Barcelona

I went to Barcelona last weekend.  Casual.  Just jetted off for a couple of days.

We booked a very last minute trip to celebrate boyfriend and I’s 3 years (nawww) with two nights in Barcelona.  We didn’t have that much time, so I thought Barcelona would be a great place to head as it’s quite a small city and we’d be able to do everything we needed in three days.

Arriving on the Saturday morning we checked into our hotel then trotted swiftly off to Nou Camp (the Barcelona FC football stadium).  It’s the biggest stadium in Europe and has one of the biggest capacities in the world.  Expecting this just to be a boy thing, I really enjoyed it!  It was amazing seeing the real life press rooms, the changing rooms, not to mention the pitch and the trophy room.

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Nou Camp – Barcelona

After a rest up at the hotel and a bath (cor, I do love a good hotel bath) we rambled down La Rambla (see what I did there?!).  It was so beautiful with all the Christmas lights, and a perfect temperature of about 12 degrees C.  Not so cold you had to lug a duffle around!  We checked out a market then had a wonderful meal at a traditional Catalan restaurant before heading home, drinking wine and playing cards.

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The traditional Catalan restaurant we ate in

On the Sunday we were up bright and early to visit Parc Guell, the park the architect Gaudi designed which was just absolutely incredible.  I’ve found my new kitchen tiles there!  The weather was beautiful (I even got a little bit red on my nose!) and the views stretching across Barcelona to the sea were gorgeous.

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View from Parc Guell

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My new kitchen tiles – please Mr Gaudi?!

We next headed to the Sangrada Familia, another Gaudi work of art towering over the city.  Managing to escape the crowds, we found a lovely local park where we just sat and marveled at it without the hubbub of ipads and audio guides.

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The Sangrada Familia

After a winding walk through the old town, we had a spot of lunch then a rest, before heading out on the town.  We ate at a lovely back street local tapas bar (also go on the back streets for cheaper food!) then bar hopped our way back to the hotel sampling lots of traditional Catalan delicacies …!

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Definitely considered a delicacy.

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This too.

On our last morning, we stumbled across a very new and modern flea market, that we gathered had been built due to the tradespeople’s old site being demolished.  It felt rather an odd juxtaposition, the old style flea market and the postmodern architecture.  Nevertheless, we had a great saunter round and I picked up some very cheap vintage jewellery.

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Barcelona Flea Market

I had a wonderful weekend and Barcelona is a city that I would most definitely recommend.  We did the whole thing very last minute, and very cheaply so it just goes to show you can jet off for the weekend with just a couple of hours planning – a great trip!

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La Rambla, Barcelona

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Southampton: A Fresher’s Guide

So I’ve been living and studying in Southampton for two years now and as part of going into my third year and presenting a Freshers’ radio piece on Southampton, I’ve put together this minute guide about three of my favourite areas; Nightlife, Lifestyle and Shopping.  So if you’re a fresher, a local or a stranger I hope this helps you discover the wonderful city that Southampton is :)

Nightlife

Jesters

Jesters; you know, I’m really not sure if there are any words.  Southampton hearsay tells me that its officially the worst night club in the UK.  Set underground with a dance floor the size of a kitchen and an amazing outdoor/smoking area, in the two years I’ve been there I’ve seen sex against walls, people vomit and continue dancing and people sitting in their own urine.  Rough right?!  But amazing.  To me, Jesters really is unique.  You can turn up in a bodycon and heels, skinnies and converse, fancy dress or tracksuits and be accepted, be allowed entry .. and probably even pull if you wanted to.  Its the place in Southampton you go to drink, to dance, to chat, to meet people, to play games.  It is just incredible, so much fun and you know what?  I think the saying genuinely applies: it really is so so bad, its so so good.

 

Oceana

Oceana is a chain of nightclubs around the country.  I’d never been to one before Uni before and in Freshers alone I saw Katy B, S Club 3 and 5ive (well 2wo..) perform live.  It’s huge and you go to dance, well I go to dance anyway.  They have two main dance rooms, one is a giant ‘Ice Box’ where the play slow grooves, R and B (gosh , I feel old) and the like and the other … is a Disco Room; one of the best rooms in the south of England I’m sure of it.  An illuminated dance floor, interactive DJs and a whole lot of singing it really is just a great, fun night out.  Be cafeful not to ask for a soft drink though, one barman went all Coyote on me once: Hell No, H2O!  Nightmare, but a great night.

Reflex

Do you see a pattern?  Bella’s general favourite night club spots are places she can wear jeans, boogie on down and generally have a great time.  Reflex is no different, I think its officially an 80s club but it plays old school tunes non stop, with another illuminated floor, a lush VIP area and … poles.  Yes, the wonder of poles in night clubs.  Making the most average of humans believe they are an Ibiza paid dancer gyrating, shimmying up it; flipping embarrassing, but again, a flipping lot of fun.

Lifestyle

Southampton Common

When you look at a map of Southampton, the Common is basically the giant green bit in the middle.  A wonderful recreation area, with a lake, a park, walkways, skateways, jog routes, carnivals held there; just a really great central area.  I’ve been for gorgeous evening walks there, had snow fights, played football in the scorching sun (Southampton gets great weather by the way), eaten far too many ice creams than I care to admit, and ogled at men in rugby training.  The Common, I believe as the youngsters say, is where its at.

Hamble

I’m pretty sure Hamble is a well kept secret for Southamptoners.  When I first moved there and googled ‘beach’, this is what came up.  Its about a fifteen minute drive from the centre but I’m not really sure if beach is the best way to describe it.  Its more like a pebbled shore.  But it is kinda cultural, it has ancient ruins of a sort and lots of beautiful walks and a sailing club.  A really nice afternoon out if you fancy it.

New Forest

Gosh, do I really need to tell you about the New Forest?  I’ve been going every year since I was born but it was just last year that I took the boyfriend for the first time, and since then we’ve had some great days out there.  He was just bewildered that just twenty minutes (I drive fast, okay?!) from the centre are cattle grids, hills, greenery, sunsets and wait for it … wild horses.  Nuts right?!  More like beautiful.  Just go, okay?!

Shopping

Westquay

When I say Westquay, I mean just the general Southampton City Centre shopping area.  It has all your favourites; Topshop, Urban Outfitters, an amazing Boots, New Look, Zara etc.  Other personal highlights include the gorgeous John Lewis I can get lost in for hours as well as the Waterstones/Costa which is great for a chilled cuppa and a read.  Westquay is the main centre which is connected to Above Bar Street which has the rest of the shops.  Make sure you check out Above Bar around Christmas time for the amazing German market, mulled wine and chocolate smothered loveliness galore!

Ikea

Ikea, what can I say?  I have been known to go just for dinner (meatballs, dahling) then for breakfast the next day, I love it that much.  Aside from the great tasting, great costing food, even if you can’t afford/don’t need a thing, its great for a wander around.  If you’ve never been, go!  Personal favourites are the apartments you can wander around and the marketplace for candles, fake flowers and paintings.

Portswood Charity Shops

Portswood is basically the student area of Southampton where 95% of those in private rented accommodation who are Uni students will live.  Whilst its not the most desirable area in the world, the charity shops are cracking.  I would say there are perhaps 10 or 11.  I find myself casually popping in on my way to the supermarket, or devoting entire afternoons to trawling around picking up tit bits.  The fashion is good, the home ware is good, the furniture is extrememly good and as far as charity shop pricings go .. its up there.

 

So a baby guide.  Enjoy Southampton, I most certainly do!

 

 

What Happened In April

1)  So at the very beginning of April (the 1st in fact), it was my lovely Mother’s birthday!  So we spent the day in Saville Gardens which was absolutely beautiful.  As you probably know, I absolutely adore flowers so it was just a generally great day out.

2)  And a few days later, it was my birthday!  Cue a very cheesy photo of me holding my Very Hungry Caterpillar Cake (and what?!).  I did do a blog about it, again, just greatness!

3)  And this shows Easter Sunday, which was absolutely beautiful.  My sister, brother-in-law and my gorgeous niece and nephew spent the day with us, eating too much and drinking too much.  It felt just like Christmas, but with more chocolate.  This picture shows boyfriend, my lil nephew Jake and myself preparing for our egg and spoon race.  Oh yeah.

4)  This picture is another Instagram photo (which I briefly mentioned in another post) showing the carnage of my birthday partay.  Standard.

5) and 6)  Not just the O2, but STEPS at the O2!  I don’t care if I’m lame, it was genuinely one of the best nights of my life.  The day started with my mother and I shopping before hitting up Cafe Rouge, drinking too much and seeing Steps perform.  Literally amazing.

7)  This picture shows the man and I ready to hit up my Performing Arts ball.  Blazer – Borrowed from my Housemate Hannah but from Primark.   Dress – TK Maxx.   Heels – Office.

8)  And this is the Performing Arts ball itself!  It was a proper dinner dance which was lovely.  Here’s my table of street dancers, so good!

9)  So a few days ago (in the absolutely rubbish weather), we went to Thorpe Park!  A very wet and wild day out.  We went on all the standard rides plus the newbie … Swarm!  Just by luck my housemate Jamie and I got at the front and it was amazing!  Oh, and this picture is of a lone duck that wandered into Burger King.  Classic!

10)  Yet more nail art!  This one shows a pink background then the Sunday Times Sports pages printed on top.  Darling, all you need is vodka.

11)  And this picture shows my house’s Poker Night!  It lasted for an entire 6 hours so was incredibly tiring but a lot of fun.  And the boyfriend won, yay!

Enjoy May lovelies :)

What Happened In January

Okay guys, so I realize I’m a bit late.  But with lectures beginning again in full steam, it’s been a bit hard to blog.  So after a hard week I’m finally having some ME time in my very clean room with beautiful flowers that the boyfriend got me whilst he’s screaming at football and fifa down the pub.  Perfect.  Basically, what I thought I’d do is give you guys a cheeky round up of what’s happened this month :)

So first of all the boyfriend got ill, very ill, which was monumentally rubbish.  Here’s one of the happier shots of him taken in A and E, after perhaps just a two hour wait, rather than sixteen hours …

So whilst he was recovering in London, I took a cheeky weekend out of studying for my exams and headed up to see him.  He was feeling alot better and we thought we ought to make the most of being in Landan Tahn so we headed to the British Museum to visit our inner cultural goddess (well that was my reason anyway).  It was beautiful, we saw original Greek jewelry, lots of Egyptian things and Cleopatra herself!  Definitely worth a cheeky trip up if you fancy some cultural love.

And finally at the end of the month, after all my exam bits and bobs were over, my University of Southampton street dance squad ‘Invasion’ headed to the University of Essex competition ‘Expressions’ to bust our moves where .. WE WON!  Here’s a couple of pictures of us celebrating our victory!

So that was January y’all.  Join Bella’s Bits soon for lots more fun and frolics!

Arg from Towie, right?

Wrong Annabel, very very wrong.  Arg meaning the beautiful latin American country of Argentina in fact.  The country I love thanks to Evita and sexy dancing and beautiful music and food and Argentinean wine.  But this Arg was referring to the Argentina as in the rugby team, at the Rugby World Cup 2011.

It was England’s first game and my parents, the boyfriend and I were crammed into a Premier Inn hotel room devouring every movement of the England rugby team.  I was devouring my book.  The angry shouts of Jonny Wilkinson missing four kicks and the elated whoops as penalties and tries came to play occurred around me as I sat in the corner, head in my book, occasionally glancing up to see if Toby Flood had come on yet, if which did occur the book would have been snapped shut and I would have ogled at Flood the whole time.  But Alas, my novel won the war.

It’s not that I’m not interested in rugby, I am.  I care about where the rugby is being played, I’m envious of the tipsy spectators in fancy dress, I’m very interested in how the rugby players look and their names; some have fascinating names.  But despite the rugby playing boyfriend and the rugby loving family, I don’t know the positions, I think a fly half is a kind of bug and a flanker is a brand of horse.

As long as I’m up to date in scores, players and matches (there’s an app, don’t you know) and I can hold a conversation about rugby, I see no reason I should have to love it, despite everyone around me.  My mother always said to me, as long as you know what’s happening in sport and you can remotely blag it, that’s fine.  So I can keep myself up to date with what’s going on with a minutes glance at BBC Sport or a quick check of the app, and impress the man’s friends with my knowledge of who won where and why, voila, instant fan.

I used to love sport.  I used to have the fold out world cup charts stuck to my bedroom wall and be an avid member of every team going at school.  I just think with age, your interests change and you develop more into the person you’re supposed to be, rather than the person your environment and those around you mould you to be.  I went to a sports school, I played netball nationally, athletics for Surrey, not to mention the tennis team, rounders team, basketball team … the list goes on.  At the time it was what I was subjected to and what all my best friends were involved in, of course I was going to join in.  Whilst I loved every second of my sport involvement, it’s only as I’ve progressed and moved on my with life I’ve discovered that sport isn’t my thing, it isn’t my outlet in life – and that’s fine.

So whilst I attend my creative writing class and listen to opera whilst reading novels and watching documentaries on theatre and art, Andy continues with his rugby twice a week, going to the gym and fiddling about with his dumbbells and barbells (I just had to ask him what his weights are called, point proven!).  And we work!  Having been together for nearly a year now, opposites can most definitely attract.  So what if I read a book at his rugby games and he listens to Kanye West whilst being dragged around an art gallery, as long as we respect and maintain even remote interest in each other’s outlets that’s fine, because that’s what they are, OUR outlets.

So whilst I think Argentina means Arg from Towie and he thinks Bach is german food, we work.  And long may we continue to do so!

If I Were A Boy

Yesterday gave way to a lunch time on the field with two of my good friends Mark and Laura.  Whilst chowing down our korma pasta in the not so bright sunshine, we observed a plethora of the male species kicking around footballs and rugby balls, generally being boys.   Having not so much to say, observing turned into viewing, which turned into scrutinising.

Never before have I noticed the grunts, the humphs, the running, the ‘Alright mate’s.  Granted, it was a testosterone frenzy with each animal guzzling hormones off the next, possibly accentuating the behavior, but it was nevertheless extremely fascinating.

So came the question: ‘What would you do if you had 24 hours as a boy?’.  Mark kept rather quiet during Laura and I’s discussion.  We came to the conclusion that we would definitely make priorities of going to the bathroom, drinking and generally using our swords as much as possible.

Using the loo would be a different experience altogether.  Other than festivals and forest adventures, us girls have little need to urinate standing up.  Yes the ‘SheWee’s are in their hay day but we’d rather have an excuse other than conformism to chill out against a wall for 20 seconds.  Now drinking would be interesting, with most girls getting at least tipsy after a couple of glasses of  their chosen tipple, to be able to withstand extreme units and not feel the usual accompaniment to alcohol would be a wondrous, if not quite expensive affair.  Now I’m not one to be crude, at least not in the blogging world, so take what you will from our final choice.

Beyonce was right to an extent.  Sure the chasing after girls and turning your phone off part sounds alright, but wearing anything and your guys sticking up for you, whatever you do?  Not so much.  Perhaps it’s just Godalming but even for a kick around the guys were pretty well attired.  And as for cheating on a girlfriend?  Many guys would of course, but just as many would refrain – and tell a girlfriend if their mates were.

So there you go, a maelstrom of grunts, showing off and generally being guys as we known and love them.  If I Were A Boy.  What would you do?!

2010 Year of Culture: March

First of all – sincerest apologies for not blogging sooner, not having Internet is a real drag – and I didn’t fancy typing all this on my phone…

So I’m officially a quarter of the way through my Year of Culture, and I’m pleased to announce it is going very well.  Some people may see Week 9 as a bit of a cop-out, I see it as a chance to express myself and illustrate to my followers my style; Annabel’s Fashion Week 1.  It was hard work, having to think about what I threw on each morning and finding a photographer (Thanks Mum) but it was very satisfying, and I got a large amount of ‘views’ for it, so thank you.

Arguably one of the best weekends of my life, headed to Manchester for Week 10 for a friend’s birthday.  Cue numerous tweets regarding midnight trolley racing, drunken chess games and epic murder mystery solving.  Headed to the city centre and shopped after all the escapades – cultural indeed.

Week 11 was a trip to the London Palladium to see Sister Act the Musical.  Just incredible with the combined colours, music and choreography, plus a 70 year old lady rapping The Sugar Hill Gang!  Epic.  And the Trinity College, Oxford University trip of course – read the blog for that one!

Week 12, or the 3rd week of March was a busy one; after all I am an A Level student.  I had a quick break from my revision and headed to the Lightbox Art Gallery in Woking.  It’s not huge and I must have only spent an hour there but seeing new art and new sculptures really cleared my head, and oh so cultural.

The 13th week took a party of 8, or strictly speaking 20,000 Carlisle fans to see Carlisle United v Southampton Saints in the Johnsons Paint Trophy Cup Final at the new Wembley Arena.  The atmosphere was electric, strolling out into the stadium, pint in hand, seeing the colours, the flags, the dancing, hearing the shouts, the chants; amazing.

So March has been an amazing month for culture and for me!   I’ve had more fun that I could have imagined, met lots of new people and had many incredible experiences.  Roll on the next one ;)