Monday 29 July 2013

no roses grow on a sailor's grave

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Typically, I've never been a fan of the themed party. You know, where everyone has to come as a super-hero, or their favourite My Little Pony, or whatever. Partly because it tends to be so competitive, and partly because I move a lot so I never have any stuff so I must either buy things or not participate. This summer I've had two themed parties however, and I may be a convert. The first was a midsummer's eve with wigs (my friend Amandine and I organized it, and we wanted an excuse to use our wigs from Carnaval again). And then there was the nautical-theme we chose for going to a music festival right next to the beach in Vilanova i la Geltru. Easy! Everyone already has striped clothes! (Which didn't stop my friend and I from going out and buying more for the occasion, but anyway).

Then we made tattoos.
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I honestly hardly remember the music portion. It was quite a random mix I think. I just danced because I was there and happy and because it was hilarious being in a group of ten equally stripey people (the official photographers didn't know what to make of us).

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We eventually left the enclosed area to dance on the beach, and swim in the sea at 4 am, and then I characteristically curled up in a ball on a towel and closed my eyes and when I woke up it was dawn.

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And we finally got a picture of those who were still standing. (Rosa was originally in stripes too, someone had taken a tumble into the water and needed a wardrobe contribution).
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And then I slept on the beach some more, until it was too hot to be believed, and then it was time for paella.
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Friday 26 July 2013

on the camino de santiago

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This was a while ago now, but I thought it might be of interest to those considering doing the camino themselves. Back in May, my sister Morna and I spent 8 days walking through Galicia, North-western Spain, on part of the ancient pilgrimage the Camino de Santiago, which starts in Southern France and ends in Santiago de Compostela.

We started in the village of Sarria, calculating it would take us about a week to reach Santiago. Our calculations proved to be wrong (aka, we didn't actually read the itinerary, just printed it) and it only took us 4 1/2 days to get there... so we caught a bus out to a point along the Portuguese route and spent three days walking back. All told, we walked 170 kilometres in 8 days, or an average of about 23 km a day.

Along the way we suffered strained knees and ankles, blisters, colds, rain, underwhelming food, and occasionally our fellow "pilgrims" but it was an amazing experience nonetheless and has really whetted my appetite for doing more long hikes--maybe across the UK next year!

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(Photos are maybe not quite up to usual standards as left the big camera at home... and then just stole these off my sisters facebook).

Things to keep in mind along the camino:

1. It's cheap but it gets more expensive and more crowded the closer you get to Santiago. It's apparently exceptionally crowded in the summer... May was probably pretty perfect. If I was doing it again I'd probably do an earlier chunk (not the beginning as it's in the Pyrenees and I can't be doing with climbing hills all day). The section between Burgos and León is apparently flat and boring, but I heard the parts going through the Basque Country were pretty. On the other hand, it was exciting to get to arrive in Santiago. I even went to mass, voluntarily.

2. Don't overpack. I'm really content with Mo's and my packing job. I think my bag weighed 6 or 7 kilos, and hers maybe a little more but we basically didn't bring anything we didn't use. I had two legging/tracksuit bottoms things, maybe 5 t-shirts, two cotton dresses and two warmer layers, various hiking socks, plus a blanket I stole from the train on the way over which proved invaluable for a scarf, a sleeping bag, a pair of flip-flops (thank GOD), toiletries, a travel towel a rain poncho and not much else. It wasn't a glamorous trip by any means, but I had everything I needed. I didn't spend much money preparing either. I bought new boots and a few cheap things but basically just took ratty old clothes. Next time I would bring a book though. That was silly.

3. Break in your boots PROPERLY before you go. This was dramatic for me. I bought my boots about two weeks before, wore them on a bunch of hikes in Yorkshire and they seemed fine. After two days, the very slight pressure of one of them on my ankle caused internal bruising to the extent that I could hardly walk. Without the boots, perfect, with boots, agony. I walked (and sadly this is no exaggeration) 27 km in flip-flops and hiking socks that day. My hiking socks still have cloved toes and my feet took a long time to forgive me.

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Toasting Morna with wine the waiter referred to as "the blood of Christ."

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Beautiful rural Galicia.

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Wet rural Galicia.

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Friends encountered en route

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...and Santiago! Which incidentally is a lovely city, full of good food and pretty corners.

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Monday 22 July 2013

three years of ruby slipper journey-ing

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Well, Ruby Slipper Journeys turned 3 last week, and as always, it´s been interesting to look back. In fact, it´s interesting to read the last two years´ annual recaps and see the changes in how I choose to express myself. I began making personal style posts in 2010, and now the blog has developed to meld style with travel and lifestyle. Mostly I want to convey the excitement of living and travelling, from my perspective and place in the world.

This past year I´ve been less active in blogland, I suppose as a result of being more settled in my real life. I have a job I like, friends I like, and other hobbies (writing). I also made a conscious decision last year to diversify away from mostly doing outfit posts and focus on documenting moments in life. I still like clothes and dressing up, but I found that having it the main focus of my blog was making it disproportionately a main focus of my life. I think wearing the clothes we want allows us to see ourselves as the heroes and heroines of our own adventures, but I didn´t want the clothes to be the adventure itself.

It´s been a year of ups and downs, dizzying in their proportions, but I´m a lot more content with life than I was this time a year ago. I have a sense of having taken some kind of control, that things no longer simply happen to me. Which is a good way to feel… hopefully I´ll avoid the existential crisis that I was brewing up for my 30th birthday later this year.

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To everyone who´s continued reading (especially in the patchy last few months of personal upheaval and computer comas) thank you so much as always, and see you for another year!

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Friday 19 July 2013

borrowed flowers

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Oh yesh... outfit posts! Sometimes I forget about them. :) This is a fairly typical thing that I wear to work and around town, and here I'm looking a bit sweaty and scruffy at the end of a long day. My Catalan office-mates love and laugh in equal parts that I wear these traditional Catalan dancing shoes, but they are ridiculously comfortable for schlepping about in (it's impossible to get anywhere in a hurry though). And here's one of the little floral dresses I seem to live in. I'm always trying to wear less floral, because, although I like it, I think it's nice to not be too repetitive, but somehow this year I seem to have ended up largely floral.
These photos were snapped mainly for the flowers, which we were taking to the inauguration of a new bookshop. I hung out under the air conditioning and drank all the free rosé, as you do, because it was cold.

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Tuesday 2 July 2013


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The two days in Fez were such a great vacation! It didn´t hurt that I went mid-week, so it felt like I barely worked that week at all. But also it just felt so exotic and different. I´ve travelled a fair few places, though in general I go and live somewhere and haven´t done the backpacking routes that a lot of people have, but I hadn´t been anywhere like Morocco before. The crazy tiny labyrintine streets of the old city, the chaotic market stalls, the cats, the donkeys (ok, Mexico had donkeys, but not on the same level, not delivering gas and water). The people who seem to speak any language you could think of, so long as it´s to sell you something. The smells, of leather tanning and mint, the coloured tiles, the exquisite woodwork, the mosques we couldn´t go in, the coffee shops, the street life and the tucked away courtyards where the noise of the street doesn´t penetrate. The Barcelona Football Club paraphernalia. The impossibility of reading street signs. The haggling the taxi down from $10 to $1 and knowing you´re still paying too much. The honey cookies.

I loved it!

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This was how narrow the street to get to the hotel/riad
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