Saturday, 31 January 2015

The New Year

It seems apt that this is being posted on the last day of the first month of 2015. January has been one tough month in terms of getting back into the swing of things. I'm making some lifestyle changes which hopefully should start leading to me being happier in myself. 2014 was emotional and a rollercoaster ride. I'm pleased it's over and that 2015 can bring new and exciting opportunities.

Ringing in 2015 standing on Copacabana beach with an estimated 3 million people was actually very emotional and overwhelming for me. The last 6 months of 2014 were probably the hardest of my life and coming to Rio de Janeiro was the balm for my soul that I needed. Putting that physical space between myself and old memories was exactly what I needed. 

People all around us where wearing white, or yellow and red. Girls had floral crowns on their heads and boys were wearing white linen trousers rolled up, flashing their fabulous Brazilian tan. Brazil is a deeply Catholic country but also oddly superstitious and pagan. People were arriving with bunches of flowers to throw into the sea to offer them to the sea goddess. A group of people had brought drums and were chanting and clapping with bells in front of an altar.

Once the fireworks began people jumped into the sea with their white clothes on, waving their flowers high above their heads. It was almost indescribable - the noise, the energy, the excitement and the sheer mass of people. It gave me goose bumps and nearly made me cry. The whole spectacle made me feel so small and just reminded me that there are greater and better things out in the world for me to accomplish. Being so far away from my home gave me the chance to lick my old wounds and get some clarity. A few parts of me still feel deeply bruised and a little broken. I'm trying not to rush life and to not build my walls up again but that's a different struggle.

Rio de Janeiro has shown me that people live with spirit, and that people with very little in life still live a full life. There's something special about this place and I hope I have taken some of this South American spirit with me to tackle the challenges of 2015. It's not going to be easy, but if it was easy then what would be the fun in that?

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Wednesday, 28 January 2015


On Christmas Eve we decided to go to Downton Rio de Janeiro. We went with the sole purpose of going to Confeitaria Colombo but more about that in a bit. Downton Rio is very interesting. It's that fascinating mixture of old and new. You feel like you're in Paris but at the same time it's so New York. The Theatro Municipal is well worth a visit, it's inspired by the gorgeous Paris opera. It must be a gorgeous venue to see a show. 

As I said we went Downton for one specific reason: Confeitaria Colombo. Hands down one of the most stunning places I have ever be to. Founded in 1894 by Portuguese immigrants, Confeitaria Colombo (32 Rua Gonçalves Dias) is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Rio de Janeiro. Even Queen Elizabeth II has been here. Everything about this place sings 'Belle Epoque', the mirrors were brought over all the way from Antwerp on the ship, back in the 19th Century this was a massive undertaking. How everything made it over the Atlantic in the ship safely blows my mind.

When we arrived we were lucky enough to grab a table straight away, this is not always the case. You can queue here for ages. There was a piano player in the corner and I was transported to Paris instantly. The service was slow but in all honesty, it just gave you more time to look around and take everything in. We had sandwiches for lunch but the really treat was the dessert. After much back and forth I settled for a pastry with custard and strawberries. The strawberries in Brazil are amazing, so sour and tart it went perfectly with the sweet pastry.

I could have spent hours here and this is a really happy memory I keep thinking back to. The whole Rio de Janeiro experience has really stuck with me. It's such an amazing city.

We're slowly coming to the end of my Rio posts, I hope you've been enjoying them!

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Sunday, 25 January 2015

Jesus take the wheel

You can't come to Rio de Janeiro and not go see this handsome chap. Cristo Redentor stands tall and proud and looks out onto the great city of Rio de Janeiro at the peak of the 700-metre (2,300 ft) Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca Forest which I think is the highest point in Rio but feel free to correct me. Christ himself is 30 metres tall and his arms stretch 28 metres wide. This is probably the most iconic statue in the world and has been on my 'to see list' for years.

There are two ways to get up to the Corcovado. You can either get a train from the centre of Rio de Janeiro or you can do what we did, which is hitch a lift with our driver Sergio. You can only got up halfway and the rest of the trip you have to take a scheduled bus. It's fairly straight forward. When I go back in December I'm hoping to take the train up, you go through the jungle and it's meant to be beautiful.

You can either take the lift or escalator up, but we braved it and took the steps. This isn't actually as bad as you'd think. It's actually quite impressive as you really get the build up to the statue, as you go higher he comes closer and closer. Once you reach the top of the mountain it's actually quite overwhelming, seeing something you've only ever seen on television in person is very moving. 

A word to the wise (which should be daily obvious): get here early because this is THE highlight for many tourists. It was already fairly busy when we were there around 10am. Also wearing bug repellent there were loads of flying ants everywhere. Slather up in sun cream and stay hydrated!

On the way back from Christ the Redeemer we drove through the Tijuca Forest. The Tijuca Forest which is claimed to be the world's largest urban forest, covering some 32 km². It was stunning and honestly breath taking. You feel like you're deep in the Amazon forest with no one around you, but in reality you're in one of Brazil's most populated cities. It was amazing to see flowers and plants that I had never seen before and loads of exotic wildlife like monkeys.

I'm still dreaming of this holiday, I still have a few exciting posts to share with you. Bare with me!

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Thursday, 22 January 2015

Nina Eats - Penylan Pantry

As I've said previously, there are very few things in this world worth getting up early for. But brunch with my favourite ladies is certainly one of them. Hopefully this is the start of more fabulous breakfast clubs. Keen not to have to go too far we settled down into Penylan Pantry which is pretty much local to all of us. 

Penylan Pantry is a foodie's dream specifically if you're into seasonal and local produce. Bonus if you're super into healthy eating and fair trade produce. If you've read my blog for a while you'll know I'm very passionate about supporting Welsh produce and it's great to see another independent doing that.

I of course ate far too much and am paying for my cheese sins since joining a gym (I'm in so much pain). Having scouted the menu and seen the tasty treats on offer I thought I'd start off 'light' and go for the avocado on toast (£4.50). It could have done with a squeeze more of lemon but otherwise it was perfect. Served on a gloriously thick chunk of bread and with chilli salt on the side, it was definitely a good start to the morning. We shared a cafetiere (£2) and gossiped away. Hanging out with the girls always leaves me with a sore belly from laughing so much. 

You can get a cheeseboard for a fairly decent price of £8.50, but the one WGP and me is for two people so if you were to order on for yourself you'd get a little bit less. I let WGP as the Welsh princess choose our cheeses and she did a good job. I'm obsessed with Perl Las cheese (a blue cheese, I do love a smelly cheese), so of course that was slathered onto the fresh bread.

The ladies at the Penylan Pantry are all very helpful and it's worth a visit. If only for a cup of tea in the lovely surroundings. I'm sure the ladies and me will be back soon.

Penylan Pantry, 72 Kimberly Road, CF23 5DN
Price: ££½ 

Opening hours: 

Tues - Sat:

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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Romance & Love For Beginners: Independent Woman

I like to think that I am very much an independent woman of the 21st century. I'm educated (BA, MSc if we're really going to go into it), I live alone, I have a job, my rent gets paid, my bills get paid on time (more or less) and I buy all my own shoes.

I feel very strongly about advocating for the independent ladies of this world and it's more than just being financially dependent on yourself, although that's probably a great place to start. As someone who has always relied too much on a boyfriend to complete me I honestly stand firmly by being an independent women. There's a great sense of freedom that comes with being able to support and take care of yourself. I'm very proud of the fact that after, what was for me quite a traumatic break up, I managed to pick myself up and carry on with my life. During the week I am up at 6:30am, I do my job to the best of my ability and make plans with friends. It's such a satisfying feeling not having to depend on anyone else for your happiness. You're giving someone else a great deal of power by handing them the key to your contentment and confidence. 

There are times however where living alone and being a strong independent woman is hard. I battle with opening jars, I battle with the cap opener (which for some bizarre reason is for left handed people) and I can't put things on high shelves because I can never reach anything. I have to deal with power cuts by myself including googling 'fuse box - where?' using my pitiful 3G. Having no one help you with changing bedding is also traumatic.

Being an independent woman doesn't mean hating men or not wanting a boyfriend. I of course miss having someone in my life whom I share everything with and with whom I share a closeness (and occasionally cry on when life gets overwhelming). When I'm pitifully trying to open a can or figure out how to reconnect the u-bend pipe under my kitchen sink, I sometimes wish I had a boyfriend that I could call and who would take some of life's burdens off my shoulders. But then I think back to the times where I've compromised or ignored issues just because I didn't want to be alone, and how much misery that caused me. 

So right now it's better for me to be alone dealing with power cuts and broken kitchen pipes than to settle for some mediocre guy who's just going to disappoint me somewhere down the line. In the meantime, my landlord has become the most stable man in my life. I may not have a boyfriend on speed dial to fix my kitchen pipe, but I always have Richard.

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Sunday, 18 January 2015

Future Weather

Coat: vintage
Scarf: New Look (similar here)
Boots: Topshop
Bag: Longchamp
Glasses: Scout by Glasses Direct*

Well it's bloody freezing if you don't mind me saying so. These photos were taken the day after my brother and I landed back in the UK after three weeks of sun and 33 degrees in Rio. It was a shock to the system. It's probably not as cold as I'm making it out to be but I have delicate sensibilities.

I'm glad I have an excuse to wear my (faux) fur coat again. Unusual that the first venture is so late by UK standards. The scarf I'm wearing is actually one of those blanket wraps that everyone and their mother has got from New Look. Sadly I'm too small and slightly too chubby post Christmas to actually rock a cape properly (how do you style these things?) so I'm just taking the easy route out and wearing it as scarf. Wow such fashion blogger. Wow.

Life is carrying on as normal, work is taking up a lot of energy and I've joined the gym. Self loathing isn't getting me anywhere so maybe actually doing some cardio will help. Suggestions on a postcard please.

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Saturday, 10 January 2015

Parque Lage

On one of the less hot days we went to explore the famous Parque Lage. This garden is located in the well known Jardim Botânico neighborhood which is at the foot of the Corcovado. The garden was formerly the residence of industrialist Enrique Lage and his wife, singer Gabriella Besanzoni. During the 1920s Lage had the mansion remodeled. In the 1960s the land became a public park, with walking trails through subtropical forest. The Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage (Visual Arts School of Parque Lage) and a café open to the public operate from the former mansion.

The park is stunning. You feel like you're walking around in the jungle. There is a little tower ruin and it makes it feel like you're in a movie scene. South America has such interesting history and influences. I've been reading a lot about it and getting really interested. I've never been in such a country with these kinds of influences and it's amazing to have seen so many new and amazing things.

The stunning mansion in this park is home to the Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage. It has become an important hub in Rio de Janeiro where seminars and talks take place. The art of the students hangs proudly on the walls and can even be bought for your own walls. My family and I took shelter in the shade and enjoyed a strong coffee soaking up the atmosphere. These pictures take me right back, I'm already planning my trip back.

You can hike up to Christ the Redeemer from this park, it would take you an hour and 45 minutes and is not for the faint hearted. If I ever make it to the gym this year (once I've overcome my laziness and gym ear) then this would be an interesting challenge to take on. But maybe not when it's summer in Rio de Janeiro. Walking around the park was hot enough!

More pictures soon.

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