During my recent trip to the north of Italy (and Switzerland) You can read about here, I realised quite a few things in my surroundings that’s different to life in the UK. Here’s 10 fun things that I learnt whilst in Italy.
Italians really like to take their time and enjoy their food and drinks – every restaurant and cafe I went into, everyone was taking their time and enjoying each others company.
Italians do actually eat a LOT of pizza and pasta! – The majority of people everywhere I went were eating a slice of pizza or a plate of fresh pasta!
Hello! Long time no post, I’ve been busy inspiration searching and that involved travelling! In my usual ‘two-birds-with-one-stone’ fashion, it was also a birthday trip curtesy of ma madré (big thank you mum!) But Italy was also on her bucket list!! So let get stuck right into it!
So I like to squeeze in as much as I can when I go on holiday to a new destination, check out the Singapore in a weekend blog here. So when we went to stay in Milan for 6 nights we squeezed in day trips all around the north of Italy to experience lots of snippets from each place.
Always check the airline that you’re flying with for luggage restrictions. We flew with Easy Jet so they have a policy for one small hand luggage and an option to add one checked 20kg luggage bag. We originally were not going to even add a suitcase! But we ended up sharing one, thank god because we forgot to factor in shopping and souvenirs! I always pack heavier and bulkier things when the weather is cooler, so it helps to check the weather at the destination before you pack.
I tried to plan for a few outfit photos so I packed a heel boot… that I didn’t even wear! So I recommend just packing flats and comfortable shoes if you plan on doing a lot of walking like we did.
I also found that I could contact the hotel before hand and check what amenities they already had there so I could probably pack less i.e. shower gel, shampoo and conditioner, body lotion, cotton pads, slippers etc. So it would’ve been handy if I didn’t need to carry a bottle of body wash, but anything that I’m picky about I just took a travel size version.
We chose a hotel and flight package on lastminute.com but we booked at like 1am in the morning (never do that!) so we only had photographs of the hotel to go on. Thankfully it was the most beautiful hotel, Starhotel E.C.H.O. It’s super eco friendly with all the heating sourced etc. They even had sustainable tips on a card in each room to help. Even their restaurant locally sources their ingredients! You can check out their video explaining the E.C.H.O here.
Getting around Milan
I got the heads up that public transport will go on strike with little notice before hand, and with my luck they really did whilst we were there! But we still managed to suss out how to use the Metro which is the public underground train. It’s a lot less complicated than the London tube as you only need to know the two stops at either end of the three lines, and you could probably work it all out from there. We mostly used the green line which went through the main Centerale FS station which had an abundance of newsagents. All sold the majority of the tickets for bus, Metro and tram, along with all of the different ticket machines.
Most people spoke english being the big city centre that it is, and you could even chose the preferred language on the ticket machines once you located the right one! The most popular Metro lines tend to run from 6am – midnight, so outside of these times I would recommend taking a local taxi. Bare in mind a taxi can take around 10mins to arrive or you can find a taxi rank nearby any main station or just outside the famous Duomo cathedral.
I did find having a tube map helped, but I also love these apps whenever I travel anywhere:
City Mapper – although it’s not the best for Italy, you can see routes from A to B!
SpeakEasy Italian – Unfortunately I didn’t get to exercise my Italian much (or lack of) but it was handy if you ever need help as it does not need internet connection to work.
If you can arrange for internet roaming abroad with your network provider it will help if you get lost in this digital age.
On the first day we needed to know our surroundings so we booked in at our hotel recommended travel agent Zani Viaggi for the Grande Tour de Milano, which was a great morning trip to the most famous landmarks.
Day 2 was the public transport strike so we had to hop on a taxi to the meeting point to catch the coach. Being in the capital city of fashion you HAVE to go to a shopping outlet! Unfortunately, Serravalle shopping outlet seemed too similar to the Cheshire Oaks shopping outlet (they’re owned by the same company) that’s local to me back in the UK so I decided on FoxTown.
Little did I know it was in Switzerland! It was a great experience having found a YSL and Versace outlet that had prices up to 70% off! But even then most items were still around £500+! I did manage to find a leather skirt I liked but they only had one faulty one left! I would like to go back to Switzerland for a romantic cliché ski holiday with a cheese fondue in front of a fire (and shopping!)
A visit to lake Como was planned for day 3 as all of the tickets for Florence was sold out for that morning, however both places are exceptionally beautiful! I took a good 70% of my 1000+ photos around the lake because it was just that picturesque! We did find the famous Seta (silk) shop in Como, but I only managed to check out half of the shop before we were rushed onto the boat to Bellagio! But that just means I will have to go back again to see the other half of the shop!
For the last full day in Italy we had pre-booked a Venice day trip because it was only available on the Sunday during the 6 days we went for, and it was the one place that I really wanted to visit! Venice is such a different city, which was made apparent when we had to get off the coach at a manmade island (built mostly for all of the tourists parking!) to then take a boat over to the district.
Unfortunately, most shops are closed on Sunday but all of the tourist places were open. This meant that it was HEAVING with tourists, and it didn’t help that there was a marathon going on at the same time! The trip was a great quick overview of Venice, as I would recommend a little educational show around by a local guide for the first time there. You learn a lot from locals, but I think the beauty of visiting Venice is getting lost in the labyrinth of streets and leisurely discovering new ‘calle’ (street/s)! As my mum experienced (she got confused with all of the guides having the same flags and got lost for a few minutes!) This is definitely on my list of places to revisit as the 6 hours we spent there was not nearly enough!
Eating Out and About
I love to try all of the local food wherever I go, but having been on mostly tourist trips to the usual tourist places we paid the inflated prices! I always like to wonder around for a few minutes to compare the prices, since most of the restaurants have the same popular Italian dishes. I tried to visit the recommended restaurants, but when you’re doing so much exploring you get tired and just want to eat anything that’s close by! I did thankfully try local risotto, fish & meats, traditional stone baked pizza and gelato! It’s true that the gelato tastes amazing in Italy because they make it fresh and the flavour is mind blowing!
Can you do north Italy in a week?
You definitely can if you are fit and able to zip from place to place to get a quick taste of each city/country (mum got tried very easily). I definitely recommend going for longer so you can really savour and enjoy each place. I like leaving something to do and explore in places I would like to revisit. I definitely learnt a lot on this trip, especially about the Duomo and Last Supper painting. I didn’t know the colour of the Duomo varies because it’s made of pink marble, and that the Last Supper was painted on a kitchen wall! Although, the staple food in Italy isn’t my favourite (pizza and pasta isn’t my first choice) as I prefer a lighter meals i.e. veggies and fruit. I absolutely LOVE the pastries and antipasti options there! Everything Italian always tastes better in Italy!
Okay so the gym themselves aren’t lying, they’re pretty transparent. You just need to do your research before hand and quiz them before you join! It helps to be in the know of all the deals they have done previously, as joining mid-month in a quiet period can work out a lot cheaper.
So I have joined Nuffield Health recently and I’m on a bit of a health kick. Turns out my metabolism still has it! Here’s a few things you find out after using it for the first time.
10 Fun facts
Your fanny will hurt after the first few times at spin class – Unfortunately, the seats don’t fit like a glove and rub in all sorts of places! But you get used to it after a few classes, just push through it!
Personal trainers aren’t actually that scary – they want you to be healthier and look to encourage you!
The huge tyre is heavier than it looks – it’s 60kg! I was almost moving something twice the weight of myself!
The old grannies that go to step class aren’t frail – not one bit! In fact, they’d probably kick your ass! So don’t tick them off!
You don’t need a protein shake – body builders will tell you that all that whey protein was a huge fad. You don’t need supplements as long as you’re getting the right amount of protein in your diet.
The gym equipment is pretty gross – everyones pretty lazy and can’t move after a full on workout. So the gym equipment probably has the sweat of everyone before you on it. Thankfully there’s readily available cleaning products handy to clean them. Yes, I did get a smelly mat that smelt like cheesy feet!
Big contracts don’t necessarily mean expensive – if you use the gym everyday it works out about £1-2 a day! Even then you get full use of all the facilities i.e. hello sauna and jacuzzi!
Classes are actually a lot of fun – starting out can be a little daunting being the new person, but as with everything practise makes perfect!
Gym wear is more important than it seems – it won’t just be aesthetically pleasing to motivate you more, but having sweat wicked away and the right sports bra makes a difference! Look good AND feel good whilst working out! How to chose your sports bra blog post coming next tuesday, follow us on social media to be notified
You will feel a lot better – you’re less tired and have more of a drive to do things. Teamed with a healthy diet, you’ll have energy for days!
But the gym is a fun way to stay healthy
So that’s a fun few facts for you after my first month in the gym, and my new shopping obsession is funky gear that’ll make my work outs a lot more chic! After trying out most of the classes so far I do enjoy the united feel, having peers not only motivate you but also challenge you in ways you least expect! I have always liked classes from my various dance classes from a young age, so when they started getting labelled ‘adult classes’. I bolted. No one clinging to their youth wants to admit they’re adults! So gym classes has filled that void for now. I haven’t quite gotten into solo training yet as it’s not quite my front, but I’m sure that will come in time after I pick up some routines!
Check out the heath benefits of regular exercise in my last health blog here.
The launch of the Human Sensor kicked off on the 23rd of July and it was a day packed full of speakers and a live performance at the end. Here’s what happened on the night for all of you that missed it!
Making the Invisible Visible
Finding 70 Oxford Road was an easy task as it used to be the old location for the Cornerhouse, which I found that people still mistake it for! Upon entering the venue, the place was still buzzing from the morning talks about Manchester Public Health and Air Pollution, it was still incredibly warm for the tail end of the heatwave but everyone was excited for the performance in the evening.
As we prepared the wearables and leaflets for the night, there was still a flurry of things to do. I accompanied Laura Parker the deputy director, to display the Human Sensor posters at Salder’s Yard for the location of the final show, and hurried back to get ready for the guests arrivals. We didn’t realise the location was quite a bit of a walk away but thankfully we managed to get back in time to add the finishing touches!
The night kicks off!
The clock ticked 7:30pm and the first guest arrived! As everyone started to filter in and settle, the presentations soon started. Alice Sharp the director of Invisible Dust began the evening explaining the concept of the not-for-profit company that aims to raise awareness for air pollution by partnering art with science, and then introduced the Human Sensor artist Kasia Molga. We then had a talk from the Kings College of London, Dr Ian Muwa about air pollution. Did you know air pollution is costing us billion of pounds, and it contributes to 40,000 deaths in the UK?! After the congratulating and thanking everyone that had been involved in the project: Kasia, the organisers and people behind the scenes, the fellows, the choreographer and the dancers, there was a short break before we were all ushered outside for the start of the performance!
Everyone stood outside in anticipation to see the wearables in action, and the buzz of talking stopped once the dancers started filing out one after the other. The dancers adorned in the LED lit wearable capes sparkled as they began their dance to the Sadler’s Yard, rotating and elegantly emphasising the breathing with their arm movements whilst they waited at every crossing. We followed them twisting and turning around a route through the city centre, bystanders were curious and also mind-blown at the bizzare looking wearables on dancers! Having worn the wearable cape before I know that it was quite restrictive, but the dancers were expertly moving around in them not putting a confident foot out of place!
When we reached Salder’s Yard the sun was fully set and the spotlights illuminated the venue with an almost romantic atmosphere. The final dance was a beautiful crescendo to the end of the night with a projected presentation in the background that had bite sized information and facts fading in and out. The whole performance gave me Goosebumps with the soundtrack being someone breathing that gradually sped up and became more laboured; it was almost like the breathing of something out of a horror movie! Teamed with the shocking air pollution facts on how it’s affecting the human body, it felt rather chilling but very powerful.
The launch night was a brilliant experience and although I did work for part of the night to help set up, it did not feel like work at all seeing the project blossom into something we are all proud of! I originally wanted to partake in this project to get experience working with more wearables, but I not only managed to wear it for the promotional video, I also learnt a lot more about air pollution and how it is a very real threat even here in Manchester. Knowing that I will part from this project with more skills and knowledge that I originally expected is a great feeling, but having met a brilliant group of fellows on the programme is priceless!
The Human Sensor is a project by Kasia Mulga and Invisible Dust to raise awareness of air pollution as part of the European City Of Science festival. Find out all of the information and photos of the events at the Human Sensor website www.humansensor.eu
Invisible Dust is continuing to work on raising awareness of air pollution with more artists and scientists in new projects coming soon. Keep up to date on their website here. The Human Sensor is coming to London! Keep your eyes peeled!
Find out more about the Human Sensor programme on the blog I wrote here.
I have been busy yet again creating more wearable tech! This time it is a UV sensor hat that reminds you to reapply your sunscreen. With summer being quite hot this year, we definitely need to ensure we are sun safe!
I explain how I made the wearable tech UV hat with Adafruit’s instructions in my latest guest blog for WTF | Wearable Tech Fashion over on the MadeWithGlove website. Read it here or copy and paste the link in the quotes below:
When I found out that Cat Café Manchester was opening in Manchester I jumped for joy! So I made it my mission to go to the first opening day to check it out for myself. Here’s what I thought of it.
I have a slight bias to cats as I have one of my own called Misty that you may have seen in some of my vlogs. So I personally think the more furry friends the better! It’s a bonus when you don’t even need to feed and clean their toilets!
Walking up to the Cat Café Manchester I saw a clean and modern looking entrance room. The main door is secure with a doorbell. I was greeted by an enthusiastic team member that explained that the sold out 50% of entry tickets meant that I had to wait until a space was free. Unfortunately, they couldn’t give an accurate estimate as anyone could stay as long as they wanted. Thankfully, there was only a couple in front of me in the line, and it seemed quite quiet. So I waited for about 30 mins, watching the que add up in numbers as more and more people poured in! Finally, I was called up and they explained the house rules and offered me slippers or shoe covers to wear inside the cafe. I chose the slippers, signed the form, and made my way into the cafe.
Cat Café Manchester
The cafe works with a three door system, so I went through a further two doors and a small gate around the cafe door. The new furnished cafe was a beautiful sight to see, with a brilliant range of seating areas and a full two walls of ceiling to floor windows. The atmosphere was bright and calm and I was greeted with two resident cats having a clean and play!
All drinks are included in the time spent, and you only pay for time you stay. Food such as paninis and cakes are an extra cost. I had a white chocolate and berry muffin that was so yummy! It’s £12 an hour and cakes are around the £2.50 mark. It’s a bargain compared to the London cat cafe that I went to!
The resident cats
The resident Norwegian forest cat Ygritte, wanted to make friends with everyone! She came up and sat next to me, so I grabbed a cat toy and started playing with her. She was definitely a favourite! Alasan the Mainecoon also had a big personality and went to sleep in his favourite hammock! There is a total of 10 resident cats at the Cat Cafe Manchester; Alasan the Mainecoon, Harvey and Fluffy the Ragdolls, Joel the Russian blue, Keira and Snowy the Bengals, Georgia and Bert the Birbam cross breeds and Ygritte the Norwegian forest cat.
Thankfully I managed to see most of the cats, but soon it was cat nap time. So after spending about 45mins in the cafe and a latte, I decided they were all resting and made my way out.
Many of the frequently asked questions are answered on the website but here are the most common:
Are the cats rescues?
No, they are pedigree or semi-pedigree. Their reasons for this is because most rescue cats have had a hard start in life, so forcing them to be in a busy environment isn’t the best. They do however support their local cat shelters by donating to the RSPCA and the Cats Protection charities.
What’s the point in a cat cafe?
It’s targeted at cat and animal lovers, and novelty seekers. But it’s also brilliant for the people that cannot have cats in the house, or don’t have the time to take care of them.
Are children allowed?
Yes, but they must be 10 years+ as they will need to know how to treat the cats with respect.
Do they have any events?
Yes! They have plenty of events on in September, from cat yoga to film night. Check out the website for all of the details!
Do they care about the welfare of the cats?
Yes! The cat’s wellbeing is their number one priority, they go over the hygiene and rules with every person; Do not chase the cats, no flash photography, do not bother the cats when they are sleeping. Shoe covers or slippers are worn and you must sterilise your hands before you enter.
My closing thoughts
Overall the experience was great, and I would definitely visit again! The wait was not too long in the line as I went at a quiet time. Even if I didn’t get a chance to go in, I could always peek through the large windows! I was worried about whether the people would follow the rules or not, as some people insisted on stroking Alasan when he just wanted to sleep. However, people finally got the message when the cats get their fangs out!! I would like them to adapt some of the ways that Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium works, and give the cats a break in the middle of the week. Hopefully they have time to be super attentive to the subtle cats change in behaviours when they are ill, and be able to keep track of all of them. The team members there have been with the cats long before the opening to get them settled, so they are quite accustomed to each other.
Manchester Girl Geeks ran their fourth annual #BraCamp on Saturday 9th July 2016 at the awesome Autotraders office in Manchester. As the wearable tech assistant of MadeWithGlove I plucked up the courage to speak to fellow girl (and boy geeks) about my new role as a wearable tech assistant and the wearable tech projects I have been working on. Find out all about my first experience of the Girl Geeks Barcamp here.