A few days late as ever, but Happy New Year! 

As is always the case, last January simultaneously feel like yesterday and a decade ago. I didn't really post that much in 2017 (didn't even make it to 50!) so this little round up pretty much covers it all! Nevertheless and despite the low post volume, it's quite surprising to see just how much I did actually get up to in 2017. Tor me it seemed like a fairly empty year that was mainly full of work but this recap happily suggests otherwise... 

I started the year off in Milan, spending my first Italian New Years' Eve at Michele's friends' house. We had a hilarious time eating delicious food (and a ton of lentils, which apparently bring good fortune and certainly bring a dry mouth), watching the fireworks explode over the city from the balcony and stuffing grapes into our mouths with each ring of the midnight bells. It was an utter joy to be back in one of my favourite cities (and I'm off again this weekend, this time for wedding planning eeeeee).

From there, Michele and I headed off to visit Bologna (1 2 3), where we spent an excellent few days eating the best food, walking around the gorgeous golden city and catching up with our friends and hosts Martina and Andrea (who got married later that year beside the shores of Lake Como).

Back in Milan, we created this recipe for a local food blog competition. We didn't win but we had a brilliant time working on our spinach gnocchi with a celeriac and blue cheese sauce (dusted in hazelnut crumbs, no less!) 

I also turned 25 and published this list of 25 things I've learnt in my two and a half decades (topped by useful gems such as "always have an emergency tupperware in your bag in case of free food" - definitely worth a read if I say so myself haha!)

And whilst we didn't get engaged in 2017, I finally shared our rather odd engagement story in time for Valentines Day. It involves feminism, dog poo, a dodgy pub carpark and certainly no champagne. It's certainly not your typical engagement but all our friends laughed heartily upon hearing the tale and said it was "so us". Hmm.

Still in January, we visited the majestic city of Budapest (1 2 3 4). The temperatures were absolutely FREEZING (as the Danube will attest to above!) and I managed to make the mistake of neglecting to take gloves to a climate that was so gelid, my face went numb and I couldn't speak properly. Nevertheless, we had a truly magical time in the city which culminated in a fairytale dinner in the Boscolo Hotel's New York Salon Restaurant whilst fat goose-feather snowflakes drifted from the sky outside.

Once the Spring had arrived, I skipped off to France with my Ma to visit my sister. Jess was on her year abroad in Lille at the time so we took the opportunity of a lovely long day trip to Paris, where we were utter tourists complete with boat rides and baguettes!

Back in Lille, we had a brilliant time exploring the parks and streets of the city. I developed a penchant for endive, onion and cheese galettes (as well as a slight obsession with green salad drizzled with mustard vinaigrette) and we watched Beauty & the Beast with French subtitles at the cinema. Seeing the film in France (with a trip to Disney approaching the following day) was so much fun!

Back in Devon, Michele and I made the most of the brightening weather along the South West Coast Path, starting with this intrepid adventure over the rolling cliffs from Lympstone to Sidmouth...

Followed by a glorious sun-drenched walk from Teignmouth to Torquay.

At half term, my family rented a gorgeous little cottage in Somerset and so Michele and I drove up to meet them and spend a couple of days exploring the surrounding countryside. One of the days was spent exploring the expansive grounds and sumptuous interiors of Dunster Castle. It's an absolutely magnificent place and even has a room dedicated to the various tales of ghostly happenings at the castle, making it a sure winner for me.

Continuing with the National Trust theme, 2017 was surely the year I set out to make the most of my NT membership. From the lavish red velvet walls of Saltram House in Plymouth...

...to the art deco glamour of Coleton Fishacre (which was preceded by an unexpectedly strenuous ramble along the South West Coast Path nearby), I made sure that I visited as many of the stately homes dotted across the South West as possible!

And then came our incredibly holiday in the Dolomites (1 2 3 4 5 6). We'd been planning this for aaaages with our good friends Lizzie and Haico (possibly the most wonderful couple to travel with in the world). We spent an entire week completing exhausting but truly breathtaking treks and stuffing our faces with cheese. It was, quite simply, a dream.

Luckily, as my research takes place in schools, I'm able to work remotely during the school holidays and so spent a nice amount of time in my hometown of Margate. I wrote mainly about the neighbouring town of Broadstairs though, (where I recently took part in the glacial New Years' Day Swim, brrr!) where I spent a wonderful few days eating everything from diner-style vegan burgers to modern British cuisine (followed by plenty of beach walks with the dog to walk it all off!).

In August, my family and Michele and I headed to La Rochelle, followed by a week spent in the countryside just outside of Poitiers. Now here is where the blog upkeep begins to slip a little as I still haven't written this trip up but I wanted to include it in my round up all the same! We had a very sleepy and relaxed time (partly aided by the fact that there was very little to do in the area) which involved a lot of cheese and wine!

Back in Kent, our post-holiday blues were quickly cured by my Aunt/Uncle/cousins' new puppies! Cassie and Fern are two ever-so-excitable weimaraner pups and whilst they're still not fully-grown, they are absolutely huge compared to how they were just a few months ago! They are the funniest characters (although visitors be warned - never leave your shoes in the same room as them...)

At the beginning of September, I headed to Padova for the European Health Psychology Society Conference. This was the first conference I've attended that I didn't speak at and the experience was so different! I'm normally far too nervous about my own speech to pay attention properly in the other presentations - and as soon as my own is over, I relax so much I still can't quite focus! But this time I was able to fully concentrate on the conference sessions and it was so useful. It also helped that the conference took place in the gorgeous city of Padova where my friend Sam and I indulged in aperitivo cocktails, pillowy Neapolitan-style pizzas, and got rather drunk at the conference dinner and developed our own style of interpretive dance... another trip to appear on the blog at some point in the future!

Padova is conveniently close to the city of Venice and so Sam and I very naughtily skipped one of the conference days for a long wander through one of the world's most magical cities. An absolute highlight was stopping at a wine and crostini bar beside a quiet canal just as the sun broke out around us. 

As the conference ended and Autumn began to bloom, I packed up and headed away from Padova and towards Milan, where I stayed with Michele for a little while. We spent a few days finally getting some wedding planning done which led us to this serendipitous canal-side walk in the golden afternoon light. (Unfortunately, we have hardly done any more wedding planning since, which means we have a fuck ton to get done next week.)

On one of our free days, we headed to Lake Como for a walk along conker dusted footpaths, followed by an evening in one of my favourite places in Italy - Valtellina. Again, another one to write up, but if you want to know why Valtellina is a favourite of mine, just consider a) the photo above and b) Valtellina's most successful export - pizzoccheri. Yes, that is the cheesiest pasta dish in the world and yes it is better than anything else you could ever hope to eat.

Back in the UK and the food addiction didn't stop! Being part of the Sugar Smart campaign meant that I got to work at Powderham Food Festival over one weekend in October. My excellent friend Rachel (who I met in February of last year due to the fact that she brought some truly excellent homemade brownies to a birthday party and I was really drunk and demanded to be introduced to the creator of said brownies and then basically fell on her and proclaimed her my best friend forever) also works on the Sugar Smart campaign as well as for Exeter Cookery School, so we had a great time stuffing our faces (and, um, talking about healthy living) for a couple of days.

More perks-of-the-job came with this trip to Cornwall, where I was sent to meet some dietitians interested in our behaviour change work at the uni (which brings me to another highlight of 2017 - I published my first ever research paper!). In order to get to the meeting on time on the Monday morning, I would have needed to catch a train from Exeter at 4am (nope) so I managed to wrangle a most-expenses-paid trip to Portreath where Michele and I ticked another section of the Coast Path off our list! (This was also a great personal success for me, as we had attempted Cornwall earlier in the year but I had gotten food poisoning. Funnily enough, that trip doesn't appear in this list.)

This being my 6th year at the University of Exeter, it's quite astounding that this was the first year I visited Cornwall. And the same goes for Plymouth! Whilst lots of people in Exeter make jokes about Plymouth being a bit of a dive, I completely fell in love with it. From the slightly bleak beauty of the post-war city, to the quaint cobbled streets of the Barbican, to the endless view from Plymouth Hoe, there's something about Plymouth that I find enchanting. It's possibly due to the parallels I can draw between it and Margate (pre-gentrification Margate anyway), with the dilapidated, decaying lido and sense of being on the edge of the world.

Another one that has thus-far escaped being written up (I had exams!) - we spent an evening walking from the picture-perfect town of Topsham all along the estuary to Exmouth. As we went, the sky gradually turned from burnished gold to burning copper to fluorescent violet and then black. We rewarded ourselves with a delicious seafood dinner beside the waves at Rockfish.

A visit from one of my best friends saw me heading to Cornwall (and National Trust properties) again! Vicky and her family came to stay and kindly adopted me for a couple of days. We had a wonderful seaside retreat in a caravan park near Bideford, involving lots of delicious pub food and an Autumnal stroll through the grounds of Lanhydrock House.

Back in Exeter, we were very excited to see the South Street Standard open just a few metres from our flat! This is definitely one of our new favourite places to eat in Exeter, with a delicious menu full of lots of interesting options - make sure to try it if you stop by the city!

Now, the Autumn term was always going to be a difficult one this year - after finding out that I'd been successful in my application for an internship at Public Health England (eeeeeeee!!!) I decided to try and get my PhD upgrade out of the way before I started the job in January. This basically involves submitting a report, giving a presentation and undergoing a "viva" (basically getting a grilling from a panel of academics - my examiners were super nice though!) to check that you're on track and should be allowed to continue onto the second half of the PhD. I was snowed under with work - and we also needed to get ready to move out of our flat in order to move to London during the internship! My Mum asked if she could come and visit and I had to refuse, saying I was far too busy. Which makes it all the worse when we accepted a last-minute invitation to spend a long weekend in Southwold with Lizzie and Haico (in my defense, I did get a decent amount of work done there!). Southwold is one of my favourite places to go (although I'm not sure how much of this is due to the beautiful town and how much is due to the beautiful company) and whilst I haven't posted about 2017's trip yet, I've at least got these pictures from 2016 to share (do I sense an annual tradition coming on??).

The year was finished off with the best way to say goodbye (for now) to some of my friends from uni before heading off to the big smoke for my internship. We took a perfectly wintry walk on Dartmoor before our Christmas dinner at the Rugglestone Inn, complete with proper snow! In the mad rush to prepare for my upgrade and moving house, it was the perfect antidote, and well and truly got me in the Christmas spirit.

And so that's the end of my 2017 round up! I'm feeling pretty excited about what 2018 will bring. A wedding and the internship of my dreams for a start (isn't that enough for one year?). A honeymoon in Peru. Possibly a trip to Hong Kong (fingers crossed) to visit one of my best friends who just moved out there! I'll cross over into the final year of my PhD and hopefully start getting my shit together in terms of career/future planning (people always think I have it together as I'm getting married and am doing a PhD but I have no idea what I want to do next and Michele and I have no idea what country we're even going to live in - we don't even really live together now!)

So here's to 2018 - who knows what I'll be rambling about this time next year?