Jumping back a few days, Shane and I got up early to head to the airport in Milan. We had between us two large suitcases, two huge backpacking backpacks, a rolling carry-on suitcase, a camera bag, and a parcel box containing his Venice mask. I was happy to be leaving, one of the more minor reasons being to get away from the cleaning guy who was starting to annoy both of us. (Shane went back to the room one night around 9pm and he was in there cleaning our windows! Really? At 9pm? He also knocked half of our plastic spoons on the floor.)
To get to the Linate airport we had to take a metro and a bus. It wasn’t too difficult, and we didn’t get in bad moods over the effort this time, probably because we had a lot of time and therefore weren’t rushed. We had to rearrange stuff once there to make the 23 kilogram limit, but we did it, and we didn’t have any problems getting our carry-ons through. Whew! One obstacle down! We met up with Ryan at the airport, who we are finishing out the trip with.
Once to London we discovered that the metro we needed didn’t go all the way to our stop on the weekend due to construction work. Because of this we had to take both a metro and a bus. The traffic was terrible, probably mostly due to the construction, and by the time we got close to our destination after what seemed like days, people were getting so aggravated the driver was letting them out in the middle of traffic.
Once we found our hostel and dropped off our stuff, we went sightseeing. London was so nice in that everything was in English! It also has some cool architecture. I’d like to go back and spend more time there some day. This particular day it was windy and slightly rainy, so we didn’t stay out long.
That night the light in our 20-bed dorm room stayed on until around 3am, and the music from the bar right below us got progressively louder and louder. Thankfully this hostel had personal curtains to pull around your bed for privacy and darkness. I was especially grateful for this around 5am when some people came into the room and were talking and laughing as if it were day and they were the only ones in the room. It was so annoying. I can’t believe how people can be so inconsiderate sometimes.
Sunday, March 21st
The next morning we spent quite a while trying to buy online tickets to get from London to Oxford, Oxford to Luton airport, and back to London from Dublin. The bus ride to Oxford was great because it was a double decker and we snagged the front seats in the top floor. It was a great view.
Once to our hostel, which conveniently was very close to the bus station, we dropped off our stuff and explored Oxford. I really like it there. It’s a college town to say the least, and has that small relaxed feel to it. No wonder so many writers stationed themselves in the peaceful corners to write books. Shane and I watched a funny couple of fire performers in the middle of the street. We also ate at a Mexican fast food restaurant very similar to Chipotle, which I love.
That evening we did something that was a first: we worshiped in a Catholic cathedral. To be more clear, it was Evensong, a very popular type of choir well-known in England. It was a little under my expectations actually, as the choir was good but not excellent; I felt my academy choir could have easily out-sung them (but we were extra good, not to brag or anything…!) In between them singing random hymns, the congregation (us) had to recite quotes in the bulletin, listen to the priest read Bible texts, and kneel to pray 4 times in one hour. (They have it good though, they give you padded mats to kneel on.) It was more of a vespers program, the way I see it. And while the choir was a bit un-breathtaking, they were still good, and I’m glad I experienced it. The end where the priest somberly floats out with a predecessor carrying some type of wand or stick out in front of him was kinda creepy though. Almost felt like I was in a cult. Maybe it was just because of the fact that we were surrounded by candles.
Once back at the hostel we started talking to the 3 girls who’d just settled into the room and discovered quickly that one of them lived in Redlands, California! When I told them that I went to Loma Linda University (practically in Redlands) they exclaimed, “So did we!!!” Turns out they all went there for the Dental Hygienist program and graduated the year before I got there. If that wasn’t crazy enough, Shane asked them if they knew one of his friends he went to high school with who had taken that program at LLU. Not only did they know her, one of the girls had lived with her for a year! They also knew her husband, another high school friend of Shane’s, and they had gone to their wedding (Shane had considered going but hadn’t.) Wow!! Such a small world! I don’t think they’re Adventists, but I should have asked.
We ate at a Thai restaurant that night, and slept pretty good other than one of the guys in our room whose cell phone rang LOUDLY at about 3am and he took the call right there in bed! When he finally left the room, I’m pretty sure he locked himself out because I thought I heard a knock a bit later. Maybe it was mean of me but in my grogginess I thought it served him right. I didn’t hear anyone let him in, but I didn’t think to look at his bed either when I got up the next morning, because it was early and dark.
Monday, March 22nd
Like I said, we got up early the next morning, around 5:45, to make the 6:30 bus to Luton airport. We made it there without a hitch, both to the bus stop and the airport. The flight to Dublin was a short one, only about an hour, and there were no free refreshments because it was a cheap-o RyanAir flight.
Once in Dublin, it was raining. And cold. Boo. We found the bus we had to take, and made it to our Kinley hostel after passing it once. It was a big place, and we were on the top floor of about 4. No elevator. Our “room” was actually a big long one with partial wall separations containing 2 bunk beds each, and that was our room. It wasn’t bad, except the light was for the entire room, not just ours.
We went to eat then. We ate at a Mexican restaurant that gave really small amounts of food for quite a bit of money. I wasn’t satisfied. Then we went out sightseeing. I was cold and not very happy because I was exhausted over too little sleep the past couple nights. I knew in my mind I was going to possibly forego sightseeing for the whole day just to keep my sanity. Plus I frankly just didn’t care. After a while one cathedral looks just the same as the past 50 you’ve seen, and documenting your trip via pictures loses its appeal. Not only that, I was ready to go home! I didn’t want to be in yet another country still, even if it was Ireland. In my opinion, Dublin isn’t the best representation. So later on when we went back to the hostel to check online where to go, I opted to go take a nap while Shane and Ryan went to see the castle and a park. Turns out it was a good choice on my part, because I slept wonderfully and Shane said I hadn’t missed much anyways. I felt rejuvenated after that, and we went food shopping since the hostel has a self-service kitchen. We made full plates of pasta and bought snacks for the next day for less than our Mexican meal earlier had been.
Shane and I went to the front desk to buy shampoo for showers after that; the friendly and helpful desk worker gave us some instead of making us pay for it (we hadn’t brought our own because it was too big to pass security at the airport.) That night we turned in fairly early, around 9:30 or 10. Even though I had taken a nap, I slept great, and the noise was very minimal due to being above everything else. Thank you front desk worker!
Tuesday, March 23rd
We were able to sleep in a bit, getting up around 8:30 or 9. Breakfast was slim—toast and drinks—but we ate a lot. We took another bus to the ferry, which would get us over to England again, and from there we would take a train to London. The ferry decision was a bit of a dumb move on my part, as I forgot that I get motion sick. And the ferry ride was about 3 hours long! Actually until this point I never really knew how long the ride was—I left all the planning up to Shane and Ryan, I was just along because I had to be. As the boat pitched and shook its way across the sea way more than any ferry I’ve been on, I took advantage of the plush bench seat, Ryan’s herbal muscle relaxants, and my wadded up jacket. This made the trip shorter, and if I daydreamed enough through my semi-consciousness, I could forget where I was and therefore not get sick.
We ate soup while we waited for our train after the ferry. Once on we had to make a pit stop halfway to London, and just our luck we discovered all trains to London were being cancelled. Shane and I got hot chocolate and muffins to eat at a coffee shop, then spur-of-the-moment were made aware that we could take a different train which connected to another train headed for London. Since we didn’t fancy being stuck in this little pit stop all night, we took that option, and it worked in our favor. Not only did we sit with a friendly Irish guy with a thick accent who liked to talk, we were actually ahead of our previous schedule too.
That night we stayed in the same hostel and same room as before, and the lights were turned off (by Shane) at a decent hour this time. The noise wasn’t bad, and we got some decent sleep.
Wednesday, March 24th
The day we’d been waiting for!! We got up and took our time getting our things packed up and ready to go, since our plane didn’t leave until 2:30ish. Two metros and not much hassle later, we were at the Heathrow airport checking in. Once our bags were in tip-top shape after losing some weight (haha) we headed for security. That wasn’t too bad. In fact, we couldn’t have gotten by any easier. Neither of us lost anything, made the beeper go off, or got patted down. We are seasoned travelers.
Once through security, Shane and I bought a smoothie and some Pringles to tide us over. Checking on to the plane was a bit more of a hassle, as this was where they went through our carry-ons and did a mandatory pat-down. Women in one line, men in the other. The woman who looked through my bag was a bit curt and unfriendly. I put my bag on the table and looked at her. She looked back at me. “Open it.” I opened it. “Open the laptop.” Opened it, put it back in. “Close the bag.” Closed it, opened the next pocket, and the next. Came to the large interior, which was stuffed with souvenirs packaged up for safekeeping. “What’s in the small bag?” “Souvenirs. All souvenirs.” “Open it.” I opened it, a curt nod from her even though everything was packaged up in bubble wrap and paper—either I must have seemed trustworthy or she was too lazy to rip open every little thing. After being patted down, during which she literally could have missed a football-sized bomb hidden in my shirt for the lettuce-leaf-effect patting she did, I waited for Shane. His person went through every little thing, even cutting open the box to see our Venice mask. But he made it too, and neither of us had to part with anything.
Once through with security, they loaded us onto a bus (I hate this European system) to go to the plane, and once at the plane they left us in there like sardines in the sun for 5 minutes while they apparently readied the plane. Once they opened the doors I was the very first one running up the stairs and into the plane. I have a thing about that. I like to get my spot and luggage area staked out. Luckily for us—I don’t know how—but Shane and I were in World Traveler Plus seats, midway comfort between First class and Economy…or Coach, not sure what the correct term is. But we had more leg space in front of us, a leg rest on our seat, and better headphones for our movies. In general I didn’t feel cramped at all, which made me extremely happy. We also got an entire luggage compartment to ourselves.
We spent the flight purposely staying awake so as to get on the Pacific time zone schedule. It wasn’t hard because it was daylight during the entire flight this time. We watched movies, ate Pringles, and watched more movies. By the time we landed I felt pretty awake still.
Getting our checked luggage took forever…not because they weren’t sending it out, but rather because there was so much luggage it just took forever for ours to appear. Once we got it and walked a few steps, they took it right back again on another belt line because we had to take a train to a different section of the airport! Inconvenient and annoying. We found the second luggage claim belt and Shane’s uncle who was picking us up, and thankfully the luggage appeared fast this time.
On the way to Shane’s dad’s, where we were staying for a couple days before driving back to Cali, I called family, then laid down because I wasn’t feeling the best. Flights then car rides always make me feel a bit nauseous. I must have been more tired than I thought, because I kinda fell asleep for the rest of the 2.5 hour drive. When we got to the house, I went straight to bed—lack of a night was finally really catching up to me.
I slept wonderfully, even waking up once and having no clue where I was. I thought I was back in Europe, but when I realized I was in America at the farm, I had one of those happy moments like when you see you have several hours left to sleep before you have to get up.
We have one more day here before driving back to California. We went to Costco and Ross today, and I also got to drive my car. It feels like it’s been a whole year! And best of all, we got some yummy Grandma food once again, and I am now getting to use my laptop without having to share with Shane! Ahh, the things you take for granted unless they’re taken away. Appreciate them always.
Well, this concludes my blog, as of course the Italy trip is over and I don’t have anything else to say. It was a great experience. It was a hard experience. It was an experience I will never forget about. And I’m glad I could share it with you…thanks for tuning in and for your faithful support throughout our Italy and Europe adventure! Ciao! :)