Monday, 12 September 2016

Kraków City Break


I recently went on a four day city break to Kraków, Poland - one of the most beautiful European cities I've had the pleasure of visiting. It was a none stop weekend to the point where I racked up a total of 46km of walking! I thought it would be nice to write something about the trip and give some tips. Despite the wealth of TripAdvisor information I still really enjoy picking up a guide book to give me some ideas of things to do, places to go and what to eat (VERY IMPORTANT).

What struck me most about Kraków was how much you can get for so little despite its' growing tourism. We arrived on the Friday evening and headed straight for the main square. There is a plethora of restaurants and bars with something to suit anyone sitting right on the square, most of which are veggie friendly! Sitting outside of a restaurant called Chopin whilst horse and carts passed us by carrying enthusiastic tourists I had my first taste of Polish culture - literally. I'd read about the dumplings before going - they arrived looking fairly bland, I guess I assumed they would be in a sauce, I was wrong they tasted great without, nicely washed down with some wine. A meal for two, a bottle of  wine, gorgeous scenery and a good relax for under £20 - thank you Kraków.

I've got a bit of history of getting lost so I sorted out offline maps which successfully got me from the airport to my hotel but I was more wary of using them to find all of the highlights in my guidebook on a pretty hot day. The main square is littered with people selling tours which I would ordinarily respond "no thank you" to but this day we took someone up on the offer. Off we hopped on a golf buggy tour, despite being a bumpy, cling onto the seat ride I'd definitely recommend it as a fast way to see around the city. The tour pointed out beautiful and historic sites which I probably would have missed if I had been walking myself, you also had the option to get off and have a look around sites. We jumped off at the Gothic Corpus Christi Church in Kazimierz, a neighbourhood where, pre-war Jewish and Christian cultures coexisted, it's clear now that this continues to experience rebirth. Whilst in Kazimierz we picked up a zapiekanka, which is a part pizza, part toastie situation I believe the standard is mushroom, onion and cheese with ketchup but the assortment of street food stands ensure you can top it with whatever you fancy - best £1.50 lunch going!

Gothic Corpus Christi Church


At the airport on my way home I heard some women talking about how visiting Auschwitz and The Wieliczka Salt Mine in one day wouldn't be a good idea. I beg to differ, when time is limited such as visiting for along weekend I would recommend doing both in one day purely as a means of using your time better. We booked through who I would recommend, they pick up outside your hotel in a comfortable, air-conditioned mini bus. The morning and early afternoon are spent on a guided tour of Auschwitz and Birkenau which I will write about at a later date when I've had the time to process things. I suggest if you are going you should book onto a guided tour, I feel it's the only way to begin to understand what has happened. We then went off to see the salt mine which was way more beautiful than I could have ever imagined, I mean a mine with over 40 chapels and the most impressive of them being completely carved out of salt, chandelier included. I also licked a salt wall that I'm guessing thousands of other tourists have licked too. For the record I don't think I'll ever un-taste that salt. The modern day mine also boasts a health spa to help those with respiratory problems, I don't think it could get much cooler to the point where I feel like you need to see the billions of photos I took...

Wieliczka Salt Mine
Wieliczka Salt Mine

Speaking of never being able to un-taste something, I guess the trip wouldn't have been complete without a spot of vodka tasting. I'd recommend a trip to Wódka Cafe-Bar, I'm not going to lie it looks like a bit of a cupboard featuring two tables but the flavours were great. Go for the tray of six to try, ours featured chill-chocolate and earl grey! I don't think I can quite prepare you for how strong they were, my throat was not ready for it.

What I found most striking about Kraków was the way life has moved on. It's difficult to explain what I mean, there is evidence everywhere of the absolute atrocities committed by the Nazis in world war two but minutes away from these is modern life, life that has moved on despite complete destruction. I guess I just found it difficult to comprehend how a nation goes about rebuilding after everything that happened there but somehow they did. About a five minute walk outside of the hustle and bustle of the market square in Kazimierz exists The New Jewish Cemetery, which was all but destroyed in world war two, although it's had restoration work many of the graves barely stand and it truly pained my heart to look at the sorrowful state. I guess it stands as a reminder to us all, a way to make sure no one forgets - the city does that so well.
New Jewish Cemetery 
New Jewish Cemetery World War Two Memorial

Kraków is a beautiful city with something to suit you whatever the break you fancy. If it's to explore the history, to have a time out from life back home or to run about in a non-stop frenzy to see everything I'm sure you will love it just as I did.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

5 Out of 10 Men


5 Out of 10 Men
Written by Roland Reynolds
theSpace at Niddry Street, Edinburgh Fringe

“Women and men must deal with: human issues, female issues and male issues – not in that order, not in any order, but equally.”

“I never knew men killed themselves” that line alone speaks a thousand minds, it represents the very first stumbling block men face and is essentially the central point to the play. 5 Out of 10 Men fearlessly explores what it’s like to be a struggling man within the overpowering culture of masculinity, whatever that may be. Men don’t talk about their feelings. Men are strong. Men don’t cry. Men hold it together. Men also contribute to the majority of completed suicides. Men need to start talking, but how?

I’m not going to lie at times I really hated Mike at times, or should I say I hated the things he did but the true artistry of Reynolds’ writing made me truly feel for him. I feel so strongly about violence against women in any shape or form yet there I was feeling truly empathic towards such a misogynist. That right there is evidence of an incredible play write. Mike’s back story is so intricately woven into his present struggles it’s impossible to not feel a cocktail of emotions, enraged to empathic, disgusted to saddened, horrified to genuinely wanting to put my hand out to him and in the end doing just that. Inviting members of the audience onto the stage for the final moments of the piece felt like the only end there could have been and the goosebumps covering my body was proof of that.

The words “I don’t hate women but I sure as hell hated the women around me when I was 10” are some of the truest I’ve heard in a while and they most definitely translate into the opposite gender. We actively construct our futures as a direct consequence of the past. We form these core beliefs which at times can be completely nonsensical, in a simplified version: my Mam was a bitch she treated me in a way no one should be treated and forced me into her expectations therefore women are bitches and I’m gonna make sure they know it because I couldn’t before. In this Reynolds makes such a specific life experience globally relatable, I challenge you to find someone who couldn’t relate on some level.

I could probably write thousands of words on 5 Out of 10 Men, using up all of the positive adjectives in the language before moving on to French so I’ll wrap it up. Reynolds’ brave, fierce and at times crude approach to the barriers societies view of masculinity has on men being able to access support was admirable. I urge all to see or read in an effort to truly understand.


HOPELineUK is a confidential support and advice service for:

Young people under the age of 35 who may be having thoughts of suicideAnyone concerned a young person may be having thoughts of suicide. 

A HOPELineUK advisor will hear about the things that are happening in your life that are contributing to your thoughts of suicide and provide advice about how you can cope with your thoughts of suicide, or where you can access help. You can also speak to our HOPELineUK advisors to get advice about how to start a conversation about suicide with someone you are concerned about, and how to best support them.

Call: 0800 068 41 41

Text: 07786209697


Opening hours are 10am-10pm weekdays, 2pm-10pm weekends, and 2pm-5pm Bank Holidays. 

Lemons Lemons Lemons Leomons FRINGE REVIEW


Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons
By Sam Stenier
At Summerhall, Edinburgh Fringe 2016

Quirky and cute at times, Lemons explores our use of language more specifically the function of it and the impact limiting this would have on our world.

As play structures go, Lemons is enviably genius to say the least. I started off thinking “eh, am I supposed to get this, what did I miss”. Until about half way through at which point it shifted to “man I would never have thought of that”. Everything falls so perfectly into place in this language jigsaw. It brought us full circle in a way I’ve not seen before, it was bizarrely satisfying.

Lemons made me the woman watching a show by herself who laughs out loud, thankfully Obwas in good company with the whole theatre in giggles. Lemons is a perfect balance of hilarious and serious, if there is such a thing.

Lemons fits perfectly into a world where face to face communication is constantly reducing, that is unless you count the one line splatter across your face on Snapchat which you then ping around to your friends. Do we cease the opportunities to tell people what we’re really thinking – be that good or bad. Lemons made me think if things were to change tomorrow would I be happy with what I’d said to date when freedom existed, who knows? Lemons takes a serious matter and mixes in the perfect amount of humour!, such as with our constant “we’ll talk about it later” saga. When is later, what if there is no later? Would we be like Oliver and Bernadette, starting off on the good “I love you” foot but rapidly spiralling down the here are the bits I don’t like and could you please stop doing X in bed...”I want to feel sexy and powerful and like we could be in Basic Instinct or Brokeback Mountain...”. Either way it made for hilarious viewing.

Steiner puts an interesting spin on the matter of who needs more words. It dawned on me that I’d never really thought about things in this way before and I’m not sure why. This was perfectly summed up when Oliver goes into full blown rant for the working class needing more words: “the powerful stay powerful because nobody’s got enough words to challenge then, nepotism multiplies exponentially and becomes basically the only way of getting jobs because well, who’s got enough words for interviews?”

All in all Lemons truly fascinated me, it challenged my perception of language use in a hilarious way I didn’t think possible.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Royal Northern Sinfonia Heroes of Hollywood


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Royal Northern Sinfonia
Heroes of Hollywood
Sage Gateshead
Monday 28th March 2016 18:00

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The Royal Northern Sinfonia took us on a magical journey spanning 78 years of cinematic brilliance. The music of John Williams filled the majority of the line up showcasing some of his finest work, by the end of the night there was no question that he deserved each and every one of the ten Oscars he has to his name. The evening was beautifully pulled together by conductor Stephen Bell, known for conducting BBC Proms in the Park from 2005 to 2010, Stephen was described by International Record Review in 2011 as "one of the most gifted younger British Conductors" and that he is. His breadth of knowledge is enviable, all presented to the audience with true charisma.

The first piece came from the  the 1981 Indiana Jones classic Raiders of the Lost Ark, one of Williams' many collaborations with Steven Spielberg. The Raiders March was executed with immense energy and was a captivating start to what would become a brilliant night of music.

Head of The Royal Northern Sinfonia, violinist Bradley Creswick lead a solo in the main theme from Schindler's List. The piece is evidence of William's versatility, over the course of the concert his music was able to evoke all sorts of emotions in the audience however this above all almost brought me to tears. Creswick had the hearts of the whole hall within his grasp, his performance truly breathtaking. 

The evening would not have been complete for me without an element of Harry Potter and we definitely got that, with a member of the orchestra dressed as Hagrid and another as Dumbledore however the true star for me was Kate Thompson on celeste. She performed the iconic Hedwig's Theme with the absolute magic it deserves and took me right back to my childhood the first time I heard it. Following this the wind section had their time to shine with Nimbus 2000, another magical and elegant performance.

Ending the show was Throne Room and the End Titled from Star Wars follwoing the sucess of their first Star Wars concert this year will see The Royal Northern Sinfonia return with music from all seven Star Wars films, an evening not to be missed for fans of music and Star Wars alike.  

All in all, Heroes of Hollywood was a delightful evening showcasing an eclectic range of the music of John Willaims. Yet again The Royal Northern Sinfonia have reminded us of their true brilliance and fabulous centre for music we have right on our doorstep in the North East.