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Graduation!

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since my last exam in June! It’s gone so fast and so much has happened including my relief on results day last Tuesday and my graduation on Friday from the London School of Economics! There’s another thing that I can tick off my list of Things To Do Before I’m 30 yay! There were seven graduation ceremonies in total running from Wednesday to Friday. Mine was at 10:45 on Friday and I arrived earlier to collect my gown, certificate, and tickets with plenty of time for photos before it got too hectic later on. My parents and Luke came along to watch my ceremony which was lovely :)

It was about 31°C so I was absolutely boiling and rather lovely and sweaty in my heavy, black gown!! My ceremony consisted of students from Economic History, Economics, and Management (my degree). The ceremony started with a procession of academics to the stage which did feel a bit cheesy, not going to lie! I had to stop myself from laughing which wouldn’t have been so good since I was in the front row of students so when the camera panned across, my face was projected on the large screen above the stage.

Our director, Craig Calhoun, then gave a bit of a speech and then it was time to start with the handshaking! I was near the end of the ceremony and throughout it, me and many other girls around me were worrying that we would trip over in our heels and make fools of ourselves! It was time for me to line up and thankfully there was lady to help sort out our gowns as I was looking a mess with my gown hanging in a rather dropped shoulder style due to being crammed in my small seat. Loads of people before me did amusing things like take selfies with our director, high five him, hug him, and kiss him :P My time on stage was all a bit of a blur as I was concentrating so much on getting up the steps, giving my name card to my Head of Department, walking across the stage, pausing to shake hands, then walking back down the stairs without falling over! It was all very quick and I didn’t trip up phew! Loyd Grossman (yes, the sauceman) is a LSE alumni and he gave a bit of a speech afterwards and told us to make the most of our parent’s niceness towards us and and then it was all over! It then suddenly hit me that I had graduated! How very surreal!

After my ceremony, there was a drinks reception. Management’s was held in the Shaw Library which I’ve never really been in before. It’s all rather small and quite grand looking with large portraits dotted across the walls. There was also a nice little terrace area which I never knew about and we chilled outside for a bit. After more photo taking, I was rather glad to be rid of my heavy robe, and we headed to Cafe Rouge for a lovely lunch (I was definitely making the most of my nice parents, just like Loyd Grossman told us to ;) ). Afterwards I gave my parents a bit of a tour around LSE and itf felt very strange that I wouldn’t be coming back in September! At least LSE is literally in the middle of central London, so if I do get a bit sentimental, I can always return at any time!

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Three years has flown by and I’ve met some amazing people who will be in my life forever. I’ve learnt so much, not just academic things, but about myself and how to handle myself in different situations, which I never would have learnt if I had never gone to university. I’ve definitely grown up and matured a lot more. I’ve also probably learnt one of the most important lessons in life which is to never give up, no matter what life throws at you, you will get through it. Yes, things will be hard and you’ll want to give up, but there is no shame in leaning on others for support. Whether things happen for a reason or not, or whether things do end up the way you want it or not, I’ve learnt that whatever life throws at you, you need to take it, learn from it, and grow from it, because things will turn out the way they are meant to in the end and it will all be worth it.

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Post Exam Drawings!

I finished my last university exam three weeks ago and it has definitely flown by! It’s lovely having such chilled days now and not feeling guilty if I do literally nothing all day. Since finishing exams, I’ve managed to do three drawings :D I take forever with each drawing, I’m definitely not like those artists that you see on holiday who manage to sketch an incredible portrait of a person within minutes! My drawings are spread out over many days and countless hours!

I started this drawing back in April, but never got round to finishing it due to exams and other bits and pieces. I chose it as I love the summer and the beach in particular!

Shell pencil drawing

I’ve drawn a tiger before (see some of my other drawings here), but I fancied doing another as it was a challenge last time to do all the fur so wanted to see if I could do it again. I really like how this has turned out, and how striking it looks from afar :)

Tiger pencil drawing

I’m not really sure why I chose an elephant and didn’t think it would be too difficult when I came across a picture on Google that I wanted to use. Little did I know, each individual wrinkle and fold of the elephant’s skin was a task in itself as there was different shading in each section with rather a lot of intricate detail. It took me about three days, which is less time than I thought it would take (probably because I literally did just spend all my time drawing it!), but I’m really happy with how it has turned out :D Definitely my favourite drawing so far and I became so attached to the elephant that I even named it Grace ;)

Elephant pencil drawing

Hmmm what to draw next?! :P

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Rome – Day 4

Our last day in Rome! We had basically seen all the main things in Rome on the previous days (all thanks to my amazingly efficient map reading skills of course ;) all that practice doing Duke of Edinburgh and navigating around unrecognisable paths and jumping into bogs must really have helped!) so we had a few hours after breakfast before we needed to head to the airport. It was a glorious day so I took us around the Villa Borghese park again as it was just so pretty! We tried to find the Villa Medici and due to the lack of road names and paths, ended up walking alongside some random path next to the road filled with litter. My parents say that I took them through a rubbish tip, but I like to say that it was all planned and I was letting them experience all aspects of Rome, just like any good tour guide would do ;) We passed some old looking buildings which we assumed would be the villa but I was expecting something a bit more grand!

We carried on for a bit longer and reached the Pincio which overlooked the Piazza del Popolo. There were really nice views across Rome and we could see the Vatican and Monumento a Vitto Emanuel.

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It was about midday, so we slowly headed back to our hotel to collect our luggage. On our way back, we saw a baby bus! It was so small compared to the normal sized bus that was next to it. We were all rather amused and fascinated by it for some reason haha :P The people on the buses probably thought I was some weirdo taking a photo of them on the bus…

I’d planned our time perfectly so that there was plenty of time for a final gelato!

We had planned to catch a bus back to the airport at 14:50, but when we got to the train station (where the buses run from) and tried to buy our tickets, they told us that the bus was full :( The next bus wasn’t until 15:30 which would be a bit tight in terms of timings for our flight. We were in a bit of a tizz and then remembered that we could just get the train. It did cost €8 more per person, but at least it was a bit quicker and we got to experience Rome’s trains! We finally managed to find a ticket machine to buy our tickets and didn’t lose each other either, which is an achievement in itself as the station was hectic! It made Clapham Junction at rush hour look like a relaxing walk in the park! We got to our platform with about 10 minutes to spare, phew!

Exhausted after all that running around!

Exhausted after all that running around!

Once we were at the airport, getting to our gate was another challenge! At first there seemed to only be gates A-G, but once we’d gone past security, there was a screen with information about flights and gates and there were many numbers after the letters which indicated many more gates instead of the initial seven. However, there was no information on our flight! We panicked a little and wondered whether we had gone to the right airport!! After a while of frantic running around, we found out that we were in the right place (phew!) and that our plane was in area G. We walked for what felt like miles! Each gate seemed to be a whole new airport in itself as there were so many shops around them! We finally got to our gate and lined up, and guess what?! We were delayed again yay! Thankfully it wasn’t too long and we were on our way back home! Goodbye Rome, I had a lovely time!

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Rome – Day 3

The weather forecast for our third day in Rome was the worst yet :( The whole day was meant to be filled with thunderstorms yay! After exceeding my lifetime recommended sugar intake at breakfast, we ventured out on to the streets of Rome in the direction of the Vatican. As soon as we stepped out, we felt drops of water :( As soon as we reached the river, it started to pour down and my poor, battered, $10 umbrella from Hong Kong was not faring well. I’d forgotten that it was half broken so it was a bit of a struggle keeping myself dry! We got to the Saint Angelo bridge and decided to shelter under a tree for a while (in hindsight, probably not the best of ideas in a thunderstorm!). The rain didn’t seem to be letting up, so we decided to cross the bridge otherwise our trip to the Vatican would be replaced by a day long view of cars parked along the road. It was a bit of a shame as this pedestrianised bridge was meant to be one of the nicest in Rome :( Never mind!

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A little bit of rain won't stop us!

A little bit of rain won’t stop us!

Once we had crossed over, the rain changed from being many drops falling from the sky to a continuous waterfall. My umbrella was suffering and I was taking a very premature shower, so we decided to take shelter under an arch for the entrance to the Saint Angelo Castle. As the rain continued, many others joined us under the small arch and we all huddled together trying to keep dry.

Many brave people decided to give up waiting and just went for it. After around 30 minutes of waiting, we decided to just go otherwise we’d be there all day. As we turned the corner, the Vatican was in sight! The rain started getting heavier again, so we took cover in a nearby cafe who were very kind in letting so many people take shelter…more trade for them I guess! It then seemed to lighten up and we decided to go on. Suddenly we saw a bit of blue sky yay :D

A bit of blue sky!

A bit of blue sky!

Not long later, the clouds lifted!! I’d stopped to take photos of St Peter’s Square and then a bird kindly released its bladder on me! I guess it was good luck though since the day then got very sunny!!

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After taking hundreds of photos (literally!) we joined the queue to enter the Basilica. It was very long and snaked all the way along one side of the square. Thankfully, it took hardly any time at all, and after going through a metal detector and bag xray, we were through!

Long queue!

Long queue!

We sort of followed the crowd and ended up in another queue. We had no idea what we were queuing for but decided to just go along with it! We soon found out that it was a queue to go up to the top of Basilica which was pretty cool! There was a sign warning us that after the lifts there would be 320 steps, but what they didn’t warn us was how narrow it would become near the end! We decided to opt for a €5 walking ticket (instead of one for €7 which would allow you to get the lift halfway) as we thought we could handle all the steps (although I was a bit worried for my mum coz she is a retired old lady now ;) just kidding mum, you’re totally still 30 and as sprightly as ever!!).

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At the beginning of the million steps!

At the beginning of the million steps!

I just had to put up this photo of my mum halfway the steps :P (sorry mum!).

Halfway there!

Halfway there!

When we got halfway, we got to a viewing area which overlooked the Basilica. It looked so detailed and pretty! There were amazing mosaics too – I do love colourful ones! I’m rubbish at describing things, so I’ll let the photos do the talking and I won’t bore you with details, just Google it if you want more info!

We then ascended more steps and here it got a bit crowded. There was a bit of a traffic jam as so many people were going up at the same time. Our path then suddenly got very narrow and in some parts, I could literally just about squeeze through. They should definitely have a warning at the beginning for claustrophobics! They even had emergency lever things! In fact, one family had to turn back and go back down as the mother was in hysterics! We did end up stopping at some parts with windows so we could admire the view whilst waiting to go up. We then reached a ridiculously narrow spiral staircase with steps barely 10cm wide. There was a rope going up it to help you climb up which was definitely handy!

After the claustrophobic climb, we finally reached the top!! It was rather a small space at the top of the Basilica but we spent quite a while up there taking millions of photos to make the climb worth it! The views across Rome were wonderful and you could see for miles!

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After capturing every inch of Rome with my camera, we decided to head back down.

We then entered the main part of the Basilica. It is the world’s largest church and was very impressive inside! There were stunning paintings, statues, and designs everywhere. Even the floor looked beautiful!

After staring in awe of the whole place for a long time, we decided to go. It had turned into a beautiful day outside! Unfortunately we didn’t catch a glimpse of the Pope :( I remember reading something online that joked about the only way to stay in the Vatican is to be close acquaintances with the Pope – me and him are best mates don’t you know so where was my invite to stay?! We also caught a glimpse of the Swiss guards in their famous colourful uniforms!

We then decided to head back towards the hotel as we were all rather knackered! We passed over the Saint Angelo bridge again, this time in sunshine! What a difference a few hours can do to the weather!

It was then time for another gelato! This time both my parents had one too, so I didn’t feel like such a fatty nomming on my three scoops and cream!

We had a bit of a rest at the hotel before going out to dinner at Ristorante Gusto Pinto again since they had a much wider range of dishes compared to other local restaurants!

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Rome – Day 2

The weather for our second day in Rome looked a bit ominous. The skies were grey and it had clearly been raining overnight :( Nevertheless, we headed down to breakfast in good spirits and I was cheered up even more when I saw that there was a plethora of sweet pastries for me to choose from. I love hotel breakfasts as there is always so much to choose from and the sugar explosion on my plate was definitely enough to satisfy me (I may have gone back for seconds…and thirds… ;) my eyes are definitely bigger than my stomach!)

After overloading on sugar, I decided that we would walk in the direction of the famous Colosseum whilst passing many other impressive sights. We also passed a shop selling the most amazing looking pasta ever! It was so colourful and vibrant that I could never bear to eat it if I had it in my cupboard!

The Monumento a Vitto Emanuel came into view after a short while walking and it was very, very grand looking! It’s a controversial monument built in honour of the first king of a unified Italy (I bet you’re impressed with my Wikipedia skills ;) )

Around Trajan’s Column, there were a load of ruins that were quite interesting to see.

We had a bit more of a wander around the surrounding area and unfortunately it started raining :( We sheltered under our umbrellas for a short while until it thankfully finished!

What never fails to impress me is the amount of detail that all the monuments/fountains/doorways/etc have! It’s mad to think about how people managed to create such elaborate and intricate designs back in the day!

The seagull just HAD to be part of our family photo ;)

The seagull just HAD to be part of our family photo ;)

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We then somehow stumbled upon the place that holds David which is a Renaissance sculpture created by Michelangelo!

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After a bit more wandering, we came across what we thought might be the Colosseum. However, we did have our doubts since it seemed very small, there was a serious lack of tourists, and there seemed to be office-style windows at the top!

I knew for definite that we had gone very wrong when we reached the river whereas the real Colosseum was nowhere near it! A nice policeman helpfully pointed out where we were and I found out that the fake Colosseum was in fact Teatro Marcello, which is an open air theatre…oops! After getting my bearings again, I navigated us to the real Colosseum which was a real sight to see!

Before going round it, we stopped off for lunch at Hostaria Gladiatore as we needed a bit of a rest! After a bit of refuelling, we were ready to conquer the Colosseum! We wandered around it several times and I took a ridiculous amount of photos! It was just so impressive!

We also passed the Arc of Constantine too which was pretty cool :)

It was still early, so I took us back in the direction of our hotel and satisfied my gelato craving!

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We then had a walk around the Villa Borghese gardens which were stunning! We were tempted to hire one of the four seater bike things that my mum naively thought would only cost 2 Euros (we aren’t living in the 1900s any more mum, prices have gone up! ;) ) but resisted as the hour hire duration wouldn’t leave me much time to stop and take hundreds of photos of the scenery! I loved the really tall and straight trees that were everywhere in the park! Oh the little things in life…

We then ended our night with a lovely dinner at Ristorante Gusto Pinto right around the corner from our hotel.

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Ristorante Gusto Pinto – Rome (Review)

Ristorante Gusto Pinto

On our second night in Rome, we decided to head to the Ristorante Gusto Pinto for dinner. It was right around the corner from our hotel and when I was reading Trip Advisor reviews for our hotel, the restaurant seemed to be mentioned several times as a place to try out! The restaurant is owned by a local recording artist which may explain the gold record on the wall!

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We were greeted by a very friendly and efficient waiter who showed us to a comfy table in the corner. It was fairly quiet but still had a good atmosphere inside. The menu was very extensive and there were so many different dishes to try! I was debating whether to go for the Parpardelle Fisherman Mix or the fried calamari and shrimp as I was having a real craving for it. My mum suggested ordering the fried calamari and shrimp to share and I was more than happy to agree!

I always forget that in other European countries, people like to take their time and eat dinner over many hours. After a bit of a wait, our food came :D As said previously, I opted for the Pappardelle Fisherman Mix for €12 and we shared the fried calamari and shrimp for €14. My dad went for the Risotto Fisherman Mix for €12 and my mum opted for Escalope in White Wine for €11. All the dishes came nicely presented and my dad and I were both really pleased with the amount of different seafood! A lot of the time when I order a seafood pasta, I only get a few bits of mussel and prawn and am quite disappointed, but not this time! My pasta was full of mussels, prawns, scampi, and clams! It is always a bit of a faff de-shelling all the bits and pieces, but it was worth it as it was really tasty! Although, the scampi basically had no meat and was a weird black/brown colour so I left most of it.

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The fried calamari and shrimp was lovely! Normally in England, you’d get some sort of mayo to go with it, but this really didn’t need it as the flavours were really tasty on their own :)

Fried shrimp and calamari

Fried shrimp and calamari

As always, I tried I bit of my parents’ dishes too. My mum got three quite reasonably sized slices of pork escalope and it was decorated with bits of red cabbage and lettuce which made it look a lot prettier. My mum said that the wine tasted a bit weird though.

Escalope in White Wine

My dad basically got the risotto version of my dish minus the scampi for some reason, and it also tasted pretty decent!

Risotto Fisherman Mix

Risotto Fisherman Mix

The service was lovely and friendly and the total came to €60 including some drinks and €6 bread charge.

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Nom nom all gone!

Nom nom all gone!

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We normally like trying somewhere new for dinner each day, but after we’d looked round the nearby restaurants, we found that their menu was very limited and a lot more expensive too, so we decided to go back to Gusto Pinto as we’d all enjoyed it last night.

I was rather intrigued with what seabass sauce would be, but I ended up choosing Tonnarelli Scampi and Asparagus. It never ceases to amaze me the sheer amount of different types of pasta! On the menu alone there was stuff like Paccheri, Bavette, and Cavatelli pasta! Tonnarelli turned out to be like a thicker and denser version of spaghetti and was rather nice! When the waiter brought out my pasta, he said that it was very popular. However, I found that the scampi had hardly any meat and the asparagus was cooked a bit too long and was rather mushy :( I much rather preferred yesterday’s dish!

Tonnarelli Scampi and Asparagus

Tonnarelli Scampi and Asparagus

My mum chose the Risotto Fisherman Mix that my dad had yesterday and also got razor clams with it which my dad didn’t get yesterday!

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My dad originally wanted salmon but they had run out so opted for the grilled seabass for €15. It looked quite small, but my dad seemed fairly happy with it.

Grilled seabass

Grilled seabass

I’d definitely recommend this restaurant as it is very reasonably priced and there is an extensive selection of food on offer compared to other nearby restaurants who only have a few pasta dishes! I was tempted by the desserts, but even I (who always has a separate stomach for sweet things) was too full! You can’t fault their decent portion size!

Menu

Menu

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Rome – Day 1

I recently came back from Rome for a post-exam holiday with my parents and it was such a lovely trip! The city is so full of history and around every corner there is something so pretty that I just had to take a photo of (probably why I ended up taking over 1800 photos in the four days we were there!). I’m so glad for the invention of the digital camera otherwise I would definitely be broke due to film and developing costs! I’m no expert at history so can’t really tell you too much about the sights we saw, but I can definitely appreciate how magnificent they all looked and just wish that photos could show the true beauty of the things we saw!

Our flight out to Rome was at 9:05 but it was sadly delayed. We were told to go to gate 31 and once we had all lined up, were told that it was now gate 32, so we all trundled over to the other side. Once we had just about stood in a queue again, we were then told that we now had to go back to gate 31. It was all getting a bit confusing and I overheard that it was because that there were air traffic strikes in France and that our plane hadn’t arrived yet and they had no idea what was going on either! How very reassuring! It seemed like we weren’t going anywhere for a while so I found a nice comfy spot on the floor and sat down and chilled with my music for what seemed like an age. Eventually we were then told that our plane would be at gate 32 so we all rushed over there again. All this to-ing and fro-ing was like shuttle runs and could probably have done as my exercise for the week! Thankfully, our flight was only delayed by one hour, and we were on our way a short while after 10.

We arrived in Rome at around half one their time and it was lovely and sunny :D

We caught the bus from the airport to the city centre and during the journey, we passed many amazing buildings and ruins; my camera was in overdrive! After a short walk to our hotel and settling in, I was eager to get out to explore as there was just so much I wanted to go and do and see and so little time!

I was designated the job of tour guide by my parents and we ventured out as I led the way with my trusty city map from the hotel. It was already quite late in the day and I wanted to fit in as much as I could today as it was a lovely day and was meant to rain for the rest of our stay! We passed loads of orange trees on the side of the road just outside our hotel and my mum got so excited! I never knew anyone could get so happy about orange trees! I know what your birthday present will be ;)

Orange tree

Our first stop was the Piazza della Repubblica before heading to the San Carlo Quattro Fontane. Unfortunately renovation works were being done to the fountains so we couldn’t see them :(

We then passed Quirinale on our way to the famous Trevi fountain. Like the Quattro Fontane, renovations were being done to the fountain which was a massive shame as we weren’t able to see it in its full beauty. Nonetheless, I tossed a coin into the fountain which now means I will return to Rome one day so maybe I’ll see it in its glory another time!


We walked through Piazza Colonna before reaching the Pantheon which is the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome and looks very impressive inside!

 

Piazza Navona was next on the agenda which is a large city square built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian. It was very busy even though it was rather late in the day! Since we’d arrived late afternoon, there weren’t any market stalls, but there were still many street artists.

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We then headed over to the famous Spanish Steps which connects Piazza di Spagna with the upper piazza Trinita dei Monti.

It was then getting rather late in the day and we were all rather hungry and tired, so we walked back to the area around our hotel for dinner. As Italy were playing in the World Cup, it was quite amusing passing so many restaurants and bars with people crowded around the TV. Unfortunately, they lost, which may have explained the slow service at dinner!