Change for a 20?

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It was March 1st; my last day in Rome, and the weather was beautiful. The sun was out. There was no wind. I wish it had been weather like this my entire trip. Baking in the sun I felt happy. I decided to sleep in as late as possible, and not leave my room until checkout. My flight to London wasn’t until 8:30pm, so I had some time to kill. I had basically seen what I wanted to see. I could have visited a museum, but with the weather so nice I felt guilty about spending it inside. I decided to revisit the places I liked most, and pick a few spots to enjoy the sunshine and read a good book. I decided to get breakfast. Italy was the first place I saw signs that read, “No sitting fee.” You would charge me more to sit in your café? Why would I ever sit there? It might be the cynical American in me speaking, but if you charge me to sit in your café, you can better believe I won’t be tipping, but more likely I won’t be eating there. So in places like that, everyone crowds around the counter and drinks their coffee or eats their biscuit. I was tricked when I ate breakfast. I don’t remember seeing a sign about a sitting fee. The guy asked if I wanted to sit and I said sure. Sure enough when I got up to pay a $2 fee was added to my bill. And I only had a coffee and a croissant. I thought that was a cheeky move. My first stop in the great sunshine was to the colosseum again. I really liked that place. I saw the queue to get in, and was glad I didn’t have to wait in it. Rome did seem a bit more crowded, and I’m sure it was because of the abundance of sunshine. I walked around and took more pictures. You know, typical tourist things. Then I made my way up the main road, past the Roman Forum, and to Palazzo Valentini (which was that large museum I was describing in my previous blog). I then went to the Campidoglio, and just chilled for a bit. I could sit on the wall and gaze at the ruins below. People watch. I could have read my book, but decided not to. It had actually been a few hours since I left my room and decided it was time to figure out lunch. There was an outdoor market plaza place I had gone to everyday and I really wanted to get some food there. I hate it though, when I am looking at a menu and some guy comes up to me and says “come to my restaurant”. “Come follow me”. I really don’t like being told what to do. And I like to make my own decisions. So I went into the restaurant next to his. I went with the homemade pasta fettuccine alfredo. And it was good. Not quite like the raviolis I had in Florence, but still good. Better than the tortellinis I had which I’m pretty sure came from the same package that I buy at the grocery store. After my pasta, it was time for one last gelato. There was a plaza of ruins I liked, and decided to sit and eat it there. But before gelato, I went to the ruins and saw more cats. Tons of cats this time. And they were lying out in the sun all over the ruins. I was really confused why there were so many cats. I pet about 3 cats before I saw the sign that said “Cat Sanctuary.” It all made sense. I went in and checked it out. There were cats everywhere. But at the sanctuary they feed them, and take care of them. Make sure they aren’t sick or and that they can’t make more cats. Some cats were disabled and had to be kept in a special room. All the cats were friendly. So after the cat sanctuary, I went and got my gelato, and came back to the ruins to eat it. I had invented a cool game of I spy a Kitty. And you could really find kitties hidden all over the ruins. My first night in Rome, I stayed in a different place than where I had been staying recently. I also left my book there. They had it. I just needed to go get it. My time in Rome was coming to an end, so I decided to go and retrieve my book. It ended up being quite a walk. And I was sweating by the time I got there. And when I looked at the time, I felt like I was running out of time. I needed to collect my book, walk back to my new place, collect my bag, walk to the train station, take the train to the airport, check in, and then relax. And that is what I did. All that walking in the Italian sun made me sweat a little. Opps. But everything worked out. I was on an empty airplane headed back to London for the last time. It was after 10pm when we landed. So it was after 11pm in Italy. I took the train, and decided I could walk from the station to my hotel. It was maybe a 15 minute walk. The Paddington Station was confusing to get out of for someone looking to walk. I ended in a plaza type thing, and decided to follow this large group of people. Well they were headed to their hotel which lead to nowhere. So I had to pull out a map and figure out where I was. The hotel clerk gave me some direction which was nice. I finally found the main road after wondering around aimlessly for 15-20 minutes. So my 15 minute walk turned into a 40 minute walk. All while lugging my suitcase in the dark through London. The area I was in seemed pretty empty to, so I kept looking over my shoulder just in case. Really I had been walking since 11am in Rome, and it was now almost midnight in London and I was still walking. Once I got on the main road I could sort of tell where I was. And I was headed in a direction I was familiar with, so I wasn’t worried. I finally made it to the hotel at midnight. Checked in and went to sleep. I was going to see the Lion King play the following day, and my friend from America was coming to meet me. It was going to be another long day. The play was at 2, and I didn’t get out of bed until almost 11. It poured rain all morning, and I had experienced enough of that in Italy. The play was amazing. I loved the songs and the visuals. I could totally be a play goer if they didn’t cost an arm and a leg. After the play, I decided to hang out in the Covent Garden area and wait for my friend. She was scheduled to land around 7:30. I found a neat bar that sold 3 pound Stellas. I hung there until about 8, and decided to head to the hotel and wait for Wilma. I arrived at 8:30 and no sign of her. 8:30 turned into 9 and still no sign. We had dinner plans. I only ate a small salad after the play to hold me over til dinner. At 9:30 I was getting ready to eat my arm. I finally had to leave a note and go to Tesco’s for something to snack on. At almost 10pm, I was getting ready for bed. I suppose I could have turned the TV on, but didn’t think of that. Instead I sat there in silence, and every time I heard footsteps outside I ran and opened the door to find my neighbors coming and going. And after the third time of that happening, I’m sure my neighbors think I’m a freak. At 10pm I heard a knock. It was Wilma. She was finally here! Turns out the subway I told her to take was on a delay. So she went to a different stop and decided to walk. I think she didn’t realize how massive Hyde Park is, and so she walked for over an hour. She was about to eat her arm off as well so we went down the road for some Indian. The curry was good. Spicy but good. I asked the worker if he could break my 20. He said he didn’t have enough bills to do so. Basically the story is the bill was 22 pounds. Wilma and I each owed 11. We both has 20s, and I had a 10. The worker refused to break a 20. He saw my 20 and 10, and basically said you have enough money to pay for it. Use this. Well that would consist of me paying for the whole meal. Then Wilma asked if he could split the check, and he almost got angry. So I ended up paying for it, and Wilma and I worked it out later. But now looking back, we should have each thrown in a 20. Since the bill was 22 he would basically have to break a 20 anyway. And what type of restaurant doesn’t have change for a 20! My second thought was I should have put it on my card. Something to say forget you for being difficult. I left no tip. Though I think the worker being difficult about the bill was different from our waiter. I was upset and couldn’t really tell. Thus concluded my second night and Wilma’s first in London. What respectable establishment doesn’t have change for a 20?!

The Final Go

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It was Thursday, and on Saturday I was scheduled to participate in the Nuts Challenge. It is 14k (two laps) in the cold, sloppy mud, and about 50 obstacles or something. Bottom line, I really needed to go on one final run to prepare my body for torture on Saturday. I told Wilma my plan, and gave her some suggestions to do while I was out. She was sleeping when I left, and 10k later she was still sleeping. In all fairness, she had been consistently traveling for the last few days, and probably hadn’t had a proper night’s sleep to adjust to the time difference yet. Plus she was getting sick. Anyway, it worked out. Because I did my run, and still had time to shower and get ready, and then we could hit the town of London together. I had already done most of London tourist things before, so I let Wilma pick what she wanted to see and guided her there. We got lunch, checked out Parliament, Buckingham Palace and then went to Harrods. Harrods was a recommendation of my Nana’s. It’s her favorite store even though she can’t really afford to shop there. I think most people can’t afford to shop there. We both needed to use the restroom and searched for it in Harrods. I don’t know why the bathroom was so difficult to find there, but it took about 4 floors, two workers and almost 20 minutes to find it. Harrods reminded me of a casino. The décor was Egyptian Jungle themed. Wilma described it as the Disneyland of department stores. We went to a café on the 6 floor or something and had some overpriced coffee and hot chocolate. Earlier in the day we had tried to buy our train ticket from London to Worthing. This would have been my third ticket I bought with them. For some reason we could not purchase the tickets online. I thought it was their website, but it was now 5pm and I still couldn’t purchase train tickets, so I decided to call them. The lady on the phone said she could see where I had tried to buy my train tickets 3 different times. She said their restricted my account for fraud. I explained it was not fraud. I had bought tickets online with them before using the exact same credit card. She said there was nothing she could do and the restriction would be removed tomorrow. I became angry because tomorrow I would have to pay full price for a train ticket which was over 4 times the price I had been quoted online. I argued with them about restricting my account when I had used them before no problem, and the customer service rep started giving me attitude and asking me if I would prefer they did nothing to monitor my account and let random people buy train tickets under my name and card. And I said it’s not FRAUD! You are preventing ME from buying a ticket. It was not a pleasant phone call, as we both started getting rather sassy. I basically told her thanks for nothing, she said you’re welcome and we hung up. I then had a brilliant idea to go to the train station and buy the tickets there. There was no way they could say anything about fraud because I would physically be there with my card and ID. In the kiosk I could only see full price tickets so I waited in line to talk to someone. He searched his computer and could only find full price tickets. I started to argue again. I was looking at my phone maybe ½ hour ago and saw the discounted tickets. He said there was nothing he could do. We saw another customer service place for Southern and Wilma asked if I wanted to go in there and talk to someone. We were headed to a Jack the Ripper tour that night and had originally planned on stopping by the hotel before going to the tour. We were running out of time now and would probably have to head straight to the tour. I went inside the office and complained again. The lady said she understood my frustration, was confused why Southern put a fraud warning on my account and told me there was nothing she could do. The only good thing the lady said was at 6pm the systems reset and advance tickets were no longer available. Why couldn’t anyway tell me that earlier! I hung up the phone at 5:25 and was talking to this lady at 6:30. I was beyond frustrated with Southern Train and I wish there was another way to get from London to Worthing because I would do it just so I didn’t have to take their service. Unfortunately there wasn’t and I was forced to pay full price for a train ticket. I tried to buy my first train ticket from them at 11am online. It still gets me boiled up thinking about it. I filed a complaint. I’m sure nothing will come from it, but I hope anyone reading this can learn the cheeky ways of the train companies so they don’t get scammed like me.  So after paying a ridiculous amount of money for a train ticket, we went to East London for our Jack the Ripper tour. The tour was pretty cool. It was a history lesson about the era, the area and the famed killer all in one. After the tour we finally made it back to our hotel to drop off some shopping and I needed to brush my hair. It was now after 10pm and definitely dinner time. I thought we might go for a few beers afterwards and decided to head to Camden Town. The only place still serving food was the kebab joint but oh well. We made our way into a local pub and quickly made friends with a group of boys there. We were chatting and having a good time when one of the boys got creepy. Think Italian Creepy but even more abrasive and up front about his intentions. He even pulled some of the same lines as the Italian like, “what kind of adventures are you looking for.” And I rolled my eyes and thought to myself not again. So again I said no, no, no and no. But he wouldn’t drop it. I had no idea how to get Wilma involved in the conversation. It wasn’t like I could text her an SOS. The creepo finally asked a question about her and I said, “How about you ask her yourself.” Wilma heard her name called and turned to us. The Turkish boy now living in London asked Wilma his questions and she was quite taken aback. WTF is what she was thinking. And thank goodness I’m not in this alone anymore is what I was thinking. I would have left a long time ago, but I really wanted to finish my drink. And for a second there I thought the guy was kidding with his advances. But after he received more nos from both Wilma and I he said, “Well why you don’t guys leave then.” At this point the rest of his friend had gone out for a cigarette, and Wilma said, “Don’t you smoke?”  The boy left for a minute, I started chugging my beer, and when he returned he said, “Why are you two still here?” It wasn’t funny anymore. I finished my beer, went to the bathroom and we left. We said goodbye to the normal boys we met and they were confused as to why we were leaving so soon. I thought in my head. Your friend is a freak. That’s why. Chilling at the second bar we saw two of the normal boys show up and I shook my head. Please don’t let the creep be here. He wasn’t thank goodness. They even admitted to him getting perverted when he is drinking. Thanks for warning us aholes. We basically shut everything is Camden Town down and then took a cab home. I called the front desk to ask what time check out was and he said whenever, just not before 7am. Since it was 3:30am I don’t think checking out after 7am would be an issue. But for me to check out whenever. That clerk might regret telling us that.

Glasgow

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I spent most of my last day in Edinburgh in a museum. I walked by the Elephant House Cafe where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter. I took a picture, but did not go inside. It was too crowded, and I read reviews that the food wasn’t worth the price. I took a train to Glasgow, and got settled in. As I mentioned before, I was meeting my friend Rose. She was in Glasgow because a friend of her’s from Ireland now lives there. After dinner, I took the subway to the West Side of town and met up with Rose and her friend Laura. It was raining of course, but that is Scotland. We socialized for the night. Went to a few different bars, and even hung out with a few other locals.  Some locals I could understand, others I couldn’t. It was similar to Ireland. Depends on how fast they speak. The next morning I had decided to visit the People’s Palace, which is a garden and a small museum, and the Glasgow Cathedral. I met Rose and her friends at the Cathedral, and then we got some lunch. When we were out the night before, a local told me how Scotland needed a “last call,” but you could stay out all night in London. I asked why the difference since they were both part of the UK. His response was The Scottish, especially the Glaswegians, were alcohlics. They need to be sent home to prevent bad things from happening. This came to light during my time at the People’s Palace. They had an entire section designated to responsible drinking. I saw pictures of drunk guys passed out in the gardens during the middle of the day, and they had a wooden charriot type wagon thing on display. This was used to haul the drunk people off to jail during the 1800s.  Another interesting piece in the museum was “determine their punishment.” The Glaswegians had been given a survey. It was different scenarios, all resulting in murder, and they picked jail time or death as a sentence.  Mind you some deaths were on accident or negligence, and some were quite gruesome. The Glaswegians are brutal. They said everyone should be sentanced to death. The Scottish see no mercy.  My time in Glasgow was rather lazy. I did see the city. I walked around it a lot both during the day and at night.  I checked out the Necropolis  which is a creepy cemetery. Some tombstones stand over 15 feet tall, and even have rooms. The dates weren’t as old as  I thought, and some date of deaths were in the 1930s. Not sure why you need a 15 foot tomb room, but to each’s own. It was wonderful spending time with Rose and her friends, and I met some girls at my accommodation that I befriended as well. Glasgow was a different city for me compared to Edinburgh. I really enjoyed my time in Scotland. The stories were interesting. The country has been at war with either each other or someone else (primarily England) since the beginning of time. It is a beautiful country. The Highlands are breathtaking, and the cities have there own unique beauty. Glasgow is a little more modern, and boosts the second largest shopping area in GB outside of London. Edinburgh has some modernization to it, but the old city is something to brag about. I loved the old case stairwells, the cobblestone, the castle. The food was fine. The UK isn’t known for their food. I did try some Haggis. It was fine. And I had an Arran burger. Arran is my father’s first name, and they had quite a bit of food and beverage items with his name on it. The weather was less than ideal, but I came in February so I wasn’t expecting much. The Scottish are hilarious. They are very proud of their heritage. I told my tour guide I had some Haggis in England, but was looking to try some in Scotland. When I said that, the tour driver spit. Keep up the feisty spirit you guys. Cheers Scotland.

The Highlands

IMG_9529I was dressing warm for my trip to the Scottish Highlands. My fleece lined leggings, ski socks, thermals, winter coat, gloves and my winter headband. It was going to be a 12 hour tour. We were going to drive through Glen Coe, Ben Nevis, Loch Ness, Inverness, Cairn Gorm Mountains and then return to Edinburgh. It snowed the night before which made the mountains beautiful. The mountains in Scotland aren’t as tall as those in California or New Zealand, but they were still beautiful. The bus driver was halrious. He wore a kilt and had three rules. Don’t talk on your cellphone during the tour, don’t talk when he is talking, and be on time. A group of about 4 people were late for the tour and the guide gave them a hard time for it. It was funny to watch. We drove passed Sterling Castle where the William Wallace mounment is. So unfortunately I was unable to get any proper pictures because we never stopped. As we got further into the Highlands, the snow became thicker, and the scenery became more beautiful. It was now snowing and blustery again. We had reached Glen Coe where the first stop was scheduled. I was nervous. It looked awful outside. The driver said from this point we wouldn’t be able to see anything , espcially the Three Sisters which is the main attraction. He drove a little further down the road and pulled over on the other side of the hill. The snow and wind had stopped, and it even looked like the sun might break through. We stepped outside the bus and took in the amazingness that surrounded us. It was like I was back in New Zealand staring at the Southern Alps speechless. It was absolutely breathtaking. This is Scotland. Omigod, Scotland. I was not expecting this. Turns out Glen Coe has a sad history. An entire clan was murdered. Also, the area is where scences from Skyfall were filmed along with Harry Potter. We kept driving and made another bonus stop to take in the beautiful panorama that surrounded us. The sun had come out now. I needed my sungalsses in Scotland. It wasn’t warm, but it wasn’t rainy or windy either. Our next stop was Loch Ness. We arrived just in time for our tour. As soon as the boat launched, the wind and rain came. I tried to hang out up top and outside for as long as possible, one so I could see the sites, and two the inside was too crowded for my taste. We searched for Nessie, but did not see anything. We took the boat to an old run down castle, the only one on Loch Ness. Loch Ness is the second largest lake in Great Britian. Only second to the largest lake I saw in Northern Ireland. After our cruise, we returned to the bus and started the journey home. The driver wasn’t a fan of Inverness and drove quickly through it. I was exhausted. I’m pretty sure the driver is used to people falling asleep on his tour, especially in winter after nightfall, so he plays an audio tape. I peaked out the window for any Northern lights, but I was unsucessful. We arrived in Edinburgh late, but suprisingly I was no longer exhausted and decided to go check out a ghost tour. The guide told us stories of all the executions that used to go on in the square we were standing in and the street that my hotel was on. The executions were quite brutal and went on for three days. Everyone was hung, beaten, and quartered with their body parts sent to the four corners of the UK. And their heads would be spiked in London for all to see. We then went down into the vaults. It used to be a merchants quarters, then turned into an illegal merchants quarters, then turned into a place to store dead bodies sold to the medical school, and I think finally a place for hookers. She told us strange stories about things that had happened or been felt during previous ghost tours. I grabbed my cross and started rubbing it . I’ve got my own personal guardian angel, and no spirits are coming near me. The ghost tour ended around midnight. I made my way home and went to bed. Set no alarm. And woke up at 11:30 the next day. It was glorious. My last full day in Edinburgh consited of a nice run through the new part, both in age and for me. Then I toured the castle and its grounds, and finished the day by checking out the Queen of England’s Scotland castle. During the Winter, when you wake up at 11:30am you’ve killed most of your day. I was okay with it through. I had seen Edinburgh for the beautiful city it is. Tomorrow I would check out a few more things and then take the train to Glasgow. And in Glasgow I would meet my friend Rose from Ireland. What a small world.

A Blustery Day

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It was a blustery morning when I arrived in Edinburgh. The pilot completed an excellent landing in the winds, and it was also his 30th birthday. I made my way to the tram station and headed to central Edinburgh. I had about a 10 minute walk to the hotel after my drop off point. After walking for a few moments, I was presented with a hill. I treked up the hill with my suitcase (which stands to my hip) as the wind tried to blow us around. I tried to read the map, and saw where I needed to go next. It was another hill. This one steeper, made of cobblestone, the wind was picking up and it was even starting to sprinkle a bit. I kept walking and made it onto a main street. A man was playing the bag pipes. There was a giant old Catherdral. People everywhere. Souvienor shops. And the spectacular Edinburgh Castle. I was in Scotland, and it was beautiful. I continued to follow the directions, but I was lost. I was on an upper street and needed to be on the lower street. I couldn’t understand google maps. I stopped to study the map. It was really howling now, and my 10 minutue walk turned into a 20 minute trek up two large hills in the wind and rain all while lugging my suitcase around. I finally figured out there was a secret staircase that I needed to use to get to the lower street. I lugged my suitcase down the small and dark case. A case being an alleyway for people only. I finally reached a downhill point in my journey. And at the bottom of the hill was my hotel. My room wasn’t quite ready, but that was okay. I had some errands to run. Yep, I was on holiday and running errands. I booked my Highland tour for the following morning and then made my way into town. One of my errands was I wanted to figure out Peru. I went into the STA travel shop and found a program that would work for me. It isn’t quite as long as what I was originally looking for, but I’m okay with that. So basically I booked a volunteer/adventure package. I will work with children and help them gain certain skills so they can succeed in life, and then I will have two side trips. One to Machu Picchu (which was my main goal for Peru) and another to the Amazon. Everything is already planned for me. Where I’m going to stay, what I will be doing each day, plus some scheduled free days. My airport transfer, my two side trips are all organized, and I have a few day trip activities already planned. It’ll be different than what I’m used to but I’m okay with that. I will be with the same people for the entire 20 days, and most of my time with be spent in Cuzco. I’m looking forward to staying in one place for a bit because consistently traveling does get tiresome. Also, I could be more excited for Machu Picchu and the Amazon. One last adventure before it’s back to the real world. The flight was the most difficult to situate. San Francisco had the most options, but not without a long layover. I have about 24 hours of travel on my way there and back. Plus I fly in and out of San Francisco at really bizarre times. No direct route to South America for me. Another cool thought, this will be my 5 continent since I started my travels. Besides Antartcia , I only have Asia left. Settling everything for Peru took a while, but that is okay. The weather was atrocious anyway. My second errand was renewing my mobile phone plan. I officially checked into my hotel and settled down. I walked around a little bit and got some dinner.  I was right next to a few pubs, one being the smallest pub in Scotland. I was also situated next to Scobby’s Cafe which I loved. My tour the next day had an early start, so I wasn’t going to be doing anything crazy.

The Emerald Isle: Back to the Uk

My trip is silly so far. I have gone from USA > UK> Africa> UK>Ireland> UK> Ireland> UK (where I am currently in Scotland). I was driving to Northern Ireland to visit a friend of mine I had met in New Zealand. This would be the second NZ friend I have met in Europe. I now have friends all over the world. Its wicked. It was a long drive to her house

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. And I never went through another town since I left Galway. I was in the middle of nowhere Ireland. There is no border patrol. Didn’t even know I was back in the UK until I tried to pay for my chocolate milk in Euros and the cashier looked at me silly. “Oh..you want a pound.” My friend lives in the middle of nowhere. I drove about a half hour off the main road through farms until Siri said my destination was on the left. I tried calling Rose to let her know I’m nearby because I wasn’t entirely sure which house was her’s. No service. I aimlessy walked around utill I found reception. I had dropped my car off at the fish and chips shop. I was in the right area. Siri told me I had arrived about 30 seconds to late. Rose was impressed. She said she will now tell her other local friends that they have no excuse if they can’t find her house. The American girl found it. She had another friend over (Cardessia…I know I didn’t spell that right). Long story short there was a lady who had been sick. The doctors didn’t really have an answer for her as to why she was sick. Cardessia had a relic of a powerful Saint someone had lent to her. Her and Rose were going to lady’s house to say a few prayers and bless her with the relic. My next observation about Ireland was that it was very religious, but the Irish also like to party and have fun. I had come to that conclusion before I arrived at Rose’s. I hadn’t seen so many catherdrals and churches in such a small area. But I haven’t been to Italy yet. We went to the lady’s house. On our way there we saw a wake was going on at her neighbors. Rose asked the guys standing out front who had passed away, and if they new where house Mcgholin was. They knew. Small town. Frances was a lovely women. Bless her. She made us tea, brought out crackers. We chated for a bit. Turns out she used to take Cardessia’s Granny to mass when she was wee. The girls wanted to make sure I wasn’t feeling uncomfotable. I said not at all. I was getting a local Irish experience I would remember for the rest of my life. Some stories were told. Tales exchanged. We said some prayers and blessed Frances. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but my sister Fraine came to surface and some tears were shed and more prayers were exchanged. God works in mysterious ways. And we all agreed he doesn’t take those who aren’t ready, and have served their time on earth. It’s still tough because she didn’t need to serve long. We went back to Rose’s house and ordered some take out. Since it was Valentine’s Weekend most of the restaurants were fully booked up. Rose and I were going out that night with another friend of her’s named Ciara. I said my goodbyes to Cardessia. We went to a little bit bigger of a town. Kind of like going from Gridley to Chico, expect the big town is Gridley. And Gridley has about one street full of pubs. We drank, we danced, we chated. I had a blast. We got back into Rose’s house late. My drive was shorter the following day, but it had been a long week. I was made a traditional Irish breakfast which was brillant. Rose showed me around a few more highlights in her town which included some cottages, the lake they live near, and the chapel. This is how I know I wasn’t possesed back in Killarney. I walked into the chapel and even spoke with a Father. No spirit would have been able to do that. I said my goodbyes to Rose, but they were only temporary. Turns out she has a friend in Glasgow, and will be visiting her the same time I’m in Glasgow. What are the chances. I drove to Dublin, and walked around. I checked out the Temple District. The whole week I had been listening to Irish radio, and all they talked about was a shooting in Dublin. The gang problem in Dublin. How violence had risen, and the cops were scared of the mob. I was a little hesitant to be walking around Dublin on my own at night, so I made sure to stay in crowded areas. There was an awesome band playing a free show on the street. It started snowing. Lots of couples since it was actual Valentine’s Day. Dublin was okay. I didn’t get to see lots of the usual sights because I ran out of time. That was my last night in Ireland. I made it to the airport. Returned the car okay, and faced no problems coming back into England. Actually I didn’t even go through immigration. Go figure.

London

So far anytime I had asked someone who had recently travelled to London, “How was it?” “I’m headed there soon?” They all responded, “Expensive.” I thought to myself, do I look poor? I kind of bought my own plane ticket from the west coast to Europe. I think I can afford a few days in London. I didn’t think London would be cheap. But I knew I would be able to make due. With the shortened days; I arrived in London just as the sun was setting. I asked the receptionist of the place where I was staying if London was worth seeing at night. She almost laughed, said London is quite beautiful at night, and then pointed to a poster of London at night behind her. The entire city was illuminated. Not quite like Times Square, but similar to the New York skyline at night. I was slowly becoming a master at the London “tube”. Subway. It is more expensive than the bus, but so convenient and easy and fast. I’m not counting pennies yet, so I take the subway. I don’t know if I can accurately describe how I was feeling when I emerged from the subway and first saw Big Ben.

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He was across the street from me. Massive, lit up and brilliant as ever. I did a large loop around Westminster, Parliament, and the London Eye. The weather was perfect for a winter’s night in London. I walked along the Thames river and saw Parliament, in its entirety, lit up, and listened to Big Ben ring. I envisioned Peter Pan flying with Wendy, Michael and John in front of Big Ben’s face (don’t judge haha). I also felt like a part of the Mouse Detective and kept a look out for Ratigan. The London Eye was closed unfortunately. As with the dungeon. Easy way to not spend money if everything is closed. I made my large loop around the river and retired for the night. Tomorrow was Harry Potter. (Insert heart eyes emoji now). I saw the large sign that read Harry Potter Studios. I saw the chest pieces outside. I was smiling from ear to ear. I walked inside, saw the Christmas tree still set up, the pictures of them from book one and then book 7. Ahh, I totally grew up with these guys. I put on my Gryffindor uniform and entered the world of Harry Potter with Karen the Slytherin and Stephen the Hufflepuff (aka peacekeeper haha) I’m not quite sure how to explain this place because some things you just need to experience for yourself, but it was like being in the movie. Which makes sense considering it was the movie set. Something I found interesting was how small some of the rooms were because they looked massive on screen. The Great hall and Gryffindor Common room for example. It’s amazing how camera angles can manipulate everything. You could ride a broomstick on the green screen. See the Goblet of Fire which actually lit a flame and spit out a name (one guess), The Burrow, Malfoy’s Manor, the costumes used. They have the Hogwarts Express, Platform 9 3/4, Privet Drive, Godric’s Hollow, and Dumbledore’s office. The bird statue outside his office. The entire place was magical. The entire production was impressive, but one that stood out to me was the replica of Hogwarts grounds. Basically they built a smaller (but quite large) replica of Hogwarts, and how it looks from the outside or a panoramic view. They used this model for the panoramic shots of the castle. So no, there isn’t really a Hogwarts Castle look-a-like in the UK. I had some butterbeer, and made my way through the giftshop. A day with Harry and his friends was tiresome, but one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. I had one more full day left in London. So much to do and so little time. I finally bought an Oyster card which is the first thing I should of done in London. Its basically a pay as you go card for the subway and the bus, and you get a subway rate 50% cheaper than if you paid cash. I wanted to see Big Ben and Parliament during the day so I wandered up there, and after walking around a bit I made my way to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. The weather was less than ideal today. A bit drizzly, windy, but luckily not terribly cold. The Globe Theater was disappointing. You can only see a smidge of it. Otherwise its all covered by new walls they have built and you have to pay to go inside. I have come to notice that about all attractions all over the world. People want to make money somehow. In a distance I saw what I thought was London bridge. Then I realized that London bridge is quite boring to look at. It was Tower bridge I spotted from a distance. I made my way towards it when I stumbled across St Paul’s Cathedral. I say stumbled because I had no idea it existed. It was gorgeous, and I’m glad I was abe to see it. Then I came across the Tower of London. You know, the place where they beheaded people. I decided to pay money and go inside the Tower of London. Only 22 people were executed there. Most were killed on Tower Hill which was nearby, but doesn’t exist anymore from what I can see. Pretty sure its a Mcdonald’s now. However, the place was still creepy and I now it’s haunted. I wouldn’t want to be the only living soul walking around that place at night. I saw the crown jewels, and the Line of Kings. Heard the story of the two prince boys that were murdered by their uncle, so they couldn’t take the throne and then buried under some stairs. One of the building was from the year 1040 I believe. White Tower. I think the York Wall may still be older, but probably not by much. I saw the torture chamber, and where they kept the wild and exotic animals before they were sent off to the London Zoo. I would look at the view from the Tower of London and once again would see a mixture of old brick buildings over 500 years old, and in the same skyline some modern glass building from the 1990s. I’d say its unique to London, but I haven’t seen the rest of Europe yet. I think it may be unique to Europe. My last day in London I met my cousin for lunch, and he happens to work near all the shops. Its probably for the best I didn’t get to spend a lot of time there, but have I mentioned I will probably go back? I needed to head back to Worthing to do some laundry and swap out some clothes. It’s time for my journey to South Africa. I know, I have a really random itinerary. A few things I picked up on London is everyone runs with a backpack. I’m sure this is because they are running to or from work. I get the feeling the runners might be English, but that is about it. Otherwise no one in London is British, but from somewhere else in Europe or the world. And I never knew dual citizenship was a thing. But if you have a parent who was born in France, but you were born and raised in the US, you can get a French passport. And with a French passport you can work anywhere in The EU. I found that quite different.