True friendship is not being inseparable, its being separated and nothing changes.
These past 2 weeks have been filled with so much that I don’t know where to begin! I guess I should mention that this update doesn’t just include my exploring here in Italy but back home in the UK too. Between London, the Peak District, Brescia, Lago di Como and my birthday it’s been a very busy and tiring two weeks! Nevertheless its been really fun and means I have lots to write about 🙂
Firstly, autumn has arrived here! I think its my favourite season (when it doesn’t rain) as the colours are just so beautiful. Plus I love the sound of walking through fallen leaves (cheesy, I know). However the onset of autumn also means the clocks have changed so now it gets dark here at around 5.30pm, which is a bit of a shame but I’ll learn to live with it.
Now onto my trip back home, well not actually home but back to the UK. It was a group trip to the Peak District for the weekend with my friends from university. There’s about 15 of us dotted all around the UK (and me in Italy) and we try to meet up every 6 months or so. We all met 5 years ago when we were put together in halls of residence at university, we lived in different flats but in the same block and have really been friends since the first night of freshers in 2011 (!). We all did different courses, come from different backgrounds and different areas of the UK but somehow we’ve formed a really great group of friends that we’ll have for the rest of our lives. It is really strange to think that a computer system actually founded our friendship (and even the relationships within our group) as we were just totally random people, worried about finding friends and enjoying our courses…and here we are 5 years later still all together and as if no time at all has passed.
The quote this week is probably one of my favourite ones so far as is it just so fitting for me, my life and my friends. Living abroad it means I often can’t get to every meet-up so this time it had been over a year since I’d actually seen most of them! Although we all look a little older and actually have real life adult jobs, in essence nothing at all has changed. It’s as if I saw them all last week, not 14 months ago. People do always say that true friendships are those that stay the same even after time apart…in this case its very true. For a few minutes it felt like we’d been transported back in time to first year, playing drinking games, being ridiculous and laughing until we were nearly crying and then suddenly we were back in the present thinking about going back to work! It’s such a weird experience and I don’t think people can understand it until they’ve experienced it for themselves. A weird, comforting, fulfilling yet strange experience.
Anyway onto the actual trip…I flew back to London on the Thursday night and stayed with Lauren and Becca as we weren’t actually going to the Peak District until the Friday. We took the train with Alice from St Pancras to Matlock on the Friday morning, arriving at 12.30 in time for a mini-reunion in the train station car park where some other friends picked us up to drive us to to the cottage we had rented for 2 nights in Bakewell.
On the Friday night we just spent time catching up with everyone who could make it (11 in total) and drinking every bit of alcohol we’d originally bought to last the weekend! Our cottage, well I say cottage yet it had 5 bedrooms and was pretty spacious, was located just a few minutes walk from the centre of Bakewell – the town famous for the original Bakewell Pudding! It was so nice to see everyone and although we didn’t even really do that much besides chatting and playing a few games, it was one of the best nights I’ve had in a while.
On the Saturday we did a 7 mile walk around Chatsworth Country Estate. I’d never been to the Peak District before so really enjoyed seeing it all whilst walking and chatting. The weather was a bit dull but it didn’t rain so we were really lucky. We walked all around the estate including the village of Edensor, Chatsworth House and even up to the Hunting Tower which had really great views.
Edensor was a lovely little village which actually was moved in the 1840s as the Duke of Devonshire at the time (William Cavendish, 6th Duke) thought it was an eyesore when looking out from Chatsworth House. So naturally the whole village was moved…today you can still see houses/shops with navy blue facades and fences, indicating that they belong to the Duke of Devonshire.
Chatsworth House was different to what I expected, I thought it would have been bigger and white for some reason. We didn’t go inside (as we’re too cheap haha) but walked around the outside and had coffee in the Stables before setting off to walk up to the Hunting Tower.
We’d heard that Kate and Wills had stayed in the Hunting Tower and you can see why the views were amazing. I imagine on a clear, sunny day you can see for miles and miles.
In the evening we went to one of the pubs in Bakewell and I got to have my fix of Fish & Chips as I don’t know when I’ll get the chance to have them next. Simple things in life, like sitting in pub with your friends, really can be the best.
On Sunday we took some time to walk around Bakewell which was really nice, its mainly filled with outdoors shops, gift shops and shops selling Bakewell Tarts/Puddings. We went to the the bridge over the River Wye which has been turned into an unofficial Love Lock Bridge. Its a simple principle, you and your loved one buy a padlock with an engraving and lock it onto the bridge, throwing the key into the river to symbolise that your love will last for ever. I’ve seen Love Lock Bridges in a few different cities (the best being in Cologne) so it was a pleasant surprise to see one in a pretty small town.
You can’t go to Bakewell without trying an original Bakewell Pudding, so we went to the shop that has the oldest claim and Tom assured us was the original. I didn’t know the difference between a pudding and a tart and it’s actually pretty basic; the pudding is the original version and the simpler one, the tart is a more recent version that includes icing on the top. The filling is an egg and almond paste with a layer of jam. I’m not much of a fan of marzipan/frangipani flavoured things but I still tried it and it was really nice – and I can now say I’ve had an original Bakewell Pudding 🙂
A few people had to leave around lunchtime to drive home (which was emotional) so after we left our cottage those who remained went to Curbar Edge…
Curbar Edge is a great viewpoint to see the Peak District…only when we went it was so foggy you could hardly see anything at all. Still, it was quite nice to be surrounded by the fog, it felt almost as if we were in a film. We took lots of photos and tried a few group ones where I ended up looking like the running man emoji trying to get into the frame on time!
There was then another emotional moment when we had to say goodbye to the rest of our group. They’re all planning to meet up in December for our yearly Christmas meal but for me its just too far. That means I probably wont see most of them again until next summer (unless there’s any big event between now and then) but as I said before, I know we’ll all be friends for a very long time and it doesn’t matter to me how often I see them. Then again, I did choose to live abroad away from my family and friends so I guess its on me.
After saying goodbye to everyone we then took the train back to London, arriving at about 9pm. It was very busy so we spent the first hour very up close and personal with each other and random members of the public in one of the vestibules. After that we managed to find seats so it wasn’t too bad.
My flight on the Monday wasn’t until 4pm so in the morning Alice, Becca, Lauren and I went for brunch near to London Bridge at a great restaurant called Bills. We walked over the bridge itself so I could get a look at Tower Bridge before leaving. I took the Stansted Express from Liverpool Street at around 1.30pm.
My flight was a bit of a nightmare; it was on time and everything, no turbulence but I somehow found myself in a window seat beside a rather large man. It’s safe to say it was uncomfortable and the baby seated behind me didn’t stop screaming for the full 2 hours…
The only upside to all that was this photo I managed so snap somewhere over the south coast of the UK. We flew just as the sun was setting and with my window seat (my face was practically squashed against the window – thats how little room I had) I could see it happening right before my eyes. It was so beautiful.
On Tuesday I went to Lago di Como with one of my friends. It took about 2 hours by train and we had to change once at a really strange, eerily-quiet station; but for a return ticket it was only 17€ which I thought was pretty reasonable. I’m not sure what I was expecting from the lake but in my head I’d imagined it to be very exclusive and full of rich, famous people and enormous houses. In reality it was pretty similar to any other Italian city or town on any of the lakes. I’m not saying it wasn’t amazing because it was, but it was just more ‘normal’ than I was expecting.
We spent a while walking along the promenade and just appreciating the views. Then we walked along the breakwater which also kind of serves as a harbour wall. It’s about 350m long and right at the end there’s a sculpture called Life Electric by Daniel Liebeskind. It’s dedicated to the physicist Alessandro Volta (who was from Como) and is related to his invention of the electrical battery. It’s mirrored surface reflected so many different images and angles, I imagine on a very sunny day that its a focal point of the lake.
We then spent some time wandering around the historical centre of Como. It was bigger than I was expecting and full of winding streets and very old buildings. The Cathedral was really beautiful but we didn’t get to see much of if as there was a ceremony on inside when we visited.
We also saw the original town walls and the gates which now hold no use other than something to see. Walking around for me was a little strange as you could really be in any Italian town, besides the Cathedral which distinguishes that you’re in Como it really is just like any other northern Italian town.
We then walked to the eastern side of the town along the promenade and to the Como-Brunate Funiuclar. In operation since 1894, the funicular links Como to the village of Brunate, some 500m above the lake. The queue was really long so it would be better to go earlier in the day I think but it moved pretty fast.A return trip costs only 5,50€ and takes about 10 minutes each way. The best views are obviously from the back (when you’re ascending) but you can still see well from anywhere in the carriage. When you step off the funicular at the top you can immediately see why so many people take use of it…
Brunate itself isn’t very big at all, maybe a few hundred people live there but there are a few restaurants and hotels and a beautiful church. It was a foggy day so we couldn’t really see that far but I know that on clear days you can see all the way to Mont Blonc!
By the time we got back home on Tuesday evening I was totally exhausted! After all the travelling to and from the Peak District, flying back and forth to London, visiting Lago di Como and the little sleep we actually had in Bakewell, it was no surprise that I saw asleep by 9pm!
Wednesday was a pretty strange day for me as it was my birthday but it really didn’t feel like it. Yes, I’ve celebrated my birthday away from my family for years now but each time someone has come to visit me and I’ve at least had someone with me. This year was a little different. My mam had sent a box with my presents and cards to me but it didn’t arrive until the afternoon, so when I woke up in the morning it was just weird. I had two cards from my friends I’d been to Bakewell with but apart from that I didn’t have any semblance of a birthday until my box arrived and then I had dinner in the evening.
Nevertheless, I got some lovely cards and presents which I opened on Skype with my whole family; jewelry, chocolate, clothes, money and lots of map/travel inspired gifts. My Italian family made me a nice cake and got me a beautiful woolly bodywarmer/jumper that will be great when the colder weather comes.
On Thursday I had my first class with the teachers from school. There were 16 of them, only 3 or 4 of which had done any kind of English before. I mean, most of them had never, ever studied English before at all, not even just a year at school. So it was quite stressful trying to teach all the different levels at the same time. I found that once I’d gotten over the initial half an hour it was quite enjoyable. Even though we only did really simple topics like greetings and colours, it was nice to have a class that actually want to learn! I think that’s the main difference between teaching children and adults; adults generally choose to study something for themselves not because they have to. They are more motivated, inquisitive and just nicer to teach if I’m being honest. I still love teaching children and trying to inspire them to speak languages but its a breath of fresh air to be able to teach a whole group where every single student wants to learn.
I’ve been planning my upcoming lessons and trying to find things/topics that will be interesting and not just reading from a textbook or learning grammar rules. Hopefully once we get a bit further into the course they’ll loose the deer-in-the-headlights look and not look petrified every time I call their name!
That’s it for my second update, it’s been so busy and the time has flown so I know in no time that I’ll be writing my third update. I don’t have much planned really, probably a few trips to local places (maybe a trip to Venice) but mainly just working and planning. Once again, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy following my life here in Italy.
Ciao for now!
Read my previous update by clicking here 🙂