After 3 weeks of traveling solo, I haven't turned into a 20/20 special...that I know of. Three cheers for me!
I met some really great people, I was 80% sure for a while that I had shin splints from walking so much without proper footwear, and also couldn't tell if I gained a million pounds or I lost lbs. I'm pretty certain my clothes just happened to stretch out like whoa, considering I didn't wash them for three weeks (get over it). But upon my return, it looks like so far, my trousers still fit.
My last few days in Scotland were pretty relaxed. I took a rainy bus tour of the Highlands and boated around Loch Ness. I even snapped a photo of the monster herself!
I met some nice German girls on the bus, and we went to the White Hart Inn in Edinburgh for some pints after the bus tour. Twelve hours on a bus isn't exactly my fave, especially since it was raining and my "rain" jacket lied about being water repellent. I was soaked. Anyway, Anja, Caroline and I were soon joined by some nice Canadians and even more whisky. These lovely Canadians later led me to my doom the next evening when we embarked on a nine-pub pub crawl. It was awesome. They also convinced me to stay an extra night to see the Hibernian soccer team play Inverness, and I obliged. It caused me to miss Windsor, sadly, but I'll be back I'm quite sure.
Cold and wet.
Those Canadians know how to party.
Yes, my last few days were spent in Edinburgh, which I was happy to see, but towards the end of the trip in general I was quite tired of living out of a suitcase, showering with flip flops, and trying to sleep while the hulking beast in the corner snored like a maniac. I learned that I don't particularly LOVE traveling alone for such extended periods of time, but I'm certainly capable of and good at doing it. It was nice to sleep in for as long as I wanted to, stop and eat some cheese whenever and not be judged, decide *not* to climb the 233 stairs to whatever dome, etc etc. But I also missed having a companion who can laugh with me later at the silly situations we encountered or that one really weird dude in the pub. But alas!
19:00 arrived after hectic train ride to Scotland--power outage made my trip 3 hours longer. It's all good.
19:20 Checked into very cool and monstrously big Hostel.
19:45 Had haggis and cask ale at Dirty Dicks--a nifty and eccentric pub in New Town.
20:00 Was befriended by an Australian also traveling solo, and he sat with me...then I didn't feel weird avoiding eye contact with other people while I ate.
21:00 After dinner, went on a non-scary ghost tour. Pints after.
9:30 Feet dying, bought cheap £6 sneakers-bright mustard yellow.
11:00 Free walking tour of Edinburgh with awesome Irish guide. How did he talk so fast? And why wasn't he Irish?
14:30 Lunch of highlander chicken and ale. Yum
16:00 Visited grave yard where JK Rowling was inspired for characters' names. Inner geek in me wept softly
16:30 Scotch Whisky Experience with Aussie friend--GOLD TICKET AKA 5 TASTINGS, BABY. Yum yum in my tum.
19:30 Dinner of Tapas-Scottish cheese and smoked salmon, then mussels and wine for dinner.
20:00 Bed. Passed out cold
10:00 Scone for a snack to fuel my adventure up a mountain
10:25 Hiked Arthur's Seat, an extinct volcano. Wish I brought proper running shoes. or hiking boots.
13:00 Lunch. taking it easy with mushroom soup and tea. It was windy on that volcano, and let's be honest, I'm not as young as I once was.
13:45 shopped around to compare prices for souvenirs. Really want tartan hat with pom pom. might be called a tammy? 14:30 writers museum. A little boring.
15:15 camera obscura museum. So cool and interactive! Wouldve been cooler/I'd have felt less lame with a friend.
17:00 walked home and caught last song from cool bagpipe/drum/elec guitar trio. Note to self: track them down.
17:30 read Sherlock Holmes, contemplated going out.
18:00 refused to move from couch. Black out.
21:00 Skype with parentals
23:00 pass out after obligatory social interactions with hostel mates. So tired.
10:30 Journeyed to Edinburg castle. Pretty groovy. Why does this city have so many darn hills?
13:00 Lunch and pints 14:00 Meandered. Contemplated trying Iron Blu, an insane soft drink that's popular here and banned in the U.S. for too much sugar and some liver antibiotic moonlighting as an ingredient. What? Insanity.
15:00 Walked inside elephant cafe where JK Rowling scribbled
The first bits of Harry potter. line too long, walked out. Is my inner fan girl dying?
15:20 National Gallery of Scotland. Does it make me a child if I prefer the interactive exhibits designed for children?
16:00 Bought cheese. Walked to "The Meadows."
17:00 Found bagpipe trio from yesterday. Wait and update blog while they get ready.
18:00 Awesome set by spinning blowfish trio. Totes bought their CD. 19:00 Fought frozen pasta dish and a tin of beans to add protein. Ate a few bites, meh.
21:30 After catching up on Buzzfeed, sought trad music close to hostel.
22:00 Finally found it. not sure if 6.8% cask beverage or guitar/accordian duet made me extra happy.
I may have forgotten to mention I visited Cambridge and Ely before Oxford and had the good fortune and pleasure to stay with a friend who lives outside of Cambridge. Yay for friends and their gracious hospitality!!
After Oxford, it was on to Bath where I did a bulk of my souvenir shopping and quite a bit of cheese-eating.
I loved Bath and made some nice friends there, and we did a very fun and silly walking tour called "Bizarre Bath." It was basically a brilliant stand up comedy tour. Amazing and I haven't laughed that hard in a while. I also love the street performers...fire juggling unicyclists, opera singers, drum circles, floating men, etc. So much fun! I even met a charming retired couple dressed up in old fashioned garb for the Jane Austen festival. We sat on a bench and chatted as people took our picture, and they invited me to Windsor and offered to show me around. Uh, yes please! Such dears.
Oh and the roman baths were amazing and I got to taste the water! ...it was weird and strongly reminded me of blood.
Then I journeyed to Edinburgh
via London and a hectic mechanical failure in Carlisle. Needless to say, it was annoying and a trip that should've taken 6 hrs took 9. Boooof. But I had haggis and a few pints last night complete with ghost tour so all is well. Yeahhhhhh girrrl
While I enjoy traveling and find myself to be excellent company, I can only have so many conversations with myself. So, I've been getting a little bit bored of my own company. Of course I talk to people and have met fellow lone wolves, but it's a transient business. And they don't always get my humor right away...like my Californian friend whom I met in London.
We were talking about rent prices, and he mentioned he recently moved within the city. I casually, and with a very deadpan expression, replied, "Oh, did you move to Alcatraz?" The poor dear looked so puzzled and had no idea how to react until I did an awkward Teal shrug and said, "dude...I was kidding." Gems.
See? I knew he'd get it in the end.
Staircase seen in Harry Potter, holla.
Then, last night in Oxford, a similar occurrence went down. I embarked on a ghost tour with an Oxford grad, and he started the tour with a description of the horrid conditions outside of the college walls where dead bodies were tossed, sewage floated, trash was thrown out, etc. I (brilliantly) inquired, "And their theses, too?" to which he replied, "Uh...yeah all kinds of rotten things." I figured he misunderstood me (feces/theses), and tried again. After he got it, he seemed very impressed by my "complex pun."
The rest of that evening was a dream come true. The guide, his boss, and I ended up getting a drink at a hidden away pub that only locals seem to know about. Logarithms, grammar, history, and politics were just a few topics we covered over pints. It was everything I wanted and nothing I didn't.
After my few very long days playing the ultimate Tourist (but non-fannypack-toting one), I decided to sleep in. I ate breakfast at the hostel, and soon after walked through Borough Market. As I've mentioned in other posts, I love love love markets, and thought I'd explore the francy one a mere few blocks from my hostel. It was fantastic! Mushrooms on display, still growing out of a tree trunk. Strange fruit and veg I had never even heard of. Stalls of beautiful cakes, still warm bread, fudge, candies, jams.
I am a total cheese fanatic and naturally bought the £5 cheese plate for second breakfast-a delicious goat, a fabulously stinky and ripe Brie look alike (def not Brie) and a silky bleu. I found a table and contained my excitement as best as I could, but man was I excited. I don't pretend to know much about cheese or the proper terminology (hint Xmas present idea), but the extra stinky one seemed particularly acidic or...I don't know, dry. Like a tannic wine. Very interesting. The blue was unexpectedly mild, and The goat was just lovely.
Later that evening after seeing Richard III at the Globe, some new hostel friends and I enjoyed a wine-soaked 4th meal on the Thames with more cheese and bread. So. Much. More. Cheese.
The next day, I must admit after a breakfast of egg's Benedict, another cheese plate on a pub menu caught my eye, and obviously lunch was 3 beautiful hunks of English cheese. I don't think I left a crumb behind, and if I don't gain 15 lbs before I come home, it'll be a miracle.
Perhaps it's the spike in dairy and warm Old Speckled Hen ale, but I seriously need some fruit and veg...and grapes and celery on the cheeseboard don't count.
As some of you may know, I'm
currently in London, taking a little vacation throughout the UK. I have the opportunity to travel around a bit before I start my new job. I'm also typing this on my iPhone, as the computers at my hostel are quite slow...so I apologize for any typos/weird grammar.
After arriving in London on Wednesday, I hit he ground running. I dropped off my bags at my AWESOME hostel, and walked over to the Tower of London. I've always wanted to go, and it wasn't at all what I thought it would be. I expected prisoners and torture-y jails (it did have these things), but it was mostly for living! Very fascinating stuff, and my yeoman warden was excellent and so funny. If you aren't familiar with them (I wasn't), they're the "beefeaters," though they don't take too kindly to that word. It's an honor to be a warden and live in the tower after years of service in the military. I especially liked seeing their laundry drying as stood I various buildings in the fortress.
Then it was on to St Paul's Cathedral for evensong. I'm not much of a stair climber (my purse is way to heavy and I'm not agile enough for those spiral stairs), and I only wanted to see the inside. I can wiki the history later. The service was lovely, at least the parts I was awake for. Jet lag hit me pretty hard, and I almost fell off of a kneeler. Whoops.
The next day, I planned my entire day out over eggs and bacon on toast, then promptly forgot them when I walked past the ferry pier. I decided to head over to Greenwich to see the Observatory and Meridian, college and painted hall. It was a great afternoon, and I smiled so hard when I unknowingly walked through the music college's courtyard. This sounds so cheesy, but it was such sweet music to my ears to hear musicians practicing. Ahhh :)
The observatory was fantastic and I loved the planetarium...and yes, I did choke up when it played clips of us landing on Mars. I'm always amazed when I am reminded of what talent and brilliance there is in the world, and how much we don't know about life. Ok back to my pint now...
After that was a lovely lunch where the bartendress asked me if I wanted a half pint with lunch. Do I *look* like the kind of lady who only wants halfsies? No. After the ferry back, I went to the Churchill War Rooms, one of the highlights of my trip so far. They were absolutely fascinating and left entirely as they were during the war. The Churchill Museum was wonderfully presented and a fun interactive learning experience. My only wish is that I had had more than 2 hours. I'm the museum-goer who reads every little plaque. Thanks for that, dad ;)
Then if you can believe it, I headed to both the National Gallery (for the impressionists) and the Portrait Gallery. The Portrait Gallery had an excellent exhibit on Olympians and also the gallery's BP-sponsored contest.
Yesterday I ended up walking for hours to get to Buckingham Palace, only to find tickets sold out. Wish I had known you have to buy them in advance...so I walked through Hyde Park to get to the V&A, where there was a gorgeous exhibit on British ball gowns and fashion. I felt so at home!
I must admit though, I did hit a brick wall. I have resolved to not try to see everything in the world of London, and I suspect I'll be a less exhausted Teal because of it.
I've always thought, deep down, that I'd make an excellent spy. I have a knack for attracting interesting international characters, and last night was no different. After an exhausting but amazing day of sight-seeing, I sat down at a bar to have a glass of wine and order some dinner (delicious warm feta with eggplant, green beans, tomato, kalamata olive, etc). A foreign gentleman came up to the bar to pay, and started chatting me up...for the next two hours. He spoke of the finest restaurants he frequents, staying at the Four Season in NYC, and his lovely Tom Ford suit. Oh and his Australian mistress. He showed me his Harrods card (I asked when he'd take me shopping--soon), and he talked about his love of Irish people--because they look like peasants. After his exuberant verbal display of affection for MY Irish complexion ("It is in your eyes!"), I asked him if I looked like a peasant. He said I did not, which made my day. He continued to rave about how wonderfully independent, irresistable (French accent style), charming and lovely I am. "You only have one boyfriend? You should have four! If I were a younger man, I'd want you to have all my sons." No boyfriend actually, but I had to keep him at bay. And hey, work it, free dinner! Sir also insisted that I Google him on my phone to confirm that he was who he said, and it turns out he actually is kind of a huge big deal. Eventually we parted ways, with promises to send me bottles of wine from his family's vineyard.