Failing Hardcore

So, boys and girls, let me tell you the tale of my attempt to get from Milan to Florence. I stayed in Milan for a single night and didn’t see anything at all other than the train station. I landed at the airport coming from Barcelona then a bus took me from the airport to the train station and I took the metro to my hostel. The next day I had a bus to catch to Florence so I went to…

The train station. I don’t know how I managed to fuck that up, but after realizing that the only buses there were for airport transfer I realized that I had missed my bus and the next one was at like 8 at night. And it was 9 am.

Obviously, being at a train station, I decided to buy a train ticket. For €50. The ticket was for 12:55 so I sat around and waited until 12:15 to try to find my platform.

Only, surprise, I was looking at the wrong part of the ticket. My train had already left at 11:15. It was supposed to arrive at 12:55.

… So another €50 later, I managed to board my train and actually get to Florence.

If there is an award for stupid shit done while backpacking I want to be nominated.

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We Won’t Talk About Spain

I spent over a week in Spain because of poor planning and the only thing I enjoyed was the chocolate. People weren’t that friendly, I didn’t like the feel of the city, and I got sick in Madrid. I just didn’t enjoy myself. I did like Madrid a bit more than Barcelona, but in Barcelona I got depressed and didn’t want to do anything. I went to the beach and that was okay, but compared to the beaches in Florida it was a little sad. Just overall I didn’t like Spain as a whole. There’s nothing wrong with the country, and a lot of people love it there I know, it just wasn’t for me. Plus I think it was in Spain that I really started feeling trapped in all the cities.

But anyways, I did manage to take a few pretty pictures.

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Briefly in Lisbon

I wanted to get over to the west so I flew from London to Lisbon and stayed there for two nights. Basically, I had one full day to explore. It felt like I walked a lot farther than I actually did because of the hills. I also took my first taxi ever and shamefully couldn’t figure out where the meter was supposed to be so I ended up getting ripped off a few euros because the meter wasn’t on but I was just tired and ready to get to the hostel so I didn’t really care.

I stayed at the hostel Equity Point Lisboa and the staff who was there when I checked in was really friendly and told me that if I ever get lost just go downhill and I’ll figure things out and that ended up being true. I wouldn’t recommend the hostel because the other members of the staff came off as a bit rude and I went to go to sleep the first night and found multiple bugs in my bed (they said I could only move to another bed in that room that night but transferred me to a new room the next day) so that was unpleasant.

In my wandering I just managed to go down to the river, see the bridge, then go up the hill to the castle and wander back down the hill. I was super certain that I was lost so I stopped to get something to eat and as I came out of the restaurant I saw the huge square I could navigate to my hostel from, I guess I just want temporarily blind.

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Like I said, I didn’t spend that much time in Lisbon but I did enjoy myself there. Had I had more time (and sense) I would have explored more of Portugal instead of Spain.

Edinburgh, My Spirit City

Are spirit cities a thing? We’re going to say that they are. I loved Edinburgh, absolutely loved it. I loved the older feel and the temperature and the scenery. Most of all, I fell in love with Holyrood Park. I wanted to build myself a little cabin and live there forever. (I’m not even joking.) It has to be the most beautiful park that close to a city anywhere in the world.

Also while in Scotland I ended up taking a tour to the Highlands, which I thought was a bit of a disappointment overall. Our stop in Glencoe lasted about five minutes and we stopped at Loch Ness which I honestly thought was one of the least inspiring lakes that I’ve ever seen.

Holyrood Park
Holyrood Park

Also I thought that the Royal Mile was quite lovely. I wandered up there on accident and loved it, even though it was quite obviously filled with tourists. It was beautiful and there were bagpipes (which some people may not care about, but I loved it) and I bought a lovely wool scarf that I am absolutely in love with.

GLUTEN FREE IN EDINBURGH

Okay, Edinburgh is basically the same as London on this one. There is plenty to eat. I miss the UK grocery stores like you wouldn’t believe.

EDINBURGH BACKPACKER ACCOMIDATION

So I stayed at a place called the Caledonian Backpacker Hostel. Boy was it an adventure. If you have a small budget, I couldn’t recommend it enough. If you have more money maaaaaybe find somewhere else.

I will say that the location was excellent. I walked to the Royal Mile and Holyrook park from there without killing myself. I was able to sleep despite sleeping in a room with 37 other people and getting to listen to the bar downstairs as well as the one across the street, but I feel like that may have bothered some people a bit more. The kitchen was functional and I never had to wait in line for the bathroom… But the showers had clear doors. And no curtains. So anyone who came into the bathroom had to see your naked ass. The bathroom was also frequently out of soap and paper towels. The beds were comfy enough, but I am almost positive that the sheets only get changed once a week reguardless of when the beds were used. However, the hostel was very colorful and I didn’t get any bedbugs, so it all worked out okay.

RECOMMENDED ATTRACTIONS

Holyrood Park, obviously. I spent like five hours there being a mountain goat and napping in the sun. (Yeah, I got color on my cheeks in Edinburgh. I think the country was broken while I was there.) I would also recommend visiting a cemetery (I can’t recommend one in particular, they just seemed to pop up out of nowhere) and to take some time to explore the Royal Mile. Calton Hill was also alright but I wouldn’t plan to spend much time there, just to walk up and get some pictures. The Highlands were beautiful but I would recommend driving around in a rental rather than taking a tour. And skip Loch Ness.

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I had planned to do a ghost tour as well as some more exploring but I was having some unrelated personal issues that made me into a bit of a bum. I still enjoyed myself immensely.

Don’t Harass Airport Staff

I am sitting in an airport relaxing before my flight, which doesn’t leave for another hour and a half. I am a little earlier than I meant to be, but that doesn’t bother me a bit. What bothers me is all the people I saw yelling at the staff here when it was their own fault for not getting here early.

Airports are all the same, there are people and lines and it takes time to get from the front door to your plane. Try to arrive two hours early, especially if it’s a big airport. Which would you rather have, boredom or a missed flight?

A further note on Ryanair, as I am flying with them today. I haven’t actually gotten on the plane to be able to comment on that, but I’m pleased already just because my bags fit within the restrictions. I don’t even have to wear all my clothes or anything.

However, Ryanair sells cheap seats by charging for everything else. They want you to mess up so that they get more money. No matter what print your boarding pass before you arrive, otherwise they charge you to print it. If you aren’t certain that you can carry your bag on, pay for a checked bag ahead of time otherwise they will charge you outrageously here. Even if it ends up fitting, better safe than sorry. You’ll know better for next time.

This concludes your public service announcement. I must now eat my chocolate.

London Continued

I have to be honest, I didn’t fall in love with London. I liked it, and I’m going back to stay in outer London for two days before I catch my plane to Lisbon, but I didn’t love it. My friend said that it didn’t match my personality as much, which I think is true. I’m just really not a city girl and the culture of London was too similar to the United States for it to be special to me. However, it was a wonderful first stop on my adventure and it was beautiful.

I managed to get my laundry done by hand in a sink and I am having no problem living out of a backpack. Well, I make enough mess that it isn’t really in a backpack anymore, but eh, details. I think I may actually have more than I need. It’s very strange to realize how much extra stuff I have at home.

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I seriously loved the bubble guy. I also enjoyed my fair bit of wandering around on the streets and I ate some really good instant microwaveable rice and curry that I want to exist in America now.

Landing in London

I have been in London for over 24 hours and I still can’t believe I’m here. Like, it just isn’t real yet. I have been planning this trip for what seems like forever, and now I have to navigate the whole world on my own. Well, not the whole world, but close enough. I had trouble just navigating the airport in Canada.

In the few short hours since I boarded my plane in Pittsburgh, I’ve accomplished many firsts. I left the country for the first time. I crossed an ocean for the first time. I used a bathroom in Iceland for the first time, and even though me and some random other girl both got lost in there, the bathrooms at the airport put all other American bathrooms to shame.

I took public transportation for the first time, and now after one ride I feel like I have mastered the London Underground, and I was indeed confident enough to go down today and just sit on the stairs at a random stop because I was tired and needed somewhere dry to sit. No one even glanced at me, so they probably assumed I was homeless. Close enough. In Googling this trip I found only shit tips on how to use the underground, so here is the simplest explanation.

HOW TO USE THE LONDON UNDERGROUND (FOR DUMMIES)

First, figure out where you want to go. If you take a second to look at it, the tube map is very simple. The hardest part would be if you need to switch lines during your journey, but it’s announced on the train which station connects to other lines. Second, buy a ticket. There are little machines or people at the windows, you just need money and your destination. (It you are staying for a while or know you will use the tube a lot, get a oyster travel  card.) Once you have your ticket, feed it into the bottom slot at the gate to the trains. It will come back out on top and you just take it and wait for your train to get there. When it arrives, let people off first before pushing on, then sit or stand somewhere that you can see the line map on the wall. It lists all the stops on the line so that you can be prepared to get off at your stop. They announce the stops, so there’s no fear of missing anything so long as you are ready to get off and don’t have to waste time pushing past people. Once you arrive at your stop, there will be another gate you feed your ticket into, then you’re free to get lost again on the streets of London.

Disclaimer: I have been in London for like a day and a half so this might be terrible advice.

NAVIGATING LONDON

I think I’m a bit jetlagged because I just want to nap, but that could also be from walking all the way to Big Ben and back. My strategy for navigating is to just aim in the direction of where I want to be and just use the little pillar signs that are everywhere (the ones with little “you are here” stickers) to get where I need to be. It’s working out so far, but I may be out of luck when I use that technique in other countries. We’ll see. For London, it’s worked just fine, and it’s a lot easier than trying to open a big paper map in the rain. Also, this way rather than just going from point A to point B you get to see all the little extra roads on the indirect routes, which somehow for me always leads to walking past a million restaurants. Seriously guys, you will not go hungry here.

GLUTEN FREE IN LONDON

The best thing about London so far is that gluten free dairy free brownies are cheap (well, less than £2) and not terrible. The grocery store was a wonderful adventure and I highly recommend for anyone traveling on a budget to go grocery shopping ASAP. I could eat with like £7 a day or less by not eating out. I will also be moving here because their gluten free pasta is cheaper than in the US. (Wtf America, why are you punishing those of us who can’t eat gluten?) Many resturants have signs that say gluten free and there are plenty of options to choose from.

ACCOMIDATION FOR BACKPACKERS IN LONDON

If you’re going to be backpacking in London, I’d recommend the Smart Russel Square Hostel because it is cheap, but I have low standards. I’m staying in the 18 bed dorm and I chose the top bunk, in which I have made my nest, and there are an additional two bunks below me, but because I am right next to the door my bed is the only one with a fan. There is a sink in the room to brush your teeth and there was a group of German guys who came in late at night, turning the light on and talking loudly, but a member of the staff threatened to kick them out so they shut up, so that was nice. The showers are a bit cramped and I am short so the water sprays directly on my face, but they were warm enough for my quick shower. The free breakfast is just toast, cereal, coffee, milk, and koolaid cleverly disguised as fruit juice, which is no help for me as I can’t have gluten, but for normal people it would be enough. It’s also basically next door to the British museum which makes it convienient for me since whatever day I have extra time I can just pop in there till I got bored or they kick me out.

SAFTEY IN LONDON

There are people everywhere. As long as you stay where the people are, you should be fine. There may be pickpockets out there, but if you’re smart it shouldn’t be a problem. I went walking alone at night as a small female and didn’t have any trouble or feel at all unsafe. Just don’t walk down any dark alleys.

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Bring an umbrella AND a raincoat, and I advise a waterproof backpack. People are not joking about the rain here.

Don’t try to overdo yourself. Nap if you’re tired, slow down if you need a break. Just because you’re in a new city doesn’t mean you have to see EVERY site the city has to offer. London will always be here, and no matter what you do you will never see everything, so why bother trying if you’ll be miserably tired the whole time?