I was going to catch up on my sorely neglected monthly summaries one by one, but what could I say? “This month I cried a lot”? “This month I didn’t sleep”?

It’s been a tough start to the year for me, with more lows than highs, but things are finally improving. Let’s get started!

Lauren and Dave on Christmas Day

Showing Dave around my hometown on Christmas Day. I don’t know why I look so awkward.

I kicked off month 42 with Christmas at home for the first time in four years. You guys know I hate being away from my family, so I was thrilled to be hanging out at home, eating my mum’s home cooked Christmas dinner, and handing out gifts I’d picked up over the past year.

Christmas Day was a relaxed affair as usual, and I was excited to see the weather gods had presented us with a gorgeous blue-sky day. My parents live pretty much on the River Thames so a long walk along the water was in order after lunch.

Boxing Day was just as fun. I got to show Dave around Royal Holloway, my old university, and we burnt off calories from the previous day’s festivities with a five mile walk around Virgina Water lake, in Windsor Great Park.

Let's Cook Breaking Bad chopping board

Christmas present for my mum, who’s a total Breaking Bad obsessive.

The family activities didn’t end there! On the 27th, we hit up Twickenham Rugby Stadium for The Big Game, a Christmas family occasion, where a crowd of over 80,000 people descend on the stands for drinking, flag waving, and, in my case, pretending they understand the rules of rugby.

There was a lot of drinking.

Lauren with a giant beer

Getting in the rugby spirit with a giant beer

With the Christmas festivities over for another year, Dave and I headed to Brixton, where we were basing ourselves for the next month. I honestly knew nothing about Brixton before arriving but it quickly worked its way into my list of London favourites. I loved the super close-knit community feel, the diverse and affordable food options at Brixton Village Market, and being only fifteen minutes away from Central London. Next time, I return I’ll be looking for a place in Brixton.

And, as I was saying, the food:

A photo posted by Lauren Juliff (@nefootsteps) on

A photo posted by Lauren Juliff (@nefootsteps) on

A photo posted by Lauren Juliff (@nefootsteps) on

A photo posted by Lauren Juliff (@nefootsteps) on

Pizza and organic wine at Franco Manca, Chinese-leaf dumpings from Mama Lan’s, samosas and Pakistani Thali from Elephant, Osakan street food from Okan, Trinidadian eats from Fish, Wings & Tings, BBQ pork burgers from The Joint, a juicy cheeseburger from Honest Burgers… so much food and so much more left to explore.

Then tourist activities were had! Dave’s not the biggest fan of London and I was determined to change his mind. I took him on a whirlwind eating extravaganza in hipster Shoreditch, up to the top of the Shard, thanks to a Christmas present from my family, a madhatter-themed afternoon tea experience at the Sanderson Hotel, and to see Memphis, the West End musical.

We took the opportunity to hang out with lots of our travel blogging buddies, too — regular meetups with Dylan and Diana, mulled cider awesomeness with Beverley, and Matt made me eat jellyfish tentacles and sea urchin during a terrifying introduction to sushi.

Lauren in London

Champagne at the top of the Shard

Then I had my book-related meltdown. And I was pretty resentful about it for a while, which is silly as it was my fault for avoiding it for so long. I wanted to continue showing Dave around London but instead I sat in my pyjamas and looked at my laptop with a blend of fury, distress, and fear. I still managed to check out more food places in Brixton, but hanging out with friends was off the cards. It was hard to justify when I had 80,000-odd words to write and was going to be returning in June.

And that was London! Incredible, and so much fun for the first couple of weeks, and then stressful for the remainder.

So I moved to Spain. Everyone I know who has been to Granada has fallen in love with it but neither Dave and I had been there before. It was a bit nerve-wracking to decide to spend four months in a place without having been there before but hey, I’ve seen nothing of Granada so I still don’t know if it was a good decision or not. My book had to take priority so the only time I left the house was to go to the supermarket and back.

Then came six weeks of tough, hard work. Of eighteen hours on, six hours off. I learnt a lot and I’ll be writing a post at some point about the biggest mistakes I made in writing my memoir. I made so many!

The good news: throwing myself into book writing taught me how to be productive. Since handing in my final draft, I’ve quit social media for everything but business purposes — I cut myself off from it while writing my book and realised I missed very little. I’ve become a super-fast writer — after spending four years struggling to write more than one post a week, I’ve been bashing out one a day for the past few weeks. For the first time in my life, I actually have a surplus of posts! I’ve also learned to value quality time. I used to spend twelve hours a day on my laptop doing not very much at all, but I’m so sick of looking at screens that I’m enjoying working half the day, closing my laptop, and then stepping outside.

Ronda views

I celebrated finishing my manuscript by heading to the Spanish city of Ronda, a three-hour train ride outside of Granada. I knew nothing about it and didn’t have the time to research, so arriving was a pleasant surprise.

I loved Ronda. It was so beautiful.

Views of Ronda

Views of Ronda

Ronda bridge

Ronda bullring

The highlight, though, was just outside of Ronda. There are dozens of hiking trails all around the city, so on our final day, Dave and I picked one and decided to follow it through to the end. Except, after a couple of hours, it was hot, and I was hungry, exhausted, and ready to give up. Who knew that not moving for two months straight would kill your fitness levels?

Hiking the GR7

We returned to the apartment and discovered we were walking the GR7, a walking track that runs all the way from Spain to Greece!

Onto the statistics for the month!

month 42-44 travel map

Countries Visited: 2

Spain, United Kingdom

Cities Visited: 3

Granada, London, Ronda

Distance Travelled: 2257 km

Highlight of the Month

Clicking send on the final draft of my manuscript. I hadn’t really had a chance to think about how I’d feel once it was all over, half expecting I’d breathe a sigh of relief and head straight to sleep.

Instead, I burst into tears and felt an immense sense of pride wash over me. I did it! 

Lowlight of the Month

Probably the moment where I realised I hadn’t had a shower in days, hadn’t changed out of my pyjamas in just as long, was on the verge of losing Dave, and looked like a mess. Turns out I’m not a glamorous author.

Incident of the Month

Falling off a chair, landing on a coffee table, and bruising my ribs so much that I couldn’t move properly for weeks. Even I don’t know how I managed it.

Money Spent:

Month 42:

Accommodation: $982.50 over 31 days in London = $31.69 per day

Transportation:
Flights from Boracay to Manila: $63.63
Flights from Manila to London: $500 (with Emirates!)
Various tube and train tickets over the month: $110.00

Food: $771

Total Amount Spent: $2427.13

Month 43:

Accommodation: $491.05 for a month in Granada

Transportation:
Flights from London to Malaga: $74.59
Bus from Malaga to Granada: $12.50
Taxi to our Granada apartment: $7.50

Food: $349.51

Total Amount Spent: $935.15

Month 44:

Accommodation:
Granada: $491.05 for the month
Ronda: $71.61 for 3 nights = $23.87 per night

Transportation:
Return train tickets to Ronda: $38

Food: $404.03

Miscellaneous:
Entrance fee for Ronda Arab baths: $3.29
Entrance fee for Ronda bullring: $7.13
Makeup from Sephora to celebrate finishing my manuscript: $596 (I know…)

Total Amount Spent: $1611.11

The Next Month:

Month 45 travel map

Next month will be all about getting to know Granada better. My parents are coming to visit me later this week and I’ve got lots of exploring to do before they arrive. At the moment, I know about as much about Granada as they do! Other than that, I’m toying with the idea of visiting Lisbon or Madrid — both cities I haven’t visited yet — and I’m kind of considering flying to Malta or Andorra on a whim.

Or maybe I’ll end up so swamped with book edits I’ll become a hermit again.

 

Have any tips for my time in Granada? Do you think I should fly to Malta or Andorra on a whim? Which city would you rather I visit — Lisbon or Madrid? Let me know in the comments!

 

Looking to follow along with my travels through my monthly summaries? You can read the previous month’s summary here, the next month’s summary here, or head on over to the monthly summary page to read from the very beginning!

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