dead skin coming off all our bodies, a totally delicious detail that puts my non-existent exfoliation routine to shame.  After that, you are rinsed again with the water, then the soaping begins.  Huge pillowcases full of foam are swept over you.  I literally felt like I was floating on a cloud by this point - the bubbles all expand and are then massaged into your skin again.  This is rinsed off, and we were then wrapped in a towel and brought to the poolside to wait for our massages and facial.  

I won't bore you with the details of the other treatments (they were great), but the bath experience was fantastic!  We were all amazed when we came out and sat down at how good our skin felt, and we all looked so clean and soft, like we had been born again.  After doing a little too much sunbathing in Spain, my legs had started to resemble those of a lizard, but after the treatment my scaly skin was nowhere to be seen, and you can't put a price on that.  There was something so luxurious about being washed and exfoliated so thoroughly by somebody else - a bizarre, but undoubtedly fabulous experience.  

We ended our treatment by re-toxifying ourselves with a drink from the bar upstairs and sat by the outdoor pool to drink it in the shade, nervous of burning our fresh baby-soft skin.  In the evening, we went for huge steaks at a nearby restaurant before heading back to our apartment in Dalaman.  It is safe to say I slept so well that night, and for anyone who might be considering a Turkish Bath, just do it!  We all loved it.

Ruby x

Friday, 21 August 2015

How to Survive Freshers' Week

Freshers' week marks the exciting kick-off to a brand new chapter of life.  For many people, it's a huge change - moving away from home to live with a bunch of strangers, cooking for yourself, doing your own washing, choosing exactly what you want to do and when you want to do it.  It's a new form of freedom that can be absolutely terrifying.  

This time last year, I remember spending hours trawling the internet looking for advice about the fast-approaching and infamous 'Freshers' week' hoping to put my mind at rest.  I'm not going to sugar-coat this... you probably almost definitely will be shitting yourself the day you finally set off to move into your new accommodation and begin your first year of uni, but just be comforted by the thought of the millions of people who have already done the same...and survived it just fine.

Here are a few bits of advice I can offer in hindsight of my own Freshers' week (I'll try not to blabber on too much).  Make a cup of tea, have a read and please, RELAX!  It'll all be just fabulous.

Ruby x

1) The most important thing: take advantage of the week!  It's a great chance to meet a tonne of people in one go, suss out the talent (if you're so inclined), and make some friends because at that stage, nobody knows anybody... yet!

2) Wear flat shoes.  Having taken a million pairs of heels to uni thinking 'yes I'm going to wear the platforms on the Monday, the stilettos on the Tuesday, and probably my six inch wedges on the Wednesday (etc.)', I did not wear a pair of heels even once during Freshers' week.  It might just be my uni where it's definitely not a done thing, but I have to say I have absolutely no regrets about not wearing heels out.  I wore trainers the majority of the week, meaning I was 100% uninhibited and could break out all of my finest dance moves without the restriction of heeled footwear...ahem.

3)  Go to your introductory talks (sorry to be boring).  These are a good way to get introduced to your subject(s), and meet some of your coursemates... plus get the low down on what the devil you'll actually be studying.  

4)  Take the opportunity to cool-ify (real word, I swear) your room.  Take old photos, posters, artwork, wall hangings, fairy lights, speakers, storage like boxes or baskets, blankets and cushions, a mini fridge, a fold away bar, a collapsible double bed... Okay, the last three were maybe just me getting carried away, but do take some stuff you can decorate your room with to make you feel more at home and show your housemates what kind of a person you are.  If you can get your mitts on some decent speakers they are a worthy investment as a student and a sure-fire way to instant friends.

5) Get to know your housemates.  Try and introduce yourself to them all on the first day as you're going to be living with them all year so get off to the best start you can!  During Freshers' I did some different stuff to get to know my housemates, like cooking a meal together, having pre-drinks, going 'exploring' round the campus and nearby countryside etc.

6) Take a disposable camera.  It's always hilarious to see the prints when they're done, I've got some absolutely golden shots from Freshers' week that I took on a disposable camera.  When they're printed off you can stick them on the walls of your room.

7) Make sure you eat.  It sounds silly, but making sure you eat during the day and before going out is a big yes.  Your immune system is likely to take a bit of a hit during Freshers' with all the drinking and staying up late and having way too much fun.  If you get together with a few of your housemates and all cook a meal together before going out, that means a) (most importantly) you can drink more b) you'll hold whatever you do drink down better c) it's another opportunity to make friends!  Try and get in some fruit and veg in too if you can, your health will thank you when term begins!

8)  Leave your room door open.  Take a door stop.  Top tip!

9)  Save up before.  The week can get pretty expensive, especially if you're buying drinks and clubs and bars.  If you can, buy event tickets in advance so that you can budget better what you might spend during Freshers'.  Your student loan won't arrive until your attendance at the university has been confirmed, which for me wasn't until after Freshers' week, so try to take a bit of money with you to get you through the first week.  It's very easy to splurge during the week too - this is when pre-drinks become your best friend.  Don't go too crazy and splash the cash because you will regret it when you're eating instant noodles every night because you can't afford anything else!  

10) Establish bin/toilet roll rotas, kitchen cleaning etc.  The first week is the best time to try and come up with a fair system for things like taking the bins out or cleaning the kitchen, while everyone's still friendly and co-operative.  

11)  Swot up.  In order to get off to a flying start, it will really help you to carry on with/finish/begin doing some of your course reading.  You'll likely be sent in advance or perhaps given at your introductory talks things like reading lists or preparatory materials to read before your lectures begin.  Get any books or other nerdy things you might need before teaching starts, and try and familiarise yourself with them a bit so you don't feel too much like you've been thrown in the deep end when it actually does.

12) Remember: you don't have to go out every night.  If you're feeling a bit ill and crappy one night, you don't have to go out!  Don't be afraid to suggest staying in, getting a takeaway and watching a film if that's what you feel like doing - chances are at least one of your housemates will probably feel the same way, which means you'll get a night off to recover, get to know people a bit better, and be totally revitalised for the next day.  
13)  Make time to catch up with people at home but try not to miss them too much.  You probably will feel homesick and miss your friends and family, especially perhaps if you have a boyfriend/girlfriend at home who you've now moved away from.  My best advice, which is difficult but important, is to keep in contact with them (obviously) but try to be strict with yourself.  Organise a time when you'll ring your mum/sister/boyfriend to check in with them and enjoy catching up but don't be constantly on your phone texting to see how they're doing and how much they're missing you.  You'll not only give yourself a really good chance to settle in, but be more approachable to other people if you seem available so, as tricky as it is, try to keep your home contact under control for the first week.  

14)  Fill out your room/kitchen inventory.  When you move in you will most likely be given an inventory list to fill out.  Go round your room and check everything is working and present as if there are problems they can take a long time to be fixed.  We spent our first term with only the smallest ring on our hob cooker working...which was fine unless you wanted to cook anything bigger than a fried egg.  Or cook at the same time as someone else (impossible).  Or just have a working oven like you were supposed to.  

15) Arrive on time!  If you can, get there on the morning of your move-in date.  That way, you'll have plenty of time to unpack your stuff, say goodbye to your family, relax a little bit and then wait for the fun to begin.  

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

What to do with 2 weeks on the Costa Blanca: The Holiday Round-Up

Hi there amigos (we're all friends here, right)!  As you may or may not have gathered from my last few blog posts, I recently went to Spain for a couple of weeks away with my family.  We stayed in a villa in the mountains just outside of a town called Pego, which is on the East coast of Spain between Valencia and Benidorm - all in all, a fabulous spot for a family holiday.  

I thought I'd do a general round-up of our time in the area - what my particular highlights were and some nice day trips we had, to give anyone who may be thinking of visiting Spain an idea of what it has to offer.  I am a big fan of Spain and have been quite a few times to a few different places.  To me, the North and the South of Spain are both very beautiful and very different.  Josh and I visited a couple of friends in late April this year who live close to Santander and it is unbelievable how picturesque and pastoral that part of the country can be (it's so green!) compared to the hot arid landscapes that might initially be associated with Spain.  Anywho, before I go off on one, I'll just get on with the show... here are my top 5 do-its for when in Spain.


Numero Uno - Enjoy the local area and culture (make use of the tourist information!)

 One thing we all really enjoyed was taking a stroll (about 15 minutes) in the evenings through the orange groves and into the local village of Adsubia to visit our favourite bar, 'The Pianola'.  There are some really beautiful walks in the area, but my strong advice is to either get up early (I'm talking 7/8am) and do them before the sun gets hot or in the evening around 9/10pm when it's a bit cooler... even then you'll probably still be sweating, but it's worth it for the gorgeous views.

We visited the tourist information within our first couple of days to also get some maps of the local area, activity leaflets, places to walk etc. and a list of the fiestas going on nearby while we were there.  There was a very helpful/sexy man in there who was more than happy to help us out with things like what days the Spanish markets were on etc.

 Another crucial part of enjoying the local area is obviously sampling as many of the local foodspots as you can stomach.  Spain is great because you don't need to pay much at all to get great, fresh food.  There are countless bars and restaurants that serve tapas, salads, burgers and sandwiches or a 'Menu del Dia' Monday to Friday, a set price menu of 2-3 courses, generally including a drink and coffee.  These menus range between 6-25 euros depending on where you go, but generally are lovely - think seafood, meat, salads, paellas etc.  For those who aren't keen on traditional Spanish food however (it is an acquired taste!) there are many other options - two of my favourite non-traditional meals were at Seven Pizza, an Italian, and Buddha Eyes, an Indian, both in Pego.  

Numero Dos - But at the same time... enjoy being a tourist, and doing tourist-y things.

I think it is impossible to deny that when on holiday, you do have to do at least one thing where you get to be the ultimate tourist and take photos of absolutely everythingSafari Aitana is, without a doubt, the place to do it.  It is €20 entry for an adult, so a bit more of a pricey activity if you're in a group, and you do also have to have a car, but once you're in, it's great.  You get to drive around the massive park, seeing animals ranging from Llamas to Elephants to Lions and Tigers.  In some spots you're allowed to get out of your car (see the above Hippo selfie) to get a bit closer to the animals. As tempted as I was though, you're not supposed to feed or touch the animals (pretty obvious, really).  This was great as a family activity and really nice to see the animals roaming around in a big old African style savannah.  

Numero Tres - Do something a little more Spanish. 
As well as the obvious tourist attractions, there are some rather more Spanish sights and activities which are great to experience.  Les Fonts de l'Algar are beautiful Spanish waterfalls set only 15 km from the city of Benidorm.  They're a bit of a pain in the ass to get to if you suffer from travel sickness like me (those windy roads are really not easy on the stomach), but is well worth the slight risk of vomiting in your hire car.  

We took some food and picnic blankets to sit on as well as towels, swimming attire and decent trainers or sea shoes to wear so we could explore the different levels, climbing up and swimming through between the rocks to get through to the different levels.  The water is so refreshing and cold so it's a great thing to do on a hot day.  From what I can remember entry was around €5 for an adult and €3 for a child, so it's very reasonably priced and you can easily spend the whole day there.  There is a jumping platform too for the thrillseekers (don't worry, there's also a rather attractive lifeguard too, just in case).

Numero Cuatro - Visit a large city.

If you are staying in a small town or rural area, as we were, you can quickly begin to crave the business and vibrancy of a big city.  We visited two - an old family favourite, Benidorm, which is great for a fun day out.  There's lush beaches, more bars and restaurants than you can shake a stick at, plenty of shopping, plenty of cheesy touristy tat and plenty of holidaymakers.  Another place we visited was Elche, which for me was a huge highlight.   

Being one of the biggest cities in the province, it has plenty to offer including the stunning Bell Tower and the Basilica of Santa Maria.  The climb up the Bell Tower is not for the faint hearted - it's a dark, sweaty and narrow one-hundred-and-something steps to the top, but the view is breathtaking!  You can see out over the whole city, getting a great view of the date palm groves that are absolutely vast and a characteristic of the city.  


We also visited a garden called the Huerto del Cura which was home to the 'Imperial Palm Tree', a mega tree with seven huge palm branches all growing from the same trunk.  It was nice to get a little respite from the heat by walking around the garden, enjoying the wildlife (including ponds full of turtles, which always gets a yes from me).

Numero Cinco - Relax, Explore and Enjoy!
And above all, Spain is a spot-on place to go to get some rest and relax.  There are thousands of beautiful beaches, tonnes of bars and restaurants, and endless towns and cities to wander round and sights to take in.  The Spanish people are so friendly and accommodating, and their culture seems to be very chilled out.  Towns and cities are busier in the morning, before midday or 1pm, between 1pm and around 3-4pm they are deserted as everyone siestas (most local shops close!) and then by the evening they are bustling again.  Families fill the local squares in the evening, with parents drinking wine or enjoying tapas while their children play - you can people watch for hours in Spain it would seem, and time just runs away every evening.  I can't wait to go back, soon I hope!

If you've made it this far - thank you!  It was a long one today.  I'm off to Turkey for another two weeks (can't quite believe my luck, I feel very jammy) on Monday, so I'm already starting to think about packing... and kebabs... I mean, bikini body diets, right..?!  Oh, so wrong.

Ruby x

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Ultimate Holiday Dress

Good morning from a stifling internet cafe in Spain!  I´ve unfortunately ended up with the one keyboard in the place with a broken spacebar that wants to put a space between every single letter.  Painstaking, to say the least.  

It is our last day here so I thought I would squeeze in one more outfit post before we head to the beach... I´m absolutely dreading packing this evening - I spent an hour and a half in Zara yesterday enjoying the air con...which obviously meant doing just a little, tiny weeny bit of shopping (I´m lying, I bought way too much to fit in my bag.)  So look out for a haul post coming your way when I get back to England!

Anyway, back to the matter at hand - this dress from Miss Selfridge.  For me, it´s the perfect holiday dress.  I love pattern and the colours perfectly complement a tan.  It´s so easy to wear, really light soft material and a great fit.  I managed to pick up the last one left in my local store (my elation was unreal).

On holiday, I like to keep things simple - dress, sunglasses, one small over the shoulder bag and sandals tends to be my go-to in order to try and keep the sweat at bay for as long as possible.  I spotted these sandals in the H&M here in Spain and I think they might be my new best friend.  My Dad has named them ´The Utilitarian Sandals´ which I quite like - expect to see a feature blog post on them soon!

Hope everybody´s fabulous,

Ruby x                            

Dress -  Miss Selfridge / Sandals - H&M / Bag - Urban Outfitters / Sunglasses - Primark