Turning 21 with an Amsterdam Adventure

For months on end, Ellis and I had been planning on taking a trip together abroad before she moved to Ibiza and the Easter break granted us that opportunity. Amsterdam had been at the top of my travel to-do list for a long time, so to be going on a foreign adventure with one of my closest friends was an exciting prospect!

Day one (31st March 2016): Newcastle-under-Lyme/Manchester/ Amsterdam

On Thursday morning we woke up early and Ellis’s lovely mum Dawn made us a quick breakfast before we hit the morning traffic on the way to Manchester airport. I’ve never personally flown from Manchester before so this was a new experience for me too. We were out the door at 7:08am and made the airport with plenty of time to spare, having already checked in the night before. We went straight through customs, both of us tired out of our minds. I forgot to take my transparent bag of liquids out of my bag and had to wait about twenty minutes just to get my bag back. The security at Manchester Airport were probably the nicest I’ve ever encountered though, so I didn’t feel bad about my rookie blunder. After this we went spritz crazy in duty free and got ourselves coffee as Costa. As we waited at the gate, a toddler kept going over to a group of lads and asking them for crisps which was adorably amusing.

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View from the Manchester Airport runway.

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The flight itself was short and sweet. We chatted a bit and took photos of the wonderful countryside of North England. I love these views of England, it’s the small things like this that make me wonder why on earth I would want to leave this country on a permanent basis. I only managed a small portion of my book before we touched down in The Netherlands for the first time at Amsterdam Schipol Airport. And it was a HUGE airport! We went through immigration where the official noticed that it was nearly Ellis’s birthday. He didn’t speak much English but said to her: ‘almost…birthday’, which was highly amusing because it was unexpected. We then headed outside in search of a shuttle bus to our hotel when we were greeted with the huge ‘I Amsterdam’ sign, which I’ve seen so many times on my social media and was therefore glad to be able to get my own photo. We took some selfies before getting individual photos. Ellis said: “get in the d. In it, not on it” –innuendo fully intended. People were helpful outside the airport and it wasn’t long until we arrived at our hotel and checked in. After freshening up we bought day passes for the bus and headed into the city centre.

It took us about 30 minutes to get to the city centre on the bus but it was so great to finally be in Amsterdam! We were both extremely hungry so we got a hot dog (we’d read recommendations to try the street food and who doesn’t love a hot dog?) but this failed to fill a hole. We decided to have a proper meal and get a snack later on. We went to a fairly cheap Italian restaurant with me getting pizza and Ellis getting spaghetti bolognese. We sat for a long time talking before heading out and walking the busy streets of Amsterdam. Bicycles and scooters were everywhere and we saved each other’s lives many a time! We walked up to Dam Square as this was on our list of places to see. I got myself a replica Van Persie shirt before losing my cool at the sight of so many macaroons where a girl told me the shop had 21 different kinds of, so naturally we went in and Ellis got to try her first ever churro.

After this, we headed towards the palace which was truly glorious building. It was getting a lot colder outside so we needed to keep walking. We decided to head to Jordaan since Ellis had read about it online. We walked a fair distant before deciding to ask a shopkeeper of a fancy dress shop for directions and he congratulated me on the success of Leicester City in the Premier League. We had to backtrack on ourselves and eventually ended up in Jordaan. We saw some street art of Van Gogh and took some pictures alongside it as well as some giant plastic clogs. We sat in McDonald’s for a while before heading back to the hotel and staying up later than we had originally planned by watching True Movies that were too good to turn off.

Day 2 (1st April 2016): A Slice of Culture and a Slice of History

As a result of our film binging we ventured out around midday into the city of Amsterdam, heading straight for the Anne Frank House as we felt that it was important to visit such an iconic, symbolic and historic place after reading her diary. We queued for about an hour before finally getting inside. The staff had given around little booklets about the house whilst we were waiting in line and one quote from Otto Frank really made me think about how much society has and hasn’t changed since then and now. It made me think a lot about Donald Trump’s presidential campaign- using a religious group as a scapegoat for the nation’s failings.

Anyhow, the house itself was bigger than I expected and being in the house of such oppression and isolation was both humbling and harrowing all at once. Watching interviews of those who had known Anne Frank at school etc made my heart ache because their words really brought her to life. She was, by her own admission, not a saint and the raw quality of her diary shows that. I think what made the diary so successful is not just the tragic death of its writer but the fact that as someone said in of the videos played in the house, unlike other Holocaust narratives, you could feel Anne’s pain without seeing the horror side that was the cold and callous concentration camps. The most striking thing for me of all though was the actual size of ‘Kitty’ (her diary) itself. That tiny diary touched the hearts of millions. It opened people’s eyes to the suffering that propaganda, prejudice and persecution can cause. All that suffering just because of their religion. I wrote in the visitor’s book: ‘at the end of the day, human life must always come before any religious belief.’

After the house we headed back to the bustling city centre that we’d become particularly familiar with our time in Amsterdam. We’d got McDonald’s and eaten it on the way to the house so we went to a small café for lunch after a coffee in Starbuck’s. We decided to split up for a couple of hours to see the different things that we wanted to see. We’ve both travelled solo before so we didn’t offend one another by doing this. I headed to the Van Gogh Museum because although I’m no expert in art, I distinctly remember falling in love with Sunflowers in primary school. I noticed that Vondelpark was on the way to the museum and I’d read about it in Madison’s blog the night before so I decided to take a walk there first, in order to carry on our tradition of ‘walking in each other’s footsteps.’  It was such a relaxed and quiet place sandwiched in a bustling city and I really enjoyed such a simple walk alongside people just going about their lives, whether they were hanging out with friends, dog walking etc. what I enjoyed about it was that I could just simply BE for a while and not think or worry about what’s ‘next’, in every aspect of the word. I watched a dopey dog drop his ball twice in the pond and be too scared to reach for it and his owner would smile and come and get it for him every time (is that not true love right there?) Little things that made life enjoyable. ❤ When I eventually arrived at the museum, I was in awe. It housed not only the works of Van Gogh but also the people who inspired him and the people his work inspired. It was truly surreal to see his works with my own eyes and learn more about him too. I’ve taken to buying postcards of paintings I like on my travels since I can’t afford the real deal and I bought new Van Gogh ones for my room.

After two hours I left the museum to meet up with Ellis again but in typical me style, I got lost. I tried not to panic but when I realised I didn’t know where I was going I headed back to city centre so that I could use wi-fi to contact Ellis, and thankfully she wasn’t far away! Ellis bought some Chinese food and let me finish- all those memes you see about this in the perfect summary of our friendship. We took a VERY long walk to the Ice Bar, only to be told that they were sold out for the night. We’d been on our feet all day and by that point my knee was killing me. We instead decided to wonder over to the Red Light District to see the infamous place for ourselves. It says a lot about the representation of women in the media that we weren’t shocked by what we saw. It was basically just a live viewing of Mulvey’s Male Gaze. The way they were propped in the windows reminded me of Barbie Dolls in their boxes. Woman as commodities. I was surprised that there were no male prostitutes but I later learned from my cousin Lauren that it existed by wasn’t nearly as well known. We didn’t stay there long before heading back to the city centre again and getting the shuttle back to our hotel.

Day 3 (2nd April 2016): Flower Power

On our final morning we ventured out the church by the Anne Frank house as they offered view of the city from the top. However, only six people were allowed up there at a time and we couldn’t get a suitable time slot before our flight. We headed to The Bulldog for brunch and ended up staying in there for a while. We walked over to the Flower Market after lunch and just strolled around looking in various shops despite not being able to buy much because we only bought rucksacks with us. We bought some sweet treats after some more walking. The day ended up being very relaxed as we knew we needed enough time to make our flight at the airport. We sat by the fountain for a while, talking and eating our churros and pancakes. It got cold fairly quickly and as Ellis was telling me a story I got stuck in my snood but didn’t want to interrupt her story- it was very amusing. As the evening dawned, we made our way to the bus and went to the airport. We took a final selfie before we boarded and my rucksack and I accidentally sent a man “flying” as I snapped the photo.

Although our break was short, we had a lot of fun and it was our first trip abroad together. I liked Amsterdam a lot despite the overwhelming smell of weed!

 

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Third Time Lucky with Paris

As like many other Britons, France was one of the first countries I ever went to abroad, since crossing the channel is not a time consuming affair. But despite doing five years of French language at school and walking away with a B in GCSE French, I somehow hadn’t mustered any kind of affection for the place, even though my surname is French since my father’s family fled France during the revolution and settled in Scotland. Maybe I didn’t “j’adore” France because it’s been so closely integrated in British upbringing (as has the long standing sporting rivalry with our world war ally), and therefore couldn’t appreciate the contribution the French had on my daily life. I’d been to Paris twice on school trips in 2010 and 2012, my excitement fuelled by the media and one too many a romance novel. Whatever I was expecting, I didn’t get on those trips and I was bitterly disappointed with Paris and made no rush to immediately return.

However, after 2.5 weeks of travelling all over England with my American pal Madison (who visited me before going to Paris to study abroad for 5 weeks), I found myself being roped in to giving Paris a third chance. Madison loves France, and had studied in Strasbourg for a semester in 2015. She asked me to visit her on the weekend of Bastille Day and because tomorrow is never guaranteed, I was at the departures entrance of Birmingham airport on Friday 15th July 2016, 2.5 weeks after a tearful goodbye with Madison at Dollis Hill underground station in London. I’d opted to fly rather than have my first solo experience of the eurostar, because a flight was significantly cheaper. However, the price was the last thing on my mind when I awoke to messages telling me to check the news immediately. A terrorist attack had occurred in Nice whilst people were celebrating Bastille Day. Another devastating tragedy for France, as photos showed a country in mourning. It was news you don’t want to hear when you’re about to travel to the country that has been attacked, and it showed as my inbox flooded with messages to be ‘extra vigilant’ and to ‘stay safe.’ Fortunately, the flight to Paris was quick, but I immediately regretted layering up, for I was really sweating when I touched down at Charles De Gaulle airport. After some initial panicking and asking lots of people for help, I finally had a route and a metro ticket to my hotel. My anxiety settled when some locals helped me find my way and I could finally relax.

Madison was unable to meet me for a few hours as she was obliged to have dinner with her host family. I killed time with reading and social media. I made a short venture to an computer shop to buy a new adaptor as I’d mistakenly brought an American one with me. I bought a domino’s pizza for dinner because I wanted to have something I could finish quickly before Madison messaged me with a meeting place. We met at the stop Place de Clichy and I was concentrating so hard on not getting lost that I didn’t even see her when I stepped off the train and she shouted my name. We hugged and headed to the Sacre Coeur for an amazing view of Paris from the steps. The downside was that the area was known for pick pockets and I was grabbed a few times by men trying to sell crap to you. Madison saved me by stepping in and pulling me away and I grateful that I wasn’t alone. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t slightly frightened by the ordeal. Still, we didn’t let it spoil our night, and we gushed about the latest developments in our lives. I’d just graduated from Keele University with a degree in English and American Literatures and Madison had transitioned well to life in Paris. We ended our night walking the streets and heading over to Notre Dame before parting ways for our early start the following morning.

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Day 2: Châteaux Galore!

The next day we were up bright and early for a day trip outside of Paris. The journey to our first destination Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte took about an hour, so I took the precious time to carry on reading the book Madison had lent to me, desperately hoping to finish it before I flew back to England. The first château was spectacular, and consisted of unbelievable interior design work and mounds of space. I went to Versailles in 2012 and I have to say that the attention to detail on artwork in France in general is just second to none. It’s truly a sight to behold, the owners must have been choking on their wealth. The gardens intrigued me the most. There is probably villages the size of it and I was just in awe for the duration of our visit. The location was ideal for iconic wedding photographs, as many couples were perched around the grounds with their photographers, trying to take photos worthy of a place on the mantelpiece. We had lunch in the café and brief browse in the gift shop before heading to the coach for our next destination: château Fountainbleau.

Unlike our first destination, this one was not in the middle of nowhere. The artwork and furnishings was equally as impressive as our first destination and we were once again in awe of our surroundings. Fountainbleau was considerably more crowded and after we’d toured seen everything we wanted to see, we headed outside to sit by the lake, topping up our tans and progressing through our books as we did so. There were a few rowing boats and ducks on the lake, basking in the sunshine and just basically being the picture of peacefulness. Our coach driver was nowhere to be found when pick-up time rolled around and we learned from other passengers that he’d been delayed. We got to know some of the other passengers whilst we waited, talking at length to an art teacher from L.A about travelling. When we got back to Paris, we went to the infamous bookstore Shakespeare and Co. and leisurely browsed the shelves. We were in there for so long that we used dinner of quiche and salad at a cosy place called la fourmi ailee, as a break from the shelves before returning the have a second browse! As the sun began to descend on a bustling Paris, a rollerblading performance caught our eye near Notre Dame. Paris was lively and clearly the place to be on a Saturday night.

Day 3: French football and the sweetest goodbye

On Sunday we were both feeling exhausted and under the weather, so I set out for the PSG stadium alone and agreed to meet up with Madison afterwards. I’d hoped that I’d be able to do a tour now that I was alone because I hadn’t wanted to drag Madison around something she had no interest in, but the stadium, and almost the every single shop in the surrounding area, was closed. I decided to walk around the stadium and take it in from the outside and there were other tourists doing the same thing. All around the outside of Parc de Princes were photos of stars both past and present of the club, most notably for me being Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden) and David Beckham (England). I took my time taking photos before eventually getting a coke in a bar with WI-FI so that I could message Madison. We met an hour later and went to McDonald’s for lunch, before heading to the cemetery where Oscar Wilde was buried, Père Lachaise Cemetery. The Importance of Being Earnest is my favourite play of all time and it’s also the only theatrical performance in which I have not lost concentration. His grave is so popular that there is glass case around it just to protect it. The graveyard is ridiculously huge. It’s unbelievable. I couldn’t imagine being dead and taking up so much space. After finding the grave of Proust, we slowly ventured to an Indian restaurant and got cocktails, as my knees were hurting from a long week and were threatening to buckle. Will they ever be what they were before? We both took time for social media and reading, in which I completed my mission and finished the Bill Bryson book that Madison had lent to me. We then ventured out for dinner of what were basically like the oatcakes you get in Staffordshire (not a literal cake) before setting off for the iconic Eiffel Tower.

On our way to there I spotted a bakery and finally got to devour my beloved macaroons. Madison got an ice cream, which was amusing because it was stupidly messy and she looked so adorable and young trying to eat it. We sat for a while in a local park and had one our talks about life, love and so forth. Because we became so close at the end of my time in Mississippi, we didn’t get to do many nights of being normal university friends like I did with Taylor. Whereas I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to travel with Madison and sadly not yet Taylor. It’s strange, but it doesn’t alter the importance of either friendship to me. We eventually get on the metro for our last stop of the night but when we reached the stop, we didn’t get off. I was confused. We literally went past the Eiffel Tower and still didn’t get off. I joked that I hoped she wasn’t going to punish me for our earlier difference in opinion by making my knees walk an unthinkable distance. “I’m only 21 and I need my knees”, I said jokingly. We eventually got off at Tropcadero and I followed Madison like a lost puppy to a square with the most breath-taking view of the Eiffel Tower, lit up in the colours of the French flag to commemorate the victims of the Nice terror attack. It was a spectacular sight. I felt a surge of love for France and my French heritage. It sadly didn’t sparkle for us, so we took one last selfie together and made our way back to the metro.

The Paris metro is fairly similar to the London Underground, except that rush hour doesn’t seem to exist because it is busy ALL THE TIME! People cram into the metro like livestock. I’m telling you, there was probably more room on Noah’s Ark! Anyhow, after two weeks away from Madison, I noticed that there were many moments when she would speak in an English accent over the weekend and not notice what she was doing, until I pointed it out. I joked that if it continued the next time our paths crossed (whenever that may be), that I’d find the subconscious convergence just as amusing. The reference to time seems to strike a chord with Madison, because she suddenly enveloped me in a heart-warming and almost tear-jerking speech on the metro about how our paths will most definitely cross again and she’d go out of her way to spend time with me again, in any corner of the globe. She said she’d even get a layover in Birmingham on the way to another destination just so that we could be reunited again. It’s in that moment that I realise that I am genuinely important to her, despite all my digs at her for her lack of response or communication with me. But she flew all that way to spend time with me and her words are exactly what I need to hear because I continually refuse to promise her a next time out of a fear of disappointing a face so full of youth and ambition. As we reach her stop and the goodbye looms, we hug for a long time. I don’t cry this time and she whispers in my ear that she’ll “see me soon”, so I let plant a kiss on her cheek and watch her go.

I wouldn’t say that I “j’adore” France (yet). I’ve only ever been to Paris itself for 3 days at a time, so I don’t feel like I’ve given myself the opportunity yet to truly know the place and develop a feel for it like Madison has done. The weekend with Madison was great, as our trips together always are, and I know that I’ll return to Paris again in my lifetime. Sometimes adventure is seeing things through the eyes of someone else, and after spending so much time with Madison, I know that I need to work on my travel independence again if I’m ever going to get through my travel bucket list. Madison is so many great things in this world but constantly remaining true to who she is and what she wants from life is something to be admired. The only sad thing about time is that rather unfortunately, and rather greedily, there will just never be enough of it spent with the people you care for the most in the world. ❤

 

 

 

‘What I Call’ My English Adventure: Part 1

I recently embarked on an extraordinary road trip across the UK with my American pal Madison. Read all about the first part of our journey here in Madison’s own words. 🙂

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Twenty-four hours of non-stop travel (including four-hour layovers, aisle seats, and time changes) could make anyone want to give up on adventure. Even watching the sunset hover on the Boston horizon until it became a sunrise somewhere over Greenland didn’t eradicate my grumpiness. My heart suffered a tiny fracture when I had to leave Iceland-an airport meal and ten minutes of the fresh air on the landing strip were enough to entice me to stay forever. But Lisa was waiting, and I’m glad I did leave, or we wouldn’t have had that wonderful embrace in Arrivals that had been a year in the making. After she surprised me with some ever-thoughtful gifts, we headed to Birmingham’s town centre, because apparently I have “hit the ground running” tattooed on my forehead. We meandered around the city, catching up over selfies, a museum, the iconic B’ham Bullring (shopping centre), my first trip…

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New Year, New Travels Part 1: London, England to Reykjavík, Iceland.

Day 1: Jan 16th 2016, Burbage to Edgware.

I’d been waiting so long to final embark on these winter wonders! A couple of months ago my cousin Lauren and I talked about taking trip together to a place somewhere neither of us had been and we settled on Iceland. Other than Scotland, a country that I’ve been to before, I haven’t really left England since I returned from the USA. In all honestly I haven’t wanted to, I became obsessed with my homeland- 10 months is actually a really long time to be away! The Christmas holidays were filled with essays and gym sessions, so booking a trip right after the deadline date kept me going through a hefty workload.

I arrived in Edgware from Burbage around 3pm at my Aunt Deb’s house. It was good to catch up since I hadn’t actually seen her since before I went to the USA in the summer of 2014. We had dinner at Mill Hill Tandoori- my first curry of 2016! 😀 We always talk a lot when we see each other so we watched TV and stayed up until the early morning hours. Deb wasn’t completely sure of my plans, claiming she would have ‘baked me a cake’ if she’d known (you know the song). I joked that ‘there was still time’ so she baked me one of her specialities, which was really nice.

Day 2: Jan 17th 2016, Edgware to Harrow.

I’ve been having great difficulty sleeping for the past two months and even more trouble waking up! I told my Aunt this so that I didn’t waste the day away, setting a few alarms to ensure I woke up at a respectable hour. As you can imagine, I got the shock of my life when my Aunt came in with an air horn! Fortunately I was already awake otherwise I’d have been super shocked. After breakfast we headed to Brent Cross as I needed to get a bag for my camera. It took a lot longer than I expected after finding one in John Lewis but it not being registered on their system. They eventually sold it to me for the same price as Curry’s. I headed to Harrow at 4pm, the roads being typically congested. My cousins and I got pizza for dinner and then Lauren and I made final changes to our suitcases. I went upstairs to get my bag from Ellie’s room when I saw her guitar. We started messing around with it and made up our own silly songs and filmed them. (You can see these on my Instagram account lisalace07). My dad always made up silly rhymes when we were younger so it is a trait I’ve grown up with. The jingles and the prank calling made it hard to believe that there is a 9 year age gap between Ellie and I. I did eventually finish packing, drifting off around 12:30am.

Day 3: Jan 18th 2016, Luton to Reykjavík.

I’d set my alarms for every five minutes from 4:20am to 4:45am but I actually stayed awake after the first alarm. We were on the road by 5:10am for our 7:45am flight from Luton Airport. I said to Lauren that I don’t wear make-up when I fly and that I wouldn’t be able to wake up in time to shower in the morning. I asked her if her hygiene standards dropped when she travelled to which she said “no, but yours clearly do!” *I showered as soon as I got to the hotel.* I had to read the instructions to Lauren in the dark but we found the car park in good time. We looked like we were part of an organisation since we flew in the t-shirts that Anthony Washington sent us for Christmas of his company logo. It was cute. We got through customs smoothly and entered a stuffy gate at 7am. EasyJet weren’t very organised, the staff having mixed answers on how many bags a person could board the plane with. Finally we boarded, both of us getting aisle seats next to one another. I don’t get to see my London family a lot so when we see each other there is always a lot to talk and laugh about, this flight being no exception. Neither of us could sleep on the plane so by the time we got to the airport, we were extremely tired. We got our bus tickets and within an hour we were at our hotel, with me dosing off towards the end of the bus ride.

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Lauren said that I “looked like I was about to die” as I was so out of it with tiredness. She made a coffee for me as soon as we got in the room because I was about to nod off again. After freshening up we went for a walk since we’d spent most of the day sitting down. It really was freezing in Iceland, to state the obvious. It was the kind of cold that completely wakes you up in a refreshing way. We were both starving so we went on a food hunt in the town centre. We immediately noticed how deserted the place was, people were sparsely populated as we trudged along the sea front and took photos. There really wasn’t much to do in the area and it didn’t take long to learn that Iceland is an expensive place. So we got the cheapest food we could find- Icelandic hot dogs and then bought sandwiches and snacks in the supermarket before heading back to the hotel.

Again, I couldn’t keep my eyes open for much longer and ended up having another nap after dinner. Apparently I was making noises in my sleep (not at all unusual for me) so Lauren woke me up (with some difficulty) with another coffee under my nose. We got ready for our Northern Lights excursion and got on the bus. They called it the ‘mystery tour’ because they mystery was whether you would get to see the lights, as they weren’t guaranteed. It took an hour to get to the destination, maybe more and we spent another 2.5 hours waiting for the lights to show up. I got us doughnuts to pass the time and a hot chocolate for my freezing hands. The longer we sat, the more I got disheartened as we both fell further into earth-shattering tiredness. I’d borrowed my sister’s gloves and one was messed up on the inside so I passed the time trying to thread them back together with my hands. Suddenly the tour guide rushed in showing the beginning of the lights on her camera and within a minute everyone had dashed outside, cameras poised to capture this wonder. It was a long time before we saw anything, we were practically hallucinating about them in our eagerness to see them in the mind-numbing cold.

When they came out though, everyone was in complete awe. I’ll never forget it. I started to take photos but my hands were too cold to move so I gave the camera to Lauren and tried to warm up. They were honestly so beautiful. The way they streaked and danced across the sky to me symbolised that the greatest moments in life are fleeting. Ain’t that the story of my life. Watching them also made me realise that sometimes, some things (and people, I guess) are worth waiting for; despite the fact patience isn’t really a virtue I attain much of. I often joke that there is no such thing as natural beauty but the lights were flawless. I’ve lived across the globe now and tangled with some extraordinary hearts, souls and personalities but the lights were in a complete league of their own. We stood out there for over an hour, the cold becoming increasingly painful. It was gone 1:30am by the time we got back to our room and we had to get up early again for our next excursion.

Day 4: Jan 19th 2016, A Day Trip Galore.

I was unbelievably tired when I awoke the next morning. After a quick breakfast we headed out to the bus for jam-packed day of excursions. Iceland is a much dispersed country (from what we saw) so the journeys to all of our destinations were never short. I tried to stay awake but I drifted off not long before we arrived at our first destination. The fresh cold air woke me instantly as I stepped off the bus. The first thing I saw was a huge monster looking truck that reminded me so much of my time in Mississippi, so I felt obliged to take a photo. I took comfort in the thought that, even though I left the USA, the USA never left me. She is everywhere and no Usain Bolt sprint will be enough to escape America’s global influence. We walked onto the observation desk and the view was spectacular. Pure white snow covered the ground and in the distance one isolated mansion looked like something out of a film. After many photos and videos I got postcards for friends but mainly for Madison. I felt like it was the least I could do since I’d been oblivious to her desire to be in the place that I was currently treading across. *I’m such a thoughtful friend.* 😉

Next, we headed to Geysir– a place known for its hot springs. Obviously it was freezing and I regretted not being able to button up my salopettes at the stomach because this was one of the rare moments in which I needed them. The springs were incredible, although they came up so quickly that you could miss them in the blink of an eye, and also on your camera- which we missed. It was so cold that Lauren’s phone died and so my phone became the source of all selfies and other photos. After a while we went inside and I got a hot drink to keep my hands warm and we ate the food I’d got Lauren to uncomfortably take from the breakfast buffet and carry with us all day. It’s not like they can reuse it once it’s been touched by a customer…

After Geysir we went to a waterfall called Gulfoss. We could feel the cold a lot more being closer to the water and it wasn’t enjoyable since it was painful and Lauren had a blister which made walking unbearable for her. It was a brief stop on our way to the geothermal pools, the main trip of our day. Blue Lagoon was being refurbished so we went to The Golden Circle instead. One guy that worked there showed us that he had baked rye bread underground and that we could try it. We were a bit put off considering it came from underground and Lauren dared me to eat some, and it wasn’t that bad. After this we got changed for the pools, both of us opting for the toilet cubicle over the public benches. Nakedness makes me super uncomfortable and super self-conscious. Lauren saw the tattoos I’d acquired in the USA, claiming that the placement of ‘Only when I’m gone have I been away too long’ was hard not to look at, and it was also very cynical. I had it there because it so apt about my time abroad and I don’t often wear short clothing so nobody really sees them. I don’t regret them either, I’m an advocate of tattoos being a form of self-expression and they mark milestones in my life. But anyway, the tour guide had told us on the bus that “in Iceland we shower naked first and then put on our bathing suits” and a deadly silence fell on the bus. You would not catch the English participating in such awkwardness and thankfully nobody did that in our changing room! I don’t care about free the nipple, people should dress according to their body and I’d rather they had clothes on!

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Digging up the rye bread.

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We took plenty of photos in the pools. It felt so nice to relax in their warmth! Sadly the same can’t be said for walking between the pools- since they were outside. Lauren wanted to test the lake since other people were doing so. It was SO COLD, the pictures have me portraying the biggest grin which is me displaying my fine acting skills (I joke). I screamed when I tested the water but Lauren told me to “run in, pose and get out” so I did just that. We were so busy talking when we eventually went to get changed that I didn’t realise that I’d marched us right into the men’s changing room. The funny part was that my mind registered that there was a man in the shower block and I just thought “oh its unisex.” As we walked further into the shower block a guy said “you’re in the wrong changing room” and then I realised that they weren’t unisex since we’d gotten changed in the female changing room. Lauren found it hilarious, we were in fits of laughter at my mistake. I’m just so glad that we didn’t see a willy!

It was already dark by the time we reached the hotel that evening. It was too cold to walk into the town to have a sit down meal and our hotel didn’t do dinner, so we decided to order a take-away pizza and stay in the room. We had to get the receptionist to help us since the menu was all in Icelandic. We asked her if there were any cheaper places since Domino’s is expensive in London and she smiled and said “London is cheap compared to Iceland.” So we enjoyed a feat and chilled out in the room on our last night together.

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Day 5- Reykjavík to London

Lauren helped me pack because I just wasn’t with it. We were on our way to the airport after a quick breakfast, the sky still dark outside. Even though our grandfather died 7 years ago now, I still feel like I’m learning about him from the stories from family and friends and sometimes they me realise my worth, being related to such an admired and successful man. I told Lauren a story I’d heard at Christmas from when our Uncle Roger was a child when granddad told him rather bluntly “there is no such thing as shyness Roger, only a lack of character!” This had us laughing the whole trip, as did the new lines that arose in the duration of our trip such as “we’re 100% not normal” and “you’re on another level mate.” Our flight attendant was amusing on the telecom as we flew back to London, making sarcastic comments and saying that he’d sell any left-over items on the plane, which caused Lauren to say “he definitely isn’t lacking in character!” Getting out of the airport took longer than we anticipated but it was good to be in familiar territory again. After 30 minutes back at Lauren’s house, I hit the road since I had to get up early the next morning for a trip to Germany- I’d planned both trips separately. It took almost 3 hours to get home in the rush hour traffic and I still had to make last minute changes so I was shattered by the time my head hit the pillow at midnight, with my alarm set to wake me up in three hours!

I’ve been on many trips in my 20 years of life and it doesn’t take a genius to tell you that it is more about who you’re with than where you are. Some say that you see more when you travel solo and that is true to some extent. But sharing the experience with someone you care about is much more enjoyable; plus if I don’t go alone there is more than one of us to laugh at my jokes! 😛 As Madison Etheridge once wrote ‘postcards, souvenirs, and phone calls are fine, but nothing beats having someone to share in the experiences of a lifetime.’  [https://madleighinlovewithtravel.wordpress.com/2015/06/07/having-seen-the-moon-shine-on-the-other-side/]

Therefore I’m glad that I took the trip with my cousin and first ever friend. Watch this website as 2016 looks set to be travel heavy! 

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