The End

I have not posted anything in months, not because I have not done anything, but because I decided for once in my life to just embrace all that was happening to me.  And I did.  I embraced it, only to be kicked in the face.  Repeatedly.  Don’t get me wrong, it has not all been bad, and despite the ache, despite the frustration and feelings of desperation, I have enjoyed every last second of my adventures.

Where have I gone and what have I been doing since London?  Well, I couchsurfed for the very first time with one of the greatest people I have ever met.  We took the two hour bus trip to King’s Lynn and stayed with a woman named Rosie for a day and a half.  She took us to a pub to hear a few bands perform, and then the next morning she drove us out to Sandringham Estate (well, the gates at least!) and to the coast so I could finally see the sea.  And it was beautiful.  We arrived at the beach at high tide, when the water and the sky merge into one, eliminating boundaries so the view is limitless.  The water was so calm and everything was still.  And then the tide went out.  It was incredible.  I could barely even see water within fifteen minutes (my friend said that if water receded that quickly in Australia people would be running away screaming because it would mean there was a tsunami on the way).  She let me stay for ages, just walking along the shore picking up shells and rocks and seaweed.  Thank you Rosie 🙂

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After King’s Lynn I went to Bath.  I saw the Roman baths and of course I went to the Jane Austen Center (and had a delightful tea at the tea room), but the main event in Bath was J.K. Rowling.  Yes, I saw (and briefly met) J.K. Rowling.  She gave an hour long interview at The Forum for the literary festival, and then afterwards signed copies of her new novel, The Casual Vacancy (which luckily I brought to England with me!).  For the signing we were called down two rows at a time to wait in line where we would then give our book to a man who would give the book to a woman who would give the book to J.K. Rowling, who would then sign the book and hand it to us, whereupon we would walk off starstruck.  My experience was slightly more magical due to the fact that she TALKED TO ME.  I mumbled something about how incredibly surreal the entire experience was and she looked up at me and smiled and said, “I know, for me too.”  And then I went into shock, turned bright red and just giggled.  Such literary insight.  At least now I know I act like a fool when someone famous/brilliant/inspiring acknowledges my existence.

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After Bath my friend and I decided to make a trip to Salisbury and to Stonehenge.  Without spending over £20.  Last minute.  On a Sunday.  Let’s just say we finally managed to work out how to get there and astonishingly enough did not spend a ridiculous amount of money!  And we did not even have to walk the six miles back to Salisbury (yes, that is what I suggested we do in case we could not find a bus)!  We spent two FREEZING hours at Stonehenge because of our money saving tactics, but it was worth every second of it.  I got to watch sheep run and frolic, contemplate the reason for Stonehenge existing, and watch my friend walk around in a penguin onesie.

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What else have I been up to?  I went to Ireland for St. Patrick’s day of course!  I spent an incredible four days in Belfast and experienced quite a few quirky Irish-nesses.  I had my first Guinness, sat around a pub watching people dance around a tiny room to the music being played by a fiddler, flutist, guitarist, and (some kind of strange) bongo drummer in the corner; I met Snow White and the seven dwarfs (bachelor party), crossed a rope bridge to an island of rock in the sea at Carrick-a-Rede, saw a cat hanging out at a distillery, went to a parade that was made up of acrobats and people in wacky costumes, spent hours in the Titanic museum and dock, witnessed a mashed potato eating contest, saw sheep climbing steep green cliffs, and climbed all over the rocks at the Giant’s Causeway.

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Amsterdam was my next stop.  After countless mishaps (actually, let’s count them: #1- missed the bus to London #2- once getting to London, the people we were supposed to be couchsurfing with took hours to respond to us #3- when they finally responded and came to get us, we could not even get in the car because they parked in front of an ambulance and had to drive away #4- they then were taken to the police station and we were left without a place to stay #5- after attempting to sleep in the coach station we were finally kicked out and had to search for a place to stay at about 1am in the rain #6- we woke up in time to catch the bus to Amsterdam the next morning, but were then delayed for 4 hours because someone stole the buses code for the train thing) my friend and I finally made it to the city.  It was so cold the first two days that we were there that we had to wear every piece of clothing we brought with us to stay warm.  Despite all of that, we had a lot of fun.  We visited the Van Gogh exhibit, took an hour long boat ride through the canals, went to see Of Monsters and Men at Paradiso (not only did I get to see one of my favorite bands again, but Nanna jumped down and danced with us, I got Raggi’s guitar pick, and I managed to get one of the set lists!), explored several markets, had the privilege of going to a performance at the Muziektheater, wandered around the botanical gardens and played with butterflies, walked through a street carnival, saw a cat sitting at a bar, ate new foods like poffertjes, stroopwafles, patat, and kroket;went to an ice bar (which I do NOT recommend- it was extremely corny and not worth the visit), and had fun trying to work our way around the city, which was surprisingly difficult because everything looks and sounds so similar.  We also visited the Anne Frank house which was a sobering experience after several days of lighthearted exploring.  The thing that surprised me about Amsterdam was how amazingly delicious the cheese was (and I don’t even like cheese!).  We went to at least five different cheese shops and sampled massive quantities at each place, daily.  The truffle cheese at the Cheese Museum on Prinsengracht was my personal favorite, and I probably ate at least  €20 worth.

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Here comes the fun part.  Three of my friends and I planned an eleven day road trip through the UK.  We were going up along the east coast of England, into Scotland, up to Inverness, and then down back along the west coast through Wales and back across to Norwich.  Well..  We did half of the trip.  Nottingham was fantastic and we stayed for two days with a man named John.  We saw the castle, had a drink at England’s oldest pub, visited Creswell Crags (which was AMAZING), and went to an abbey near Mansfield.  We then drove up to Newcastle, stopping near York along the way to see Clifford’s Tower and a few other places, and ended up staying in a car park outside of Wetherspoons on Easter eve because the woman we were supposed to stay with never contacted us to say where to meet her.  We then spent a wonderful Easter morning exchanging baskets with each other as we ate a warm breakfast in the pub.  After that we drove to Edinburgh, but on the way we ended up stopping at the most gorgeous place I have ever been, Tynemouth Castle and Priory.  We spent nearly two hours basking in the sun and wandering about the ruins, and before we left we spent some time doing cartwheels and somersaults and just enjoying the beautiful sunshine (the first proper day of warmth since arriving in England).  Edinburgh was wonderful, except the driving through the city was a complete nightmare.  We went on a walking tour with a man named Kiel and learned all about the crazy history of the city (did you know that Edinburgh wanted to draw connections between itself and ancient Greece, so they literally created connections — began to build a Parthenon, built sphinxes, etc.).  We then went to the castle and spent ages walking around trying to see everything there was to see.  My favorite bit to the castle was the prison of war chambers in which I tried to be funny by scaring my friend (I was going to reach out from underneath the staircase and grab her as she was walking down) and ended up punching the stairs and splitting my knuckles open.  This is why I do not pull pranks.  After Edinburgh it was on to Inverness.  Which is where this story turns into a disaster.

(This is where I would put a beautiful picture of Tynemouth had a disaster made this impossible)

So, basically our hostel caught on fire at 5am, at which point we woke up because we smelled smoke, called 999, and then got the heck out.  End of vacation.

So, that was the end of my travels (for the time being at least).

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