Author Archives: clairebonello

Things I Love Thursday

Venus, the cat

Top 10 Films I Watched in 2017

I love watching a good film. Nothing better than getting sucked into a story for a couple of hours – which is something you can do on most regular evenings, as opposed to a series, which requires a lengthier period of commitment. I watched over 100 films in 2017, and I can’t wait to see more good (and delightfully bad) ones in 2018. (Only a few days to go before they announce the Academy Award nominees!)

Firstly, let me just mention the worst film I watched, which was Extraordinary: The Stan Romanek Story. Oh boy, it was bad. In every way. It was also a little hilarious at times, so it still wasn’t a complete waste of time.

And here are the top 10 films I watched in 2017, in no particular order:

  1. Hidden Figures – so heartwarming and empowering.
  2. Moana – finally watched this and LOVED it. Excellent protagonist. Also excellent chicken and pig characters.
  3. A Man Called Ove – an utterly brilliant Swedish film. Highly recommended to everyone.
  4. Hounds of Love – quite a masterpiece of an Australian psychological thriller, which kept me at the edge of my seat.
  5. Lion – so many tears.
  6. Dunkirk – an impressive film with some great scenes (and PLANES).
  7. The Young Offenders – HILARIOUS Irish film. Watch it.
  8. Gaga: Five Foot Two – didn’t think I’d like it, ended up loving it.
  9. Sing Street – such a lovely film, with songs!
  10. La La Land – I didn’t love this as much as some others did, but there were some sweet moments.

Any other great film suggestions?

THREE YEARS IN LUXEMBOURG

Christmas trees in Luxembourg

Is this real life? I’ve been in Luxembourg for three whole years. I’m still here. It’s discombobulating. Let me review some stand-out issues of the past years.

TRAVELLING

Well, I’m in Luxembourg, and I’m not. In 2017 I travelled so much – flexible work arrangements and a large amount of leave has allowed me to take a tonne of “extended weekend” trips. Being in Luxembourg is such a blessing for European trips – getting to most places is relatively easy, and being able to drive to places in France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands has been INCREDIBLE. So many last-minute trips.

STAYING AT HOME

This is in contrast to what I just said about travelling, but I’ve really learned to say “NO.” this past year. I’ve stayed indoors, happy as ever, eating and lounging and reading (so much reading) and doing nothing or being productive – everything. FOMO has been set aside and I just stay inside whenever I can – recharging and just chilling. So good for the soul. And our flat in Luxembourg (versus our homes in Malta) has central heating so it’s heavenly in winter.

BOOK CLUB

One of the best things about my life in Luxembourg. In January 2017 I joined a book club and it’s been such a perfect thing for me – it’s a group of wonderful, intelligent people where we meet every few months after reading a fascinating book (and sometimes we even meet for a cheeky film night), often with a glass of crémant and always with some sort of nibbles. So fulfilling.

FLIGHT SCHOOL

Another amazing thing about my life in Luxembourg now is that I started a course to (hopefully) get my Private Pilot Licence (PPL) in 2018. It’s been intensive but wonderful. Few things exist that really keep me in Luxembourg, but this is definitely something which has made me feel very happy to commit to the country for a while.

CAREER DEVELOPMENT

Newsflash! At the airport, on the way from Luxembourg to Malta for Christmas, I received a job offer from the Court of Justice to work as a lawyer linguist there in 2018. I (obviously) accepted. I’m so excited, and it’s going to be such a great challenge for this year.

FRENCH

My French is better. However, I STILL struggle so much with speaking. Conversation classes might be required in the near future.

THE WEATHER

Ugh. Now that I’m actually trying to squeeze in flying lessons (very unsuccessfully during October/November/December 2017 due to the weather), the weather in Luxembourg has been very disappointing. When it snows, at least it’s magical and great. When it’s rainy and foggy – no, thank you.

GETTING A PET CAT

WE STILL HAVEN’T GOTTEN A PET CAT.

MISSING MALTA

As always. I miss Malta. Of course I do. My closest friends and family are still there, it’s my true home. Yes, Luxembourg is less of a “new place”, but my heart is in the Mediterranean.

I’ll probably still be in Luxembourg in a year, but who knows? Stay tuned.

TRIPS I TOOK IN 2017

Étretat, Normandy, France

2017 was definitely a Year of Travelling for me. I milked the fact that I live in Luxembourg and was finally earning a regular wage (with the fantastic availability of lots of leave), and took lots of little (and other not-so-little) trips to new and old places.

This post is a list for me to remember all the places I visited in 2017, but also a few travel ideas for you that might spark some plans for the months to come.

CITY BREAKS

I visited Paris in January with a group of lovely Italian women who also live in Luxembourg – we visited museums, ate delicious food, and did a lot of shopping and walking around. We also stayed in a real Parisian apartment in Montmartre – glorious.

My only new country for the year was Portugal, when I whisked my boyfriend away on a surprise trip for his 30th birthday to Porto in February. We ate a lot of yummy food and drank a lot of port. Mmm.

We went to Berlin in May for a long weekend visiting my boyfriend’s cousin. We had never been to this city before and we both fell in love. It is so painfully and excellently hipster.

Maybe this doesn’t really count, but I found myself alone on a sunny Saturday once and decided to drive to Liège in Belgium for a long day out. I visited churches and bookshops and had an amazing outdoor lunch in the sun. Trips on your own can be amazing.

One of the most spontaneous trips was to another new city, Padova, where we spent a couple of days boiling in the sun, visiting cultural sites and lots of churches, and eating the best food of our lives. Go to Osteria ai Scarponi if you’re ever there – we went twice in the span of 15 hours…

I visited Brussels several times throughout 2017, but only went once for a proper “touristic” visit, with a couple of my sweetest friends. We did the Magritte museums and lots of food and lots of bookshops. Also, wine.

Utrecht was another new city which we visited this year. A good friend of ours from Malta had moved there and we took the opportunity to visit him as well as his new city – which is gorgeous and very Dutch. Definitely one to return to.

Another old friend lives in Leeds, and we visited his lovely house in December for a couple of days of hearty English food and a Field Music festival. Great fun and lovely eggs.

I went to London twice this year, once as an add-on to our big Iceland trip (detailed below) (which was a bit of a bad idea, to go to the noise and craziness of London after two weeks in the serenity of rural Iceland). The other London trip was the annual Christmas trips with my two best friends, which is always a Christmassy success (even if my flight on the way back got cancelled, but that just meant that I could hang out and stay with some lovely London-based friends who took me in so willingly).

BIGGER TRIPS

For Easter we planned a last-minute mega road trip around Normandy (with Amiens as our first stop to split up the car ride). It was so gorgeous – their churches are seriously impressive (I love a good church) and the countryside was beautiful, as were their beaches.

My big trip with my two best friends this year was Ireland for a week – we went on a road trip (and a boat trip) and had a lovely time hopping from one place to another. So many beautiful bookshops and puffins.

Another “big” trip for the year was Werchter in Belgium, for Rock Werchter. We camped for 4 days in a muddy field and listened to some great artists. It was OK, but there was so little personal space and hygiene, that “OK” is as good as it could have been. At least it then prompted me to want to go “proper” camping in a Luxembourgish field the following weekend where it was completely serene and quiet and peaceful – heaven.

The final trip of the year was Sicily for 5 days – it was a “bigger” trip, but in reality I spent most of it in our beautiful B&B in bed, because I got hit by a terrible cold which completely restricted me to a horizontal position + Netflix. At least I managed to climb Etna and explore Catania (and the fishing villages above Catania) a bit. I’m actually writing this post from my bed in Sicily. So glamorous.

THE BIGGEST TRIP

I went to Iceland for the third time in October with my boyfriend and my parents – it was quite an epic trip and required a lot of preparation and organisation, but it ended up being brilliant. We did a road trip around Route 1 but also spent a few days in the Westfjords (easily my favourite part of Iceland now). Log cabins, natural hot pots, incredible Northern Lights… It was very special.

MALTA

I was never too far from a Malta trip this year. I visited in January, February, twice in March, May, June, August, September, November, and December. (Technically twice in December, if you count that we travelled to Sicily from Malta.) For my sanity, I’ve really come to realise that I need to touch base back in Malta at least once every two months, ideally every month. This might sound excessive to a lot of people, but it’s really what’s best for me right now. While I’m hoping to calm down with the travelling (at least concentrate on a few big trips rather than just a million little ones!) in 2018, I’m still keeping it in mind that I’ll need to fit in 6-10 trips to Malta during the year.

And finally, I should say that apart from the trips I listed above, I’ve done plenty of day/evening trips to places across the border in Belgium, Germany and France, but they don’t count since they were only for a few hours (especially since these usually only necessitate a 20-minute drive). Ah, the perks of living in a little country in the middle of continental Europe.

I’m very excited about my travel plans for 2018 – as I said, they will hopefully be more focused on longer, more special trips, and one of my resolutions is to travel to a new country… I wonder which one it will be. Any suggestions?

Things I Love Thursday

Drinking (almost) all the mulled wine at Monschau Christmas market.

  • Driving past snowy landscapes
  • Not slipping in snow/ice/slush
  • A spontaneous pizza date
  • Finishing the latest book club book and feeling really satisfied about finishing it – I really liked it
  • Christmas jumpers
  • Party times
  • New clothes
  • New tights(!)
  • The Happy Reader
  • Surviving doctors’ appointments that never seem to end (get those check-ups in before the end of the year! An excellent parting gift to yourself before next year.)
  • A lovely day trip to Monschau with three other wonderful women for the Christmas market
  • Finally visiting the Luxembourg City Christmas market with one of my favourite people ever (including mulled wine and delicious Luxembourgish treats!)
  • My first espresso in my new Cermaics By Tiz cup
  • Being indulgent and ordering in fancy truffle pasta
  • Book club

Things I Love Thursday

A Christmassy cocktail at Dishoom.

  • Lovely friends who give you food and a bed at a moment’s notice when you’re stranded in another country
  • The Crown
  • Christmas
  • Christmas food
  • Dishoom
  • My two best friends and travelling with them
  • Hamilton
  • Foyles
  • The Royal Air Force museum
  • The Royal Air Force museum gift shop
  • Prosecco
  • Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
  • “God bless”
  • A little book of poetry by one of my favourite poets
  • Cider
  • Biscoff
  • Eggnog chai
  • Cider chicken
  • Christmas sweaters
  • A potentially-life-changing phone-call
  • Ceramics by Tiz (gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous)

Things I Love Thursday

  • Snow in Luxembourg!
  • A lovely little weekend in Leeds
  • Christmas
  • Mulled cider
  • English pubs
  • (A potentially unpopular one): English food!
  • Finally finishing this book – it’s so weird but I’m really looking forward to the next issue of The Happy Reader which will focus on it.
  • Watching a film (Patti Cake$! It was brilliant.) and having delicious pasta and wine at my friends’ place
  • Lunch with a couple of lovely friends
  • Netflix
  • Netflix allowing you to download stuff to watch offline (perfect for plane rides!)
  • Magic onions
  • Field Music!
  • Excellent Christmas wrapping paper
  • Competitive coffee-making
  • Crumpets
  • Waitrose
  • PIES AND MASH
  • Spotting a fox
  • Sending a giant pile of Christmas cards
  • Finally compiling and ordering my parents’ Christmas present
  • Duck and apricots
  • Aeroplanes
  • Starting my annual advent calendar
  • Gearing up for the annual London Christmas trip!

Things I Love Thursday

My favourite: octopus spaghetti at Rising Sun, Marsaxlokk, and chilled Maltese white wine after an afternoon swim

  • Predictably: Malta
  • Hosting Friendsgiving again at my house with my nearest and dearest (although we missed a couple of special people this year)
  • Swimming in the Mediterranean Sea – come on, it’s the best.
  • Helping friends out
  • Encouraging message threads
  • Seeing my little nephew who is getting so much bigger and more clever
  • My Dad helping me to pack my suitcase
  • Still adoring my PPL course
  • A fellow-student of the PPL course finding out about my blog – I KNOW YOU’RE READING :P
  • Delicious hot chocolate at the Birgu waterfront
  • A very fancy breakfast at Palazzo Parisio with my parents
  • Beach afternoons (followed by a lot of food at delightful places) with my bestie
  • The Pub
  • “20% DISCOUNT ON BABY JESUS”
  • Baking an apple pie
  • Narcos
  • Getting packages full of Christmas presents for my friends and family – so excited to see their faces on Christmas morning

6 Books You Should Totally Give as Christmas Presents

I always say that books make the best gifts, especially when they present the opportunity for the receiver to discover a new world or genre. Here are some ideas (mostly from books that I’ve read this year) as Christmas present inspiration for your favourite people:

  1. A cool graphic novel: like Mooncop, Saga Vol. 1, Persepolis, Maus, The Trouble With Women.
  2. An eye-opening poetry collection: like Let Them Eat Chaos.
  3. A book-lover’s magazine subscription: The Happy Reader.
  4. A book for the beginner/intermediate French-speaker in your life: Le Petit Nicolas.
  5. A feminist powerhouse of a book: A Room of One’s Own.
  6. The latest big Young Adult book: Turtles All the Way Down.

Happy reading and happy gifting!

Things I Love Thursday

The end of a little runway in the Westfjords in Iceland.

  • Queen in concert (with Adam Lambert). Wow.
  • Finally reading this book and loving it
  • Celebrating 8 years with my lovely boyfriend
  • A panel on female leadership
  • Nibbles and drinks and conversation after said panel on female leadership
  • Buying the bulk of the Christmas presents I’ll be giving this year (very exciting)
  • Making a Christmas wishlist
  • Staying at home (and being able to) on a (very) sick day
  • Coffee and conversation with a wonderful woman friend
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
  • Stranger Things 2
  • Panzerotti and wine (but what’s new?)