“Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.”
-James Joyce, Ulysses
Disclaimer – I did not put any hyperlinks in this post so if there are any, they are ads. Don’t click. Or do. Up to you. Free will and all that jazz.
For those who, for whatever reason, enjoy reading my rather long entries, I know it has been forever. Life is rather skilled at getting in the way of ones best intentions, is it not?
I’m going to attempt a rather ambitious task here – a multi-part series regaling the people of the internet (read: the 4 people who actually read these, 2 of whom are my Mum and Dad) with tales from the trip my sister and I took to the UK in May. It was, quite possibly, one of the most enjoyable and insane trips of my life — and yes that includes the madness of Berlin in the spring. What’s that? I’ve never told you that story? Ask me some time. It’s a good one.
So. Here goes. Part One: A New Adventure.
There’s a funny feeling that hits you when you’re done school, or at least there was for me. There I was, 20-years-on, staring down a rapidly approaching September with no “first-day-of-school” attached. September had always stood for new beginnings, as cheesy as that sounds, so what did it even mean anymore, if anything?
My younger sister was looking at the same prospect so we made a decision, it was time for another adventure.
Yes, I did forget my pocket handkerchief. More on that later, Mr, Baggins. (Spoiler alert: I have never owned a handkerchief).
Anyone who knows me knows I love travel so much that every time I finish a trip it’s like that big red button that you’re not supposed to push is, inevitably, forcibly depressed and it turns out to simply be a harmless reset mechanism that means it’s only a matter of time before I get restless again and need to throw myself out of the cushy comfort zone that is my life in Ottawa. I love this city, I truly do, but I can’t seem to shake the irrepressible need to leave it every few months to explore – anywhere.
That’s a hell of a long explanation as to why this trip was needed but, ultimately (and I can’t speak for Kristen here) I think I felt more than a little lost, without actually having left home yet. My friends will tell you that I’m the person destined to be a perpetual student – no seriously. For life. I know I just finished explaining my never-ending restlessness but, in my view at least, the two are in no way mutually-exclusive. In my best attempt at a classic Ms. Frizzle voice – “learning is a lifelong adventure” (she was also immortal, though, so she needed to occupy the centuries somehow).
So, enough with the philosophy lesson – also known as “Erin’s life philosophies that probably don’t apply to anyone”. Suffice it to say (…can I even use the word ‘suffice’ after so much has already been written?) Kristen and I needed to get out. Bad.
The original plan was to start in the UK, which as of this fall has remained intact, and then ‘pop over’ in true Grand Tour tradition to see some of Europe. By the time we had finished our short list of ‘must see’ sights in England and Scotland alone, we realized our travel plans had been a little ambitious – we only had 3 weeks after all.
All right, the UK it would have to be, with beautiful Ireland standing in for all of Europe.
I know what you’re thinking (if you know me at all, if you’re a stranger, well, this is what you would be thinking should you know me) – “how many times have you been to Ireland now and doesn’t your ‘restless nature’ call you — I dunno — elsewhere? Anywhere else?”
If you must know, this was to be my 5th time on the Emerald Isle and, as to your second question, in a word – No. I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it again and again in my usual stubborn way until it ceases to be true – something about that island calls to me. I can’t quite put my finger on it but, truthfully, I have no desire to. I’m quite content to continue answering this particular siren’s call.
Also, side note, Kristen had never been there – how often do you get to tour your favourite person around your favourite country? Not often, I’ll wager.
So, the planning started in earnest. Oh, and indulge me for a minute (like you have a choice, internet, it’s my blog) to tell you the other important caveat. Neither of us had job to return to when we planned this trip. Why not wait until you had saved a little and figured out your future, you ask? Well….where’s the fun in that?
To be completely uncharacteristic… let’s fast-forward to our departure. Unless you would like me to wax poetically about pouring over maps with Dad, booking transportation and hostels with money I didn’t have and dreaming of my triumphant return to green woods and cozy Celtic pubs. Because I can, believe me, I can.
Before we knew it, Kristen and I found ourselves at the airport for the start of our grand, slightly irresponsible, adventure (the best kind if you ask me). We had only actually booked the first 7 days and only roughly planned anything past that. Let’s say this was brazenness and bravery – not sheer exhaustion.
Remember, I say as if you know every detail of my life dear internet, I had spent all of April preparing for a thesis defense and let me tell you………Everyone was right, I over-prepared and consequently only had 7 days of a three week trip planned.
I do believe Ron Weasley would say at this moment: “She needs to sort out her priorities” and everyone would giggle in agreement.
Regardless, Kristen and I felt we were ready, truly and desperately ready, for a gosh darn adventure. Have I used that word enough so far? Maybe not. Adventure.
I had hoped that the whirlwind of the last month and a half before the trip would mean that once on the plane I could finally relax and enter a blissful sleep for a while.
This did not happen. I didn’t sleep a wink.
That didn’t mean I wasn’t thrilled when the plane touched down at Heathrow and my ears finally popped. I was back in the UK (finally) and about to start what I knew would be one of the coolest trips of my life. With Kristen’s spontaneity, never-ending energy and joie de vivre and my…. probably useless and definitely obnoxious wealth of inane historical facts about this part of the world cultivated over two decades of voluntary nerdiness -well, we could only win.
We successfully snagged our luggage, convinced the border guards we were friendly, slightly exhausted, Canadians wishing to ooh and awe appropriately at their tiny island and made our way through the labyrinth that is Heathrow’s tunnel system to the train that would take us into London-proper.
As the beautiful English countryside, peppered with coal-dusted tenements straight out of the grittier songs of the country’s underground music scene, flew by, Kristen and I fought off sleep as best we could.
This was only the beginning of the adventure and we were determined to start it off on the right foot, even if the foot in question was, annoyingly, already fast asleep.
…To be continued, if you’re still even interested!
Coming Soon to a decidedly long blog post near you:
Daring attempts to see all of London on foot in one afternoon! Mad rushes to trains that leave us in the dust! Breathtaking strolls in Roman footsteps! Seemingly endless trudges up winding cobblestone streets in the pouring rain to an unexpected Italian oasis (yes still in the UK)! Aren’t you excited!?
Tá an saol go hálainn