2013 – A Lucky Year

This time of year seems like the ideal opportunity to reflect on the past year, whilst also looking forward to the next year ahead… looking back I am pretty pleased with 2013! I have overcome some big personal challenges that I never thought were possible and had some incredible highlights… Feeling very lucky.

Durham…

The first half of the year was spent finishing my finals and my dissertation. I graduated from Durham in June with a 2:1 and a 1st in my dissertation – something I never thought I’d be able of achieving! This also marked the end of a major chapter of my life, I was ready to leave uni when I did but still look back and miss it with fondness – so many memories.

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Moving house…

I also moved out of the house I have lived in my whole life in the summer. Whilst it was sad to leave, it was definitely time to move onto a fresh start.

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Work…

In July I started 6 months of volunteering at an international development charity. This was the ideal opportunity for me, enabling me to learn so much about the development world with such inspirational people, confirming that this is definitely the field I want to pursue a career in, particularly in human rights.

Last Saturday I had my last shift at my events job before I go away – I am going to miss everyone hugely, the past 4 years with them have been such fun!

Adventures…

I spent 11 days house and dog sitting in a Parisian apartment, with a view of the Eiffel Tower, in August and fell in love with the city. I must admit, it was slightly strange being there when it was so empty with all the locals fleeing for the summer! Nonetheless, 11 days of dog walking, sightseeing, exploring, a little shopping, some heavenly eating and drinking (slightly broke the bank by my cocktail sampling here) ensued… A couple of friends visited, along with my Dad – allowing us with some much needed father/daughter time together.

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Whilst there I noticed that quality seems to be a constant pattern throughout all aspects of French life. In looking at the typical ‘Western’ eating habits, one would tend to find a diet abundant in fast cheap foods, often so processed that they barely resemble food anymore. I confess, I can be a bit of a food snob but I do believe I have a point, if you don’t believe me go and read the ingredients list of just one item in your cupboard – rather long isn’t it? And then there is French food. Generally, this is food made with passion, attention and a few excellent quality ingredients. Such a food is made to be enjoyed, lingered over and every last delicious mouthful savoured until the very end. The typical Brit abroad (I admit, I am rather generalising here) may scoff at the small portions provided to them in many a Parisian restaurant but this is a reflection of the age old saying ‘quality over quantity’, and how true that is.

Such moderation is perhaps something that flows throughout the Parisian lifestyle as a whole. Upon arriving in Paris, Caroline, whose flat I was taking care of, asked me if I smoked. Answering with the negative I returned the question. ‘Sometimes, socially’ came the response. We had this conversation whilst enjoying a delectable glass of rosé with our dinner. I truly think that the French have well and truly hit the nail on the head, we can have our cake (or croissant) and eat it too. But only one slice of cake, once a week. Such occasional indulgences are not only incredibly beneficial to the soul but also to our health as we most likely eat less overall.

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Some people say that Parisians can be obnoxious and rude. This is not something that I experienced in the slightest. Instead, this is simply a stunning city full of people who feel no need to justify what they want to do, which made me realise how guilty I am of doing this myself. Why? I have no bloody idea, something for me to work on…

For now, my favourite quote, fresh (?) from a Parisian loo:

Explore, dream, discover – Mark Twain

In September my Dad and I went on the most amazing adventure to Grenada for a week. On the first morning there I wrote my perspective post, and then fully enjoyed relaxing sans guilt for my time there – although given the Caribbean attitude to life, it was hard not to.

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Being there in the low season meant that we were able to see the fully beauty of Grenada, without a crowd of tourists. The beaches were empty and beautiful, the cocktails (once again) were flowing, we toured the countryside, visited a rum distillery and the Grenada Chocolate Company’s plantation, lazed on a floating hammock and sampled some unbelievable local food, and beer… Heaven.

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Family…

We celebrated my Granny’s 90th birthday in the spring of this year. It was a great chance to catch up with the whole family and actually all be together at the same time. I find my Granny so inspiring – she is so spritely still and determined to live each day to the full, an honour to be with.

Friends…

Finally managed to catch up with some of my friends that I haven’t seen in far too long this year, whilst also making some new ones! I have been so grateful to have such close friends this year, who are always there when you least expect it. Big love.

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Cherries & Chisme…

13th October saw my first post on Cherries & Chisme. It has been the perfect platform for me to try out new recipes, gain inspiration from other bloggers and generally just get my thoughts down in writing. I also had some recipes featured in my old student newspaper. I admit I have been somewhat neglectful of my blog as late – work, Christmas and travel preparations took over but I hope to be able to post regularly again in the new year.

Christmas…

This year I spent my first Christmas abroad with family in Brittany, Northern France. The weather seemed determined to challenge our travel plans, with both the first and then the replacement ferries being cancelled. Eventually we managed to get onto an early channel tunnel crossing on Christmas Eve and, after a 6-hour drive on the other side, finally made it. Safe to say, the journey home was a walk in the park. My family lives in such a beautiful area and I even managed to drag my Dad out for part of my Christmas Day run! It was so sweet to see the wonder on my cousin’s children’s faces as they opened their stockings and all their presents – a magical Christmas.

I’ve also been lucky enough to have lots of ‘mini’ Christmases – with my Mum, friends, auntie & uncle, auntie & cousin!

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The year ahead…

On 3rd January I depart on a 24-hour journey to Buenos Aires, Argentina to start my adventure – a month’s Spanish school and 5 months of a human rights internship. As I look forward to the next 6 months I face a strange mixture of emotions – excitement combined with a bit of fear and trepidation, and sadness for leaving home. I only hope my Spanish will hold up so I can actually speak with people!

In February we are due to move into our completed house, which we have been building since the summer – so I am going to be coming home to a new home, I only hope my Dad is trustworthy with the decoration!

As for life after Argentina, that seems so far off in the future now… I have applied for a masters, starting in September but am yet to hear back – finger’s crossed.

Wishing you all a very happy New Year, have a fabulous 2014 xxx

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