Ciao a tutti!
It has been what? Three or four weeks now since I last posted? Well, I promise not to make you wait any longer. I know you are all probably sitting on the edge of your seats just waiting for my next blog post and can think of nothing else. You know, because I am the center of the Universe (If you have not picked up on the sarcasm by now, something is wrong).
Anyways, I just got back to Florence this past Saturday from my fall break. I know I said in my last post I would talk about Lucca but I am super behind and Lucca wasn’t as interesting as my recent trip. All you need to know about Lucca is that they have really good pizza and that it is a beautiful city surrounded completely by green grass and biking paths. A prefect day trip, especially if you want to see some fall colors.
Anyway, back to my big trip! I spent my time during the break traveling to London, Dublin and Edinburgh. I feel so accomplished now because I managed the majority of this on my own! Yes, I’m a big girl now. At first, my plan was to travel with another person. Unfortunately, plans fell through in a big way, and I was suddenly facing a solo trip through Europe. At first I was okay, but as the trip drew closer, panic ensued.
Panic for me just involves a lot of questions:
Do I have all my plane tickets? What if my phone doesn’t work when there is an emergency? How will I find my hostel? What if I can’t find the airport bus? What would I do if my stuff got stolen? Where do I go, what do I do, who do I trust?
All of these things went through my head at lightening speed. I even typed up an involved itinerary for the next week so I would feel better. Now, not to say planning ahead doesn’t pay off, but I really shouldn’t have worried so much.
Here is the best piece of advice I can give in this blog to those in search of adventure (stolen from a previous blog…you know who you are): TRAVEL ALONE. Ditch the people you know and just travel for yourself, BY YOURSELF.
Think about it, what elements make up the best adventure movies? Interesting characters, action, romance, good music? You name it, I found it all on this trip. For those who want the real juicy details you can contact me separately (5 euros ahead please. I no longer write for free as traveling is expensive).
Otherwise, for time’s sake I will just hit the highlights of the trip.
After drawing class last Thursday I booked it to the train station with my giant backpack to catch a bus to the Pisa airport. Everything went smoother than expected and I was already feeling better by the time I boarded the plane to London. I arrived in London rather late and was relieved to find that the cabby my cousins (whose place I was staying at) sent was still waiting for me. Can’t say he was very happy, but then again, I had no way of knowing that customs would take nearly an hour and a half. I slept in the next day, but ventured out into the city just in time for lunch. I had no plan really, and no map, so I just memorized where the train station was and wandered around to the places that looked interesting. This turned out to be a fantastic technique! I stumbled upon the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and a few other well-visited sites.
|View of London from the Millennium Bridge|
Saturday I got to spend some time with my cousins. I was able to see a couple markets. At one I rediscovered my favorite childhood games: mancala! There was a stand selling all these games with colored marbles and the guy selling them played a couple rounds with us. Granted, he beat us rather quickly, but he also sells the darn things. Other highlights included seeing “Big Ben” (actually not the clock apparently), Buckingham Palace, and a wonderful dinner at an Indian restaurant in the evening.
My last day in London I went to see the Tate Modern. I took a quick tour of the museum and saw some Diane Arbus photos and Monet’s Waterlilies! Swoon.
After, I met up with my cousins and we took a tour of this wonderful flower market and sat down for lunch at this great cafe.
However, out of everything the street musicians at the market were my favorite part. Check out this video of the tuba player we saw:
Next day was the beginning of my real adventure! Early Monday morning, completely alone, I set my sights towards Dublin. I arrived really early that day so I went in search of a place to eat breakfast. I found the sweetest little café off the river where I sat and enjoyed a cup of tea and a scone. I couldn’t think of a better breakfast to have on a cold morning in Dublin.
|Early morning in Dublin. The purple building was my hostel!|
Anyway, this time I was smart enough to buy a map of Dublin at the airport and, using my same “wandering” technique, I went in search of places to see. This time with the map, however, I would know where I was when I got there. I was able to discover St. Patricks Cathedral, a beautiful park near Trinity College and, most importantly, a pharmacy where I could buy a hairbrush (imagine up to this point I hadn’t really brushed my hair since I left Florence).
Note to self: always remember to bring a hairbrush when traveling. This is especially important when you have thick hair that can turn into dreadlocks easily.
|First day wandering: found a lovely park.|
That afternoon and that night I discovered something about myself. I LOVE HOSTELS. The reason is because I really enjoy meeting all sorts of people. Hostels are kinda perfect for this sort of thing. I met a girl from Australia, a couple guys from the states, and a random Italian from Sardinia (who I chatted with in Italian!) . The thing is, when you travel alone, you aren’t really alone. Honestly, you just meet people you don’t know already, or wouldn’t have met if you were with someone you knew. In the afternoon I went to the Guinness factory with this guy I met at the hostel. We got rained on a lot and were really happy to get our “free” pints of Guinness when we arrived at the factory.
|Had to be done.|
That night I visited a couple traditional Irish pubs and one dance club with this other guy I met from Boston. The music, the beer, the dancing and the atmosphere were all spectacular! At this point I was really enjoying Ireland, but also ready for bed because I had been awake since 3:30 that morning.
Tuesday was a little more relaxed. I went to the National Museum and that night I introduced a couple American girls I met to the movie Pulp Fiction. We went out and bought a bunch of junk food before watching the film in the hostel’s very own Cinema (equipped with leather couches and a pull down screen). It kinda made me miss college dorm life.
Next day I took a tour of the Irish countryside and the cliffs of Moher. It was an unusually beautiful day and we could see all the splendid scenery perfectly. I spent the day with a group of Australian girls that I met on the tour. We visited a farm where I got my fill of animals and nature. For me, what was especially nice was being able to play with the farm dogs. Let’s just say these dogs are really spoiled. Many of the visitors and I gave them plenty of attention.
|I'm sorry, but I had to add at least one cliche picture from the Cliffs.|
Overall, my last day in Dublin was fantastic! Next day, I had another early start as I was flying on to Edinburgh, Scotland! I actually met one of my classmates from the ACM program at the airport and we spent half the day in Edinburgh together. It was nice to see a familiar face for a while. We went to Holyroodhouse (which is the Queens official residence in Scotland) and toured the house and gardens. Afterwards, we saw an exhibit at the Queen’s Gallery featuring some works by Hans Holbein and Albrecht Durer. My Hostel in Edinburgh was in a great location and had a very relaxed and youthful atmosphere.
|View of Edinburgh from the Castle.|
That night I met a couple girls from California and went to a few pubs and the next day I went out on my own to visit the well-known Edinburgh castle. After touring the castle and having a hearty lunch there I walked around a bit and eventually made it up to this park that overlooks the entire city. It was beautiful, but also cold, so I returned to the hostel thinking that was the end of my trip.
|More of Edinburgh. Last night.|
Little did I know…
In my dorm I met another Hostel-goer who invited me to tag along with him to the Elephant House cafe (famous for being the place where JK Rowling began to brainstorm her famous Harry Potter series). We met with this girl from Spain, and between the three of us, and between 3 languages (French, Spanish and English) going back and forth we managed a pretty interesting evening. Overall, it was a wonderful end to a wonderful trip!
Any questions? You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, donations to the “Broke and Traveling Student Fund” are welcome (It’s a joke… well, the “Fund” part anyways).