I am excited to finally be writing this adventure, I am surprised it has taken so long.
Over a year ago I went out looking for my self, what I came back with was better. I didn't find "my self", but I found a better understanding of the world around me.
It had been a long day of travel when I finally arrived at Heathrow airport. I was excited and nervous and smelly. I washed up in the bathroom and waited for my aunts plane to land. Heathrow has a café by the exit so I did a currency exchange, got a sim card and ordered my first pot of tea in the UK. I never knew a pot of tea could be so exciting. My aunt arrived and we made it to our hostel just fine. We stayed at the Palmers Lodge Swiss Cottage. I really loved it. It rained the next morning and it was perfect.
I am not going to walk you through day by day, but just the highlights.
We went to Les Miserables, and wandered the streets of London on some of the days, but of course we had to go to Stone Henge, Big Ben and The London Eye. We knocked those all out in one day. I was surprisingly not impressed with Stone Henge. The pigs across the street were more interesting. However Big Ben and Parliament are more beautiful then you could imagine. I think my favorite night with her was after Les Mis. The two of us wandered around till we found a bar serving mulled wine. We went in anxious to get warm. After we grabbed a drink and a seat we took the time to actually take in our surroundings. We had ended up in a gay bar and were the only two girls. Many of the guys gave us weird looks, but two of them took to us and asked us out our adventure so far. We had a wonderful time with them.
We also tried The Orange Pekoe for Tea Time. It was incredible and so fun. I still day dream about the tea.
We were in town during the Dr. Who 50th anniversary and I absolutely had to go! I got to stand in the Tardis and I met the costume designer. It was so fun! Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman were only a few feet away at one point! I have never been so excited just to see a few stranger.
My aunt was with my for about three days and then she left. When she left I went to Frome. I had met a family through Work Away and was scheduled to go to them. It was a beautiful house, it had been a school originally and it was next to a very old very beautiful church and graveyard. I enjoyed some of my time with them, but also felt they were taking advantage of the situation. I didn't get to go out and explore much. Also the children had lice and it worried me that I might get it. One day when they were all gone, and I was supposed to be stripping the windows of paint, I snuck some of the lice treatment they used for the kids and put it in my hair as preventative. When I did get out to explore we were surrounded by green rolling pastures, and I watched an old man pheasant hunting with his dogs and friends. I pretended I was hunting the birds with my camera. That was the first time I was awe struck with the natural rural beauty of England. Many of the nights I was with this family I would go to sleep very sad. I was not accomplishing what I had set out to do.
For my thanksgiving I asked to have the day off. I used it to go to the town Bath. It is a beautiful town and I fell in love. It just so happened to be the opening of the christmas market for them. It could not have been a more perfect day to see Bath. To celebrate the opening of the market they had a beautiful lantern parade all across the city and I joined in wandering the streets with them. It was one of the happiest days of my life and I cried for joy. That day was the turning point of my trip. I realized that the trip was mine and that I could truly do what I wanted. I spent that night and next day with the family, but then asked to be dropped at the train station so I may move on.
I went to Cardiff Whales form Frome. I had no idea what Cardiff was going to be like, and to be honest I hadn't even stopped to think that it was a different country and that they spoke a different language. That wasn't the important part, I just wanted to see something new.
It was in Cardiff that I had that same epiphany that Alex has in "Into The Wild" *spoiler alert*
That people are what make life experiences count. Without them everything matters less.
Sword fighting with strange and kind men, at a castle, in a foreign country (that spells all its words with too many consonants) can truly change your life.
I was staying in a hostel a short distance from Cardiff Castle and I absolutely loved it. It was such a fun place. I sat outside sipping my cider and people watching when two men with big beards and pipes came out and sat at a table near mine. They were lighting up the pipes and talking when I complimented them. They began talking to me and we all had a fun conversation until one became tobacco sick. The other took him up to the dorms and let him sleep it off. He came back down alone and asked to sit with me. I had moved inside and was sitting at a long table drawing. We talked for a long time and he asked my plans for the next day. He decided to tag along. Slowly a few men heard his accent and came to talk to him. They were all Australian and had never met before. I remember one had just a hoody on and it was unzipped though the rest of us had puffy jackets and boots on. By the end of the night six or so (very attractive if I might say so) Australians and I were playing giant Jenga at a bar under a bridge with fake snow on the ground. Over the next few days most of us stuck together and became good friends.
We drank too much and slept too little, but sometimes that is all life is about.
I would never trade those memories. After that I moved back to London. While in London I met back up with two of the men from Cardiff and we went on a pub crawl. It was fun and something I had always wanted to do. I was able to do it for free because someone lost a shirt. That shirt provided me free access and free drinks to four bars. It was my lucky night.
It was late when I got in. My phone was dead, I had no idea where to go and it was raining. I have no idea how, but I some how ended up only a short walk through a park to my hostel with no previous idea of where to go. I had given up a little when I saw a woman standing outside of my now favorite restaurant. She was smoking and leaning against the building, I asked her if she knew where the hostel was and she said no, but ushered me into the restaurant. She sat me down gave me some candy and water and plugged my phone in to charge. She called the hostel for me as well. I made it and they had left my key out for me. I was just fine. She had really helped me.
Edinburgh Scotland is my home away from home. I fell in love with it come sun-up. The old buildings and weird winding streets made me realize I had made it. Maybe I should have realized that before, but this was the experience I had been looking for. I wanted a place I could explore that was not entirely crowded with other tourists. I wanted to live life as if I lived in that city. The hostel I stayed in was my favorite and I made friends with a couple more Aussies while I was there. I shopped at the markets and drank with the locals. My favorite pub in Edinburgh is across from the hostel. The first night I went in, I ordered haggis nachos. The bartender looked and sounded an awful lot like Chris O'Dowd. When I ordered the nachos he said, "Oh, you are American. That serving won't be big enough for you." He called the kitchen and had them make me an embarrassingly large skillet of haggis nachos. I shared it with the other bar patrons and made a few friends. In Edinburgh I hiked Arthurs Seat, saw the castle, and went to the Scotch Whisky Tour. It was a very casual and pleasant stay. The best part of it for me was the wonderful people at Mums (the restaurant that the woman worked at) and my friend from Cardiff who joined me for the last leg of my trip. On the nights that were too wet and cold we would stay in and watch Dr Who and drink tea in our pajamas and on the good nights we would go out dancing together. He will always hold a place in my heart. It was a wonderful end to my trip, but I was incredibly sad to leave both the place and the people. I had a terrible cold and a hole in my heart as I got in the cab and said a final farewell.