Bad at blogging and missing Montenegro

Letter 111

I’m pretty certain I’m one of the worst bloggers out there. Honestly, I’m not even sure I can call myself a blogger. Maybe I can when I’m no longer suffocated by deadlines and restricted to spending most of my waking hours in the studio I’ll get better. Or maybe I just need a little inspiration.

It’s been over a month since my last letter, and when I say I’ve been busy, it’s an understatement. After a fantastic 4 month break from my debilitating course, my life is back to being clouded by architecture and honestly, I’m struggling. The workload is too full on, it’s much harder than previous years and I’m struggling to understand computer programs. My diet has gone to shit, I’m spending more money than I would like and I never have time to see my friends. But the real downfall? I’m not travelling.

I had a tiny spark of inspiration last night when I remembered a program that someone I met in Croatia was telling me about. It was about helping people in Eastern Europe learn English by having lots of conversations and getting to know them. I had a quick google and found myself lost in possibilities and for the first time in a month, I had some excitement in my mind. Although it’s shit now, this time next year I could be off helping people improve their English in Poland. I began to remember why I’m still putting myself through this – so that I can travel after.

So after a pretty positive crit (where tutors make themselves feel important by pointing out the flaws in our models) I feel a bit better about life. In just over 6 weeks I will be handing in my design coursework and shortly breaking up for Christmas. I cannot wait. Right now? I’m thinking about Montenegro. Easily my favourite country I’ve visited and one I’m dying to get back to. So For the last part of this letter (because I’ve been unable to get some posts out about Montenegro) I thought I’d give you a taster of the land of the Black Mountains.

1 montenegro first impressions

My first impressions of Montenegro were from a bus on a boat. New experience and beautiful views to go with it.

3 montenegro kotor cats

If you visit Kotor you will definitely make lots of feline friends.

4 montenegro kotor streets

Whilst I saw many cobbled medieval old towns, I think this was the only one with a mountainous backdrop which was very beautiful.

6 montenegro kotor sunset

This view is one of my favourites I’ve ever seen.

7 montenegro skadar lake

Boat trip with a great crowd on the lake that sits in both Montenegro and Albania.

 

8 montenegro bar lagoon

Freezing cold lagoon hidden behind Stari Bar.

9 montenegro stari bar

Stari Bar is an underrated town with an incredible hostel.

10 montenegro ulcinj town

The old town of Ulcinj was silent and unexpectedly lovely.

11 montengro zabljak mountain

This is what +2,500m looks like in Montenegro.

12 montenegro black lake

The Black Lake in Zabljak – perfect for a swim after 8 hours of hiking with 10 companions.

13 montenegro walking

The moment I stopped to realise how lucky I was to be in this great country.

I’m hoping to be writing full letters about all of the places I visited and experiences I had but I just don’t have time. I will try to prioritise more now and get these letters written because I love reliving it and you need to know how awesome Montenegro is!

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

From Lou

About Me

 

 

 

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Alive again

Letter 91

Finally it’s over. Months of hard work, weeks of long days and a number of sleepless nights. Architecture is not a healthy subject to choose and this year has been a killer. Despite half loosing my mind at the end and putting in more time and effort than ever before, I feel I managed it well. Seeing my classmates sleeping at their desks, surviving solely on energy drinks and having to submit late due to rushing at the end made me realise how well I’ve done. So I’m proud of myself and I want to share that with you guys.

I am not one for nights later than 11 or living on fast food and redbull. Instead I focused hard all year on keeping up with work and therefore only had to slightly step up the intensity at the end. Frankly, some of the hard core architecture students have done better work than me and will get better grades, but I’m content. I knew there was more I could do but I refuse to make myself ill just to get one more drawing done. What I’ve done is enough and I’m confident that I’ll at least pass.

I did have a few dramas towards the end. Exactly 1 week before my final deadline, the day before my history exam, when everything was going swimmingly, my laptop died. My bad luck was almost comical – I mean it couldn’t have held out for one more week?! This would have been the perfect time to freak out but after some quiet anger, secret tears and a chat with my mum, I realised that it could be worse. I first tried to get it fixed, which failed. My beautiful, expensive, extremely powerful laptop, that was only 2 years old, was fried. Then I toyed with the idea of using the university computers to finish my work and quickly concluded that this was not an option due to the late hours I’d need to put in. So I spent an afternoon with my boyfriend learning laptop lingo and choosing a suitable device, and then shelled out £600 so that I could finish my course. Pretty stressful 48 hours but everything worked out well in the end. Not a totally stress-free end to the year but I survived.

At the end, it’s all worth it. I designed a building that I’m proud of. The things I’ve learnt from my incredible tutor, along with the literature I’ve studies have influenced my work and will stick with me forever. My final presentation was something I felt proud of and I have achieved (mostly) what I set out to. I may not be the best architecture student, but I’ve done my best and made myself proud.

Now I’m putting it all behind me.

Since the second I finished I’ve been getting ready for summer. The countdown to jetting off was 1 week and now that’s down to a measly 3 days. Not only do I have to finish gathering things for my 2 and a half month trip, but I also have to pack up all of my stuff to go into storage and do my part of cleaning the flat. Pretty busy week. So far I’ve sorted all my stuff and began packing, washed a ton of things ready for storage and deep cleaned the bathroom, oven and fridge. It’s been a fun few days. (Not even joking, I love cleaning.) I’ve also had a lovely catchup with a good friend of mine who will be going home to Vienna today and then studying in Copenhagen next year. Can’t wait to visit! I’ve caught up on sleep and my body is slowly un-tensing and I can feel my mind returning to its normal state.

Did I mention I was flying out in less than a week? Oh yes, in 3 days actually! I am beyond excited and can’t wait to get travelling again, what I’m always dreaming about doing. I completely live for my summers and this one will be particularly special and different. Everything for the first month is booked because it’s mainly holidays with friends and family, and after that I have free reign! From Wednesday the 17th you can expect posts about Spain, including Nerja, Malaga, Cordoba and Seville. That’s only 2 weeks of my trip, there’s lots more to come after!

I hope you’ve all been well, sorry for my absence on here but that’s all about to change and I’m so excited for the next few months! I’m alive again!

Happy travels!

From Lou

About Me

2 Months, 2 Countries!

Letter 80

Let’s have a catch up? We’re already 6 days into March, which I can barely believe, so I thought I’d do a recap of the last couple of months and talk about what March may have in store.

Being at university means I can’t travel as much as I’d like to, but I am pretty proud of myself for managing to visit 2 countries this year already. Back in January I spent a week in one of the most unique countries in the world, Iceland, and then just last week I returned to Edinburgh after 10 days in Italy, one of my favourite countries. Both trips have been incredible and have kept my itchy feet at bay, but now I can barely contain my excitement for the summer.

Check out my posts from the last couple of months if you wish:

Letters from Iceland   |   Letter from Italy

p1050882

One of my favourite spots in Iceland – Thingvellir Park

turin-river-po

The beautiful riverside of Turin, Italy

University

Right now I am snowed under in deadlines. University life isn’t all the fun and games they made it out to be. Last week I handed in a big design project and on Wednesday I have a deadline for a history essay, plus a presentation to do. Busy busy busy. On top of all of this we have our main design project running through all the way up to Easter which I really need to get cracking on. The next month is going to be one of the busiest of my university career so far and it upsets me to say I have no real plans for March. It will be a boring month compared to the last 2, but I will very much look forward to April when things start to slow down a bit and I get a few weeks off to go home and do work and revision.

P1010004

University may be tough right now – but at least I get to live here

Summer Plans

My plans for this summer are coming along nicely and soon I’ll be able to start booking stuff. I will find out when I actually break up for summer today so then I can decide when to jet off! I can’t wait to tell you all about my plans, I am beaming with excitement! I only need to book 3 flights and a couple of weeks accommodation, which I’ll be spending with my boyfriend, and then a couple of months free reign where I will wing it and see where I end up! I can’t freaking wait.

March

As I said, March is going to be boring. Hopefully I’ll manage to do at least a couple of fun things in and around Edinburgh, but on the whole, boring. I suppose I’m due a month where I actually stay in one place, right?

Thanks for reading, let me know your plans for the next month! Anything exciting?

Happy March everyone!

From Lou

About Me

“Let your library be justified”

Letter 62

What if there was an infinite library containing every book ever written? All of the knowledge ever discovered? Would you want to explore every gallery, or remain in your comfort zone aware there is an an abundance of information around you?

This raises two problems.

“Those who imagine it to be without limit forget that the possible number of books does have such a limit. If an eternal traveller were to cross it in any direction, after centuries he would see that the same volumes were repeated in the same disorder.”

In this letter I would like to share with you a short story I recently read. It describes the universe as an infinite library, The Library of Babel, containing ever book ever written. The library is made up of hexagonal galleries with four walls of bookshelves and two doors connecting to other galleries. The galleries are endless. A big part of the story is about when people of the library realise that somewhere, in some hexagon, is the secret. One book containing the formula for the perfect life. They struggle for years, climbing to higher galleries and descending tragically to lower ones trying to find this book, or the supreme person who has read it. Of course, there really is no such book, or person.

“It does not seem unlikely to me that there is a total book on some shelf of the universe. If honour and wisdom and happiness are not for me, let them be for others. Let heaven exist, though my place be in hell. Let me be outraged and annihilated, but for one instant, in one being, let your library be justified.

The author shares his thoughts about how people live in their personal gallery. He explains that he was a traveller in his youth and explored galleries far and wide. To him, the library really is infinite and he will never read all of the books. He may die near where he was born, no matter how much he endeavored to travel. But at least he tried.

“Like all men of the Library, I have travelled in my youth; I have wandered in search of a book, perhaps the catalogue of catalogues; now that my eyes can hardly decipher what I write, I am preparing to die just a few leagues from the hexagon in which I was born. Once I am dead, there will be no lack of pious hands to throw me over the railing; my grave will be the fathomless air; my body will sink endlessly and decay and dissolve in the wind generated by the fall, which is infinite. I say that the Library is unending.

Of course, The Library of Babel is not a library. The Library of Babel is the universe. The library is unending. The books contain the greatest knowledge you could ever hope to discover, and the more you travel between the galleries, the more you will understand. I think the galleries are countries, or cities, or villages. The books are the people you might hope to meet on your travels. It’s not the places you gain knowledge from, at their core they are almost identical. It’s the people and the journeys between the places that are the biggest education.

Most importantly, it doesn’t matter how you chose to live, how much you travel, or how much you learn. Your library is justified. Your universe is justified. 

This book prompted me to think about my library. I aspire to live my library travelling between galleries and reading as many of their books as I can. For me, I don’t need to visit every gallery in this infinite library. I just want to leave each one knowing I have read all of it’s books.

“Let your Library be justified.”

From Lou

About Me

 I read this book because I am currently working towards designing a library on my course. I came across the title and thought it may be relevant. It’s influenced my design no end and I thoroughly enjoyed it’s messages.

I hope you enjoyed this letter. If you would like to read this short story you can find a link below. It’s called ‘The Library of Babel’ and is written by Jorge Luis Borges.

LINK TO PDF

How will you live your library?

Live to travel?

Letter 53

To travel is to live, said Hans Christian Andersen, a Danish writer.

To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,

To gain all while you give,

To roam the roads of lands remote,

To travel is to live.

This quote made me think. I believe that travelling is living in the best possible way. Exploring different landscapes, cultures and people. But it also prompted me to consider whether I live to travel.

For 8 months of the year I live in Edinburgh, one of my favourite cities in the world, and study architecture. This is my passion and I love it. However, the 4 months that I get off every summer are incredibly precious to me because it’s when I get to leave. Travelling is the only thing I’ve ever been sure I wanted to do and as soon as I was old enough I got a job and started saving. This allowed me to jet off alone 2 summers ago when I had just turned 18. Then, throughout my first year of university I saved money in order to get me to America where I worked for almost 3 months. The money I earned allowed me to travel for a couple of weeks at the end of the summer. Now I’m in my second year of university and, with a big year of travel coming up, I’m doing everything I can to save money. I don’t have the time to work so I have to rely on my loans, grants and bursaries to fund my trips. It’s not about how much money I receive, it’s about how I balance spending and saving. Personally it’s far more important for me to save.

When considering whether to go out for a meal, see a film or buy a top, I always consider how much it is really worth. For example, saving £5 could be breakfast while travelling, £15 could be a night in a hostel, £25 could be a train ride between two places and £50 could fly me to a new country. Every price has a ‘travel value’. More often than not I choose to save it instead of spending it.

I feel like this makes me sound stingy. I’m not though. I still do things that I enjoy. I’ve been to the theatre 3 times in as many months, I will often go for a nice lunch at the weekend and I like to treat myself to a good book or some ice cream. I try to ensure that I don’t in fact live to travel. I love my life at university and feel like I’ve got a good balance between doing things I like and saving enough money to do the thing I love.

I was chatting to my best friend today, one of the only people I can be truly honest with, about university. When I finish university, either in 1.5 or 2.5 years, I will go travelling. It’s the only thing I’m sure about. I am in absolutely no rush to become an architect, but I do want to travel. I need to travel. This makes me want to pack up and leave immediately, or as soon as possible at least. Whilst I do thoroughly enjoy university, it’s got nothing on the feeling when you step foot in a new city, or see a view that makes your eyes water, or meet someone who you know you’ll be friends with forever.

I think that I do actually live to travel.

To travel is to live.

From Lou

About Me

Nearly 50

Letter 49

I managed to get so close to 50 letters, or blog posts, and life got in the way. Did I really say life? I meant university. I actually mean architecture.

So here we are at letter 49 and I find myself owing a big explanation as to why it’s taken over 2 months to get a post up. This isn’t what I wanted from my blog, my website. However, blogging during university whilst juggling my course, volunteering, friends, boyfriend, physical exercise, keeping up with long distance friends and staying in touch with my family is far more difficult that I thought. In the new year I do intend to work harder at this though. So in this letter, number 49, I would like to catch you up on what’s happening in the life of Lou and my planned travels for the near future. Here we go, buckle up lads.

ARCHITECTURE

I am now half way through the second year of my degree. This could also mark the half way point of the course, but we can talk about that later. I have spent the last 12 weeks tirelessly making models, meticulously drawing plans and sections and attempting to work in groups in every single project. It hasn’t been easy but I’m through with it and have a beautiful professionally printed portfolio to show for it. At the end of the tiredness, arguments and bad food I am proud of my accomplishments. In all truthfulness, I’m just glad to be home with my cat, relaxing on my sofa. My course is goddamn hard but this semester has given me a new love for it. I have to thank my tutor for this. Even though I was very unsure of him 12 weeks ago, to say the least.

EXCHANGE

I have talked about the architecture exchange before, and during this incredibly busy time I have both applied for it and been declined. I worked incredibly hard to articulate what I thought was a good personal statement and portfolio, but it wasn’t good enough. So I will say goodbye to my dream of studying architecture in Madrid for a year and move on with my life. It hurt and irritated me for about 3 and a half minutes but in my mind it is not meant to be. If it was I would’ve been accepted, right? So now I have too chose whether I will go ahead and do my course in 3 years (finishing in 2018) or to squeeze a work placement in next year and finish in 2019. That was of course the original plan, but finishing a year early is an attractive prospect right now if truth be told. My feet are itchy and to be honest I feel like taking off now to finally travel. Properly.

TRAVEL

I have a couple of exciting trips happening in the next few months which I’m so excited to write about here! I am determined to get this blog back up and running because there’s just too much great stuff going on!

  • ICELAND: In early January I will be hopping on a plane with the boyfriend and jetting off for a week in Iceland! We booked so long ago and I can’t quite believe it’s finally happening and it will hopefully provide some interesting reading for you guys! As photography is one of my passions, this trip should be pretty perfect.
  • ITALY: Alas I am returning to a very special country to me. The first that I travelled solo in over a year ago. So many memories live here and this time I will be combining travel and architecture on this study trip. I’ll be starting in Rome for a tutorial and site visit and then have a week to do whatever before finishing in Milan. February will also be a good month.
  • HIGHLANDS: You may have read my post about my short visit to the Scottish Highlands last summer (here), and next year I will for sure be returning. This may be with my girlfriends in our Easter break, and it will definitely be to go and stay with my boyfriend in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to.
  • GREECE: Summer 2017 will hold a trip to Greece at some point. I’ve missed it beyond belief and feel an incredible pull to return to my favourite place in the world. I don’t know what this trip will be, where exactly I’ll go, or who I’ll be with, but I will be back.
  • EUROPE: Next year I’ll be sticking around instead of venturing off to another continent. There’s a lot I want to achieve and I especially want to explore central Europe as it’s untouched by myself. High on my list are Croatia, Montenegro and Albania. Wherever else I visit will be a bonus.

 

I am really fond of my blog and I want it to keep improving, which means I need to work harder at it. And I intend to. But this was just a catch up, so I will see you in the next letter.

Letter 50.

Lots of love,

From Lou

About me

Exchange in Copenhagen?

Letter 21

To me, the most important thing is to travel. To experience new places, cultures and people. Almost as important is to become an architect. I feel very lucky to be studying at the University of Edinburgh and one of the reasons is the possibility of an exchange in 3rd year.

There is a choice between Madrid and Copenhagen, and whilst I did have my heart set on Madrid, I do not speak fluent Spanish and this would be an issue. (I am learning though!) So instead I’ve got my sights on the Danish capital: Copenhagen. The more I research this magical city the more excited I become! I would love to have the opportunity to live in a city so different to my home and to travel around the Nordic countries I have yet to visit. I truly believe the only way to really get to know a city or a country is to live there and to be able to study architecture in a completely new culture is my dream.

I am hopeful that this time next year I will be making plans to move to Denmark!

From Lou

About Me