It’s been awhile.
BUT, I’m finally getting around to posting about the last leg of my summer trip while still in Europe. Now that school is officially closed (at least for in-person learning), I have an opportunity to write about this without feeling overwhelmed by work.
So, I left off with Amsterdam to Paris, and how my train was incredibly hard to get and I was almost stuck in Amsterdam because of the lack of available trains, as it was tourist season and students were travelling. However, I did ultimately get one, so it worked out alright!
As my train left in the morning and I arrived in Paris in the afternoon, my plan was only to stay in Paris one night, since I’d seen mostly everything I had wanted to see. When I arrived in Paris, I arrived at a different station than I’d been in the past – Gare du Nord, and thankfully, my hostel (St. Christopher’s Inn) was very close. I checked in, dropped my bags off, and looked out the window, and there was a MASSIVE fire; keep in mind, this was fairly close to the Notre Dame fire, so I was intrigued (and a little worried). I knew that one of my friends from Krakow, Emma, was in Paris at the same time, but unfortunately, our schedules didn’t align in terms of meeting up for dinner or anything.
So I decided that I would just head downtown and see if there was anything I hadn’t seen before, but particularly, I wanted to see what the Notre Dame looked like without its roof.
As I was there in the late afternoon, the only place I really wanted to go to, Sainte Chapelle, was closed – so I wandered around downtown, fairly aimlessly, but I felt good that I knew that I could navigate the city without any issues.
Seeing the Notre Dame without its roof was quite sad. All of the surrounding streets were blocked off – the fire had happened barely a month prior, so lead in the surrounding area was a huge issue. After hanging around the Notre Dame for a little while and calling my parents, I headed to go get dinner – I found a cheap pizza place and ate some tarte flambée, which is essentially a flatbread pizza that tastes delicious. As I wandered around, pizza in hand, I stumbled upon a group of drunk women arguing. They were going down every street and just SCREAMING at each other at the top of their lungs. I followed, alongside some Parisians, for a little while, because it was so obnoxious (yet entertaining) that it grasped the attention of most passerby.
However, as most things were closed and since I had already seen most of Paris, I decided that, after wandering around with no real goal in sight, I would head home, as I knew I had an early train to catch in Lille.
In the morning, I had to wake up at around 4 to get out of the hostel in time and to get to the train station for my next train, to Lille. In Lille, I was incredibly worried (along with many of the other passengers) – we were informed that there was a chance this train would not be coming, as a result of some issues on the way there. However, after some anxious anticipation, the elderly Australian couple that I befriended and I were allowed through – however, as I had lost my residence permit for Austria when my wallet was stolen in Brussels, they didn’t stamp my passport, which I was incredibly worried about – in the officer’s own words, “I refuse to stamp because I simply cannot if you have no proof of residence here.” However, they let me through regardless (though I was worried that it would cause issues when I arrived in London), and the Australians that I had met comforted me and essentially reassured me that, no matter what happened, everything would work out alright.
When I arrived in London from Lille, however, there were NO issues. There was barely even border control at all – in fact, if I remember correctly, they didn’t even check my passport. I arrived in London at King’s Cross station and immediately hopped on my next train, a local train to Edinburgh. The train was PACKED – literally every single seat was taken, and the areas between the cars were packed as well. I got a tiny little spot in the corner, right next to the door, and I pretty much just stayed there for the entirety of the train ride, despite it being uncomfortable, with barely any room and lots of hot, sweaty people LITERALLY SHOULDER-TO-SHOULDER trying not to fall on each other as the train swayed.
I kept all of the notes of things I did/witnessed on my phone so blogging would be easy (which is how I’m able to write this without forgetting everything) and there’s a note of a Scottish guy and his son and the train doors opened, and this young couple got in – really pushed their way in – and the dad yelled at the couple (in a jokingly manner) about how they were making the train into a sauna with how many people they were trying to force in.
After a train ride that was toooooo long and uncomfortable, I finally made it to Edinburgh. I didn’t realize, but Edinburgh is a very hilly town – and with my travel bag weighing me down, it was essentially an uphill climb to get into the city. However, the architecture was quite beautiful, so it made the long walk a little more worth it.
Once I got up to the hostel, I checked in, and met my first roommate, Jake, an Australian student who was travelling the world. He’d been to so many places – he had traveled with his sister, Alana, who passed away from cancer – Ewing’s Sarcoma – and continued traveling before heading back to Australia. He was a super nice guy and told me about his life in Australia, and I’ve since kept in touch with him. He started an organization called Blue Bottle – their family sent a message in a bottle with letters to Alana and it was found a year later a thousand miles away! They do fundraising events to raise money and awareness for childhood cancer – you can read about their organization and donate here. It was a really nice time getting to hang out with Jake, and he told me that I should climb up Arthur’s Seat – a hill outside of Edinburgh. I mostly walked around town on my first day – I checked out some local spots, like the Edinburgh Castle, and just admired the town in general – the architecture and feel of the city in general was just very welcoming and warm. I really, really loved Edinburgh (thanks, Dad, for recommending I visit it!).
Originally, my plan was to take a local train the next day up to the Isle of Skye, which is a huge, almost otherworldly region in the north of Scotland, but unfortunately, there were no trains available. However, it gives me an excuse to get back to Scotland at some point!
Since I couldn’t get a train, I spent the rest of that day exploring local spots – St. Giles’ Cathedral, the site of the last public execution in Scotland , in 1864, and most of Edinburgh’s Old Town. It was such a quaint little town – there were bagpipers out and live music playing everywhere and it was just incredibly wholesome. Soon after, however, it started POURING, and as it was getting late, I went to grab some food and headed back to my hostel.
The next morning, I woke up pretty early to get to Arthur’s Seat early enough. Arthur’s Seat was quite a way away from my hostel, but it was a very pleasant hike – though to be sure, I was worried that my phone would die and I would be lost in Edinburgh, far away from my hostel, with no way to get back. However, it all turned out nicely and I found myself at the foot of a daunting cliff (without realizing that I had to go around to find the trails up). What I was most worried about, though, was my ankle, which I’d pulled or strained my Achilles’ tendon a few weeks earlier.
The hike up Arthur’s seat wasn’t bad, but for someone who doesn’t like heights like me, I definitely should have chosen an easier side to climb up on because I took the steeper side rather than the more leisurely side off to my left. It was still a ton of fun though, and the views were incredible! The hike itself didn’t take too long, and soon enough I found myself at the top of Arthur’s Seat.
At the top, I ran into a group of students from Michigan, and they asked if I could take their photo and they’d take mine. I hung out at the top of Arthur’s Seat for quite awhile, since it was my last full, non-travel day in Europe and it seemed quite fitting.
Eventually though, I saw some ruins of what ended up being a chapel at the side of a lake, and I decided I’d walk down to it. When I got down there, I ran into the students from Michigan again and we talked for a little while and then parted. I wandered around the area for a little while and, since it was hot, decided to get some ice cream from a local vendor. It was my last day – I had to treat myself!
Afterwards, I wandered around town some more – mostly just admiring the architecture. After a few hours, I wound up at my hostel and Jake told me about a pub crawl the hostel was hosting for only 5 Euros, so I decided it would be a good way to meet some cool people and have fun on my last (relaxing) night in Europe, so I joined Jake and pretty quickly met some new friends.
It was a pretty standard pub crawl – we went to a sister hostel of ours to meet people at THAT hostel, which was pretty cool, and a few other pubs, and I even met Cam, who is from Portland! (Wow!)
The crawl lasted all night, and it was really sad to leave in the morning because I’d made good friends from it, who came from all over, and we all exchanged contact information and even now it’s nice to see what everyone is up to.
I packed up all of my stuff, showered and got ready, said my goodbyes to Jake and the other friends I’d met, and headed to the train station to head to London.
My time in London was incredibly uneventful. It was pouring rain – like POURING – though the hostel I’d stayed at, Clink78, was pretty cool – the beds were pod beds, and I met a girl from Berkeley while I was there, who was in pretty much the same travel itinerary as mine for Western Europe, but reverse.
After checking in, I just wandered around the King’s Cross area and tried Nando’s, a South African-Portuguese restaurant which specialized in chicken – I was recommended it by SO many of my friends from the UK and I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but it was incredible. I had boneless wings with a lemon-herb sauce and a mango-pepper sauce, and it was incredible. 10/10 would recommend if you find yourself in London. I also went to Five Guys to grab a shake, because why not? (Plus, the first time I’d ever been to Five Guys was in London in 2017. Coming full circle?)
Afterwards, I headed back to my hostel and pretty quickly fell asleep, since I knew I was going to be waking up early for my flight in the morning.
In the morning, I felt so drained mentally and emotionally. I’d be leaving the continent I’d called home for 9 months and all of the friends that I’d met out there, in a way. It was just crushing, and it weighed on me for the entire trip to the airport. It was an uneventful commute, though – the airport was pretty busy but I just felt kinda disconnected from it all. It felt almost unreal, in a way, to be leaving – like I knew I’d eventually get back, but the thought of leaving was just unfortunate, for a serious lack of better words. Without anything interesting happening, I boarded the plane and set off for home, where I arrived 12 hours later to my family, and had to say goodbye to my brother, who was heading to Taiwan for the summer; I’d end up visiting him (so hopefully there’ll be a blog post for that soon enough, though it’ll be a bit different).
Anyways, that’s it for my nine months in Europe. Started with a trip from Oakland to London, then ended up with a trip from London to San Francisco. To be honest, it’s a year later and I’m still heartbroken about it, but I know that in the future (outside of coronavirus times), I’ll be able to get back out there and make more memories. Hopefully my Taiwan post will be fairly soon. I’m having to write this on my phone because of technical issues with WordPress on my laptop, hence the loooooong time between the trip and this post. Hopefully there will be a video in the not-so-distant future – issues with my laptop (the same issues causing the delay in posting) make it virtually impossible to open Photos & iMovie, so I’ll see if I can iron some of those out to get a video posted. If not, I know I’ll be out there again so I’ll have a video for those places regardless, just a matter of when.
So long, for now!
Avec amour, de Paris/With love from Edinburgh and London/Mit Liebe aus Europa,