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October 2015

Beer, Chocolate, and Waffles.

Brussels

Day 21: I got absolutely no sleep the previous night. Maybe like 2 hours? I had to wake up at 6am to get ready, climbing down the 3 story bunk bed was a tad entertaining. I spent most of the day on the bus. Didn’t sleep much, zoned out to some music and pondered life’s mysteries (not really). When I got to my hostel the attendant wasn’t mean but wasn’t nice either. The hostel rooms were across the street from the actually hostel where the kitchen and breakfast were severed. No one was in my hostel room but the other 3 bunks were taken, including the one I was suppose to sleep in and I was missing a blanket. Wasn’t feeling too optimistic about Brussels at that point.

However, after a while my first roommate came in, Megan. Half Spanish, half English, but grew up in Hong Kong! I knew we’d get along. She’ll be in Brussels for 6 months for an internship and was at the hostile while she was looking for an apartment. After finishing my left over sandwich for dinner Megan and I headed to the hostel bar where Megan knew two guys she had met earlier in the day would be. Belgium beer is delicious and cheap! We found the medics, as Megan called them, (they’re studying medicine in Dublin but from California and Canada). We had a couple beers and enjoyed each other’s good company.

Day 22: Megan was off to figure out her living situation and I was off for the cities free tour but we headed down to breakfast together first. I really need to start eating more breakfast but I’m just not a breakfast person! I’m already getting tired of bread for breakfast ha but at least they have some meat this time. And the hot chocolate is AMAZING I had 3 cups.

Whenever I get to a free walking tour I always scan the crowed for the other solo travelers and kind of stalk them until I can make conversation. Today was a little different, as I was already standing near a couple other travelers our tour guide wanted to know where we were all from and then told us to introduce ourselves to the people around us for 30 seconds. The guy to my left was from Valdez, Alaska and his jaw just about hit the cobblestone when I said I had been there before. Friend number one! Then I talked to two guys who said they were from San Diego but were actually from Orange County. Upon further discussion I learned they were taking a gap year before University and only 19, one didn’t even know what Guinness was and he was heading to Dublin next! The Alaskan works in the oil business and his work schedule is 3 weeks on then 3 weeks off, he was heading back the next day but then in 3 weeks he’s going to Thailand, then after that Japan. He’s been to Europe and South America multiple times. It’s a pretty sweet set up. Then I met a guy from Slovenia who found really cheap Ryan Air tickets so decided to take of week off of school haha. And last was a guy from Singapore on holiday.

The actual tour: Manneken pis is apparently the 3rd most known statue in the world. I had never heard of it until I got to Brussels. He has his own personal tailor who has made over 800 suits for him and they routinely dress him up. Sadly he wasn’t dressed up when I was in town but I found some pictures online.

Rue de l'Étuve - Stoofstraat, Bruxelles - Brussel, België

We walked around the city square and at first glance the city hall is a beautiful building but the more you look at it you realize it’s still beautiful but completely unsymmetrical! The main arch isn’t lined up with the top of the tower, one side is longer than the other, and a different stone maker did each section so even the window frames are all different as well.

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The rest of the tour was a little bland with sprinkles of rain here and there. Although we did stop halfway through for a beer break and the bar tender gave us to go cups due to the tour, that was a first. After the tour the 4 of us solo travelers (the two guys from California split off) we went on the hunt for fries. I really got to see Brussels that day, we walked a total of about 9 miles :O We walked through the European Parliament building on our way to the fries and all the bars along the street say ‘fries welcome’, cause if you give a traveler a shit ton of fries, they’re going to want a beer to go with it. On our way back to the city center we took a detour to the 50th Anniversary Park/Gate. If it had been a bit warmer out I would have loved to just sit in the park.

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After the park on our way back to the city center Alaska and I stopped at the old church. Slovenia and Singapore had split off to head to a beer tour. At the end we stood on top of the steps and talked for a while, about travel and politics and ended with the most realistic goodbye of my travels so far. “Well, safe travels and have a good life.” Cause realistically majority of the people I meet on this trip I’ll probably never see again.

Back at the hostel Megan and I were the only two ones still checked in. When she got back from looking at another apartment we went to the store and grabbed a cheap dinner. The chocolate mouse we got for desert was delicious! After that we stayed up talking in bed a little later than I had planned haha but hey it had been a while since I had proper late night girl talk in person.

Day 23: I am so glad I went to Brugge and on a tour vs. by myself. It was a cute little town and I could have walked around by myself but it was more informative to have a guide explain everything, help with the train, and people to talk to. There were only 3 others, a couple from Seattle and a girl from Italy taking a week to travel before classes started, another cheap Ryan Air purchase.

Brugge was the first city I’d been to that had proper canals so that was a big part of the attraction for me, even in the rain the canals looked gorgeous with the golden trees along the bank or green and red ivy winding up the stone walls.

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We ended the tour at the Half Moon Brewery where we had some more delicious beer and cheese. After that our tour guide headed back but left us all with open tickets so we could return whenever we wanted, so Italy and I decided to stay and look around a little more. The city’s main income is tourists coming in for the day from Brussels so by the evening the streets were emptying. We wandered around the shops and went into a couple. The chocolate shops smelled SO good and the chocolates were so delicious. To get more attention though they had some very raunchy shaped chocolates.

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I don’t know how Italy read the signs so fast but we had no problem getting back into the city, or figuring out where to get off. If I had been by myself I probably would have gotten lost again haha.

Back at the hostel Megan and I had some more girl time, then about 11 two new girls came in and didn’t really speak English, so we started fb messaging haha.

Day 24: New roommates are very bad at being quiet, I mean I could tell they were trying but they weren’t doing very well. They work me up at 7:30 when they left for breakfast. Megan had been leaving at 7 if not 6:30 every morning for work and never woke me up. I packed up my things, ate breakfast, packed a sandwich for later and was off again.

I usually walk from the station to wherever I’m staying, I’ve lucked out that people either meet me or it ranges between 10-25 minutes away. The stop in Amsterdam to my hostel was 2.5 hours walking distance :O The bus to pick us up in Brussels was about 40 minutes late so I chatted with a young couple from Canada who were also backpacking.

Cheers Mate!

I LOVE how everyone says cheers mate, it’s kind of my favorite thing ever, especially with an English accent 😉

Huddersfield

Day 11: Came and went in a flash my goodness I was only in the city for about 16 hours. I participated in the Hansen Summer Institute this past July and one of my roommates from Tunisia, Dora, is getting her masters at the local University in Huddersfield. Whenever I would tell a local where I was going they would always give me this “Are you crazy?! Why are you going there?! Look, especially friends, strangers refrained themselves a bit.

As you might have read on Facebook getting to Huddersfield was a bit of a hassle. I ended up missing 3 different trains and getting on 2 wrong ones within the span of 20 minutes. Luckily I didn’t have to buy a new ticket for each mix-up. So due to my missed trains and taking an unnecessary stop to the Manchester airport, I arrived about 1.5 hours late. But there was Dora and some of her new university friends waiting for me! After a quick taxi back to her place we quickly got ready to go out to the end of Fresher’s week party. Freshers week takes place all throughout the UK, it’s basically the week before real lectures starts and they host a bunch of events for the freshmen, it’s basically a welcome week and everyone gets shitfaced. The end concert was more of a carnival/concert. They had performers walking around on stilts and blowing fire, a beer garden (cause the drinking age is 18 so pretty much everyone in University can drink) a twister ride type thing, food, and my favorite an inflatable obstacle type game. Everyone stands in a circle around the middle pole, the middle pole has 2 other poles facing outward at everyone, one is high you have to duck under, the other is low you have to jump over. It was great!! They had a few opening artists but the place didn’t get busy until the last two sets, DJ —-? And Sigma. I’ve never heard of them. But the locals were super excited. If we ever got too cold, because the whole thing was out doors, we’d just go in closer to the stage.

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After the concert getting back to Dora’s apartment complex was a bit difficult, the taxi’s didn’t want to drive all the way out to the concert venue. Eventually we ended up hopping on a bus back to the university in the city center. Had some more difficulties calling a taxi, then finally one agreed to pick us up! Dora was so hospitable and it was great to catch up in person! I was off early the next morning for London.

London

Day 12: I woke up in Huddersfield, Dora made me a delicious breakfast omelette and sent me on my way with snacks 🙂 The day was mostly spent on the bus, sleeping half the time but never getting quite as comfortable as I wanted.

I met Anna through Melissa who was one of my closest friends in GAA last year. Anna came out to visit Melissa in January and we went to Las Vegas with a couple other friends. I managed to arrive to London on time but per usually couldn’t easily find wifi. By the time I did I had given Anna a heart attack thinking she lost me, oops!

That night there was a World Cup Rugby match on, Wales vs England so Anna, her roommate (Ruth), and I met up with 2 friends of hers to watch the game. I had never really watched rugby so it was great to have some guys explain it, but I like it! It’s fast pace and the rules are pretty easy to catch onto. It was a really close match but Wales pulled ahead in the end, which Anna loved since she’s from Wales. After that we went out to a cocktail bar and I got to play the accent of a snooty American during a story one of the guys was telling. Eventually we ended the night at another bar/ club where the bar tenders kept ‘making it rain’ with napkins and ice. Then the bar help had to go around picking up all the napkins haha.

Day 13: We all got a late start to day 2 in London since we were out till 3 ish the night before. After having a bacon bitty (bacon and toast sand which) we headed off to explore the city. I still get the zones wrong but I think we were in Zone 2? Anna, Ruth, and I explored the London eye and walked through all the street performers that hang out in front of it by the river. We walked across the river to see Big Ben and a better view of the eye. Of course I then had to take a stereotypical tourist pic with a phone box and Big Ben in the background.

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We Grabbed sandwiches for lunch and sat in the sun in front of National Gallery watching the kids run around and play on the statue. It really was a gorgeous day in London, then we walked through St. James Park to Buckingham Palace.

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After that we wandered through Piccadilly Circus, a giant shopping center and department store I forget the name of…. Checked out M&M world then found a plaza where they had dozens of Wallace the sheep statues!

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After walking around for almost 5 hours we were all pretty tired, and Anna and Ruth both had work early the next morning so we headed back to their place and ordered take away (they say take away not take out haha).

Day 14: Anna and Ruth both had to go to work all day so I got to explore the city on my own which was quite fun. I started at the Tower of London and walked along the waters edge towards Tower Bridge and passed a group of school children. They were only about 4-5 years old, all holding hands and being all adorable with their accents and everything. I know I was in the tourist zones but besides the school children I rarely heard an English accent. It was a mixture of every language imaginable; at least that’s what it sounded like to me. After Tower Bridge I wandered over to Borough Market where everything smelled delicious, then made my way over to Shakespeare’s globe. I wasn’t interested enough to pay for the tour but had a good time walking around. Anna and Ruth both work pretty late so I grabbed some dinner on my way back and managed to finally publish my first post to my blog post!

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Canterbury

Day 15: I slept in a bit, packed my things up, hopped on a tram to the city center and was off to see Connor! Connor was my 4th GAA meet up. I forgot to tell him I was coming in by coach instead of train. I got in 45 min late and once again I was on that wifi hunt. Once I figured out directions it was a nice walk through Canterbury’s main street. That night one of Connors clubs, the Sci-fi, Fantasy and eXtreme cult (SFX) society, was putting on a free showing of Mad Max, which was actually a pretty decent movie. I tried a sip of their famous college drink a ‘snake bite’, which is half cider, half beer and has some black cherry syrup type of mixture added.

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Day 16: I already lost a sock 😥 I did laundry that morning and after everything had dried and I was matching up my socks I noticed I was missing one. NO clue where it went or where I lost it, I thought I had been really good about folding them up into balls when putting them in my laundry bag! I went to explore the city of Canterbury with Harry while Connor was at class. I also met Harry in San Diego through my student org. We walked up the main strip, over to the cathedral, down a couple side streets and stopped in a cute café, hot chocolate in Europe is amazing. After getting football (soccer) shoes for Harry we stopped on our way back at the grocery store so I could stock up on food for next couple days.

Connor dropped his gf off at the train station who had also been staying with him and then we got ready for the evening. We were going to the mixer for Connor’s male Lacrosse team but I got to tag along anyways. They are so entertaining, it was a great night.

Day 17: Connor and I decided to do a longer tour of the city of Canterbury. Oh and remember the hot chocolate from yesterday? Today’s was SO much better it was like melted chocolate it was so creamy and delicious! After drinking the hot chocolate in another adorable cafe we wandered down the streets, I saw the towns most slanted door and then we checked out the Cathedral. It was interesting because there’s a school on the other side of the Cathedral so there were a bunch of kids in their school uniforms just laying out on the grass. After that we checked out the old and very run down castle and wall that use to surround the city. I had been sleeping on their couch down stairs but one of Connor’s housemates was going home for the weekend so offered me his bed for the next 3 nights, so nice of him!

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Day 18: Connor only had an evening class so we went to Whitstable. A very very tiny coastal town, you can’t really call it a beach town cause there isn’t much of a beach either haha. We walked up the streets looking at the shops, which were mostly directed at people over the age or 60 or under the age of 10. We got some delicious fish and chips for lunch, ate them by the beach, then went to his favorite Ice cream parlor. My ice cream came in a little yellow boat (literally a boat) and the spoon was a tiny little shovel. Small towns tend to have the cutest shops.

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That evening Claire came back because her living situation wasn’t working out for the weekend. Plans for that evening kept changing and we went to a few friends houses but ended the night on the Connors roof curled up in blankets talking to the people walking down the street haha.

Day 19: Found said lost sock from a few days ago! Saturday was a lazy day. It would also be my last day with my own room for a couple weeks so wanted to take advantage of it, it was great! And just what I needed before the main portion of my hostel life started where I’ll constantly be in a room with 3-12 other people. I slept in, caught up with family and friends back home, edited some photos, took a nap, and updated my blog.

London part 2

Day 20: Connor dropped me off at the bus station and I was on my way back to London! I had my second HSI reunion with Aisha, she’s from England/lives there and took the bus into London to hang out with me for the day! We checked out Buckingham Palace again, walked through a couple parks, and went to the National History Museum.

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Aisha had to head back in the evening because she had class in the morning so I ventured off to find a friends older brother I had never met haha. I met Miranda through GAA, and her older brother who was visiting London for 2 weeks so she put us in contact with one another! My favorite thing about meeting other travelers is it doesn’t matter if they’re strangers, Alex and I had never met nor did we really know anything about one another BUT we had a great conversation over dinner about past travels, future travels, and life in general. After dinner he helped me navigate back to my hostel and we parted ways.

I was only in the hostel for 1 night because my coach to Brussels was early the next morning but I only got about 2 hours of sleep >.< It was a 15 person hostel room and I was on the 3rd bunk. Yes there were 5 bunks 3 beds tall and some guy decided to call his girlfriend or someone at 2am from his bed. Put a bit of a damper on my evening but I was off early the next morning for Brussels!

Highland Cows

Glasgow
Day 8: My 8am flight from Belfast to Glasgow was only about 25 minutes, I passed out before we even took off and didn’t wake up until the jolting of the landing. Besides when I checked my bag at the airport no one looked at my passport. Once again transportation from the airport to the city center wasn’t that hard. Figuring out the map, however, was a different story. I ended up wandering around Glasgow’s shopping district/ city center for about an hour until my backpack started to get too uncomfortable. Then I had my fist of many meet ups for my travels! Donald studied abroad at my Uni for the past year and we met through the organization I started the year before that.
My favorite part about traveling is meeting the locals, even if they are a bit wacky. Donald and I went for lunch at this old bank now made into a pub! We chose to eat in an old safety deposit box room. After only about 5 minutes this woman, about 60 with bright blue eye shadow, walks in and asks to join us while she waits for a friend. She was very nice and interested in who we were, how we knew each other, and my travels. She ended up staying pretty much as long as we did and joining in on our conversations but was very polite and kept apologizing for interrupting. I also tried a local favorite brew, St. Mungo beer! There are so many little Harry Potter terms/ facts I’ll learn about in the UK (St. Mungo’s is the hospital in Harry Potter for those who don’t know).
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After lunch Donald had to return to class and I was off to meet up with another old friend from university who I’d be staying with that night, Jack. After finally finding each other (It’s always a game to see where can I find free wifi to communicate with people haha) we went to explore the old Cathedral, St. Mungo’s Cathedral. The top of the graveyard had a pretty decent view of the city. There is also a statue in the middle of the town that the locals keep putting a cone on, police often take it down but the locals always put it back up!
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Jack’s family was extremely welcoming and a joy to spend time with. When I first arrived I just sat in the kitchen talking to his parents about my travels, theirs as well and all drinking wine. His mum made a delicious meal for dinner and we all spent the evening sitting in the living room drinking coffee and biscuits, talking, and watching their two labradoodles play. An Empire Biscuit is SOOO good by the way 🙂
Edinburgh
Day 9: I definitely enjoyed staying with Jack’s family outside of Glasgow but I am so glad I took the time to go visit Edinburgh because it is just something else completely. Majority of the roads are cobble stone, the buildings along the Royal Mile are still from the 1700’s, and there are men walking around in kilts. After catching the train on a very chill morning I met up with my friends from Dublin! Rebecca, who is actually living in Edinburgh on a working visa, and Jake and Natalie who were also just visiting. We started the morning off with another free walking tour and our guide was really from South Africa but he was very knowledgable on the city and could easily answer any questions thrown his way. He filled our morning and early afternoon with folklore tales, Harry Potter facts, and a history of the city.
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After the tour we went on the hunt for some haggis, then we all got in the mood for pies but all the pie shops are SUPER tiny and already had people seated at their tables so eventually we wandered into a pub. After re-fueling we went on the search for a certain park which we were told had some great views of the city/ castle and boy were they right.
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We walked along the Royal mile stopping in a few souvenir shops and exploring cool alleyways. By this time our feet were a little sore after walking around for about seven hours so headed back to Jack and Natalie’s hostel before I had to catch my train.
The only thing I wasn’t able to see and wanted to was to hike up to Aurthurs peak but it’s a good couple hour hike and with only one day I wanted to see the city. I do want to go back (in warmer weather) and explore the high lands so maybe then I’ll stop back in Edinburgh.
Glasgow Part2
Day 10: We woke up to stormy stormy weather, high winds and high rains, but we were determined to go on a hike. Or climb a hill as Jack liked to call it. After picking up one of his friends we made our way to Tinto Hill. Got a little lost along the way and made out way up the hill. I have never hiked in such windy conditions. Wind was probably 20mph most of the way to the top and about 50 at the very top, making it almost impossible to take any photos.
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On the way back into town it started to rain, and not just a little rain but pouring down rain, lucky us missed it on the hill!
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Day 11: I got up after being able to sleep in a little bit, showered, packed up my things and headed to the station to head off to England!
hmmmm
Highland Cows
You’re probably wondering why I titled this post Highland cows. And no it’s not because they’re the national animal of Scotland, the Unicorn actually is haha. BUT Highland cows are just absolutely adorable and in all the driving and train rides I never actually saw any but feel everyone needs to know about these adorable creatures.
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