(I’ve had problems with photos and uploading so this sounds outdated, I wrote it Nov. 6 – sorry)
We’re in the middle of reading week, a class-free midterm break, and it’s been off to a very interesting start. Nathaniel and I traveled to Scotland and London, which was really exciting, but we cut our week long trip by four days after we learned some things about international travel. Personally, I learned that I have too organized a personality to be spontaneous when it comes to travel, my stress levels are high when traveling and it doesn’t take much to throw me off balance, and that, because I’m new to traveling sort of alone and to international travel entirely, it’s okay for me to have not learned all the important things about both overnight, as I must have expected I had after living in Dublin for a month.
We talked about traveling Europe during our free reading week for awhile, but only just decided on a schedule last week. Then we didn’t get anything booked till Halloween, and at that point I knew I was going to regret something, if nothing else but that I was only going to get four hours of sleep that night because of our Halloween celebrating and early morning flight. I did later regret not planning this trip weeks before. Through the course of our three day trip and our one day of prebooking, we made four calls to the bank because of a declined card, accidentally bought two sets of tickets for the same flight, had a night train (with beds) cancelled and instead had to take an overnight, nine hour bus ride to London (no beds), got moderately harassed by a crazed, flower-wielding Londoner, missed a bus, missed a plane, and paid probably over three hundred pounds more than necessary and still didn’t make it to Paris and Italy as we originally planned. But that was just the bad stuff. I learned some other things too.
I learned that Scotland is beautiful, and there is a lot of it to explore. We decided to do one of those day tour buses, which I have mixed feelings about because I despise the idea of “photo stops” which feel like the epitome of tourism, but at the same time, I love being able to see so much of a place in just a day. We saw several castles, of which there are 70 in Scotland, and got to explore Doune castle where they filmed some of Monty Python’s Holy Grail. I really enjoyed being able to openly explore that castle and have the audio guide to get more information where I wanted. I tried to imagine living in that castle, sleeping in those cold stone rooms and navigating the narrow spiral staircase in a big dress, being short enough to comfortably fit though the small doorways, and looking out at the gorgeous fall scenery. Two of my other favorite places in Scotland were these two small towns on lochs (lakes) called Inverary and Luss. Both were neat, quiet, and beautifully serene. I would love to stay at either on holiday, twenty minutes at each was not nearly enough.
London, I learned, does not quite meet the idolized standard everyone seems to hold it to in America. Like Paris or Rome it is endlessly romanticized, and so especially after getting there from our nine hour bus ride, it would have taken a lot to meet or exceed my expectations. It wasn’t bad though, and I’d certainly give it another chance to go see more that may interest and impress me. While there we saw two excellent plays, Photograph 51 with Nicole Kidman, and The Woman in Black. Not only were they both excellent shows but they were very reasonably priced. After Photograph 51 we talked with a writer from the New York Times looking for Americans to get insight into differences between European and American theatre. He might use some of our conversation for his travel section article in mid-December, so that was fun. We saw some of the sights in London, the London eye and Big Ben, and those were neat, and found a beautiful park and went to the Natural History Museum. The museum, which was huge and really interesting and where I got to see dinosaur fossils for the first time, was free, and we thought that was wonderful. Museums have always seemed like such a strange thing to pay admission for, and I wonder if that’s just a common American practice.
So, we cut our trip short and headed back to Dublin to relax and watch a lot of the X-files before getting ready for our program trip to Belfast this Friday. Even though we don’t get to go to France and Italy, at least we’re getting to see more of Ireland just like we wanted, and thank goodness this trip is already planned and paid for. Traveling is exhausting.