Grace Notes: Initial reactions to living in a new country

On 23rd August I was up at 2am and dropped off (very kindly by my dad) at the National Express stop in Cardiff. From here I was taken to Gatwick where I got on my plane to Gothenburg. I arrived just after midday and was already exhausted.

I was really lucky and my landlord offered to pick me up from the airport and give me a lift to where I would be living. It’s really strange choosing somewhere to live without never having seeing it, but I had nothing to worry about as the flat I’m now living in is lovely, as are the couple I live with.

From talking to to friends who have done similar things and moved far away they have all said that there will be a big ‘wobble’ moment.

Mine came when everything was unpacked and I sat down on my bed thinking ‘what now?’…. I knew no-one, I didn’t know the area, it was already too late to go exploring and I couldn’t just pick up the phone and talk to my family or friends. There was this overwhelming feeling of loneliness and my brain was screaming at me saying what a huge mistake this was coming out here. I might have shed a tear or two, but after I got that out of my system and Skyped to vent my uncertainty, I felt so much better and the rest of the settling in process was relatively easy.

I then started exploring. A few things that initially stumped me a bit was trying to work out the currency (roughly 10 SEK is £1), the tram network (sometimes the tram stop is not where you expect it to be….), driving on the right side of the road, finding porridge oats (they are called havre gryn if you too can’t find them….), and realising that most cheese comes in kg blocks….

My first week in Sweden was mostly made up of meetings and getting to know my way round. Finding your way through a city without google maps is something I haven’t had to do in a long while!

However after a few days of fending for myself my parents arrived for a visit and then I could enjoy Gothenburg like a tourist for a few days before term started.

Grace Notes: An update

So far this year has been a very exciting one. My brother I put together our own concert, I performed my final recital, I got my degree, moved out of my flat I was in for 3 years and I’ve recently moved to Sweden!

Although I didn’t blog about it, I was really proud of what I did with my recital and whileI was immensely glad when it was over, I did manage to enjoy performing which, for me, is a big achievement.

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My family after my recital

Moving back to Cardiff was strange. It was weird not being in London 24/7 and not being close to work and college. It was also odd to leave the flat that myself and two of my best friends had made into a home for three years. It was a bittersweet moment because although we were going on to do really exciting things with our lives, it also meant that we wouldn’t be seeing each other every day to share our mundane news and watch Disney in our pyjamas. However thanks to the wonders of the internet (and Facebook chat) we still share all our news with each other, which will just about do until we’re next all together.

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On the day of moving out…

Over the summer, I went away on a walking holiday in Scotland with my dad for two weeks which was incredible. All the discomfort, slightly odd food, horrendous sunburn (yes, even in Scotland) and almost constant wet feet was totally worth the incredible calm and beauty the highlands have to offer. I’m hoping to go back next summer! When I got back to Cardiff I had a very exciting letter saying I’d been given by undergraduate degree from Trinity Laban. I was really happy as this marked the beginning of my next adventure.

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Crossing a river on the way up Cranstackie

Now I don’t think I ever mentioned this, but last March I took a very quick trip to Gothenburg in Sweden to do an audition for a Masters in Symphonic Orchestral Performance at their university. In April I found out I’d got a place and last week I packed up my things, hopped on a plane and moved to Gothenburg.

It’s a really weird feeling arriving in a country, knowing nobody and not speaking the language (although almost everyone here speaks near perfect English!). I’m sure I’ll settle in, but in the meantime I guess I’d better start learning Swedish!!

Grace Notes: A few things to check out…

I just wanted to write a quick post to talk quickly about two other blogs. Recently, both my Dad and my younger brother have started their own blogging about various things.

My Dad’s is called ‘Maths Gaps‘, and is a blog mainly about maths along with a few other bits that interest him. The latest blog is about his summer project playing with Linux.

My brother Sam’s blog is called Top Forte and is about the pop charts, but from a classical perspective. As well as writing about the charts, he also does general blogs about various things, for example, Welsh Castles.

If you’re interested, then take a look! Lots of variety!!

Grace Notes: A night at the opera!

Last weekend my brother and I planned a trip to the opera. After a mad dash from both of us (he got stuck getting the coach our of Oxford and I was dashing across London after a gig), not to mention somehow getting lost on the way to the theatre, we made it to the London Coliseum to watch the ENO production of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.

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Waiting for the show to start

Both of us are huge Shostakovich fans and had been looking forward to this for ages! Safe to say we weren’t disappointed!

Having not heard the music before, I was slightly worried it would be hard to follow what was going on because of the complicated plot and multiple characters. I shouldn’t have worried. I became completely immersed in the moving, passionate and beautiful music which the action on the stage perfectly matched.

There were huge passages with no singing, and the the story was left to be told by movement on stage. The set was interesting but not so intricate that you were dazzled and drawn away from the subject of the the opera.
Both of us loved it, and would recommend it completely! It’s on at the London Coliseum until October 20th so if you get a chance, go!

Grace Notes: A Break in Budapest

Last week I went on holiday to Budapest. This was to celebrate my parent’s 30th wedding anniversary and my brother and I managed to tag along!

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I absolutely loved the city and would totally recommend it if you are thinking of having a city break. On the music side, there is also a fair number of composers from Hungary, so it was great to find out more about them. But if you’re not a musician, there are so many amazing things this city offers. Here are a few of my favourite activities.

  • The Castle and Citadel – We visited both of these on our first day. It was a HUGE walk, all the way up the side of the hill to the Citadel, then along the top to the castle, round and finally back to our apartment. By the end of that day we were knackered! But it was totally worth it. The views from the top by the citadel were amazing, and the town on that side of the river was so interesting! We also came across a great music museum, which I’ll write a full post on soon!

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  • The House of Terror – This is a museum housed in the old headquarters of the secret police. It was fascinating, and gave a very strong impression of all of the awful things the people of Hungary have been through. There was information throughout in a few different languages, so it didn’t matter that I’m not fluent in Hungarian. Although this wasn’t the most ‘fun’ experience, it was so interesting and completely worth visiting. The section at the end showing the prison cells was really harrowing.
  • The food – I ate a lot (probably too much, but I was on holiday…). We mainly had our meals (bar one day) at street markets, that are situated on the sites of buildings that have been bombed. So you walk down a street, turn a bend, and suddenly there’s this small market, selling amazing food. My personal favourite was the Langos, which is a deep fried wheel of dough with toppings of sour cream, sausage or paprika on it. YUM. We also ate rather a lot of cake, which was incredible. I think my favourite was one called the ‘Cardinal’ which is a mix of sponge and two types of meringue. Delicious. This one below is a royal torte which I had in the Alexandre bookcafe and I loved it (as you can probably tell by my face…)!

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  • The Alexandra Bookcafe – This was possibly the most beautiful cafés I’ve ever been in, with a selection of some incredible cakes. Totally worth visiting just to see the incredible décor!

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  • The thermal baths – We decided to visit Gellert Baths at about 8.30am, and it was empty except for a few elderly couples. We spent most of our time in the two outdoor pools. One was a swimming pool with the most amazing wave machine I’ve ever experienced! It was hard to stand up as the waves were so strong! The other outdoor pool was a warmer bath. It was about 36 degrees and was so lovely to sit in, soaking up the morning sun. I would seriously recommend visiting one of the baths, but get there early so you have more space and the experience is more relaxing!
  • The music museum – This is a little museum near the castle and was a real find! I’ll be posting a full blog post about this soon.

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  • Shoes on the Danube – Just next to the bank of the Danube, near the parliament building is a memorial to the Jews who were murdered and shot into the Danube. It’s a lovely, moving sculpture, and worth a look.
  • Covered market – This was incredible and enormous! The ground floor is almost entirely food, and the smell of sausage and paprika is delicious. We also bought some amazing cakes from here, as well as paprika and Hungarian cheese. Upstairs has gift stalls, with loads of awesome Hungarian embroidery and leather stalls.

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  • View down the Danube at night – I think this was my favourite part of the whole trip. The bridge closest to us was the Elizabeth Bridge and almost every night we walked across it to see the view. Standing in the middle of the river, looking out at the city was stunning. It’s a view I don’t think I’d ever get tired of. Truly beautiful.

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Now I’m back in London, and waiting for term to start. Missing the holidays already!