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Venezia!

Posted 22 Dec 2013 by Renai

 

Ciao beautiful people! 

Venice 1As I may have stated before, I really wanted to make the most out of being on this side of the globe by travelling as much as I can. So this reading week I went to VENEZIAAAA ITALIA!! (better known as Venice!!) I do not know any Italian at all (didn't stop me for trying, and they appreciated that) However, a lot of the people do speak English so it was pretty easy.

Now, even though I love to travel, sometimes it is just so expensive. When planning a trip, you have to factor the plane ticket, hotel/hostel stay, food, travel while you're there (especially if you are taking a tax to and from the airport), but don't let that deter you from travelling.

For Venezia, my friends and I got a really good deal on Groupon, less than £200 for the plane ticket and hotel stay (3 nights, 4 days) per person. The hotel where we stayed was a little out the city, but right by the bus stop which took us directly into Venezia in about 20 minutes, and whenever we were in the city we took the ferry, using a 3- day pass.

If you go Venezia, definitely check out the Rialto (you can walk or take the ferry, I did the former). The walk there alone is gorgeous due to the architecture and there are so many beautiful shops that sell murano glass souvenirs (I got my mother a murano glass wine opener), some of the most beautiful masks I have ever seen, and many others. Along the way there was a place that offers the fish pedicure, so we tried that. It wasn't as scary as I thought, it mostly tickled and my feet felt so smooth afterwards. Another place to see is Piazza San Marco, a beautiful public square with shopping plazas and restaurants (very pricey) that have live bands performing. I went there during the day and evening, and the latter is the best time to go. The lights and the atmosphere was romantic. I would definitely have my wedding there if I could.

The food is absolutely AMAZING! Since visiting, I have not enjoyed any pasta (even if I made it) in London. Everywhere we ate (try more local places rather than restaurants, the food is cheaper and tastes so much better) was good, and I was not shy from trying different foods. Besides pasta and pizza, I tried risi e bisi (somewhat like a risotto, with peas) sarde in saor (sardines with onions, pine nuts and raisins), and so much more. The desserts are so good, especially with some espresso. If you want real authentic gelato, avoid the ones that are mound shaped, and if you want pistachio, it should be brown, not green (learned that from the locals- green means colouring was added).

Venice We learned that the train station is not far from our hotel, and Milan was only a 2 hour train away (less than €50 round-trip, but price depends on when you go/purchase the ticket) so we decided to go there for a day. Through TripAdvisor (a great website to go when finding out about hotels, restaurants and things to do in different countries) we booked a day tour of Milan with Bike My Milan (www.bikemymilan.com) where we rode bikes to different sites, such as the Arco della Pace, Sforza Castle, and a museum, all the while our very fun and informative tour guide explained a lot of Italy's history.

This was one of the best times of my life, it almost feels like a dream. I am so excited to go to Rome next. If you guys been to Rome, please send some suggestions of where to go, stay, etc etc. or if you would like to share your experience visiting in Venezia, please do.  Ciao!

Christmas Lights...

Posted 20 Dec 2013 by Laura

 

Christmas is getting close! (just over a month away!) and that means...CHRISTMAS LIGHTS!

Christmas LightsThe event in central London is a must-see. This year we had Ty Burrell aka Phil Dunphy (Modern Family) and the director of the Lion King turn on the lights, with the performance of James Arthur, Conor Maynard and Jessie J. Safe to say, it was awesome!

On a slightly lower scale, but not least fun was the Kingston event! I've now been here for two ‘Christmas season' and it still baffles me how the streets spring to life and decorations are already being put up before Halloween has even happened! Weekends in Kingston now are absolutely hectic with people walking around with humongous bags of presents and wrapping paper poking everyone as they rush past. Christmas here in the UK is definitely very different to back home, Christmas carols play everywhere and everyone seems to get into the Christmas spirit so soon!... you know Christmas is officially here when the classic ‘grandma-knitted' jumpers come out! It wasn't only about the turn on of the lights in Kingston though, there was also live performances, a Christmas market and also...reindeers! They were definitely the highlight of my day.

I really enjoy the Christmas-y feel that's now taken over! Even though it may mean its getting cold...well, freezing!

 

Christmas is a time for celebration!! The lights, atmosphere and festivities are enough to turn any scrooge into a Santa hat wearing jolly soul! However, it is also an expensive time of year, with parties, presents and decorations all requiring considerable amounts of money, which the dwindling student loan often doesn't cover!

However, Christmas can still be an amazing time as a student! Making small cuts and changes can save you a considerable amount of money and still allow you to have an amazing time this festive season:

1) Staying in is the new going out!
Yes, as cliché as it is, this is the easiest way to save money. Instead of spending at least a tenner each going to the local pub with your house to have a big Christmas dinner, why not put your culinary skills to the test and cook it yourself? If everyone splits the cost of the food and buys a few cheap bottles of wine, you can have an amazing night on a cheap budget!
For example: (All got from Asda)
Turkey Breast Joint: £5.00
Carrots and sprouts: £1.00
British potatoes: £0.69
Pigs in blankets: £2.00
White and silver mini crackers: £2.00 (can also get from the pound store)
Sage and onion stuffing mix: £0.15
Alcohol of your choice!-However much you want to spend
Total: £10.84 (+drinks)
Split between all of you, that's as much it would be for one person's meal out!

2) Decorations
Yes you want the house to look festive; however the decorations don't all need to be from the top designer store! If you get your creative skills out there is so many Christmas decorations you can make, saving you tons of money: http://www.allaboutyou.com/craft/make-christmas-decorations-for-your-home

3) Christmas presents
Again this involves being creative! Remember, everyone knows you're a student so aren't expecting tiffany bracelets, so quite often something homemade, or if you don't have that creative streak, just little trinkets that are personal to that person, makes all the difference! However, if you feel like giving it a go, this website has tons of ideas! :
http://www.allaboutyou.com/craft/knit-free/handmade-christmas-gifts-gifts-to-make

4) Christmas celebrations!
Christmas is one of the biggest times of year for parties! With everyone going back home for Christmas, there are so many going home parties to say goodbye to people, it can quickly add up! However, even if you choose to go to every night out, there are ways to save a little bit of money: Every night out doesn't need a new outfit, by recycling your wardrobe you're saving a lot of money! Furthermore, predrinks are your friend! By buying some nice but cheap drinks and going round friends for predrinks rather than heading to the bars, you'll save tons of money!

So there you have it, a list of ways to still make the most of the special seasonal times, without having to obtain a credit card to survive until your student loan gets in!

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