Sunday, January 19, 2014

Galway and Brighton!

     Seeing as it’s finals week and I have an exam Thursday I’m not prepared for at all, seems like a good time to put out two blog posts in two days, amiright?

     A little while ago I took a solo trip to go and visit my friend Keegan in Galway, Ireland, where she goes to university. The first thing we did when I arrived was check out a play Keegan’s friend was in. Despite the insane Irish accent the characters had, I actually somehow managed to understand them more than Keegan, who has been living in Ireland for 3 years. I’m a natural, obviously. The next few days included a lot of walking around Galway and going into antique and charity shops. Galway was a super adorable little city and it was so nice and relaxing to get away from the hustle and bustle of London. Also I have this theory that everyone in Ireland is automatically super nice, and everyone I met only enforced that more; definitely a break from stuck up Londoners! Oh also, this is the trip where I left my laptop on the bus on the way home from the airport. Oops. (I got it back though!)

Never have I wanted to do a keg stand so badly
Some mega-Hogwarts vibes

Creepy antique shop find

This random old guy took the picture of us, then we took one with him. This was before we realized he had blood (or something like it) on his hands...

    After my return from Galway, Jackie and I joined up with my cousin, Phoebe, for a little day trip to Brighton. We walked along the beach, got flooded by some insane rain, seeking shelter in the cute little shops along the boardwalk, and I gambled for the first time. I lost a lot more money than I’d like to admit to, but Jackie won £5 on her first play and called it quits. Smart girl. We went to a museum, had some afternoon tea, did some shopping, and ended the day as you’re supposed to in Brighton: with fish and chips!  Shout out to Phoebe for letting me put up some of her pictures as my camera died within the first hour of our trip!

No way I was leaving without touching the water

Friday, January 10, 2014


       It didn’t take too long for us to figure out while planning out a whole semester’s worth of trips around Europe that things would add up fast if we flew everywhere. To our surprise, megabus does a lot more than go between Minneapolis and Chicago; it has an international component that just so happens to include busses from London to most major cities in Europe, for prices similarly low as in the states. Booyah! So, Jackie, myself, our flatmate, Kunal, and our friend, Roshni, booked some bus tickets and eagerly awaited our trip for the low price of £30. Hostel booked too, we were all set. Or so we though until we got an email three days before we left asking how we had liked our stay in our Edinburgh hostel. Turns out we had accidentally booked the hostel for the weekend before, and now were homeless for the trip. A stressful afternoon ended with us finding a last minute hotel for pretty cheap with a room for two. Study abroad travel tip #1: hotels are nice but rare on these trips, but when you shove more than the recommended amount of people in a room, it can come out to the same price as a hostel. Heck yeah.

    Finally sorted out and ready to leave, we piled into a megabus Thursday night for the long 10 hour drive to Edinburgh. Luckily, on the way there we were on a ~*~Megabus Gold~*~ coach, meaning we all had little (and I mean little) beds to sleep in, rather than seats. I was lucky enough to snatch a single one on the ground, with Jackie and Roshni nearby, sort of squashed together in two singles next to each other, and Kunal with the worst bed, some weird hammock thing which was hovering above Jackie and Roshni’s, meaning he had to be strapped in like a mummy so he didn't fall to the floor every time the bus turned. I, similarly had a bed above me, waiting for its passenger. And quite a passenger it turned out to be. We soon met our pal for the ride, a Scottish guy who was already a little bit trashed when he got on board, cracking open a secret bottle of vodka. At least he offered us some. We could hardly understand him, but managed to work out that he had been in the paper for jumping in the Trafalgar Square fountain after a footie match, but managed to escape arrest, unlike his slower friends. 

That's our boy diving

     After a little bit more mangled conversation (Scots are hard to understand even when they're sober, which apparently is not a lot of the time, we learned), including me being called a ‘cheeky bastard’, we finally hit the hay and didn't wake until Edinburgh.

     We figured the best way to orientate ourselves with the city would be to take a hop-on-hop-off tour bus around. Walking to the bus stop, we quickly saw the most notable tourist attraction: Edinburgh Castle.

  So, first stop on the tour (besides breakfast at a café where at 7 in the morning people were already ordering pints) was the Castle, obviously. After a quick drop into ‘The Scotch Whisky Experience’ nearby, we wandered around the castle, but decided to stay on budget and skip going inside. The outside is cool enough. Here’s me trying to, um, encourage Jackie to take a picture with me to capture the memory.

     Walking down from the castle, we took a little pit stop in an information building and found a nice set of stairs where Kunal and I did our best to recreate Beauty and the Beast.

     To my extreme delight, there were some people outside with Tony the owl that we got to pet and hold. No one else wanted to help me steal him. Can't blame ‘em, dude had some major talons. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around and exploring Edinburgh and found some of the cutest little shops ever.


The best shop we found was this cramped little secondhand bookstore.
It was sorta the coolest bookstore ever. Super cheap with a great selection, I had to be told off by almost every member of our party when I was seriously considering buying, and somehow hauling back to London, fifteen books. I was somehow persuaded to narrow it down to seven. Even then, it only added up to £20. Next time I head to Edinburgh I’m bringing a suitcase dedicated to stuff from here. Among my purchases were: Never Let Me Go, Lord of the Flies, The Corrections, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire & The Philosopher’s Stone (gotta get those authentic British versions!), and two little Observer’s Books, one of Common Fungi and one of Astronomy.

     We also found a super weird 'American Candy Store' that had all sorts of gross 'American' candy that we've never seen before, including Angry Birds Soda, marshmallow sandwiches, and root beer flavored barbecue sauce.

Exhausted from walking around since 7 am on little sleep, we took a little coffee break at the Elephant House Café, or as it’s more famously known: the place where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book. Word is that she still pops in there from time to time, so people have scrawled messages of adoration all over the bathroom, hoping she’ll see it someday. Always up to do a lame touristy thing, Roshni and I scribbled our own little messages there. Kunal also ordered the largest pot of coffee I have ever seen, and drank it in like, 20 minutes flat.

     Even though exhausted, we still somehow found a way to push ourselves to explore Edinburgh by night. We stopped by a weird Australian pub, and then found ourselves somewhere that we still can’t decide if it was a gay bar or not… Hate to say it, but we all agreed the Scots were not as friendly or welcoming as the Brit and Irish.

The next morning we set off for the coolest part of our trip: climbing Arthur’s Seat. Basically, we hiked up this big ol’ hill and got the most amazing view of Edinburgh and everything around it. It was very cool, but very, very, scarily windy. I warned Jackie that I would not be happy to have to tell her mom she flew over the edge in the wind, and honestly thought it would come to that at some points.


"Why do people do this?!" asked Roshni
      Always on the lookout for cute British babies, Jackie and I found the cutest child IN THE WORLD. Wow look, it’s accidentally photobombing Jackie, how crazy, totally not Jackie posing with the baby on purpose… 

            On our way down, Roshni and I took some time to practice our modeling in the wind. 

           And then, for only the second time ever, I saw Jackie fall down. What started as a simple race down the hill with Kunal turned into a slip-in-slide worthy danger area for Jackie. Getting up, she said “good luck getting that again, I NEVER fall.” Seconds later, she was on the ground once again, hanging her head in shame. It was like Christmas.

    After another long day, we finally found the night life of Edinburgh we were looking for in a cozy little pub near our hotel. There I was serenaded by a very drunk Scotsman who was very disappointed that I didn’t know some Scottish musician from the 70’s. What’re ya gonna do. We also met these two guys who were also very drunk, but very into giving us a history lesson on Scotland. See parents? Going out drinking can be educational!

    Having to get up around 4am the next morning, we sadly said goodbye to our new history teachers and prepared for the long ride home the next day. Riding back in regular bus seats rather than a little bed wasn't so fun, but Roshni and I did learn that no one wants to sit next to you if you just pretend to be in a dead sleep. Study abroad tip #2…