Fiji: Tips and Tricks

1. Starting off with the thing you can’t go without, the Bula Pass. This is pretty much the only way to go from island to island unless you want to catch a private speedboat or helicopter. Purchased in advance, it allows you to go from island to island as many times as you want and in any direction you want (I mean up and down the islands, not like, forwards/backwards or side to side just to be clear). It costs $442 Australian dollars (roughly £253) and is available from Awesome Adventures, the company that primarily deal with island hopping transport and accommodation as well as day trips and activities.

2. Bulk buy water ($6 for 6 litre bottles) from the mainland before you head to the islands because a lot of the islands don’t provide drinking water (some don’t even provide it at meal times) and if you buy it on the islands you could pay up to $8 a bottle. It’s a pain to carry around but Fijians are super helpful and will always take it from you when getting on and off boats and usually carry it to the room too (island dependant). Just a quick word about the mainland – don’t let it put you off, the islands couldn’t be more different so don’t stay there more than one night either side of your trip (or get a flight the same night you arrive back if you can).

3. Speaking of boats, don’t go to Fiji if you don’t like water travel and/or get seasick as the ferry can take up to 4.5 hours to reach some of the resorts that are in the north islands. The ferry also doesn’t take you to the door, you have to climb from the ferry to a speed boat/smaller passenger boat that then takes you to the islands. Even then you get out of the boat into the shallow of the water to walk up the beach to your resort so wear flip flops and clothes you don’t mind getting damp because you will have water splashed up your legs to get the sand off. Hey, I never said it wasn’t an adventure.

4. If you’re doing island hopping (backpacker style rather than a fancy resort vacation) try and visit a combination of “one coconut” and “two coconut” resorts. The coconuts replace a star rating system so one coconut is the basic level with resorts run by villages and families, often with limited electricity and water whereas two coconuts is more luxurious often with wifi (possibly at a cost) and hairdryers. One coconut resorts are great for getting a feel for the Fijian culture and really getting back to basics and I’d highly recommend staying in one but start your trip there and work your way up to a two coconut place – degrading the standards as you go will only be a bad thing. Ending on a high and finishing somewhere that has a few more amenities will be exactly what you need after 10 days running from place to place (it really is more taxing than it sounds). I’d highly recommend Blue Lagoon and Octopus and for the extra $50(ish) they’re more than worth it.

5. I doubt this would happen but if you’re island hopping try not to piss anyone off because nine times out of ten you’ll see them again on another island or meet someone that’s met them. In the same way, friends are everywhere and reunions are the best.

6. Take a bed liner and the strongest insect repellent you can find. I’ll leave that to your imagination.

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Top Five Travel Must Haves 

With the non-stop place to place schedule I’ve had the past couple of months I found the easiest way to write down blog ideas was to create lists of different things I’ve noticed/learnt/experienced. I feel these type of posts are easy and fun to read as well as being a good ‘on the go’ format for me. With that in mind I have a couple of upcoming posts in a similar style to this one on various topics so hopefully you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them. 

Kicking off the first one I thought I’d give you my top five travel must haves since I’ve just passed the ten week travel mark. A couple of these are aimed at hotter climates but hopefully it’ll provide some inspiration for any upcoming trips you may have. 

1. Sun cream and after sun

These come hand in hand and you can’t have one without the other. Especially for Australia, New Zealand and other countries in the Southern Hemisphere suncream is a no brainier because of the strength of UV rays. Don’t forget the after sun as well because no one wants pealing skin especially after the hard work of getting a good tan, you’ll want it to last as long as possible. 

2. Antiseptic cream 

Don’t laugh at this one. The sun cream/after sun and antiseptic cream combo has become a daily (and nightly) routine now due to the amount of bites received. It’s also great for any cuts, grazes, popped blisters, and any other ailments. It’s basically saving my life at the moment, there’s not much it can’t fix. I’d even go as far as to recommend a brand but that might be a bit much… who am I kidding, it’s Bepanthen. 

3. Clothes for all weather 

Even if it’s just one item for each weather type (e.g. one raincoat, one pair of fluffy socks, one sun hat) because yes, you will need a raincoat in Fiji despite what you might think. Fluffy socks are great for colder cities (Melbourne I’m looking at you) as well as being useful for flights. 

4. A microfibre travel towel 

I can’t stress this one enough, I’d be lost without mine. Bodhi is a great brand and the towels come in a variety of sizes and colours and have a hook which is great, providing the door actually has hooks. They also come in small travel bags meaning you can keep it separate from your other things in the event that you have to pack it whilst it’s still damp (although they dry incredibly quickly) but they fold so small you can squeeze them in anywhere. I got mine from Amazon here

5. The lowest standards 

When you think they’re low, lower them again. I’m serious. Think bed bugs, mice, unwashed sheets and geckos under the mattress to name just a few scenarios. I should add in a sixth one on this note; hand sanitiser. I know they become less effective the more you use them but I think you’ll agree it’s better than nothing. 

So there you have it, my five travel must haves. I’m sure with time I’ll add a few more to the list but until then these are my holy grail. If you have any you’d add to the list feel free to leave them in the comments! 

Just an update…

Throughout the past two months (58 days) I’ve travelled over 22,000 miles. I tried to look for an equivalent distance but google wouldn’t give me one; I know it’s a crazy long way though. I’ve currently been to 16 US states, 4 out of 6 Australian states and a two week stint island hopping in Fiji, all in the space of 8 weeks so it’s safe to say I’m more than a little exhausted (island hopping is actually more tiring than it sounds…). 

Throughout the multiple trips I’ve done there was barely time to sleep, let alone keep up a blog which is why this post is as late as it is. This may or may not be a get out clause; I will write something at some point but it might not be until I have some sort of routine because although it may look like constant cocktails and sunsets, travelling is super stressful at times. 

Thank you for all the interest in what I’m up to, it’s definitely appreciated -messages of support don’t go unnoticed and I’ll always reply so drop me a line if you want to! 

With love from across the (very big!) pond,

Sophie 

95 days and counting…

Welcome to another post that’s been a long time coming! It’s only a short one as some of you may already know about what I’m about to write but since I got to properly tell my best friends about it this past weekend I thought I’d make more of an ‘official’ post. 

Come September I will officially unemployed and ready to take on a whole new adventure! Something I’ve been planning and working towards for a couple of years, although not without its setbacks, is finally in motion. Travel. Perhaps indefinitely, but we’ll see how things pan out…

First on the list is New York – The Big Apple, The City of Dreams… spending a few days exploring and taking in the bright lights before joining an organised group tour from the East coast to the West coast. After much deliberation about which company to go with, Trek America was chosen due to the better selection of tour types and price ranges. Here is their website if you’re interested: Trek America

From New York the tour continues to:

Philadelphia

Washington D.C

Virginia

Nashville – might need an extra case for my hat and boots! 

Memphis 

New Orleans 

Louisiana 

Austin 

San Angelo 

Carlsbad Caverns National Park  

Santa Fe

Monument Valley

Grand Canyon National Park

Route 66

Las Vegas

San Diego

Los Angeles, where the tour ends after 21 days

From Los Angeles a trip to San Francisco is a must, as is a day-trip to Disneyland!! But after that I catch a flight to Melbourne where I have a weeks worth of accommodation before my plans end and (I’m hoping) spontaneity begins. Any tips and tricks for working and travelling around Australia would be much appreciated as I’ve exhausted every possible YouTube video on the subject! 

I’m hoping to blog about what I get up to as much as I can whilst I’m away, hopefully filling your timelines with wanderlust inducing posts and photos but wifi may dictate how often that happens, we’ll see. 

So there we go! Just need to pack my bag and dust off my passport and I’m good to go… well, almost… 

Southern BLT from New York

July favourites…

Well what do you know? It’s that time again already… July favourites! Crazy how fast these come round! Let’s just jump right in this month with my all time favourite purchase (maybe of the whole year??) a dress from online store, Boohoo. It’s super simple, plain black fabric with a slight A-line shape to it towards the bottom (one of those that fans out when you spin) and it’s a really soft, comfortable fabric. It has a bardot, off the shoulder neckline which stays in place if you don’t move your arms much, although if it rides up onto your shoulders it looks nice like that too. But I really can’t shout about this dress enough, I love it. It’s flattering and comfy and a decent length – not too short for those of us that aren’t fans of the super short dresses, it’s also a steal at £12 and delivery was quick and easy. As I said I bought it in black but it seems that isn’t available anymore however there are a variety of other colours. Compliments all round for the dress and well, for you too when you wear it! Link to the dress is below:
http://www.boohoo.com/day-dresses/freya-frill-off-shoulder-skater-dress/invt/azz07121

Styling the dress – it comes just above my knees


Nextup is an ‘accessory’ I actually wore with the dress mentioned above. They’re the Benefit “Prima Donna” false lashes, a Boots online exclusive. At £12 they’re more expensive than lashes I would normally buy but I’m 100% sold. I’ll be wearing them time and time again until they’re falling apart because they look so good, they’re easy to apply and they fit nicely once they’re on. They don’t look fake, more like your own lashes but with a bit of oomph which was exactly the look I was after.I wore them for a party but I could easily wear these in the daytime too. The only downside is that they don’t come with glue so I used some I had previously but they do come in a sturdy plastic container so it’s easier to keep them looking nice between uses. I’ll definitely be repurchasing once mine are done! 

Continuing with eye makeup I have two favourite mascaras this month. First is the Charlotte Tilbury ‘Full Fat Lash’ mascara which I wasn’t struck on at the beginning but after a few uses it grew on me. It cost £22 which I was pleasantly surprised about considering the brand and was only a little more than my previous mascara Too Faced ‘Better than Sex’ – one I had to stop using as it ended up under my eyes instead of on them by the end of the day. The Charlotte Tilbury mascara has had no such problems so far so I’m happy! It also came so beautifully packaged I had to take a photo – like receiving a present! 

So pretty!!


Second is the Clinique ‘bottom lash mascara’which has the tiniest wand you’ve ever seen like it’s made for delicate fairy eyes or something. Besides the size of the wand it does the job perfectly, catching all the little lashes in the corners as well as making them look long and luscious. This one also doesn’t drop under the eyes throughout the day which was something I scoured reviews for before purchasing. The formula is more liquid than a usual mascara so use with caution the first couple of times. At £13 (ish) I’d recommend this to anyone. I have two songs of the month for July, ‘Carry You Home’ by Ward Thomas and ‘I Love You Always Forever’ covered by Betty Who. ‘Carry You Home’ is the first single from Ward Thomas’ upcoming album ‘Cartwheels’, being released September 9th and is the perfect summer country song, full of heart, soul, storytelling lyrics and a catchy beat – what more could you want?! I have tickets to see these girls in October and I’m very excited to see what else they release. Their newest single ‘Guilty Flowers’ has just come out and that’s also worth a listen. 

Betty Who’s cover of ‘I Love You Always Forever’, the well known 90’s song (you’ll know it when you hear it) is such a great upbeat cover I’ve had it on repeat. Like her own songs, this cover is injected with her unique sound which just makes me feel like it sunny even when it’s not…maybe it’s her subtle Australian twang that does it. Anyway, I love this cover and if you like the original version and Betty’s style of music I’m sure you’ll like it too. 

My final favourite this month is the city of Portsmouth. It’s where I spent my 3 years at uni and where I spent four days last week when I was back visiting friends. There’s something special about the city you went to university in, like it’ll always be home even if you no longer live there. Portsmouth is a lovely city regardless, it has the mix of the old vs the new, the hustle and bustle vs the serene, the city and the sea – everything you could want. It was so lovely to catch up (and party with) old friends as well as making new ones. I don’t know, I just love it. 

Beautiful Portsmouth


Okay that’s the end of this months favourites! Leave a comment about any of the things I’ve mentioned above if you’ve also loved them or even if you just fancy saying hello! Thanks for reading, until next time! 

Don’t let anyone tell you that Germans don’t know how to party…

It’s not everyday that you fly over 400 miles for the pre-wedding party of your best friend but long distance friendship sometimes takes a little more effort…

I’d just come home from work on New Year’s Eve, about to get ready for a party when I noticed an envelope on my bed. I knew immediately who it was from, her writing is unmistakable (and her address is always written on the back) and rushed to open it. I thought it was an invitation to her upcoming wedding and the dress on the front of the card also aided my suspicions but the point of the card was even more exciting. I read it slowly, taking in every word and smiling at the well wishes to my family (“greetings” as she always says). I reached the bottom of the first side and there was the question in silver swirly writing; “will you be one of my bridesmaids?”. I read it a couple more times before running down the stairs ecstatically to tell my family. An invite to the wedding was one thing considering I’m in a different country but asking me to be such a special part to the occasion was something else. I was thrilled. It was probably the best start to a new year I’d ever had. 

The card she sent me and the one I replied with

Since January I’ve been to visit her twice. First for the very important and extremely fun task of finding a wedding dress. It was like real life Say Yes to the Dress! Her sister Inga and her best friend Pia had made little gift bags for all the bridesmaids, six of us in total, each with snacks and tissues, and flash cards for rating each dress – theirs were in German, mine were in English and they were all adorable. There were individual little milk bottles filled with champagne and beautiful pink edible flowers resting at the bottom, decorated with a mint green ribbon round the top – they were so sweet I kept mine to display in my bedroom. The wedding dress store was about two and a half hours away so the car journey was more of a car picnic party – German pastries, sausage bites, sweets, and of course champagne were circulated round the car as we all chatted away and sang to Justin Bieber. I have to say, if you’ve never been wedding dress shopping before its 100% as much fun as it sounds. I loved it. The bride tried on a few dresses and she looked stunning in all of them but when she put on ‘the one’ we all knew it. There were hugs and tears and it was a really special moment – one I’m really glad I was a part of. 

The cute little gift bags


The second time I visited was more recently for a pre-wedding tradition called Polterabend which directly translates as “noisy night”. We definitely don’t have this idea in Britain and its a little odd if you’ve never heard of it but the mentality behind it is very heartwarming. Basically, the couple throw a party for all their friends and family – people coming to the wedding, people that can’t (or couldn’t be invited due to numbers) and there’s food and music and games and then there’s the traditional aspect. To show their well wishes, friends and family of the couple smash china- plates, mugs, vases (even a toilet was thrown!) and the couple then has to sweep the mess up, proving that they can work together. The noise of the smashing objects is also to ward off evil spirits from the engaged pair. Like I said, we definitely don’t have an equivalent and it was crazy to witness but also really cool to be a part of such a valued tradition. At the party there was also a huuuge buffet, a kind of “bring and share” system – I helped to make more Currywurst, because you can never have enough; it’s delicious. There were all kinds of pasta salads, noodles, bread rolls, cakes, desserts, cupcakes – even a candy floss machine or ‘Zuckerwatte’. There were gazebos and fairy lights and one of those mobile do it yourself bars with beer. So much beer.  

The bride and groom and the very pretty snack table!!


Don’t let anyone tell you that Germans don’t know how to party because I’ve partied the hardest when I’ve been there. This party started at 7pm and we didn’t get to bed until 6.30am. It was a lot to take in since I was the only person who wasn’t German but everyone’s English was incredibly impressive (and their English accents reciting Harry Potter were the cutest) and they’re also incredibly kind and understanding. It was the day Brexit had been announced and everyone was asking what I thought of it and how I felt and what was happening back home and they all agreed how sad and scary it was and they nearly all jokingly offered for me to stay with them, although considering what’s happening I might have to hold them to it. Also, don’t let anyone tell you that Germans are hard, non humorous people because they’re not. They’re some of the most loving, most appreciative and most funny people and my best friends family are my family and vice versa. 

My next trip over is in September for her hen party and the wedding taking place the week after and I’m so excited! It’s always lovely to be reunited with her and it’ll be great to celebrate ‘German style’ again with the other bridesmaids too, and of course share in the wonderment of her big day. I know I’ve said it a thousand times before but thank you for making me part of your special day, it really does mean the world. 

The two of us

Just a quick final update…

Just a quick final update following on from yesterday… Whilst sat in Plaza de Oriente (just outside the palace) I found some wifi and Googled one of the other museum/galleries to see if it would be of any interest as I needed something to fill my time. One of them, the Thyssen-Bornemisza was another gallery, and personally I found it a little better than the Prado as it had impressionist paintings by the likes of Monet and Renoir who I actually really like. It had an exhibition on (until the 12th October) called ‘Vogue: like a painting’ which, if you love vogue like I do, you’ll find this interesting. One of my favourite photographers, Nick Knight was featured heavily as you’d expect in a fashion photography exhibition and this probably made my visit. His photos are gorgeous.

A couple of my favourites, Renior and Lichtenstein as well as the Vogue: like a painting exhibition entrance

A couple of my favourites, Renior and Lichtenstein as well as the Vogue: like a painting exhibition entrance

Towards the end of the gallery I sat down opposite a painting of Venice, I think it looked like I was in deep thought about it (which I partly was) but really I just needed to sit down. My feet are so tired.

I slowly made my way back towards my hotel and ate tapas at a nearby restaurant; the same place I had paella on my first night. This was mostly to use up some time before heading to the airport but honestly when is tapas ever a bad idea.

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And so my solo Spanish adventure had come to an end and I’d recommend it to anyone – both Spain and travelling alone. It might not be until you speak to someone else about what you saw/did that they realise your interests before you do – this happened to me on the plane home whilst sat next to two lovely people travelling with their Spanish club (hello to you if you’re reading, thank you for keeping me company!).

Now I’m back home and my brain is scheming for my next destination. Any thoughts, questions or queries are more than welcome and hopefully this can push you in the right direction if you’re on the fence about going at it alone.

Hasta lluego!

Madrid; day three

So the final day has arrived. Having seen most/all of the things I’d wanted to already I used this as more of a chilled day. Saying that I’ve still walked miles after getting momentarily lost in the banking district. Incidentally I saw “Relvo de la Guardia” which I’m guessing is like changing on the guard although a much smaller scale than Buckingham palace (I’m pretty sure it was outside a bank and since it was obviously all in Spanish I didn’t really get much clarification as to what or why or who). I don’t think the royal family were there but it was definitely someone important. The music was nice, kind of fairground mixed with dance break in a musical. I can’t fault Madrid on its music actually as it’s everywhere – the metro, the park, the street; I’ve heard ‘Hello Dolly’ played more than twice which, for anyone who knows me, knows how fine I am with that. As well as an abundance of music there’s an abundance of police which is quite reassuring. Even as I’m sat in the park there are four policemen on horses opposite me. Just a side note here – it must be about 29 degrees today, if I didn’t have a flight to get later I’d definitely be wearing shorts. That reminds, speaking of how warm it is – last night I popped out at about 10pm and firstly I couldn’t get over how warm it was, no sleeves were needed and secondly, how busy it was!! People everywhere, again with more than enough music and police.

If you haven’t visited Madrid I’d definitely recommend it for site seeing, beautiful architecture, lovely parks and gardens and of course autumn sunshine – sorry I can’t stop mentioning it, it’s like summer! I just burnt my arm on the zip of my tshirt. Hot. It’s also the perfect place for travelling alone, no one cares if you’re eating alone because so many people do it here. No one has asked if/why I’m alone so if you’re thinking about solo travel I say just go for it.

After my stroll round the banks I walked past the library which was impressive from the outside so I can only imagine the inside. I then made my way back to Retiro park from yesterday and ate paella – really good, octopus and everything, yum! I sat and listened to an Australian family discuss frozen beer while a saxophone was played in the distance. I tried to keep my cool as a wasp flew around me for the entire time I was sat there which made for possibly the least relaxing meal ever but delicious none the less.

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Now I’m sat in the sun writing this, it’s still so hot… I’ve got about 5 more hours at this point before heading to the airport so I’m planning on staying here a bit longer and then maybe doing to tour bus. I should have done that on my first day and not the last but hey! I found everything for myself instead. I even know some shortcuts now so maybe I should just stay here.
One thing I haven’t done is eat ice cream so maybe that’ll be sorted later…

Madrid; day two…

Today has probably been my favourite day. It started with a wander to find churros – I found the place everyone raves about but the queue was too long (I should have guessed!) so I went elsewhere for croissant and tea. After my little pit stop I made my way to the palace which I actually found by accident on my first evening – I thought it was just a really nice building, not realising it was the palace. Oops. The line for this was pretty huge so I took a few photos, basked in the sunshine and went on my way. Madrid is a lot smaller than I thought it was going to be, you can walk practically anywhere although the metro does come in handy for tired feet. By this time I wanted churros again since my craving hadn’t been fixed. I Churreria Chocolateria Las Farolas and the waitress gave me five churros as standard. I’m pretty sure I’ve blocked all my arteries. A cup of chocolate is also provided with a spoon – I know. They also did the best fresh orange juice which was much appreciated after such a carb-fest. The fact that they didn’t take cards should have been displayed somewhere as I got to the counter without a cent in my purse. Luckily she let me dash to the ATM and was very sweet about the whole thing but I nearly died of shame. I’m guessing from her reaction I’m not the first person to do that.

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Oops, I’m in Madrid…


Sitting alone at a restaurant really isn’t as weird or scary as I (and indeed many people on Google) thought it was going to be. I ordered a drink, which came with tapas (bonus!) and got out my notepad. As j was seated outside there were many things to watch or look at and so it was no big deal. I ordered paella too which was maybe the best I’ve ever tried – and I’ve tried a fair amount – all the while writing about the things I’d got up to so far.
I’ll tell you what they are now…

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Tuesday.
Last night I took a leisurely stroll in the area near my hotel, which turns out is pretty much the centre of Madrid. I don’t want to boast about the weather but since I left England it the rain and arrived to 28 degree heat I feel I have to. I didn’t even need sleeves. The architecture of the buildings and the little streets that dart off left right and centre remind me of Rome, every building is stunning to look at; even the apartments and hotels which line the streets are so pretty with their balcony railings and window shutters. I went to El Corte Ingles, a big departments store that felt a bit like debenhams with the added bonus of an underground supermarket. I bought the essentials – water, juice and amazing icing sugar coated pastries that may have already been demolished. Oh and I can’t forget the pizza flavoured crisps. I don’t hate them.
After a quick social media catch up it was time for bed.

Wednesday.
I’m forgetting what day it is and what time it is frequently, which is actually quite nice as I don’t really need to know either, making a change from usual. I spent today wandering to (and around) Museo del Prado. I’ve been to a far few art galleries in my time and this one was pretty standard apart from costing €14 for entry which in hindsight was too much. I took my time exploring the three floors of paintings but once you’ve seen one naked angel you’ve seen them all. There were few other subjects covered however some of the captions made me laugh to myself and I had to note some down. For example “still life with a vase of flowers and a dog”, “portrait of a gentleman” and “landscape with buildings” which all did exactly as it said on the tin. The last one did make me smile to myself as I thought those very words before even reading the name of the painting, I needn’t have bothered. One of my favourite (I use that term lightly, it was my favourite compared with the rest I saw… I wouldn’t want it in my house) paintings was called “The embarkment of Saint Paula”, I’m not sure what the story behind it was but the use of sunlight was pretty impressive, it looked like the painting had the glow of a sunrise.
A collection of paintings by J Brueghal also had this effect whilst having incredible attention to detail and colour with some of this works having paintings within the painting. One was so ornate with flowers it looked like a little fairytale world. I’m not a major still life fan but it has to be said, it was a welcome break from naked angels.

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Next on my list was the botanical gardens, just outside the Museo del Prado and cost €3 which in summer would probably be money well spent, in September not quite so much although the gardens were very tranquil none the less.

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By this time I was pretty hungry and whilst walking back to my hotel I stopped to eat the paella previously mentioned. I took a quick rest after this, mostly to let my feet recover (note to self, take plasters even if you think you won’t need them) and grab another drink and then I was out the door again. I hopped on the metro to find San Miguel market which I did and it was crazy in there! Any type of food you could imagine – fish, nuts, chocolate, gin, you name it it was there. I then tried to find El Rastro, the biggest flea market in Madrid which didn’t go so well. Considering it’s the biggest it’s darn hard to find. I think I’ll try again tomorrow though, my tiredness was probably setting in. On the way home I took a visit to Gran Via which was amazing; theatres, old cinemas hotels and shops galore. That might need a second visit tomorrow too.

Now I’m just relaxing, finishing this post and I might start my book (the most cliche of them all, Eat Pray Love). There’s an infamous churros shop nearby though so I may have to try them out, it would be rude not to…