January 29, 2015

CITIES & TRIPS: STREET ART IN BIRMINGHAM


Anyone who read last week's post on Birmingham can probably still remember me rambling on about how much I liked the city. Well, I have a confession to make: when I told you what I liked most about Birmingham, I lied. Gasp! Of course I liked the fact that I saw very few tourists on the street. It made me feel part of the in crowd for a second. The creative people who discover things before I usually do (in this case my sister, in general: everyone) but my absolute favourite part - pinky swear - was seeing this amazing street art.


We were walking towards the Custard Factory - a shopping area for independent stores - in Digbeth and I think my mouth literally dropped to the floor. I was told it was artistic neighbourhood and on the website it's actually called 'the creative quarter' but still... it took me by surprise. Especially seeing the artwork in the first picture!


From there we just followed the art trail until we reached the parallel street to Gibb street, Floodgate street, I think? And it just went on. I'm sure there are even more colourful things to discover around the city, but we only went as far as our legs would take us. I guess a lot of this art is a result of the 'City of Colours' street art festival. And it looks like there will be another one this year.


It looked like a real party if you ask me and they did a great job in turning the area into a "sea of colours" and the "biggest outdoor art gallery". Now I probably need to be present at next edition!

What do you think of the idea? 

January 25, 2015

DAILY ROUTINE: BOOKS I WANT TO READ THIS YEAR


I only barely finished my reading challenge last year, but that doesn't stop me from trying to up my game in 2015. Ever since I finished my Literature degree I've sort of been avoiding non-fiction books and even classics (anyone else with this problem?) so I decided to snap out of it. So - drum roll please - I've promised myself to try and read 10 classics this year (Bram Stoker's Dracula has been waiting for me for example, along with Jane Eyre). And because I assume this will all go like a breeze I really want to read the books above as well - you know, to add some contemporary (non-)fiction to the mix (or secretly just read books by women I admire). Congrats are in order for George Martin, the only male writer who made it to this preliminary list!

1. Kim Gordon - Girl in A Band (02/24/2015) 
I used to love reading about music and devour biographies of musicians. Hopefully this book will get me back into the groove of things. 

2. Mindy Kaling - Is Everyone Hanging out Without me? (2012)
I can't even believe I haven't read this one yet because I love Mindy!


3. George R.R. Martin- A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2) (2000)
After reading the first book I immediately bought the second... but then life just sort of happened and I never started reading. Shame on me, because now I have quite some catching up to do.

4. Lena Dunham - Not That Kind of Girl (2014)
Because she's got balls and why not?

5. Samantha Shannon - The Mime Order (01/27/2015)
I have been waiting for this book since finishing the first one last years in 24 hours and dropping down from exhaustion afterwards - Nick will verify this. Also, how is she so young and so good at this?

6. Malala - I am Malala (2013)

Because I should have read this book a long time ago. Every time I see an interview with this incredible young woman I am in awe and feel ridiculously immature. 


via
If there was a number 7 on the list, it would definitely be Stoner by John Williams, but since I'm almost finished with that one I didn't add it. Apparently it has made quite a comeback in Europe over the last years - it was first published in 1965 - and in Belgium it was sold out in a lot of stores right before the holidays. I don't know if it gained the same popularity again in the US, anyone? I can definitely recommend it though!

Those who want to see if I make good on my promises can follow me on Goodreads! I could use some more friends over there anyway.




Have you read/ are dying to read any of these books? Any recommendations?


PS: I finally figured out what was going wrong with installing Disqus to my blog... I apologize in advance for any previous comments that look cluttered now. 

January 21, 2015

CITIES AND TRIPS: WHERE HAS BIRMINGHAM BEEN HIDING?

I am not considering myself an expert on the UK but I have literally never heard anyone raging about a city trip they took to Birmingham nor have I ever been recommended to go there. At least not until the city was named one of the ten best cities to visit in the world. And that's strange, because you know what? It's the SECOND BIGGEST city in the UK. I know, the news was a shock to me too. So when I had the chance to go there for a spontaneous and very short visit, I was intrigued. 

First of all I have to tell you that we only spent about a day in the city. We were on a ruthless time limit and had spent the morning driving through London (something I can never say no to) so by the time we arrived in Birmingham it was late afternoon. Still, it was great to have the last hours of sunshine left to walk around and get a first glimpse of this vibrant city. 

View from the library
The Public Library

According to the travel handbook who put the city on that list, 2015 is the ideal time to make a trip to Birmingham and I'm glad I did - even though I didn't know I was following their advice at the time. The city just feels very young and creative with hyper modern buildings being put right in front of century old churches. Somehow it works and it gives the area a very unique feel.  

The Custard Factory

So from my very short acquaintance with Birmingham it's a perfect destination for a quick city trip - a few days to discover the city are plenty - and I would love go back. Going to the Bull Ring (shopping!), Custard Factory (more shopping!), visiting the impressive public library (the largest in Europe) and walking along the canals (apparently more than in Venice) are a must when you find yourself in the center of the city. But what I loved most about this city is that there didn't seem to be that many tourists... It's only a matter of time though before the masses set there eyes on this hidden gem so get you butt over there before everyone else beats you to it!

Any other travel discoveries I need to know about for 2015? And have you ever been to Birmingham? 

January 8, 2015

EXPAT LIFE: MEMORABLE (TRAVEL) MOMENTS OF 2014

The new year has only just begun but I've already had the flu. I almost forgot what it felt like to be ill since working from home is like living in a safety bubble. Nevertheless I've had a few amazing days this week. Yesterday evening was spent in a near fatal sugar coma with my friends after a visit to a local ice cream place in my hometown. We just couldn't resist the delicious dessert menu! And earlier this the week I overdosed on kroketten or croquettes according to Wikipedia on my first visit to Pure Daphne - a place that only serves kroketten - in Ghent. I am headed back to California again soon, but before those bittersweet goodbyes come around I'm going to focus on the positive. So here are some of my favourite travel/expat moments of 2014, some of them small others pretty special but all of them unforgettable. 

January: a visit to Julian

In January we spent a weekend in a picturesque town in the California mountains. It was our first weekend away in a long time and to be honest, we haven't really been on a vacation just the two of us since. Julian is famous for its apple cider and apple pies (with ice cream!) ... an incredible combination if you ask me. Even though there isn't a whole lot to do there, I really enjoyed it. We stayed at a nice local hotel and drove to the desert on the second day for an early morning canyon hike. I wouldn't mind planning another trip like that!

February: getting my California driver's license

Let me tell you it's so much easier to be able to pull your driver's license out as your ID instead of your green card or passport. I have to admit, I felt like a local. Plus I passed on my first try, which is also a great feeling after all the people I saw leaving in defeat!

April: our Easter hike up Mt. San Jacinto

Since we're full on Americans and we live in California we love getting up early and working out. No plans for Easter? No problem. We decided to wake up at 5 in the morning, drive to Mt. San Jacinto and do a 'little' Easter hike. The hike itself wasn't always fun and I have to admit I almost wished humankind had extended that 'aerial tramway' all the way to the top - if not for getting there than at least for getting back down (just kidding, but still). The view was absolutely worth it though and I know you have to earn that! It's ridiculous how easily that pain is forgotten so I might even be persuaded to try it again this year... or go for San Gorgonio.

May: moving into our first apartment

Probably the biggest milestone of 2014: setting up our own little place in our first apartment. It was stressful and exciting at the same time and it didn't always go smoothly but we had a blast. I can't really believe how little stuff we had back then. Next time we move it's not going to be quite so simple.  


July: visiting home


I was really looking forward to going home after having been gone for so long. Those two weeks were a whirlwind of activities, a lot of them wedding related and very stressful (again). I'm glad not every visit home will be like that but it was perfect in a way. I literally got to see EVERYBODY again, because we invited so many people. We partied until the early hours, drank a lot of cava and ate a ton of food. Not much to complain about! Except maybe that flight we almost missed, but I'm not going to talk about that one... 

August: wedding anniversary number one!

Can you believe I almost forgot this one? 

August/September: welcoming our first visitors

There was little time for sadness after our trip to Belgium since two of my friends were coming to San Diego that summer so I had new things to look forward to. The stories are yet to appear on the blog (except for our trolley adventure around town) but I really hope to find some time this year haha! They were the very first visitors in our small apartment, which was kind of like a test and a happy reunion all in one. Also, it gave me the perfect excuse to be a complete tourist and show off my new hometown. 

November: celebrating Thanksgiving in Hawaii

It wasn't too long ago when we went from the chillier California beaches to sizzling Hawaii for Thanksgiving. I didn't reach my goal of visiting two new states this year, but that doesn't matter when I did fly to Hawaii, right? Anyway, it was a much needed break spent doing absolutely nothing except for having fun. And in December I even got to spend the holidays with both my families! 

What are your unforgettable moments of 2014?

January 4, 2015

DAILY ROUTINE: HAPPY 2015!


Happy new year everyone! 

I hope you've had a great holiday season! I spent new year's eve with my family in Belgium and since I missed the obligatory Disney movie for Christmas I watched Frozen for the first time after midnight. I couldn't help but wonder why this movie is so much more popular than other Disney movies, but maybe I'm just getting old. Anyway, it's been great to be back home and eat the foods I've been missing, cuddle with Mulan and realize that I have a whole second wardrobe I forgot about. I'm not too pleased about having missed the snow though - there was a tiny bit left when I arrived, but it hasn't snowed since - especially since it even snowed in San Diego right after I left! 

So far I've just been hanging around at home and helping out with the holiday festivities, but I'm looking forward to getting together with some of my friends next week and doing some necessary paperwork. 2014 was a great but hectic year so I'm looking forward to settling in and getting back into my blogging routine this year!


How did you spend the holidays? And more importantly did it involve snow?
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