Manchester & Parklife

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Talk about #laterblog, but Parklife in June was amazing!

This is the second time I’ve been. Last year my pals and I went down by train and made a weekend of it, but this year we just went for the Sunday (when all our fav bands were playing) and hung around Manchester for a few days after. Maybe I’m getting old, losing my cool hipster edge. Maybe I’ve just figured out how to power-game music festivals. Who can be sure?!

Parklife

Brace yourself for a blogroll of awesome bands that I saw on Sunday at Parklife, in no particular order the order in which I saw them:

Tei Shi

I don’t know why she was on so early – Tei Shi was amazing! Our pal Gav was meant to come but couldn’t at the last minute and he would have totally rocked this with me. Instead our pal Moff caught up with Tei Shi later and got an epic selfie with her for us! #jealouswoon


TCTS

Manchester bands obvs got mad hype at Parklife. But TCTS are pretty amazing, imho. Get it in your ears!


BadBadNotGood

Moff wanted to see them. They were on Collonade stage which was basically across a street, but SUCH a cool ambiance there! Tree-covered and everyone very relaxed, shall we say. Lots of.. relaxed.. people. The music was okay but too jazzy/instrumental for me compared to the other stuff. Probably perfect for you listening from the comforts of your home now!


Tourist

Another excellent set.


Chet Faker

*swoon*


Jess Glynne

Jess Glynne was on the main stage. (Route 94 was also there, in another stage.) I only saw Jess Glynne in passing as the crowd was IMMENSE. She’s great.


Todd Terje & the Olsens

The best song ever. Todd Terje is amazing. The tent was shaking. Fans were loving it. We got to the front and threw many shapes.

We would have stayed for HudMo on next after Terje but we have seen HudMo many many times in our hometown so made our way on to…


Baauer

Baauer was AWESOME last year and didn’t disappoint this year. That said, anyone on LuckyMe = much <3 from me and my pals.

This year, we saw him from the big hill overlooking the Ram Jam stage. Needless to say everyone went nuts at Harlem Shake. Trap for days.


Blonde

AMAZING! The tent was absolutely heaving, people pouring out on all sides. Blonde was fantastic!!


Jessie Ware

Jessie Ware was also mainstage. Heard the above song in passing while I was hustling to…


FKA Twigs

I had to go on my own; my pals were way not into it. I went up to the front and basically another fan beat me to it, asking the security guard the question we were all dying to know: Is Robert Pattinson backstage *squee*?

(There were also a ridiculous number of security guards right up front by the stage for this show which makes me think something must happen/must have happened to necessitate so much security?)


Duke Dumont

We were at Duke Dumont for the headliner, last thing of the night. Well worth it! Last year we finished with Caribou, who was also headlining this year. Difficult choices to be made. But Duke Dumont was FANTASTIC.


Pics for proof:

Basically the ‘Sounds of the Near Future’ stage was our home for most of the day. I ate a burrito. And my boots got covered in port-o-loo ‘mud’ as all the toilets everywhere became a morass of.. mysteries as the night wore on. I also brought my own toilet paper BECAUSE I AM A GROWN UP WOMAN.

Other Manchester Highlights

Top Eats

  1. Gorrilla – A Manchester institution for us. Dangerously close to our flat… Beers and pecan pie. Everyone else ate real food but only God can judge me.
  2. Northteapower – We went here last year. Definitely still the best place for a coffee. I had an epic french toast with bacon in it. Set me up just right for Parklife!
  3. Fig + sparrow – Breakfast yums! Round the corner from NorthTeaPower, this cute little cafe stroke giftshop has lots of cute mugs, tea towels, trinkets etc. I could have filled my suitcase!
  4. The Pacific (George St) – We fancied a dim sum meal in Manchester’s Chinatown. This one ranked highly and didn’t disappoint! I still think it’s probably best to go to a ‘real’ Chinese restaurant like this one with a Chinese person, but they were gentle with us. So tasty.
  5. Changos Burrito Bar – Omnomnom. Tasty burritos (a la our hometown Illegal Jack’s!). I really liked all the swish branding work though, cute stickers with different geometric animals for each type of meat, cute packs of tortilla chips, etc. Big luchador-y art on the walls.
  6. Home sweet home – Massive cakes! Too big! First thing in the morning on our last day in Manchester, I set out (while everyone else was hungover) to buy ALL THE CAKES from this shop. I probably bought too many. I had to stop midway home to rest, so cake-laden.
  7. Chippy from Leo’s Fish Bar –  The best chippy of my life (ie. perfect combination of delicious + timing). I’m salivating with nostalgia.
  8. Samsi Japanese – We went here last year for a bento to go before our train home. This year we stopped for a full meal. So tasty, legit Japanese food. They have a Japanese food market downstairs too. Wandered along and sat for a bit in Sackville Gardens nearby.
  9. Pita Pit – Why is this good, I don’t know. But it was definitely cheap = requirement #1. Served its purpose, before our train ride home.

& Drinks

  1. Sinclair’s Oyster bar – Sinclair’s was easily the best place we found in all of Manchester. Very cheap Sam Smith beers and basically nothing else. Not even a website! Tom’s round, easily the cheapest round of the night… We played card games in a small annex of seats inside.
  2. Common bar (twt) – Hip place with excellent beers. Open very late. We came here after Oasthouse, what a relief.
  3. The Oast house – Maybe too many suits for my taste but good beer selection! Cougar central.
  4. Thirsty scholar – Random sticky-floor pub we found near to our flat. Got the job done though!
  5. The Temple (of Convenience) – We passed this place a number of times before mustering up the courage to go in. It looks like a public toilet – basically because it is a renovated victorian public toilet…. Really cool dive bar though, great music, just enough seats. Felt like a great place to meet people (if I was even remotely social).

&Activities!

  1. The Escape Room – This is a legit Escape room! So good! We did the jailbreak themed room. They handcuffed us three together and we had (as normal) an hour to get out. We managed it in good time, obviously. But really cool room set-up! There were jail cell bars within the actual room. Well impressed, Escape Room!
  2. Dogbowl – Killing some time before Moff headed home, we stopped in here (across from our flat, and next door to Gorrilla – really great area!). A round of bowling and some beers!
  3. Plus we went to the cinema. This cinema is definitely haunted. Good arcades though!

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Manchester was a laugh! My belly is full and my ears are happy. See you next year, Parklife!

Paris & Mont Saint Michel trip – SWOON!

My mom loves castles. Seriously, no one loves castles as much as my mom does. We’re talking castle wall calendar, castle-lover status. Two castles top her list: Mont Saint Michel in France, and Neuschwanstein in Germany. Now that she’s retired, she’s got time to travel, and I’m so excited we got to take her to France to see Mont Saint Michel in all its glory! (Plus, spending the rest of the week in Paris with her and handsome S was bliss!)

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We only had a few days for our whole trip, so hopped a train to Rennes for a night. We ended up in a fancy first-class train with recliner seats and the works (same price as regular class tickets, score!). Very swish. But we left Rennes first thing the next morning on a tour bus to Mont Saint Michel. The bus only cost ~10euro each and we arrived around noon.

As soon as we got off the bus, we could see Mont Saint Michel in the distance. Mont Saint Michel is a tidal island in Normandy. The castle sits atop a huge rock formation and when the tide is low, apparently the world’s only salt-water-plant-eating sheep graze along the shore! There’s a causeway to get out to the castle, that used to flood over when the tide was in, but they’ve fixed it now so the island is always accessible. UNLESS THERE’S A SUPERMOON OMG!

We stayed at Le Relais du Roy, and they gave us a cool room with a teeny balcony with amazing views!  It was so close we could just pop down to get a closer look at the castle whenever we wanted, and made for some stunning snaps of the castle covered in sea fog in the morning. Didn’t even have to change out of my pajamas!

We ate at the hotel restaurant; I tried the Mont Saint Michel omelette, which had seaweed in it… and was poofed up like a soufflé! Chased it with a huge creme brulee but everyone scoffed most of it off my plate! Vultures!

The next day we went into the castle, toured the beautiful rooms (huge vaulted ceilings with great pillars, how did they do it all without cranes?). We saw the grand views of the causeway and the tour groups fording the sometimes-quicksandy beach while the tide was out. It felt like a totally different world, far away from everything else. Utterly relaxing.

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I forgot to mention, it was about 38 degrees C (100F) everyday, sweltering relentless heat. Nothing had air conditioning or even a fan… so it was really quite uncomfortable most of the time. But anywhere with a breeze, gelato, ice cold beers, came as SUCH a relief.

They have built a new fancy dam on the river that heads out around the castle, and it’s worth watching the water levels change at the tides. We finished seeing everything there was to see in Mont Saint Michel and Pontorson in a day, so hustled onto a train (not first class this time unforch…) and headed to Paris for the next few days adventures!

Paris: DAY 1

1. Eiffel Tower

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Since it was my first time in Paris, I wanted to see and do (and eat!) all the touristy things. Handsome S however has been a number of times, so was over the Eiffel tower and such. So we split teams and went on our own adventures throughout the day! Everyone’s happy (despite the sweltering heat).

On our first day in Paris, my mom and I got up early and headed to queue for the Eiffel Tower. We’d heard that the best thing to do was queue at the South pillar for the stairs entrance (instead of the super long queue for the lifts). It was cheaper to take the stairs (~5euro), and so much faster. I have a habit of pushing my mom too hard on holiday (She always reminds me of our Washington DC trip of the early ’00s where each night we soaked our feet in the hotel tub, so exhausted from all the walking I made us do). But she managed it up the few flights of stairs without much fuss. Refreshing breezes between all the steel beams on the ascent. We got an ice cream at the cute Eiffel cafe on the first floor before carrying on up for epic views. Definitely worth a visit – but perhaps just the once for me!

We left in the direction of Trocadero station for what are meant to be the best views of the tower (as seen in adjacent photo of my mom with Eiffel). They were pretty great, to be fair, but it was really so hot it was hard to stay still even in the shade. Even for tourist photos…

2. Notre Dame

S had gone to the Catacombs while we went to Eiffel, and we all reconvened back at our cute little AirBnB for lunch (baguette sandwiches, massive macarons, pastries galore from the local bakery!, local beers, so much ice water).

Refuelled, we soldiered on to see Notre Dame. Although it’s free entry into the cathedral, the queues to get in were winding all around the promenade area in front of Notre Dame, and so we just hurriedly snapped a few photos and wandered on. Sorry Notre Dame!

3. Shakespeare & Co.

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Notre Dame is pretty close to Shakespeare & Co, the rite-of-passage bookshop for all literary-loving tourists in Paris. Just cross a bridge and cut through a park. We had to queue to get into the bookshop as well – but, result!, this was literally the only place in France it seemed with air conditioning. The place is a warren of books of all genres, tiny but packed. People were crouching over fans at every corner. Most not even looking at the books, so exhausted from the heat… I found a couple holiday reads, got them stamped (<3) and we were on our way!

(Note the queue even for the free-water Wallace fountain on the left of the photo above! Elbows out!)

4. Laduree

IMG_9725We crossed a number of bridges on our walk, many of them still covered in Love Locks, even though at the Pont des Arts bridge (famous for all it’s love locks), the grilles are all boarded up as the locks have been removed. Be glad to know we did not put any locks on any bridges anywhere! My love is not a lock. My love needn’t take down a bridge.

We headed on towards Laduree, as I wanted to try their famous macarons – see what all the fuss was about! The shop was beautiful and fancy. We got a pack of a few different flavors and brought them home with us. My favorite was the salted caramel, with lemon a close second! #omnomnom

5. Bateaux Mouches by night

After Mont Saint Michel, riding the Bateaux Mouches boats along the Seine was probably my top pick of our trip. We were packed in like sardines, and had to queue for ages to board, but what a lovely and relaxing way to see all the sights and rest our legs at the same time. My inspired partner bought us a few beers to enjoy on the trip. *collective sigh of contentment*

The boat took us past many of the famous sights we’d seen during the day. But the best part was that we timed our trip to coincide with the sunset and we got to see the Eiffel Tower twinkling and sparkling in the night sky.

It was also fantastic to see the riverbank along the Seine come alive with locals. There were full bands playing all sorts of music, and huge groups dancing in the alcoves along the water. Groups of friends drinking wine along the promenade all waved at us (and the hundreds of other tourist boats I presume) the whole trip. Very lively, friendly atmosphere.

Paris: DAY 2

1. Place des Vosges

On Sunday, we started our day a bit slow, having got home from the boat trip around midnight (way past my bedtime! Sorry, the French!). So we moseyed our way down to the Place des Vosges in Marais, a quaint little square with art galleries and cafes. The corridor’s acoustics amplified the sound of a random accordion player; fancy people mingle with art shop workers; families with kids played in the adjacent park. I got an amazing rose-shaped gelato from Amorino just as it started bucketing down with rain.

2. L’As du FallafelIMG_9976

At a break in the rain, we headed for lunch at L’As du Fallafel, this super-busy little fallafel shop in the Jewish quarter. The queue to order stretched around the corner of the street, but it was totally worth it! Very hectic, in exchange for an AMAZING shawarma. #omnomnomagain

3. Frog Revolution

Wandering home in the heat (did I mention it was boiling hot everyday?), we found an auspicious beer bar for my  frog-loving partner: Frog Revolution. It had a selection of delicious craft beers, brewed not far from the source! Needless to say we were ELATED. My mom had a nap.

4. Louvre

Refueled, we headed for the Louvre! S had been before and didn’t want to face the queues, so he went for a walk while my mom and I headed eagle-eyed for the Mona Lisa. As she only wanted to see the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, we managed to get in and out of the Louvre in about an hour. Certainly a Louvre record? The whole building was immense, room after room of beautifully high ceilings covered in paintings, every wall also appointed with countless framed masterpieces, every hall filled with sculptures. Incredible really… and kind of scary having all that art in one place!

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We found the Mona Lisa, which was needless to say way smaller than expected, and the hordes of people crowding to see it were pretty intense. We squished up to the front so I could take the requisite snap of my mom with Mona in the back. Some kids ducked the barrier and almost got football tackled by the security guards for getting too near to the glass-covered painting. Intense!

We scouted out the Venus de Milo which was way less busy (although still busy, the whole place is heaving). Having seen the required, we headed above ground and out for a 7euro coffee at Cafe Marly facing the Louvre Pyramid. Why I got a hot coffee in the sweltering heat is beyond me.

5. Arc de Triomphe

IMG_0137Poor Stuart hadn’t gotten very far as we were only in the Louvre for an hour. He turned round and met us at the cafe and we headed down on foot via the Jardin des Tuileries towards the Arc de Triomphe. I had every intention of walking there from the Louvre, through the lovely gardens along the way. However with the boiling sun, minimal shade, and the plethora of people selling cheap trinkets, we opted to take the metro instead.

The Arc de Triomphe was pretty big and busy all around. I like my photo of the girl (American tourist) with her red beret and striped shirt and bottle of red wine. Pretty much epitomizes what so much of Paris was like. At least all the touristy bits…

We headed off quick-smart, found an open-air cafe restaurant (basically all the cafes have all their walls open, with people drinking and smoking outside at small tables, everyone facing the passing crowds). I had a croque monsieur with a fried egg on top – get in! S and my mom both had refreshing salads. =)

6. Jardin du Luxembourg

IMG_0165After a massive day in the sun, walking around everywhere, all I wanted was to sit down in the shade and relax. After our lunch-dinner we headed to the Luxembourg Gardens, a free-to-enter public park which was pretty quiet compared to all the mega-touristy places we’d been so far. We sat for a bit beside the fountain, evening breeze blowing through, then wandered about stopping to check out the various old guys playing chess at some chess tables, people playing tennis, couples cuddling. A lovely place. And a really nice way to bookend our second busy day.

Paris: DAY 3

Our final day! Bittersweet to say the least.

We didn’t have much time before our flight, so tried to do lots of stuff in the same area: beautiful Montmartre!

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1. Sacre coeur

First stop on our trip, we caught a funicular up to the top of Sacre coeur for the most picturesque Parisian views.

We popped inside to the church (still functioning! free to enter!) and didn’t take any photos because there were pretty explicit signs saying ‘NO PHOTOS’ and ‘SILENCE’. It took all my will power to hold my tongue at the tourists taking photos of the praying nuns, right in front of the ‘no photos’ signs. Really winds me up! Who are you people? Put your iPads down! They’re definitely getting smote.

2. Place du Tertre

Wandering down from the Sacre coeur, we stopped to see the Place du Tertre. The whole square was lined with artists painting right there on the spot and selling their various masterpieces. Very cool.

3. Montmartre Cemetery

IMG_0263We followed the winding road down from the Place du Tertre, passed the famous Moulin de la Galette (the last remaining windmill in the area I think?), to the local cemetery. I think Paris is pretty famous for its epic cemeteries, especially Père Lachaise, but we couldn’t quite squeeze that in this time. But I think the cemetery in Montmartre gives a good idea of what they’re like – cobbled tree-lined paths, new and old family tombs and gravestones in a variety of styles on all sides. The dappled leaves shading the whole area, surprisingly cool, solemn and quiet. We found Alexandre Dumas’ tomb; he was missing a toe!

4. Cafe des 2 Moulins (from Amelie fame!)

Had our last Parisian lunch at the Cafe des 2 Moulins where Amelie works in the eponymous  film. It’s a bit touristy, a massive floor-to-ceiling Amelie poster on the wall, but the food was tasty and all the servers seem tres chic. I reckon there are still lots of artists and aspirational ex-pats in Montmartre. I ate a massive lunch followed by yet another creme brulee – one almost everyday! We caught a glimpse of the original Moulin Rouge on our way to the train station (and dodged all the red light district festivities!).

Top (tech) tips!

In America, it’s so hard to get days off for vacation. I think because of this, I’ve always been one to ultra-plan and max-out every moment of my holidays. We’re talking minute-by-minute organization. My wonderful partner is more adventurous, getting his visas when his plane touches down, not knowing where he’ll be sleeping that night, or what the local ‘must see’ things are…*shudders*

We compromise – I didn’t look into anything for this trip until a week before we left, relied on colleagues and friends for recommendations and left the accommodation booking & flights to S to organise(!).

So in that week before we left, I binge-researched, downloaded the following (free) apps and they were BRILLIANT! Think I definitely tamed Paris by having these basic tools in my pocket:

  • Paris ulmon – offline map & metro
    This was a lifesaver when we were trying to find the nearest metro stations and figure out where our flat was in relation to the many and sundry ‘places of interest’. All well noted on the offline map, so we could even figure out where we were going while underground on the metro! Score.
  • Paris Metro
    The Paris Ulmon app has a metro map, but I really liked having this Paris Metro app too. It let me put in my start and end stations and returned the color-coded routes, where to transfer, how long it would take, etc. Very handy.
  • French – learn french
    I definitely didn’t learn French in a week. I didn’t even really learn a passable amount of basic greetings… But it was nice to have this app for a wee quick taster (cramming on the plane over!), to hear some common phrases spoken aloud, practice hellos, thank-yous and goodbyes so as not to be a totally rude tourist. I was probably still a rude tourist… but not as bad as the Americans in the Eiffel Tower! You guys should be ashamed of yourselves!

Au revoir & adieu!

Overall it was an amazing holiday. A nice mix of relaxing, touristy, top eats and exercise. Got in some good mommy&me time, and also gallivanted around town with handsome S. I was so glad to get to take my mom somewhere she’s always wanted to go and tick something off her life-list.  Now we just have to get to planning our trip to Neuschwanstein!

Mama & Me time

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Every great thing happening all at once! Whirlwind dot com!

The past few months have been super busy: went to Jupiter Artland, went to Manchester for a music festival, my mom visited for a MONTH and we road-tripped all over Scotland, went to the Highland Show, and to Paris. Can’t believe how much I’ve done in such a short span of time. Action-packed.

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Royal Highland Show

8. Do more animal-related activities

You’re right, it was silly to think that driving to the airport to collect my mom on the first day of the Royal Highland Show would be a good idea. And then returning to the same Highland Show midday. BUT HEY HO! I had a great time. I saw ALL the animals, ate lots of yummy food, and everything was amazing, even if my jet-lagged mom did fall asleep in the goat tent…

Highlights included

Many and sundry super cute sheep, every kind of cow, horses jumping over things!, lots of tasty food/drinks, and this beauty:

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And so many boots and gilets, tweed glorious tweed.

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Mama & Me roadtrip

We started with an east coast tour, heading up as far as Montrose. We bee-lined for Dunnottar Castle in the AM which was misty-moody when we arrived. Good thing we packed our waterproofs!

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We headed back by way of Steptoe’s Yard, which was fantastic, and also on my year goals list:

2. Go to Steptoe’s yard

I’m on the hunt for the perfect mid-century chair for the living room and had a hunch they might have something, but alas – it was not to be (#firstworldproblems). Still, we got a ladder for my new & improved chicken coop, and a few other bits and bobs. Nearly bought a dublin sink (to turn into a garden pond!) but couldn’t carry it to the car. My long-suffering partner sighs relief.

Then onwards to Glamis Castle! The tour at Glamis Castle was maybe the best tour I’ve ever been on, mainly because the tourguide was BRILLIANT! Totally knew her stuff, good mix of silly trivia, scary stories, and incredible detail on everything imaginable (she regaled tour-goers with info on where various cabinets and plates and art and books had come from). I was really impressed. Highly recommend! We wandered around the estate after, saw the highland cows and grouse.

We stayed the night in St Andrews, wandered around the castle and cathedral, had an epic meal followed by ice cream at Jannetta’s. Hot date! Next morning on the trip back we stopped by Cairnie Fruit Farm, my favorite place in Scotland. It was pretty pants weather so not ideal for PYO-fruiting. Instead I had cheesecake for breakfast (!) and we hit the road. We stopped at Hill of Tarvit garden and Falkland Palace which also had a beautiful garden, perfect in the glorious sunshine.

Roadtrip Part 2!

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Then for her bon-voyage roadtrip, we hustled up to Skye! I drove 8 hours the first day – stopping at Eilean Donan Castle, Skye bridge, Portree (where we had amazing fish&chips on the wee pier). Then we took the ferry to Mallaig, stopped by Glenfinnan Monument, and headed down to our CASTLE accommodation for the night. Amazing!

The way back, we stopped for a Skyfall reenactment in Glencoe, some warm cullen skink at the Green Welly Boot and then to Stirling Castle and the Falkirk Kelpies to finish it off! (Was nice to end on the Kelpies as we’d started with the kelpie maquettes at the airport when she arrived!)

 

What a whirlwind! Will post about Paris and Manchester shortly. *puts all the ducks in a row*

I miss my mama though, especially coming home to delicious dinners made for me, clean laundry, and her hilarious company. You’re right, my mom is the best. Love you mama!

General Update

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Spring has been good to me and my garden. We’ve been non-stop busy, but all the mange tout, potatoes, spinach, lavender, the various fruits, have done well on their own (I basically did nothing and just let the copious rain water them).

Chickens are all awesome as ever (dust-bathing under the buddlea in photo to right).

Finished my CIM course and awaiting results.

Started jogging home from work a few days a week.

Trying to keep my head/heart at an even keel is my #1 objective these days.

Looking forward to:

  • Using our Plumed Horse vouchers, and our Foxlake Adventures vouchers. (Not on the same day hopefully!) Thanks S’s family for all the cool gifts!
  • The Edinburgh Festival (for better or worse!)… getting my outta-my-way-tourists elbows shined up.
  • My impending birthday.

readingRyan Van Winkle – The Good Dark (this is amazing, Ryan!) Everyone should buy this!
Chuck Palanhiuk – Beautiful You (one of two I got at Shakespeare & Co – fun!)

Audiobooked Neil Gaiman’s American Gods which was great! It finished with an interview with NG who said something to the effect of ‘Writers should try to feel like aliens as much as possible,’ which resonates with me immensely. Then listened to the BBC radio version of Neverwhere (with James McAvoy!) – highly recommend! Also finished Michael Chabon’s Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

soundtrack

Listening to all the Oh Wonder playlist & hard-contemplating going to the Glasgow show in November. Midnight Moon is my jaammmm.

3Lau – How you love me
Made in Heights – Forgiveness
Hana truly – Avalanche
Hasley’s Badlands ep

Plus made some old mixcds into youtube playlists: old high school mixCD… *sobs*, 20th birthday cd #nostalgia

Be back soon!