Archive for Life

Walking In The Winter Wonderland

After spending a year away in hot climates with some very non-Christmassy vibes,  I was excited to come home to Cardiff and start getting in the Christmas spirit as we neared the festive season.

Winter Wonderland

Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland has been a firm family favourite since its arrival in the city. People flock there every year to enjoy some time on the ice, cosy down with a mulled wine or have some fun on the wide selection of fairground rides.

Past years’ bad weather conditions (we are in Wales after all) has meant that many people have been left disappointed when when their skating sessions have been cancelled…cue the arrival of the new “all-weather” rink equipped with a clear roof. Only 10 years too late..

Having an ice-skate is always fun, whether you’re really good..or really bad. No one can be as bad as my Mum though, who, a few years ago managed to fall and be stretchered off. Never one for making a scene, my Mum. Whether you want to spend the time holding onto the sides and making your way slowly round, or if you’re feeling brave and want to show off your skills, it’s hard not to skate with a smile on your face. Even if there are those pesky school children getting in your way.

Winter Wonderland skating

Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland is the perfect Christmas tradition with the guarantee that everyone who attends is left feeling all things merry and all things festive. Open throughout the day and well into the evening, you can’t really not enjoy yourself. Live music  in the Alpine Village ensures that you are tapping your foot and singing along whilst munching on a bratwurst or a freshly made crepe and slugging on a toasty hot chocolate or mulled wine. Just don’t do a me and forget to bring some cash so you can’t indulge in the bratwurst sausage you’ve been smelling all afternoon. Sigh.

The funfair rides offer something for everyone. From the big wheel to the Santa train to the snow slide, all the family can be entertained and finish off their day with a giggle. Relatively cheap prices (if you’re not a family of four..), these are your typical fairground rides there for the simple purpose to get you smiling. The Big Wheel is a personal favourite as it takes you up and over the city, offering you some cracking views.

Winter Wonderland funfair

Cardiff Winter Wonderland Big Wheel

With the end of the Christmas period fast approaching, it’s probably about time you got your skates on and made a move to this festive Winter Wonderland before it’s no longer acceptable to eat your weight in chocolatey crepes and drown yourself in mulled wine. What am I saying, that’s acceptable any time of the year…..

Tickets – Adult – £9.50
              Child (3-7) – £6.50
              Youth (8-16) – £7.50
              Student – £8.00
              Family (2 adults, 2 children) – £30.00

(written alongside Laura Williams) 

Megan Carr

I’m A Social Mess

I’m a worrier. I’ve always been a worrier. My head is constantly whirling with thoughts and concerns – what I need to do, what I haven’t done yet, what I’ve done wrong. Sometimes it renders me incapable of being myself in a social group. I get nervous, anxious, like the spotlight is on me. And then I blush. No no, not a cute little blush which gently sprinkles my face with a rosy hue – it’s a full amber alert which heats up my entire body and dampens my face which of course people comment on which in turn makes me flush an even deeper colour. Call it social anxiety, call it shyness, call it me just being stupid, but I can’t stop myself from turning into an anxious, mute, red-faced goon when I’m faced with new people. It’s probably me being an over-thinker – I think too much about what other people are thinking – what response will I get if I say this? Will they think I’m weird? Funny? It’s exhausting. I’ve never really been the type to care too deeply about what other people think of me – I have my friends, I have my family and that’s all I’m really concerned about. It’s just the whole meeting new people that I have this internal struggle with. I admit myself, I’m probably not the most interesting of person when you first meet me – I turn into an awkward and fumbly mess of a human being which makes people think that I’m boring and got nothing interesting to say.

Thing is, I don’t remember feeling this feeling as great as I do now. I was shy I guess in school, I was slightly awkward and not someone who was full of confidence but I don’t recall having a constant overload of thoughts whirling around my head. I guess I first noticed it fully when I went to university. The whole being in a big group thing terrified me. I was surrounded by people who shone confidence, who were funny and quick witted and able to join new social groups quickly. And I found that difficult to do – I found it difficult to integrate myself that quickly into something new and it slowed me down. I’m much better at finding my feet first, meeting a few new people, forming attachments, rather than hurtling myself full speed into huge groups of people.

Being in Australia is amazing. And in some ways it has improved my confidence but it hasn’t really improved on my social awkwardness. But I am out here for another 8 months and I am working on it – I’m trying to do new things, and I’m trying not to let my head control my social interaction.

However, it’s getting to that point where I should start thinking about applying for jobs for when I get home. It’s not going well. I read job descriptions of the particular industries I want to go into and I tell myself that there’s no point in applying for that – I won’t get anywhere, I’m not confident enough, haven’t got that charisma, that charm.

Overthinking is never good and anxiety is awful. Your brain works a mile a minute forcing you to believe that you’re not good enough, that people don’t really like you, you’re going nowhere. I don’t want to be this person anymore. I want to be that person that has confidence shining from their pores, who can walk into social situations and be charming and full of fun and laughter. I feel like I’m throwing myself a little pity party at the moment. I guess everyone overthinks. And not everyone is as confident as they perhaps portray. I just need to get a hold of myself – there’s a world out there which I am going to be part of someday. I will be that person. It might take some time, but I am working on it. Or if all fails, I’ll just live out my days in the Australian outback. At least then you won’t be able to see my blush through all the sunburn….

Some Wonders of Wales

Wales is a beautiful country and definitely one worth a visit. I’m being completely and utterly biased here of course having lived here my entire life, but honestly, Wales is stunning. When I went travelling the first time on a three month trip, I was so excited to leave Wales and explore some of the world, I was sure that I wouldn’t miss it at all. But I did; I missed the green countryside, the vast mountains, the humdrum of Cardiff. It was strange, but the place I spent the longest in, New Zealand, reminded me so much of home. Maybe that’s why I loved it so much, a home away from home on the opposite end of the world. Similar weather, similar vast, green spaces and of course, the sheep. Lots and lots of sheep.

Living in Cardiff, I have access to lots of great places. I’m a 20 minute drive away from Cardiff city centre and a 40 minute drive from the Brecon Beacons. Not too shabby really. From city to country, I pretty much have it all. I mean come on, there’s an actual Castell Coch literally right on my doorstep.

I’m going to share with you some of my favourite places in South Wales. Not sure if anyone will care that greatly but hey, I’m feeling the need to write something and this was the best I could come up with.

Exploring Southerndown

Number 1 is Southerndown beach. A typical Welsh beach situated in Ogmore, near Bridgend and about a 40 minute drive from where I live. A pebble beach with satin seas, surrounded by steep, jagged cliffs, this is a beautiful place for a walk. You can walk along the cliff tops, taking in the view and listen to the waves crashing against the shoreline (possibly one of my favourite sounds ever). There’s even the remains of a castle, Dunraven Castle, which you can explore – what a great location for a castle, someone chose wisely there. I’m not sure why I love it here so much, but everytime I go, I just feel slightly more relaxed, like I’m blowing the cobwebs away.

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Pen Y Fan, Brecon Beacons

A second favourite of mine is Pen Y Fan. Situated in the Brecon Beacons, it is one of Wales’ highest peaks. The drive alone, is incredible. With panoramic views and winding roads, it’s definitely a sight to remember. The walk up Pen Y Fan is pretty memorable as well and it is always teeming with happy walkers and joggers. Hikers are very happy people who always smile and say “hello”; I always think that if everyone treated each other the way hikers treat each other, the world would be a much nicer place. The views from this mountain are stunning and stretch for miles. Never ending greenery, rolling hills and fresh water lakes, it’s just amazing when/if you get to the top and are able to take it all in.

pen y fan, brecon, walespen y fan, brecon, wales

pen y fan, brecon, wales

The Garth, Gwaelod-y-Garth

The Garth is a firm favourite of mine. A mountain, about ten minutes from where I live which overlooks the whole of Cardiff – from Cardiff Bay to the Millenium Stadium and even a cheeky spot of Flat Holme and Steep Holme. Whilst these views might not be quite as magnificent as from Pen y Fan, the Garth is a place which I love to go. It’s a relatively gentle mountain and not too steep a climb and there’s plenty of points along the way where you can sit down and appreciate the view. Located just outside of Cardiff, near Pentrych and Gwaelod-y-Garth, this is the perfect place to come for an outer city experience.

Sidenote: this mountain also played a lead role in a film starring Hugh Grant!

Garth, Cardiff 2015-04-05 15.47.57

Wales, the land of castles

Now, Wales is known for its castles. Its glorious and grand castles, full of vibrant history and interesting stories. I mean, there’s even one in Cardiff City Centre, standing grand amongst the modern shops and busy commuters.

Whilst Wales is full of beautiful castles, one of my favourites has got to be Castell Coch. A castle which is conveniently located on my doorstep. Okay, so not quite on my doorstep but I’m pretty sure I can see it from my house. Hiding amongst the trees, peeping out over the village of Tongwynlais and very much visable from the majority of surrounding roads, this is a 19th century castle with a rich history. Now an interesting tourist destination, you can wander around the inside and learn about its former occupants.

There’s also some great walks to be had around this area – beautiful woods and even a small tea rooms to reward yourself with afterwards.

So there you have it. A few of my favourite places in my home country. This of course, is only a small part of what’s on offer – there is so much more going on in the rest of Wales. Snowdonia, in North Wales, is definitely a place I would like to explore. Having been there once on a Geography school trip which consisted of studying rocks and then getting drunk in the accommodation, I didn’t see or appreciate as much as I would’ve liked. There’s all sorts up there now – even a zipwire – the longest in Europe – soaring across the mountain, I’m sure offering some pretty surreal views. Now that’s one for the bucket list…

Whilst the world is huge and there’s a lot to explore, sometimes taking a look around your home country is a good substitute for curing that travel bug. What’s your favourite places in your home city?

Am I overthinking things?

Hands up who has no idea what they want to do with their life?

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Honestly, sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in a universe where I’m walking blindfolded through life, where I’m the only person who has no idea where they should be in the world. But of course, I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. I think everyone feels a little lost sometimes, right?

I graduated from university this summer and like many recent graduates, I am well and truly confused. The real world is big and scary and it’s a daunting thought trying to figure out where you fit in it. I had a lecturer who once said “when you leave here, you’re all going to have an identity crisis”. Everyone laughed of his comment, the thought of leaving the safe haven of uni so far away. But here I am, a new graduate, booking a plane ticket to the other side of the world to get me away from making decisions.

megan graduation

My problem is – I worry too much. I overthink to the point where I talk myself out of doing things, where I make myself believe that I can’t do it, that I won’t be able to. Which is stupid, because really how can you think that, when you’ve never even tried? I have interest in a few different career options but everytime I talk myself into something, I talk myself out of it. It’s a vicious circle of self doubt and lack of confidence that I should probably start to work on. I spend too much time comparing myself to other people, looking at their lives and wondering how they have it all together. I spend far too much time worrying that I’m letting people down, if me being so unprepared is disappointing my family, that unlike my sisters who seem to have it all together, I’m the one letting the family down. Which is stupid. Because everyone is different and no one is perfectly content with their lives – the grass is always greener so to speak. And everyone, everyone has the same doubts, the same worries that I do. I’m not the only one who feels this way. We are all just kids in adult clothing trying to make our way through life.

Am I overthinking?

However, despite my uncertain future, I can’t help but feel a little happy that I have no career plans. It gives me a chance to travel, to explore the world, do something I love. When I finally decide what I want to do, I want it to be the right decision, I don’t want to rush into something and regret it as soon as I’m there. I’m thankful for this time where I can work in my average, minimum wage job, go home and not worry about it until the next day; where I can relax a bit and not be bogged down with responsibilities and commitments; where I can book a one way ticket to Australia and have the trip of a life time. Of course, being a worrier, I worry that me moving to Australia for a year is just another divergent technique to get out of making the tough decisions, of escaping “real life”. But then again, “real life” is right now. I have the rest of my life to find a career but right now, at this point in my life, I want to experience life. I want to explore the world, and be indecisive; I want to be able to pick up my life and move it to the opposite end of the world and I want not to have to worry about things for a little while.

I guess what I’m saying is this – I don’t think one person in the world knows what they’re doing. You could be the happiest, richest,most confident person but still feel like something is missing, that you have no idea who you are and everyone else is doing it better. Everyone compares themselves to the people around them and everyone puts themselves down.5-live-the-life

Not knowing who you are is part of growing up. And part of growing up is pretending you have it all figured out when you really, really don’t. So I’m learning – well trying to – to chill a little. To stop worrying so much about the little things, to stop worrying so much about my future when I have so much to look forward to right now. Like moving to Australia for a year and having a pretty good time.

So you are not alone. It’s about time we all admitted how uncertain we all really are. It’s about time we stopped living up to other people’s expectations, to stop thinking we should have it all together and learn to embrace life and live a little. You know, like that famous Boyzone philosopher said: “life is a roller coaster, you’ve just gotta ride it.”

(Can’t believe I just ended a blog post with a song lyric from Ronan Keating. Don’t judge).inspirational quotes on life (1)

Meet Emily Donnan Courtade

Not bragging or anything, but I have a friend who’s this close to becoming Miss Wales 2015. A beautiful friend. A beautiful, brainy friend. A beautiful, brainy and all round amazing person friend.

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So, Miss Emily Donnan Courtade; Cardiff born, Cardiff bred, the beautiful genes of a Spanish princess, the brains of a final year law student, motivated, generous, hard working and yeah, okay, she can be quite funny sometimes.

Wait, why am I friends with her again?

With her natural beauty, easy going personality and giving nature, it’s no wonder she’s powering her way through each stage of the competition. A dedicated law student, Emily uses as much time as she can partaking in charitable organisations, more recently running in the Cardiff Half Marathon where she was raising money for Raleigh International, a organisation she’s had experience with before. Last summer, Emily volunteered to travel to the heart of the Costa Rican Jungle with Raleigh and spent the summer building a school for the young children who lived there, describing it as one of the most incredible experiences ever. This eye-opening experience only propelled her to dedicate herself more and more to charitable organisations, designed to improve the lives of people everywhere, and is already planning her next trip, to Nepal as part of a Childreach programme.

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A hardworking Law and French student at Cardiff University, Emily spent a year studying in Toulouse, where she built on her knowledge of the French language as well as experiencing the wonder that is Law…in a foreign country. Crikey. I couldn’t even stand Law for the three weeks I studied it in England, let alone doing it in a foreign country.

Not only is she one of the best friends a girl could have – full of fun, laughter and jolly good times, she’s also a huge family girl, who loves to spend as much time as possible with the people she loves the most. With roots from El Salvador, she travels there as much as possible in order to spend time with her close knit relatives.

So there she is. Miss Wales Finalist 2015; Miss Emily Donnan Courtade. Full of happiness and giggles, kindness and aspirations – this is the girl who is taking Cardiff by storm, this is the girl I’m proud to call one of my closest friends, this is your Miss Wales Finalist, 2015.

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